Let’s be honest, the knowledge of God is a bit of an acquired taste. At first it seems too remote or intellectual, like a piece of classical music; but on closer inspection, after repeated exposure and listens, you pick up on the beautiful patterns, the intricate textures, the emotions and images that are provoked and brought to life by the melodies and harmonies, and a new world opens before you whose horizons fade away into an infinite expanse.
What comes to mind when you think of Paul’s first letter to Timothy? I’m willing to bet that for many of us “a manual on church life” might summarize our first thoughts. This is not an unfair description. It certainly seems to capture what Paul himself said was the purpose of his letter in 3:15-16, “I am writing these things to you so that… you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.” The majority of this letter is dedicated to this theme which often dominates all our comments and applications from it. But in surveying the this landscape, we often miss an obvious and dominating landmark we can see from anywhere in this letter, yet often pass over with little attention. That landmark is Paul’s doctrine of God. Of course, the doctrine of God is present in all of Paul’s letters like a layer of bedrock or a tectonic plate that shapes and secures everything else in his teaching. But here in 1 Timothy, that bedrock erupts forming two grand vistas, two rich doxologies of God.
Both of these doxologies, the first in 1:17 and the second in 6:15-16, coming at the end of other blocks of teaching, are usually not close enough to the main point of the passage for preachers to give them anything more than a cursory nod and glance over the shoulder. But, in fact, it is these great landmarks that define the landscape, shape the weather patterns, and give points of reference to everything Paul says and everything Timothy must accomplish.
At the end of the day, the ultimate motivation for everything we do, in life or in ministry, should be God. As Paul says elsewhere, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That’s a pious thing to say. Its an easy thing to say, because it doesn’t really cost much.