October 28, 2012

Scripture and Commentary, Week of the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity


Monday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.2, 3,  2 Kings 6:8-14, 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Evening - Ps. 4, 8, Eccles. 5:8, Mt. 22:15-33

Commentary, 2 Timothy 1:1-14           

Today we begin reading Paul's final letter to Timothy.  Written from the Mammertine prison in Rome, Second Timothy shows the courage and faith of Paul in the face of death, and his concern for the continuing ministry of Timothy.  By this time, early in the year 69 A.D., Timothy is in Ephesus, where he has probably served since Paul sent him to that city in 61 or 62 A.D.  Meanwhile, Paul has travelled westward, possibly as far as Spain and Britannia, and the Apostle John has assumed Apostolic oversight of Ephesus and the area known as Asia Minor.  We do not know how Paul came to be imprisoned in Rome a second time, though we know that Rome's general hostility to Christianity became a full-fledged persecution after Nero blamed Christians for burning Rome in A.D. 64.  By the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy, he was in prison facing execution, John was imprisoned on Patmos, and Peter had been executed in Rome.

Yet Paul's letter begins with encouragement to Timothy.  His words are those of deep friendship and love; words like, "my dearly beloved son," "I have remembrance of thee in my prayers day and night," and "greatly desiring to see thee."  He reminds Timothy of his ordination (1:6), and asks him to stir up the gift of God, meaning the calling and ability to perform the ministry of the Gospel of Christ, in spite of opposition and persecution (1:7-11).  As Paul has suffered for the Gospel (1:12), he encourages Timothy to be willing to partake of the afflictions of the Gospel (1:8), having the same faith Paul has, that Christ is "able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (1:12).  What has Paul committed unto Christ?  His life here and now, and his soul forever.  "That day" is the Day of the Lord when all will be judged and those in Christ will be taken into Heaven forever.  Paul's faith that Christ will take him in on that day sustains him now in trials and death on earth.  Our reading ends with another exhortation to hold to sound words (doctrine) received from Paul, and to remain true to his calling, the "good thing committed unto him by the Holy Ghost.

The words of this epistle were written to Timothy, but their application to all Christians is evident.  All are called to the service of Christ, to endure hardship, and to remain true to their calling in Christ even unto death.  This charge is not just for those in the offices of ordained ministry, it is for all Christians.

Tuesday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.5, 2 Kings 6:15-23, 2 Timothy 1:15-2:13
Evening - Ps. 11, 12, Eccles. 6:1-12, Mt. 22:34

Commentary, 2 Timothy 1:15-2:13

How sad the words of verse 15 are.  They present the personal hurt Paul felt by the rejection of Phygelus and Hermogenes.  Having devoted himself to these very people, having brought the Gospel to them, nourished them in its teachings, suffered beatings, stonings, and prisons for their sake, and having established a church in which they can worship God and hear the truth, he now sees them forsake him.  Surely he must feel here what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:15, "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."  But Paul's words also express a deeper sorrow, for these people are deserting God to follow their own desires and ideas. So Paul's pain is more for them than for himself.  In their heresy and rebellion, they have sealed their fates as enemies of God.  Contrast verse 15 with verses 16-18.  Onesiphorus, because of his love for God and God's truth, also loved Paul, and showed his love in his actions as well as in his words. As Paul suffered and sacrificed to share the word of life with Onesiphorus, Onisiphorus shared good things with Paul.  This, naturally caused Paul to rejoice much, but he rejoiced even more to know that Onesiphorus walked in Biblical faith rather than following vain babblings (2 Tim. 2:16:-17).

In chapter 2, the epistle turns to the ministry again.  Timothy is to be strong in grace (2:1), and to commit what he has learned from Paul to "faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."  We err when we ask our ministers to spend their time planning social gatherings and recreational activities for us. We err when we ask our clergy to organise soup kitchens and homeless shelters.  Their calling is to teach the Scriptures to us; to "commit" the Apostolic teachings to us.  Our responsibility, just as Timothy's, is, first, to receive their teaching.  Timothy had to be a learner before he could become a teacher.  We, also, must be willing learners of the word of God.  We are, as Peter wrote, to "desire the sincere milk of the word" that we "may grow thereby" (1Pet. 2:1-2). Primary among God's appointed means for this is the ministry of men called and consecrated to teaching us.   Clergy, there is a legitimate sense in which your people may and should become followers of you, and in following you, become followers of the Lord (1 Thes. 1:6). Laity, there is such a things as a legitimate and good attachment to those who serve you in the name of Christ. Often laymen become sermon critics and develop an attitude of consumerism and entitlement toward the Church and her ministers.  This is as great an offense to God as a minister preaching false doctrine.

Second, we are to transmit the Christian faith to others.  Having it committed to us, it becomes our task to commit it to others, who will commit it to others, on down through the generations.  The Christian faith is not an individualistic faith.  It unites us to the whole company of faithful people.  We are part of a Family, a Temple, a River flowing into God.  We are like runners in a relay race.  Others have gone before us; others will come after us.  We have received the torch from those who have gone before.  We now run our course with perseverance and faithfulness, and pass the torch to others to carry on till the Lord Returns. While it is true that we are part of the fellowship of all faithful people, we can never allow ourselves to believe we can be a part of that broader fellowship without also being faithful in the local fellowship, which is the local church. And it is in the local congregation that our worship, fellowship, learning, and service primarily take place.

Paul illustrates our work with examples from military service, athletic competition, and agricultural labour (2:3-6).  All three require learning complex skills, self-discipline, and self exertion.  A soldier ignorant of the use of weapons will soon be dead.  An athlete not dedicated to his sport will soon be a spectator.  A farmer too lazy to plow the fields and gather the harvest, will soon have no harvest to gather.  Like wise, a minister who does not apply himself to teaching the Bible will soon have a congregation of heathens, and the layman who will not hear and learn the word will soon be one of them.

In 2:8, the epistle turns to the historical reality on which our hope is based; "Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead."  We do not hope in feelings or experiences.  We hope in a historical fact; that God came to earth, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. Paul would not suffer and die for a feeling or an emotional experience.  He would not die for a theory, or even a religion, and neither should we.  We live for, hope in, and serve a real, living God who has made Himself known in history and in flesh and blood.  For Him alone we will suffer, knowing that if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (2:12).

Wednesday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 9, 2 Kings 9:1-16, 2 Tim. 2:14-26
Evening - Ps. 13, 14, Eccles. 8:12-9:1, Mt. 23:1-12

Commentary, 2 Timothy 2:14-26

Both of Paul's letters to Timothy are about Timothy's charge as a minister and bishop in the Church of Christ.  Timothy is charged to do two things.  First, he is to keep himself pure in faith and life.  Second, he is to preach and teach the pure faith and life to others.  This means he will commit this charge to the ministers, who will then commit it to the churches.  It also means he will carry this charge directly to the churches in his capacity as their bishop.

We see both aspects of this in our reading for today.  Verse 14 continues the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers and laity over whom the Lord had made him a shepherd and an overseer.  Look back at 2:2, and you will see that our reading is a continuation of Paul's instruction to commit the Apostle's teachings to the ministers and churches.  Part of this ministry is to instruct them to walk together in peace.  Verse 14 requires them to refrain from striving about words that do not profit.  The key words here are, "strive not," which means don't fight about things that are unimportant.  Such babblings are profane and vain, increasing ungodliness in the people and the Church like canker (2:17).  Instead of fighting over trivialities, Christians must pursue and actively work for faith, charity, and peace with one another (2:22). Timothy himself is charged to be a man of peace.

He is to study the Scriptures (2:15).  Again Paul emphasises that learning comes before teaching.  The implication is that divisive babblings come from those who are either immature in the faith and the ways of Christ, or are complete strangers to them.  Hymenaeus and Philetus are examples of this (2:17). Wanting to become teachers before they have been learners, they have spread error and dissent throughout the Church in Ephesus. By contrast, Timothy, who has studied with Paul and has been ordained and sent to Ephesus to teach, is not to be aggressive and divisive as Hymenaeus and Philetus are. He is to be gentle and meek (2:24-25).  This does not mean he cannot take a firm stand for truth.  He has been encouraged to do so throughout this epistle.  It means his methods must be as kind and helpful as his motives.  The goal and hope is always that people may be recovered out of the snare of the devil (2:26). Paul intertwines his charge to Timothy, with the charge Timothy is to give to the clergy and the charge the clergy are to give to the Church.  This is because the same things apply to all.  The same faith, the same faithfulness, the same pursuit of peace, the same abhorrence of strife, the same meek and cooperative attitude, the same teachable attitude, and the same character traits are for both clergy and laity.  Our functions in the Church may differ, but our calling to holiness of life is the same; "Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2:19). 
                                                             
Thursday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 10, 2 Kings 9:17-28, 2 Tim. 3
Evening - Ps. 16, 17, Eccles 9:11, Mt. 23:13-23

Commentary, 2 Timothy 3

In the last days, Paul warns, people will be lovers of self, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). This is a sad state of affairs, but it is not the timing that makes it so sad, for Paul's description fits people of all times and eras.  It is not even the wickedness that makes it so sad, though such wickedness breaks the heart of all who love God and love people.  The thing that makes this so sad is that it describes the Church, not the world.  It describes people who call themselves Christians, and have a form of godliness (3:5).  These people may be well schooled in the doctrines of the faith.  They may know the basic teachings of the Bible, and may even read the Bible regularly.  They may be regular attenders of public worship, but their hearts are not about God.  In their hearts they are as far away from God as the devil himself.

Paul says such people are like Jannes and Jambres who rebelled against Moses (3:8).  How are they like these Old Testament people?  In their resistance to the truth.  In their resistance to the Gospel.  In their idea that they can go on living in opposition to God while buying Him off with a few dollars and ceremonies.

Let none try to comfort himself with delusions that such people only exist in the Church right before the Lord's Return.  The "last days" are those days from Pentecost to the Return of Christ, and such people have been, and will continue in the Church throughout this era.  Paul's point is that we must not be those people.  Like Timothy, we know the doctrine and life of Paul (3:10-12).  Timothy knew them by knowing Paul personally; we know them through the pages of Scripture.  But knowing them is not enough.  It is "continuing" in them (3:14) that matters. The beautiful words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, make no difference to a person unless he continues in the Bible's teachings.  To "continue" is to live in, to dwell in, to abide in the Bible in such a way that it shapes our thoughts and actions.  It molds us.  It changes who and what we are, right down to our very essence.

"Given by the inspiration of God" (3:16), means "God breathed," or from the mouth of God.  It is a picture of speech.  Our words come out in our breath.  So Paul is saying Scripture is the very word of God as truly as if it came out of His own mouth.  If this is so, how can we claim to love God, yet not continue in it?

Friday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 22, 2 Kings 9:30, 2 Tim. 4:1-8
Evening - Ps. 6, 26, Eccles. 11,  Mt. 23:25

Commentary, 2 Timothy 4:1-8

The Scriptures are the word of God, as though they came from the very mouth of God.  They are, then, the authority of faith and life.  2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 begin by telling us the Scriptures are the source of profitable doctrine, and end by telling us the Scriptures furnish God's people unto holy living, "good works."  "Profitable" implies first, that the Scriptures are the source of true knowledge of God, and true knowledge of how to love and serve Him.  It also implies that other sources of doctrine, instruction, and furnishing people for the task of knowing God and living life, are unprofitable.  They are defective, whether they come from the wisest of men, or our own inner thoughts.  Only the Bible is inspired by God.

It is for this reason that Timothy, and all clergy, are to "preach the word" (4:2).  Yes, there are some very wise people whose thoughts and lives have benefited humanity down through the ages.  But they were simply human, and their words and views are filled with human defects.  Their views of God and their directions for living a good life are flawed, including Timothy's.  This is why ministers are to preach the word, rather than their own views.  This is why ministers are to stay with the tried and true Biblical faith rather than blaze their own trails through the Bible.  The current demand for new ideas, practical sermons in place of "tired" and "boring" doctrines, and for creative and culturally informed worship are not new.  Timothy faced them in Ephesus in the first century A.D.  Paul faced them in Corinth. He writes to remind Timothy, and all who read this epistle, that those things cannot furnish the man of God.  The Word, the Bible, is God's appointed means to accomplish these things.  Preach the word... reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (4:2).

When God commands ministers to preach the word, He necessarily commands the Church to hear the word preached.  But verses 3 and 4 warn that some people will not endure sound doctrine.  They will want sermons that entertain them, and tell them how to get ahead in life and feel good about themselves.  Paul says such people turn their ears from the truth, and turn them to fables (4:4).  Again, such a warning to the preachers is also a warning to hearers not to be among those who reject the word for fables.  Ministers may not offer trivialities to God's people, even if the people demand them.  Ministers are to preach the word, they must "watch in all things."

To watch is to be on guard.  Those who give themselves to fables and heap up teachers who preach what they want to hear rather than the Word of God, are like people who allow alcohol and drugs to cloud their judgment, making themselves easy prey for those who would rob and harm them.  By contrast, God's true ministers are to be sober and on guard.  They are to do only that which furnishes God's people for Godliness.  Paul is especially concerned about this because he knows his time on earth is short.  "The time of my departure is at hand" (4:6-8).  He is not afraid.  He looks forward to Heaven.  But he wants to do his best to ensure that those coming after him in the Church know the truth, and have every opportunity to live according to it.

Saturday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 21, 23, 2 Kings 11, 1-16, 2 Tim. 4:9-22
Evening - Ps. 18, Eccles. 12,  Mt. 24:1-14

Commentary, 2 Timothy 4:9-22

The charge to Timothy is ended.  What remains in the epistle are personal remarks.  Yet, even they say much to those who have ears to hear.  Demas, for example, was a close friend and fellow labourer with Paul in Colossians 4:14.  But in 2 Tim. 4:9 he has deserted Paul.  What has caused his defection, which is not only from Paul, but also from Christ Himself?  He "loved this present world."  He loved his life and was unwilling to risk it by helping Paul in his imprisonment.  Our Lord said the greatest and most important commandment of all is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  But Demas, after years of seemingly following Christ, has now decided he loves himself more than Christ.

Many have followed Demas' path.  Appearing to faithfully serve Christ, they really only follow as long as He allows them to have their own way.  The moment following Christ begins to require them to get out of their comfort zone, and to do a little giving instead of taking, they run away.

Crescens and Titus have been sent to Galatia and Dalmatia by Paul, and Tychicus has been sent to Ephesus, probably carrying the letter of 2 Timothy with him (4:12).  Unlike Demas they have not deserted Paul, and Christ; they continue to serve.  Timothy also remains true, and will come to Paul, though being in Rome at that time will endanger his life.  With autumn and winter approaching, Paul wants his coat.  He also wants his books and papers (4:13).

Verses 14 and 15 are about Alexander, probably one of the Ephesian craftsmen who persecuted Paul.  Timothy is to beware of him. The "first answer" (4:16) may refer to a hearing after which Paul was put into the Mammertine prison.  He faced that alone.  This man who gave so much of himself, who suffered so much to take the Gospel to people, had to face the Roman authorities alone.  The sadness of this is palpable.
But the Lord was with him (4:17), and delivered him from the lion's den for a while, that he might be allowed to continue to preach the Gospel, even if from prison.  Yet, Paul knows the time of his death is near, and trusts Christ to "preserve" (save and deliver) him "unto His heavenly kingdom" (4:18).

Paul closes with a few words to those who have worked and prayed and suffered with him in the service of Christ. "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit" is a prayer for Timothy himself.  "Grace be with you" is for all the people, and clergy of Ephesus.  Neither Timothy nor the Ephesians ever saw Paul again in this life.

God and a Quiet Mind


God and a Quiet Mind
Psalm 76, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 4:46-54
Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity
October 28, 2012
                                                  
People who worship with us immediately notice the difference between our worship and the worship in other churches.  If they will make the effort, they may learn why we are different.  We are not trying to organise exciting worship events based on current trends in music and theology.  We are not trying to entertain people or make them feel good about being here because that is not the purpose of worship.  Our worship is quiet, reflective, contemplative, meditative.  We believe it is more important to speak the truth than to get people excited.  We believe it is the Holy Spirit, rather than a rock and roll beat in the music or the intensity in the speaker's voice, that moves souls, and we are more concerned about moving souls than moving emotions.

We do not worship this way because it suits our taste.  We believe worship is far too important to be shaped by our personal preferences.  We worship this way because we believe it is the way God wants to be worshiped, the way the Bible teaches us to worship.  Likewise, I do not say these things to belittle anyone else.  I say them because we need to be reminded of them often, lest we begin to desire the sensuality and excitement of other  "worship styles," or attempt to pattern our worship after them.

We believe there is a time and place for exuberance.  We also believe the Sunday worship of God should be characterised by reverence, and a kind of holy quietness before God.  Therefore let us quiet our hearts and minds, and be still in God's presence as we worship the Living God.

The very thought of quietness is counter to the hectic activity and constant stimulation which characterise our media saturated culture.  So to pray, as we do in the Collect for the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, that God would enable us to serve Him with a quiet mind, may seem odd to people today.  A quiet mind is a mind free of hectic activities and distractions.  A quiet mind is possessed by a sense of holy stillness before God, a stillness that is encouraged in us by passages like Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."  Rather than rushing from one hectic activity to another, or one amusement or stimulation to another, the quiet mind can take time to be still and listen for the still small voice of God.

But more than mere stillness, a quiet mind is a mind at peace through trust in God.  This is what we are trying to emphasise in our Bible readings this morning.  The quiet mind does not tremble in fear before the battles of temptation, the opposition of the world, the natural and figurative storms of life, or even the supernatural minions of evil.  True, we wrestle against the powers and rulers of darkness, and against spiritual wickedness in high places, but our minds are at peace because we know we are able to withstand in the evil day.  We are dressed in the full armour of God.  We stand on the Gospel of peace.  We wear the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of the righteousness of Christ.  We carry the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit.  We stand watch in prayer, so we are not taken by a surprise attack.  Our minds are at peace because we are strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and nothing can defeat Him or separate us from His everlasting love.

The nobleman in John 4 received a quiet mind.  He apparently traveled for at least two days to find Jesus, and his mind was not quiet then.  His mind was in anguish.  His son was dying.  A part of his life was dying.  A person he loved more than he loved himself was dying, and his mind was frantic with fear and despair, so he went to Jesus.  When will we learn to go to Jesus with our troubles?  When will we learn to seek peace in Him rather than trinkets and distractions?  When will we learn to trust and believe that God works all things work together for our good, if we love Him and are called, according to His purpose?  This man came to Jesus in despair, but left in peace, because He trusted the word of the Lord.

Psalm 78 is about a collective quiet mind in the people of God.  He is known in Judah and Israel. His Tabernacle is in the City of Peace, Jeru Shalom.  We know Jerusalem has not always been a place of peace.  It has been, and continues to be a battleground.  But at the time of the writing of Psalm 76 it dwells in peace, why? Because God has broken the arrow, the shield, the sword, and the battle.  It dwells in peace because God has defeated its enemies and established it in peace.  At His rebuke that the chariot and the horse, the dreaded war machines of invading armies, are fallen.  God protects the city, therefore His people dwell in peace and serve Him with a quiet mind.

The focal point of the Psalm is verse 11.  It is the conclusion.  The first ten verses recount the gracious actions of God , but verse 11 shows the natural response of those who receive and recognise God's grace: "Promise unto the Lord your God, and keep it."  When you became a Christian you made vows and promises to God, just as He made vows and promises to you.  He promised to forgive your sins, and fill you with His Spirit, to guide you with His Holy Bible, to watch over you, love you, and bring you at last to His home of everlasting peace.  You promised to turn from sin and begin a life-long process of living more and more according to His law of love, and less and less for the things of sin and self.  It is not easy to keep your promise.  Living for Christ is the, most difficult, most trying, most exasperating, most humiliating thing you can do.  At the same time it is the most fulfilling, the happiest, most exalting, most noble thing to which a human being can aspire.  It only is the way of life.  Therefore, in spite of the challenges and opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil, there is a peace in our hearts that the world cannot give or take away.  We can serve God with a quiet mind.

From the Jerusalem of about 900 B.C., when this Psalm may have been written, let us look ahead to the city in about the year 33  A.D.  The city is in turmoil.  A vast, angry mob is torturing a Man to death on a cross.  It is not a peaceful scene, yet it is the way our peace with God is secured forever.  On the cross the Lamb of God is taking away our sins and making our peace with God.  By His grace "The fierceness of man" is turned to God's praise (vs.10).  Everything His enemies do is used by Him to His own glory and our salvation.  Christianity did not die on the cross; it was born there.  It is because of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross that we can serve God with a quiet mind.  We have no need to fear life, or death, or even hell itself. He gave His life for our souls.  We can serve Him with a quiet mind.

Therefore, let your mind be at ease.  Let you mind be at rest.  Let a holy quiet descend upon you and let it dwell in you forever.  God has overcome the world.  He has given you the armour of God that you may stand in Him in this life.  He has given you the promise of life in paradise with Him forever.  He has accomplished the forgiveness of your sins and your peace with God. Serve Him with a quiet mind.

October 24, 2012


Thursday after the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

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 after the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

 Lectionary        

 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.  And 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 after the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

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.

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). 

Sermon, Twentieth Sunday after Trinity


God and the Cheerful Heart
Psalm 11, Ephesians 5:15-21, Matthew 22:1-14
Twentieth Sunday after Trinity
October 21, 2012

I love the liturgy of Morning Prayer.  I love that it includes the ancient practice of giving thanks for the Bible by singing a Canticle after each Scripture reading.  One of the favourite Canticles has always been Psalm 100, the Jubilate Deo.  Morning Prayer begins in private prayer, and moves into a common prayer seeking God's blessings upon us, committing our cares and needs unto Him, asking Him to fill us with the spirit of prayer and beseeching Him to enable us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  The prayer is followed by a hymn, which is a prayer or exhortation set to music, and the hymn is followed by a Scriptural statement of the grace and mercy of God, such as, "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."  Giving our attention to the grace and majesty of God naturally moves us to consider our own unworthiness, and to confess our sins. After the confession we hear the joyful declaration that God "pardoneth and absolveth all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel."  Next we pray the prayer that has comforted God's people in times of joy and times of sorrow for more than two thousand years.  Prayed in everyplace from death beds to baptisms, we know it as "The Lord's Prayer."
                                                   
Having confessed our sins and joyfully entrusted ourselves into the merciful heart of God, we move to the Venite exultemus Domino, "O Come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation."  This is what others might term a Call to Worship.  Based upon the mercy of God, who forgives our sins and calls us to live in His love, the Venite invites us to enter more deeply into the worship of God.  This is especially appropriate as we prepare for the most important part of Morning Prayer, the reading and hearing of the Word of God.

In a sense, everything so far has been done in  preparation to hear God's Word.  The prayers and hymns have brought us together as one body, ready to humbly and reverently stand before God as He addresses and ministers to us through the words of Holy Scripture.  Then, having heard with faith the Word of God, we rejoice in His mercy, singing,

 O BE joyful in the Lord, all ye lands; serve the Lord with gladness, and come before His presence with a song.
   Be ye sure that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
   O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name.
   For the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth from generation to generation.

Psalm 100 rings with words like "gladness, "song," "thanksgiving," "mercy," and "truth." It tells us that the right response to the grace of God towards us is to "serve the Lord with gladness."  It encourages us to do as the Collect for the Twentieth Sunday after  Trinity also teaches, "cheerfully accomplish" the things God commands. What does the Lord command? "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and and with all thy mind."  Present your body as a "living sacrifice," which is your "reasonable service." "Serve the Lord with gladness." 

Cheerfully serving God is one of the common themes in the Scripture readings for this morning.  The Epistle to the Ephesians speaks of living wisely and understanding the will of the Lord.  It also speaks of life filled with thanksgiving and melody because it is lived in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  We Christians are not controlled by our circumstances.  We are not defined by the troubles or conditions we encounter in our journey through this world.  Nor are we surprised by them.  We expect problems "because the days are evil."  They are part of life in a fallen world filled with fallen people.  But we are not overcome by the evil days.  Instead we "redeem the time."  We are controlled by the Holy Spirit.  He is the One who sets our attitudes and habits and outlook on life.  As we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, we speak to ourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," and "giving thanks always for all things unto God."  We do not dwell on our problems.  We do not allow the situation of the world, the evil times, to make us angry or depressed or bitter.  We fill our minds with the goodness and grace of God by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  We live in thanksgiving for the unnumbered blessings we enjoy through God's grace.  Especially do we give thanks that all things work together for our good if we love God, and that we are bound for an eternal home so wonderful it will enable us to realise that all the trials of this life are nothing in comparison.  Such a life leads to a cheerful heart.  It leads naturally to a condition of wholeness, a life of spiritual wellness and harmony.  It leads to what our Lord called "peace."

The Gospel of Matthew speaks of the joy of those who come to the wedding feast, and the sorrows of those who do not.  Those who come are the poor.  Their meager food consists primarily of hard bread supplemented with a few vegetables, fruits, and, fish.  Their clothes are rough, woolen work clothes that itch and smell like barns and fish and soil and sweat.  Suddenly, they don't know why, they are called to freely partake of a sumptuous banquet.  They are fed the finest meats and delicacies.  They are dressed in fine robes, that are clean and comfortable and sweet with the fragrance of expensive perfume.  Everything is of the best quality and served in abundance. And all is the free gift of the king.  Those who did not come receive none of it.  They have only their farms and their merchandise, which is nothing in comparison.

Obviously, the King is God and the wedding is the forgiveness and eternal peace given to us through the sacrifice of Christ.  The farms and merchandise are the trinkets of the world, and those who refuse to come to the wedding receive nothing more from the King than their trinkets.  Those who come to Christ receive joy and peace in abundance, now and forever.

Psalm 11 is written in the form of a dialogue.  The congregation was probably divided into two groups, with the first singing verse 1, and the second group singing verses 2 and 3.  Group one took up the song again in verse 4, and continued singing to the end.  You will notice, then, that the Psalm consists of three sections.  The first, in verse one,  as though speaking to a person who is fearful and doubtful in the face of the world's problems,  asks why someone would tell people who trust in God to "flee as a bird unto the hill?"

The answer is given in verses 2 and 3, "the ungodly bend their bow;" "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"  There is danger in this world.  There are evil people who desire to destroy us.  And we are powerless before them.  They have shaken the foundations of our lives, and we can't stop them.  That is the answer of those of wavering faith.

Their answer is partially correct.  There are enemies out there, who want to destroy us.  They want to silence our voices in the public square.  There are also enemies that tempt us to turn away from Christ, to give up the faith and flee to the hills.  And there are enemies that come to us in the form of problems and troubles and sorrows.  And, sometimes, as Martin Luther wrote, this world with devils filled threatens to undo us. But it is wrong to think we have no recourse but to flee to the hills.  It is wrong to think we cannot withstand their attacks.  It is wrong to think there is no defense against their attacks.  Why?  Because  "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's seat is in heaven."  It is as though the Psalm is saying, "Look around you, Christian.  God is not moved by evil men or worldly troubles.  He is seated on His royal throne in Heaven.  They cannot reach Him or hurt him, nor can they move or disturb Him.  He is far beyond their reach."

We may say, , "but I'm not God.  I'm not in Heaven, and I'm not strong like God.These enemies trouble and hurt me."  That is true, but God is with you.  God is on your side.  Verse 7 says, "Upon the ungodly he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest: this shall be their portion to drink."  The Day will come when all of your troubles are cast down and put behind you forever.  But you will be exalted. Verse 6 tells us God approves of the righteous.  He has placed His stamp of approval on you.  He has sealed and marked you as His own.  And He will preserve you, whole and safe, to the shores of eternal bliss.  In verse 8, God's eyes behold the thing that is just.  That's you.  If you are in Christ, in Biblical faith, you are just because the righteousness of Christ has been given to you.  And God's countenance beholds you.  This means He is watching you. But He is not just seeing you, He is watching over you.  He holds you in His protection.  He upholds you with His hand.  He will not allow evil to triumph over you.  It may look like evil is winning now  but it looked the same way 2,000 years ago when a sinless Man was nailed to a cross and tortured to death.  Evil must have rejoiced at His death, like the Witch and her minions at the death of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But their joy soon became sorrow, for that Man walked out of that grave.  He passed right through the stone and the seals and the guards.  What seemed a sure victory to His enemies, was actually the stroke that assured their defeat.  And so it is now.  The troubles we experience teach us to trust in God alone, not the amusements of earth or our own puny strength.

Therefore, we cling to God.  We boldly say with David, "In the Lord put I my trust."  And, as we trust in Him alone to overcome our enemies and deliver us to Heaven, we now cheerfully accomplish those things which He has commanded. 

October 17, 2012


Thursday after the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
                                           
Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 100, 110, 1 Kings 22:29-40, 1 Timothy 1:12-20
Evening - Ps. 116, Job 38:31-38, Mt. 18:1-14

Commentary, 1 Timothy 1:12-20

In 1 Timothy 1:5-11 Paul refutes the use of the law as a source of futile speculation.  It is not given so men can spin it into fables and genealogies as some of the Jews did (1:3 & 4).  It is given to show God's standard of righteousness, and how far we have departed from it.  In short, it is given to lead us to Christ.  Paul's own life is an example of this.  He rejoices that he has been called to the service of the Gospel (1:12), but recalls that he was previously a blasphemer of God and a persecutor of His Church (1:13).  It was the grace of God in Christ that forgave His sins and called him into Christ's service (1:14), for Christ came into the world to save sinners (1:15).  For Paul to call himself chief of sinners is to recognise that he had departed far from the standard of God in the law.  But because he learned of his sin, he was moved to repent and seek God.  And God had a dual purpose for Paul when He saved him. First, through Paul's conversion the world would see the longsuffering (patient love) of God (1:15).  Second, Paul's conversion was to be a pattern, or, example, to all who believe in Christ to everlasting life (1:16).  Future believers, including Timothy, those to whom he ministers, and us, can see in Paul's conversion the pattern by which God calls others to faith in Christ.   Paul's example ends in a doxology (1:17), thanking and praising God who has saved him and the Church through Christ.

Finished with his example, Paul continues to delineate Timothy's task in Ephesus (1:18-19).  We remember that Paul is committing to Timothy the task of charging the ministers in Ephesus to preach the Gospel of Christ instead of their own views and speculations (1:3-4).  Thus, Paul says in verse 18, "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy."  "Prophecies" (1:18) probably are not things foretold about Timothy, but the revelation of God taught to Timothy through Paul and others, and to which Timothy has devoted his life.  It is by the Apostolic teaching, which is really Christ's teaching, that Timothy is to "war a good warfare."  It is the Gospel of Christ that will cast down Satan, free the spiritual captives, and deliver them safely into Heaven, and it is Apostolic teaching which Timothy is urged to teach the ministers in Ephesus.

He is to teach in "good conscience" (1:19).  This means he is to first believe the Gospel, then teach it.  He cannot teach what he does not believe without being a phony and a liar.  Some have turned away from the Gospel, and suffered shipwreck on the rocks and storms of false teachings.  Hymenaeus and Alexander stand out in Paul's mind, and they have been excommunicated, which is to be turned over to Satan as unbelievers until they show signs of repentance and true faith.

Friday after the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 119:145-160, 2 Kings 1:1-17, 1 Tim. 2:1-10
Evening - Ps. 119:161-176, Job 39:19, Mt. 18:15

Commentary, 1Timothy 2:1-10

Though chapter 2 begins a new section, it is still part of Paul's instruction to Timothy about the charge he is to give to the people and clergy of Ephesus.  Instead of false teachings (1:3) and fruitless speculation about the law (1:4), Timothy is to charge them to devote themselves to prayer and Godliness.  The prayers of verses 1 and 2 follow the ancient liturgies, and Paul probably had them in mind as he wrote these verses.  Note the similarity between verse 2 and the Liturgy of St. Mark as quoted in the Pulpit Commentary;
                    
"Preserve our king in peace, in virtue, and righteousness... incline him to peace towards us and towards thy Holy Name, that in the serenity of his reign we too may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and honesty."
                                                              
Rather than their own speculations, the ministers are to remind the people of the Gospel, of the only Mediator between God and man, "who gave himself a ransom for all" (2:3-6).  It is to proclaim this Gospel that Paul was ordained a preacher and Apostle (2:7).  The implication is that if Paul was ordained to preach the Gospel, then the clergy of Ephesus, ordained by Paul and Timothy, were ordained to preach that same Gospel.
                                           
Verse 8 refers to the public prayers in the churches of Ephesus.  "Everywhere," means, in all the congregations. "Lifting up holy hands" was the common position for prayer.  Meeting in the homes of the church members, which often had only a few stools or chairs, the Christians stood for hymns, Scripture reading, and sermons, and knelt for prayer.  Rather than folding their hands in front of them, they held them at their sides, waist high and palms up during prayer.  They did not wave their hands or sway their bodies.
                    
Verses 9 and 10 complete today's reading with instructions to the women to dress modestly.  This, of course, includes the need to dress in ways that cover, rather than in ways intended to allure.  But it also means to dress in ways that do not call attention to the cost and beauty of the apparel.  "Modesty" in this sense is used the way we use it when we say, "modest means."  The apparel should be adequate and comfortable, not shabby or poor.  The intent of the woman is not to have people admire her, but to worship God.
              
Saturday after the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
                                                 
Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 120, 122, 123, 2 Kings 2:1-15, 1Timothy 3:1-13
Evening - Ps. 144, Job 42:1-9, Mt. 19:1-15

Commentary, 1 Timothy 3:1-13

The Church belongs to God.  He established it for His own purposes, and He has given pointed and direct instructions regarding its nature and function.  The Church is His body, His kingdom, and His people.  In this regard it is the fulfillment of Old Testament promises, such as the one in Isaiah 60:3, "The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."  New Testament books elucidate the fulfillment of this promise in passages like Galatians 6 and Ephesians 2 and 3.  Galatians 6:16 teaches that all who walk according to faith in Christ are "the Israel of God."  Ephesians 2 and 3 teach that Jewish and Gentile Christians are "fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel."

God also gave the Church its doctrines, worship, and organisational structure.  They are found in the New Testament, which records and explains the life and teaching of Christ which He gave to the Apostles, and which He commissioned them to teach to the world (Mt. 28:19-20).  The Apostles taught others, and ordained them to teach others also (1 Tim. 4:6-16, 2 Tim. 2:2, 4:1-2).  This morning's reading in 1 Timothy addresses those called to offices of leadership in the Church.  Specifically it refers to those called to be bishops and deacons.

The bishop is the overseer of the churches in a particular area.  It is his task to ensure that the ministers teach the truth in accordance with what they have been taught by the Apostles. He is also responsible for ordaining properly called and equiped men into the ministry, and for seeing that the local churches receive the pure Gospel of Christ and remain free of the false teachers that constantly attempt to infiltrate the Church.  The abundance of false doctrines and false teachers made it very important for for the early Church to be able to distinguish between the true and false ministers.  One of the "tests" they used was called apostolic succession, meaning a bishop should be able to trace his line of ordination and teaching back to the Apostles.  During the life time of the Apostles this was quite easy, for the Apostles visited the churches and affirmed the ministers in them.  As the Apostles began to die out, ministers ensured that they were taught and ordained by men who had been taught and ordained by the Apostles.  Careful records were kept.  Thus we know Irenaeus, was taught by Polycarp, and Polycarp was taught by the Apostle John.  A similar process helped determine which of the many books circulating through the early Church were to be included in the Bible.  Those included had to be of Apostolic authorship, such as the Gospel of John, or written at the direction of an Apostle, such as the Gospel of Mark.  So it was very important that the clergy in Ephesus could say they were taught and ordained by Paul, or by Timothy, or by a bishop taught and ordained by them.  It was not a status symbol; it was a matter of keeping and teaching the Apostolic faith.

Charged, by the Apostle Paul with the task of of teaching and ordaining clergy in the churches in and around Ephesus, Timothy was well aquainted with the qualities and qualifications required of ministers.  Paul put them in this letter to be read to the churches, so all would know that Timothy was not inventing them, but was doing all in accordance with the directive of the Apostle.

The requirements are clear and unambiguous.  The bishop is to be of good moral character (3:1-3), a Godly leader in his own home (3: 2, and 4), mature in the faith (3:6), and known for these attributes in the community (3:7).  As the primary pastor of the church in his area, he will continually lead the clergy and congregations into the things of God, therefore he must be apt to teach (3:2).

The requirement for deacons are no less stringent.  Deacons assist the bishop in the services of the Church and the care of the poor.  They may also be called upon to preach and evangelise as Phillip was in Acts 8.  Their practice and knowledge of the faith must be in keeping with importance of his ministry.