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