In the first two parts of this series, I observed patterns in 1 Timothy about lists of six items describing various forms of action (Part 1) and lists of four items describing ways to lead and support the congregation (Part 2). The thematic values of those lists both come out to 60, either by 6×10 or 4×15.
There’s at least one more similar pattern in 1 Timothy in the form of lists of three items that illustrate ways of being the chief or head of something, which has the thematic value of twenty (again, 60 = 3×20). Note that there’s a distinct difference between the theme of twenty and the theme of fifteen. Fifteen’s primary theme is of support, so in a congregation, this builds into servant leadership as someone that leads by supporting others. But twenty’s primary theme is of being the chief or top of something, which can also mean being the worst at something rather than the best, as we’ll see.
|1:13,15||Who was before||a blasphemer||a persecutor||injurious||Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief|
|1:17||Now unto the King||eternal||immortal||invisible||the only wise God, [be] honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.|
|4:13||Till I come, give attendance to||reading||exhortation||doctrine|
|6:15-16||[our Lord Jesus Christ] which in his times, he shall shew, who is||the blessed and only Potentate||the King of Kings||Lord of Lords||Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom [be] honour and power everlasting. Amen.|
The first list well illustrates that being the chief at something may not be a positive thing, with Paul describing how he was “before” (his conversion), with three very negative qualities, and then two verses later making a literal reference to being the chief of sinners. He’s saying that in the beginning, he considers himself to have been the very worst of sinners, and probably few who suffered at the hands of his persecution would be quick to disagree with him.
The three negative qualities he chose aptly summarize having broken all the commandments, with “blasphemer” summarizing sins against God (the first four commandments) and “persecutor” summarizing sins against others (the other six commandments). “Injurious,” also translated “spiteful” or “insolent,” illustrates the self-righteousness of a leader who thought he was doing what God wanted when he was actually doing quite the opposite. The only other use of that word is in Romans 1:30, where it is translated “despiteful,” in the middle of a long list of various types of corrupt people.
Skipping the second list for now, we find in the third list a more positive example in what Timothy must focus on in Paul’s absence until he returns. The previous verse to this is the one that gave Timothy six ways of being an example to the congregation in his daily life. This one gives him the three main activities to include in services, that most churches still include in their services: reading of Scripture, exhortation or preaching the gospel, and teaching doctrine. Many modern sermons include all three of these without specifically separating them, but synagogue services, both ancient and modern, tend to separate them more distinctly with a specific Scripture reading at the beginning.
For a closer look at those activities, first, hearing Scripture read is important to build the faith of God’s people, according to the well-known Romans 10:17. Second, the word used here for “exhortation” is actually translated more often as “consolation” and also sometimes as “comfort,” indicating that it is important to build the patience and hope of God’s people by encouraging them in their trials. Romans 15:4-5 is a great reference passage for this idea, saying in the second half of verse 4, “…that we through patience and comfort [exhortation] of the scriptures might have hope.”
Thirdly, teaching doctrine is important to build the knowledge and understanding of God’s people. Again, the first half of Romans 15:4 says, using the same word, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning [doctrine]…” Note that 1 Timothy contains exactly eight uses of the word “doctrine,” four of which occur here in chapter 4, whose numerical theme is the door of knowledge, contrasting “doctrines of devils” (v1) with godly doctrine.
The second and fourth lists have so many parallels and interesting features that I will wait until next time to go more into detail on those.