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Monday, December 31, 2012

Unholy Prayer

Unholy Prayer

What has gone before...

Paul asserts his appointment by God, emphasizing that God did the placing, realizing that his life would be lain down for sacrificial service. He affirmed his honesty and sincerity, knowing that his reputation for violence and rigid religion still dogged his steps. Although still very much Jewish in pracice, Paul felt himself more and more drawn to ministry to the Gentiles, knowing that God had chosen for His own, people from every race, every ethnicity, every language.

Moving on...

Paul now returns to the theme with which he began this chapter:

"I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling." 1 Timothy 2:8 (ESV)

What led Paul to emphasize prayer without anger or quarreling?

Paul's initial motivation for prayer was that "we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:2)

Immediately following this exhortation Paul reminded the church that there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Jesus Christ. Christ gave His life to redeem all people, all who sought His redemption, both Jew and Gentile.

The context implies that the church in Ephesus had seen angry, quarrelsome conflict between Jew and Gentile. The fact that Timothy himself was of Greek ethnicity supports the need for Paul's concern.

Jew and Gentile had frequently clashed, long before the rise of Christianity. Babylonian, Mede-Persian and Roman empires, each in turn, had crushed Jewish independence, wrenching control away from the leaders of tiny Israel, quashing liberties and scorning their religion. Christianity was the latest in a long run of invaders.

The Jewish rulers feared the loss of their existence as a sovereign nation. Faced with rising popularity of Jesus, the Jewish Council desperately tried to agree to a plan to lessen the likelihood that Rome would react to the cult by taking away all religious freedom:

"The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, - What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." John 11:47-48 (ESV)

Even after his conversion, the apostle Peter struggled with feelings of animosity and disgust toward non-Jewish Gentiles. During prayer, Peter experienced a vision:

"He fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: - Rise, Peter; kill and eat. - But Peter said, - By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. - And the voice came to him again a second time, - What God has made clean, do not call common. - ...While Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, - Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them." Acts 10:10-15, 19-20 (ESV)

Peter realized that the vision meant God was commanding him to throw off his disdainful prejudice of Gentiles:

"You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean...Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." Acts 10:28, 34-35 (ESV)

Clashes between Jew and Gentile Christians are recorded:

"Some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, - It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses." Acts 15:5 (ESV)

"You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done?" Acts 21:20-22 (ESV)

Paul often confronted the deeply instilled Jewish hatred and disgust for Gentiles:

"Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also?" Romans 3:29 (ESV)

"He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles. As indeed he says in Hosea, - Those who were not my people I will call - my people, - and her who was not beloved I will call - beloved. - And in the very place where it was said to them, - You are not my people, - there they will be called - sons of the living God." Romans 9:24-26 (ESV)

"But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, - I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry." Romans 10:19 (ESV)

The Jews were angry with the Gentiles, and the anger persisted through conversion into Christianity. The preaching of the apostles drew together Christians from different languages and cultures, some Jews and many Gentiles.

Church became a place of cultural conflict.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What cultural conflicts divide today's Christian church? How does one distinguish between cultural differences and doctrinal heresy? How should the church respond to cultural differences? What cultural prejudices or stereotypes have you found difficult to discard? Is it helpful in any way to stereotype or generalize the characteristics of different groups of people?

Why does Paul focus on men's prayers, rather than those of women? Paul's answer to anger and quarreling in the church was prayer, holy prayer. And he directed his admonition to men.

PRAY: proseuchomai (to pray to God, to supplicate or worship); from pros (forward to, toward) and euchomai (to wish)

This word is the verb form of the word previously used in verse one, "prayers", translated from proseuche (worshipful prayer, an oratory in chapel). It implies regular, practiced prayer, not necessarily motivated by an immediate need, but part of a daily commitment for worship for, and dependendence upon, God.

There is only one biblical reason for Paul directing his exhortation to pray without anger to men, rather than to women: the leaders of the church were allowing anger and quarreling to divide the Christians.

HOLY: hosios (right, by intrinsic or divine character)

"Lifing holy hands" means praying with the right character, the right quality. "Holy" in this verse is not the same word used elsewhere, meaning equitable or innocent regarding human statues or relations (dikaios). Neither does it mean ceremonially sacred or consecration (hieros). It does not mean full of awe, pure or blameless (hagios). "Holy" here means right, conforming to justice, acting appropriately or proper.

The physical act of lifting one's hands is an expression of the inner motivation or object of praying. The lifted hands should reflect an inner desire for God to bring about something right, something conforming to justice, something appropriate and proper.

ANGER: orge (desire, as reaching forth, exitement of the mind, violent passion, ire or abhorrence; punishment); from orego (to stretch oneself, to reach out after, to long for)

This word for anger does not necessarily imply sin. The same word is used to describe God's righteous wrath for sinful humanity (Matthew 3:7). Jesus looked with the same anger at the religious leaders who forbade healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5).

For God, and His Son Jesus Christ, the anger of "orge" is righteous and proper. For humans, however, expressing this anger is dishonoring and sinful.

"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." Ephesians 4:30-31 (ESV)

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, - Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Romans 12:19 (ESV)

"The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." James 1:20 (ESV)

As leaders, men are given a great responsibility. The word for "pray" is a general term that includes all expressions of worship, thanksgiving and dependence towards God. Men especially will tend to corrupt their religion with desires for vengeance, feelings of bitterness or jealousy, fears and insecurities. Their inner desire and motive for prayer becomes crooked or hypocritical. Paul's exhortation does not imply that only men should pray, but that men should be aware that their prayer can easily be adulterated with injustice and anger.

The leaders of the church in Ephesus were not praying in worship and adoration. They were using religious behavior to stretch themselves out, intensely longing for the respect, power and awe that rightly belongs to God alone. Their desires were wrong, perversely inappropriate to that which God Himself desires. Their hearts were filled with injustice and perversion of things right and good.

The were praying AT, rather than FOR, those in the church.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What is the cure? What should a church leader do when made aware of their own desire for vengeance or superiority? What situations have you experienced that involved a church leader taking upon himself wrath that rightfully belongs to God alone?

QUARRELING: dialogismos (discussion, consideration, purpose or debate); from dialogizomai (to reckon thoroughly, to deliberate); from dia (through, as in the channel of an act) and logizomai (to take an inventory, to estimate); from logos (something said, including the though; topic, reasoning, motive, computation)

Looking only at the dictionary, the word translated as "quarreling" seems quite positive, describing something admirable and necessary.

However, the word occurs only 14 times in the Bible, and in every instance it is in a negative context. Several times it is paired with a word that describes evil or hurtful (Matthew 15:19 and others). The word describes the thoughts of the religious leaders in Jerusalem who watched Jesus to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, hoping to find a reason to accuse him of blasphemy and sin (Luke 6:8).

The disciples expressed "dialogismos" when they were arguing amongst themselves as to which of them was the greatest (Luke 9:46). Later, they again "quarreled" when Jesus suddenly stood among them, risen from the dead:

"They were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, - Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?" Luke 24:37-38 (ESV)

"Doubts" is the same Greek word earlier translated as "quarreling".

Finally, James rebukes Christians who show favoritism, paying attention to those richly dressed and scorning those in shabby clothing:

"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, - You sit here in a good place, - while you say to the poor man, - You stand over there, - or, - Sit down at my feet, - have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" James 2:1-4 (ESV)

"Thoughts" is, again, the same Greek word as that of "quarreling".

"Dialogismos", translated as quarreling, doubts or thoughts, means to express lack of faith or lack of love, disguised in words of prayer, debate, argumentation or malice.

It was malice that motivated the Pharisees to consider Jesus healing others on the Sabbath. It was selfish superiority that moved the disciples to argue about their own excellence. It was fearful faithlessness that caused them to doubt the reality of the risen Lord Jesus.

It was evil wickedness that spurred the snobs to spurn the man dressed in shabby clothing.

It was a desire for self-glorification that moved the men in Ephesus to pray AT their flock.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How have you experienced clever argument or debate that disguised a desire to hurt or offend someone? When have you listened to a prayer that was more a rebuke or lecture to others than a worshipful appeal to God? When have you seen the leaders of a church use public prayer as a platform for control and self-glorification? What can sinful humans do to avoid falling into the trap of using religion as a means to power and wealth?

Stare by Robert D. Brooks / Michelle Jones, Creative Commons License

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christ Is All, And In All

Christ Is All, And In All

What has gone before...

Jesus Christ is appointed by God to be the mediator between God and Humanity, God's representative, sent by God to bring reconciliation with sinful, ruined creatures. At just the right time He gave Himself as a ransom for all, taking upon Himself God's wrath that we rightfully deserved for our sin.

Moving on...

Paul asserts his appointment by God:

"For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth." 1 Timothy 2:7 (ESV)

"This" refers to "the testimony given at the proper time". Some might see Paul as being defensive, desiring to emphasize his right to advise Timothy. His self-endorsement is an echo of earlier, similar statements:

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus...I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service." 1 Timothy 1:1, 12 (ESV)

APPOINTED: tithemi (to place, in a passive or horizontal posture)

There are at least two other words in Greek from which to choose for "appoint". Besides "tithemi" there are two others words meaning, "to place":

Histemi (to stand, in an upright and active position)

Keimai (to lie, reflexive and utterly prostrate)

If Paul were to have used "histemi", he would be implying that God had placed Paul to be looked up to, as a formidable, unmovable leader.

If Paul were to have used "keimai", he would be implying that Paul himself had lain down, voluntarily offering himself to God.

In using "tithemi", Paul implies that God did the placing, that God had set Paul in place, much like a mason would set a brick in place, as a foundation or step.

At first glance, Paul's repeated mention of his credentials may appear to be self-serving, as if he feels his authority is not fully appreciated. More likely, Paul feels the weight upon which Jesus has placed upon him, the burden of caring for those for whom Jesus had died.

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep...I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep... For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." John 10:11, 14-15, 17-18 (ESV)

"Lays down" is the translation of the same word used earlier, translated as "appointed".

God appointed Jesus to "be placed" as a protective brick or foundation for all those chosen by God to be His sheep. In the same way, Paul realized his appointing to be much the same.

Paul regarded his ministry as one of sacrificial serving, bringing salvation to the ends of the earth, no matter the cost:

"The Lord has commanded us, saying, - I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth." Acts 13:47 (ESV)

"Made" is from the same Greek word: "tithemi", to place, in a passive, horizontal posture.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? When have you experienced harm or were in a threatening situation because of your desire to lead others to Christ? In what places or circumstances could you imagine yourself to be placed, especially near where you live right now, in which there is potential for physical harm were you to attempt to witness or preach? How would you recognize God's calling to go there?

Why would Paul feel it necessary to affirm his honesty?

"I am telling the truth, I am not lying." 1 Timothy 2:7 (ESV)

TRUTH: aletheia (truth); from alethes (true, as not concealing); from a (not) and lanthano (to lie hid, unwittingly)

LYING: pseudomai (to utter an untruth, to attempt to deceive by falsehood);

A thing may be hidden innocently. Precious metals and gems are in the earth, below ground, hidden from view. We experience truth when something precious or important comes into view.

A thing may be hidden purposefully. Valuables may be locked in boxes and carefully hidden. People may crouch in shadows or disguise themselves. To conceal a thing is not necessarily a falsehood, but neither is it truth.

Lying is an attempt to deceive, to make others believe they are experiencing truth, when in fact something remains hidden.

Paul is attempting to reveal something that once was hidden: God appointed Paul to be a preacher, an apostle and teacher. Paul's conversion had at first been entirely discounted. A Christian in Damascus, Ananias, was the first to experience the truth about Paul, then called Saul, but Ananias considered it a deception, despite a vision from God confirming the truth.

"The Lord said to him in a vision, - Ananias. - And he said, - Here I am, Lord.” - And the Lord said to him, - Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight. - But Ananias answered, - Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all." Acts 9:10-14 (ESV)

Paul's reputation for violence followed him.

"All who heard him were amazed and said, - Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?" Acts 9:21 (ESV)

"When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple." Acts 9:26 (ESV)

In the end, only one man accepted the truth of Paul's claim to be a Christian. Barnabus was well-respected as a Christian leader, and he considered as genuine the discovery that Paul belonged to Christ.

"Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people." Acts 11:25-26 (ESV)

Paul carried the stigma of his past his entire life. He often acknowledged himself to have less esteem among the churches than that of other apostles.

"I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God...I who am humble (depressed, humiliated) when face to face with you...for they say, - His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account. - You have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it...formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent." 1 Corinthians 15:9; 2 Corinthians 10:1,10; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:13 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What about your past still dogs your steps? In what ways do your past mistakes and sins hinder you now? Have you ever felt inferior to others, irreparably guilty or dirty? In what ways has your past strengthened you, or made you better? Can you point to your past and say, "God turns all things to good!"

When Paul described his calling, his appointment by God, he specifically called himself "a teacher of the Gentiles." (1 Timothy 2:7)

Why did Paul focus on the Gentiles as if they were the only ones he would be teaching? Many references describe Paul's calling to the Jews as well as the Gentiles.

Paul's conversion experience led him to a Christian prophet, Ananias, who told Paul what God had for him:

"He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." Acts 9:15-16 (ESV)

Paul's own recollection of the words of Ananias, was even more inclusive:

"The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard." Acts 22:14-15 (ESV)

God chose Paul to teach both Gentiles and Jews, as well as kings. More than this, Paul was to be a teacher to "everyone".

Yet Paul found himself drawn more and more to a ministry among Gentiles. To the Christians in Galatia he wrote:

"He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles." Galatians 1:15-16 (ESV)

Paul still held high esteem for Jews. He appealed to his fellow Pharisees when the Jewish Council accused him of heresy (Acts 23:6). He considered himself to still be faithful to the strict lifestyle demands of the Pharisees (Acts 26:5).

Paul loved his fellow Jews, but he felt a tremendous sense of grief when he considered their typical response to Jesus:

"I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart...Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works...Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 9:2, 31-32; 10:1-4 (ESV)

Despite the Jewish determination to obey the Law, their greatest desires remained selfish and dishonoring to God. The prophet Isaiah wrote of God's assessment of both Gentile and Jew:

"I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me. -But of Israel he says, - All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people." Romans 10:20-21 (ESV)

To the question of why Paul focused on the Gentiles, rather than his own people, the Jews, the best answer may be found in Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ." Ephesians 1:3-5 (ESV)

Rather than Jew or Greek or Roman or Barbarian, Paul came to regard Christians as those who were "adopted as sons through Jesus Christ". No longer did he regard Jews as more closely related to God than other people. No longer did he think in terms of culture or religion or skin color or language. For Paul, the greatest joy and hope was to be adopted by God as His child.

GENTILES: ethnos (a race, as ones with the same habit; a tribe, specially a foreign, non-Jewish group of people, often pagan); from etho (to be used, by habit or convention; usage)

"Gentile" does not imply a religion, as does "Jew". "Gentile" means any behavior, practice, language or other characteristic which people may share. Paul's focus on ministering to Gentiles does not mean he ignored Jews, but that he sought to minister to any group of people, no matter how "group" may be defined.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How many different "groups" might you be a part of? In what way might you actually be in the same "group" as that of someone who speaks a different language or has a different skin color than you? Have you ever caught yourself focusing on a certain group of people, to the exclusion of other groups? Is it spiritually healthy, or harmful, to pay attention to one group of people to the exclustion of others?

"There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For - everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:12-13 (ESV)

"Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all." Colossians 3:11 (ESV)

Midvale Company Bricklayerworking on oil heating furnace in machine shop, May 31, 1949 by Kheel Center, Creative Commons License

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Price Of Sin

The Price Of Sin

What has gone before...

Sin makes shipwreck of our lives on earth, destroying joy and peace, ruining relationships and stealing wealth and property. But sin also reaches beyond our natural life, condemning us to a spiritual death, eternity apart from God and His goodness.

Sin - disobedience and dishonor, adoration for creatures and things rather than the Creator - ruins our heart for God. We become His enemy.

Our only hope is being saved: delivered and protected by God from the effects of our sin.

God desires that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, but the word "all" has a condition: all who are called by God, all who have their spiritual eyes opened by God, all who desire to be saved.

"All" means all people who seek Jesus Christ as their Deliverer.

Moving on...

"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (ESV)

One of the most important words in this verse is "mediator".

MEDIATOR: mesites (a go-between, an internunciator - an envoy or diplomatic representative - or a reconciler; an intercessor); from mesos (middle); from meta (accompaniment, "amid", association or succession)

Christ Jesus, a man, was the go-between for God and people. He was God's representative, sent by God to bring reconciliation with sinful, ruined creatures. Christ was able to live "amid" heaven and earth...the perfect divine diplomat.

Christ was not the first mediator between God and men.

"Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary." Galatians 3:19 (ESV)

"Intermediary" is the same Greek word as "mediator".

God promised salvation to Abraham, but because of sin, God delivered the Law through an intermediary, Moses, 430 years after the Abrahamic promise. Moses was God's mediator on behalf of Law. Christ was God's mediator on behalf of Grace.

Typically, a mediator is required in time of war, when the leaders of one country desire to come to terms of peace with a group of leaders from another country. Conflict is emotional. The more people involved in the discussion, the higher the potential for misunderstanding, confusion and anger. Mediation typically allows the intentions of a group to be communicated clearly and calmly by a single voice.

Mediation implies conflict resolution between groups.

Paul recognized this implication.

"Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one." Galatians 3:20 (ESV)

God is one Being, yet requires a mediator to effect reconciliation with people. Why cannot God negotiate directly with His Creation? God requires a mediator because humanity forms a group that needs a single representative, someone from "amid" their own level, someone intimately acquainted with human desires, attitudes and behavior. God requires a mediator which with which humanity can fully identify with.

Moses and Jesus were both mediators between God and people, because humans need a single representative, a single voice to support the desires and needs of humanity before God.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? In your worship and prayer, how do you most often regard Jesus Christ: as divine or as human? Does He seem to be a true representative of you and your needs? Is the doctrine of Christ's humanity essential to your understanding of salvation and Christianity?

Moses and Jesus both were divine mediators, but Jesus was the better.

"For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God...The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, - You are a priest forever. - This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them...For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens...For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever." Hebrews 7:18-19, 21-26, 28 (ESV)

The Law served to convict and convince people of their sin, but it did nothing toward enabling people to stop sinning. Reconciliation with God became possible only when a representative of humanity took upon himself the just wrath of God for our sin, yet at the same time won for us honor because of his perfect righteousness.

"He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant." Hebrews 9:15 (ESV)

RANSOM: antilytron (a redemption-price); from anti (opposite, intead or because of) and lytron (something to loosen with, atonement); from lyo (to "loosen"

All crime, all sin, involves the theft of something valuable. Many crimes can be resolved, reconciliation may often be won, by simply returning the thing stolen, or by trading something of equal or higher value.

But what price can be determined for life? What price for honor, for purity, for innocence, for security, for joy? If I have stolen someone's dignity, or if I have destroyed someone's health or taken their life, what price will satisfy that debt?

Each one of us has stolen something of value from another person, many times. And each one of us has stolen from God. We've refused Him honor and obedience. We've scorned His reputation and doubted His goodness. As a group of sinners, what price can the crimes of humanity demand for ransom?

Christ gave Himself as the price for our sin.

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." Galatians 3:13 (ESV)

CURSE: katara (imprecation, execration); from kata (down) and ara (prayer, as lifted to Heaven; an imprecation); from airo (to lift, to take up or away, to raise, keep in suspense, sail away or weigh anchor)

Prayer can be positive or negative. One can pray FOR someone, or one can pray AT someone. To "imprecate" literally means to "pray at" someone, to beg that God send something evil or harmful upon another person. To "execrate" means literally "out-sacred", to declare someone to be the complete opposite of sacred, completely dirty and disgusting.

What price did God set upon humanity's crime and sin? Evil and harm, disgust and disregard. Our sin, to God, was the equivalent of throwing dung and vomit into His face. Our ransom, then, was to be of the same sort: beaten, stripped and displayed on a cross for public mockery and torture.

That was the curse which Jesus accepted on our behalf.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What human sins could qualify as a completely dirty and disgusting offense to God? Do you feel that you have an accurate perception of how God regards your sins? What benefit is there in examining our sins and estimating their "price"?

Paul adds an intriguing description of the gospel, saying that Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all, "which is the testimony given at the proper time." (1 Timothy 2:6)

This description appears again in Paul's letter to Titus. Paul states that eternal life was promised by God before the ages began and was,

"...at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.” Titus 1:3 (ESV)

Although promised ages ago, and suggested many times in the Old Testament, Christ as Savior and Life-Giver, was not revealed in the flesh until the coming of Jesus and the subsequent preaching by His apostles. This revelation was "at the proper time" in history, as determined by God.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul described God's power of predetermination as "fullness of time", comparing those whom He chooses for salvation as "children":

"The heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." Galatians 4:1-5 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Looking back at your conversion, the time you realized and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, does it now seem to have happened at "just the right time" in your life? What was going on in your life while you were coming to Christ? How does your conversion experience support the doctrine of God's sovereignty and foreknowledge?

Cash by Blatant World, Creative Commons License

Monday, December 10, 2012

Being Saved

Being Saved

Image of man, suspended by chain, rescuing a person in danger of drowning near the spillway of a dam.

What has gone on before...

Paul has urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus as pastor, warning him to expect opposition from some in the church who use the Law of God unlawfully, swerving away from love, searing their consciences and controlling others. The first priority, according to Paul, was to pray: in supplication, with discipline, as intercession, and with thanksgiving.

"This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV)

"This" refers to a peaceful, quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

"This" is salvation.

Being saved means knowing the truth about ourselves and God. This knowledge brings peace, freedom from conflict and fear. It allows quiet meditation and contemplation without fear of rejection or punishment. Salvation creates the desire to adore goodness. Salvation restores human dignity, worthy of respect and admiration. Salvation defeats death, restoring eternal life with our Creator.

SAVED: sozo (to deliver or protect); from sos ("safe")

People in need of deliverance or protection are people facing a threat, people who are in danger of being harmed, people who have lost their way.

The first chapter of Paul's letter to Timothy described sin that is common to all people, sin that we all express in big or small ways.

Heresy, lack of love, impure hearts, seared consciences, insincere faith, worthlessness, ignorance, lawlessness, disobedience, ungodliness, unholiness, profanity, assault and murder, sexual immorality, homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, blasphemy, persecution and insolent opposition...all of this, and more, condemns humans as sinful creatures.

Sin makes shipwreck of our lives on earth, destroying joy and peace, ruining relationships and stealing wealth and property.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Does all sin necessarily bring trouble and pain? What about "Nice people finish last?" What about "comfortable sin"? What about "unavoidable sin"? Solomon complained bitterly about wealthy, happy sinners who ended their life without regret.

Sin reaches beyond our natural life, condemning us to a spiritual death, eternity apart from God and His goodness.

"You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

"There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil." Romans 2:9 (ESV)

"Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin." Mark 3:29 (ESV)

Sin - disobedience and dishonor, adoring creatures rather than the Creator - ruins our heart for God. We become His enemy.

Yet God loves us still.

"God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5:8-11 (ESV)

"God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:16-17 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can you determine whether your conversion to Christianity was based upon a desire for a happy, trouble-free, sinless life here on earth, or a desire for the joy and perfection of heaven?

Who will be saved?

God desires all people to be saved.

ALL: pas (all, any every, the whole)

Does "all" mean all?

The news of the birth of a king in Bethlehem troubled Herod, "and all Jerusalem with him". (Matthew 2:3)

All, except the wise men who had first brought the news. All, except the infants in Jerusalem who were too young to understand. All, except those born deaf, and those who didn't get out much. All, except the Romans, who didn't care what Jews believed or feared.

"All", (pas) appears to have implied limits or conditions.

There is another word that means "all":

ALL: holos ("whole" or "all", complete)

"Holos" means one thing, one complete, whole thing. That one thing may be made of many different parts, but many of the parts may be hidden, or uncounted. An exact accounting of each part is not required in order to speak of the whole thing.

"He [Jesus] went throughout all ("holos") Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom." Matthew 4:23 (ESV)

It would not be necessary for Jesus to enter every house, and every room in every house, before saying that He had been throughout "all" Galilee. "Holos" allows the definition of "all" to mean "all the main parts" of Galilee, excluding each and every house, hut or closet.

"Pas", on the other hand, emphasizes specific parts that belong to one thing. Often, that one thing is implied or unspoken, and it frequently involves some limit or condition. Matthew 4:23 continues, using "pas" for "every":

"...healing every ("pas") disease and every ("pas") affliction among the people." Matthew 4:23 (ESV)

Perhaps not every disease or affliction was presented to Jesus, yet every disease or affliction that was presented, was healed. It's reasonable to expect some people ignored Jesus, not believing in His power to heal...their disease would not be included in "every". It's reasonable to expect that there would be minor disease or affliction that would be ignored by someone suffering from something major: the blind man with an arthritic knee would be overjoyed by regaining sight, forgetting the pain in his knee.

The unspoken limit or condition in this instance is "every disease and affliction that was brought to Jesus for healing".

This verse uses both forms of "all". The first, "holos" requires us to consider the one thing, "Galilee", without consideration of every specific town or region withing Galilee. The second, "pas", requires us to consider a wide variety of parts, "disease and affliction", with the unspoken condition of "those brought to Jesus for healing".

We have the same situation in English. "I washed the whole car, all of it!" This places the emphasis upon the one thing: the car, the visible, major portion of the car. No one would expect me to have washed the spark plugs, the carburetor, the exhaust pipe. This would be our usage of "holos".

On the other hand, we may say "I washed all the dishes last night!" This places the emphasis upon many parts, but it would not necessarily include the dishes already clean and stacked in the cabinet. It would not include the dishes of my next-door neighbor. There is an implied condition that limits "all" to an understood location or condition. This is our usage of "pas".

"Pas" refers to things that are part of an implied or unspecific whole, with a limit or condition to which parts should be considered.

"Holos" refers to one thing, made up of implied or unspecific parts. The parts are not important, only the whole.

"He can't see the forest for the trees".

"Forest" would be "holos", and "trees" would be "pas".

One more example:

"This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole ("holos") world as a testimony to all ("pas") nations." Matthew 24:14 (ESV)

Matthew first speaks of the world as a thing, made up of unspecified, unaccounted parts. He wants us to picture the world as one huge rock covered with land, water and people, without consideration of each and every river, town, or house.

Then, he draws attention to the parts that make up the world, but there is a condition or limit to the parts. Matthew is speaking only of the parts that are considered "nations", and he is not speaking of each and every person who may make up the nations.

Back to our beginning verse: God "desires all ("pas") people to be saved." (1 Timothy 2:1)

Paul is speaking of the parts that make up an unspecified whole. By using "pas", Paul is implying that there is a limit or condition to "all people".

What is the condition?

The distinction between to words for "all" may be interesting, and it may provide some support for the doctrines of predestination and election. Far more convincing, or perplexing, are portions of Scripture that more clearly describe the limits or conditions of salvation.

"I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." Exodus 33:19 (ESV)

"Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass?" 2 Kings 19:25 (ESV)

"But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does." Job 23:13 (ESV)

"The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble." Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)

"I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps." Psalms 135:5-6 (ESV)

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." John 6:37 (ESV)

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." John 6:44 (ESV)

"You did not choose me, but I chose you." John 15:16 (ESV)

"I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours." John 17:9 (ESV)

God is sovereign.

He is all-powerful. He is perfectly wise and good. His desires cannot be frustrated. All that He desires comes to pass.

God desires that all people be saved, all that he has chosen.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is this a hard saying for you? What is the other side of the argument? Why do you suppose it is that God allows such a paradox, that He created the world, and He loves the world, but He determines some people will never be saved?

River Rescue In Downtown Des Moines by Cliff, Creative Commons License

Monday, December 3, 2012

Politics and Prayer

Politics and Prayer

Paul has warned Timothy to expect opposition from two specific leaders in the church of Ephesus: Hymenaeus and Alexander. Far beyond giving Timothy a simple heads-up, Paul handed the two men "over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:7)

Paul's spiritual battle with these two men was not vindictive, at least not on Paul's part. Paul remembered that he was, not long ago, a worse sinner than even Hymenaeus and Alexander. He called himself a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent of Christ. For his transformation from sinner to saint, Paul credited God alone.

"I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 1:16-17 (ESV)

Closely following Paul's giving over, but not giving up on, his two enemies into Satan's hands, Paul urged all manner of prayer on their behalf, and on behalf of all people who might be shipwrecked, stranded, and forsaken:

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV)

This seems a mild endorsement prayer. Paul's urging is actually controversial and radical.

The "kings and all who are in high positions" were Romans, ruled by "an ineffectual, neglectful and brutal leader", Nero.

Nero poisoned his politically ambitious cousin. He executed his mother and his first wife. As the Roman empire crumbled, he purged the senate, executing many opposing leaders, kicked his second wife to death, finally fleeing Rome when the military rose against him. He committed suicide and Rome disintegrated in civil war.

(Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/nero.shtml)

Paul did not denounce Nero, or rage against his atrocities. He did not pray for a specific political party. He endorsed no specific leader or style of government.

Paul saw only one purpose for political government, and it was for this one purpose that he prayed: a peaceful life that rests in the truth of God our Savior.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What do you see in the politics of our country that is opposed to the prayer of Paul? Is our political system striving for the same peaceful, godly life that Paul described? How can Christians balance political activism with spiritual godliness? Is a quiet, peaceful life necessary? Is it even desirable? What does does "a peaceful and quiet life" mean for those who enjoy adventure and stimulating recreation?

PEACEFUL: eremos (pronounced ay-rem-os, meaning tranquil, stillness); perhaps from eremos (pronounced er'-ay-mos, meaning lonesome, as in a wilderness)

"Peaceful" occurs only this one time in the Bible. The Greek word sounds similar to another word that means lonesome, often translated as "wilderness". The context makes the emphasis not upon being alone, but being free from conflict and fear. "Peaceful" here means a life that is lived among people, but in such a way that one can walk anywhere, say anything, consider anything, without fear, conflict or oppression.

QUIET: hesychios (keeping one's seat; sedentary, still, undisturbed and undisturbing); from hezomai (to sit) and scheo (to hold)

"Quiet" occurs one other time in the Bible:

"Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit." 1 Peter 3:4 (ESV)

While "peaceful" evokes an image of someone enjoying a walk through beautiful wilderness, "quiet" implies someone sitting, resting in confidence and security.

A "peaceful and quiet life" is one that allows meditation and contemplation, being honest without fear of rejection or punishment, enjoying health, beauty, insight and wisdom.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How do the policies and actions of "kings and all that are in authority" affect people's freedom to meditate, contemplate, speak, question, create, invent, consider or worship? In what ways are our lives right now complicated and conflicted because of our government, whether local or national? For what should we be praying concerning our leaders?

Paul described this "peaceful and quiet life" as one which was godly:

GODLY: eusebeia (piety, especially concerning the gospel); from eusebes (well-reverent, pious); from eu (well) and sebo (to revere or adore); from eu (good or well)

Literally, "godly" could be defined as "worshiping goodness". Piety is closely related to pity, sympathy for the sufferings of others. The oldest use of "pious" meant to be dutiful or loyal to parents and family.

Paul later described "godly" as a mystery:

"Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory." 1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)

Taken together, "godly" means to adore goodness, and the highest example of goodness is that which is the essence of God, exemplified by Jesus Christ. For Paul, Jesus is the personification of perfect goodness, and worship of Jesus is perfect godliness, perfect piety, perfect sympathy for the sufferings of others.

Paul later warned Timothy to beware of fake Christians, people who put forth the form of godliness, but fail to allow Christ to actually work through them for the good of others:

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How is it possible that people could put forth the appearance of godliness, yet be disobedient, ungrateful, brutal and treacherous? How could such wickedness be disguised? Have you ever discovered yourself to be appearing godly yet knowing yourself to be the opposite?

Finally, Paul described a "peaceful and quiet life" as dignified in every way.

DIGNIFIED: semnotes (venerableness, probity); from semnos (vernerable, honorable); from sebo (to revere or adore)

"Venerable" means to be worthy of respect and admiration. "Probity" means proven to have virtue and integrity.

"Dignified" occurs two other times in the Bible:

"He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive." 1 Timothy 3:4 (ESV)

"Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us." Titus 2:7-8 (ESV)

"Dignified" is the reflected image of "godly". One who is godly is one who allows Christ to rule over his life, one who adores goodness and seeks to act with goodness toward others. One who is truly godly becomes one who is dignified in the eyes of others, one who has proven themself to be a model of good works, one worthy of all respect and admiration.

Paul says that godliness and dignity depend upon a peaceful and quiet life, which depends upon the policies and actions of kings and all who are in high positions.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do you agree with Paul? Can we hope to become godly and dignified only if our government allows us to be so? What is the connection between godliness and dignity, and our government?

Paul urges four different types of prayers. The first arises from urgent need.

SUPPLICATIONS: deesis (a petition); from deomai (to beg, as if binding oneself, asking from urgent need); from deo (to bind)

Supplication is often connected with fasting and deep emotional desire (Luke 2:37, Romans 10:1). Supplication can be with joy or with tears (Philippians 1:4, Hebrews 5:7).

Zechariah made supplication, asking God for a child to be born to his barren wife, Elizabeth (Luke 1:13).

Paul made supplication for the Jews, his family and countrymen, dear to his heart but far from Christ (Romans 10:1).

In the face of heavy affliction and suffering, Paul asked Christians to make supplication for him, asking God to deliver him, asking for God to bless others through his preaching despite the deadly peril in which he found himself (2 Corinthians 1:6).

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What can bring you to tears when praying? What things are you passionately, emotionally desiring from God? What significance is seen when someone prays without emotion?

Secondly, Paul urges Christians to pray as a practiced habit:

PRAYERS: proseuche (worshipful prayer, an oratory in chapel); from proseuchomai (to pray to God); from pros (forward to, toward) and euchomai (to wish)

This seems to be a general word for any sort of prayer. It is often connected with fasting (Matthew 17:21). Jesus prayed all to God, with great emotion (Luke 6:12). Prayer was the fourth spiritual discipline of the early church, along with teaching, fellowship and breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). The distinctive quality of "prayers" is that of consistency. Many references to "prayers" indicate that it was part of a regular habit, or that the prayer persevered over time. Several times it is combined with prayer of supplication, indicating emotional, deeply-felt prayer that endures over much time.

"She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day." 1 Timothy 5:5 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do you have an established time for prayer? How do you avoid falling into shallow, emotionless thoughts when praying according to a schedule? How do you pray when your heart is just not in a prayerful, worshipful mood?

The third type of prayer that Paul commends is that of intercession.

INTERCESSIONS: enteuxis (an interview, a special supplication); from entynchano (to chance upon, to confer with, to entreat); from en (fixed position) and tynchano (to affect, to hit or light upon, to attain or secure; to happen, as if meeting with); from teucho (to make ready, to bring to pass)

"Intercessions" are prayers of the moment, resulting from a chance encounter or conversation with another. It perhaps is the reverse of "prayers", in that intercessory prayer is not necessarily planned or scheduled.

"Intercessions" occurs only one other time in the Bible:

"Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (intercession)." 1 Timothy 4:4-5 (ESV)

This is quite a revealing verse. "Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected..." Pause for a moment and consider what "everything created by God" is, and how often we reject things that He has created or allowed in our lives.

This sweeping statement is made within the context marriage and diet:

"The Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." 1 Timothy 4:1-3 (ESV)

Lying religious leaders, with seared consciences, will attempt to forbid marriage. They will demand abstinence from certain foods in order to conform to religious devotion.

Intercessory prayer gives us the opportunity to immediately thank God for His providence, and ask to Him for His blessing on the situation, whether concerning marriage or diet, or anything created by God. Immediate, spontaneous prayer intercession reminds us of God's power to create good things.

In our daily routine, at work or home, we will encounter many different situations or conversations that seem to challenge the goodness of God. Perhaps a friend tells you they are sick. Your friend may feel like God has abandoned them, or that the sickness is punishment from God. Intercessory prayer moves you to immediately turn to God, thanking Him for His constant goodness, asking Him to turn this sickness into a blessing, asking Him to bring healing, whether now or later, according to His good plan.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Sickness is one opportunity for exercising intercessory prayer. What other situations might be reason for intercession? Why does it seem that unplanned, chance encounters often provide times of fervent, meaningful prayer, often more so than that of regular, planned prayer times?

The final form of prayer urged by Paul is that of thanksgiving.

THANKSGIVINGS: eucharistia (gratitude; grateful language to God, as an act of worship); from eucharistos (well favored, grateful); from eu (well) and charizomai (to grant as a favor); from eus (good) and charis (graciousness, as gratifying); from chairo (to be "cheer"ful, calmly happy or well-off)

Thanksgiving seems rightly listed last. The result of realizing God's providence through supplication, prayer and intercession is a grateful heart.

In many ways, giving of thanks is the greatest demonstration of God's power, bringing more people to see God's glorious grace.

"For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 4:15 (ESV)

The prayer of supplication is an urgent, desperate plea for rescue and protection. A habit of regular prayer times help us set aside our busy lives and seek the face of the One Who created us, and the One for Whom we were created. Intercessory prayer is moment by moment, as chance or circumstance requires.

However, the prayer of thanksgiving is for all instances of prayer.

Prayer begins and ends with gratefulness.

Gratefulness is the reason we pray, and it is the result of our prayer.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

In circumstances of weakness or sickness, we desire immediate strength and health. In moments of fear and violence we desire immediate courage and rescue. But beyond our desire for strength, health, courage and rescue is our desire for peace. No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we think the immediate solution may be, peace is our ultimate goal in prayer.

And peace depends upon God.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What is the practical application of Paul's urging of four types of prayer? How can "all people" be prayed for? How can all four types of prayer be involved? Of the four types of prayer, which do you experience most frequently? With which type are you least experienced, or least inclined toward?

European Union And Turkey by Vera Kratochvil, Creative Commons License

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stranded and Forsaken

Stranded and Forsaken

Timothy was made a leader of a war, a good war, a war based on the love of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ. His ministry was a part of God's plan, a component of the overall strategy that envisions thousands of churches, millions of Christians filled with the knowledge of God's love, controlled by God's Spirit, displaying the power and mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

Spiritual warfare fights for something positive. The battle is not ultimately to defeat evil, but to uphold good, thereby defeating evil. Paul's charge to Timothy began with a call to love, expressed with a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. Now, at the end of this first chapter, Paul again recalls this over-reaching goal, exhorting Timothy, to hold to faith and a good conscience.

Paul had two men specifically in mind when he entrusted this charge to Timothy:

"By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." 1 Timothy 1:19-20 (ESV)

"This" refers to faith and a good conscience. Paul knew of two men who had made shipwreck of their faith because they had rejected Christ and allowed their consciences to become bad.

SHIPWRECK: nauageo (to be stranded, unable to "navigate"); from naus (a boat, of any size) and ago (to lead, bring, drive, go, pass or induce); from nao (to float)

Paul describes faith as a boat or ship, well-founded, afloat and on course. Disregarding the charts, ignoring the compass, allowing the lines to chafe or overloading the cargo...the captain allows the ship to wander off-course, broach-to in the waves or founder onto the reefs, stranding the boat until rescue or death.

"Holding faith" means much more than praying the sinner's prayer or belonging to a church.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can you describe a time in your life when you felt you had made shipwreck of your faith? What were you ignoring or rejecting? What brought you back on course?

HOLDING: echo (to hold, in possession, as ability, with contiguity, in relation or condition)

"Hold" is used over 700 times in the Bible, meaning anything from a child, to wearing a jacket, to a people.

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel - (which means, God with us)." Matthew 1:23 (ESV)

"Son" is the same Greek word as "hold".

"Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey." Matthew 3:4 (ESV)

"Wore" is the same Greek word as "hold".

"They brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them." Matthew 4:24 (KJV)

"People" is the same Greek word as "hold".

It is plain that "hold" means something very close to a person, something essential or valuable, something connected with their identity or their body.

To "hold faith" means to consider a specific truth to be absolutely essential. "Faith" means confidence in truth that is not seen - there is no outward evidence of the truth - but nonetheless, the truth is essential.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

"The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." John 1:17-18 (ESV)

"Jesus Christ: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:7-9 (ESV)

"He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen." 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Why does God's invisibility often seem to be the hardest thing about our relationship with God? How does invisibility glorify God?

Hymenaeus and Alexander were spiritual sailors who disregarded their charts and compass, trusting only what their eyes could see. They disregarded their conscience, relying only upon their stomachs and their hearts of flesh.

Their ship became stranded.

HYMENAEUS: Hymenaios, from Hymen (the god of weddings)

Hymenaeus was named after Hymen, a god who ruled over weddings, often connected closely with "Hymenaios", the wedding hymn which was sung by the bride's attendants as she was led to the house of the groom. A wedding would be expected to be disastrous unless Hymen blessed the union, and his name was called aloud repeatedly during the ceremony. Both "hymn" and "hymen" are derived from the Greek wedding ceremony. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymen_(god))

The name of Hymenaios evokes beauty and joy. But if the song of Hymen ignores conscience, the wedding ceremony will become a noisy, drunken riot, broken by arguments and lust.

Paul later referred to Hymenaeus as an irreverent babbler, leading people into ungodliness, spreading heresy like gangrene infects a body (2 Timothy 2:17).

ALEXANDER: Alexandros, from aleko (to ward off) and aner (a man, an individual male)

Alexander's name exudes authority and strength of Man. But if Man ignores the Creator's chart and tosses his life's compass overboard, he changes strength to strident pride. He becomes one man, strong and superior, repelling all challengers, maintaining his exalted position.

Paul considered Alexander a personal enemy, saying only that Alexander had done Paul great harm (2 Timothy 4:14). Alexander may have been related to Anna, the Jewish high priest. As such, Alexander would have undoubtedly known Paul earlier as "Saul of Tarsus", the fervent, young Jew who persecuted Christians. When "Saul the Persecutor" became "Paul the Christian", Alexander most likely became Paul's enemy. (Acts 4:6)

Paul names Hymenaeus and Alexander as examples of "certain persons" who were teaching different doctrine, devoted to myths and endless genealogies, and swerving away from love, a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. Paul pointed the two out as men desiring to be teachers of the law, but without understanding the lawful use of the law.

How did Paul deal with these two men? He handed them "over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:10)

Paul had a similar response to a man in the Corinthian church who had committed adultery with his own father's wife, with the knowledge and arrogant support of the church.

"Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." 1 Corinthians 5:2-5 (ESV)

The terror of Satan's power can be seen in Job's experience.

Although Job was a blameless, upright man, one who revered God and turned away from evil, a man of integrity, God allowed Job to be delivered into Satan's hand:

"The Lord said to Satan, - Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand." Job 1:12 (ESV)

With God's permission, Satan ruined Job's life. Mauraders attacked, killing Job's servants and stealing livestock. A storm of fire consumed his sheep. Raiders took his camels. Every source of wealth was lost in a single day.

This was only Phase One for Satan.

A great wind came across the wilderness, smashing into the house in which all of Job's sons and daughters were gathered, killing all his children.

Satan's final touch was against Job himself, stopping just short of killing him.

"Satan answered the Lord and said, - Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face. - And the Lord said to Satan, - Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life. - So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes." Job 2:4-8 (ESV)

Job was not a "certain person". Job was not swerving from love or becoming an enemy of God. God's purpose was not one of vengeance or correction. It ultimately resulted in joy for Job and glory for God.

In handing Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan, Paul was not expressing anger. He was not desiring revenge. His hope was that they would learn not to blaspheme. For the man in the Corinthian church, Paul expected the suffering experienced at the hand of Satan would soften the man's heart, allowing the Holy Spirit to change evil actions into repentence and rejoicing.

Job's horrific experience in the hands of Satan resulted in a transformed heart. Outwardly he had been a model of integrity, but within he had doubts and confusion, pride in his own strength and ignorance of God's power and wisdom. After days of unrelenting pain and loss, Job's eyes were opened.

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. - Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? - Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. - Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me. - I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:2-6 (ESV)

The man in the Corinthian church, as well as the entire church, also benefited from suffering:

"I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God." 2 Corinthians 7:9-12 (ESV)

This was Paul's expectation for Hymenaeus and Alexander. Paul could hand over an enemy to Satan only because he was sure that God would be in control of Satan. The story of Job makes it plain that God allows, but still retains ultimate control over, Satan's demonic power. God uses Satan as a tool at times to convert sinners into saints.

Paul's aim in handing over his enemies to Satan was for their good, not for his vengeance.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How would you define "enemy"? Do you have an enemy, and would it be appropriate for you to "hand over to Satan" your enemy? How would you do that? What prayer or ceremony or behavior would accomplish it?

Shipwreck II BW (Abandoned shipwreck at the bay of Praia, Cape Verde), by David Gil, Creative Commons License

Monday, November 19, 2012

Warfare

Good Warfare

Paul called himself the foremost of sinners, the most important...not the most important sinner, but the one with the most important sin. His blasphemy, persecution and insolence, above all other sins, deserved punishment from God.

But God, through Jesus Christ, displayed perfect patience and mercy.

In that moment, Paul saw Jesus as King of his life, his sovereign Ruler, deserving honor and glory forever.

Paul now returns to the primary reason for writing this letter:

"This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience." 1 Timothy 1:18-19 (ESV)

"This charge" refers to three specific errors that were undermining the faith and love of Christians in the Ephesian church:

Different doctrine (using heresy to control others)
Myths (using fantasy to control others)
Endless genealogies (using lineage to control others)

The errors promoted speculations and worthless searchings. The Christians were becoming puffed up with conceit, asking questions with little desire for answers, having only the desire for controversy.

Paul's aim was to preach and portray three pillars of love:

  • Pure heart
  • Good conscience
  • Sincere faith

Without love, supported by purity, goodness and sincerity, Christians wander into spiritual ignorance and hypocrisy.

Without love, Christians become blasphemers, persecutors and insolent opponents of Christ.

This was the situation in which Paul was placing Timothy.

Paul was preparing Timothy for warfare.

"This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare..." 1 Timothy 1:18 (ESV)

WARFARE: strateia (military service or career); from strateuomai (to serve in a military campaign, to be an apostle, to contend with sinful flesh); from stratos (an army, encamped); from stroo (to "strew", spread as a carpet or couch)

Military strategy can be described as a carpet, laid out from beginning to end. It could also be seen as straw bales, opened and strewn over the dirt floor of a barn or field. The image of a strewn carpet is immediately seen in photographs of army encampments, with tent after tent pitched closely together, arranged according to squad or function.

The highest miliary leader views war strategically, as if able to see at once all of the armies and fleets, of allies and enemies. War is fought from the top down, beginning with specific goals that benefit an entire country. The over-reaching goals dictate the actions of each army, fleet, armada, ship, company, squad, aircraft and ultimately, each individual warrior.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? In what sense can life as a Christian be described as warfare? What about being a soldier for Christ is encouraging to you, and what about it is offensive or disliked?

Paul is making Timothy a general, a commanding officer. Timothy must keep in mind the strategy, the over-reaching goals set by Christ. Timothy must keep in mind each group in Ephesus, faithful and unfaithful, Christian and Unbeliever. He must allow Christ's love to be the foundation for every message and every exhortation. He must consider each member of each group, recognizing their age and strength and how they are equipped. He must ensure that every action taken by individual Christians is founded upon the over-reaching goals of Christ.

Realistically, only God can consider each individual of a country, of a world. The highest military officer cannot know each individual in his own army, much less those of the enemy. The pastor of a church cannot know each individual in the congregation, much less in the community.

Strategic warfare demands that the leader become skilled at generalizing. "Soldier" becomes a general term for an individual with a specific set of skills, equipment and knowledge. "Tank Squad" becomes a term for a group of warriors with specific skills, equipment and knowlege.

Firefighters have a rule-of-thumb that often guides their leadership structure, called "Span of Control": each leader should directly supervise only five to seven groups or individuals. A captain would be assigned supervision over five teams of firefighters. A lieutenant would be assigned supervision over five individual firefighters.

The captain directs the movements of teams. The lieutenant directs the movements of individuals.

It is often the same for the church. A pastor begins to think in general terms. Individuals may be thought of as "Christian", "Unsaved", "Senior", "Man", "Woman", "Child", "Visitor" and the like. Groups are created in the pastor's mind, each with a different set of characteristics, abilities, preferences and knowledge. The pastor appoints leaders of each group, with the goal of each leader becoming able to support and guide each individual in their own group.

This is the pattern implied by Paul's description of Timothy's ministry as "warfare".

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Does our church follow this military pattern? Should it? What are the benefits? What are the disadvantages? What groups are immediately apparent in our church? Who are the leaders of these groups? Have the leaders been appointed officially? Should they?

Paul refers to the specific weapons with which Timothy is to wage war:

"...the prophecies previously made about you..." 1 Timothy 1:18 (ESV)

PROPHECIES: propheteia (prediction); from prophetes (a foreteller, a "prophet", an inspired speaker or poet); from pro ("fore", in front of, prior to) and phemi (to show or make know one's thoughts); from phao (to shine or make manifest)

Paul refers later to prophecies concerning Timothy:

"Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:11-16 (ESV)

As the church recognized God's Holy Spirit working, they publicly confirmed Timothy's ministry as a pastor. The elders laid their hands on him, praying with words given by the Holy Spirit, revealing specific spiritual gifts given to Timothy.

Prophecy is the revelation of truth that is as yet unseen. Prophecy is closely connected with faith:

"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith." Romans 12:6 (ESV)

Prophecy involves the understanding of mysteries:

"If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge..." 1 Cor 13:2 (ESV)

MYSTERIES: mysterion (a secret or "mystery", through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites); from muo (to shut the mouth)

KNOWLEDGE: gnosis (the act of knowing); from ginosko (to "know", absolutely)

Prophecy, as a gift or an ability, will eventually become unnecessary.

"Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away." 1 Corinthians 13:8 (ESV)

In Christ, all unknowns will someday become completely known; there will be no need for the spiritual gifts of revealing future events or truth...all will become known.

Prophecy, revealing of absolute truth not yet seen, is only by the Holy Spirit of God.

"No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:21 (ESV)

The superior object of prophecy is to reveal Christ. John worshiped an angel who spoke to him, but the angel redirected his adoration:

"These are the true words of God. - Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, - You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Revelations 19:9-10 (ESV)

Timothy was young and inexperienced, but God revealed to the elders of the church what He would be doing in Timothy's life. Timothy's spiritual gifts were yet unseen until God opened the eyes of the elders. Their prophetic prayer of confirmation served to open Timothy's eyes, as well as those of the church, to God's unseen work.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What have you experienced concerning spiritual prophecy? What abuses of the gift have you seen, and what causes the abuse and misuse of spiritual gifts? In what sense can the sinner's prayer for forgiveness in Christ be seen as a response to prophecy?

What was the prophecy concerning Timothy? What did the elders reveal in their prayer over him?

Look again at Paul's reference in chapter four:

"Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:11-16 (ESV)

Command. Teach. Read. Exhort.

Timothy was given a single spiritual gift that would be the foundation of his ministry: teaching.

As pastor, Timothy would fulfill God's over-reaching goal of love through teaching. All of Timothy's messages, exhortations, projects and missions would be based upon teaching.

Timothy would be spiritually-enabled to become a superior teacher of God's Word, leading others to fulfill God's plan of love, each in their own individual way.

The gift of teaching can be described in many ways, each highlighting a slightly different form of teaching: commanding, setting an example, reading and exhorting.

TEACHING: didaskalia (instruction); from didaskaolos (an instructor); from didasko (to teach); from dao (to learn)

Paul refers later to Timothy's gift of teaching:

"If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed." 1 Timothy 4:6 (ESV)

PUT THESE THINGS BEFORE: hypotithemi (to place underneath, to hazard or suggest) and tauta (these things); from hypo (under) and tithemi (to place, in a passive or horizontal posture)

A teacher begins from the bottom, working upward. It is most important for a teacher to ensure that their students have a firm, true foundation. This often requires dismantling or destroying previously learned errors and imaginations.

Nothing true and permanent can be built upon a false, weak foundation.

SERVANT: diakonos (an attendant, a waiter at a table or other menial duties, a teacher or pastor); from diako (to run on errands)

A teacher considers themselves to be a servant, rather than a ruler or leader. The root of servant means one who runs to serve, one who is eager to quickly meet every needs. For a teacher, this running is made real in his teaching. A teacher of God's Word is eager to build a strong foundation, eager to write or speak to others about truth. A teacher is quick to respond to observed needs, able to quickly relate God's Word to specific issues.

But, above all, a teacher is a servant, eager to serve others. A waiter brings what the table has ordered, not what the waiter prefers to serve. A teacher listens to what the students are asking for, bringing truth that effectively meets their need.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What if a diner orders foolishly? What if a diner orders only dessert, or worse, poison? How does a teacher live as a servant, a waiter, bringing God's Word, if the people ask for shallow "feel-good" devotions, or worse, for heresy?

Finally, in chapter four, Paul describes a teacher as being "trained".

TRAINED: entrepho (to educate); from en (a fixed position) and trepho (to stiffen or fatten, to cherish with food, pamper, rear up as a child)

A teacher is "fat" with understanding. A teacher speaks and writes from the fulness of his own knowledge. A teacher is bursting at the seams with ideas, thoughts, conclusions and revelations concerning knowledge of truth. A teacher regards truth as spiritual food, essential, healthy and desirable.

More than just knowledgeable, a teacher is "fixed in position". Their journey has gone from ignorance to wondering, from seeking to finding, from questioning to answering. Certainly not in everything is the teacher "fixed". In fact, most teachers admit that the more they understand, the more they understand that they understand very little, indeed! But the foundation of a teacher is solid. The main structure of the teacher's knowledge is permament and strong. There remain thousands of details: unknowns, uncertainties and mysteries - but the core, the structure, the foundation of the teacher's knowledge of truth is rock-solid and fixed in position.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? For a church, at what point should a Christian be recognized, and relied upon, as a teacher? What truths are essential for a teacher's foundation, a teacher of God's Word? What questions would you put on an application form designed for the position of teacher at our church?

City of Tents, Cumberland Landing, May 1862 by Library of Congress, Public Domain