Thursday, December 31, 2009

1 Timothy 3:14-16

We end this year looking at the final 3 verses of 1 Timothy 3. We'll begin the new year, Lord willing, by examining chapter four of Paul's first letter to Timothy.

V14-16 – 14Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He [or God] appeared in a body [or in the flesh], was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

In the concluding passage of this chapter, we finally come to Paul’s reason for writing – to teach Timothy, in light of or in the meantime of his absence, how to teach others to live godly lives in the pagan culture. One commentator suggests that it’s much like Leviticus; the laws were given especially since the surrounding culture was so different from the laws. God wants sanctification and holiness; His people are to be set apart and different. After acknowledging that he hopes to come soon to see Timothy, Paul announces that the church (“ecclesia” literally means “the called out ones”) is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (v15). In other words, “the church of the living God,” referring to the called out people of God in His self-existence, upholds gospel truth. Now this seems an amazing statement, and Paul even refers to it as “the [great] mystery of godliness.” In order for the truth to be taught and applied, the church must thrive. And in order for the church to thrive, the truth must be taught and applied. This great truth, the gospel truth of Jesus Christ, is “beyond all question.” In other words, every believer acknowledges Jesus, “the mystery of godliness!”

Paul concludes with several lines that most likely were lyrics of an early Christian hymn. In v16, we read of six particulars, on which commentators have had different opinions over the years. One view is that these six notes are nothing more than revealed truth about Jesus Christ; thus the pattern would be A-B-C-D-E-F. We would read this verse as Paul saying that God “appeared in a body” (or in the flesh). This testimony to Jesus’ deity in the incarnation speaks again to the importance of Jesus’ humanity and also His preexistence. His vindication by the Spirit speaks to His resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4), or the declaration of His sinless life. That He “was seen by angels” may refer to His resurrection day, or to His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:10-11). Being “preached among the nations” is a testimony again to the value of and God’s purpose for the church (2 Corinthians 4:6). “Believed on in the world” speaks to the amazing grace of God and the importance of faith. And finally, “taken up in glory” refers to the exaltation of Jesus Christ (Acts 7:56) as God, especially at His ascension into heaven.

Another view suggests that these six particulars represent a different pattern, focusing alternatively on Christ’s earthly (humiliating) and heavenly (exalted) experiences. The pattern would be A-B, B-A, A-B. He “appeared in a body,” was “preached among nations,” and was “believed on in the world;” these, of course are representative of Jesus’ earthly experiences. On the other hand, He “was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels,” and “was taken up in glory;” these elements are purely heavenly, referring to Jesus Christ’s exaltation.

Finally, there is another view that these six particulars mentioned by Paul are patterned A-B-C, A-B-C. If this is the case, we could see them as referring, in the first set, to revealed truths about Christ, and in the second set, to revealed truths about the Church of Jesus Christ. I like all three perspectives, but this last one is most intriguing. Jesus came as a man, was vindicated by the Spirit, and was seen by angels; He was born, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven. And then He was preached among the nations, people in the world believed on Him, and they were taken to glory in Him.

1 Timothy 3:8-13

V8-13 – 8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. 11In the same way, their wives [or deaconesses] are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 12A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul turns his attention now to deacons (Acts 6:1-7). One commentator says, “The term ‘deacon’ means ‘ to raise dust,’ which is metaphorical for menial service. It became the general word for ‘ministry’ in the New Testament.” The character traits yielded here are similar; deacons are to exhibit self-control in what they say, what they drink, and how they spend (v8). And notice the importance of sound doctrine (v9); in other translations, the “deep truths” are translated as “mystery.” They are the revealed but challenging truths of the gospel, the substance of the Christian faith. In v10, Paul says that deacons must be tested, probably to see if they exhibit orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Where we read “nothing against them,” it’s the word for “blameless,” but it’s a synonym for “above reproach” (v2; Titus 1:6-7).

In v11, Paul turns to either the deacons’ wives or deaconesses (Romans 16:1; Philippians 4:3; 1 Timothy 5:9). Perhaps some of the deceived women of the Ephesian congregation had come from this group (“malicious talkers”). These women were to have the same characteristics as deacons and to serve in the role of deacons, especially in places where male deacons could not serve (such as helping sick or elderly women). When Paul says that they must be “trustworthy in everything,” he’s specifically referring to their lifestyle choices, namely to fulfill their God-given roles rather than seek other roles out of pride or to self-satisfy. Finally, in v12-13, Paul returns to the importance of family management as a valuable and necessary characteristic for serving in church leadership. He says that the deacon who deacons well gains “an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” In other words, the servant is the one who is respected and assured – the last shall be first. In what ways are you a servant?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

1 Timothy 3:1-7

V1-7 – 1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer [bishop], he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Paul focuses now on church leadership, the very problem Ephesus appeared to be having. Rather than leave the thought that women were snubbed, Paul makes sure that his audience realizes that not all men were fit for this position. Church leadership is extremely important, and it’s a matter over which the local church rises or falls. It was also a problem that seemed to be encouraged by the false teachers. So Paul focuses on the personal traits, not so much the duties, of elders and deacons. His thought process may be that putting the right people in place would lend to their duty fulfillment. On the contrary, false teachers emphasized duty for the sake of authority and not based on character qualities. In v1, Paul calls attention to an important topic (eldership), for the second of five times in the pastoral letters, by saying, “Here is a trustworthy saying.” The word “overseer” (v5; Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:17,28; Titus 1:5-7) is synonymous with “elder,” “pastor,” “bishop,” and “presbyter,” and the title describes the job function. For example, a teacher teaches, a pastor pastors, a shepherd shepherds, and a bishop bishops. Paul says it is good to covet a role in church leadership, and rather than wait for a clear calling from God, we may ascertain that the heart’s desire is the calling, for the Lord will give believers the desires of their hearts (Psalm 37:4).

In v2-7, Paul gives the traits of one qualified to lead God’s church. “Above reproach” entails being in good standing with Christians, as well as with non-Christians (v7; Titus 1:6-9). An elder must strive for holiness. “Husband of but one wife” has been really scrutinized by theologians, but given the sexual immorality of Greco-Roman culture, Paul likely means simply avoiding martial infidelity. Others suggest that Paul prohibits polygamy and divorce and/or remarriage after divorce or spouse-death with this trait as well. Paul mentions that an elder must be “temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable.” He is referring to sober-mindedness, sensibility, balance, orderliness, and courteousness. Finally in v2, “Able to teach” was especially important in the Ephesian congregation, given their trouble with false teachers. How important it is that leaders can convey truth to disciples!

In v3, Paul turns to negative traits – “not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” Paul never prescribes abstinence from alcohol, but makes it a point to avoid drunkenness while always being a good witness for Christ, especially regarding the weaker brothers (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8-10). V4-5 discuss management, or stewardship, and provide a familial illustration of its importance for the role of elder. For elders to lead the local church, they must show that they can lead their household.

V6 implies that elders could experience the big head (ego / pride) if given the role too soon into their walk as Christians; elders ought to be mature in the faith. Perhaps some elders in the Ephesian church, or former elders, had become false teachers and refused Paul’s apostolic authority. Also noteworthy, this last command is omitted to Titus, perhaps since the Ephesian church was well established and the Cretan church brand new. In other words, all of the Cretan Christians were new believers, so to appoint elders would require the ordaining of recent converts. Finally here, and in v7, Paul brings up the devil, acknowledging the spiritual warfare surrounding the church; selfishness – conceitedness and disgrace – opens the door for Satan.

Monday, December 28, 2009

1 Timothy 2:8-15

V8-15 – 8I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 9I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women [or she] will be saved [or restored] through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

In v8, Paul mentions “men everywhere.” After covering prayer, he’s now transitioning into corporate worship, which includes prayer, rightly done by lifting holy hands (with words and lifestyle in agreement, opposed to those described in Isaiah 1:15), “without anger or disputing” (v8), a “settled opposition,” especially in attitude, toward each other. He’s excluding the false teachers and their messengers (perhaps young widows) with these elements of proper corporate prayer. Now Paul is not limiting participation to men (Acts 2:18, quoting Joel 2:28-32; 1 Corinthians 11:5), but it may be a clue to the specific problem in Ephesus. Perhaps the men were struggling with unity in worship, instead tending to anger and disputing; perhaps the men had become angry and discontinued corporate worship and prayer altogether, which led to the problem of women taking over the leadership, which Paul will address later. In other words, maybe the men weren’t stepping up to leadership, so the women did; but that wasn’t a justifiable reason. Whatever the reason, when Paul mentions the lifting up of holy hands (Psalm 63:4; 141:2), he’s thinking, again, of attitude issues. That’s reflected in his admonitions to women as well.

In v9, Paul addresses modesty for women (1 Peter 3:3-4). Greco-Roman culture appreciated extravagant dress, but again, this exhortation has motive and attitude in mind, not just mere behavior. We may again speculate that some of the Ephesian women had gotten caught up in the women’s freedom movement that spread throughout the Roman Empire at this time in history (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). Or perhaps we could conclude that the false teachers were going after the wealthy women of the congregation whose husbands were too busy to guard their wives from these wolves. Nevertheless, women ought to dress with modesty and discretion, in order that they would be esteemed as modest and discreet women of God.

Much ado is made about Paul’s statements in v11-12, but submission is the matter at hand. Paul’s command for Christian to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) is not a matter of value or status in God’s sight, but rather a matter of God-given roles within various relationships. Interestingly the Greek word for “to have authority” in v12 more literally implies the usurping of authority, which again, was a particularly Ephesian problem of the moment, and it is used only here in all of Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 14:34). So again, maybe the men weren’t leading well, so the women took that role. It’s good for the women to want good leadership, and it’s quite a testimony to Christianity that women were encouraged in that day and age to be disciples and learn Biblical instruction; but rather than take it themselves, they ought to strive to encourage the men of the congregation to lead it. And God gave the leadership of God’s Church (the preaching and teaching eldership) to qualified men; Paul will detail those qualifications in the next chapter. Finally, it’s important to guard against the two extremes for women (and for men, for that matter) – that they can do nothing and that they can do everything. All people in the Church have God-defined roles, which are crucial for the Body of Christ to function as God intended.

V13-15 wrap up Paul’s thoughts here with an analogy. He appeals to creation for his command (see 1 Corinthians 11:8-12), and his reasoning is almost certainly situational. The Ephesian women were being deceiving by the false teachers (1 Timothy 5:11-15; 2 Timothy 3:6-7); so Paul takes a Scripture passage to show that it wasn’t the first time. But elsewhere (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22), Paul is comfortable blaming Adam for the introduction of sin into creation. Calvin comments:

“Because [Eve] had given fatal advice, it was right that she should learn that she was under the power and will of another; and because she had drawn her husband aside from the command of God, it was right that she should be deprived of all liberty and placed under the yoke. Besides, the Apostle does not rest his argument entirely or absolutely on the cause of the transgression, but founds it on the sentence which was pronounced by God. Yet it may be thought that these [following] two statements are somewhat contradictory: that the subjection of the woman is the punishment of her transgression, and yet that it was imposed on her from the creation; for thence it will follow, that she was doomed to servitude before she sinned. I reply, there is nothing to hinder that the condition of obeying should be natural from the beginning, and that afterwards the accidental condition of serving should come into existence; so that the subjection was now less voluntary and agreeable than it had formerly been.”
Paul speaks of the deceived women being saved, as in “redemption from deception” (v14). Though Paul is deemed controversial at best when he mentions childbearing as the apparent means to this salvation (v15), he is claiming that women need to return to their God-given role (Genesis 3:16), instead of seeking church leadership in sexual abstinence, which may have been encouraged by the pre-Gnostic false teachers. There is nothing to gain salvifically for women to strive for something other than for what they were created (to help their husbands). The goal should always be evangelism and discipleship, rather than pursuit of personal freedom and societal advancement; and this is true for both men and women, though they attain that by different means (roles). Paul suggests instead continuing in faith, which again points to a proper attitude of submission to God’s commands, and it was clearly especially important for these deceived women regarding their God-given role.

Monday, December 21, 2009

1 Timothy 2:5-7

V5-7 – 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time. 7And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying – and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

Paul announces that there is one God; this is the fundamental affirmation of Judaism and Christianity and was absolutely contrary to the cultural polytheism of the day. He also declares Christ as the sole mediator between God and men (remember it is in this sense that Jesus is our hope from 1 Timothy 1:1). This is another reason to pray for “everyone;” salvation is not found in every faith, but only in Jesus Christ. And God uses prayer to bring people to faith, and therefore salvation, in Jesus Christ.

Paul emphasizes the humanity of Jesus here, as 1st (all the way through 4th) century false teachers commonly denied it, due to the resurrection. (Only beginning in the 4th century was His divinity questioned.) Essentially, God is One Being, One essence, with three distinct, co-eternal, and co-equal Persons. And Paul acknowledges that God Himself – in the Person of Jesus, as “the man” (pointing to Jesus’ full humanity) – fulfills the role of Savior (v3).

V6 recalls the way in which Jesus served as mediator (v5) – by becoming a ransom (Isaiah 53). He “gave Himself;” the Father sent His Son, and Jesus “gave Himself.” You can see clearly the roles that each Person of the Godhead has to fulfill. The ransom here is a vicarious, substitutionary atonement and propitiation. And when Paul mentions all men here, he is undoubtedly referring to the same “all kinds of men” as in v1 and v4. Paul certainly knew that Jesus’ death was a sufficient ransom for all, but that it was efficient only for the elect, which included all kinds of men. Calvin says, “The universal term all must always be referred to classes: of men, and not to persons; as if he had said, that not only Jews, but Gentiles also, not only persons of humble rank, but princes also, were redeemed by the death of Christ. Since, therefore, He wishes the benefit of His death to be common to all, an insult is offered to Him by those who, by their opinion, shut out any person from the hope of salvation.”

Furthermore, a ransom paid without the return of the kidnapped is unjust, and there is no injustice with God. If a ransom was paid, then the person is redeemed, for God would be unjust to keep the ransom without redeeming the ransomed party. This is obviously not true of all men, but it is certainly true of all kinds of men, again, according to God’s sovereignty. And wrapping up v6 with an aside, Paul says that the work of Jesus Christ is “the testimony given in its proper time.” Genesis 3:15 offered the protoevangelion, and the rest of Old Testament foreshadowed Christ. The Gospels reveal that proper time, in which Christ came humbly and won victory at Calvary; and now Paul acknowledges that the whole of history is His story, ordained from before the creation of the world, according to His will.

Paul was appointed to preach the gospel, as “a herald and an apostle…and a teacher (2 Timothy 1:11) of the true faith to the Gentiles,” to the world. The statement thrown in the middle of this claim, in v7, is odd if this letter is intended solely for Timothy, but this clue, along with others throughout the letter, reveals that the letter was intended for the entire Ephesian congregation. God’s saving love is truly for the world, as He includes Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, all who, by grace, have the “true faith.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

1 Timothy 2:1-4

This entire chapter is devoted to instructions on prayer (v1-7) and worship (v8-15) in response to false teachings on these crucial elements of the faith. The latter half of this chapter emphasizes the divisive spirit of the false teachers.

V1-4 – 1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Paul, with the word “then,” ties chapter 1 to chapter 2. He has urged Timothy to continue in faithfulness to Christ without being overly concerned with the appearance of outward success. How might Timothy best accomplish that task? Paul says with four different words that it comes through prayer. Praying for “everyone” (v1), or “all men,” is meant to show the inclusiveness of the gospel, in the response to the exclusivist false teachers; but it is often misinterpreted. Paul clarifies what he means in v2, basically including all kinds of people. So praying for everyone means praying for all kinds of people, including those in authority and even kings.

Praying for Nero at this time was probably not something that came easily to persecuted Christians, but doing so was intended to ease their trials (“that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”) Because Nero, and others in authority were persecuting the church, or trying them by teaching divisive and false doctrine, living peaceful and quiet, godly and holy (or dignified) lives, did not come easy; but maybe through prayer God would alleviate some of that tension, for godly living is good (v3; Jeremiah 29:7). The false teachers in Ephesus were unwilling to include certain people groups – namely kings and those in authority – in their prayers, thinking them too unspiritual and therefore unworthy of intercessory prayer. On the contrary says Paul, these prayers, including intercession, requests, and thanksgivings, please God our Savior (v3).

In v4, Paul says that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” We can acknowledge that Paul’s statement refers to God’s general benevolence in taking no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). God wants – He commands – all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). But at the same time, all people everywhere are not saved. So many question God’s will here. This is an illustration of His revealed will; in terms of what would be nice for each individual human and beneficial for humankind, salvation through faith in Christ (“a knowledge of the truth,” referring to an intimate, personal and complete knowledge of God) and repentance. God wants this, but His decretive will is that all kinds of people – from every tongue, tribe, and nation – would be saved. God, therefore, has not elected all people to salvation, but all kinds of people; the elect don’t come only from the poor class, or from Israel – they come from everywhere. God has a special love for His elect, as He brings them (us) to Himself. And another part of His decretive will is that some people would experience just judgment, while others receive mercy (Romans 9:1-24). This is all due to nothing on the part of the individual, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; but we are saved by His grace according to His good and perfect purpose. Allow Calvin to conclude:

“We see the childish folly of those who represent this passage to be opposed to predestination. ‘If God’ say they, ‘wishes all men indiscriminately to be saved, it is false that some are predestined by His eternal purpose to salvation, and others to perdition.’ They might have had some ground for saying this, if Paul were speaking here about individual men; although even then we should not have wanted the means of replying to their argument; for, although the will of God ought not to be judged from His secret decrees, when He reveals them to us by outward signs, yet it does not therefore follow that He has not determined with Himself what He intends to do as to every individual man. But I say nothing on that subject, because it has nothing to do with this passage; for the Apostle simply means, that there is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception. Now the preaching of the gospel gives life; and hence he justly concludes that God invites all equally to partake salvation. But the present discourse relates to classes of men, and not to individual persons; for his sole object is, to include in this number princes and foreign nations. That God wishes the doctrine of salvation to be enjoyed by them as well as others, is evident from other passages of a similar nature.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

1 Timothy 1:18-20

V18-20 – 18Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

In this passage, Paul returns to the theme from v3-7, not that Timothy should strive to succeed in succeeding Paul in his ministry, but that Timothy would continue faithful to Christ in his own ministry. He uses military language to get Timothy’s attention; in fact, one author defined a Christian as one who is engaged as a soldier in spiritual battle. That’s what Paul wants Timothy to recognize. He commands (“give you this instruction”) him to fight. He also speaks of prophecies given about Timothy, and commentators conclude that the elders who laid their hands on him (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6) as an ordination rite must have also prophesied about him and his ministry at that time. Paul is charging him not to forget the importance of that ceremony, which set him apart in a tangible way.

Regarding the importance for Timothy to cling to faith and a good conscience, notice that both are also mentioned in v5. Faith here may mean both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, while a good conscience results from those. David, after cutting the corner off Saul’s robe in the cave, was stricken by a guilty conscience; he knew, from his faith in God, he shouldn’t have done that, and he immediately repented (1 Samuel 24:4-6). The refusal to recognize and repent leads rightly to excommunication (v20). It appears that Paul has excommunicated (handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme) Hymenaeus (see 2 Timothy 2:16-17) and Alexander for the sake of discipline unto recognition of their sin and timely repentance. And here we hold out hope that they may yet return to godliness, but when Paul uses a similar metaphor in 1 Timothy 4:2 of the false teachers, there appears to be no hope for their restoration. Timothy is to note the shipwreck some have made of their lives by abandoning faith.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

1 Timothy 1:12-17

V12-17 – 12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

In this passage, Paul reviews his calling as a testimony to the power of the gospel at work in him. In other words, Paul himself serves as an example of the gospel at work. The first response to understanding God’s grace in salvation is thanksgiving. Notice again, thanking God and/or thanking Christ (and/or the Holy Spirit for that matter) are practically and doctrinally synonymous, much to the chagrin of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. (I can’t help but mention that the Oneness Pentecostals don’t have the same problem, since they see God and Christ as one being in a modalistic framework.) Paul is thankful to Christ for strength, for considering him faithful, and for appointing him to His service (v12). Paul was the least faithful person he could think of, at least in regard to the gospel, and that’s why he acknowledges the mercy shown him, though he was “once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (as Saul of Tarsus, under the law). Paul attributes that mercy to the fact that he was an ignorant unbeliever (v13). Now this statement doesn’t work when you break the speed limit; you can’t say, “But I didn’t know.” And that’s not what Paul is saying either. Rather Paul is saying that his attempt to be righteous by law keeping was ignorant. He didn’t know Jesus, and so he was condemnable; the law didn’t help him, and he needed to abandon it. But he shown mercy under the gospel, not under the law, as God’s grace, “along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (v14), abundantly poured out on him in the fullest sense.

The fruit of grace is faith and love. This realization and self-reminder causes him to evoke a “trustworthy saying” (1 Timothy 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8), the truth that “Christ Jesus came into the world [implying His pre-existence] to save sinners (v15). There’s a six-point sermon in that part of v15. God’s grace has no limits in terms of the degree of sinner it can save. Early on, Paul called himself “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9), and then five years later, “less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8); and now towards the end of his life, he considered himself to be the worst of all sinners, yet he was saved. That means anyone can be saved by trusting Christ, for it is by grace that we are saved, through faith (Ephesians 2:8). And it also means that Paul’s estimation of himself decreased as his understanding of the gospel of grace increased. John the Baptist understood this, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30); and that’s what we come to understand as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Paul says in v16 that it was “for this very reason” that he was saved. The gospel came to him in order that he may be an example of the great patience and willingness and ability of God to forgive. Paul was a sincere false teacher prior to conversion, and the fact that God had mercy on him, again, means that God will save all, no matter what, who come to Him in faith. It is the gospel – welcoming the Person of Jesus Christ as Lord, believing specific truths about Him, and waging war unto holy living – that brings eternal life, that saves, and that transforms. And when Paul mentions eternal life in v16, he’s thinking not of the duration of that everlasting life, but the fact that it entails life in its fullness, which is both immediate and to come, both now and later. Paul was saved by the gospel to serve, and his gracious, dependent, and undeserved ministry service reveals that he was truly saved by the gospel.

Finally, in v17, Paul issues a brief but glorious doxology (similar to 1 Timothy 6:15-16). He can’t help but praise God when he reflects on the grace shown to him in the gospel, and that’s a sign of genuine conversion. He refers to God literally as “King of the universe,” “eternal” in the sense of “God of all ages,” thinking past, present, and future, “immortal,” or literally “incorruptible,” as in the ever-living and only self-existent One, “invisible,” referring to God as Spirit, and as “the only God,” referring to the culturally unique position of the day of monotheism. Paul chooses these magisterial characteristics to describe God, and then he rightly ascribes to God “honor and glory for ever and ever.” The honor mentioned here is akin to the Hebrew word “kabod,” also seen in v11 translated “blessed.” It refers to infinite value and weight and brilliance and worthiness. And then the glory mentioned is ambiguous; it could refer to God’s righteousness, holiness, perfect character and image, or even His splendorous presence.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

1 Timothy 1:6-11

V6-11 – 6Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 8We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9We also know that law [or that the law] is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which He entrusted to me.

Paul begins this section (v6-7) by explaining the false teachers’ motive. They engage in meaningless talk out of pride (not out of love, which is the means and the desired end), thinking themselves capable of teaching the law, but they don’t even grasp it for themselves. They end up confidently affirming things about the law that they don’t really understand. They ought to be fruitful (teaching sound doctrine in love, which edifies and produces love), but they prove to be fruitless (speculating out of pride, which doesn’t edify or produce love). And just in case Timothy needed a refresher course on the law, especially in relation to what these false teachers were proclaiming, Paul gives that in v8-11, which is one long sentence in the Greek language.

His digression on the law implies that it is good when used properly, as a corrective rod and directional staff that reveals our sin and guides us to Christ. The law has no power over us unto condemnation once we are safe in Christ; however, the law is still useful since it reveals God’s character. And the specific sins he mentions in v9-10 mirror the actual Ten Commandments (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:21), which align with sound doctrine. Paul concludes in v11 that one’s determination of sound teaching and understanding of the law must be in accord with the gospel message. In other words, the law doesn’t determine the meaning of the gospel; rather, the gospel helps us to see the intention of the law, which is to convict us of and restrain sin. (It is also used to point us to Christ and guide us in righteous living once we come to Christ by grace through faith for salvation.)

Finally, with the seldom-used term, “blessed God,” Paul is referring to the truth that only God – Yahweh (YHWH) – is worthy of praise, and only doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel has value. And just in case the Jehovah’s Witnesses are nodding their heads in agreement with Paul, he goes on immediately (v12) to thank Christ as equivalent to Yahweh, thereby refuting the JW’s, as the One who appeared to him on the Damascus Road and commissioned him for gospel ministry.

Friday, December 11, 2009

1 Timothy 1:1-5

V1-5 – 1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. 5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Paul, whose Greek name means “little” and whose Jewish name (Saul) means “asked,” declares himself an apostle, which means “sent one;” but Paul uses it to remind his audience (not just Timothy) of his God-given authority, even apart from his desire (likely referring to the Damascus Road encounter). He always notes that his apostleship comes from God and his work is on behalf of Jesus Christ. Paul calls God “our Savior” in v1 probably in direct contrast to the culture of the day, which made it commonplace to call Caesar “savior.” By the time Paul wrote this letter, Christians were being killed for refusing to call Caesar by this title (or by Lord), instead choosing rightly to reserve these titles for Jesus Christ and God the Father (co-equal in monotheistic divinity). Paul may also be thinking of God the Father as Savior in the sense that He is the author of the covenant of grace. Finally in v1, Paul calls Christ Jesus “our hope,” and there are a number of things he could be referring to, such as Jesus as mediator of the covenant of grace; but to keep it simple, one commentator says, “Paul often uses this term in several related senses. Often it is associated with the consummation of the believer’s faith. This can be expressed as glory, eternal life, ultimate salvation, Second Coming, etc. This consummation is certain, but the time element is future and unknown.”

In v2, Paul greets Timothy, whose name means, “one who honors God.” Timothy is mentioned more than any of Paul’s other helpers, some 17 times throughout 10 different letters; he is even referred to as an apostle, along with Paul and other “sent ones,” in 1 Thessalonians 2:6. Paul refers to him as “true son” – the word “my” is not in the Greek text. Paul uses similar phrases elsewhere regarding Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:1), Titus (Titus 1:4), and even Onesimus (Philemon 10). Jesus referred to his disciples as His children in John 13:33, and John uses the concept repeatedly in his epistles (3 John 4; 1 John 2:1,12,13,18,28; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:21), referring to spiritual parenthood (“in the faith”) and mentoring. Even Peter and the author of Hebrews use similar phrases but not quite as personally (1 Peter 1:14; Hebrews 2:14; 12:8). Paul issues a standard greeting of grace, mercy, and peace, and as usual, he acknowledges Jesus’ deity by proclaiming that the blessing comes from both God the Father and Christ the Son. Grace is a primary description of the character of God; peace is what humans receive when they trust God; and mercy describes “hesed,” the covenant faithfulness and steadfast loyalty of God to His people, namely by keeping His promises.

In v3, Paul reveals that Timothy is in Ephesus, which at that time was the largest city in Asia Minor. Ephesus was also home to the Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which made it also a haven for immorality, prostitution, and multi-cultural freedom. It was an “anything goes” city, for as long as peace was kept, Roman government did not interfere. Paul even stayed there for three years during his third mission trip (Acts 20:31), along with Aquila and Priscilla, and presumably Timothy, among others. Tradition asserts that John moved to Ephesus as well, after the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is thought that Paul and Timothy returned to Ephesus as Paul’s first destination upon being released from his first Roman imprisonment. Eusebius, the third century church historian, asserts that Timothy was stoned in Ephesus over arguments with those who worshipped Diana (Artemis).

Apparently Paul left Timothy in Ephesus after they had arrived there together. Paul went on to Macedonia (Thessalonica and Philippi), while Timothy was to stay and give strict orders for certain people who were teaching false doctrine to stop from doing so. This purpose for Paul’s letter was so crucial that he omits the typical beginning to his epistles, which is thanksgiving (see Galatians as well).

In v4, Paul reveals the reason for this urgent command to Timothy. Writing of false doctrine, he mentions myths and endless genealogies, which promote controversies rather than God’s work of salvation by grace through faith. Calvin says, “Vain curiosity has no limit, but continually falls from labyrinth to labyrinth.” Paul is categorizing the pre-Gnostic heresies that stem from a combination of Greek mythology and Jewish apocryphal literature. The false teachers were avoiding the proper duty of gospel stewardship, which involves edification of the saints. Perhaps they were merely looking into the depths of philosophy, astrology, and mythology, but their speculation was causing controversy and failing to edify the body of Christ; Paul judges doctrine by its fruit. They weren’t showing love toward one another; thus, the teaching of false doctrines needed to stop.

In v5, Paul explains the goal of the command Timothy was to issue – love. This love comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. With the phrase “a pure heart,” Paul is emphasizing the whole of a person, their intellect, emotion, and will (Deuteronomy 6:5-6); the heart is the center, the core, of life, both physically and spiritually. So love is to be wholehearted and complete. When he speaks of “a good conscience,” Paul is referring to the inner senses (1 Peter 3:21); the conscience is, as one commentator noted, “a developing understanding of believers’ motives and actions based on (1) a biblical worldview, (2) the indwelling Holy Spirit, and (3) a knowledge of the word of God.” So love is to be wholehearted and complete, and the one loving is to know that they are showing love for the right reason. Finally, Paul writes of “a sincere faith.” He describes faith with a seldom-used adjective, “anypokritos.” It means “sincere” or “undisguised,” and is translated in the King James Version, “unfeigned,” “without hypocrisy,” and “without dissimulation.” One commentator elaborates, “Paul uses this adjective three times in his writings to describe (1) faith (1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:5) and (2) love (2 Corinthians 6:6; cf Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 1:22). It has the connotation of genuine, real, or sincere which is opposite of ‘counterfeit’ which describes the false teachers (cf 1 Timothy 1:19-20).” To summarize, we can say that Paul is confirming in this introduction the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, for the former leads to the latter.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Introduction to 1 and 2 Timothy

Paul authored three pastoral letters, two to Timothy and one to Titus (although all three, and especially 1 Timothy) could be seen as written to their entire congregations), late in his life. They guide Timothy and Titus in the administration of local congregations, namely at Ephesus and Crete, especially to more readily combat the false teaching that was taking place in both locations. Paul describes how church government is to be carried out, noting the character traits and behaviors of elders (bishops, presbyters, or overseers) and deacons, including how they ought to carry out their roles. Sound doctrine is repeatedly emphasized, and Paul throws in snippets of glorious doctrinal truth within each of these practical treatises.

The first century writing of Clement (95 AD) implies Paul’s martyrdom in Rome after his fourth missionary journey (maybe even to Spain), though Luke’s book of Acts leaves us with Paul under house arrest in Rome after his third mission trip. Tradition suggests (from the 4th century historian, Eusebius), along with Philippians 1:25-26 and Philemon 22, that Paul was released, continued his labors, and was re-imprisoned in Rome unto death by beheading under Nero. The release would have come in 62 AD, and his 4th journey may have started in Crete (Titus 1:5), extended to Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), and included a brief visit to both Colossae (Philemon 22) and Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3; Philippians 1:25-26). Paul may have also made it all the to Spain (Romans 15:24-26), Nicopolis (Titus 3:12), back to Ephesus (1 Timothy 3:14,15, 4:13), and through Troas (2 Timothy 4:3), Miletus, and Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20), en route to final imprisonment in Rome (2 Timothy 1:8,12; 2:9; 4:6-7,16). Paul’s death was likely around 68 AD. Thus 1 Timothy and Titus were written around 62-64 AD. 2 Timothy was written later, the last of Paul’s canonical epistles, between 64-68 AD.

The son of a Gentile father, Timothy was from Lystra (Acts 16:1); his Jewish mother and grandmother (Eunice and Lois, respectively) likely converted to Christianity during Paul’s first visit to the region (2 Timothy 1:5). They taught Timothy and were most certainly influential throughout his youth. Timothy was circumcised during Paul’s second mission trip (Acts 16:3) and likely also ordained to ministry through the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 1:18, 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6, 2:2) around the same time; Timothy’s baptism is noted in 1 Timothy 6:12. Timothy was with Paul or serving alongside Paul as his protégé for the rest of Paul’s life (2nd, 3rd, and part of the 4th mission trip – 15-18 years).

Considered as Timothy’s spiritual father (Philippians 2:22), Paul called him his true son (1 Timothy 1:2,18; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 1:2, 2:1). As Paul’s co-worker for the faith, Timothy represented Paul in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2,6), Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10), Philippi (Philippians 2:19,23), and Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), and perhaps elsewhere. Timothy may have been shy, fearful, nervous, and/or anxious, perhaps due to his youth, health, and/or inexperience, as Paul often encourages him and his audiences to help him in regard to these areas. We read of Timothy’s release from prison in Hebrews 13:23, but we really don’t know what happened to him after that (post 2 Timothy).

Paul wrote 1 Timothy – perhaps using Luke as a scribe (note similar styles to Luke and Acts) – from Macedonia, having left Timothy in Ephesus to combat false teachers, whom he had prophesied would arise. Paul spent three years there (Acts 19; 20:31), but it was a hard place. The false teachers had either come from within or arisen to leadership within the church from outside, perhaps by appealing to the women of the congregation, which explains why Paul addresses his concerns for the women so frequently in this letter.

Finally, some of the points of interest in 2 Timothy include the fact that Paul had no support at his preliminary hearing in Rome; he knew the trial would come and result in his execution. His friends left him, perhaps for good reason, to carry on his work, but others may have left him out of fear, abandoning the faith in persecution under Nero. Nevertheless, we find Timothy still in Ephesus combating false teachers, who likely exhibited an early form of Gnostic legalism. Paul wrote 2 Timothy to encourage Timothy in this endeavor and to invite him to visit Paul one last time, before it was too late. Paul, never lacking in sound doctrine or the exhortation to exhibit sound doctrine, was ready to die, confident in God, unashamed of his faithful labor for the gospel, and sure that God would rescue him from death (2 Timothy 3:11; 4:17), if even through death (2 Timothy 4:8,18).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3:13-18

V13-18 – 13And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. 14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. 16Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 17I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

After saying not to share bread with the idle, in order to make sure that the Thessalonians didn’t take this command too far, Paul exhorts them to perseverance in good deeds in v13. Calvin says, “Paul admonishes us, that, although there are many that are undeserving, while others abuse our liberality, we must not on this account leave off helping those that need our aid. Here we have a statement worthy of being observed – that however ingratitude, moroseness, pride, arrogance, and other unseemly dispositions on the part of the poor, may have a tendency to annoy us, or to dispirit us, from a feeling of weariness, we must strive, nevertheless, never to leave off aiming at doing good.”

Next, Paul teaches in v14 that the goal of removing oneself from the presence of an unrepentant professing Christian is repentance (1 Timothy 5:20). “Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.” This shame would hopefully, by God’s grace and kindness, lead the sinner to repent and be restored into fellowship. Calvin says, “I have no doubt that [Paul] refers to excommunication; for, besides that the disorder to which he had adverted deserved a severe chastisement, contumacy is an intolerable vice. He had said before, Withdraw yourselves from them, for they live in a disorderly manner (2 Thessalonians 3:6). And now he says, Keep no company, for they reject my admonition. He expresses, therefore, something more by this second manner of expression than by the former; for it is one thing to withdraw from intimate acquaintance with an individual, and quite another to keep altogether aloof from his society. In short, those that do not obey after being admonished, he excludes from the common society of believers. By this we are taught that we must employ the discipline of excommunication against all the obstinate persons who will not otherwise allow themselves to be brought under subjection, and must be branded with disgrace, until, having been brought under and subdued, they learn to obey.” Yet at the same time, this discipline must be meted with comfort (2 Corinthians 2:7); therefore, Paul adds to treat these idle, professing brothers as brothers, not as enemies (v15).

After such a conflict of excommunication and comforting a straying believer, peace is needed. So Paul issues a benediction of peace from the Lord of peace in v16. He may also be showing a desire that such unruly persons as described previously do not disrupt the peace of the church, granted by God. Finally, since the Thessalonians may have received a fraudulent letter, claiming to be from him, here in v17, Paul writes with his own hand, not by amanuensis, “the distinguishing mark in all” his letters. And he concludes in v18 with a worthy blessing, that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

Monday, December 07, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3:6-12

V6-12 – 6In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching [or tradition] you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ 11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.

Paul issues a command “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…to keep away from every brother who…does not live according to the teaching” (Matthew 18:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 3:10-11). He’s speaking of idle individuals who refused to work and instead went house to house as “busybodies” (v11), meddling in others’ business and relying on others for food and sustenance. Calvin says that Paul “forbids that their indolence should be encouraged by indulgence.” In other words, “keep away from” such professing Christians, because they were literally “disorderly;” their lifestyle did not conform to sound doctrine. Perhaps by avoiding them, they will be shamed into repentance and orderly lives, as well as prevented from further dishonoring the church. If not, their profession would be called into question.

In v7-9, Paul repeats the example given in his previous letter (1 Thessalonians 2:9-12), that of his hard work while in Thessalonica, and he urges his audience to follow his model behavior.

From v10, we see that the Thessalonian Christians were tending toward idleness even while Paul was there with them; thus, he gave them the command to keep food from those who don’t work (Psalm 128:2; Proverbs 10:4). As noted earlier, Paul calls these people, not busy, but busybodies (v11), as they were probably nosy, getting into others’ business, instead of tending to their own. Calvin notes, “In the Greek participles there is, an elegant play upon words, which I have attempted in some manner to imitate, by rendering it as meaning that they do nothing, but have enough to do in the way of curiosity… Idle persons are, for the most part, chargeable, that, by unseasonably bustling about, they give trouble to themselves and to others. For we see, that those who have nothing to do are much more fatigued by doing nothing, than if they were employing themselves in some very important work; they run hither and thither; wherever they go, they have the appearance of great fatigue; they gather all sorts of reports, and they put them in a confused way into circulation. You would say that they bore the weight of a kingdom upon their shoulders.” He also suggests that in saying “he shall not eat,” the apostle Paul “does not mean that he gave commandment to those persons, but forbade that the Thessalonians should encourage their indolence by supplying them with food.” This command would have significant impact on welfare in our nation. Those disorderly needed “to settle down and earn” their food.

Vincent Cheung says, “Paul had said, ‘warn those who are idle’ in his first letter (1 Thessalonians 5:14), but apparently that did not eradicate the problem. So when he receives report that some of them remain idle (2 Thessalonians 3:11), he brings up the matter again in this second letter. This time he takes on a more urgent tone, first appealing to ‘the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ and then issuing a ‘command’ to compel the brothers to take decisive action against those who persist in idleness. Rather than earning their own food, they live on the charity of others – they are loafers and freeloaders. And not being busy with meaningful labor, they meddle in other people’s business.” And it’s interesting that Paul doesn’t issue a command to the actual people who are idle. I wonder if he thinks that they are false brothers. He issues commands to those brothers who are not idle regarding how to deal who those professing brothers who are idle. Paul’s written example here serves as illustration of how to deal with the problem.

Friday, December 04, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

V1-5 – 1Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Paul wraps up with a request for prayer, not so much for himself as for the word of God, the gospel, to “spread rapidly and be honored.” He relied wholehearted on prayer for the success of his ministry and the fruition of God’s will (Romans 15:30-31; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Philippians 1:19). He understands what Vincent Cheung says: “We ask God to make His word effective in us and in those who hear us. We ask God to sanctify us by His Spirit and through the truth. We ask God to help us stand firm and hold to the doctrines that have been passed on to us in the apostolic and biblical traditions. To strengthen our brothers, we remind them of the promises and the faithfulness of Christ, and then we ask God to encourage their hearts by a direct action in the soul through these doctrines. Thus Christian life and ministry place all the emphasis on intellectual doctrines, but place all the expectation on gracious divine action to render these doctrines effective in us and in others.”

In v2, Paul reveals his desire to be delivered from evil (Matthew 6:13). He longs for prayer in that regard, and he acknowledges why this prayer is necessary; as Calvin says, “Faith is a gift of God that is too rare to be found in all.” In that acknowledgement, Paul implies that people of faith are to live holy lives, different from the wicked people of the world (Matthew 13:24-30). Paul also encourages all believers in v3 to rely on the faithfulness of God in answering this prayer, not only for Paul, but for all of His children (Malachi 3:6; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18; James 1:17).

In v4-5, Paul exhibits confidence in the Thessalonians and prays that God would continue to preserve them in their diligence. They loved God and waited patiently for Christ, all the while loving one another.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

What Tiger Teaches Men

Tiger has it all: more money than he could spend; worldwide fame; a beautiful wife; children; pets; houses; boats; a great career; unparalleled talent; endorsements; a photogenic smile; a buff build; a strong work ethic; television worthy personality; and the humility of desiring privacy, such that he and his family could better enjoy themselves in their time together. In other words, he doesn't prideful seek the spotlight, like some of those wanna-be reality TV stars. I've probably left out some things or traits that Tiger himself might mention, could we here from him on the subject. So what does he teach us?

His recent confession regarding "transgressions" against his wife and family teach us that man will not be satisfied in this world. How can a being made for another world be satisfied in this one? Was Tiger satisfied after, or during, his affair(s)? Maybe, but the satisfaction didn't last; in light of this week's revealing news, I am certain of that! Mick Jagger sang, "I can't get no satisfaction. Cause I try." He knows it's impossible, because he tries. Us less-famed men experience the same thing. Satisfaction - ultimate and permanent satisfaction this side of heaven - is elusive. That's what Tiger teaches us. But why? Tiger isn't teaching a new lesson here.

The men of Scripture, especially the patriarchs of old, teach us this lesson, some to heart-breaking, murderous degree. David sought satisfaction when he stayed home from battle and noticed Bathsheba, leading to an affair, a murder for cover-up, the deaths of many children, and polygamy. His son Solomon sought satisfaction in every possible way (see Ecclesiastes) and concluded that man ought to just fear God and obey Him. In other words, godliness is the answer to our thirst for satisfaction.

CS Lewis said, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." I think Lewis' gets it all right here. He speaks not only of the elusive, even if only temporal, satisfaction, but he sees "desire" as the man behind the curtain. We all stare at satisfaction in wonder and awe. Meanwhile the desire for it is subconscious or subliminal. Satisfaction is the symptom of our trouble (sin), not the cause of it. Rather, desire is the cause of our sin, and that's where the war must be waged.

James 1:14-16 says, "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers." No, don't be deceived. The problem isn't satisfaction; it's a fine thing to be satisfied. The apostle Paul knew satisfaction: "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:11-13). Hebrews 13:5 says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." That's a satisfying thought.

1 Timothy 6:6-9 says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." There it is! Did you catch it? This passage begins with an admonition to be satisfied; but the enemy in that effort is desire, namely "foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction."

So Tiger, be satisfied with godliness; men, be content in what the Lord provides. Romans 6:12 says, "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." 1 Peter 2:11 says, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." Galatians 5:16 says, "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Romans 13:14 says, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Galatians 5:24 says, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."

Scientists' Motives

The search for knowledge? Not always.

"Suppression, manipulation and secrecy...inspired by ideology, condescension and profit"? Sadly so. These are the words of United States Representative James Sensenbrenner, a republican from Wisconsin, responding to the recently leaked controversial e-mails to the White House regarding climate change.

Dubbed by some conservative bloggers, "climategate," there appears to be some purposely exaggerated data to help make the case for global warming, which of course, for those hoping for policy changes from the administration, would encourage the President to take aggressive action more promptly. Sensenbrenner accused certain scientists, namely Phil Jones and John Holdren, of "scientific fascism" and "scientific McCarthyism," and he cited one Jones' e-mail, which read, "I would like to see the climate change happen so the science could be proved right."

Now other scientists have chimed in to declare that these controversial e-mails were on a particular topic that in no way discredits the vast and broad-ranging evidence for the truth of global warming. But that would be expected, right? Doesn't this whole revelation is an episode that gives additional credence to Ben Stein's documentary, "Expelled." Presuppositions are all the more evident as being the set of ideas (ideology) that guides how a person interprets evidence; sadly, even the most intellectual people, have lost sight of their own. Romans 1:22 sums it up nicely, saying, "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools."

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

V13-17 – 13But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings [or traditions] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 16May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Paul closes out this chapter with a return to thanksgiving, contrasting Christians with unbelievers yet again. And there’s a lot of meat in his explanation (1 Peter 1:2). Beginning with “but,” Paul excludes his Christian audience from those described in v11-12. He says, “God chose you to be saved” (v13; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:4; Ephesians 1:4). Calvin notes, “In short, Paul here does two things; for he confirms faith, lest the pious should give way from being overcome with fear, and he exhorts them to gratitude, that they may value so much the higher the mercy of God towards them.” Paul says that God did this “through belief in the truth,” not because of belief in the truth. Again, in the words of Calvin, “In order that we may know that we are elected by God, there is no occasion to inquire as to what He decreed before the creation of the world, but we find in ourselves a satisfactory proof if He has sanctified us by His Spirit – if He has enlightened us in the faith of His gospel. For the gospel is an evidence to us of our adoption, and the Spirit seals it, and those that are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Romans 8:14), and he who by faith possesses Christ has everlasting life (1 John 5:12)… Hence it becomes us to rest satisfied with the faith of the gospel, and that grace of the Spirit by which we have been regenerated.”

Then in v14, Paul says that God called believers “to this,” that is, salvation, through the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Timothy 6:12; Romans 1:6; 8:28-30; 9:24; 1 Corinthians 1:9,24-26; 7:18-21; Galatians 1:15; Ephesians 4:1,4; John 10:3-4; 1 Peter 5:10). In reminding the Thessalonians of God’s calling, Calvin notes that Paul “repeats the same thing, though in somewhat different terms. For the sons of God are not called otherwise than to the belief of the truth.”

Vincent Cheung says, “Doctrines make the difference between heaven and hell, but it is God who causes those whom He has chosen for salvation to believe the right doctrines. The gospel is made effective in the soul of man by a divine inward action, a power that God applies directly to the mind as He controls the thoughts and dispositions of man. Paul credits to this work of God the initial belief in the gospel, the sanctification of the believer, encouragement in the heart, and strength ‘in every good deed and word’ (v17).” Gordon Clark writes, “The Arminians usually hold that God does not cause people to despise the truth nor does He purpose to condemn them for doing so. But this verse says, note carefully, that God plunges them into error in order that they shall be condemned. Non-calvinists will say that God permits, but does not cause, unbelief.” Cheung comments on that saying, “The last sentence implies that Calvinists would say that God does not merely permit, but that He causes unbelief. In other words, he implies that Calvinists affirm the biblical position.”

In v15, Paul commands the Thessalonians to “stand firm and hold to the teachings,” or traditions. He’s not referring to the traditions of the church, as is often considered to be the case in the Roman Catholic Church (Matthew 15:6). But Paul is referring again to his own words (complete and sound doctrine) – either spoken or written – as being divinely inspired (Romans 6:17; 1 Corinthians 11:2,23; 15:3; 2 Timothy 1:13). Cheung concludes, “We ask God to make His word effective in us and in those who hear us. We ask God to sanctify us by His Spirit and through the truth. We ask God to help us stand firm and hold to the doctrines that have been passed on to us in the apostolic and biblical traditions. To strengthen our brothers, we remind them of the promises and the faithfulness of Christ, and then we ask God to encourage their hearts by a direct action in the soul through these doctrines. Thus Christian life and ministry place all the emphasis on intellectual doctrines, but place all the expectation on gracious divine action to render these doctrines effective in us and in others.”

And finally, if you didn’t catch it, there’s a clear testimony to Christ’s divinity in v16-17. Calvin concludes, “When [Paul] ascribes to Christ a work altogether Divine, and represents Him, in common with the Father, as the Author of the choicest blessings, as we have in this a clear proof of the divinity of Christ, so we are admonished, that we cannot obtain anything from God unless we seek it in Christ Himself: and when he asks that God may give him those things which he had enjoined, he shows clearly enough how little influence exhortations have, unless God inwardly move and affect our hearts. Unquestionably there will be but an empty sound striking upon the ear, if doctrine does not receive efficacy from the Spirit.” And so we, along with Paul, give thanks to God “because from the beginning God chose [us] to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

2 Thessalonians 2:6-12

V6-12 – 6And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming. 9The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Paul says to his audience, “You know what is holding him back… the one who now holds it back.” The interchangeable pronouns make this difficult. Is it a he or an it? Is he an it or a he? While Paul says that the Thessalonians know what or who he is, we cannot claim that this truth is self-evident for us. We are right to wonder if this is a personal or impersonal being. Could it or he be an institution? Even God Himself? John Crysostom suggested that the Roman Empire, led by the Roman Emperor was holding back the antichrist. When Rome fell, antichrist was revealed (the dark ages).

Calvin argues differently, saying, “Paul declared that the light of the gospel must be diffused through all parts of the earth before God would thus give loose reins to Satan.” He thinks the spread of the gospel to all nations and people groups is what is holding back the man of lawlessness. Calvin says, “A gracious invitation to salvation was first in order,” then once the gospel spreads to all, “vengeance was ripe after grace had been rejected.” Ultimately, the answer of course is that God Himself is restraining the antichrist through the means of someone or something else. At least this was the case for a time, as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians.

Echoing John’s statement (1 John 2:18), Paul acknowledges that, though antichrist has not yet been revealed at the time of writing, the spirit of antichrist, or “secret power of lawlessness is already at work” (v6). Calvin comments, “[Paul] had foretold the destruction of Antichrist’s reign; he now points out the manner of his destruction – that he will be reduced to nothing by the word of the Lord. It is uncertain, however, whether he speaks of the last appearance of Christ, when He will be manifested from heaven as the Judge. The words, indeed, seem to have this meaning, but Paul does not mean that Christ would accomplish this in one moment. Hence we must understand it in this sense – that Antichrist would be wholly and in every respect destroyed when that final day of the restoration of all things shall arrive. Paul, however, intimates that Christ will in the mean time, by the rays which He will emit previously to His advent, put to flight the darkness in which Antichrist will reign, just as the sun, before he is seen by us, chases away the darkness of the night by the pouring forth of his rays.” So we need not fear, because “Jesus will overthrow [him, or it] with the breath of His mouth” (v8; cf. Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 19:15,21).

In v10, Paul notes that “the man of lawlessness” will deceive only those who are perishing. Christians will not buy into his schemes. But the perishing ones refuse to be saved by hating the truth. Because “they refused to love the truth,” God “sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie” unto condemnation for delighting in wickedness. Remember God hardens those He chooses to harden (Romans 1:18-32; 9:18). They harden themselves as well. Oftentimes the punishment for disobedience is more disobedience. Calvin concludes far better than I could:

“[Paul] limits the power of Satan, as not being able to injure the elect of God, just as Christ, also, exempts them from this danger (Matthew 24:24). From this it appears, that Antichrist has not so great power otherwise than by his permission. Now, this consolation was necessary. For all the pious, but for this, would of necessity be overpowered with fear, if they saw a yawning gulf pervading the whole path, along which they must pass. Hence Paul, however he may wish them to be in a state of anxiety, that they may be on their guard, lest by excessive carelessness they should fall back, nay, even throw themselves into ruin, does, nevertheless, bid them cherish good hope, inasmuch as Satan’s power is bridled, that he may not be able to involve any but the wicked in ruin.

“Lest the wicked should complain that they perish innocently and that they have been appointed to death rather from cruelty on the part of God, than from any fault on their part, Paul shows on what good grounds it is that so severe vengeance from God is to come upon them – because they have not received in the temper of mind with which they ought the truth which was presented to them, nay more, of their own accord refused salvation. And from this appears more clearly what I have already stated – that the gospel required to be preached to the world before God would give Satan so much permission, for He would never have allowed His temple to be so basely profaned had He not been provoked by extreme ingratitude on the part of men. In short, Paul declares that Antichrist will be the minister of God’s righteous vengeance against those who, being called to salvation, have rejected the gospel, and have preferred to apply their mind to impiety and errors (Proverbs 8:36)…

“Thus, those that perish have no just ground to expostulate with God, inasmuch as they have obtained what they sought. For we must keep in view what is stated in Deuteronomy 13:3, that the hearts of men are subjected to trial, when false doctrines come abroad, inasmuch as they have no power except among those who do not love God with a sincere heart. Let those, then, who take pleasure in unrighteousness, reap the fruit of it. When he says all, he means that contempt of God finds no excuse in the great crowd and multitude of those who refuse to obey the gospel, for God is the Judge of the whole world, so that He will inflict punishment upon a hundred thousand, no less than upon one individual.”

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5

V1-5 – 1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness [or sin] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. 5Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?

Paul begins now, after his introduction, to expound the end times for his concerned audience. He speaks of the end times as “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him.” Vincent Cheung says, “The matter [of] ‘our being gathered to Him’ …is easily confused with our being ‘caught up…to meet the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17), but the terms are not the same. Rather, it resembles the language used in Matthew 24, where Jesus says that His angels with ‘gather His elect from the four winds’ (v31). But the prophecy there concerns the destruction of Jerusalem (see Matthew 23:35; 24:2), which would happen in ‘this generation’ (Matthew 23:36; 24:34), that is, within His own generation in the first century.” Cheung, a postmillennialist, relies on Keith Mathison for this comparison, which is good, but the only way I see to align “our being gathered to Him” and Jesus’ angels “gather[ing] His elect” as something other than the eschatological rapture is to say that elect martyrs will be gathered to Christ as the persecution hits Jerusalem in 70 AD. This may fit, but I still believe that Paul is speaking more about the final Judgment Day, which seems to correspond with the rapture and second coming of Christ.

Furthermore, Calvin paraphrases Paul saying to the Thessalonians, “As you set a high value on the coming of Christ, when he will gather us to himself, and will truly perfect that unity of the body which we cherish as yet only in part through means of faith, so I earnestly beseech you by his coming not to be too credulous, should any one affirm, on whatever pretext, that his day is at hand.” Calvin continues, saying that since Paul, “in his former Epistle adverted to some extent to the resurrection, it is possible that some fickle and fanatical persons took occasion from this to mark out a near and fixed day. For it is not likely that this error had taken its rise earlier among the Thessalonians. For Timothy, on returning thence, had informed Paul as to their entire condition, and as a prudent and experienced man had omitted nothing that was of importance. Now if Paul had received notice of it, he could not have been silent as to a matter of so great consequence. Thus I am of opinion, that when Paul’s Epistle had been read, which contained a lively view of the resurrection, some that were disposed to indulge curiosity philosophized unseasonably as to the time of it.” In other words, Paul doesn’t want his audience to jump to conclusions about the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Moving on, some false teachers had apparently taught – even claiming to be Paul – “that the Day of the Lord has already come” (v2), but Paul denies that teaching, and instead implies that the day of the Lord (along with the second coming of Christ and rapture – 1 Thessalonians 4:17) will happen after antichrist is revealed (v3). (Again, some commentators allow for double fulfillment of “the day of the Lord,” temporally being at the destruction of the Temple and finally / eternally at the Judgment Day.) The Thessalonians, and we as well, are to guard against false prophecies, reports, and letters (v2).

In v3, Paul speaks of rebellion. The word is “apostasia,” but scholars aren’t sure what he means. It could be the falling away of many professing believers in the church (Matthew 24:6; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; Jude 17-19), the apostasy of Jewish people, their political revolt against Rome that brought the Temple’s destruction in 70 AD, or a general, worldwide rebellion against God, such as the neo-atheism of the 21st century. Whatever the meaning, religious or political rebellion, notice that Paul does not actually use the term “antichrist,” as John does (1 John 2:22), but his description of “the man of lawlessness” nevertheless is undeniably identical to John’s antichrist. And as some scholars believe, the identity of this man is Roman Emperor Nero. But others see some person in the future, or even a particular earthly kingdom, to fill this role. Calvin says that Paul’s use of these descriptive and terrible terms “tend to stir up the pious to a feeling of detestation, lest they should degenerate along with others.” He has much more to say on this passage:

“We have here, however, a remarkable passage, and one that is in the highest degree worthy of observation. This was a grievous and dangerous temptation, which might shake even the most confirmed, and make them lose their footing – to see the Church, which had by means of such labors been raised up gradually and with difficulty to some considerable standing, fall down suddenly, as if torn down by a tempest. Paul, accordingly, fortifies beforehand the minds, not merely of the Thessalonians, but of all the pious, that when the Church should come to be in a scattered condition, they might not be alarmed, as though it were a thing that was new and unlooked for.”

“As, however, interpreters have twisted this passage in various ways, we must first of all endeavor to ascertain Paul’s true meaning. He says that the day of Christ will not come, until the world has fallen into apostasy, and the reign of Antichrist has obtained a footing in the Church; for as to the exposition that some have given of this passage, as referring to the downfall of the Roman empire, it is too silly to require a lengthened refutation. I am also surprised, that so many writers, in other respects learned and acute, have fallen into a blunder in a matter that is so easy, were it not that when one has committed a mistake, others follow in troops without consideration. Paul, therefore, employs the term apostasy to mean – a treacherous departure from God, and that not on the part of one or a few individuals, but such as would spread itself far and wide among a large multitude of persons. For when apostasy is made mention of without anything being added, it cannot be restricted to a few. Now, none can be termed apostates, but such as have previously made a profession of Christ and the gospel. Paul, therefore, predicts a certain general revolt of the visible Church. ‘The Church must be reduced to an unsightly and dreadful state of ruin, before its full restoration be effected.’”

“From this we may readily gather, how useful this prediction of Paul is, for it might have seemed as though that could not be a building of God, that was suddenly overthrown, and lay so long in ruins, had not Paul long before intimated that it would be so. Nay more, many in the present day, when they consider with themselves the long-continued dispersion of the Church, begin to waver, as if this had not been regulated by the purpose of God.”

Paul’s prophecy of the antichrist’s behavior in v4 reminds of Daniel’s little horn (Daniel 7:8,20-21; 8:9-12; 11:31-36) and foreshadows John’s apocalyptic sea beast (Revelation 13:1-8). See also the imagery of Isaiah 14:13-14 and Ezekiel 28:2. Whichever interpretation we choose here actually impacts our views of the end times. If these signs Paul gives have already happened (fulfilled by Nero), then nothing remains to precede Christ’s second coming. If however, we still await “the man of lawlessness,” then Christ’s return is not as imminent as we might like it to be, for he must become revealed to the public, set himself up in the “Temple” (either figurative or literal), proclaim to be God, and work fraudulent miraculous signs before Christ returns to destroy him. And some, including Calvin (and maybe MacArthur), would suggest that the office of Pope in the Roman Catholic Church fits this description perfectly.

Finally, Paul expects the Thessalonians to remember that he already explained this when he was with them (v5). His passion and memory for the truths of God extend far beyond the average layperson. But the expectation is that we will all strive to be like Paul in both his passion for the things of God and his efforts to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Monday, November 30, 2009

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

V11-12 – 11With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ [or God and Lord Jesus Christ].

Paul concludes this opening chapter with prayer. He remembers the faith of Thessalonians as well as the coming judgment and prays that God would preserve them and further sanctify them (v11). He mentions God’s calling again, and it hearkens us back to 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and foreshadows his coming teaching in 2 Thessalonians 2:14. He also talks about being counted worthy again. This verse is somewhat difficult to translate (Calvin renders it, “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power”) and therefore interpret. But we can acknowledge that in issuing this prayer, he reminds the Thessalonians that perseverance and sanctification are all of God.

Next, Paul reveals why he prays this prayer. It is so Jesus “may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God” (v12). Calvin says, “He calls us back to the chief end of our whole life – that we may promote the Lord’s glory. What he adds, however, is more especially worthy of notice, that those who have advanced the glory of Christ will also in their turn be glorified in Him.” Therefore, says Calvin, “If we are not worse than stupid, we must aim with all our might at the advancement of the glory of Christ, which is connected with ours.”

Finally, you see the alternate translation at the end of v12. This is either Paul’s repeat conveyance of the intimate unity between Father and Son (as in 2 Thessalonians 1:1,2; 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 3:11), or a clear testimony to the Deity of Jesus Christ (Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1). The Greek phrase could truly be rendered either way. Soli Deo Gloria!