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The Letters of Saint Paul to Timothy
Timothy with Paul
Motto: Keep the Faith
Saint Paul wrote two letters to Saint Timothy published in the New Testament. At the time of the second letter Paul was in chains in a Roman prison sensing his life was nearly over. Timothy was in Ephesus (occupied by the Romans in today's Turkey across the water from Greece).
Timothy was born of parents who were a mixture of two cultures, one Jewish and the other Gentile. He was a youthful follower of Saint Paul the famous disciple whose self-imposed mission was to tell the Jewish, and especially non-Jewish (Gentile) world about Jesus. Both Paul and Timothy were scholarly people, brought up strictly as careful students of what today is known as the Old Testament.
In his first letter to Timothy, whom Paul had made the first Christian Bishop of Ephesus, Saint Paul reasons that faith is simple: it's love from a pure heart and good conscience. But law, said Paul, was meant for evil people with no faith. Law causes disputes; laws are made to punish people with no faith in God.
Paul seemed to want harmony among Christians rather than a fearful atmosphere of carefully avoiding transgressions and guilt from breaking ritualistic laws. But this did not mean that Paul advocated breaking the law. His writings specifically told people to obey the law and respect those in authority.
Paul advises Timothy to have the members of his Christian church in Ephesus pray for kings so that as a result all people might have peace. Paul was a Jewish Pharisee who had great respect for people in his own upper class, both Jews and the rulers of Gentile nations of the Roman Empire.
Paul gives a lot of practical advice, even very personal at times, so that Timothy's Christian community in Ephesus could be well respected. Women church members, said Paul, shouldn't dress in gaudy clothes. They should be modest, submissive, and silent in church--and have no authority over a man. Paul notes that Eve, not Adam, was the one who was deceived in the biblical story in Genesis. (Because women's liberation has come about only in the past forty years, we have to go back twenty-one hundred years to understand some of Paul's writings.)
Paul's further advice to the young bishop Timothy is that bishops and deacons should be exemplary, good people having only one wife in their lifetimes, not given to wine, and respectful in their thoughts and speech.
Paul cautioned Timothy about false doctrines that might forbid things like marriage or certain foods. Always, in his letters, Paul showed that he was opposed to petty rules or senseless laws that restricted people so much that they made everyone feel guilty of sinning by violating these little rules. Saint Paul was afraid that church members would listen to false preachers telling them they had to abstain from things that were a normal part of life.
Paul gave shrewd advice on the subject of widows, telling Timothy that the younger ones in the Christian congregation should marry because otherwise they would tend to become idle busybodies.
Employees who were church members should show respect for their masters, said Paul. He did not want rebellious people in the church. Christians in Timothy's Ephesus church, Paul believed, should not desire wealth since food and clothing should be enough.
Saint Paul is quoted in English translation as saying, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." He warned Timothy and the Ephesian Christians against putting their trust in uncertain riches instead of the living God.
In his second letter, Saint Paul, by then a prisoner in chains in Rome, encouraged Timothy, whom he referred to as a "beloved son," by reminding him that God gave both of them a spirit of power and love, and a sound mind to use in their missionary work.
Paul felt it was wrong to argue senselessly over words. He advised Timothy to tell the church members to shun profane and idle babble. They should pursue faith, love, and peace and not quarrel. They should be gentle toward everyone.
Paul warned Timothy about the existence of brutal, unforgiving people who had no self-control. He said that other people who had faith in God and showed love would have to suffer persecution in their lives. But he encouraged Timothy nevertheless to continue preaching.
Saint Paul felt the time of his departure from this world was at hand. He closed the final letter to Timothy by telling him, "I've fought the good fight...finished the race...kept the faith."
By that time, only the apostle Luke (the author of one gospel plus the Acts of the Apostles, telling Paul's life as a missionary) was with him in the Roman prison. Saint Paul suffered more than most people who practice their faith or lead churches. The reason he endured this was that he'd seen Jesus in an apparition. He was convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, and that the preaching of Jesus brought to mankind the message of what God the Father expected of human beings, and the rewards and forgiveness that God made available to people who kept faith. Saint Paul was totally convinced that after his death, he would be with God and Jesus in heaven.