Keep The Commandment Unstained

Text: 1 Timothy 6:11-16
Date: St. Timothy
+ 1/24/07

     Blessed is everyone who may rightly be addressed as St. Paul here addresses Timothy, “But you, O man of God.” To be a “man of God,” a people of God, means to belong to God and to be separated from any and all other loyalties. Those things that vie for our loyalty, our love, that are apart from Christ we are to keep fleeing lest they entrap and enslave us, steal us away from faith in Christ. Furthermore, in our fleeing away from that which is against Christ, we are to flee towards, to pursue all those riches, the new righteousness that is in Christ Jesus our Lord: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.

     Furthermore, when St. Paul wrote, “fight the good fight of the faith,” he speaks to every Christian enlisted in the company of all believers, for the life of faith is such a battle, a contending to keep and to proclaim the great gift of faith in Jesus Christ. This is just as true and necessary for individual Christians and for pastors alike!

     Timothy was not a “pastor” in our modern sense of a minister of Word and Sacrament to a single congregation. Neither was he a “bishop” or overseer of a group or synod of congregations. He was the direct, local representative of the Apostle Paul for the guidance of the churches. Through him Paul exercised his apostolic care and oversight. Still, since Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus have been called “Pastoral Epistles” since the year 1753, these letters have gained the special devotion and attention of pastors to this day. And they certainly do apply.

     In this little section of Paul’s first letter to Timothy the Apostle urges pastors and people alike to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession,” and “to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

     To “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” is to believe and trust in the gift of salvation given you in your holy baptism. Because of this, more often than not, when I am involved in a service of ordination of a new pastor, I use the same blessing I speak over infants at the communion rail, “The Lord bless and preserve you in the remembrance of your holy baptism.” The ministry begins in baptism. Everything begins in baptism. Everything, namely faith, is sustained by our daily return in repentance to God’s promise in holy baptism.

     And what is the “commandment” Paul speaks of that we are all exhorted to keep “unstained and free from reproach”? It is the entire Gospel we have received, into which we have been catechized, by which we are to grow in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. All of us are commanded to keep or guard the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ “unstained and free from reproach;” “unstained” by identifying, judging and rejecting any teaching the contradicts it, and “free from reproach” by a life of humble repentance and faith in the sense as Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 5:16 (ESV)].

             According to tradition, Timothy went to Ephesus, became its first bishop, and was stoned to death there when he opposed the pagan festival in honor of Diana. Today the attacks on the Gospel of Christ are more subtle but nonetheless dangerous, requiring our constant defense and witness. The price for such defense today may be far less than stoning to death but it is no less costly. May our commemoration of St. Timothy this day inspire us to continue to “fight the good fight” and to keep and guard the precious Gospel “unstained and free from reproach.”