When the apostles passed off the scene, did they give any kind of hint or clear instruction as to what believers and churches should look to for final authority in matters of faith and practice?
Yes, they did–note this comment by C. I. Scofield on 2 Timothy 3:16-17…
The apostolic presence is about to be withdrawn. That presence had carried with it authority, because the apostles were inspired and sent forth as the spokesmen of Christ. Looking forward now to his approaching removal by death, the apostle points the servants of the Lord to the Scriptures as inspired, authoritative, able to make wise unto salvation, and competent to teach, reprove, correct, instruct, and to thoroughly furnish the man of God unto every good work. Not one word does he say of a successor to his apostleship, nor of the authority of a church, body of churches, council, or creed. The Scriptures, and they alone, are authoritative (Scofield Correspondence Course: The New Testament, p. 305).
1 Timothy 2 addresses some essential aspects of public worship in the proper order of the church. That public worship is the focal point of this chapter is clear from vv. 8-12.
God says that much prayer must occur when God’s people assemble, and that such prayer plays an essential role in the salvation of sinners (cf. the close connection between prayer and God’s desire for their salvation in vv. 1-7).
What place does prayer have in our assembling? What are we praying for? Does my life support or work against the order necessary for praying? If my or another’s life is not properly ordered, especially for public prayer, my and other’s attention and focus will not be where it should be.
The balance of the chapter addresses two additional issues necessary for biblical worship, issues that if not dealt with will distract the church from worshiping God, especially through prayer.
Men are to strive for holiness of life (“lifting up holy hands,” cf. Psa 24:4; Jas 4:8) and living peacefully with others. Women are to exhibit a proper focus in life, especially in regard to apparel (vv. 9-10), actions in the assembly (vv. 11-12), and their aim in life (v. 15).
While recognizing that Paul’s instruction to Timothy addresses particular problems in the Ephesian church, we must recognize the continuing application it has for us today. Thus, it seems that men struggle most in the areas of personal holiness and proper relationships and attitudes. Women are most easily distracted by an over-emphasis on external appearances (cf. 1 Pet 3:3-6), a desire for prominence and attention, and leaving their God-appointed role in life. When a Christ-centered perspective on life is lost the church’s worship is directly affected.
God’s intended purposes (“administration,” oijkonomian, v. 5) are never accomplished by “strange doctrines” (eJterodidaskalevw, 1 Tim 1:3). God’s intended purposes involve a heart that produces genuine love, a correctly guided conscience, and genuine faith (v. 5). It is only by biblical instruction (paraggeliva, vv. 5, 18) that one may “fight the good fight” (v. 18). Non-biblical teaching never produces these fruits.
Instead, the effects of heterodoxy are clearly described:
- mere speculation, v. 4
- fruitless discussion, v. 6
- rejection of the faith and a good conscience, v. 19
- shipwrecked faith, v. 19
As a spiritual leader in my home and church, it is my responsibility to make sure that those for whom I am responsible receive thoroughly biblical teaching. If there is heterodoxy being promulgated I must put a stop to it, because such affects all of life and one’s service for the Lord.
It is fitting that an epistle dealing with church order begins with a definite call to root out false teaching and insure biblical teaching. It is fitting because the church is the pillar and support of the truth.