November 26, 2016

Scripture and Commentary, November 27- December 3

November 27

Is. 9, Acts 9:1-22
Is. 10:1-19, Heb. 3


Commentary,

Hebrews 3

The Old Testament is filled with the works of great prophets. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Samuel, were great men and great leaders, whose works have influenced the world for thousands of years. Yet none of them can compare to the work and influence of Moses. No other human being has left a stamp upon the mind and fabric of humanity that compares to that of Moses. No philosopher, no religious leader, no political leader or empire has had the global historical influence of Moses. Yet One has come among us who is far greater than Moses. This One is Christ Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our faith (1). He is greater than Moses as the builder is greater than the building (3). He is the builder of all things (4), and He is the builder of the Church, which is His house (6). Moses was a servant in His house (5), but Christ is the owner, the Son to whom the house belongs (6). Thus, the book of Hebrews emphasizes again the Divine identity of Christ. He is not just a prophet and not just a man. He is the One who sent the prophets. Moses was His servant. He created the world and all the people, and He is the owner as well as the creator of all things.

Verses 7-19 remind us to give unto Christ the honour and obedience that is His due. The verses remind us that those who disobeyed Moses suffered death in the wilderness. They were brought out of Egypt by the power of God, yet they did not enter into the Promised Land. Their unbelief sealed their fate forever, for they did not make it to the Heavenly Promised Land any more than they made it to Canaan (38). Verse 14 is an important verse, for it tells us only those who continue in Christ to the end will be partakers of His eternal Kingdom in Heaven. This is a conclusion based on the illustration of those who died in the wilderness. They did not continue in faith in God, therefore, they did not enter Canaan. Those who appear to begin to follow Christ, but do not continue in Him to the end, will not make it to Heaven. Therefore, “Harden not your heart as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, and saw my works forty years” (8, 9). But exhort one another, and yourself, “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (13). Make no mistake, sin is deceitful, and can convince you that you are in Christ even when you are far away from Him. Please abide in Him, steadfast to the end (14).

November 28

Is. 10:20-, Acts 9:23-43
Is. 11 Heb. 4

Commentary,

Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4:1-13 continues the theme begun in verse 7 of chapter 3, namely, love and obedience to Christ. This is a pattern of the book of Hebrews. Chapter 1 tells us Christ is the Son of God who is far greater than angels. Chapter 2 tells us that since He is greater than angels, He is more worthy of our love and obedience than they. Chapter 3: 1-6 tells us Christ is greater than Moses. This is followed by an exhortation to honour and obey Him more than Moses. Today’s reading is part of that exhortation.

Verses 1-6 use a word we don’t hear much anymore, “fear.” “Let us therefore fear.” And what does it tell us to fear? Coming short of entering into His rest. The Bible is using the experience of the Hebrew people who were freed from Egyptian slavery, yet did not make it into the Promised Land. We remember that they came to its borders, but failed to enter out of fear of the Canaanites. According to Hebrews, their fear was the sin of unbelief. They simply did not trust God enough to put their lives in His hand. Therefore, they died in the wilderness rather than obey God. The point being made is that many people will appear to start the journey of faith in Christ, but will not make it to Heaven because they will not really trust God with their lives and their souls. They will go astray. They will love the things of the world more than they love God. They will pursue the things of the world, to the exclusion of God, because they will not trust God to provide for them in this life. And if they cannot trust God with their lives, they cannot trust Him with their souls. Therefore, they will be lost. They will not make it to Heaven. These people may be very religious. They may keep the outward forms of the faith carefully. They may pray and worship and read the Bible, and give money, but their hearts belong to them, not God. You can see it in them that they are afraid to trust God. They are afraid to give up their pleasures and amusements to serve Him. They find their life’s meaning in toys and recreations rather than God, and when they face challenges in life, they turn to their amusements rather than God, to see them through. At one time they “tried Jesus.” At one time they started the journey of faith in Him. But at some point they stopped trusting Him. They couldn’t face the giants, so they entered not into the Promised Land, and if they do not return to God they will not enter Heaven.

Thus, verse 7 exhorts us to follow Christ “today.” He is not to be put off. The longer we wallow in sin the harder it becomes to get up and walk in faith. The longer we put our trust in money, or things, or amusements, the harder it gets to put our trust in God. The more we love these things, the more we fear losing them, and the less we trust God to be worth more to us than they are. What if God takes them away from us? What if I have to give up my Saturday night out, or my Sunday morning golf to go to Church? What means more to me, these things, or God? Today is the day to choose. In fact you will choose today. You are choosing now. Today, harden not your hearts as the Hebrews did in the wilderness. Do not turn away from God. Today trust Him with all your heart, and enter into His rest.

Verse 12 is often quoted but little understood. It means that the word of God sees into your soul and makes it plain whether you are following God or not. It cuts through your defenses and the make-believe world you create to insulate yourself from God. They are coverings of fig leaves, but to God your soul is naked, for He discerns your thoughts. He knows whether you are following Him or turning back away from Him.


The rabbi was a highly honoured man in the Jewish community. Known for learning and wisdom, he was often asked to settle disputes and give counsel on a wide range of issues. And his word was usually followed gladly. Yet beloved and respected as he was, the High Priest was much more so. He lived in palatial grandeur, oversaw the services of Jerusalem’s Temple, and was the spiritual leader and symbol of the entire Jewish religion and nation. The book of Hebrews has already told us Christ is greater than angels and Moses, now it tells us He is greater than the High Priest.

He is greater because He has passed into the heavens and because He is the Son of God. Yet He is also aware of our human trials because He experienced them Himself. He is touched by our infirmities and was in all points tried and tempted as we are, though without sin (4:15). Therefore He is merciful and welcoming to those who continue with Him, steadfast to the end (3:14). We may come to Him boldly, not arrogantly nor flippantly, but in reverence tempered with confidence in His grace, knowing that in Him we will find mercy, grace, and help (4:16).

November 29

Is. 12, Acts 10:1-33
Is. 13, Heb. 5

Commentary,

Hebrews 5

Christ is greater than the human High Priest because He Himself is without sin, therefore, every aspect of His work is for His people, not Himself. The human High Priest had to offer sacrifices for his own sins, and to spend time in prayer and confession for himself (5:3), but Christ is without sin, and His ministry was given entirely for our sake.

Christ is greater than the High Priest because His Priestly Order is greater than the Human High Priest’s. He is of the Order of Melchisedec (5:10). We will see more about Melchisedec later. The point of today’ reading is that Melchisedec was the Priest of God long before the institution of the Temple, the sacrificial system, and the order of priests that conducted the services, including the High Priest.

Therefore, let us go on with Christ into mature faith. That means there must be more to our faith than simply repeating “Christ died for my sins, so I am saved.” We must move into fully trusting Christ with our lives and souls. We must move into finding in Him our life’s meaning, our joy, our pleasure, our hope, and our comfort. In other words, our belief that Christ died for our sins must transform and direct every other aspect of our life, else it is not real faith.

November 30, Saint Andrew

Acts 10:34-48
Heb. 6

Andrew, with his brother, Peter, left a prosperous fishing business to follow Christ.  Both died by crucifixion in the service of Christ.  It is commonly believed Andrew went into Asia, and ministered around the area now known as Istanbul, Turkey.  There he  was  executed on an X shaped cross, which has become known as the St. Andrew’s cross.

Andrew is not one of the more noted Apostles.  He did not write a Gospel or epistles, and we have no  written accounts of his ministry.  Many today remember him for bringing his brother, Peter to Christ (Jn. 1:41) and many sermons and tracts about “witnessing” cite him as an example of someone who may not be able to do great things for Christ, but whose witness may bring someone into the fold who will do great things.  But Andrew did far more than just bring  Peter to Christ.  His responsibilities as an Apostle required him to help establish the New Testament Church, deal with controversies, and ensure that bishops, pastors, and congregations preached and followed the pure Gospel, which was entrusted to the Apostles by Christ.  He, along with John and Paul, established a strong Christian influence in Asia Minor, from whence missionaries went west into Europe, further east into Asia, and north into Russia.  Andrew, then, was an effective missionary himself, and a great influence on other missionaries.

Collect for St. Andrew’s Day

Almighty God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle St. Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay; Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy Word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfill thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Commentary,

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 continues to warn us not to neglect the salvation purchased for us by God in Christ. The heart of this warning is terrible and frightening, for its message is that those who appear to begin to follow Christ in the life of faith, but stop following Him, will not become followers of Christ again. “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance” (Heb. 6:4-6).

I truly hope these verses cause you to fear. Most people don’t pay much attention to them because they immediately call up all their defensive tactics that tell them once saved always saved, and that such people were never saved in the first place. That is true, but that is not the point.  The point is, they believed they were saved, and they made a start at living the Christian life. But at some point and for some reason, they quit. They either found out that they really don’t believe, or they decided they aren’t really willing to live the Christian life. They were probably quite happy to believe Jesus died for their sins, be baptized, and do a few churchy things as long as it was convenient and easy for them, but when following Christ began to require trusting Him in difficult situations, or sacrificing personal goals and desires to live for Him, they simply quit. Such people will probably continue to convince themselves that they are Christians, but in reality, they are not. So the “moral of the story” is found in verse 12, “be not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Abraham is an example of a person who inherited the promises through faith and patience (6:15). He patiently endured in the faith, though it was not always easy for him. He inherited the earthly Promised Land through his descendants.  Far more importantly, he inherited the Kingdom of Heaven as the promise of God. Canaan was but a symbol of the Heavenly Promised Land.

The promises of God are immutable. Verse 17 says the counsel of God is immutable, but the counsel of God includes His promises. We could interpret the verse as saying the word of God is immutable, meaning the word of God is His bond and He will not break it. His word is confirmed by an oath. God swears by Himself, making it evident that His word is indeed a promise. He binds Himself to keep His promise, that those who trust in Christ in Biblical faith, will inherit the promise, and those who do not trust in Him to the end, will not.

This promise is an anchor of hope in a sea of troubles (6:19). It gives us faith to continue on, steadfast to the end. It keeps us anchored in Christ, and Christ Himself is “within the veil” the Holy of Holies, which is the right hand of God in Heaven.

December 1

Is. 14, Acts 11:1-18
Is. 15, Heb.7

Commentary,

Hebrews 7

Hebrews, chapter 6 closed with a quote from Psalm 110:4 and a reference to Genesis 14:18-20. Our reading in Hebrews 7 explains how Christ is a Priest of the order of Melchisidec. The identity of Melchisidec is a topic of much discussion among students of Scripture. He is noted as the King of Salem, which means King of Peace, and the inference in the book of Hebrews is that he is an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. Thus, verse 2 calls Him the King of Righteousness to whom Abraham offered a tithe. He is also noted as being without parents and without descent. Christ is eternally God, so God the Father is not His parent in the same sense that our human fathers and mothers are ours. He has no “beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (7:3).

Melchisidec is a greater priest than the Levitical priests of the Old Testament because they paid tithes to Him through Abraham (7:5). Note also that Melchisidec predates the Levitical priesthood (7:6) and that His office did not pass to another at His death. Finally, His priesthood brings His people to perfection, which the Levitical priesthood could never do.

The major point being made in Hebrews 7 is that the Old Testament priesthood was a temporary institution, while the priesthood of Christ is eternal. Just as the priests themselves were not permanent, but passed their office on to another at death, so their order of priesthood was also temporary, and would be passed on to another who will continue in it forever. Melchisidec is eternally a priest, Aaron was temporary.

The ministry of the order of Melchisidec supersedes the Old Testament priests’ ministry. Their ministry has ended, but the ministry of Christ continues. Even now He “ever liveth to make intercession” (7:25). His ministry surpasses theirs because He accomplished it with a single sacrifice, while theirs required daily sacrifices (7:27). His ministry surpasses theirs because He is able to save to the uttermost (7:25). His ministry accomplished our salvation, theirs symbolized it.

December 2

Is. 16,  Acts 11:19-30
Is. 17, Heb. 8

Commentary,

Hebrews 8

Chapter 8 begins to state the sum, or, conclusion, of what has been said in previous chapters, especially chapter 7. The sum is that the Old Testament office of priesthood ended when Christ, the Priest of the order of Melchisidec, appeared. Equally important, the Old Covenant ended when the New Covenant began (8:13). In future studies we will consider the nature of the relationship between the Old and New Covenants (Testaments). For now let us simply say that the Old Testament parts that have ended are those which foreshadowed the ministry of Christ. They have ended, but they are not dead. They continue in their fulfillment in Christ Jesus and in the New Israel, which is the New Testament Church. Thus, for example, we no longer call people clean or unclean because of the food they eat, for those in Christ are clean by virtue of His atoning death, and those outside of Christ are unclean in their souls, regardless of what they eat. Our spiritual cleanness in Christ fulfills the symbolic cleanness of foods in the Old Testament. So the Old Covenant is waxed old and vanishes away, not because it is useless, but because it is fulfilled in Christ. Both are important to us because both chronicle the history of Redemption.

Christ fulfilled the Old Testament priesthood and now resides at the right hand of the Heavenly Majesty (8:1). The Heavenly Majesty is God, and the meaning is that Christ has returned to the place of honour in the Divine glory of the Trinity. His true work was and is accomplished in the Heavenly Sanctuary, of which the Temple was a symbol, or shadow (8:2-5).

Christ, the substance of which the Old Testament was the shadow, has a more excellent ministry than the Old Testament priests because He is the mediator of a better covenant (8:6). The Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Verse 8 refers to Jeremiah 31:31, but the New Covenant is promised in other verses also. The New Covenant people will have the law of God in their hearts (8:10) and they will all know God (8:11). Verses 6-13 tell us much about the New Covenant, all building upon the truth stated in 7:25, that Christ’s Covenant and dying gift to His people is their complete salvation and restoration to God.

December 3

Is. 18, Acts 12
Is. 19, Heb. 9
Commentary,

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9:1-5 describes the Tabernacle as God directed it to be built in the wilderness of Sinai. The plan of the Tabernacle was given directly to Moses, and was followed strictly in the Temple built by Solomon. The point of this passage is the temporary nature of the Tabernacle and its services. This is shown in verses 6 & 7, which tell of the repetitive nature of the services. The priests entered daily into the holy place, and the high priest entered annually into the Holy of Holies to conduct the services and worship of God. So, the temporary effects of the service illustrate the temporary nature of the entire system.

Verses 9 and 10 make another important point; access to the presence of God, symbolized by the Holy of Holies, is no longer prevented by a physical barrier. In Christ, the veil, which acted as a barrier to separate the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Sanctuary, is removed and access to God is open to anyone who will come to Him. Meat and drink offerings and washings (9:10 & 13) are now irrelevant to the real worship of God. Under the Old Covenant, they had their place and function, but the sacrifice of Christ alone can purify the heart and bring a person into the true Holy of Holies. Verse 14 makes an excellent point about the Old Testament sacrifices and services. They did what God wanted them to do, and they did it effectually. They made a person symbolically clean and allowed him to participate in the covenant community of Israel. If such small sacrifices could accomplish their purpose, then the surpassing value of the sacrifice of the Son of God is also able to accomplish its purpose, the complete forgiveness of our sins and the complete restoration of our souls to God. If this has been accomplished for us in Christ, we are free from the need for meat and drink offerings (dead works) to serve the Living God through faith in Christ (9:14).

Hebrews 9:1-14 brought us to understand the finality and full sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. His offering of Himself on the cross pays in full the price of our sins and restores us to God. The animal sacrifices and ceremonies of the Old Testament could never accomplish this, but God can and did in Christ. Thus we are free from the dead works of the ceremonial law. Attempts to continue or revive them are actually insults to Christ, which is why Galatians 1:6 says such people have left Christ for another gospel. Hebrews 9 continues to insist that the Old Covenant, was temporary, and has been fulfilled in the work of Christ and in calling together the New Israel (Church) in the New Covenant. The point of Hebrews 9:15-28 is that Christ did not come to continue the Old Covenant but to fulfill it as the mediator of the New Covenant.

This point is made, first, by comparing the Old Covenant to a will, which takes effect at the death of the person making the will. The point is that the promises of the Old Testament become the possession of God’s people at the death of the One making the will, God. Thus, when Christ died, the promises became ours. The Church no longer lives in anticipation of the promises, but in the reality of them.

The point is made, second, by showing that the people and Tabernacle of the Old Covenant were “purified” with the blood of animals, but the New Covenant and its Tabernacle, which is the true Tabernacle in Heaven, is purified with the blood of Christ Himself. The old Tabernacle was a pattern (copy) of the true Tabernacle (9:23), and Christ entered into the true Tabernacle and holy place with His own blood to bring us into God.

November 22, 2016

Scripture and Commentary, November 20-26

November 22

Mal. 3, Titus 1
Mal. 4, Acts 6

Commentary,

Titus 1

Bible readers often notice the similarities between the books of Titus and First Timothy.  The letters are so similar, some commentators believe they may have been written on the same day. The similarities are due to the fact that both letters were written by Paul to help Titus and Timothy oversee the churches of Crete and Ephesus, respectively.

The founding of the Church in Crete began when Paul landed on the Island on his way to appeal to Caesar in Rome (Acts 27:7-9).  The Apostle naturally spoke to the people of Crete, and may have held Bible studies and teaching sessions there.  Surely he invited people to worship with him on the Lord’s day, on which he preached the Gospel to them.  Some believe Paul wrote this  Epistle late in life.  Others believe it is written much earlier, from Rome during Paul’s house arrest, or from Macedonia, shortly after his release.  In either case, the Church in Crete has very little teaching and no qualified clergy.  Thus, Titus, who is traveling with Paul, is left in Crete to continue to teach the Christians, organise them into churches, and teach and ordain clergy (Titus 1:5).

Instead of ordaining deacons, as Timothy does in the more established churches of Ephesus, Titus ordains bishops to establish and oversee organised groups of churches.  Since Crete has no settled clergy, the bishops will make regular journeys to preach and teach in the churches assigned to them.  The qualifications for the office of the bishop (5-9) are stringent and inflexible.  These men are being called to a high office without having the benefit of years of learning, teaching, and leading a congregation.  It is imperative that they be of proven faith and virtue. They must be willing learners, and teach only what they are taught.  They are not to make up their own doctrines, or receive them from false teachers and wandering philosophers (10-14).

November 23

Isaiah 1, Acts 7:1-29
Isaiah 2, Titus 2, 3

Commentary,

Titus 2

We are accustomed to thinking of doctrine as ideas.  Thus, we speak of the doctrine of justification, or, the virgin birth of Christ.  Paul seems to have a broader view of it.  In chapter two he seems to include the normal doctrines of the Christian faith, and, the way that faith is lived by Christians in everyday life.  Thus, Titus is to teach Christian living, as well as Christian thinking.  It is hard to find a fuller, yet, more succinct, expression of  life-style Godliness than the second and third chapters of Titus.  They teach humble quietness rather than carousing, and an orientation toward the home and family rather than outside amusements and company.  The entire concept is well expressed as, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (12, 13).

Titus 3

Chapter three continues Paul’s short discourse on Godly living, and Titus can spend several years preaching and teaching on the faith and practice given here.  The Christian’s attitude toward false doctrine is an important part of the Christian life.  We are to keep our minds pure, which means we must avoid false teaching (9).  Don’t be drawn into conversations and debates about false doctrine with people who will not listen.  Reject heretics after one or two warnings (10).  This means Titus is to put such people out of the Church, signifying they are out of Christ.  In doing this, Titus is not condemning them, rather, they condemn themselves (11).

November 24
Is. 3, Acts 7:30-60
Is. 4, Philemon

Commentary,

Philemon
This short letter from Paul is addressed to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the “church in thy house.”  Philemon is easy to identify.  He is the man to whom Onesimus is enslaved.  Early Bible commentaries almost unanimously say Apphia is Philemon’s wife, and Archippus is their son, who serves as the pastor of the church that meets in their home (Col 4:17).  Philemon lives in Colossae, and is noted as a dearly beloved, fellowlabourer with Paul (1).

The church in their house is probably one of several small congregations in Colossae.  Each church worships in the homes of its members and has its own pastor.  Epaphras serves as their bishop (Col 4:12).  Collectively, they make up the Church of Colossae.

Paul gives thanks for the news, given by Onesimus, that the church in the house of Philemon and Apphia continues in love and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (5).  It has not departed from the faith, nor followed the false apostles and teachers who deceive so many in Paul’s time, and ours.  He further gives thanks that the “saints,” or fellow Christians (6,7) are refreshed by the labours of Philemon.  Offering his house as a place of worship is probably only one of many things Philemon and Apphia do to help the church and care for God’s people.  They have done one thing without knowing it; their servant, Onesimus has become very useful to Paul.

As a runaway slave, Onesimus is in great danger, but manages to get to Paul in Rome, where he is converted to Christ, and becomes a help to the Apostle.  He may have skills in cooking or other household duties, which make him invaluable to Paul in his house arrest (11, 13).  He may also aid Paul in receiving guests and sharing the Gospel of Christ.  Surely his time with Paul would include much learning, and sharing his new knowledge of the Gospel.  He is so helpful, Paul would like to keep him in Rome (13), but cannot do so without Philemon’s permission.
Onesimus becomes convinced he must return to Colossae and make things right with Philemon.   He does so, taking the letter we know as the New Testament book of  Philemon. In this letter, Paul exhorts Philemon to receive Onesimus as a Christian brother (16).  Paul never exhorts people to violence or revolution to accomplish social change.  He understands that such measures rarely do more than replace one oppressive class with another.  Instead, Paul’s hope is that the Kingdom of God will come in its full glory, and establish true justice and peace, forever.  Meanwhile, the Church lives in the foretaste of that Era. In the Church, the barriers which divide the classes of people in the world, disappear (Gal. 3:28), and the law of Christian love prevails.  It is only the transformation of human nature that enables this, and without such a transformation, real social change is impossible.  Paul asks Philemon to receive Onesimus as he would receive Paul (17).  This is a complete transformation of the relationship.

Many have raised the question, is Onesimus still a slave, or is he freed by Philemon.  We do not know.  He may remain with Philemon.  If so he willingly works to earn his bread and board, and to be profitable to Philemon.  But, as brothers in Christ, the relationship will be one of mutual forbearance and consideration.  Both, Philemon and Onesimus will give and receive what is due them.  Mutual respect, a fair day’s work for fair compensation, and comfortable working and housing conditions will be guaranteed between them.

Paul asks that a room be prepared for him (22), for he expects to be released from Rome, and will visit Colossae when that happens.  Paul does receive a release from this first Roman imprisonment.  He will travel into western and northern Europe with the Gospel.  Some historians believe he goes as far as Spain and Britannia.  He closes his letter with greetings from others, and with a wonderful prayer: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”

November 25

Is. 5, Acts 8:1-25
Is. 6, Hebrews 1

Commentary,

Hebrews 1
Hebrews has one resounding theme, the absolute supremacy of Christ. He is the Son of God, which is to say He is God, the Second Person of the Triune God who is One, yet Three. As the Son of God He is God’s final and ultimate revelation. In times past God has spoken through the prophets. To them He gave visions and visitations and signs and wonders. But Jesus is the final Message of God. The prophets wrote of Him. The visions, signs, and wonders were given to guide Israel toward the fullness of time when Christ would appear and begin to bring all things together under Himself. Therefore, Christ is superior to visions and signs. They are actually superseded by Him. They are no longer needed. God spoke to us in His Son, who gave His word to the Apostles, who recorded it in the Bible. Thus, the Bible is our authority. We should not expect more visions or prophecies or signs or feelings. We should not expect God to speak to us through such measures. We have a much surer way of knowing God; He is revealed in the Bible. To seek to know the will of God apart from the Bible is to treat the Bible as insufficient, and that is the same as saying Christ is insufficient.

This Word of God, the Son of God is the brightness of His glory and the image of His person (1:3). “Image” in the Greek is the word from which we derive our English word, “character.” It means Christ is not just an image of God the way a portrait or statue is an image of a person. Christ is the living expression of God. He is the “character” (nature) of God in a living, human form. Therefore, He is superior to angels. Angels are great and powerful beings. They are good, they are strong, and they dwell in the immediate presence of God. They serve Him and worship Him and do His will. Yet they are nothing in comparison to Christ. He is their Lord. He is their Creator and Master. He gives their powers to them. He gives their existence to them. He can take it away in less than an instant if He wants to.

If an angel were to appear to you at this very moment, you would probably be filled with fear. If the angel told you to do something, you would probably obey immediately. Yet One far greater than all the angels has appeared on earth, and bids you believe in Him and keep His commandments, therefore you should give your utmost to hearing and obeying His Word. This is the point of Hebrews 1, and it begins in the very first verse. The One who is greater than the angels is Christ Jesus, the character of God in human form. Christ is the heir and creator of all things, who purged our sins by His own blood, and now is seated again at the right hand of the Majesty On High (2). God has spoken to us in Him, a revelation that is complete and full and above every other communication from God. The other revelations looked forward to Him, and He is the completion of their story (1).
November 26
Is. 7, Acts 8:26-40
Is. 8, Heb. 2

Commentary,

Hebrews 2


People suffered for disobeying the word of God given through visions, prophets, and angels. This is seen in the numerous disasters suffered by Israel for their lack of obedience. If Israel was punished for disobedience to the word given through men and angels, God will surely punish those who disobey His word given through Christ Himself. If they who disobeyed angels did not escape, can anyone who disobeys the express image of God expect to escape? “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (3). Let us give “more earnest heed” to the things God has spoken in Christ, “lest at any time we should let them slip” (1).

God became a real, living human being. This theme begins in verse 9 and culminates in verse 16. Christ was made “lower than the angels” (9) and of the seed of Abraham (16). It is necessary to have this fact firmly in mind to understand the main point of this passage, because an angel could not accomplish what Christ accomplished for us. If an angel had become human and gone to the cross his death would be as unable to atone for our sins as the blood of bulls and goats. Why? Because God must bear the cost of our sins, just as we must bear the cost of sins against us if we are going to continue in relationship with other people. So God, somehow remained God, yet also became fully human and participated fully in the human condition even to the point of death. He allowed Himself no special privileges. He had to live by faith, He had to live by the power of the Spirit, and he had to obey the Scriptures just as we all have to do. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren” (17). But unlike us, He accomplished it all without sin.

Having made the point that Christ always was/is/will be nothing less than God who became flesh, we are now told why He did so, “that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (17). His full experience of the human condition allows Him to know by experience what we face in life. He was tempted. He knew physical weakness, hunger, weariness, and sickness. He was constrained by time and space. He suffered these things, and having experienced them, He is able to succour us (18). “Succour” summarises this whole passage, for it summarises the work of Christ. It means to have empathy and to feel our sorrows and needs. But it also means to apply healing and help to our wounds. Our wound is our sin and the wrath of God. He heals that wound by bearing it in Himself on the cross, reconciling us to God. But His work does not end there. It continues, as He calls His people unto Himself, builds up His Church, leads us into God by His Word and Spirit, and, finally, places us in His immediate presence in that land where sin and sorrow will never touch us again, forever.

November 13, 2016

Scripture and Commentary, November 13-19

November 13

Haggai 1, Jn 20
Haggai 2, 1 Timothy 1

Commentary,

1 Timothy 1

Paul wrote First Timothy in Rome or in Macedonia after his release from house arrest in Rome.  Timothy is in Ephesus overseeing the Church in that city and the surrounding area, especially the ministers, some of whom have begun to teach things contrary to the Gospel (3-4, 7).  Their attempts to teach the law, whether by intention or merely ignorance, has led some of the ministers into error.  So, Timothy's task is to charge them to teach no other doctrine but the Gospel (3 & 4).  The "commandment" of verse 5 is not the Old Testament law.  It is the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers.  The end (goal) of this charge is love from a pure heart and good conscience.  This means it is real Christian charity, not phony or of mixed motives. A good conscience means to be able to say or do something without their consciences convicting them. The Christian minister should be able to say, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, that he loves God and His Church. Not just "The Church" but his own congregation and every member of it.  The same is true of every member of the congregation.  All should be able to say they love each other. A minister who loves his church will preach the truth to them.  He will lead them into the means of grace and the life of Godliness. A congregation that loves its minister will gladly receive his ministry to them and will ensure that they are present for his sermons and other ministries (1 Thess. 5:12 & 13). If someone is unable to say he is doing this, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, it is his duty to change his own attitude and heart.  
The Ephesian ministers attempting to teach the Old Testament law do not understand what they are saying.  Their teaching does not lead people to Christ; it binds them with burdens.  So Paul gives some instruction about the law.  Obviously Timothy already knows this, and Paul probably put it in the letter so the ministers can see it and know that the things Timothy is saying are from Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment (authority and decree) of God (1).  The point of these verses is that the law of God is not given for theologians to debate and discuss how far a person can walk on the Sabbath.  It is given to direct people into the way of God and to show us the things we ought to be doing.  In this sense, it is for the disobedient and ungodly (9 & 10).  It is for those who are doing anything that is contrary to sound doctrine in accordance with the Gospel, which was committed to Paul by God (11).   To such people the law is a warning that they are not living according to the will of God.  Thus the law gives sinners (all have sinned, Rom. 3:23) an opportunity to repent and seek God's forgiveness in Christ.  The point of the law is to lead us to Christ.

Verses 5-11 refute 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 do (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 (12), but recalls that he was previously a blasphemer of God and a persecutor of His Church (13).  It was the grace of God in Christ that forgave His sins and called him into Christ's service (14), for Christ came into the world to save sinners (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.  God had a dual purpose for Paul when He saved him. First, through Paul's conversion the world can see the longsuffering (patient love) of God (15).  Second, Paul's conversion is to be a pattern, or, example, to all who believe in Christ to everlasting life (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 (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 (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 (3-4).  Thus, Paul says in verse 18, "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy."  "Prophecies" (18) 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" (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.

November 14

Zechariah 1, Jn. 21
Zech. 2, 1 Tim. 2, 3

Commentary,

1 Timothy 2 and 3

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 has them in mind as he writes 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" (3-6).  It is to proclaim this Gospel that Paul was ordained a preacher and Apostle (7).  The implication is that if Paul was ordained to preach the Gospel, then the clergy of Ephesus, ordained by Paul and Timothy, are 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" is the common position for prayer.  Meeting in the homes of the church members, which often have only a few stools or chairs, the Ephesian Christians stand for hymns, Scripture reading, and sermons, and kneel for prayer.  Rather than folding their hands in front of them, they hold them at their sides, waist high and palms up during prayer.  They do not wave their hands or sway their bodies.
Verses 9 and 10 instruct 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.

1 Timothy 3

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, 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).  1 Timothy 3 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 church 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 equipped 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 make it very important for for the early Church to be able to distinguish between true and false ministers.  One of the "tests" they use is 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 is very important that the clergy in Ephesus can say they were taught and ordained by Paul, or by Timothy, or by a bishop taught and ordained by them.  It is not a status symbol; it is 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 is well acquainted 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 is not inventing them, but is 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 (1-3), a Godly leader in his own home (2, and 4), mature in the faith (6), and known for these attributes in the community (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 (2).

The requirements for deacons are no less stringent.  Deacons assist the bishop and local pastors in the services of the Church and the care of the poor.  They also preach and evangelise like Phillip in Acts 8.  Their practice and knowledge of the faith must be in keeping with the importance of this ministry.

It is Paul's intention to go Ephesus as soon as possible (14).  But, in case he is detained, Timothy is to carry on the work in Ephesus.  So Paul takes 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 (1-13).  Now he turns to Timothy's personal character and work.  Timothy, of course, is already well aware of these things.  Paul put them in this letter so Timothy can show it to the Ephesians, so they will know that he is acting in accordance with the instructions of Paul.  Having this in writing from Paul, Timothy can show it to presbyters wanting to become bishops, and laymen wanting to become deacons.  This will 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" (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 true Christians are 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.

November 15

Zech. 3, Acts 1
Zech. 4, 1 Tim. 4

Commentary,

1 Timothy 4

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

"These things" (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 is to entrust to the ministers and congregations of Ephesus (1:3-5).  One of Timothy's tasks in Ephesus is to consecrate bishops to oversee the churches of Ephesus and the surrounding areas.  Another task is to ordain men to the deaconate (3:1-13, 5:22).  He is to instruct clergy in the patterns of worship, daily prayer, and Christian love (1:5), so they, in turn, can instruct the churches (4:11, 1:3).  He is also to teach them to actively avoid falsehood and vain speculation about Scripture and Heavenly things (7).

To "exercise thyself unto godliness" (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 is to meditate in and give himself wholly to this discipline.

Timothy is 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 (13).  He will naturally spend much of his time teaching the clergy.  But the reading, exhortation, and doctrine will be part of his public duties in worship, and in private meetings as well.  Timothy is to be a man of prayer and diligent in the means of grace.  He is to teach the clergy to do the same, and they are 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 enable him to accomplish his task.  It especially refers to the ability to teach the Scriptures, called here "prophecy." 

November 16

Zech. 5, Acts 2
Zech. 6, 1 Tim. 5

Commentary,

1Timothy 5

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 is organising the churches in and around Ephesus into cohesive presbyteries, and consecrating bishops to oversee each.  Thus, Timothy serves not only as a representative of Paul, but as a kind of archbishop and ruler of those who have 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 provides for widows and orphans within the congregation.  Naturally, some women join 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 (14). Those with families should be provided for by them (4, 16).  But a true widow, meaning one with no income and no prospect of getting one, of proven Christian faith, who has long been a member of the Church and demonstrated her faith in her life, is to be aided by the Church (16). 

Paul turns from the financial support of widows within the congregation to the financial support of clergy (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 to 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 (19), and the guilty are to be rebuked before all (20) without partiality (21).  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 (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.

November 17

Zech. 7,  Acts 3
Zech. 8,  1 Tim. 6
 Commentary,
1 Timothy 6
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/employers 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 urges Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother (Philemon16).   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 (3).  Instead, he is proud, ignorant, and destitute of the truth (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 gives 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 (7) and we should content ourselves with food and raiment (8) knowing that the rich fall into many temptations that can drown them in destruction and perdition (9-10).  In contrast to those who seek primarily wealth, Christians are to seek contentment, and follow after Godliness (11).
Paul reminds and encourages Timothy to flee the things of unGodliness and follow after the things of God (11).  These words convey a picture of running away from unGodliness, and running to 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 (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.  Thus, John Chrysostom, in his Homilies on Timothy, XVIII, calling our desires, "passions," wrote:
"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" (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.  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 ((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.

November 18

Zech. 9, Acts 4:1-22
Zech. 10, 2 Timothy 1

Commentary,

2 Timothy 1

Second Timothy is Paul's final letter to Timothy.  Written from the Mammertine prison in Rome, the letter 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 again.  Meanwhile, Paul has travelled westward, possibly as far as Spain and Britannia.  We do not know how Paul came to be imprisoned in Rome a second time, though we know that Rome's growing hostility to Christianity became a full-fledged persecution after Nero blamed Christians for burning Rome in A.D. 64.  By the time Paul writes 2 Timothy, he is in prison facing execution, John is imprisoned on Patmos, and Peter has 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 (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 (7-11).  As Paul has suffered for the Gospel (12), he encourages Timothy to be willing to partake of the afflictions of the Gospel (8), having the same faith Paul has, that Christ is "able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (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.  Paul gives 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.
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 sakes, 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 loves Paul, and shows his love in his actions as well as in his words. As Paul suffers and sacrifices to share the word of life with Onesiphorus, Onisiphorus shares good things with Paul.  This, naturally causes Paul to rejoice, but he rejoices even more to know that Onesiphorus walks in Biblical faith rather than following vain babblings (2 Tim. 2:16:-17).


November 19

Zech.11, Acts 4:23-37
Zech.12, 2 Tim.2

Commentary,

2 Timothy 2

In chapter 2, the epistle turns to the ministry again.  Timothy is to be strong in grace (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 thing 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 (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.  Likewise, 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 verse 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; 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" (12).
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 this chapter 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 (17).  Instead of fighting over trivialities, Christians must pursue and actively work for faith, charity, and peace with one another (22). Timothy himself is charged to be a man of peace.
He is to study the Scriptures (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 (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 like Hymenaeus and Philetus. He is to be gentle and meek (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 (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" (19).