The Personal and Corporate Integrity of the Church.

Corporate purity in a church comes from the personal purity of its people. In God's divine order, people will become like their leaders. Paul wrote Timothy to watch his own life and doctrine so he could lead the church of Ephesus well. When it comes to doctrine, there is no "wiggle room." Even though Paul spent the most time establishing the Ephesian church, some people there were okay with deviating slightly from biblical doctrine. A thread of falsehood can creep into the most well-taught church. We are all prone to this error in our fallen natures, but the Word of God acts like a hammer to correct both our doctrine and our practice of it.

Overview of 1 Timothy

Repeated words and phrases point to the themes of a book. In Paul's first letter to Timothy, he refers to "sound doctrine" seven times, "faith" nine times, and "godliness" nine times. The phrase "the faith" appears another nine times. The theme of 1 Timothy can be summarized in one statement:

The church enjoys its greatest peace, joy, stability, and progress when the church, from the leaders to the sheep, is protected from worldly or religious influences from within.

Falsehood was still present in the largest, solid New Testament church of Ephesus. This led not only to doctrinal error but also to sinful lifestyle changes. If we have no gospel integrity, we have no life integrity either. In the context, this error came from people within the church who were not truly saved. This kind of compromise often leads to the demise of a local church. Jesus gives a solemn warning to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. A careful study of Scripture shows that only doctrinal deviance causes God to put out a church's light.

Outline of 1 Timothy

Many pastors and authors say this book is about how the church should be structured. It does address that question, but as one application of a larger main theme. The apostle Paul is writing to pastor Timothy about his personal doctrine and purity, which will impact the corporate doctrine and purity of the church. A church with right doctrine and practice is willing to be structured God's way.

The whole book can be divided into four sections:

  1. Protecting the Church's Doctrine (chapter 1)
  2. Applying Church Doctrine (chapters 2-3)
  3. Describing False and True Doctrinal Leaders (chapter 4)
  4. Living Church Doctrine (chapters 5-6)
Safeguarding Personal and Corporate Purity

Every church will have people who want to allow doctrinal "wiggle room." This makes discipleship so important. Jesus' criticism of the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4 is that they had neglected having personal alone time in a loving relationship with Him. Personal time in the Word and prayer had previously guarded them against deviating from sound doctrine. Jesus asked the faithful to repent of devotional inaction and return to "your first love."

Well-taught people tend to be busy with acts of service. We can easily get caught up in the structure and activities of church. Busyness allows false doctrine to creep in if personal devotion isn't maintained. Leaders and each individual member must spend time in private prayer (Matthew 6:5-13). This is where church purity begins.

Application Points

  • Paul warned that false teaching would come from within the church. This is why everyone, from the leaders down, must be well-taught. How does your church safeguard its doctrine through teaching its people? Remember that your own devotion affects the whole church! Do you take advantage of the teaching that's available? How can you make sure that your own life and doctrine are sound?
  • Discipleship is a major safeguard against doctrinal "wiggle room." Each member of the body can guide each other in the confines of God's Word. How are you involved in this process at GCM?
  • Do you know how your spiritual leaders are doing? Ask a leader in your church what they have been reading in God's Word this week - whether they are a deacon, pastor, elder, or one of their wives. This is one way you can care for them as they care for you! In time, we want to develop a culture of transparency at our church where we can ask anyone about their time with Jesus and be ready to answer when they ask us the same.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Acts 19, Acts 20:17-38 - Paul's ministry in Ephesus.
  • Philippians 2:19-24 - How Paul felt about Timothy.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Our God Has Made Us One"

Our God has made us one —
In Him our hearts unite.
When we, His children, share His love,
Our joy is His delight.

Our God has made us one —
His glory is displayed.
For as we build each other up,
Our love becomes His praise.

Our God has made us one —
In sorrow and in joy,
We share the cross of Christ, our Lord;
In Him we now rejoice.

Our God has made us one —
One Church to bear His name,
One body and one Bride of Christ,
And with Him we shall reign.