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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