November 6, 2011

Monday after the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.124, 128, 2 Kings 4:8-17, 1 Tim 3:14-4:5
Evening - Ps. 131, 133, 134, Eccles. 1:2-11, Mt. 19:16

Commentary
1Timothy 3:14-4:5

It was Paul's intention to go Ephesus as soon as he could possibly get there (3:14). But, in case he was detained, Timothy was to carry on the work in Ephesus. So Paul took time to pen a few words of encouragement and instruction for him. He has already reminded Timothy of what he should look for in candidates for the offices of bishop and deacon (3:1-13), and now he turns to Timothy's personal character and work. Timothy, of course, was already well aware of these things. Paul put them in this letter so Timothy could show it to the Ephesians, so they would know that he was acting in accordance with the instructions of Paul. Having this in writing from Paul, Timothy could show it to presbyters wanting to become bishops, and laymen wanting to become deacons. This would give them something to evaluate themselves by, and give the Church the standard of what to look for in the men holding these offices.

It is important to note that Paul calls the Church "the house of God" (3:15). This is a significant change, for prior to Pentecost the Temple was called the house of God. Paul realises that no building is actually God's dwelling. His real house is His people. It includes both the whole body of believers, and the local congregation, and it is assumed throughout the New Testament that Christians will be active members of the local church (Heb. 10:25). It should also be noted that the Church is the Church of the Living God. It does not belong to us, we belong to it, and it belongs to God. It is, therefore, to be conformed to His will as taught in the Bible, not run according to our whims and creativity, or by our own views of what it "ought" to be. This is very important, because people have a tendency to become confused on this point.

In fact, Paul warns Timothy that people will depart from the faith and fall under the spell of seducing spirits (5:1-5). They will follow the temptation to re-invent the Church, and the faith to make it more comfortable to themselves and to the world. 5:2 should frighten everyone who reads it, for it teaches that those who follow false teachings and engage in wrong practices can become so entrenched in them they can no longer see their error. In one sense we easily see this in sinful attitudes and actions we have allowed to become habits in our lives. But Paul is talking about taking this even further, to the point where a person has left the faith, and doesn't even know it.

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