Friday, February 05, 2010

2 Timothy 3:14-17

V14-17 – 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Once again, Paul contrasts his words toward the false teachers (v13) with those toward Timothy (v10-12, 14). He is not to yield to false teaching, but he is to “continue in what [he has] learned and [has] become convinced of.” The application for us in this, says Calvin, is that “we ought to unlearn all that we have learned apart from Christ, if we wish to be his disciples.” He reminds Timothy that he has “known the holy Scriptures from infancy;” the Jewish custom was to teach the law to children beginning at five years of age. Also, Paul notes that these Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Calvin says, “It is a very high commendation of the Holy Scriptures, that we must not seek anywhere else the wisdom which is sufficient for salvation; as the next verse also expresses more fully. But he states, at the same time, what we ought to seek in the Scripture (Christ Himself); for the false prophets also make use of it as a pretext; and therefore, in order that it may be useful to us for salvation, it is necessary to understand the right use of it.”

In other words, the Old Testament, properly interpreted, leads to faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:21). Timothy is living by the Book, and he needs to continue doing that. Why? Because it’s God’s word, and it’s useful! “The primary purpose of Scripture is mankind’s redemption,” one commentator says. And he goes on to say regarding v15, “The mechanism of redemption…is mankind’s faith response to God’s Messiah. This is the essence of apostolic preaching.” The Greek word for “All” in v16 is small, but it is crucial; Paul’s meaning is clear. God exhales every word of His word; and this happens not by might, not by power, but by the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6; 2 Peter 1:21). I pray for my children the prayer of Paul, which reminds of this topic, from Ephesians 3:16-17 – that God “may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Scripture has another, subsequent purpose as well, from v16-17; once having brought mankind to faith in Christ, the Scripture equips believers for godly living. It is “useful,” and meant to be used, “for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” I couldn’t have said it better myself; but teaching is to impart knowledge; rebuking is to show error; correcting is to turn away from error to righteousness; and training in righteousness is to guide in the right direction. This purpose is in itself merely a means to an end, that “the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The word translated “thoroughly” as an adjective, might better be rendered as the noun “adequate,” followed by a comma, though in fact both “thoroughly” and “equipped” are cognate verbs in the Greek. It’s used only here in all of Scripture, but it means “complete and proficient,” “perfect for a purpose,” or “entirely suited.” And taken together, as one commentator says, the phrase is speaking of “gifted, functioning maturity which is brought by the Spirit through the Scripture.” Apart from Scripture, in other words, we cannot do the good that “God has prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). So to summarize, Paul wants Timothy to stand on the Scriptures for several reasons. First, they bring salvation; second, they are inspired, breathed out, by God through the Holy Spirit in the words of holy (set apart) men; third, they are practical (they bring sanctification) – one commentator has said with many in agreement that there is no more practical book in the world than the Holy Bible; fourth and finally, the Bible is sufficient; nothing more is needed. So stand firm.

2 Timothy 3:10-13

V10-13 – 10You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Paul contrasts the false teachers as he appeals to his own “teaching, …way of life, …purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, [and] sufferings” to remind Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (v12). Thus all true Christians should expect persecution and trials to come their way (Matthew 10:17-18; John 15:20; 1 Peter 4:12; 5:9; Galatians 4:29). When we take v12-13 together, we can infer that all people are bad, but that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus” will be made good (sanctified) through persecution (Romans 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). The rest “go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” One commentator adds, “Those trapped by sin, self, and Satan tend to trap others!” The way to guard against these “evil men and impostors” is to emulate Paul and his nine traits listed in v10-11.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

My Sister's Keeper

I didn't know what we were preparing to watch last night as I double-clicked to play the title movie; it turned out to be a saddening tear-jerker for my wife, and I'm sorry about that - she doesn't think those kinds of movies should be made. But My Sister's Keeper was a thought-provoking look at a family dealing with leukemia.

At first, the family of four was happy, but then the daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. The doctor, off-the-record, recommended having another child, genetically altered to be guaranteed to be a donor match for who would be her diseased sibling. The family went through with this course of action, and for years, "used" the youngest of their 3 children to aid the middle child. Meanwhile the struggles, including dyslexia, of the eldest child - a boy - went pretty much unnoticed.

At age 11, the youngest daughter hires a lawyer, desiring to be medically independent. She claims that she doesn't want to be a kidney donor for her sister, because that would keep her from playing soccer or being a cheerleader in her coming years. In other words, she wants a certain degree of freedom to become the woman she wants to become.

The twist to the story comes shortly after this revelation, but it doesn't pounce on you; instead it's developed slowly, enabling the audience to take it all emotionally. Without giving away the ending to the film, I will simply say that many ethical, moral, and familial interdependence issues are raised as the movie progresses. What should be done? Who gets to decide? At what age are certain types of decisions justified? These decisions apply to every family member, because every family member has a valued interest in one another.

Finally, though thinking through these issues is a worthy endeavor, the sad truth is that this film lacked the gospel. It had a gospel, but it wasn't the gospel. It's gospel was summed up in the beautiful scenery of Montana, with occasional, hopeful mentions of the next life and memories of shared and real family life - both good and bad. But the gospel is summed up in Christ, that by grace - due to our sin - through faith, we receive the gift of eternal life.

The film portrayed life as coincidence, and what we make of it (or perhaps with whom we live it) is where the value is found. But the gospel teaches us that life is valued and purposeful, not because of what we make it, nor because of with whom we live it, but because of who made it and for whom it is lived. The chief end of man, says the Westminster Shorter Catechism, is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It's about Him, knowing Him, enjoying Him. Acknowledging that family is a blessing from Him, we can foolishly substitute the gift for the giver (Romans 1:22-23,25). This movie may have reminded us to intimacy with our families, but it failed to drive us to intimacy with the One who gave us our families. It lacked the ends and the means to those ends of the apostle Paul, which he made clear in Philippians 3:10-11: "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

2 Timothy 3:1-9

V1-9 – 1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth – men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

In v1-9, Paul attacks false teachers, noting their damage at Ephesus, but also reminding of Judgment Day, where God proves His victory. He begins by noting “terrible times in the last days,” referring to the time between Christ’s first and second advent, and lists a block of sins (Romans 1:28-32), which will characterize the pains of birthing the new age of eternal glory during which we will reign with Christ. Though some theologians (postmillennialists) see Christ returning to a Christianized, flourishing world, more (premillennialists and amillennialists) see Jesus coming to restore a world in chaos and corruption by consummating His own kingdom. Each of these sins has selfish idolatry as its root (v2-4); people refuse to love God (v4b).

Yet in v5, where Paul elaborates on the behavior of the false teachers and those who follow them, he hints that they may very well be professing Christians, “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” This makes them especially dangerous and deceitful; thus he commands Timothy to, as well as us, to “have nothing to do with them.” In v6, we see that they have made their inroads with, literally “sneaking into the homes of,” the “weak-willed women” of the Ephesian congregation. They likely seduced families, and even broke them apart, by appealing to the stay-at-home mom while the husband / father was at work. And it didn’t help that the women were not strong in their faith (v6); they were “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (v7). In other words, the false teachers were instructing them into foolishness and ignorance, and their ignorance only compounded the problem, making them fall farther from the truth than they already were. They did not have the good conscience that Paul has noted frequently, and thus their minds were restless, always curious, but never content and settled with the truth. So we see from this illustrative warning that the “terrible times in the last days” will affect the church as well as the rest of the world. The Church is not exempt from these tribulations.

In v8, “Jannes and Jambres” are only mentioned here in all of the Bible, but Jewish tradition taught that these were the names of pharaoh’s magicians who attempted to duplicate all of Moses’ (and Aaron’s) miracles prior to the Exodus. They battled against Moses, and in the same way, the false teachers in Timothy’s congregation battled against truth. Paul calls them “men of depraved minds,” which literally means that they have become depraved and continue to be increasingly depraved through an outside agency, namely Satan and/or his minions, resulting in their willful rejection of the truth (Romans 1:18-32). Paul concludes in v9 that, though these battles will continue until Christ returns, they will not win this spiritual battle in physical reality, for “their folly will be clear to everyone” (Matthew 7:20).

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

2 Timothy 2:20-26

V20-26 – 20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 22Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

In v20-21, Paul gives an illustration to support his command for Christians to lead holy lives. The “large house” is the church, though elsewhere Paul uses a similar metaphor for the world (Romans 9:21). Some suggest that the articles “for noble purposes” are the true believers (the Church), while the articles “for ignoble” purposes are the unbelievers in the church. Others see this metaphor as describing the truth that some body parts are for less desirable tasks. Either way, v21 implies that a believer who, or a body part that, has been engaging in ignoble deeds can repent (“cleanses himself”) and be sanctified unto “any good work” (Ephesians 2:10). Sanctification is of God and, it seems, of men. We play a role in responding to God’s work within us (Philippians 2:12-13). And we best do that by resisting the devil, by fleeing “the evil desires of youth” (v22) – it seems that every stage of life has different temptations. Instead, as Paul issues a number of other short exhortations for Timothy in v22-25, we “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace,” just as others “who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

We must avoid “foolish and stupid arguments, because…they produce quarrels” (v23). The word translated “stupid” is elsewhere translated “ignorant,” “trifling,” “un-edifying,” and “senseless.” This command implies that the false teachers not only engaged in these discussions to nowhere, but also that they knew the arguments were useless and did so anyway. Paul wraps up this series with the concept that there’s always room for repentance and forgiveness (v24-26). So Timothy must treat these fools a certain way – not quarrelling, not resentful, kind, gently instructing – “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (v25-26). God grants repentance (Acts 11:18; 1 Corinthians 3:6); that’s the only way that sinners would and could repent. In coming “to their senses,” Paul envisions an awakening, such as that which Ezekiel saw in the valley of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37). And finally, seeing that the devil “has taken them captive,” Paul considers that, just as the gospel takes people captive (as it did to Paul), Satan hunts POWs for his service, taking advantage of their sin nature, which makes them willing and able to serve him apart from God’s intervention. And that is what we were (Ephesians 2:2), apart from grace.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

2 Timothy 2:15-19

V15-19 – 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are His’ [Numbers 16:5 (Septuagint)], and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’

Paul issues some crucial commands for Timothy to follow in this passage. “Do you best” invites Timothy to act decisively; “one approved” refers to the metallurgical testing by fire unto purification, in order to prove genuineness. “A workman” refers to diligence in Christian living and spirit-filled passion for growth “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Will you be ashamed of your efforts when you “present yourself to God?” Erasmus translated this passage as “who ought not to blush,” while Calvin translated it as “who does not blush.” Do you see the difference? “Correctly” handing God’s word literally means “cutting a straight path.” Teachers are held accountable for their instruction of Scripture, leading people from point A to point B in a straightforward manner. Calvin gives the analogy of a father cutting his child’s food into manageable portions, with the key being “manageable,” unto the edification of the body. Paul is urging Timothy to teach sound doctrine and live in accord with God’s character (Orthodoxy and orthopraxy).

Timothy can keep on the straight and narrow path, and cut it for others, by avoiding “godless chatter” (v16). Literally, “godless” refers to “worldly and empty” talk. And of course, input-output, what goes in is what comes out. If you “indulge” in the things of this world, you will become more worldly, and therefore, “more ungodly” (v16). Worldliness – and the secular humanist philosophy – is self-deceiving and “will spread like gangrene” (v17), or cancer; it is a “mortal contagion,” Calvin says. Paul counts Hymenaeus and Philetus as traitors to these commands, indulging in the godless chatter that has led them astray, missing the mark, and deeper into ungodliness. He identifies them publicly to warn the congregation. Specifically, in v18, they claim that the resurrection has already taken place. This is a view common of early forms of Gnosticism, which spoke of a spiritual resurrection at conversion and a physical resurrection at the return of Christ. Thus, there was an extreme overemphasis on the present, living in and for the moment, ala Carpe Diem (1 Corinthians 15:12-14).

Despite the influence of such false teaching, which had corrupted the faith of some, Paul says, “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm.” What he means is that the invisible Church stands firm (on His faithfulness), rejecting apostasy (1 John 2:19), and is actually sealed by the Holy Spirit, proving His ownership and providing security. Paul quotes the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – instead of the original Hebrew text of Numbers 16:5, which says, “the LORD will show who belongs to Him and who is holy, and He will have that person come near Him. The man He chooses He will cause to come near Him.” (See also John 10:14,27.) Paul takes the liberty of interpreting this verse in light of sovereign election and calling; none of God’s sheep, who know Jesus’ voice, will be led astray, because He keeps them by calling them to holiness and protecting them from false teaching.

Monday, February 01, 2010

2 Timothy 2:8-14

V8-14 – 8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; 13if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself. 14Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

Paul begins this passage speaking of the importance of the resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection serves as the basis for his hope (v10-12), Timothy’s hope, and ours as well. Paul also notes that Jesus “descended from David.” This referral may be to emphasize His humanity, or perhaps to highlight the fulfillment of prophecy. Paul calls the preaching of the resurrected man, Jesus Christ, “my gospel,” implying, along with the suffering mentioned in v9, that he has taken full ownership of it, or rather, that it has taken full ownership of him. He voluntarily, actively, and steadfastly serves the gospel as a slave (v10), enduring all things – even imprisonment, “being chained like a criminal” (v9) – “for the sake of the elect.” Paul’s passion lies in the edification of the church (Colossians 1:24), the salvation of God’s people unto glory, both the glory of God in Christ, and the reflection of His glory in His people. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13); not only did Jesus provide the example for us, but Paul did as well.

Paul jots down “a trustworthy saying” (1 Timothy 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; Titus 3:8), and most commentators think what follows (v11-13) is part of an early Christian hymn. The primary message of this passage is loyalty to Christ. Paul notes the union that we have with Christ in both death and coram deo life (v11; Romans 8:29), referring to baptism (Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 2:20; Mark 14:31; 2 Corinthians 7:3), and the perseverance (guaranteed, as suggested by the grammatical construction) we must pursue, overcoming sin and death (2 Corinthians 4:10) unto a reign in eternal glory (v10b,12a). (The details of this eternal and glorious reign are left out.) Paul also issues a sharp warning against apostasy (v12b), due to the age of persecution, torture, and death; but then he mentions the assurance we have through Christ’s faithfulness to His own (v13). Although believers may become faithless in some sense or degree, God remains faithful to those who are His own, to those whom He knows (Matthew 7:23; 11:27; Galatians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:19); His character, unlike ours, doesn’t change (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2).

Finally v14 – “keep reminding them of these things” – seems to be in reference to the previous verses (v8-13, or v11-13), which helps us to make sense out of v7 as well; still some commentators see v14 as looking ahead to v15-19. Either way, Paul is exhorting Timothy to literally declare earnestly and solemnly in godliness the truth of the gospel, which will, at the same time, eliminate theological speculation (v14), expose the faults of the false teachers, and keep the audience from being ruined (v14), which is the Greek word for “catastrophe.” This is an important endeavor!

DC 402 - Week 6

After discussing race, class, and gender issues, we now turn to issues related to salvation, namely that it comes by grace. We'll discuss grace and faith and works and how they relate to justification and sanctification. On the tails of this week's study is a similar topic, that of eternal security and eternal rewards. But let's not jump too far. This week's workload might look something like this:

Monday - Read Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah, and comment
Tuesday - Read Nahum, Haggai, and Psalms 99-101, and comment
Wednesday - Memorize James 2:14,19 - "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such 'faith' save him? ...You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder" - and review previous memory verses, such as Galatians 3:28, Galatians 1:8, and Galatians 5:16
Thursday - Answer questions 1a-c and 2a-e (8 questions) and review memory verses
Friday - Answer questions 3a-f, 4a-b, and 5a-b (10 questions), including reading chapter 12 and Appendix 6 of Across the Spectrum, and review memory verses