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1 Timothy 1:1-20 Sermon Notes

By February 20, 2022Sermon Notes

Ockham’s razor, also called the “Law of Parsimony” (parsimony means “sparing”) 

Is named for a 14th century English theologian and philosopher named William of Ockham.

There are many variations of his principle but essentially it is:

“The simplest explanation that accounts for all the data is the best one.”

Or proverbially its often stated as: “If you hear hoofbeats look for horses not zebras”

It is really good advice in medicine, engineering, physics, parenting, reading the news, and reading the Bible…really all of life.

It doesn’t imply there is never a heard of Zebras running by, it means start with the simplest explanation that takes in all the known facts.

It goes against the perpetual human quest for the weird and unusual.

I think one of the things the Internet has done is when people hear hoofbeats…they don’t look for horses, or even Zebras…they are looking for unicorns.

So, very often, people are training their hearts and minds to need “more and different” in order to experience an ever-diminishing amount of contentment, joy, and even interest in life…they tend to be drawn to the more spectacular, the more sensational.

And they are training themselves to miss the obvious in their search for the unusual.

Our hearts and minds are being trained much like an addicts…it takes a bigger and bigger fix to get the same kicks…to the point that eventually nothing moves us.

People are bored, discontent, often unhappy…so, they tend to be much more fascinated with, for instance what Paul has to say about “The Anti-Christ” (which was not much)…

…than what has to say about how to live a faithful life (which is quite of lot).

Ideally our hearts are becoming increasingly content with having less and less…more and more enthralled with the ordinary…rather requiring the extra-ordinary to capture our attention and imagination/

Today, we are in Paul’s first letter to Timothy.

Timothy was from Lystra, a city in modern day Turkey…where Paul had healed a crippled man and was mistaken for a Greek god.

Timothy, his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois had come to Christ as a result of Paul’s ministry in his city.

Timothy was likely in his late teens, early twenties when he met Paul and became like a son to Paul…accompanying him on his second missionary journey.

Timothy’s mom was a Jewish background Christian and his father was a Greek.

This meant he was very well equipped to related to the churches that were often of mixed Jewish and Gentile composition.

No one knows for sure…but Paul’s first letter to Timothy was probably written during a period of freedom between two Roman imprisonments. 

The first Roman imprisonment is described at the end of Acts…he had quite a bit of freedom, was on house arrest.

His second letter came later, during his second time in a Roman prison…he would not leave that prison alive.

So 2 Tim. would be his last letter that we know of.

Paul, has seen and experienced a lot by now…it’s near the end of his life.

He has seen God move in amazing ways…he has suffered in the worst possible ways…he now has tremendous perspective.

He has been super encouraged by people, like Timothy, who have been faithful for years…and he has been discouraged by people, who have proven to be unfaithful.

He knows that Timothy will pass this letter around, but remember…it is in fact a letter…written from a man to close friend. 

He is passing on what he believes to be of great importance for Timothy (and what God knows to be of importance to us…since we have a copy today).

So, let’s not miss how amazing it is that we get to read a personal letter written in the first century…from a man who was friends with the first followers of Christ…who was an eye witness to staggering things…who would die for his faith…he has a lot to say to us.

A letter written from a real man, named Paul…to another man, named Timothy.

A letter about beliefs, values, and behaviors…beliefs that correspond to what is real, values that shape hearts into the image of Christ, and behaviors that lead to a free and beautiful life.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Why, such a formal greeting?  Why not “Hey, Tim! How are you?”

Again, this was a personal letter but it wasn’t an email…and Paul was dealing with serious substantive matters… 

…but Paul also knew it would be passed around by Timothy…so there was need for the credibility of this formality.

I sometimes write letters of recommendation for friends and though they are “personal” I know they are going to be read by others…so I am less casual than I normally would be.

3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

What’s up with these myths and endless genealogies anyway?

This is that whole Ockham’s Razor thing…gone wrong.

They were, looking for the unusual, the spectacular, the weird, the controversial.

Look at what this has accomplished:

-Their promotion of controversy has served to undermine God’s work.

            -It was a net-negative for the Kingdom.

-They have wondered from the faith and have majored in meaningless talk

            -It was a net-negative for them personally

Look at verse 5, one of my favorite verses in the Bible:

5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

We could land here for the rest of our time and savor this verse…but we won’t.

I will say this…this verse is a hidden-gem that you really ought to be well-acquainted with.

The goal of knowing biblical truth is love.

This doesn’t mean love as a subjective emotion divorced from truth.

To love doesn’t mean to allow or to accept anything…it means to “put the interests of others ahead of your own.”

Even here, Paul is telling Timothy…”Command these men to stand down”…because they don’t know what they are talking about.

This may not seem very loving…but of course it is…both for them and for those they were misleading.

Love could mean: lay down your life for someone and it could mean offer a warning or a correction.

So this is not truth versus love…this is the fact that the purpose of knowing truth is to better love God and others.

To accumulate information without a heart that is growing in love for God and others is vain.

Knowledge, Paul wrote elsewhere “puffs up” love, “builds up”

These guys wanted to be expert teachers…they wanted people to sit at their feet and say “ooh, ahh…so interesting.”

But Paul says “they don’t even know what they are talking about.”

Last week a friend told me of a man who was “mean and vindictive” to his family…and he told me stories of what this man had done…I was appalled.

He went on to say…but this man probably knows more Bible than you or I do.

I replied… “No he doesn’t.”

“Well” he says, “I mean he knows more about the Bible. 

“No” I said, “he doesn’t.”

How can someone know more of something if they don’t even know the main point of that thing?

I get what my friend was saying…this guy has accumulated a lot of Bible Data…but my point is…he doesn’t know the Bible…God’s word.

He doesn’t know…

5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Pure heart: Not emotions…but thinking, choosing part of us.

-Pure, not perfect.

-It means we have and we are continually relinquishing control of our will to our Father…like Jesus did.

Good conscience: Simply means the ability to distinguish right from wrong. 

-In chapter 4 Paul will write of those whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

-Meaning: Scarred over and have lost sensitivity to God and even to the needs of others…this isn’t something that has been done to them, they have done it to themselves.

-We must love the truth and respond to it…so that our consciences don’t lose sensitivity to God and others.

Sincere faith: This faith is for real…no game playing…either with God or with other people.

-To pose and posture to earn the approval and applause of others…and to do so in the name of God and truth…is to reveal an insincere faith…

…faith as a game being played rather than a reality being lived

Some, Paul wrote…have turned away…into the trackless wasteland of meaningless, empty chatter…sounds like the internet.

They want to teach the law…but since they don’t understand love as the foundation of God’s word…they don’t know what they are talking about.

In the next four verses Paul affirms the goodness of the law when used for its intended purpose.

Not to promote speculation and cause division…but to reveal sin and draw people to Christ.

He gives a list of sins in this section…that roughly correspond to the 10 commandments…this is a sort of shorthand for the purpose of the law

The law…reveals sin and leads us to Christ…the law is for lawbreakers.

So, from Paul goes from Law to verse 11…the glory of God in the gospel.

(8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.)

Paul…then jumps to personal testimony, not to make much of himself but to make much of the gospel…to illustrate the difference between those causing division and drawing attention to self and the right personal approach to an encounter with the truth of God.

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

What if those self-promoting teachers went from their meaningless chatter to this as their message?

Hey…Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

“Really, you too?  That’s my story as well.”

You can still disagree on stuff…still have times of misunderstanding…but if you are all standing there together at the cross…recognizing your great need and God’s great grace shown to you…

Where is the room for pride, and self-promotion, and vindictiveness?

It looks like the empty, stupid stuff that it is…doesn’t it?

Paul breaks into a prayer of praise…

17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

For many years this has been my  go to conclusion when I have prayed public prayers for military events.

If people have been to a lot of events where I have prayed…they know at least this verse.

He is the…the “King…Eternal, immortal, invisible”

King: Ruler, of everything…and Kings have their kingdoms…the realm of their authority, their re

Eternal: He has always been

Immortal: he will always be.

Invisible: He is Spirit…he is everywhere at all times.

Invisible: Doesn’t mean we can’t see what he has done, or that he cannot reveal himself in ways that he chooses…but that he is not physical/spiritual hybrid like we are…

 …He is not tied to the creation…he is Spirit, he transcends the material…he is not dependent on it or anything.

So God being invisible doesn’t mean that He less than we are, as physical/spiritual hybrids…but he is much more…he is eternal, immortal invisible.

We ought to often contemplate God’s eternal nature, his complete power and authority…and the reality of his infinite presence…there is no place we could go that he is not there.

So, let’s take two verses:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”


Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Okay…now what were you about to think, say, or do? 

Where you going to speak and act with pride or anger or jealousy or selfishness?

Are you sure about that?

Were you about to think and speak and act as if you we were owed something or as if life is really about you?

Are you sure about that?  Want to re-think it?

This is the antidote for self-centeredness, fear, demanding…any number of unhelpful attitudes.

Think about this…

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”


Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

How about now…think differently about those things?

Paul then circles back around to verse 2…Timothy his son in the faith.

18 Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

“How come Timothy gets some personal prophecies to help him know how to fight the good fight?”

First of all, God decided to do that for him.

Second, you have it much better than Timothy did.

“How do you figure”

Well, you have the entire NT…he didn’t.

You don’t need a personal prophecy to help you know how to live faithfully…you have the whole Word of God…and it is personal and complete.

What’s up with those two shipwrecked guys in verse 20?

We can conclude a couple of things: 

  1. They shipwrecked themselves…how?

-By not holding onto faith and good conscience

-Maybe they are part of the crowd of people who were off into theological “mumbo-jumbo” and had stirred up controversy.

-They had not held onto the faith: “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, I am the worst.”

-They had not held onto a good conscience: “They had ignored God’s internal warnings to them…blown through the conscience red lights.”

They had ignored God’s external and internal checks on their lives: “The faith” and “Their conscience”

  1. We don’t know exactly what it means that they were handed over to Satan …but we can assume it meant that church discipline was put into place…they were put out of the church.

Church discipline is the rare (sparingly used) form of love…that withdraws church fellowship from people who live in: public, persistent, unrepentant sin.

*Public, persistent, unrepentant.

-We see this same language in 1 Cor. 5:5, where a man is living in public, persistent and unrepentant sin was put out of the church…

hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”

*Again, love does not exclude making difficult, and seemingly harsh choices…it empowers them.

*Because the goal, in 1 Cor. 5 and here, in Timothy is restoration…salvation.

You see that in Paul saying Timothy was to take these severe measures… “So they can be taught to not blaspheme”

This is not “toss them to the devil to destroy them.”

It is… “Remove fellowship from them to restore them.”

What is super interesting is that the realm of Satan is the world outside the covering of church fellowship.

Tyler Vanderweele: Harvard Professor has done extensive research on the direct impact of living practicing faith community on human thriving.

Being an active part of a local church impacts every factor of human flourishing:

-Increased longevity

-Less depression

-Less suicide

-Less substance abuses

-Better disease survival

-Less divorce

-Their kids do better in almost every category

-Higher life satisfaction…on an on

These results are not there for people who practice “spirituality” outside of a worshipping community.

The so called spiritual but not religious.

The protective factors are there for those participate in a spiritual community…who show up.

I know, the motivation for living in community is not supposed to be self-improvement focused.

My point is…even human research reveals the power of God’s design for community.

In addition…though you can quantify some of these factors…you cannot see through research the spiritual realities behind some of the results. 

To try and live outside the cover of a local worshipping body…is to walk around in enemy territory all by yourself…not wise, not safe, not fun.

A friend, retired AF chaplain Scott Ofsdahl once told me of one of his tours in Iraq where he would visit remote FOBS…they were too small to have a full time chaplain…so he was an itenerant, roving chaplain.

He would sometimes have to be dropped a distance from the secure perimeter of one of these small bases…out in open country and then walk in the dark, alone, to the friendly confines of the remote outposts.

This was because if these FOBS were being closely watched…and it was more dangerous to try and land there than outside…they would fired upon as they landed.

He told me of one time when he walking in the dark, in enemy territory towards the lights of a base, and he was alone…no chaplain assistant.

The base had firepower, and perimeter protection, and medical help…he was just alone, in dark, enemy territory

Paul told Timothy…put these guys outside the wire…not to destroy them but to help them remember the truth and power of the gospel.

To quit playing at this and to quit making it about self.

His point is not the protective power of the church…but it is evident from Scripture.

*I am amazed that some people are so willingly, try to live outside the wire…the secure perimeter of a worshipping community…I would not…not for a minute.


There is the enduring hope among physicists that they will discover a general law, sometimes called the “Theory of Everything” that will explain the origin and fine tuning of the universe.

This was made the title of a movie about Stephen Hawking’s life.

Physicist Paul Davies writes “There’s no need to invoke anything supernatural in the origins of the universe or of life.  I have never liked the idea of a divine tinkering: for me it is much more inspiring to believe a set of mathematical laws can be so clever as to bring all these things into being.”

CS Lewis, in his book Miracles…answered Davies 70 years earlier.

Laws of nature…”can produce no events: they state the pattern to which every event…must confirm…to think that laws can produce (the universe) is like thinking you can create real money by simply doing sums.” 

There is a theory of everything…but it is no theory…it is a reality… “In the beginning God…”

God is the foundational reality of everything…and from Him comes the foundational principles or strategy or pattern for how we are to think about and go about our lives. 

I sum it up with the word, faithfulness.

If Hawking or Davies…found some “law” that they believed to explain “everything”…how would they know it explained was everything…since they are trapped as finite humans in a small amount of space and time…they would have no idea what “everything” is.

But God, who transcends space and time…has revealed himself to us…and our purpose to us…The King, eternal, immortal, invisible…has revealed the truth of reality to us.

We exist for him…what we are called to then, is to be found faithful to him.

Over and over we see this as a counterweight to false teaching or an antidote to toxic thoughts…be faithful.

People freaking or checking out because the end is near: be faithful…mind your business, work with your hands.

People teaching exotic stuff…tell them the goal is love, from a pure heart, sincere faith, clear conscience…be faithful.

Let me finish with a defense of faithfulness as a core life strategy:

“Terry, why would you think you need to defend it?”

I don’t, but I do think my decades long repetition of the priority of faithfulness can misunderstood.

Here are some potential misunderstandings

Faithfulness=lack of passion

Faithfulness=excuse to not excel 

Faithfulness=settling for less than your best

But, how could it possibly be faithfulness if there is no passion, no push to excel, and anything less than your best in it?

Faithfulness is:

Belief: I am a steward of what God has entrusted me with, he is the master.  It is required that those who are given a trust be found faithful. (1 Cor. 4:20)

Heart Value: I am made for God…to live is Christ to die is gain.

What is most valuable, most important is to please God.  God is pleased with faithfulness. 

Not producing stuff, doing stuff, achieving stuff…but just being faithful.

*Of course, faithfulness as the core value of our lives will lead to doing stuff…but our hearts will remain resilient and protected because the day will come when we cannot do stuff.

Is my life worth more if I can do more…and less if I can do less?

Was God less honored by and less pleased with my mom…when cancer meant she could no longer serve others…but could only be served by others?

Was he less or, more pleased with her…when she could do nothing except faithfully suffer with brain cancer? 

What has your heart wrapped around as its core value…its theory of everything?

The bible commends faithfulness as that “core theory of everything”

Behavior:  Faithfulness will always and forever show up in appropriate words and actions.

-When fail we repent…and return to faithfulness.

-But to make faithfulness your goal is not an alibi for apathy or a loss of passion…how could that be faithfulness?

We don’t need a new job, or bible study, or experience, or friends, or shirt, or workout…we need new passion for old truth.

It you go fishing around externally for that passion…you will never find it…it will elude you.

When you find that “new shiny object” that inspires passion and energy…it will lose its luster, it will fail you.

You might think you have found the “thing” to fix you, to motivate you…

…you might have a short, temporary burst of enthusiasm, or energy from the new…but if you have not set your heart on faithfulness…you will be left wanting.

This is why Hollywood jumps from relationship to relationship…they are addicted to the temporary high of a new affair…but they rarely do the math on how this isn’t working for them.

We must continually train our hearts to love the enduring power and beauty of faithfulness.

If you hear hoofbeats…don’t look for unicorns…don’t even hope for them.

Teach your heart to marvel at horses…or the soft sound of sparrows…or the simple sound and smell of coffee brewing…

Look at your small group this week and instead of an “internal yawn” and the gnawing question “There must be more than this?”

Tell your heart to rejoice and marvel at the people around you, the Word he has giving you…teach your heart to be more and more content and delighted in what God has given you.

There is always more “in this” not more “than this”

There is more in your QT, more in worship, more in your marriage, more in your ability to love others…more IN not more THAN this.

What if all you had was these three verses…

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.


Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”


Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

It could be enough to keep our minds, hearts, and lives moving in the direction of passion and pace…enduring faithfulness.

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