Greetings to you. We are excited to be sharing with you this exciting new series on 1 Timothy. For the next coming months we will be journeying through this great book from the apostle Paul. Our aim is to help us get a better understanding, strengthen the church, and find ways on how this can applied in the African context. We begin with an introduction to the book written by Vuyo Adams, a final year Bible & Ministry student.
Statistics reflect that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of Christians in the world. Emanuel Katongole asked what difference have these statistics made to Africa, in reflection to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Apart from that gruesome and spine-chilling occurrence, we are still plagued by many ills. The question most Christians ask is – where is the church. Indeed, the family of God needs to show up in the midst of such troubles, and the road begins with what we teach in the congregations. The people we shape in the congregation are the one to change the society for the better. It is for this reason that we turn our focus to the book of 1 Timothy so that we can discover how we can better strengthen the African church with sound doctrine (paratheke).
Paul wrote to Timothy, around 62 AD, as a father would write to a son and give instructions on how to live. This picture is very familiar in Africa since fathers are the ones normally charged with mentoring and grooming their sons. Timothy is clearly still young (1 Tim. 4:11; 2 Tim. 2:22) but in charge of a congregation in Ephesus. His position is not really clear; Paul calls him an evangelist; he is also able to appoint elders and deacons; he is able to correct people regardless of their status (1 Tim. 5:1, 2, 20). Clearly, Timothy had authority by virtue of being a companion of the apostle Paul. Indeed, Samuel Ngewa said, “We all attach importance to a statement in proportion to who said it.” We also regard Paul’s words as authoritative because he was commissioned by Jesus, thus 1 Timothy speaks to us as Jesus’ words to us leaders of his flock.
Paul was very concerned about the false teaching that was going on in Ephesus (1:3) hence he wrote to Timothy. There were people who were teaching what is contrary to sound doctrine, as he always said. He charges Timothy to command (parangellein) them not to teach falsehood. The Greek verb for command has a military connotation – an officer commanding his subordinates. The church in Africa is under siege from all sorts of false teachings as well. Our duty is to combat these doctrines with vehemence because the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth (3:15). Most of traditional African houses in the village were supported by a pillar at the centre. We, as the church, are like that – we hold the truth from being corrupted. More importantly, we are to do so with sound doctrine.
My lecturer for Pastoral Epistles defined sound doctrine as, “an instruction which is consistent with the gospel message.” What is the gospel, we have to ask then. Paul defines it for Timothy in 3:16 in the life of Jesus, and calls it the “mystery of godliness.” William Mounce called this section (14-16) “the heart of the Pastorals.” Every family has a code that makes it what it is and gives it direction. All other teachings derive from the code. Verse 14-16 give us the Christian code – our identity. It is what we must hold onto and pass it on with care. As God’s servants entrusted with his people, the gospel should remain at the centre of our teaching. This teaching should lead people to godliness because they are “God’s household” (3:15). Our responsibility is, therefore, to stick to the teaching which produces sound living.
Paul ends the epistle with a concern for the preservation of this sound teaching (6:20). One way of guarding it is to appoint others who will teach it as well. The instructions on the qualifications for church office in chapter 3:1-12 should be seen in light of this concern. We appoint people for ministry not because we have to, but because we are concerned with the preservation of the truth. If we successfully guard what has been entrusted to us, the message of the gospel will reach coming generations for the healing of Africa. The family of God will stand up in power if we teach and preach what is sound.
 Ngewa, S. M. (2009). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. In N. Waenzana, & S. Ngewa (Eds.), Africa Bible commentary series. Grand Rapids: Zondervan
 Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral epistles. In B. M. Metzger (Ed.), World biblical commentary (Vol. 46, p. 214). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers