In 1 Timothy, Paul wrote his young friend to encourage him to remain in Ephesus and establish the church in good doctrine. Those opposing the church perverted the gospel of grace—which Paul had experienced and in turn entrusted to Timothy (1 Tim 1:12-19). Paul reminded his readers that the gracious gospel of Christ was to be the foundation of prayer, relationships, and leadership in the church (1 Tim 2:1-3:6). He wanted his audience to view the Old Testament in light of God’s revelation in Christ, as part of the storyline of God’s redemptive purposes.
(1) In 1 Tim 4:1-5, Paul argued against those who proposed that Christians needed to observe the Old Testament food laws. In Lev 11:1-23, 41-47, Moses commanded Israel to abstain from specific species of animals, marking these animals as unclean for God’s people. Moses repeated these commands in Deut 14:1-21. By marking certain foods as unclean, Israel would be marked as God’s holy people when they refused to eat what other nations freely consumed. Peter was thus shocked when the Lord told him in a dream to take up and eat foods that Moses forbade Israel to eat (Acts 10:9-16). Paul confronted Peter for promoting food laws when Peter came from Jerusalem to Antioch (Gal 2:11-14). In Paul’s mind, those in the church in Ephesus who were promoting food laws were under a demonic influence (1 Tim 4:1-3). As a servant of Christ Jesus, Timothy was to point out that marriage and food were to be viewed as holy, sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Tim 4:4-6).
(2) In 1 Tim 5:4, Paul wrote that children of a needy widow should practice their religion and care for her, echoing the fifth commandment. In Exod 20:12 and Deut 5:16, the Lord commanded His people to honor their parents. In Leviticus 19, Moses commanded Israel to be holy before the Lord and one another, loving God and their neighbor. In Lev 19:2-3, the Lord told Moses, “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. Each of you is to respect his mother and father. You are to keep My Sabbaths; I am the LORD your God.” As believers in the church looked out for the needs of their parents, they would alleviate the church from bearing the burden of financially supporting widows with resources that could be used to advance the gospel through missionary endeavors.
(3) In 1 Tim 5:18, Paul quoted Deut 25:4 to reinforce his argument that church elders should be paid for their labor. In Deut 25:1-4, Moses wrote commands regarding justice and mercy in the community of Israel. His stipulations applied to humans at court and animals in the pasture. Moses wrote, “Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain” (Deut 25:4). Paul saw in Moses’ command a basis for churches paying elders who labored in the word (1 Tim 5:17-18). Paul cited Deut 25:4 in 1 Cor 9:9, arguing that churches should support the apostles, even though he gave up the right of support from the Corinthians.
(4) In 1 Tim 5:19-21, Paul reflected Deut 19:15 when describing the process for correcting a sinful elder. In Deut 19:15-21, Moses wrote procedures that would ensure a fair trial when an Israelite was accused of wrongdoing: “A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deut 19:15). Jesus cited Deut 19:15 in Matt 18:16 when He established the practice of confronting a brother in sin so as to win the brother back to the community of the church. Paul wrote that elders who were accused of sin needed to be treated with the same due process that Jesus established for the church at large. No elder was to be condemned by a single witness.
(5) In 1 Tim 6:15-16, Paul employed the language of Deut 10:17 to describe God’s sovereign plan to send Christ back to earth at the time He has appointed. In Deuteronomy 10, Israel renewed their covenant with the Lord and Moses exhorted the people to keep their covenant commitment by obeying the law. Moses reminded the people that the Lord is the Lord of all lords and the God of all gods, acting with perfect justice in all that He did (Deut 10:17). Paul echoed Moses’ language in 1 Tim 6:15, reminding Timothy and the church in Ephesus that God had already appointed the day when Christ would return for them.