Sunday, March 31, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 24, The Lord Stands By Us

We are concluding our look at Paul's two letters to Timothy. In today's passage he will give the Lord thanks for being his strength. There are things I couldn't have made it through without the Lord's strength, and I'm sure you could say the same.

You will recall from yesterday's passage that out of all of Paul's friends, only Luke is presently with him. Some of his friends have been sent to other cities on church business. At least one friend, Demas, turned his back on Paul. All of his friends, as we will learn today, failed to come and stand up for him in court. He is feeling lonelier than he's ever felt in his life as he nears execution, but at the same time he knows the Lord never has and never will desert him. He will say something today similar to what the Lord Jesus once said to His disciples, "A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave Me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for My Father is with Me." (John 16:32)

Paul knows what it's like to have his friends and supporters scattered. "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them." (2 Timothy 4:16) It has become so dangerous to be a Christian in Rome that Paul doesn't blame anyone for not being his character witnesses at trial. Since early church tradition tells us that Paul lost his life during Nero's reign, it is believed he was executed somewhere between 64 AD (when the great fire of Rome occurred) and 68 AD (when Emperor Nero committed suicide). The great fire of 64 AD consumed three quarters of the city and many suspected that Nero had set it himself. The fact that he built a large ornate palace for himself on some of the ground that the fire had cleared only made him look guiltier. In order to divert suspicion from himself, he laid the blame for the fire on the Christians, ordering his soldiers to round up Christians for questioning. The soldiers were told to use torture if necessary to induce the Christians to name and accuse their fellow believers of sedition. Those who were arrested were, upon threat of death, ordered to deny Christ and make sacrifices to Roman gods and profess Caesar as Lord. Those who would not renounce Christ and give worship to Caesar were executed. Many of the executions themselves were turned into gruesome public spectacles with some of the Christians being torn apart by animals, or crucified, or rolled in pitch and placed on poles and set on fire to light the city at night. Paul doesn't blame anyone for not standing by him at trial, knowing what a fearful fate might await them. Following the example of Jesus, who asked the Father to forgive His tormentors, Paul asks God to forgive his friends for deserting him.

Although from a human standpoint it appeared that Paul was standing before his accusers alone, he knew the Lord was with him. "But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it." (2 Timothy 4:17a) As we learned in the book of Acts, Paul viewed every trial as an opportunity to share the gospel. The gospel message was his defense. It was the only defense he could put on in court because it said everything that needed to be said. Paul wasn't a public enemy or a threat to the government; he was a peaceful minister of the gospel. In explaining in court how and why he is a minister of the gospel, he is actually preaching the gospel to everyone present. Nero's vicious persecution of the Christians is beginning to foster the Roman citizens' sympathy toward them. Doubtless, Nero had many soldiers who would do anything he asked, and some of them probably enjoyed doing it. (For an example of these type of people, we have only to look at the Nazi soldiers of Germany and what they were willing to do and what they even enjoyed doing to the Jews.) But the common citizens of Rome who lived peacefully side by side with the growing number of Christians could easily see that these people were not stirring up riots or trying to mount a rebellion. They were simply preaching about a man named Jesus who gave His life for others, who said He was the son of God, and whose death and resurrection conveyed eternal life on all who believed in Him. This sympathy for Paul and others like him caused people to flock to court to hear what Paul had to say. We have no idea how many were converted because Paul was willing to lose his life to share the gospel with them, but I think it's safe to assume the number is in the hundreds or even thousands.

"And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:17b-18) Some scholars believe that at one point Paul was threatened with death by lions in the arena. Others think he says he was "delivered from the lion's mouth" because it was a common expression for having escaped either death or some other terrible consequence. When Paul says the Lord will rescue him from every evil attack, I don't think he expects to be set free. He's already stated that the time of his death is near. I think he's saying, "The Lord has helped me to stand under this immense pressure. I have not denied His name, nor will I. I have not been found guilty of any crime, nor will I. No charges brought against me are true, and if I am to be executed it will be for a lie, not because I've committed any of the things of which I stand accused. God will bring me faithfully through whatever comes, and when I see Him face to face, I will be vindicated. I will stand before Him knowing I kept the faith and refused to deny His name." Paul's words in verses 17 and 18 remind me of the words of the prophet Isaiah, who said upon authority of the Lord, "'No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from Me,' declares the Lord." (Isaiah 54:17)

Paul closes the letter with greetings to fellow believers. "Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick at Miletus." (2 Timothy 4:19-20)

He restates the need for Timothy to come quickly to see him. "Do your best to get here before winter." (2 Timothy 4:21a)

He now thinks of several fellow believers at Rome who would like to send their greetings. "Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters." (2 Timothy 4:21b) These are Gentile names and these people may be some of the Roman citizens who converted to Christianity under Paul's preaching.

Paul concludes with this blessing: "The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all." (2 Timothy 4:22)

Did Timothy arrive in time to see Paul before he was executed? I believe he did. But even if he didn't, we can be certain that the Lord stood by Paul to the end. In the same way, the Lord stands by all who belong to Him. He stands beside us when we're dealing with the ordinary cares of life, when we're sick and having medical tests done, when we're grieving a loved one, when our marriages fall apart, when our children are wayward and living by the world's ways, when we're out of work and don't know how we'll pay the bills. I could go on and on, but you know what I'm saying. No matter what the problem, no matter how fierce the trial, no matter how deep the grief, the Lord stands by us and strengthens us. Many times in life we wouldn't have been able to remain on our feet if He had not been there holding us up. Amen, for, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 23, The Importance Of Faithful Friends

Paul urges Timothy to come to see him as soon as he can. He mentions a friend who has let him down, friends who have left Rome to minister to the churches, a friend who is sticking by him, and a friend he wants Timothy to bring with him.

Paul hopes and expects to see Timothy again before he loses his life, but Timothy must hurry. Paul is feeling lonely too, because for various reasons most of his other friends are not with him at this time. First he mentions a friend who has let him down. "Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica." (2 Timothy 4:9-10a) At one time Demas was a man to be counted on, for Paul mentions him as a friend and fellow worker in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24. We don't know what it was about "this world" that Demas loved so much, but perhaps he came to conclusion that working for the gospel was going to cost him more than he wanted to give. Seeing Paul's predicament, he might have decided it was best to distance himself from Paul and from Christianity. Paul's words indicate that Demas didn't place as much value on Christ as he did on the world or on comfortable living. Sometimes people turn away from the faith because they were never truly in Christ to begin with, so when the going gets tough they cut and run. There are plenty of reasons why people are active in the church other than because they love the Lord. There are other needs that they are trying to fulfill by joining a church and by enjoying fellowship with believers. Demas could have been one of these people.

"Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia." (2 Timothy 4:10b) Since Paul has nothing bad to say about the departure of either of these men, it is generally assumed that they were on business for the church, not that they had deserted Paul.

"Only Luke is with me." (2 Timothy 4:11a) Luke, Paul's friend and personal physician and fellow laborer in the faith, is still by his side. Luke's faithfulness to the Lord and to the Lord's apostle Paul may be the reason the Lord allowed him to be the author of two books of the Holy Bible. This man is the kind of friend we all want---the kind of friend who will stick with us til the end.

Next Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him. You will recall from our study of the book of Acts that at one time Paul was very disappointed with Mark (sometimes called John Mark) because when Mark was a young Christian and new to the faith he deserted Paul and Barnabas during a missionary journey. But since then Mark has grown a great deal in the faith and has performed invaluable work for the sake of the gospel. He has earned Paul's respect, so Paul says, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2 Timothy 4:11b) There is nothing better a man like Paul could say about anyone than that they are helpful to him in his ministry. Before he leaves this world, Paul wants to see Mark again and tell him this face to face. When Mark left the missionary group, he did so because he was young and afraid and not mature enough yet in the faith to deal with some of the things that happened. Paul realizes now he misjudged this man. He was too hasty in thinking Mark would never amount to anything in the ministry. I think he wants to apologize to Mark in person. He doesn't want to depart this life without asking Mark for forgiveness.

Paul's friend Tychicus is away because Paul sent him on church business. "I sent Tychicus to Ephesus." (2 Timothy 4:12)

Paul now mentions several personal items he'd like Timothy to bring with him. "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments." (2 Timothy 4:13) The scrolls may be books. In those days they didn't have printing presses where books could be bound together in the shape that we are familiar with today. These books might have been his own writings, the writings of other religious men, or writings of a scholarly nature. We know Paul was very well-educated and that he read secular materials as well as religious materials, for in his letters we sometimes find him quoting Greek philosophers and Greek playwrights. If I were in prison, one of the main things I'd want would be books, and I think Paul felt the same way. The parchments are believed to be the Scriptures, which in Paul's day would only have included the Old Testament. It seems unlikely Paul would not have his own copies of these with him, so some Bible scholars think he wanted them for the converts at Rome to have for the growing body of believers to study.

Next he mentions a man who, if he was ever Paul's friend, was the type of person of whom we could say, "With a friend like that, you don't need enemies." This man is Alexander, and Paul already mentioned him in his first letter to Timothy as someone whose "faith has been shipwrecked". (1 Timothy 1:19) "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message." (2 Timothy 4:14-15) There are five mentions of the name "Alexander" in the Bible and there's no way to know if the Alexander in Paul's letters to Timothy might be one of those mentioned in other books of the Bible. It doesn't appear that all the Alexanders are the same man, so we know very little about Alexander the metalworker and we don't know exactly how he opposed the gospel message. Since Paul warns Timothy to be on guard against him, I tend to think Alexander was a wolf in sheep's clothing. He may have initially deceived Paul into thinking he was a godly man, but as usually happens when a person pretends to be something he's not, Alexander's true character eventually emerged.

Paul's words today clearly demonstrate the importance of faithful friends. There are people in my life I can count on whenever I'm in distress. Paul had some of those people too, but some let him down, and some were away from him by necessity so they could minister to the churches. He feels their absence keenly. There was probably never a time in Paul's life when he needed friends more than he did when he knew death wasn't far in his future. Taking Paul's words to heart, let's try our best to be the kind of friends who will stick things out to the end. Let's be there for those in emotional or spiritual distress, for those who are dealing with illness or who are facing a terminal diagnosis, for those who are grieving, and for those who need encouragement in the faith. We are not only performing a valuable ministry to others by doing this, but we are honoring the Lord, because He said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 22, The Urgency Of The Gospel/Paul's Impending Death

In this chapter Paul is closing out his second letter to Timothy. He knows he's going to die soon, so he knows he must give Timothy---his son in the faith and the heir of his ministry---all the advice and encouragement he can. Today he tells him to be prepared at all times to share the gospel and to give godly advice to others. Without actually saying so, he tells Timothy to use him (Paul) as an example, for Paul is about to finish the race and he is finishing strong.

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage---with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:1-2) Timothy has been called by God to be a minister of the gospel. He is to fulfill his calling by preaching the gospel in good times and in bad times. He is to know the word of God so well that he will be able to give Scriptural advice whenever he's asked for it. I'm sure that church pastors often have church members bringing questions or problems to them that shock them or catch them off guard, but Timothy is to be so grounded in the word of God and so sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit that even when confronted with a question or problem he doesn't expect, he will know how to instruct the person in a way that honors the Lord.

It's important for Timothy (and for us) to feel an urgency about sharing the gospel. We don't know how much longer we have to share it. We don't know how much longer we will have the strength or the life to keep sharing it, or whether persecution will come that is so fierce that we will be prevented from sharing it, or whether today might be the day the Lord calls His church out of the world. In Timothy's day, there was a very real danger that he might lose his life for the gospel. Not only that, but since the Bible tells us that opposition to the gospel message is going to grow as time goes on, sound doctrine must be preached as much as possible while there are still people who are willing to hear it. "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

Not everyone wants to hear the truth. This is because the truth doesn't say what they want it to say. The truth doesn't give them permission to do what they want to do. Instead of submitting to the Lord and obeying His laws and commandments, they adhere to an altered form of the truth. They twist the word of God to make it say something it doesn't say, or they claim that the word of God doesn't actually say what it says. All my life I've heard this argument against the Scriptures, "The Bible has been translated many times and the translators have translated it to conform to their own beliefs." Well, that's simply not true. For example, the New Testament was written in Greek. It was not written in a "lost language" or in an obscure and hard-to-understand language. If you can't read Greek (and most or all of us studying together on this blog can't) you can use a Greek concordance while studying the Bible. Strong's Greek Bible Concordance is my personal favorite, and you don't even have to buy the book because you can use the online version. You can look up pretty much each word of the Bible in the original Greek and see what the definition of that word is in Greek. I have not found any word yet in the Greek concordance that doesn't line up with the way the word has been translated into English.

Some who don't want to hear the truth will reject God's word altogether, not even trying to twist it to suit their own desires, and will follow false religions. Paul and Timothy were ministers to the Gentiles, so they dealt every day with people who followed false religions. Many of them converted to Christianity, but many of them clung to their pagan gods because the pagan gods didn't require the level of holy living that God requires. There are people in our own times who get caught up in false religions and cults because the teachings of these groups don't require them to repent of the things that God commands them to repent of, or because their cults and false religions don't require them to submit to God's authority over them.

Paul is telling Timothy all the things he's telling him in these two letters because he knows his time is short. He will soon be martyred for the faith, so he's trying to say everything he needs to say to Timothy while he still can. "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near." (2 Timothy 4:6) In my background study I found two reasons why Paul may be referring to the loss of his life as a drink offering. A drink offering in the Old Testament was a type of sacrificial offering that would be poured out on the Lord's altar. So in this sense Paul is saying he's giving his life for the Lord, symbolically laying down his life on the Lord's altar. The other reason may have to do with a Roman custom that signified an ending. At the end of a meal, ancient Romans would pour out a drink offering as thanks to their gods. In that sense Paul is saying that his time on earth is ending and he is pouring out his life in thanks to God.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7) Paul faced opposition every day of his thirty or so years of ministry, but he kept going. The finish line is now in sight and he intends to finish strong. Timothy is to follow his example, and so are we.

Paul has done what God commissioned him to do. When he sees the Lord face to face, there will be a reward for his obedience. "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day---and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:8) We who have put our trust and faith in the Lord can also say, "There is in store for me the crown of righteousness," because Paul says this crown belongs to all of us who long to see the Lord. The crown Paul refers to is not a royal crown like a king or queen would wear, but the type of crown that is given to the person who has won the victory in an athletic event. It's the type of crown that's given to winners, and winners are what we are in Christ Jesus, for in Christ we are "more than conquerors". (Romans 8:37)

Paul is going to die with his boots on, so to speak, because he is fighting for the gospel til his last breath. He's encouraging Timothy, and all of us, to do the same. Our passage today reminds me of an old hymn that a married couple used to sing at my church. Every time I heard it I felt encouraged to go out of this world with my battle boots on, so I'm posting a link below so you can hear the song for yourselves.
I'm Gonna Die On The Battlefield

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 21, All Scripture Is Useful

Paul urges Timothy to stay in the word of God and he reminds him that all Scripture is useful for godly living. Sometimes we tend to doze off while reading a long list of Biblical genealogy or while studying the many laws contained in Leviticus, but the Lord put all these things in His holy word for a reason and I'm convinced (as Paul was) that everything contained in the Bible is useful to us.

Paul knows that the persecution he and the other apostles are enduring is enough to put anyone off the idea of becoming an evangelist for the gospel, but instead of allowing himself to be discouraged by the troubles of the church leaders, Timothy should take heart because of the courage displayed by these men. Timothy's faith should grow as he observes how powerfully the Lord is at work in these men. "You, however, know all my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, 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." (2 Timothy 3:10-11) Paul's statement reminds me of the old Timex commercials that claimed a Timex could "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'". Paul has taken a lickin' but he's still tickin'. If he can do it, so can Timothy, because the same power of the Lord that is at work in Paul is at work in Timothy too. As Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, the same power that the Lord used to raise Christ from the dead works in us who belong to Christ. (Ephesians 1:19-10)

Sometimes we're tempted to think we're on the wrong path if opposition comes our way, but Paul wants Timothy to understand that opposition is to be expected when you're a follower of Christ. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3:12-13) The Lord Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first...Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also." (John 15:18, 20)

Timothy is to let none of this deter him. Paul hasn't allowed anything to keep him from preaching the gospel, and Timothy mustn't either. Above all, Timothy is to study the word of God as often as he can, for this will keep him grounded in the truth. "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

The author of Psalm 119, believed to be King David, was writing about his love for the word of God. David says that the study of God's word helps keeps a young person's life pure, helps us to avoid sin, strengthens us in sorrow, helps us to trust in God, and gives us hope. Whenever I'm in need of some strength and hope, I tend to turn to the book of Psalms more than to any other book of the Bible. I have often prayed one or more of the psalms that David wrote when he was frightened or in sorrow. We need the foundation of God's word in our lives so that, whatever comes, we can face it with courage.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 20, Conditions In The Last Days

The Bible has a lot to say about the last days, and much of that information regards natural disasters. But it isn't only the earth itself that's going to grow worse as time goes on. The hearts of men and women who oppose God are going to grow colder as time goes on and their deeds are going to become more abominable as this world nears the day of judgment. Today Paul talks not about world cataclysms of the end times but of cataclysms of the heart.

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days." (2 Timothy 3:1) From these opening words we expect Paul to mention the same type of things the Lord Jesus mentioned as signs of the end, such as wars and rumors of wars, major earthquakes, and vicious persecution against the people of God. But Paul is going to talk about signs of the end that---at first---develop in the secret places of the heart. After these terrible things have developed in the heart, they will overflow and spill out into the person's life and into the lives of everyone around them.

"People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God---having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." (2 Timothy 3:2-5) Since the beginning of man's sojourn on earth, there have been people who possessed some or all of these awful character flaws. But as the end approaches we are going to see these character flaws cropping up on a grand scale such as has never before been seen.

The culture in modern times is to be blamed for some of these character flaws, in my opinion, because during the last few decades many parents have been told that they must raise their children in a manner that has caused these children to believe the world revolves around them. They have not allowed their children to experience disappointment or failure, so everybody gets a trophy, and someone else is always to be blamed when the child doesn't achieve what he or she wants. Because parents have bent over backwards to ensure that their children don't have to deal with being told "no" or having to ever feel uncomfortable, the natural result is that their children don't respect or obey them as they should. I'm sorry if this is politically incorrect, but the proof that the past several generations have been raised too soft is that they need "safe spaces" to retreat to when they hear an opinion that differs from theirs. I can just imagine what would have happened if, when I was in school in the 70s and 80s, I'd complained to a teacher that I felt upset because someone's social or political opinion differed from mine. As soon as the teacher stopped laughing at me I'd have been given something to really feel upset about, like detention or an extra book report to write. The point is, the world doesn't revolve around any of us, and being taught to think it does isn't going to do anyone any favors.

I prefer the way the KJV translates verse 3, for instead of simply saying some people will be "without love" it is more descriptive by saying some people will lack "natural affection". We are seeing a lack of natural affection when we turn on the news to find out a parent has killed a child or a child has killed a parent or grandparent. It's natural to love our family members and to want them to be safe and healthy, but people are killing family members because of lack of natural affection and for the strangest of reasons. There have been several cases in the news during the last year or so where a child or grandchild has resorted to murder merely because he or she was ordered to clean their room or do better in school. There's a growing attitude in this world that says, "No one has the right to tell me what to do. How dare anyone ask or expect anything of me?" This attitude is ungodly, for it says, "I am not here to serve, but to be served." It is in direct contrast with the godly example of Christ, who had the right to be served as Lord but who came to this earth "not to be served but to serve". (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45)

When a person decides in his heart not to serve the Lord or serve his fellow man, the result of this is the development of the other behaviors Paul mentions in today's passage. The one who won't bow the knee to God will bow the knee to money or prestige. The one who won't serve the Lord will serve himself instead, and this leads to the commission of all sorts of sins against the Lord and against other human beings.

In Paul's day men had more freedom and opportunities than women to perpetrate sin and deceit on others, so next he speaks of the way these unscrupulous men target women who are weak-willed. There have always been con men who prey on women, exploiting those who appear vulnerable in order to gain something from them. The purpose behind the deception varies; the purpose might be to gain money, sex, power, promotion, or a whole host of other things. Paul says of such men: "They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:6-7)

Of course Paul certainly isn't saying that all women are gullible or sinful anymore than he is saying all men are con artists. He's saying that men who are con artists look for and target women who are gullible and sinful. Lack of self-esteem and an unhealthy desire to constantly be in a relationship has caused a lot of women to give their trust to men who aren't worthy of trust. Being led by carnal desires and having no wish to ever say "no" has caused many a woman to get caught up in things she never imagined she'd get caught up in. And in modern times, these roles are more easily reversed, so that we find female con artists deceiving men. Even in the not-so-modern times we can find an example of this by looking at the relationship between Samson and Delilah in the book of Judges. Samson was led by sin (sexual lust and the overwhelming attraction he felt for pagan women) and he was gullible (he wanted to believe Delilah loved him), and he ruined his life as a result.

Judgment, however, is coming for the ungodly. Judgment is coming for those who exploit the weak, for those who lead others astray with false doctrine, and for those who refuse to acknowledge and obey God as Lord. "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the truth is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone." (2 Timothy 3:8-9) Jannes and Jambres are not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible but are mentioned in the Talmud as the chief magicians of Pharoah of Exodus 7. These magicians were able, at first, to duplicate the miracles of Moses. Through either sleight of hand or through the dark powers of the occult, these men were able to change a staff into a snake and to turn water red like blood. But they could not duplicate any of the plagues and so were exposed as the frauds they were. At the proper time, all deceit is going to be made plain and all deceivers are going to be exposed for what they really are.

I think by saying this, Paul is telling Timothy not to let himself be troubled and discouraged because false teachers and deceivers are cropping up. He is free and welcome to declare a lie a lie, as we've studied earlier in Paul's letters to him. He has the right to put out of the church anyone who is stirring up trouble and promoting a perverted version of the gospel. But he has no control over what is happening outside the church and he is not to allow himself to be caught up in worrying about it. That's God's business, and God is more than able to take care of this business in the right time and in the right way. Timothy's job is to concern himself with carrying out the great commission of sharing the gospel and with ministering to believers. In doing so, he will be able to leave things outside the church in God's hands---where they belong.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 19, How To Win Those Who Have Been Taken Captive By Evil

In today's passage Paul issues warnings about quarreling with those who disagree with the gospel message. He will say of those who are erring in the truth that they have been taken captive by Satan and are doing his will, but even so Timothy is to behave toward them in a Christlike manner in the hope that they will repent.

It's annoying when someone who knows little to nothing about the Scriptures tries to debate us about the Scriptures, isn't it? Paul finds it annoying too, so he understands the temptation Timothy might face to become rude and angry in those situations. But quarreling won't accomplish anything worthwhile. It has the potential to harm our reputations, plus it alienates the very people who need to come to the Lord. Paul tells Timothy (and us) how to deal with those who oppose the truth.

"Keep reminding God's people about these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and, 'Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.'" (2 Timothy 2:14-19) Paul has previously told Timothy to point out false teaching for what it is, but that's different than getting caught up in endless arguments with those who are promoting false teaching. Timothy can't convince anyone of the truth who doesn't want to be convinced of the truth, and it's a waste of time and energy to engage in quarrels over doctrine. Timothy has the right to tell the church, "The teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus are incorrect and ungodly. We are not going to allow them to come into our assemblies and spread their lies." But when he runs into these men on the street and they start trying to convince him of their point of view, he also has the right to simply walk away. In fact, that's the best way to handle it. It won't bring honor to the Lord or to the Lord's church if people in the city see Timothy arguing on the street corner.

Sad as it is, in every age there have been those who wanted nothing to do with the truth. Since the beginning, there have been people out of every generation who reject the one true God. There have, thankfully, also been people who love and want to live for the one true God. Paul likens the human race to household containers, some of which are used for honorable purposes and some which are used to dispose of unclean materials. "In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use." (2 Timothy 2:20) Households have containers that are used for "clean" purposes. Containers like this are things such as cooking pots and plates and cups. Households must also have containers that are used for "unclean" purposes, which until modern times would have included containers such as chamber pots and slop jars. In this metaphor, those who love the Lord and live according to His will are like the "clean" containers that are fit for honorable use. Those who reject the Lord and prefer to live in sin are like the "unclean" containers that no one would ever dream of eating from. Would we wash up a chamber pot and serve soup from it? Of course not! Would we take a slop jar and make a floral centerpiece out of it for our dining room tables? That would turn our dinner guests off their food for sure. In the same way, a person who is unclean can't be used by the Lord until he or she repents, which brings us to Paul's next point below.

"Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work." (2 Timothy 2:21) This strikes me as one of the most beautiful metaphors for redemption in the word of God. When we lived in sin and apart from fellowship with God, we were nasty old chamber pots and slop jars. We were dirty and unfit for honorable use. But now that we are the redeemed of the Lord, we are like the finest china in the house or like an ornate gold water goblet. We have been transformed and are now useful to the Master.

Timothy is not to quarrel with those who are still "unclean" vessels, but instead he is to maintain a character that is irreproachable. His godly behavior will have far more effect on the ungodly than arguments will. He must keep in mind that those who are opposed to the Lord are serving Satan, though they may not realize it. These opponents are not the real enemy; the real enemy is the devil who has taken them captive to do his will. In order to release these people from captivity, Timothy must interact with them in a Christlike way so they will be attracted to Christ and not instead turned off by the way a Christian behaves toward them. "Flee 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. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, 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." (2 Timothy 2:22-26)

Monday, March 25, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 18, Work Hard For The Lord

Paul will use some examples of what to do and what not to do, then he will continue to encourage Timothy in the hard work of ministry.

"You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes." (2 Timothy 1:15) We don't know anything about these two men except that Paul trusted them to stand by him and they didn't. They deserted him in his time of need while he was a prisoner in Rome. By mentioning these two men, he's saying, "Don't be like them! Stand firm in the faith. Stand by your brothers and sisters in Christ."

Now he mentions a man who is a good example of Christian friendship. "May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well how many ways he helped me in Ephesus." (2 Timothy 1:16-18) This man was a friend to Paul at Ephesus and also a friend to Paul at Rome. Instead of avoiding Paul, as Phygelus and Hermogenes did, he sought Paul out in order to supply his needs while he was a prisoner. As we have discussed before while studying Paul's other letters written from prison, in those days the government didn't supply very much for prisoners. Prisoners were barely supplied with enough to remain alive until trial, so the friends and family members of prisoners performed a valuable service by bringing extra food, clothing, blankets, reading materials, and other items that made life in jail more bearable. It appears that some of Paul's friends stopped associating with him for fear that the Roman government would turn a suspicious eye on them too, but Onesiphorus was willing to take the risk because it was the right thing to do.

What "day" is Paul talking about when he asks the Lord to grant mercy to Onesiphorus? Some scholars think Onesiphorus might now also be a prisoner awaiting trial. If so, then Paul is referring to the day when his friend will stand in Nero's court. This would explain why he also asks the Lord to be merciful to the household of Onesiphorus, as this would be a prayer for the Lord to keep this man's wife and children safe. Other scholars think Paul is speaking of the "Day Of The Lord", the day of judgment, the day when Onesiphorus will stand in God's court and be rewarded for his work on behalf of the Lord's people. I tend to agree with the latter theory, for earlier in Chapter 1 Paul spoke of the things he has entrusted to the Lord until "that day", and his statement in verse 12 is generally accepted by most scholars as meaning the day when he sees the Lord face to face.

As Onesiphorus has been strong in the Lord, so also must Timothy be. In addition, when choosing people to perform offices in the church, he must choose people who are strong in the Lord. "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." (2 Timothy 1-2)

The work will be hard. Paul is suffering for the faith and Timothy will likely suffer also, perhaps not in the same ways, but as Paul will later say in this letter, "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12) It's going to cost all of us something to follow Christ, so Paul urges Timothy to be brave enough to take the risk. "Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor's crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all of this." (2 Timothy 2:3-7) Timothy is to keep in mind at all times that, first and foremost, he is a minister of the gospel. His first loyalty is to the Lord. In order to serve the Lord and the Lord's church, everything in his life must revolve around what he has been called to do.

"Remember Christ Jesus, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory." (2 Timothy 2:8-10) He says, "Be willing to risk your freedom and your life for the gospel, as I am doing, for you see that even though I am in chains the gospel continues to spread and prosper. The gospel can't be chained, and you must do your part to make certain as many people as possible come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior."

"Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself." (2 Timothy 2:11-13) Paul says, "We must die to self, taking up our crosses and following Him. We must live by His example and endure whatever comes for preaching the truth. If we are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us. But if we deny that Jesus is the Christ, it changes nothing; He is still who He is." Because Christ is who He is, we have to be who He is calling us to be. It won't always be easy, but when we stand in His presence someday it will have been worth everything it cost us to proclaim His name.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 17, Qualifying The Called

It is believed Paul wrote this second letter while in prison in Rome, not long before his death. He makes several mentions of his "suffering" in this letter, and instead of allowing his circumstances to make him feel sorry for himself or allowing others to feel sorry for him, he uses his circumstances to encourage others. If Paul can stand firm in the faith no matter what comes his way without giving in to despair, he wants his friends to know that they can do the same.

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." (2 Timothy 1:1-5) Paul says, "My conscience bears witness that I am telling you the truth: you are in my prayers night and day. I am thankful for your faith and I pray that your faith grows stronger as you follow the examples of your grandmother, your mother, and me---your spiritual father." We recall that Timothy's biological father was not a believer and could not set an example for him in the faith. But God has a way of placing people in our lives to fulfill much-needed roles, and Paul fulfilled the role of father to Timothy in a way Timothy's own father could not.

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands." (2 Timothy 1:6) Paul may be referring to the day when Timothy was ordained a minister of the gospel. He has spoken before of the prophecy about Timothy that was given to the elders of the church, so it appears as if the Lord told these men He had chosen Timothy to do great things. When Timothy accepted his calling, it's likely that the elders of the church placed their hands on him and prayed over him and blessed his ministry. Paul knows the pressures that come against Timothy every day as he ministers to the church, so he's worried about burnout. He knows there are days when Timothy doesn't get a minute of peace, and days when he's operating on too-little sleep, and days when he doesn't have enough free time to sit down and eat a balanced meal. On top of all this, there is the constant opposition from the world to deal with. It's one thing to be weary in body, but it's a far worse thing to be weary in spirit, and that's what Paul is concerned about most. It's something King David was worried about too, so he asked the Lord to "grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me". (Psalm 51:12) We can endure anything as long as the spirit is willing, but men like Paul and Timothy and David knew that we can't manufacture this willingness on our own. We need God's help. This is why they prayed for Him to grant the willingness of spirit that they needed.

The Christians of the first century AD were surrounded by pagan cultures and the sinful practices that were associated with false religions. Temptation was all around them. Not only that, but having to face persecution for the faith was a very real and daily threat. Paul doesn't want these things to wear Timothy down or to make him reluctant to speak out for the Lord, so he says these encouraging words: "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God." (2 Timothy 1:7-8) Paul knows he could not endure his troubles unless the Lord had empowered him to do so. Timothy doesn't have to stand up to all the pressures of his life in his own strength; the power of the Lord is available to him.

The Lord has done great things for us, and the Lord will do great things through us. He has chosen to do these things not because we deserve them, but because it pleases Him to call us, save us, and equip us to do great things in His name. As the saying goes, "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called." Knowing this, Paul says, "He has saved us and called us to a holy life---not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day." (2 Timothy 1:9-12) Paul has entrusted everything to the Lord, and as a result he is confident that the Lord will accomplish everything in his life that He intends to accomplish. Paul assured the believers of Philippi that God would accomplish everything in their lives that He intends to accomplish, saying, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) God doesn't do anything halfway. He doesn't start projects and then quit. The only way we can miss God's plan for our lives is if we aren't committing our lives to Him and if we aren't depending on Him to grant us a willing spirit to do what He's called us to do.

Paul, like any good father, has brought up his spiritual son with a solid background of sound doctrine. In times of distress, or when Timothy is weary, or when the pressures of this life seem overwhelming, his mind will naturally fall back on the things Paul has taught him. "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 1:13) We can't count on always having time to think things through. Life is fast-paced. Emergencies crop up. Unexpected events come our way. We are faced with decisions and opportunities. If we haven't trained our minds by filling them with the truth of God's word, we may find ourselves floundering for answers or for direction. But if we've set our minds in the correct patterns by studying and memorizing God's word, we will automatically fall back on the things we know to be true about God and about godly living.

"Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you---guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Timothy 1:14) God isn't asking or expecting us to stand strong on our own. He isn't telling us to do anything that He isn't going to equip us to do. You can be certain that if God calls you to do something, He will enable you to do it. Through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, God will fill us with enough power, love and self-discipline to accomplish far more than we could ever accomplish in our own strength. When He calls us, He qualifies us.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Paul's Son In The Faith: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Timothy. Day 16, Fight the Good Fight

Paul concludes his first letter to Timothy today. In it we find some of the most encouraging words for Christian living and some of the most beautiful words about the Lord in the entire letter.

In yesterday's passage Paul spoke of those who have allowed greed to get in the way of their faith. They have pursued the wrong things and have "pierced themselves with many griefs". This is where Paul picks up by saying, "But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." (1 Timothy 6:11) He says "But you, Timothy, are not like those who 'fall into temptation and a trap'. You are a man of God. You've been conducting your life as a man of God and you must keep on conducting your life as a man of God." Some of the things Paul tells Timothy to pursue are also mentioned in his list of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, which are "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." If Timothy stays close to the Lord as a man of God should, he will have these fruits in his life.

"Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:12) Sometimes, in this difficult and scary world, we live as though we are not the children of God and as if we don't have a great inheritance waiting for us. (Romans 8:17) We live as though we are not "more than conquerors through Him who loved us". (Romans 8:37) We live as though we have not been called, justified, and glorified by the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:30) When Paul tells Timothy to "take hold of eternal life", he isn't saying there's anything Timothy must do to add to his salvation. Timothy has already repented of his past life and has already confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, so eternal life is already his. Paul is telling him to live in and enjoy and make use of all that is his in Christ Jesus. It's possible to be saved but still live in a defeated attitude. This is not what the Lord wants for us, but it's possible to be a child of God and yet live as though all the grace and mercy and blessings of a child of God are not ours. To use an illustrative example, suppose we were poor beggars lying in the gutter and one day a great king came by and pulled us out of the gutter, adopted us as his children, and made available to us everything to which a child of a king is entitled. And suppose that, instead of enjoying and making use of all these blessings, we continued to wear the same old filthy clothes we wore in the gutter and we continued to think of ourselves as a bunch of disgusting failures with no hope. How sad that would be! And yet that's exactly what we're doing when we confess Christ as Lord and yet don't accept our new position as children of the King. That's what we're doing when we don't allow the King to bless us in the ways He wants to bless us.

"In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate gave a good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time---God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and might forever. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:13-16) Paul encourages Timothy, "Keep on keeping on! Keep on until Christ comes or until you are called to be with Him. Don't lose heart. Don't lose hope. Christ endured to the end and He will equip you to do the same."

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (1 Timothy 6:17) There is nothing we possess that we can't lose---except our relationship with the Lord. Money can be here today and gone tomorrow. I've never been wealthy, but I've been financially comfortable at times, and I've been through times where I was barely scraping by. My husband was recently out of work for seven months but, thanks be to God, he was blessed with a new job last week. I finally feel like we have some breathing room again, but the glory goes to the God who promises He will supply all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19) We can't place our trust in anything or in anyone but in the One who created and sustains all things. This is why Paul tells Timothy to instruct the wealthy, "Don't let them think they don't need God simply because they have everything this world can offer. They can lose it all in an instant. But the eternal God, who calls them to step out of darkness into light, will never leave or forsake them. He is to be their hope and their confidence." Keeping this in mind, Timothy is to deal with the wealthy church members like this: "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." (1 Timothy 6:18-19)

The world tempts the wealthy by saying, "Live it up! You have the means to enjoy anything your heart desires." But how many wealthy and famous people have been so miserable that they've ruined their health with substance abuse? How many have even taken their own lives? Wealth is not a guarantee of happiness, which King Solomon attested to when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon said he denied himself nothing, yet he was miserable. He was empty inside even though his bank account was full. It's not a sin to inherit wealth or to be successful at our work, but it is a sin to miss what life is really all about---forming a relationship with our Creator. As the Lord Jesus put it, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Mark 8:36) We have to live our lives on earth with eternity in mind, and that includes using our money in ways that serve the Lord.

"Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith. Grace be with you all." (1 Timothy 6:20-21) The culture Timothy lived in prided itself on being intellectual. It considered the gospel foolishness. In our own times we find the attitude of some being that those of us who serve the Lord are ignorant and uneducated, that we are living in a "dark age" of the mind, and that we are too weak to face death without the idea of a God who can grant us eternal life. We are living in a time when so many think that science has disproven the idea of a Creator, but the more I learn about the universe and about biology the more I feel these things prove the existence of a Creator. Paul felt the same way, so he said in his letter to the Christians of Rome, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities---His eternal power and divine nature---have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20) He said, "Just because God cannot be seen is no excuse for people not to believe in Him. The very creation testifies to the existence of a Creator. No one will stand before Him and present a valid reason for not having believed in Him."

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.