You don’t have to get far into 1 Timothy in order to be able to preach a sermon. The first word will do, “Paul.” And I don’t mean a sermon that merely biographical. “This is Paul. Wow! Paul! Be like Paul!” I don’t have in mind the sermon that is repeated with every “hero” of the Bible that amounts to little more than a “baptized” morality; one of those “baptisms” where you say the person only got wet. No, I don’t mean a biographical, but a theological sermon. You can preach an expository sermon, faithful to the text, and only preach this first word, insofar as you are understanding how that word relates to the rest of the letter.
If this letter began “Larry,” it might be a great letter, doctrinally sound, and helpful in many ways, but one thing it certainly would not be is in the Bible. It is because of who Paul is that this letter is where it is, namely, in the Bible.
While I was at “Together for the Gospel” a pastor friend of mine happened upon a card, of a local, certainly not an attendee of the conference, with a picture of a woman who had taken the title, “Apostle Carol Coleman, End Time Prophetess, General in God’s Army.” We wondered what one has to do to carry the title “General in God’s Army.” But we do not have to wonder what Biblical title she should rightfully be given—“False Teacher.”
Apostleship is hand delivered by the nail-scarred hands of the resurrected Christ. Paul says that Jesus appeared to him last of all (1 Corinthians 15:8–9). When Jesus appeared to Paul He told him, “I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you (Acts 26:16).” And apostle is a sent messenger. Jesus appears to Paul not only to send, but to give Paul a message. The authority and the message were received simultaneously, for Jesus was the source, and subject of Paul’s apostleship. Paul says one who aspires to the task of an overseer desires a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1). He says nothing like this concerning apostleship, not because it isn’t a noble task, but because one may not aspire to it. The number is closed.
In nine of Paul’s thirteen letters he mentions his apostleship in the greeting. In three of Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians, Galatians, and 1 Timothy) his apostleship receives special emphasis in the opening chapters. In the very greeting of two of those three (Galatians and 1 Timothy) the mention of Paul’s apostleship comes with a punch. Normally Paul would say something like, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” but here we are told that Paul is an apostle “by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” He is commanded by the One he commends. Paul received his apostleship from the One who is his message, “God our Savior, Christ Jesus our Hope.” There are no other apostles. All teaching is to be compared with that of the apostles, and no teaching is to be esteemed above it. If you want the truth about Jesus, go to His apostles.
So when you see “Paul,” at the beginning of his letters, think that no small word. Paul’s name at the beginning of the letters we have in the New Testament means, “God’s Word.” Oh, that we would realize what we have in the 1 Timothy, and in all the Scriptures; words from the King to us through His authorized messengers.