Friday, March 22, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 15, The Love Of Money

Paul will begin today by talking about how Christian masters and servants are to relate to each other, then he will give a warning about loving money.

"All 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." (1 Timothy 6:1) As we've discussed before while studying Paul's writings, slavery was widespread in the Roman Empire, but it wasn't generally the type of slavery that we once had in the United States. A Roman who had slaves did not feel he "owned" them in the same way Americans felt they "owned" their slaves. A slave in the Roman Empire could use his free time by earning money for himself, by buying and maintaining his own property, by attending religious services, by enjoying recreation and short travels with his family, and et cetera. This is why so many slaves came to know Christ, because they had the freedom to listen to preachers like Paul and Timothy and to attend religious services at the churches that were beginning to pop up all over the Roman Empire.

But just because these men and women have been set free from the bondage of sin does not mean they can go home and treat their masters as if they have also been set free from the bondage of service. In some cases, the slaves have become Christians and the masters are still pagans, but the slaves should not behave in a superior manner to their masters because of this. That's not going to win their masters to Christ. In other cases, their masters have also become Christians, and the slaves mustn't take advantage of the fact that they are now the brothers or sisters in Christ of their masters. They can't ignore their duties or disobey instructions. "Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves. These are the things you are to teach and insist on." (1 Timothy 6:2) We can use Paul's advice in our work settings of today. If our boss is an unbeliever, we won't be good witnesses of Christ if we treat our boss as inferior to us. If our boss is a believer, praise the Lord! We are equals in Christ but not equal in rank in the workplace, so we still must show our boss the respect due to his or her position on the job.

The passage regarding masters and slaves concludes a long list of instructions for the church that we have been studying for the past several days, so Paul sums up this list by saying, "If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing." (1 Timothy 6:3-4a) When we refuse to follow the words of the Lord and the teaching of the apostles, what is the reason for this? Pride, usually, which is the same as conceit. In addition to being a synonym for pride, looking up the word "conceit" in the thesaurus tells us it also means "arrogance, narcissism, self-importance, and vanity".

Those who refuse to accept godly instruction want to do their own thing, so instead of knowing and promoting the truth they follow their own agendas. "They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think godliness is a means to financial gain." (1 Timothy 6:4b-5)

Some people who want to argue against sound doctrine do it because they enjoy stirring up trouble. Others do it hoping to gain financially by it. We learned in some of Paul's other writings that there were those who were promoting themselves as "super apostles", who were trying to upstage the real apostles so they could gain a huge following for themselves and make a living by exploiting the generosity of those who did not realize they weren't preaching sound doctrine. Paul is going to speak against the love of money in a moment, but first he is going to remind us that being content is far more important than having wealth.

"But 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." (1 Timothy 6:6-7) The ability to enjoy and be happy with what we already have is a blessing. I can think of several acquaintances who are quite wealthy but who are not happy. They are obsessed with hanging on to the money they already have and with making more money to add to it. I don't think any amount of money would ever make them feel content or satisfied, plus they've allowed their obsession with money to make them suspicious that others are trying to cheat them somehow. Paul isn't saying it's wrong to be well-off, but he is saying it's wrong not to ever be satisfied with what we have. We came into the world with nothing, as he says, and anything that has been added to us is a gift. When we leave this world, we aren't going to be taking any of our money or any of our stuff with us, so why spend our days being dissatisfied about what we have or thinking about how to hold on to it? Wise money management is important, and it doesn't honor the Lord to be foolish with money, but our lives aren't to revolve around money. Our lives are to revolve around our relationship with the Lord.

"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For 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." (1 Timothy 6:9-10) If money could satisfy the soul, why have so many wealthy celebrities become alcoholics and drug addicts? Why have so many famous musicians committed suicide or died of accidental overdoses? Why have so many enormously wealthy people been unable to keep marriages together? Why have so many people killed a spouse instead of dividing up the money in a divorce? Why have so many people broken ties with their family members over financial disputes? It's not that money itself is evil; it's that the love of money is evil. Placing more importance on money than on our relationship with the Lord and with others is a sin and it won't lead to anything good. It will instead pierce us with many griefs, as Paul warns.

Putting more value on money than on our relationship with the Lord or on our relationship with those around us is essentially making a god of money. When we do this, it's the same as if we are bowing down to an idol. This is why Paul says that eagerness for money has caused some to wander from the faith. They have allowed money to become the lord of their lives in place of the Lord. When we allow anything else or anyone else to take the Lord's place in our lives, we are headed for sorrow.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 14, Our Deeds Will Be Made Known

Paul offers several pieces of advice today and warns us that our deeds, whether good or bad, shall not remain hidden.

"Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure." (1 Timothy 5:22) In yesterday's passage Paul spoke of how to handle accusations against leaders of the church, so many Bible scholars believe he's that Timothy must fully investigate beforehand anyone who is up for ordination as a minister, elder, or deacon. It was common then (and still is now in many denominations) for the elders of the church to place their hands on the person being ordained and to join together in prayer for him.

He warns Timothy not to get pulled into the sins of others, which is a real danger when associating with bad company. If the people who share the leadership with the church with him are not conducting themselves in a godly manner, Timothy could easily begin to make moral compromises here and there. He needs to surround himself with people who can set a good example for him, and he needs to set a good example for others.

It appears Timothy is dealing with some type of physical ailment, so Paul address this next. Scholars speculate that Dr. Luke is with Paul and that he interjects this piece of advice while Paul is dictating this letter. "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." (1 Timothy 5:23) Timothy wants to set a good example and he has decided to abstain completely from wine. He's afraid someone will see him having a glass of wine and accuse him of being a drunkard. (Remember, the enemies of Jesus told the same lie about Him. See Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34.) It was common to drink wine, or wine mixed with water, in those days. This was partly due to the fact that they had no water treatment facilities. There weren't any highly effective methods of purifying the water, so the water could contain bacteria capable of making a person ill. Mixing alcohol with the water helped to kill harmful bacteria, so Paul instructs Timothy to "use a little wine". Alcohol has some medicinal uses and it's not a sin if Timothy takes "a little" of it as medicine. My mother-in-law, who has never been a drinker of alcohol, decided to start taking a teaspoon of wine whenever her stomach is upset. She says it works wonders.

Now Paul moves back to the subject of sin by saying, "The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever." (1 Timothy 5:24-25) This could be a reference to the choosing of leaders of the church, but it applies to everyone. We all have faults that are visible to ourselves and others. And we all have things we try to hide. But we can't hide anything from God, so we need to deal with our sins in the here and now. We don't want them trailing after us into judgment.

We won't have to fear being accused and found guilty at God's judgment seat if we place our trust in Christ, the One who made atonement for us in His own blood. Being in Christ doesn't mean we have freedom to sin, but it does mean that when we make a mistake "We have an advocate with the Father---Jesus Christ, the Righteous One". (John 15:26) When we sin, we can repent and obtain forgiveness through Christ, who will be our Advocate with the Father, who will make intercession for us, and who will declare us righteous through our faith in Him.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 13, How To Treat Various Types Of Church Members, Part Two

We pick up where we left off in Chapter 5 with Paul instructing Timothy how to treat various members of the church. We concluded yesterday with him telling Timothy which widows to put on the list of church members that the church is to support financially. Today he begins by telling him what type of widows not to put on the list, then he will move on to instructions involving church elders.

"As 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. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge." (1 Timothy 5:11-12) It's not a sin for a widowed person to remarry, so why is Paul being so harsh regarding these young widows? In consulting a number of commentaries, it would seem that the overriding consensus is that these women are so eager to remarry that they will marry outside the faith, thus being unfaithful to Christ. Bible scholar Adam Clarke's commentary was quite helpful, for he points out that Paul is saying in the original Greek that these women are like horses who have been set free of the rein, who are running wild, who are using their freedom from a husband to indulge in passion. So it appears that these women who are not trying to rein in their physical desires are falling for the wrong type of men. They are getting carried away. They are choosing the next husband not on the basis of his godly character but on the basis of nothing but strong physical attraction.

With nothing to focus their energies on, Paul thinks that young widows (and especially those who have no children) will become bored and will spend their time in unfruitful pursuits. "Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to." (1 Timothy 5:12-13) We have to remember that Paul lived in a different culture than we do. In his day there weren't that many career women. Most young widows didn't have a job to occupy their time. With only themselves to look after, it didn't take much effort to keep the housework and laundry caught up, so there were a lot of empty hours in the day.

We know Paul doesn't think there's anything wrong with widows remarrying, as long as they marry a fellow Christian, because his advice to young widows is this: "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity to slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan." (1 Timothy 5:14) Some of the young women, in their loneliness and boredom, have given in to sin. We don't know if it's the sin of gossip and of stirring up trouble. We don't know if they have indulged in sexual affairs or if they have married unbelievers. But something about having too much empty time on their hands has tempted them to get involved in things that are unbecoming to Christian women.

"If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need." (1 Timothy 5:16) This verse repeats what Paul said yesterday in verse 4. The family members of widows are to provide for them if they were not left financially well-off. This allows the church to have enough money to provide for widows who have no family members to help them.

Now Paul instructs the church that those who work in the church deserve to be paid for their work. I've heard people (usually unbelievers) say, "Why should pastors be paid for preaching? Shouldn't they be preaching simply because of their love for the Lord? Shouldn't the reward of working for the Lord be enough?" But this is not Scriptural---not in the Old Testament or in the New Testament---as we shall see in this next passage. "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,' and, 'The worker deserves his wages.'" (1 Timothy 5:17-18) Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7, proving that both the Old Testament and the New Testament back up what he's saying. The priests made their living from the temple during Old Testament times; this is why no territory in the Promised Land was given to the priestly tribe, because they were to make a living not from tilling the soil or from raising flocks but from doing the Lord's work.

The pastors and church officials in our day deserve to make a living wage from the churches they serve. I attend a large church and we have a senior pastor and an associate pastor. There's too much work for only one pastor, so we pay both of these men a full-time salary. They deserve it. They are basically on call twenty-four hours a day. Their sleep is often interrupted by calls about emergencies or deaths. They miss time with their families because they are at the hospital or at the funeral home. They have to be available to counsel church members who must work during the day, so that means they sometimes miss the evening meal with their wives and children. It's hard work running a church. Those who devote themselves to this work deserve to be paid.

If an elder gets himself in trouble, they aren't to be treated as if they are better than anyone else. But such matters are to be carefully investigated to make sure that any accusations against them are true. "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I 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." (1 Timothy 5:19-21) Unfortunately, gossip and jealousy are sometimes present in the church, so Paul warns Timothy not to believe everything he hears. If someone comes to him with an accusation or complaint against an elder, he needs to find out if there's real evidence against the elder or whether the accuser is just trying to make trouble. If the accusation of sin proves to be true, based on the testimony of one or two others, the matter should be brought up at a meeting of the elders and deacons. The problem has to be dealt with---for the sake of the offender, for the sake of the other church leaders, and for the sake of the church as a whole. The matter isn't to be swept under the rug because of who the person is. If an elder is living in sin, he shouldn't be treated differently than someone who doesn't hold an office in the church. Sin is sin. God doesn't show favoritism and neither should we.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 12, How To Treat Various Types Of Church Members, Part One

The church at Ephesus was made up of a variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds, just as our churches are today. Paul tells Timothy how to treat people of different ages, different sexes, and different backgrounds.

"Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity." (1 Timothy 5:1-2) Paul knew that there would be times when even the older members of the congregation would need correction in spiritual matters. Timothy is not to talk down to them but is to guide them with respect, as if they were his mother or father. There are men younger than Timothy in the church and he is to remember that they are his brothers in Christ, so he isn't to scold them like they're children but is to encourage them as he would biological younger brothers. He must take care how he interacts with the young women so that he doesn't fall into sexual temptation. He is to always keep in mind that they are his sisters in Christ and he must treat them with the respect that is due daughters of the King. We don't know whether Timothy ever married, but it appears he was still single at the time Paul wrote his letters to him, for in the second letter he will warn Timothy to "flee youthful lusts" (as the KJV and some other versions translate it), so it seems he was still single and needed to be on guard against pre-marital temptations.

There were many widows in the church, as there are today. Women, generally speaking, tend to live longer than men. Some of the widows in the church of Ephesus were left well-off by wealthy husbands and had no need of help from the church. Some had family members who could help them. But some were truly destitute. Paul is going to discuss when and how widows in the church should be assisted. "Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God." (1 Timothy 5:3-4) You've probably heard the saying, "Charity begins at home." If the family members of widows are truly in the faith, their charity should begin with those in their family who are in need. In those days there was no Social Security for senior citizens, so a widow who had no one to help her could end up homeless and starving. In ancient Ephesus there was no such thing as Social Security or any type of government or social programs for the needy. Paul instructs Timothy to make certain the church helps widows who have no family to take care of them.

Paul now compares the attitudes of different types of widows. "The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:5-8) The woman who has no means of help will appeal to the Lord for help, and the church is to be Christ in the world by helping such women and therefore answering the prayers of these women. Verse 6 is a little harder to understand. I consulted several commentaries and each Bible scholar had a different opinion on verse 6. It may be that some of the widows in the church had been left plenty of money to live on, but had mismanaged it by spending it on the pleasures of this world. Or it could be that they were indulging in lustful pursuits, perhaps engaging in physical relationships with men outside of marriage, receiving money and gifts from these men....being "kept women", so to speak. We can't say for sure what Paul means, but he makes it plain that the hearts of some of the widows in the church are true to the world and not true to the Lord

Timothy is to make a list of the widows who need the regular and ongoing help of the church. Paul now tells him who should be on the list and who should not. "No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord's people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds." (1 Timothy 5:9-10) The church at Ephesus is to provide for destitute widows of good character, not for women who will spend the money in worldly and sinful ways.

In tomorrow's passage Paul will go on to talk about younger widows and about how to properly pay pastors and elders for their work.

It's important how the church handles money. In essence, it's the Lord's money and it should be used to do the Lord's work. It should be used to pay those who work in the church. It should be used to help members of the church who are truly in need. No matter how large the church, there's only so much extra money to go around, and those who manage the money must be careful that it's being used in ways that honor the Lord. The same can be said for our own finances. The Lord doesn't bless us with money so that we can use it for ungodly things. He intends for us to use our money to provide for our families, to pay our bills, to give to the church and to worthy charities, and to enjoy any that's left over in godly ways.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 11, Use Your Gift

Timothy works hard for the Lord. He is a loyal friend to the Apostle Paul and to the churches Paul founded. He became the bishop of the church at Ephesus and eventually lost his life for speaking out against an ungodly pagan festival. But at the time Paul is writing to him, he's still a young minister and he needs encouragement. Paul is going to give him some practical advice for managing the congregation at Ephesus, plus he's going to remind him of the gift he has been given by God.

Yesterday Paul told him to stand firm against false doctrine and to point it out for what it is. He picks up there by saying, "If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching you have followed." (1 Timothy 4:6) A good minister will be quick to recognize false doctrine. He will want to protect the church members from it and will expose it as false.

"Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly." (1 Timothy 4:7) Timothy is residing in a Gentile city where many citizens and visitors belong to pagan religions. We often refer to the religions of ancient Rome or Greece as "mythology", and Timothy has to deal with opposition to the gospel by those who cling to mythology. He also has to deal with human traditions, such as those Paul spoke of yesterday regarding a form of legalism that says that we are holier if we don't marry or we are holier if we avoid certain foods. Legalism, at its worst, actually becomes a form of self-worship. It causes us to think only about our own performance, and in turn it has the tendency to make us prideful about our "religious" accomplishments. It takes the focus off of Christ and what He has done to cleanse us of our sins because it deceives us into thinking we can earn salvation by good works.

The citizens of ancient Roman and Greek cultures placed a lot of emphasis on physical fitness. Have you ever seen pictures of the statues produced by these cultures? The men look like they spend several hours a day at the gym. The women are tall and slim and look like beauty pageant contestants. While taking care of our physical health is important, our spiritual health is even more important. Our physical bodies are temporary; they are eventually going to break down and die no matter how careful we are about diet and exercise. But our souls are eternal, so Paul reminds Timothy that spending time with the Lord and in the word of God is more important than trying to look like Adonis. "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:8-10) It's not a sin if the young and energetic Timothy wants to go for a jog in the mornings before he gets down to the work of the church. We ought to respect and take care of the bodies the Lord has given us. But there's a difference between taking care of our health and becoming obsessed with our outward appearance.

"Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." (1 Timothy 4:11-13) Timothy is young but authority has been given to him by God who has called him to be a minister of the gospel. He is not to allow himself to be intimidated. He is not to allow himself to feel inferior to anyone.

"Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you." (1 Timothy 4:14) It would appear that the Holy Spirit revealed to the elders of the church that the Lord was calling Timothy to do great things. So, perhaps in a church service where Timothy was ordained as a minister of the gospel, the elders gathered round him, laid their hands on him, and prayed for him. This type of thing is still done in my own church and in many others. Paul is telling Timothy, "You know the Lord has called you to be a minister. Fulfill your calling. Use the gift the Lord has given you." Paul could say the same thing to all of us. We are not all called to be ministers, but we are all called to use our gifts and talents for the Lord. He gave them to us for a purpose, and we are not being all we could be if we neglect to use them. If you don't yet know what calling the Lord has placed on your life, pray for Him to make this clear to you.

"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:15-16) The culture at Ephesus was one of physical fitness, as we've already learned. The people there believed in developing physical strength and endurance, in inspecting the body for progress and in showing off that progress. Even more emphasis should be placed on spiritual fitness. Time should be spent every day on developing spiritual strength and endurance. A person should inspect himself or herself to make sure he or she is growing in the Lord. Losing excess weight and developing physical strength might or might not inspire others to do the same, but developing spiritual muscle and using that strength to minister to others can be an inspiration to everyone. This is why Paul reminds Timothy that his main goal in life should be using the gift God has given him. Failing to go to the gym now and then isn't likely to have any eternal consequences, but failing to fulfill our calling in the Lord means failing to be everything the Lord wants us to be.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st and 2nd Timothy. Day 10, Beware Of Legalism And That Which Masquerades As Holy

Paul spoke yesterday about the truth of the gospel---the truth upon which the church was founded. Today he will encourage Timothy to stand firm against false doctrine and to instruct the church to reject false doctrine. We will take a look at legalism (works) versus faith, because not all doctrine appears false on the outside. In fact, the most dangerous doctrine is that which puts on a mask of being "ultra holy".

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:1-2) There is no specific verse of Scripture regarding this revelation of the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit still speaks to us and reveals things to us in our own times, so it's not surprising that He would have revealed to the apostles that as time goes on the spiritual condition of many will grow worse. Strictly speaking, ever since Christ ascended to the Father we have been living in the last days, and since Satan knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12), he is doing everything he can to pervert the glorious gospel of Christ in the time he has left. This is why Paul says that those who teach lies are doing the work of deceiving spirits and demons. Spiritual lies come straight from the devil himself---from the one the Lord Jesus called "the father of lies". (John 8:44)

Paul says that false doctrine is being taught by those "whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron". Have you ever used the wrong heat setting to iron a delicate fabric? It burned holes in the fabric, didn't it? It rendered the fabric useless. This is what Paul is saying about those whose consciences have been seared. Their consciences have holes in them, so that sin slips through without any resistance. Their consciences have been rendered useless, because when they sin nothing in them says, "Uh oh! You're making a mistake. This isn't the right way to go. I'm going to cause you to feel guilty and ashamed so you'll turn back." They've indulged in sin so much that they no longer feel guilt or shame. It doesn't bother them a bit to live in sin or to tell others that it's fine to live in sin.

False teaching doesn't always appear false on the surface. The most dangerous type of false teaching is that which looks "ultra holy". It's the type of teaching that says, "The more you deny yourselves, the holier you are." But under the surface this is nothing but legalism, nothing but an attempt to gain righteousness by works and not by faith, and nothing but pride. Why is pride at the heart of legalism? Because pride says, "I can do it on my own." This is the same as saying, "I don't need redemption. I don't need a Savior. I don't need someone who can make me right in the sight of a holy God. I can achieve holiness for myself." Paul warns Timothy that what appears to be sound doctrine is often a cloak for legalism. "They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer." (1 Timothy 4:3-5)

This doesn't mean that a Jew or a Muslim, for example, who has converted to Christianity can't remain on the diet he was accustomed to following. It simply means he recognizes that his righteousness before God doesn't hinge on observing dietary laws. Righteousness before God hinges on faith in Christ. Righteousness has always been by faith, and we only have to look to Abraham for an example of this, for God imputed righteousness to him because of his faith and not because of his works. (Genesis 15:6) The law of Moses did not exist in Abraham's day; therefore Abraham could not follow the law. Yet God imputed righteousness to him anyway. This clearly shows us that righteousness has always been, and always will be, by faith. It's possible to observe the Mosaic law as best one can and not be right with God in the heart. It's possible to make a show of religion while having a heart that is far from God. A person can wear the proper clothes, say all the right things, bring the correct sacrifices and offerings, and abstain from certain foods, but God can still say of those who aren't close to Him at heart, "These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me." (Isaiah 29:13)

Regarding marriage, the Bible doesn't teach us that we are "holier" if we live a celibate life. The first human beings God created were a married couple. He joined Adam and Eve together in marriage and blessed their union. The first public miracle Jesus ever performed was at a wedding, and His presence at a wedding gave His blessing on the institution of marriage. Marriage is holy in the sight of God. The Apostle Paul lived a celibate life, and he told people that if they had the gift of celibacy they would be better off not to get married due to the persecution that was currently taking place against the church (1 Corinthians 7:26), but he also said marriage is worthy of honor (Hebrews 13:4), and he also said that if a person is not cut out for celibacy then that person should marry (1 Corinthians 7:9). The other apostles and the brothers of the Lord Jesus were married. (1 Corinthians 9:5) So if being married makes us less holy, then the apostles and the Lord's brothers would have been disqualified as leaders of the church. If you don't have the ability or the desire to remain celibate (and most people don't, at least not while they are young) then by all means go ahead and marry! But make sure you marry someone who shares your faith, for we are not to be "unequally yoked". (2 Corinthians 6:14)

We have to be careful not to appear righteous on the outside while being unrighteous on the inside. The Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul both referred to such people as "whitewashed walls". (Matthew 23:27, Acts 23:3) It was customary to apply whitewash to the outside of the tombs of well-respected people, but what was inside those pretty white tombs? Decay and uncleanness. Maggots and the stench of decomposition. I know this is graphic and disgusting, but the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul intended it to be graphic and disgusting. We are disgusting when we think we can do and say all the right things while at heart we don't regard God as Lord. My husband and I are about to get ready for church. We're going to put on our church clothes and we're going to sit in a pew and we're going to look like everyone else there. But what if, in our hearts, we didn't regard God as Lord? We wouldn't be justified at all by our church attendance. We'd be whitewashed tombs. We'd look alive on the outside but we'd be dead on the inside.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 9, The Foundation Of Truth

Paul is going to make a statement today that is the foundation of truth. With six brief lines he's going to provide the basic message of the gospel, the message upon which the church is founded.

"Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if 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." (1 Timothy 3:14-15) Paul left Timothy in Ephesus while he went into Macedonia, so he is likely writing to Timothy from Macedonia. He hopes to visit Timothy again soon, but in case he can't, he wants to give him instructions to pass along to the church.

Paul refers to the church itself as "the pillar and foundation of the truth" because the church is founded on the gospel. If there were no gospel, there would be no church. The Lord Jesus said the same thing as Paul when He commented on the Apostle Peter's declaration that He was "the Messiah, the Son of the living God". (Matthew 16:16) Jesus said that on this foundation (this "rock", meaning the statement Peter made) He would build His church. (Matthew 16:18) So we see that the church is built on the foundation of the gospel message, and in that sense the church itself is a sure foundation of the truth. The church is both a physical building where people can hear the truth, and the church is also its members who are to go out into the world and share the truth

"Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared 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." (1 Timothy 3:16) When Paul refers to this powerful statement as a mystery, he doesn't mean it cannot be understood. In fact, he's explained the gospel here in very simple terms. In consulting Strong's Greek Concordance we find that the word Paul uses is the Greek "musterion" which is used to indicate an idea that only those who have been instructed in religion or who are spiritually enlightened can understand or, within the Judeo-Christian context, something which is "of God: the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly."

The reason Paul refers to the gospel message as a mystery is not because is cannot be understood, but because it can only be accepted by those who seek to be godly and it can only be fully understood and celebrated by those who accept it. Naturally, a person who has no interest in godly living will have no interest in knowing God's commandments, in understanding His plan of salvation, or in learning about Jesus Christ. In Paul's first letter to the believers of Corinth he sums up why the things of God seem mysterious to the ungodly: "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." (1 Corinthians 2:14) A person who has no desire to know the living God or to understand who He is may try to read some of the Scriptures and may conclude that they are "foolishness". If he is unwilling to allow the Holy Spirit to guide him into the truth, his mind and heart are going to be closed off. We have to read God's holy word with a willingness to be taught by the Holy Spirit or else we aren't going to get anything out of it.

To use an example from daily living, when I was in school I hated math. (Well, actually, I still hate working with numbers.) But because I disliked math and had no interest in it, I wasn't open to learning anything about it. My mind was closed off to it. I did only enough to get by, finishing my final math class with a D average. I knew I was never going to choose a career where I'd have to work with numbers, so I put the minimum amount of effort into my math classes in school. I said to myself, "None of this math stuff is ever going to matter." But unfortunately we can't take this same attitude when it comes to our spiritual future, although many people do take this attitude. We are sinners and we need salvation, so we can't say to ourselves, "None of this religious stuff is ever going to matter."

The truth of the gospel matters very much, so much that the Lord Jesus promised, "If you hold to My teaching, you really are My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) From what does the truth set us free? It sets us free from bondage to the law---from trying to obtain salvation by works. It sets us free from the heavy burden of our sins. It sets us free from living to please our carnal nature and enables us to live in a way that satisfies our spiritual nature. In the end, it sets us free from judgment and grants us eternity in the presence of our Savior.