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.