October 21, 2012

Scripture and Commentary, Monday through Wednesday, Week of Twentieth Sunday after Trinity


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. 1:1-11, 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 can recognise 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.

Tuesday after the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.125, 126, 2 Kings 4:18-25, 1 Tim. 4:6
Evening - Ps. 132, Eccles. 2:1-11, Mt. 20:1-16

Commentary, 1Timothy 4:6-16

This passage has two primary points.  First, put the people "in remembrance of these things."  Second, "exercise thyself unto godliness."

"These things" (4:6) refers to the things written and referred to in this letter.  They are the true doctrines of the Gospel of Christ, which have been entrusted to Paul (1:11), which he has entrusted to Timothy, and which Timothy was to entrust to the ministers of Ephesus (1:3-5).  One of Timothy's tasks in Ephesus was to consecrate bishops to oversee the churches of Ephesus and the surrounding area.  Another task was to ordain men to the deaconate (3:1-13, 5:22).  He was to instruct clergy in the patterns of worship, daily prayer, and Christian love (1:5), so they, in turn, could instruct the churches (4:11, 1:3).  He was also to teach them to actively avoid falsehood and vain speculation about Scripture and Heavenly things (4:7).

To "exercise thyself unto godliness" (4:7) is to practice the discipline of living for God daily.  It includes habituating ourselves in the patterns of public worship, daily prayer, the Scriptures, and conduct and conversation that develop faith and faithfulness in us.  Our goal is to "Draw nigh unto God" (Jas. 4:8-10) and to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom.12:2).  It is to be continually in the process of becoming more a person God wants you to be, and less a person of self and sin.  Thus, Timothy was to meditate in and give himself wholly to them.

Timothy was to give attendance (devote himself to) reading the Scriptures, exhortation to Biblical thinking and living, and doctrine, which is teaching and applying what the Bible says (4:13).  He would have naturally spent much of his time teaching the clergy of Ephesus and the surrounding area.  But the reading, exhortation, and doctrine would have been part of his public duties in worship, and in private meetings as well.  Timothy was to be a man of prayer, diligent in the means of grace.  He was then to teach the clergy to do the same, and they were to lead the people into the same pattern.

So diligence in exercising unto godliness is the calling of all.  It is not just for Apostles, or bishops, or clergy; it is the way of life for all Christians.  I wonder how different our own lives would be, and what a difference we might make in the Church and the world if we would simply apply ourselves unto Godliness.

The gift and laying on hands of verse 14 refers to Timothy's ordination to the ministry of the Gospel, and the gifts of the Spirit that enabled him to accomplish his task.  It especially refers to the ability to teach the Scriptures, called here "prophecy."

Wednesday after the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary
              
Morning - Ps.127, 130, 2 Kings 4:26-37, 1 Tim. 5:1-16
Evening - Ps. 135, Eccles. 2:18, Mt. 20:17

Commentary
1Timothy 5:1-16

Kindness and deference are to mark Timothy's treatment of others.  Timothy is an important leader in the Church.  He has authority to consecrate bishops and ordain clergy.  He has authority to teach and command both clergy and congregations (4:11).  Without doubt Timothy organised the churches in and around Ephesus into cohesive dioceses, consecrating bishops to oversee each.  Thus, Timothy served not only as a representative of Paul, but as a kind of archbishop and a ruler of those who had rule of the Church.  This is a position of great authority, worthy of great respect.  Yet, he is not to be arrogant or puffed up.  Instead he is to be humble, to remember that callings may differ, but people are equal.  So he is to treat older men and women with the same loving respect he would show to his own father and mother.  He is to treat younger Christians with the same love and respect he would give to his own sisters and brothers (see also 2 Tim. 2:24-26).

In Timothy's time, the Church provided for widows and orphans within the congregation.  Naturally, some women joined the church just to get a handout, and Paul instructs Timothy that even widows are to provide as much for themselves as possible. Especially young widows should remarry and be provided for as a wife rather than as a ward of the Church (5:14). Those with families should be provided for by them (5:4, 16).  But a true widow (destitute) of proven Christian faith, who has long been a member of the Church and demonstrated her faith in her life, was to be aided by the Church (5:16). 

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