“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia–remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3).
First century Macedonia was a regional area that was located the northern portion of Greece. This broad geographic territory was home to several New Testament-era churches including Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica.
While Paul the Apostle’s decision to leave Ephesus to continue his missionary work in that region served to benefit the citizens of Macedonia, it also created a pastoral void within the church at Ephesus. Paul sought to fill that void by urging Timothy to undertake a greater leadership role in shepherding the Ephesian congregation. Thus, the Biblical book we know today as 1 Timothy contains a number of tasks, objectives, and responsibilities related to Timothy’s ministry in the city of Ephesus.
However, we should note that Paul’s trip to Macedonia does not seem to fit with the other missionary journeys that are chronicled for us within the Biblical book of Acts. One source explains this omission and offers a potential timeline for this letter…
“It seems probable that after Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome, he visited Ephesus with Timothy. When Paul moved on to Macedonia, he instructed Timothy to stay in Ephesus for a while to teach the word of God and to warn the believers against false teachers. From Macedonia, Paul apparently traveled south to Corinth, and it was perhaps from that city that he wrote this first Letter to Timothy.” (1)
Much like the ancient city of Corinth, the city of Ephesus held an important position within the first-century Roman Empire. It featured a large harbor that was suitable for transporting people and merchandise as well as a prominent theatre mentioned in Acts 19:29. Ephesus also served as a summer retreat for the wealthy and boasted an extensive library for the academically inclined.
This leads us to the first action item on Paul’s list for the Ephesian church: “Some people there are teaching false doctrines, and you must order them to stop” (GNB). As mentioned previously, Paul anticipated the arrival of these heretical teachers and advised the Ephesian church leadership to prepare to meet the challenges they presented (Acts 20:29-30). By arranging for Timothy to remain in Ephesus, Paul made certain to provide the Ephesians with a valuable human resource who could help prevent these false teachers from gaining a foothold and spreading their doctrines within the church.
We’ll consider this reference to “doctrine” and discuss its importance over the next few studies.
(1) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, II. Paul’s Charge To Timothy (1:3-11), pg.2137