To this point we’ve seen only Paul’s letters to churches in particular ancient Mediterranean cities, but today we begin a letter to an individual. Timothy was one of Paul’s missionary companions, a younger man who was also biracial, the son of a Jewish Christian woman and a Greek man. He’s first introduced in Acts 16:1-5, and we hear more of his missionary journeys and work in Acts 16-20. Beyond that, Paul at times puts Timothy’s name alongside his own in his salutations and mentions him in his letters. I don’t know to what extent Timothy influenced on Paul’s writing, whether he co-authored any particular letters or passages. But today we have a letter not from Paul and Timothy, but rather from Paul to Timothy.
What’s good enough for you? What’s worth committing to? Paul wrote more than one letter explicitly dealing with legalism, especially first-century Judaism’s Torah-based legalism. And while he doesn’t hit the problem as aggressively in his letter to the Philippian church, it’s still a concern: he warns his readers about “evil workers,” the “false circumcision,” even calling them “dogs” (2). These individuals are committed to adherence to the Law, thinking they can make the grade based on their own works. What’s good enough for them? Being good enough.
On the whole, this All the Paul study has surprised me. I expected to encounter more friction between me and Paul; I’ve never been quite the Paul enthusiast that some of my church peers are. In my thirty-ish-year history with his writing, at times certain passages have struck me as too authoritarian, while others have seemed too theologically nebulous, too Greek, borderline pantheistic. But in tackling All the Paul here, while I’ve had to grapple with a few passages, on the whole I’ve been able to take something valuable away from each passage, dig up some good stuff and share it with you. And then Paul starts talking about slavery.
Confession: I’ve never seen an episode of The Walking Dead. You’d think I’d at least have read an issue of the comic or something, but no.
This is it, crew. Last chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. While he closed out the last one with a few personal words mentioning several people by name, he finishes this one with more on the themes of power and weakness, and he advises the Corinthians to put themselves to the test. What does he mean by that? Let’s take a look.
Well, this is embarrassing. In today’s chapter, Paul continues to talk about charity and financial support for the poor within the church, and on my first pass through the text, I didn’t even notice him quoting from the old testament. It’s in a different type setting and everything, Jackson! Come on! And on my second pass, I noticed it and wondered, “Where is that from? Maybe Isaiah?” Then I looked it up, and it’s from Psalm 112. I read Psalm 112 exactly three months and two days ago. And while I might not be expected to know which psalm Paul was quoting, I should at least have recognized it as a psalm. Truly, I am like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror, for once I have looked at myself and gone away, I have immediately forgotten what kind of person I was.
I was in high school when I first discovered Sara Groves. If I remember correctly, my dad heard her song “The Word” on the radio and ended up buying her Conversations CD as a result. But the bridge of the song is this litany of scriptural truths…and just this morning, as I was reading today’s chapter, it hit me: almost all of her scripture selections are taken from Paul.