“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexual immoral, men who practise homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted”
(1 Timothy 1:8-11, ESV)
The law is good and useful. Useful for who? Not for the righteous, but for the unrighteous. Here Paul lists to Timothy those to whom the law applies and for whom it was made. It is interesting that the list falls into two categories, sins against God (“but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane”) and sins against one another (“for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexual immoral, men who practise homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers”). This led me to believe that Paul is referring to the pattern of the Mosaic Law, especially the Ten Commandments which fall into the same two divisions or categories.
First on the list are “the lawless and disobedient.” Those who don’t recognize law or rebel against the constituted authority (read Matthew 24:12) and those who have the do-my-own-thing attitude. The disobedience remind me of Judges 21:25: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Then Paul moves to “the ungodly and sinners.” Though many people may not openly deny the existence of God, their lives demonstrate that God is nonexistence or they doesn’t consider God to be relevant, personal or important. The ungodly is more of a passive inactions whereas the sinners are actively rebels against God. This is followed by those who are described as “the unholy and profane.” Because of ungodliness, the thought that God is holy and righteous is far from their minds and hearts. Holiness is a strange word and concept. And because of the righteousness, glory and holiness of God is unknown, profanity, which simply mean “trampling on that which is holy,” come next (remind me of Romans 3:18).
Paul now turns to sins against one another. “For those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers” those who did exactly what it is said. No sense of God’s holiness breed no sense of respect for others, even to parents. Thus, no respect will resulted in seeing others as no value… so murdering those who bear the image of God is easy. Then Paul turns to sex sins. “The sexually immoral.” There are two common words related to sexual immorality in the Bible: fornication and adultery (if you read Book of Hosea, the common word is “whoredom”). I often differentiate them this way: fornication refers to sexual sin prior to marriage (premarital sex) and adultery refers to the same sin after marriage (having sex with other than his/her spouse). And then he touches on the most common sin during Timothy’s time but becoming very sensitive today “men who practise homosexuality.” It is sad that homosexuality has become accepted as a way of life today. We read news of homosexual churches, homosexual ministers/pastors/priests and homosexual wedding ceremonies. Though I’m sympathized with those who really struggle with homosexual tendencies, but actively practising homosexual relationship is a sin. Direct and clear.
Paul continues his list by mentioning “enslavers.” My ESV Bible footnote explains that enslavers are “those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery”. Kidnapping is a form of enslaver. It was estimated that nearly 4,000 Malaysian children went missing in 2014-2015 and no doubt that most of them are victims of human trafficking! Very sad. Finally, “liars, perjurers” complete the list of sins specifically named. Lying is an accepted way of life in much of the world today, even among those who professed to be Christians. White lie, black lie, yellow lie – all lies! This kind of lying is selfish, irresponsible and deceiving. Then, for all other sins against God and one another Paul included them all under “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (read previous articles about sound doctrine). I noticed that Paul did not say “whatever else is contrary to sound action” but rather “contrary to sound doctrine.” What a person believes – faith and theology/doctrine – determines how he lives.
This is the use of the law of God: to show that all of the above are the result of human unrighteousness. By law we are damned! But have hope and be joyful for Paul – and all the prophets and apostles – “have been entrusted” with “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” We can put our trust in their writings because they simply wrote the truth that God had entrusted them to deliver and proclaim. God’s glory is in Jesus Christ the Son of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:3). Thus, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul is proclaiming! In Christ, we move from law to grace; from bondage to freedom; from unrighteousness to righteousness. The law is good, but the grace of God is wayyyyyyyyyyyy better! Amen.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.