After Paul greets Timothy, he begins right away by giving some instructions regarding his ministry at Ephesus. Paul was well aware of the tendencies of the Ephesians to get sidetracked from the gospel and to wander into meaningless teaching. It sounds like this is one of Paul’s major concerns, so he addresses it immediately. In 1 Timothy 1:3-4, he says, “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”

 There are lots of speculations regarding the nature of the “false doctrine” that certain people were teaching. “There was an accepted standard of apostolic teaching Paul wanted Timothy to follow.”[1] That standard was the proclamation of the Gospel. Paul did not want Timothy to get sidetracked into focusing on “myths” and “endless genealogies.” The reference to myths and genealogies is a reference to Jewish teaching. They insisted on proclaiming the law as the basis of salvation, not faith in the Messiah. Paul addresses this problem more specifically with Titus. In the first Chapter of Titus’ letter (1:10-14), Paul describes the false teachers as being “those of the circumcision party.” Paul tells Titus to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.” Paul is not necessarily using the word “myth” to speak of fairy tales or legends that aren’t true. A myth might be a true story from the past that has inherited a certain unquestioning authority that had application to contemporary listeners. The speculations, or applications, of the story of David, could be an example. The Jews taught about King David as a story that had application to the hearer to strive to become giant slavers in their own lives instead of recognizing David as the failed messianic king who was to pave the way for his ultimate heir who would conquer the real foe in all of our lives. This approach had achieved an unquestioning authority. It has that in many pulpits today as well. One writer points out the difference between the myth and the word. He says, “…the unquestioned validity of mythos can be contrasted with logos, the word whose validity or truth can be argued and demonstrated.”[2] John uses the idea of “logos” rather than “mythos” to tell the truth about Jesus. He did not want Christianity to be seen as another Jewish myth.

The phrase that the English Standard Version uses, “stewardship from God,” might be understood as Collins describes it. He says, “It may, however, be preferable to take the phrase in the sense of God’s management plan, the plan of salvation.”[3] The Old Testament is indeed God’s communication to all mankind, but it has a focus. The focus is that there will be a savior coming to redeem the world and restore our relationship with God. He is the one who conquers the enemy for us. We are more like the Israelite army standing on the hill overlooking the battle of David and Goliath. Someone else fought the battle for us. Someone else gave us the victory. By faith, we get the victor’s spoils, eternal life. We are not our own saviors. Understanding the stories of the Old Testament as moral lessons as to how we are supposed to be our own savior or as simple moralistic behavior messages misses the entire point of God’s plan of redemption. Paul wanted to be sure that the believers in Ephesus did not fall prey to the message of salvation by works. God’s plan, as progressively revealed in the whole Bible, is that Jesus Christ, our savior, won the battle for us, and through faith in Him and Him alone can one receive the gift of eternal life. Stick with that message.

[1] Lea, Thomas D., and Hayne P. Griffin. 1992. 1, 2 Timothy, Titus. Vol. 34. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


[3] Collins, Raymond F. 2012. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: A Commentary. Edited by C. Clifton Black, M. Eugene Boring, and John T. Carroll. The New Testament Library. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.