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Monday, July 16, 2012

A Spiritual Building of Faith

A Spiritual Building of Faith

The apostle Paul was part of a team of preachers and elders first assembled in Antioch. They responded to clear direction by God, going to Jerusalem to minister to the poor with food, money and preaching. (Acts 11)

Returning from that missionary trip, Paul brought with him a new addition to the team, John Mark. (Acts 12)

The church in Antioch then sent the missionaries to preach worldwide, traveling from region to region. Midway through the journey, John Mark suddenly left the team, returning to Jerusalem. (Acts 13)

The team met major success, as well as near death in the area of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. Many Jews and Gentiles became newly converted Christians, fervent and faithful. Others became hostile, threatened by the sudden changes in community and social rule. (Acts 14)

The break with John Mark must have been unexpected and disappointing, especially for Paul. The co-leader of their team, Barnabus, urged bringing John Mark back into the ministry, but Paul was adamantly against it, even to the point of breaking away even from Barnabus and forming a new partnership with Silas. (Acts 15)

Soon after, Paul met Timothy and immediately took on the role of mentor and spiritual father. Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled from city to city, preaching to Jew and Gentile, and encouraging churches previously founded by their team. God gave Paul a strong desire to into the region of Macedonia, and it was here that Paul left Timothy, assigning him to remain at Ephesus as pastor. (Acts 16)

"As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith." 1 Timothy 1:3-4 (ESV)

The broken relationship between Paul and John Mark, and the strong father-son connection between Paul and Timothy are described in Scripture only briefly. At first glance the incidents seem minor, too insignificant to matter. But the fact that they were recorded at all makes them important to consider.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What significance does the break in fellowship between Paul and John Mark have? Why would Holy Scripture include this brief mention of a falling out between mature Christians? What experience have you had with broken relationships, especially between you and another Christian?

Paul charged Timothy to preach against three specific areas of concern.

DIFFERENT DOCTRINE: heterodidaskaleo (to instruct differently); from heteros (other or different) and didaskalos (an instructor); from didasko (to teach); from dao (to learn)

MYTHS: mythos (a tale of fiction, a "myth"); from myeo (to initiate, to teach); from mysterion (a secret or "mystery", as silence is imposed by initiation into religious rites); from muo (to shut the mouth)

ENDLESS GENEALOGIES: aperantos (unfinished or interminable) and genealogia (tracing by generations, "genealogy"); from genealogeo (to reckon by generations); from genea (a generation or age) and logos (something said); from genos ("kin") and lego (to "lay" forth, to relate)

Paul urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus as preacher and pastor, specifically to lead Christians out of misguided teaching, fantasy-based faith and endless lines of lineage.

The "different doctrine" issue concerns teaching that does not agree with that taught by Jesus Christ:

"If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing." 1 Timothy 6:3-4 (ESV)

The "myths" Paul warns against seem to refer to made-up stories meant to affect behavior, but are not supported by truth. Elsewhere Paul describes myths as sneaky, deceptive manipulations by old women:

"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths." 1 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)

IRREVERENT: bebelos (accessible, heathenish or wicked); from basis (a pace or "base", the foot) and belos (a threshold)

SILLY: graodes (crone-like); from graus (an old woman) and eidos (a view or form)

"Endless genealogies" describes listing one's ancestors for the purpose of gaining religious, social or legal supremacy over others:

"Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless." Titus 3:9 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can you describe any modern instances of these three misguided motives for religious behavior? How does heresy, mythology and genealogy affect your faith? How do they threaten the worth and honor of Christ?

Paul supported this charge with two reasons for the concern, one negative and one positive.

"I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith." 1 Timothy 1:3-4 (ESV)

SPECULATIONS: zetesis (a searching, a dispute or a theme); from zeteo (to seek, to worship, to plot)

Heresy, myths and endless genealogies are harmful pursuits for Christians for one negative reason:

They promote worthless searching

How do heresy, myths and endless genealogies promote worthless searching? Paul will later describe the results of such empty spiritualism:

"If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain." 1 Timothy 6:3-5 (ESV)

"Controversy" is the same word used earlier, translated as speculations. Worthless searching is characterized by conceit, ignorance, controversy, quarreling, envy, dissension, slander, suspicians, friction, depravity and materialism.

If the Holy Bible is not a faithful record of the words of God and the life of Jesus Christ, people are left with only themselves as a guide for life. If Jesus Christ is not regarded as the Son of God, the Savior and Lord of all, then people are left with only themselves as the master of their fate. Believing there is no Source of truth, people can only generate questions with no answers.

Paul is describing a slippery slope that begins with heresy, myths and endless genealogies, causing worthless searching and questioning, and ending with depravity and greed.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? At what point do questions become worthless? Is it always good to ask questions? What kind of questions are obviously from a proud heart? Is God ever treatened with the word, Why?

The negative result of heresy, myths and endless genealogies is the worthless searching they cause. The positive effect of rejecting heresy, mthys and endless genealogies is the strong structure of truth that is built by faith in God. Paul described this as "the stewardship from God that is by faith."

STEWARDSHIP FROM GOD: theos (a deity or magistrate) and oikodomia (confirmation); from oikodome (architecture, a structure); from oikos (a dwelling or family) and doma (an edifice or roof); from demo (to build)

Paul often described Christians as a "building of God":

"You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it." 1 Corinthians 3:9-10 (ESV)

Paul taught the truth about God, as Jesus taught him, and this truth becomes the foundation of a spiritual "building", a structure of faith in God. Heresy, myths and endless genealogies erode that faith, crumbling the foundation, causing Christians eventually to reject Jesus as Lord and Savior, causing them to imagine themselves as gods.

How is "God's building" erected?

"What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." 1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV)

Truth becomes a foundation of life when it is taught, reinforced and enjoyed in music and speech. A primary reason for gathering together regularly as Christians is to provide a time and place to hear the truth of God's Word. Worship and preaching, music and speech, teaching and learning all contribute to a strong, spiritual building of faith in Jesus Christ.

"You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? In what way can heresy and mythology creep into a Christian's life? What activities organized by our church effectively support worship and preaching of God's Word? What things should we consider changing? What "red flag" would alert a Christian to the possibility that "endless genealogies" were starting to erode their faith in Jesus?