A Commentary by John Stott
1 Timothy 4:11-5:2. b) Timothy must identify his authority.
Paul’s next instruction is this *Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching* (13). A certain authority had been delegated to Timothy as Paul’s representative in Ephesus, but his authority was of course subordinate to the apostle’s in two respects. On the one hand, what he was to *command and teach* was *these things*; he was to teach Paul’s teaching, not his own. On the other hand, he would continue only until Paul arrived, when the apostle would take over. Meanwhile, Paul reminded Timothy that he had another authority in Old Testament Scripture.
The four words *public reading of Scripture* render the single Greek noun *anagnosis*, since it often referred to reading aloud in public. MM supply examples of its use in the reading of wills, petitions, dispatches and reports. But it was also used of the public reading of Scripture, as when the priests read from the law in Ezra’s day (Ne.8:8, LXX), Jesus read from Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue (Lk.4:16), and the Old Testament was regularly read in synagogue worship (E.g. Acts 13:15; 15:21). This reading of the Old Testament was taken over by Christians from synagogue to church.
In addition, the apostles directed that the churches should read their letters aloud in the Christian assembly. ‘I charge you before the Lord’, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, ‘to have this letter read to all the brothers’ (1 Thess.5:27). He gave a similar instruction to the Colossian church: ‘After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea’ (Col.4:16). The book of Revelation also opens with a similar command: ‘Blessed is the one who reads the words of the prophecy…’(Rev.1:3; cf.22:18-19). These are extraordinary instructions. They indicate that the apostles put their writings on a level with the Old Testament Scriptures. So each local church would begin to make its collection of the letters and memoirs of the apostles, so that on the Lord’s day in the Lord’s assembly there would be two public readings, first from the Old Testament Scriptures (from the law or the prophets or both) and then from the apostolic writings. And this practice continues in most churches today, in the first and second lessons. Already by about the middle of the second century these readings were part of the accepted liturgy. Justin Martyr in his *First Apology* wrote:
On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has finished, the president speaks, instructing and exhorting the people to imitate these good things.
‘Instructing and exhorting’ are exactly what Paul goes on to require, when he adds *preaching (paraklesis*, exhortation) and *teaching (didaskalia*, instruction) to the Scripture reading. It was already customary in the synagogue for the reading of Scripture to be followed by an exposition (E.g. Lk.4:16ff.; Acts 13:16ff), and this practice was carried over into the Christian assemblies, being the origin of the sermon in public worship. It was taken for granted from the beginning that Christian preaching would be an expository preaching, that is, that all Christian instruction and exhortation would be drawn out of the passage which had been read.
We note, however, that the public reading of the Scripture came first, identifying the authority. What followed was exposition and application, whether in the form of doctrinal instruction or of moral appeal, or both. Timothy’s own authority was thus seen to be secondary, both to the Scripture and to the apostle. All Christian teachers occupy the same subordinate position as Timothy did. They will be wise, therefore, especially if they are young, to demonstrate both their submission to the authority of Scripture and their conscientious integrity in expounding it, so that their teaching is seen to be not theirs but the word of God.
Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 4:11-5:2 c). Timothy must exercise his gift.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.