July 26, 2018

First Timothy

General Remarks on First Timothy

The short books of First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus are known as the Pastoral Epistles because they are written to ministers rather than churches.  In the New Testament, they appear in order of length from the longest to the shortest.  Chronologically, Titus is first, followed by First Timothy, then Second Timothy.  They were written by the Apostle Paul between 62 and 68 A.D.

Clement of Rome, who was a student of, and fellow worker with Paul, wrote that the Apostle taught righteousness to “the extreme limit of the west” which would have been Spain and Britannia at that time.  But Acts ends with Paul in house arrest in Rome, and makes no mention of his trip to Spain, or the visits to Ephesus, Macedonia, and Crete recorded in the Pastoral Epistles.  We know Paul was executed in Rome.  So why aren’t Paul’s journey to Spain and his execution recorded in Acts?  They are not recorded in Acts because they occur after the book of Acts was written.  The early Church historian, Eusebius, tells us Paul was released from the Roman imprisonment recorded in Acts.  After his release, he went to the western limit of the Roman Empire, as reported by Clement.  He then returned to make the visits to Ephesus, Macedonia, and Crete recorded in the Pastoral Epistles. 

After these journeys, Paul is back in Rome.  It is early in the persecution of the Church initiated by Roman Emperor Nero.  Peter has been executed, and John is imprisoned on Patmos.  Paul has been arrested again, and is in the Mammertine prison awaiting execution.  Titus and First Timothy are written prior to this imprisonment.  Second Timothy is written during it, just prior to Paul’s death.

First Timothy is written by Paul to Timothy around the year 62 or 63 A.D.  Paul, is still free, and is in Macedonia visiting the churches he founded in that area.  He has come to Macedonia from Ephesus, where he left Timothy to continue to instruct the Ephesian clergy and congregations in Biblical doctrine, and to charge them to teach no other doctrine.

July 26
1 Timothy 1:1-11

Timothy is in Ephesus when this Epistle arrives for him (3).  He has been sent there by Paul to ensure that the ministers in the Ephesian congregations preach only the pure word of God.  The Apostle seems to be concerned that some have begun to teach things contrary to the Gospel (3-4, 7).  It is certain that some, outside the Church, are preaching that the Old Testament ceremonial laws are necessary requirements for Christians.  This would have  a twofold effect.  First, it would mean Christians must become Jews, and would absorb the Church into Judaism.  Second, it would mean the sacrifice of Christ is not sufficient to atone for sin and restore Gentiles to peace with God.  Therefore, in addition to Christ, the Old Testament ceremonies and law must be kept.

Whether by intention or merely through ignorance, Paul is concerned that ministers in Ephesus may have adopted aspects of this teaching, and, thus, fallen 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 the Old Testament law.  The end (goal) of the law 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.  
Those who are 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 these things, but Paul puts it them the letter so the Ephesian Christians, especially the clergy, can read 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.

July 27
1 Timothy 1:12-20

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 of the Jews and syncretists 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 moral 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 (15).  Second, Paul's conversion would 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 (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.  They are 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 of Christ’s Gospel 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.

July 28
1Timothy 2:1-10

Instead of false teachings (1:3) and fruitless speculation about the law (1:4), Timothy is to charge the Ephesians 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, 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 this 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" is a common position for prayer in Paul’s time.  Meeting in the homes of the church members, which often have only a few stools or chairs, the Christians would stand for hymns, Scripture reading, and sermons, and kneel 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 give 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.
July 29
1 Timothy 2:11-15

Much ado has been made about the treatment of women in the Greco-Roman world, and much of it is highly over stated in attempts to make women appear to be helpless and oppressed with the status of property.  In reality, women had much freedom and influence in the culture.  But women were still second class citizens under Roman law.

In an obvious contrast, the Bible teaches the full equality of women and men.  The Bible teaches that women and men are compliments of each other, and that it takes both sexes to make Man whole and complete, both as a species and as individuals.  The Bible also recognises different callings for the sexes, much of which is evident in biology.  In these callings, women and men are partners, working together toward a common goal, which is to glorify God.  This is a very important point.  The goal of a Christian, whether male or female, is not self actualisation, or following his or her passion to personal fulfillment through the things of the world.  The Christian’s goal is the glory of God, and we are gladly obedient to Him as we work toward that goal.  In fact, to a Christian, that is our passion and fulfillment.

In Christianity, as in Old Testament Judaism, the Church is much more than a building we visit for religious purposes.  It is the people of God, called by the Spirit, cleansed by the blood of Christ, serving God together in every aspect of life.  It is a community, a family, a nation.  It includes the home and home life.  In the Church, everyone has a role, which makes an irreplaceable contribution to the achievement of the goal of glorifying God. It is this partnership in the Church, and especially in its public worship services of the prayers and Communion that Paul addresses in chapter 2.

The prayers and supplications of verse 1 are for all and by all, the word “men” in verse 8 obviously includes male and female, which is common in many languages, as in English.  It often works the same way in reverse by including men and women in feminine words.  Lamentations 2:13 is one of many examples, for both genders are included when God says, “What shall I equal to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem?  What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion”  In the New Testament, the word “Church” is feminine, and, of course both men and women are included when Revelation 21:9 says of the Church, “Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

The formal preaching is to be done by men (11, 12).  The reason for this is hidden in the mind of God, but we have a hint of it in verse 13, which takes us back to God’s plan in the creation of Adam and Eve.  “Adam was first formed, then Eve.”  If we look at Genesis 2:18, we see that Eve was created to be a help meet to Adam.  The call to have dominion over the earth under God is given to both, and both have their respective roles in it.  In the Church also, God has assigned some tasks to men, and some to women.  There is no shame in this, for even God is One God in three Persons, each with His own specific tasks in the Godhead. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ, fully God and equal to the Father in every respect, submits to the Father in all things (Phil. 2:5-9).  A second reason for this is found in the Fall.  It was Eve who sinned first, being deceived (14).  A comment by Dr. William Hendriksen in his commentary on this passage may shed some light on this issue.  After stating the fact of the full equality of men and women, he says this does not imply any basic change in the woman’s nature or in the corresponding task she is called to perform.

Romans feared the Biblical teaching of the equality of men and women.  They believed it would cause women to leave homes and families, making virtual orphans of their children as they pursue individual goals and pleasures.  Every culture and every religion in the Roman Empire  feared the Christian teaching.

Verse 15 does not teach that women are forgiven of sin and restored to God by giving birth.  Childbearing refers to the entire role of wife and motherhood, through which she contributes to the moral and spiritual climate of the Church and home.  Her influence and power in these roles is unmatched, and they are, to her life and joy.  They are fulfillment.  They are salvation from the distractions and empty promises of freedom away from her calling.

This does not require women to marry or bear children.  In other places the Bible encourages men and women to remain unmarried and in perpetual virginity (1 Cor. 7:7, 8).  This enables them to devote much more time to evangelism and care of the poor in the Name of Christ.  There also seems to have been organised women’s mercy and service ministries from the very start of the Christian Church.  It is in this sense that Phoebe is commended to the Romans a a servant of the church in Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1).

July 30
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).  1 Timothy 3 continues Paul’s intructions about the Church, addressing those called to offices of leadership in it.  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 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 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 something we nowadays call, 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 ordained 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 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 requirement for deacons are no less stringent.  Deacons assist the bishop and elders 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 this ministry.

July 31
1Timothy 3:14-16

It is Paul's intention to go Ephesus as soon as he can possibly get there (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), and now he turns to Timothy's personal character and work.  Timothy, of course, is already well aware of these things.  Paul puts them in this letter so the Ephesians will read it and know that he is acting in accordance with the instructions of Paul.  Having this in writing from Paul, Timothy can show it to elders 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.  The Church has replaced the Temple just as Christianity has replaced Judaism.  This is not because of any fault in the Temple or the Old Testament.  It is because Old Testament Israel, with her Temple and ritual forms, has been fulfilled in Christ.  They pointed to Christ, and, because He has come and accomplished the great work of His cross,  they must decrease as John the Baptist decreased in the presence of Christ.

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.  Therefore, it is to be conformed to His will as taught in the Bible, not shaped 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.

August 1
1Timothy 4

This chapter makes two important 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 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 area.  Another task is to ordain men to the deaconate (3:1-13, 5:22).  He is also to instruct clergy in the patterns of worship, daily prayer, and Christian love (1:5), so they, in turn, can instruct the churches (11, 13), and 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 them.

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 of Ephesus and the surrounding area, but the reading, exhortation, and doctrine are 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 then 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.  How different might our own lives would be, and what a difference might we 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." 

August 2
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).  He is organising the churches in and around Ephesus into cohesive dioceses, and consecrating bishops to oversee each.  Thus, Timothy serves not only as a representative of Paul, but as a kind of archbishop and a 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.  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, destitute, 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). 

August 3
1 Timothy 5:17-25

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, or, pastor, 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 (19), and the guilty are to be rebuked before all (20) without partiality (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 (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.  

 August 4
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 (3).  Instead he is proud, ignorant, and destitute of the truth (3-5). 
Then, as now, some teach 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 (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).

August 5
1 Timothy 6:12-21
Paul has reminded and encouraged 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 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 a transformation 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.  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 and inside of 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? It is 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.

The same is also committed to our trust.  May we also be faithful to keep it.

July 22, 2018

Second Thessalonians

General Remarks on Second Thessalonians

Like 1 Thessalonians, Second Thessalonians was written by the Apostle Paul from Corinth in or around the year 52 A.D.  Timothy had been sent by Paul to Thessalonica and had probably spent several months there completing the task of organising the church and instructing the clergy and congregations in the doctrines of the faith (1 Thess. 3:2). Because Paul was anxious to hear Timothy’s report about the safety and progress of the Thessalonians, Timothy went to Corinth, where Paul was teaching at that time, and gave the Apostle the good news that the Thessalonians were persevering well in the faith (3:6).    He was sent back to Thessalonica almost immediately, bearing a letter from Paul, which we know as the book of 1 Thessalonians.  One of the purposes of the letter was to inform the Church that Christians who die before Christ returns to bring the Day of the Lord to complete fulness, will not miss out.  They will have a prominent role in the events of Christ's Return, and are now with Him in Heaven (1 Thess. 4:13-17, see also 2. Cor. 5:8).  Timothy, returning to Thessalonica with this letter, probably spent several more months in the city, teaching the Church to know and follow the Saviour, Christ.  At length he returned to Corinth to work with Paul and report back on the situation in Thessalonica.  Continuing questions and issues in Thessalonica caused Paul to send Timothy back to it, this time carrying another letter from Paul, which we know as 2 Thessalonians.

July 23
2 Thessalonians 1

Persecution in Thessalonica continues after Paul leaves the city, for 2 Thessalonians opens by addressing it.  The Christians are commended for their patience and faith in their persecutions and tribulations (4), and, especially that their faith and love "groweth exceedingly" in spite of their sufferings, (3).

Verses 5-11 refer specifically to the fate of the persecutors, and the result of enduring persecution in the lives of the Thessalonians.  For the Christians it is a sign of God's favour, for they have been counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, and worthy to suffer for it.  Had they been unworthy, had their faith been simply an emotional response to the manipulations of the many false teachers of the era, they would not have withstood persecution. Standing firm shows the reality and depth of their faith.  Theirs is a worthy faith.

It is always easy to go over to the other side; to abandon the true faith for the easy believism offered by those who preach a different gospel and a different Christ.  Today many call themselves Christians, whose faith is really about emotional experiences, self-esteem, or getting worldly goods and miracles from God.  These people leave their faith as soon as the church "services" fail keep them entertained, which is why so many churches feel the need to constantly be on the cutting edge of music and cultural trends.  Or, finding that the promised health and wealth miracles do not come, many leave their faith behind.  In short, when their faith requires anything from them, they find they have nothing to give because they have received nothing.  The Thessalonians have received the Gospel of Christ.  They have received life through His atoning sacrifice.  They have received the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the means of grace.  They do not expect God to make life easy for them.  Their church was born in persecution, and they expect following Christ to be costly.  Thus they are willing to persevere.

Yet they do not expect their persecutors to get away with their evil, and Paul makes it clear that their tormentors will suffer terrible consequences for their actions.  Paul remembers that persecuting Christ's Church is persecuting Him (Acts 9:4), as every sin against the Church is a sin against God.  He shows that God will repay the persecutors with tribulation (6), just as He will repay the faithful with "rest" (7).  When Christ comes with His angels to bring in the fullness of His Day, the tormentors will be cast into the fire, punished with everlasting destruction, and banned forever from the presence and glory of God (8-10).  This fate awaits all "that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (8).  Notice again that it is "that day," the Day of the Lord to which Paul refers.   It is the Second Coming of our Lord, in glory and power to put all things right (10).

Paul ends the first chapter with a prayer.  He does not ask for deliverance from suffering.  He does not even ask for the persecution to end.  Instead he prays that the Thessalonians will continue to prove themselves worthy of their calling in Christ as they persevere through their suffering (11).  This prayer is a terrible blow to those who teach or believe that having enough faith guarantees that God will deliver them from circumstances and situations they don't like, or will give them health and wealth and miracles anytime they ask for them.  Paul prays for God to fulfill the pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power.  He is praying that, as the Thessalonians show themselves worthy through their endurance and faithfulness in all situations in this life, God will continue to work faith and Godliness (the pleasure of His goodness) in them.  This faith will continue to show itself in the increasing and continuing "work of faith with power."  In other words, faithfulness under trial leads to increased faith, and increased faith leads to more faithfulness.

The result is that the name of our Lord is glorified (12).  This verse is yet another reminder that the center and meaning of all things is God, not us. We err greatly when we think God created all things, suffered on the cross, and endures the constant sin and frustrations of humanity just for us.  It is for His own glory and pleasure that we were created (Rev. 4:11).  He has a purpose for His creation, and He is working every day to bring it toward His goal, which is to establish a Kingdom and people for Himself.  The goal of God is to bring all things together in one in Christ (Eph. 1:10).  It is Christ, not us, who is the central figure.  It is for His glory that we are saved, and live, and die, and live with Him forever.

July 24
2 Thessalonians 2

Not surprisingly, the Thessalonians still have questions about the Return of Christ, which Paul answers in this passage. Again, let us remember that the subject here is Christ's Second Coming to inaugurate the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:2), or, as Paul calls it here, the day of Christ (2).  It is His Coming to establish the Kingdom of God on earth in all its full glory and completeness.  The Greek word used here is parousia, which carries the meaning of a royal visit, or coming in royal glory to rule the kingdom.  Thus, in 1 Thessalonians we see Christ returning as the King of Glory, heralded by the trumpet of the Archangel, and issuing royal commands to the creation (1 Thess. 4:16).  Theologians have spent much time trying to decide whether verse 2 means to say that the Thessalonians fear the Day of Christ has arrived in fulness, or that they merely believe it is near, "at hand."  Actually, both are correct, and Paul is arguing against both concepts.  He uses a Greek word that means to be present with, as well as to be impending or near.  So he is saying that the idea that the Day of the Lord has already come, and the idea that the Day of the Lord is so immanently near it makes planning for the future and working for a living unnecessary, are wrong.  Those who say it has already happened are quite obviously wrong, for the world goes on much as it did before Christ came to earth and worked His wonderful gift of salvation by the blood of His cross.  Evil is still strong, and people live in open and unrepentant sin.  When Christ Returns, all of this will end.  The Day of the Lord will bring His Kingdom of Righteousness to fulness forever.

Likewise, His return is not so near that we can put the rest of life on hold to wait for it.  Many in Thessalonica hold this view, and it is one of their most prevalent problems.  Some in Thessalonica, have stopped working and supplying the needs of themselves and their families because they believe Jesus will return within the next few days or the next few minutes.  Instead of earning their own livings, they spend their time spreading their views in such obnoxious ways as to make them nothing more than "busybodies" (3:11), who, because they have not worked to provide for themselves, expect others in the church to feed and clothe them and their families.  Countering this belief, Paul tells the church not to fall for schemes that say the Day of Christ is "at hand," meaning immanent at any second. The short answer to this problem is that "if any would not work, neither should he eat" (3:10).

Paul then tells them that the Lord will not return until a great "falling away" from the truth occurs within the Church, and the man of sin is revealed (3).  This man, also known as the Anti-Christ, opposes all that Christ stands for, and does so in such a way that his ways appear good and godly.  While there are many anti-Christs, there is but one Anti-Christ, and he will ultimately deceive people into believing in him as God (4).  This Anti-Christ appears prior to the Return of Christ, and our Lord will destroy him at His coming (7-9).  All who were deceived by him (10-11) will be destroyed with him at the Lord's return (12). So this event will occur prior to the Lord's Return.

Each generation has read this passage and thought it was in the time of the falling away and the man of sin.  In a sense they were right, for the spirit of anti-Christ is always strong in the world because the general nature of fallen humanity is inclined towards it.  People have noted the moral decline of culture, and have noted many wicked people, whom they thought might be the Anti-Christ.  But Paul seems to indicate that there will be no doubt in the Church as to the Anti-Christ's identity.  We will know him when he appears.  Until then, we are to devote ourselves to Godliness and faith, not idle speculation.

Doom and destruction await the man of sin and all who reject the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone (10-12).  What a contrast this is to the state of those who believe in Christ unto salvation.  We may tremble for those who do not believe, but we, like Paul give thanks for those chosen for salvation (13-14).  We give thanks that we are sanctified by the Spirit and enabled to believe the truth.  We know we were called into this grace by the proclamation of the Gospel.  Note that Paul calls it "our Gospel" (14).  He does not mean it belongs to him, or that he made it up.  He means it is the Gospel Christ gave to the Church through the Apostles, and which Paul and the other Apostles preach and teach.  It is what we often call the "Apostolic Faith,” or “Biblical Faith” today.

Paul's desired outcome of enduring hardship and persecution to preach the Apostolic Faith is that those who receive it will continue in it until the Lord returns.  Thus, he encourages the Thessalonians to "stand fast," a military term meaning to stand your ground in the face of enemy attack (15).  They are to "hold" or embrace the "tradition which ye have been taught." This is not the tradition of men, which the Pharisees produced and followed in preference to the Scriptures.  It is the Gospel and the Church given by Christ through the Apostles.

More of the joy of the Christian, as opposed to the doom of the unbeliever, is expressed through a benediction found in verses 16 and 17.  It is basically a prayer that all the good things Christ died and rose again to procure for His people, will be given in abundance. to the Thessalonians.  These are the things that will comfort their hearts; things like faith, hope, assurance that they are in Christ and that His promise of forgiveness and Heaven will not fail.  Having this comfort, Paul prays that they will be established in every good word and work.

July 25
2 Thessalonians 3

Paul asks the people to pray for him (1, 2).  Specifically, they are to pray that the word of the Lord, the Gospel, will have "free course, and be glorified."  "Free course" means to run free, to be unhampered so it may go where it will.  Paul is asking that it will not be hampered by him, either by his own human frailties, or by the persecution he faces for it.  He is asking that persecution and trials will not stop him from proclaiming the Gospel.  That the Gospel would be "glorified" means that people will receive it in faith and become followers of Christ: that they will recognise it as the word of God, as the truth, and will honour it in their lives and in their hearts, regardless of opposition, persecution, or cost.

His confidence is not in people, but in the Lord (4).  The Lord is faithful and will establish them in the faith, keep them from evil and enable them to do what Paul commands them as their Apostle and pastor in the Lord.

The last phrase of verse 5 is important in the context of the earlier discussion of the Return of Christ.  Paul prays for them to be directed "into the patient waiting for Christ."  He asks them not to become distracted from daily Christian living and their regular duties in this world, by a constant preoccupation with the time of the Lord's Return.  They are to look for His Return.  They are to live in anticipation of it.  They are even to pray for it, "Thy kingdom come."  And they are to be patient, tending to the business of being God's Church on earth until that Day arrives.

There is a God-ordained order, or, pattern for life.  It revolves around God and consists of faith, worship, love, and work.  We could express it as; love God, love your neighbor (especially those of your own household), go to Church, and find a job to provide for your needs and honour God.

A small group of people in the Thessalonian Church are not living by this pattern. They are, "walking disorderly" (6).  They are not carousing or fornicating, but neither are they living by the pattern of life God intended.  Their primary departure from the pattern is that they have stopped working for a living and now expect the others in the church to feed and clothe them and their families.  Why? They believe the Return of the Lord to bring in the fulness of the Day of the Lord, is so immanent it makes all preparations for future life on earth meaningless.  These people believe the Second Coming will occur within the next few weeks, or even within the next few minutes (2 Thess. 2:1-2).  Therefore, they have stopped working and caring for themselves and their families, expecting others in the church to clothe and feed them.  Thus, Paul exhorts and commands them, "that with quietness they work and eat their own bread."

Paul and the evangelists exemplified this when they were in Thessalonica, working night and day to both preach the Gospel and provide for their own expenses (7-9).  Though they had the right, as do all ministers of Christ's Church, to receive a wage for their work, just like any other person in any other honourable occupation, Paul and his companions did not want to burden the new Christians, so they earned their meager livings by working another job in addition to their  labours in the Gospel.  The implication is that, if Paul can provide for himself, so can the Thessalonians.  And Paul offers himself and his conduct as an example to the disorderly in Thessalonica (3:9).  The word used in the original Greek is the word from which we get our English word, "mimic."  So Paul is exhorting these people to mimic him and his companions by returning to work and providing for themselves.

Those who refuse to live by this teaching (tradition) are to be avoided (6).  This is not formal church discipline, and it is certainly not excommunication, for the people are to be treated as brothers rather than unbelievers (15).  It does mean those who work are not to enable idleness in others by feeding and caring for them.  They are to stop subsidising the sin of idleness and let every one live by the rule "that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (10).

Paul closes his exhortations with a prayer that the Lord of peace Himself will give His peace to the Thessalonians (16).  The disorderliness of some is causing disruption in the peace of the Church and the lives of its members.  Their disorder is in stark contrast to the Lord of peace.  His ways are the ways of peace.  His order for quiet Godliness brings peace. So this is a prayer that the Thessalonians will return to His ways and restore His peace in the church.  "By all means" refers to the means by which God works peace in His people.  These are usually the ordinary means, rather than miraculous gifts.  Peace comes through trusting God with this life and the next, and by accepting what He gives.  It comes through living peacefully with others and by conducting ourselves humbly and lovingly, with words and actions that promote peace rather than instigate hostility.  It comes from hearts and minds that are being transformed and renewed by constant immersion in the Scriptures, the Church, and all the means of grace.  These things work peace in us individually and corporately.

Verse 17 tells us that Paul wrote it with his own hand as proof that the letter is from him.  The rest of the epistle was probably written by Timothy as Paul dictated it.  Verse 18 closes the epistle with a benediction very characteristic of Paul, and full of his love and hopes for the Thessalonians.  Like all Scripture, it is not just for those first recipients, but for all of God's people in all times and all places; "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."