1 Timothy is full of meaningful specifics such as when Paul talks about the assembly and the differing roles for men and women (2:8-15), gives the qualifications for elders and deacons (3:1-13), or talks about supporting certain widows (5:3-16). This is exactly the kind of thing we would expect to find when we think about Timothy’s work as an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5). He would need to know exactly what needed to be done in certain situations. There are just times in life when you need meaningful specifics and nothing else will do. Knowing you need leadership in your church is not the same thing as understanding the steps to implementing it!
But there’s also occasions in 1 Timothy when Paul steps back and shares grand, sweeping truths that stagger us with their depth. In both letters to Timothy as well as the one to Titus, he offers “trustworthy” sayings. In 1 Timothy 1:15 it’s that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” A well-known truth to be sure, but also one that says so much about both the Father, the Son, and us.
But again, this kind of thing shouldn’t surprise us. First of all, it is Paul writing and we’re used to him saying profound things. But from the perspective of what Timothy needed, If he had his feet on the ground in taking care of practical matters, he would also need to have his head in the clouds in regard to keeping alive the wonder and grandeur of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8 ESV). Lengthy work requires a lofty vision.
In 3:16, Paul offers another big, overarching truth when he writes:
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.
Paul has just spoken of the church as “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (3:15). Pillars and foundations support things that go on top of them. In this case, Paul refers to the roof-type or canopy structure as “the truth,” so we have the church serving as the foundation and pillars in support of the truth. It is the picture of the church bearing witness to God’s truth. We are holding it up for the world to see (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:14-16).