November 2, 2014

Scriptures and Commentary, November 3-8

Monday

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).   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.  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 our whims and creativity, or 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.  They will try 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

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 show and 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 it.

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
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).  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 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).  A true widow is one with no other means.  She is financially destitute.  Such widows, if they are of proven Christian faith, who have long been members of the Church and have demonstrated their faith in their lives, were to be aided by the Church (5:16). 

Thursday

Morning - Ps.141, 142, 2 Kings 4:38-5:8, 1 Tim. 5:17-25
Evening - Ps. 137, 138, Eccles. 3:1-15, Mt. 21:1-6

Commentary, 1 Timothy 5:17-25

Paul turns from the financial support of widows within the congregation to the financial support of clergy (5:17-18).  The double honour owed to the elder (presbyter/clergy) while carrying the meaning of respect and cooperation, also means financial support.  It is the honouraria given to a person whose services are valued.  It is the same word used in 1 Tim. 5:3, which leads into the instructions about providing for destitute widows.  Verse 18 refers to the Old Testament principle of not muzzling the ox who treads the grain, for to do so is deprive him of his due compensation.  If it is wrong to deprive the ox of his compensation, it is also wrong to deprive the clergy of his.

Having broached the treatment of ministers again, Paul says accusations against them are not to be lightly received.  This refers to accusations of serious sin or heresy, which require disciplinary action.  Two or three witnesses are required to verify the charge (5:19), and the guilty are to be rebuked before all (5:20) without partiality (5:21). "Justice is blind." The same principles apply to all members of the Church.  We neither speak nor hear idle gossip, complaints, or accusations against our fellow servants of Christ.

Because the authority and responsibility placed upon the clergy is so great, Timothy is to take great care that he ordains (lays hands on) only those who have proven themselves faithful (5:22).  They are to have faced a time of testing and examination so that their views and practices are well known.  To ordain someone without this is to be a partaker of his sins, if he later proves to be of heretical views and unorthodox practices which he has spread to the people.  

Friday
 Morning - Ps. 143, 2 Kings 5:9-19, 1 Tim. 6:1-11
Evening - Ps. 139, Eccles. 3:16, Mt. 21:17-32
 Commentary, 1 Timothy 6:1-11
 Servants are to count their masters as worthy of all honour.  Here again, "honour" carries the double meaning of respect and payment.  So the servant is to consider the master worthy of respect and worthy of his share of the servant's production.  This has tremendous meaning for Christians in the work force today.  It means we are to honour those who create our jobs and pay our wages.  Likewise, masters are to pay wages that are fair and just, and Christian charity and equality is to bring masters and servants into mutual love.  Thus Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother (Phil. 16).   This principle is so important Paul says anyone who teaches otherwise does not consent to the words of Christ or the doctrine that is in accordance with Godliness (6:3).  Instead he is proud, ignorant, and destitute of the truth (6:3-5). 
Then, as now, some taught that Godliness is a pathway to financial gain.  It is true that hard work and frugal living generally produce prosperity, but there are no guarantees in the Bible about this.  A Christian's business may fail.  His job may be eliminated.  Office politics may deny him promotions, or, even get him fired.  We live in a fallen world where sinners sin and evil things happen, so this should not surprise us.  God makes no promises to make us rich.  Especially does He not promise to reward holy living or giving money to the Church with financial success.
There is gain in Godliness, but it is spiritual, not financial (6:7) and we should content ourselves with food and raiment (6:8) knowing that the rich fall into many temptations that can drown them in destruction and perdition (6:9-10).  In contrast to those who seek primarily wealth, Christians are to seek contentment, and follow after Godliness (6:11).

Saturday
Morning - Ps. 149, 2 Kings 5:20, 1 Tim. 6:12
Evening - Ps. 19, 46, Eccles. 5:1-7, Mt. 21:33
Commentary, 1 Timothy 6:12-21
Paul has reminded and encouraged Timothy to flee the things of unGodliness and follow after the things of God (6:11).  These words convey a picture of running away from unGodliness, and running after Godliness.  It is important to note that the things to be run from, and the things to be pursued are not just actions, they are character traits.  Thus, Timothy, and we through him, is reminded that a major part of the Christian life is the reformation of personal character.  It is being changed in who and what we are.  To pursue the things of Godliness means to cultivate them and to work at making them a part of us.  This is not easy.  Paul compares it to a fight, a battle (6:12, see also 1 Tim. 1:8).  And the enemy is within us.  The enemy is our own desire to please ourselves at the expense of others and to the neglect of God.  John Chrysostom, in his Homilies on Timothy, XVIII, calls our desires, "passions," and says power and wealth in this world, even to the extent of ruling over nations, is nothing if we do not have rule over our own passions.
"For of what advantage, tell me, is it to reign over nations of our fellow-men, and to be the slaves of our own passions?  Or what are we the worse for having no one under our rule if we are superior to the tyranny of the passions?  That indeed is Freedom, that is Rule, that is Royalty and Sovereignty.  The contrary is slavery, though a man be invested with countless diadems.  For when a multitude of masters sway him from within, the love of money, the love of pleasure, and anger and other passions, what avails his diadem?  The tyranny of those passions is more severe, when not even his crown has power to deliver him from their subjection."
The good fight also includes contending for the faith and standing firm for Christ against the darkness.  The entire Christian life is a battle against the forces of evil, both outside of and within our own hearts.  Thus, Paul urges Timothy to "lay hold on eternal life" (6:12).  He is to hold fast to Christ and the salvation given to him by the sacrifice of the Lord.  This is not a once for all thing, it is a lifelong process and it is part of fighting the good fight.  Timothy has professed Christ.  He has made the decision to trust Christ as Lord and Saviour.  Now he must continue to lay hold of Christ throughout his life, for it is those who persevere to the end who are truly saved.  Paul refers here to what he calls walking in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), and what John calls walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7).  Each of these verses refers to a continuous action.  Walk and continue to walk.   Keep on laying hold of the eternal life you laid hold of in your profession of Christ.
Christ Himself is the ground of our faith, and the hope of His appearing, both in His word and Spirit, and in His Second Coming, is what keeps us laying hold of Him.  It is also the ground of Timothy's charge, and his reason for continuously keeping it. Verses 14-16 show the glory of Christ.

Paul gives a final exhortation about the rich ((6:17-19), and ends with a heartfelt plea that Timothy will "keep that which is committed to thy trust." What has been committed to his trust? The Gospel and the ministry of reconciliation, the care of souls and churches, the shepherding of the shepherds, the responsibility to pass on the faith pure and undiluted, and to continue to fight the good fight.  It is everything Paul has placed into Timothy's care in this epistle.