Before we tie a bow on the Timothies, I wanted to revisit one last pair of verses that we haven’t properly examined. I expect most of you will recognize the first of these verses, and you may even have memorized it if you were ever involved in scripture memory programs as a child. It’s one of Paul’s most-quoted lines: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). I memorized it in fourth or fifth grade as part of my church’s after-school program, R.A.D. (Radically Awesome Disciples). It was the 90s.
Time to say goodbye to Timothy. Paul signs off with his usual encouragement, exhortations, and personal notes mentioning various individuals by name, but it’s clear Paul wrote this letter late in life. He speaks about his life as a drink offering poured out to God, the conclusion of a victorious battle, the final hundred-meter push at the end of the eight-mile, and he urges Timothy to visit him as quickly as time permits. If Paul’s letters were a chord progression, this one would be a V chord, anticipating a move back to the tonic chord and the end of the song. This is the final chorus; this is the outro.
Paul loves his lists and litanies. And to begin today’s chapter in his second letter to Timothy, he goes off on the evil men that one can expect during the last days. He loves to enumerate, but Paul’s got no love for these guys as he blasts through their negative qualities with both barrels. What makes the evil dudes of the end times so evil? Let’s take a look.
I have a few reasons why I’m currently single, but foremost is that I primarily feel called to reproduce spiritually rather than biologically. Where others might pour their time and money into raising a kid, I’m investing in the relationships and space around me. My children are artwork that will enrich the world in some way, however small; my children are the meaningful experiences that my peers and I have through church events, service, tabletop role-playing games; my children are the things you and I learn from the entries on this blog. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best parent, but that’s where my effort’s going these days. And that’s my goal: I’m raising well-being.
Will you look at that. Before us today is another letter from Paul to Timothy. Let’s roll up our sleeves and (nervous laughter) hope Paul doesn’t start talking about slavery again.
In what has got to be some kind of record, we’re still on Paul’s statements about slavery in 1 Timothy 6:1-2. Yesterday I made some introductory remarks on Biblical inerrancy and my own capacity for error, then took a look at the full scope of the Bible and its themes of liberation, concluding that the Biblical position is to oppose slavery. But we were left with the question: what do we do with Paul’s apparent condoning of slavery? If he’s positing that it’s God’s will for some people to own other people as property–what then?
As I promised yesterday, we’re returning to the final chapter of 1 Timothy to get some perspective on Paul’s views on slavery. The question’s on the table: is Paul condoning slavery? Is he justified in encouraging slaves to submit to their masters “so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against?” (1). I’m going to answer this question indirectly, by arguing Biblically that slavery is wrong and it’s wrong to condone it, and then by asking a follow-up question: what if Paul is wrong when it comes to slavery? But to introduce my points, I want to make a few prefatory comments on Biblical inerrancy.
Yesterday, I listened to a story on NPR’s Here & Now about the history of Independence Hall in Philadelphia and its role in contemporary Independence Day celebration. I was struck by National Parks Service Ranger Adam Duncan’s remarks on the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s early draft included a passage indicting King George III for fostering the slave trade in North America. The document’s editors removed the anti-slavery passage from the final Declaration of Independence, and it would not be until January 1, 1863 that the Emancipation Proclamation would legally free American slaves. So today, as Americans celebrate their freedom and independence, what better topic for us to return to than the Apostle Paul’s views on slavery?
Where we last left our heroes, Paul was giving Timothy directions concerning leadership and good practices within the church body, and today he continues in that vein. Chapter five concludes with various instructions on respecting elders, dealing with sin, laying on hands, and how to deal with gastrointestinal health problems. Most of it’s fairly uncontroversial, though when Paul prescribes a little wine for Timothy’s stomach ailments, there’s been some debate on just how diluted the “wine” of the Greco-Roman world was, and some might think that public rebuke for an elder’s persistent sinning seems a little harsh. But let’s set aside the trivial controversies of the ending verses and rewind to that thorniest of topics: widow issues.
How do you tell you’re in the end times? As Paul tells us, in the last days men will come telling you you can’t eat this, you can’t eat that, and you can’t get married.