Friday, January 15, 2010

1 Timothy 6:3-10

V3-10 – 3If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. 6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People 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. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

V3-10 serve as a final rebuke of false teachers. They were promoting “false doctrines,” akin to “another gospel” of Galatians 1:8. This was the same pre-Gnostic teaching that the Colossians faced. The false teachers disagree with Scripture and with the sound doctrine of Paul himself; that is, they disagree with Christ and His apostles, whose teaching always had godliness as the goal; whereas the false teachers often tried to separate doctrine and lifestyle. Paul says those who do so are conceited and understand nothing (v4). Literally they are blinded by pride. Paul mentions “an unhealthy interest in controversies.” The false teachers quarrel about words; their prominent characteristic is called contentiousness (1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:14,23; Titus 3:9). This contention results in “envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction.”

The false teachers have corrupt minds, and they “have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” The tense implies that they have reached a settled state of heart and mind, thinking themselves to have come to the epitome of godliness and therefore profitability; consequently, they cannot and will not repent. And, while they preached godliness as a means of financial gain – probably charging their audience to hear their message – they certainly didn’t live godly lives. For Paul, next in v6, explains how genuine godliness, with contentment, is truly the most profitable way to live. In the words of Calvin, “In an elegant manner, and with an ironical correction, he instantly throws back those very words in an opposite meaning, as if he had said – ‘They do wrong and wickedly, who make merchandise of the doctrine of Christ, as if ‘godliness were gain;’ though, undoubtedly, if we form a correct estimate of it, godliness is a great and abundant gain.’”

So in acknowledging their thinking “that godliness is a means to financial gain,” Paul effectively accuses the false teachers, as mentioned earlier, of seeking eldership for profit. When he considers their divisiveness and greed, he reflects on material possessions in general and concludes in v6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” and in v10, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

Paul’s memorable statement in v6 is his reflection on what it means to truly “gain,” and it’s qualified in v7, probably a reflection on Old Testament teaching (Job 1:21; Psalm 49:17; Ecclesiastes 5:15). Calvin says, “Our covetousness is an insatiable gulf, if it be not restrained; and the best bridle is, when we desire nothing more than the necessity of this life demands.” V8 serves as a reminder to “be content with” whatever God provides for the day (Proverbs 30:8; Matthew 6:11). Greed is a great adversary here, and the false teachers had been snared by it. The danger was for believers too, as greed – Paul says it best in v9 – tempts and traps people “into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Instead of loving God and using the world, we tend to use God in our love of the world. So we must guard against appreciating the blessings more than we appreciate the giver of the blessings!

In wrapping up his criticism of the false teachers, Paul relates another memorable line, that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Of course, this verse has been twisted to say, “Money is the root of all evil,” but that’s clearly not what Paul says. Loving money (greed, or covetousness) is one of several causes of all different kinds of evil, speaking of varying degrees of attitude (motives) and behavior (actions) problems. Even believers wander off the Kings Highway – stray from godly living for a time – coveting and find only grief piercing them. We must strive to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will in turn provide all the things we need (Matthew 6:33).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson: Haiti Earthquake A "Blessing In Disguise"

Pat Robertson has gotten himself - along with Christians in general, thanks to his mainstream notoriety - into hot water again. The title linked article is one of many out there revealing his comments, as well as detailing the fact that many Christians don't agree with his sentiments. Here's part of the article:

Evangelist and television commentator Pat Robertson issued several remarks some considered to be off-color in the wake of Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Haiti. "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," Robertson's commentary began during a broadcast of The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "They (Haitians) were under the heel of the French...and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said 'We will serve you'...and so, the devil said 'Okay, it's a deal' and kicked the French out," Robertson said. During an earlier report with a reporter for Robertson's CBN News, the televangelist questioned whether the earthquake in Haiti was a "blessing in disguise." "They need to have...a great turning to God," Roberston concluded, adding that the earthquake may have been a direct consequence of their Satanic "pact" years earlier. News of Robertson's commentary spread through social networking websites Twitter and, where outraged citizens of the Internet expressed disgust by the statement.
Let's first note that though the media often casts Robertson as a typical Christian, most Christians would call him atypical. He is definitely more outspoken and comes across with less compassion than most Christians would want. Nevertheless, despite his harsh words at the wrong times, I have no doubt that he is a true believer. Specifically regarding his comments about God's involvement in the Haiti disaster, Robertson does want mercy for them; he wants people, presumably including himself, to show compassion for the Haitians through prayer and financial contributions - and perhaps more.

The media hubbub on this this is over the "blessing in disguise" question. You'll see some reports claim that he made the assertion that the Haiti disaster is a blessing from God in disguise. And maybe he implies that with his remarks about their pact with the devil made years ago. Some deny that there ever was such a pact; others dismiss the claim as mere speculation. But let's give Robertson the benefit of the doubt and allow it to be a possibility. He still made the "blessing in disguise" comment in the form of question, wondering himself if perhaps God is working in this disaster not to destroy Haiti for the sake of its destruction but for the sake of its repentance and rebuilding.

Robertson knows that God is sovereign. Robertson knows that God raises up nations and brings them down. Robertson knows that God does this even to His own people (Israel) for their good and for His glory. Robertson knows that it's not always a pretty spectacle from man's perspective. And I think, deep down, Christians know all of these things as well. Robertson is unafraid to grasp those truths boldly, even if speaking in lieu of them with apparent lack of compassion. Sadly, many Christians lose sight of Ephesians 1:11 in the wake of human catastrophe. The verse says, "[God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will." Do Christians think God has no purpose for "allowing" this earthquake? How sad if that's the case! Robertson certainly realizes that God does have a purpose, and he is rightly wondering what that purpose may be.

I wonder what God's purposes are for many things, events in my life, personality traits that I have, or more often lack, etc. And it's okay to wonder. In fact, the Bible tells us to stand in awe at the works of God and to wonder at His ways. Do you stop to wonder at the killing of the firstborn as the tenth plague on Egypt? Today, we read that story and say, "Hurray! God is powerful, and He saves His people!" But stand in the shoes of the Egyptians for a moment. They have two possible reactions: hatred of God and His people for what happened to them or repentance and genuine sorrow of their sinful condition.

When Christians criticize Robertson, one of their own, for speaking too harshly, and the media attributes his words to Christianity in general, as if he was speaking on our behalf, which he is not, a body blow is dealt to the Body of Christ; let's simply move away from this reckless banter and do three things: show compassion toward the people of Haiti (which both Robertson and those Christians who think him foolish want to do), obey God (which both Robertson and those Christians who think him foolish want to do), and proclaim / worship Him for His sovereign majesty and glorious ways of creating calamity and turning it into peace (which maybe, in regards to this topic, only Robertson wants to do, for it does appear that Christians who are criticizing him over the "blessing in disguise" question aren't willing to praise Him for "working out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will").

1 Timothy 6:1-2

V1-2 – 1All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.

Paul concludes his teaching from chapter five with a quick lesson for slaves on honoring their masters, whether believers or not (v1), and rebuke and correction for those slaves who think they can show less respect (literally “look down on”) since their masters are believers (v2). Unbelievers often accuse the Biblical authors, and Paul especially, of being misogynists and condoning slavery. On the contrary, as one commentator noted, “It was the truth, justice, and love of God in the gospel that eventually brought slavery to an end. Paul chose to deal with human attitudes in their cultural situation instead of a violent overthrow of that cultural situation (much like he did the societal role of women).” Paul concludes this section with a sentence that can reflect on what has been said or introduce what’s next.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1 Timothy 5:17-25

V17-25 – 17The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain’ [Deuteronomy 25:4], and ‘The worker deserves his wages’ [Luke 10:7]. 19Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. 21I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 22Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. 23Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 24The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.

Again, Paul handles the elders’ situation in Ephesus much the same as he handled the widows’ situation, beginning with how to honor the worthy elders and concluding with rebuke and corrective teaching for the elders who might have been straying under influence from false teaching. Regarding honor (same as for widows, as in “proper recognition” – v3), Paul says that teaching elders (preachers) are worthy of double honor. Some commentators suggest that Paul is speaking of both the positional honor of esteem and the financial honor of proper wages; others keep him tied to the pattern he has exhibited with widows and demand that he refers to double the wage that was common to qualified widows. Either way, generally speaking, the preacher of a church is an elder and is highly honored by the congregation, more so than the other elders, who serve the congregation in a more behind-the-scenes role. Yet both kinds of elders are to be financially rewarded for their time and effort in directing “the affairs of the church well.”

In v18, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 and then Luke 10:7 as Scripture, showing how quickly the New Testament came together and was regarded by the early church as equivalent to the Old Testament in authority (1 Corinthians 9:6-7,14; 2 Peter 3:15-16). V19-20 include the rebuke of those elders who stayed with the false teaching. While they were likely issue false accusations against others, they were not to be falsely accused, but only on the testimony of two or three witnesses, as the Scriptures taught. However, elders found guilty were “to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” The others may be speaking of the other elders, who wished to avoid the shame of public rebuke, or the congregation as a whole, in order to see the seriousness of adopting false teaching.

V21 is a very serious instruction to Timothy to avoid favoritism in executing this command. Even the elect angels (the Judgment Day witnesses – Matthew 25:31; Revelation 14:10) would watch him on this! They are, Calvin says, “the future witnesses of our carelessness, or rashness, or ambition, or unfaithfulness. They are present as spectators, because they have been commanded to take care of the Church… Only when we shut our eyes to persons do we pronounce an equitable judgment.”

Along with this warning is the command to avoid ordaining or reinstating repentant elders too quickly (v24-25). We saw this same command given earlier with the traits of an eligible elder. In other words, it takes a little time to learn a lot about a person; that’s okay. Being patient will allow the eligible ones to be distinguished. Calvin paraphrases Paul as saying to Timothy, “Though others rush forth to such rashness, do not make thyself a partaker with them, lest thou share in their guilt.” And quick repentance shouldn’t automatically earn reinstatement. It may take time for complete restoration, so that the one making the restoration can remain pure, not sharing in the responsibility for the sins of others (v22). The sins of some people are obvious; the sins of others will eventually be found out. The good character of some people is likewise obvious; but bad character cannot be concealed for long – it will appear in bad behavior.

Finally, having already considered v24-25, Paul tells Timothy in v23 to “use a little wine.” We may note that abstinence from alcohol was a matter of principle, perhaps to avoid offending the weaker brothers, yet it was obviously not a requirement for leadership. In fact, Paul seems to notice and appreciate wine’s medicinal value, though he does qualify it with moderation.

Monday, January 11, 2010

1 Timothy 5:9-16

V9-16 – 9No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, [or has had but one husband] 10and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 11As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. 14So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. 16If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

Paul continues his instructions regarding widows in this passage. This obviously was a major issue in Timothy’s congregation. Widows over 60 (a round number) are to be considered as care-worthy for the church. (An alternate view of this list is that widows over 60 were to be approved to serve others.) Younger widows, presumably, were still plausibly eligible for remarriage, which would have been discouraged if the church took over the responsibility of caring for them. (And regarding the alternate view, younger widows should not devote themselves to full time service on behalf of the church, because they could conceivably remarry and focus on their new family.) Paul also notes in v10 that these elderly widows had done many good things in their lives, making them especially eligible to receive care from the church (or care for others on behalf of the church, if the alternate view is preferred). Their good reputation over their many years of familial service qualifies them to be served by the church and/or to serve the church continually as servants (deaconesses).

On the other hand, the younger widows were living “sensually,” and therefore selfishly. They exhibited, in general, a desire to marry, whereas the older widows had no interest in marriage; their devotion was to Christ. The young widows, perhaps in their efforts to serve the Body of Christ, were literally talking nonsense (v13), perhaps even helping to spread the message of the false teachers, and this serves as Paul’s harsh rebuke of them. But then Paul also says “they get into the habit of being idle.” Perhaps they had been made helpers, but they weren’t helping much; instead, in their laziness, they were causing division. It would be better for them to serve the Body of Christ by getting married (v14) and taking care of their own families. It was too late for some of the young widows who had been deceived by the false teachers (v15). Paul equates their deception at the hands of false teachers to being deceived by Satan himself.

So to summarize, we have the command to honor the widows who were truly widows as well as the rebuke, or correction, of those widows who were not living rightly and pursuing godliness. We see the same pattern in the next passage regarding elders.

DC 402 - Week 2

We began our 3 week study of Christian history this morning, discussing roughly the first 650 years of post-Biblical history. This week, we'll look at the next 1000 years, and the workload might look something like this:

Monday - Read Leviticus 1-15 and Psalms 85-88, and comment
Tuesday - Read the brief article by Hank Hanegraaff, "The Importance of the Creeds," and memorize Hebrews 12:1-2 - "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" - and review previous memory verses, such as Hebrews 11:1-2,6, Romans 13:1, and 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Wednesday - Read chapters 5-6 of Christian History Made Easy and review memory verses
Thursday - Read chapters 7-8 of Christian History Made Easy and review memory verses
Friday - Work on your report on a character from Christian history