Monday, March 25, 2013

Acts 9: Threats and Murder...and Glory

Threats and Murder...and Glory

Acts 9:1

What has gone before...

Directed by an angel, Philip meets a man in the desert, an Ethiopian official who had visited Jerusalem to worship God and was then returning to his home. The minister of state was described as a "eunuch", which likely was used figuratively, rather than literally. "Eunuch", whether literally or figurative, reminded us of circumstances in which God has placed each of us that have brought personal loss or injury, yet God gives us comfort in the midst of loss.

A passage from the Book of Isaiah overwhelmed the Ethiopian's heart and he embraced the truth of Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. Immediately after baptizing the man, Philip is "teleported" miles distant, finding himself on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Filled with joy at God's miraculous timing and power, Philip travels north up the coast, settling down in Caesarea, marrying and raising a family.

Moving on...

Luke's historical account of the early Christian church now returns to the life of the radically fundamental Jew who served as Chief Enforcer of religious rules in Jerusalem: Rabbi Saul of Tarsus.

"Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." Acts 9:1-2 (ESV)

Saul was a young man (Acts 7:58) yet he already was an influential leader of the Jews in Jerusalem. At the arrest of Stephen, a follower of Christ, Saul had overseen the martyr's execution, watching as the elders and scribes and false witnesses crushed Stephen's head and body with stones.

Saul approved of Stephen's execution (Acts 8:1) and became a violent, rabid punisher of all who worshipped Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One of God, the Savior of souls.

Now, Saul sought to extend his religious power over the Dissenters in Damascus, about 130 miles distant. Why Damascus?

Damascus, "the most ancient city perhaps in the world, and lying in the center of a verdant and inexhaustible paradise. It abounded with Jews, and with Gentile proselytes to the Jewish faith" (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary). Damascus was at the crossroads of all major trade routes, connecting Asia, Arabia and Africa. Damascus was the "center of all the world". Were the Jews in Damascus to be persuaded to follow the "cult of Christianity", Judaism would lose most, if not all, of its influence.

Saul saw Damascus as a crucial religious battle between Truth and Error.

BREATHING: empneo "emp-NEH-o" (to inhale, to be animated by, to be bent upon); from en (a fixed position; by implication instrumentality) and pneo (to breath hard)

THREATS AND MURDER: apeile "ap-i-LAY" (a menace) and phonos "FON-os" (murder); from apeileo (to menace, to forbid) and pheno (to slay)

Saul was enraged.

His mind and heart were engorged with lust for violent, crushing punishment of all who rejected fundamental, traditional Judaism. He imagined joyfully exacting righteous justice upon the dirty, worthless liars who still considered Jesus to be alive, much less Savior.

"Empneo" occurs only this one time in The Bible. It's root, "pneo", occurs eight times, every instance describing a wind storm. Most of the references describe danger and loss, although "pneo" can also refer to the power of God's Holy Spirit (John 3:8).

"Apeile" (menace) occurs four times, every instance describing threats of punishment.

"Phonos" (murder) occurs ten times, with the most vividly example found in the Book of Hebrews, translated as "killed":

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword." Hebrews 11:37 (ESV)

Jesus said that "murder" comes from a person's heart, along with evil thoughts, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander (Matthew 15:19). Such sinful behavior is a gross perversion of God's original creation, but the behavior is not without a Source or Reason. The Source of sin in the heart. Sinful behavior begins first deep within a person's core, perhaps as a vague emotion or a germ of desire.

Or a lie believed to be true.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Shedding the light of truth on dark depravity can bring liberating freedom. Can you share with others some of what you've experienced? Have you, or someone you know, felt overwhelmed by rage, or guilt, or sorrow? What brought you out of such darkness? What things were you believing about yourself, of God, that now you recognize as lies of the Enemy? What practices or habits do you now depend upon to help safeguard yourself against such "threats and murder"?

Saul obtained a religious warrant of arrest for anyone "belonging to the Way".

WAY: hodos "hod-OS" (a road, by implication a progress, such as a route, act or distance; figurative a mode or means)

Jesus used "way" to describe the kingdom of heaven:

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

John the Baptist's ministry was described as the "way of righteousness" and the "way of peace":

"John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him." Matthew 21:32 (ESV)

"You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:76-79 (ESV)

A striking example of the literal word "road" combined with "way", as in the road to joy and peace with Christ, can be found in the story of the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus.

It was the the third day since the crucifixion. The two disciples had been with rest of the believers earlier that day when three women had rushed back from the tomb with an incredible story: the tomb was open, empty, and two men (dressed in dazzling apparel) had told them that Jesus was risen from the dead, just as He had foretold while teaching in Galilee.

"That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him." Luke 24:13-16 (ESV)

The disciples had chosen a road that led nowhere special. Emmaus was only a town, filled with people no different than the town they'd just left. They had no expectation of finding anything like the joy and peace they'd experienced with Jesus. Jesus was gone! Now, all roads were the same. All roads led to nothing more than people with problems, nothing different than what they'd left behind.

Then Jesus drew near.

Jesus engaged the two in conversation, steering them toward talking about what they'd lost. He spoke as if He know nothing of this man called "Jesus", nothing of the crucifixion, nothing of their despair. They responded honestly, describing their initial belief that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet, the One Who would redeem Israel. But now, they said, Jesus was dead, crucified by their own religious priests and rulers. The two men were obviously without hope, feeling leaderless and betrayed, but also confused:

"Some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." Luke 24:22-24 (ESV)

Then Jesus laid it all out for them, beginning with the writings of Moses and the Old Testament prophets. He showed them every biblical reference that had foretold the life, the death, and the resurrection of this man called "Jesus".

Their hearts were set on fire.

The two men understood what Jesus was saying. Every ember of joy and peace and purpose that had been slowly dying during the days following the crucifixion was suddenly sparked back into flame, into a fire that consumed their fear and confusion and despair.

The men still had not recognized the stranger who was walking with them, but they grasped onto His presence as if it were a lifeline in a storm. By then the three of them had reached Emmaus, and Jesus made as if He were going to keep going further:

"But they urged him strongly, saying, - Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent. - So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them." Luke 24:29-30 (ESV)

The road to Emmaus, for Jesus, was not His "way", yet He chose to join the two men where they were. Despite their faithlessness and despair, He made them look honestly at their disappointment and confusion, but He didn't leave them in that condition. He transformed a dusty road leading to a backwater town into an opportunity to bring these two men back to the "way", the way to joy, peace and purpose.

The Way of Jesus.

"And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, - Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" Luke 24:31-32 (ESV)

Saul the Enforcer was not looking for people walking on a road to Emmaus. He didn't care about people who were wandering, without hope, without purpose. He ignored soldiers, business owners, farmers, slaves and servants who might be traveling some road to anywhere. Saul's only desire was for destruction of Jews who scorn their traditional religion by joining the Way of Christ.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can you describe your earlier years of life as a "road"? Where did you think you were going, and why were you going there? In what way did a "stranger" come alongside and join with you on that road, only to later find that Jesus had brought you onto His road? Is the "right road of life" defined by its destination, or its characteristics? How do you answer people who regard all religions as different roads leading inevitably to one destination?

"Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, - Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? - And he said, - Who are you, Lord? - And he said, -I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. [ESV OMISSION] But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do. - The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus." Acts 9:3-8 (ESV)

Note: The King James Version (KJV) includes additional text that the ESV omits:

[KJV: It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him]

The omission is based upon study of the original manuscripts of the Book of Acts. The translators of the KJV found sufficient support for the authenticity of the disputed text, and the translators of the ESV did not.

The omission of text does not substantially change the content or purpose of the passage. In fact, the disputed text is included by the ESV in the Book of Acts. Saul's conversion is described in three separate accounts in the Book of Acts. Combining the accounts gives us a more complete understanding of the event:

"Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem [to be punished]. Now as he went on his way, [at about noon] he approached Damascus, and suddenly a [great] light from heaven flashed [shone, brighter than the sun] around him. And falling to the ground [as did those with him] he heard a voice saying to him [in the Hebrew language (Aramaic)], - Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? [It is hard for you to kick against the goads.]” [Now those who were with him saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to him.] And he said, - Who are you, Lord? - And he said, - I am Jesus [of Nazareth], whom you are persecuting. [And Saul said, - What shall I do, Lord?] [Jesus answered] but rise [and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me] and enter the city [Damascus], and you will be told what you are to do [all that is appointed for you]. - The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing [because of the brightness of that light]. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus." Acts 9:1-8; 22:5-11; 26:13-18 (ESV)

This sudden, miraculous conversion from murderous hatred and violence, to humble adoration and trust in Jesus, formed the foundation of Saul's life from that point forward. At every opportunity Saul retold his story, framing it slightly different each time to fit different circumstances and audiences. But the essential core of his testimony remained consistent: Jesus Christ appeared to Saul in overwhelmingly bright glory and transformed his heart, mind and body. In many ways Saul's transformation was painful and humiliating, involving the loss of many things which previously Saul had treasured.

For a time, Saul was blinded, unable to see anything good or evil, completely dependent upon the compassionate help of others. His physical healing, however, brought emotional, intellectual and spiritual cleansing and freedom. Saul became a servant and witness, and he found Jesus to be his greatest Source of joy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Saul's dramatic, miraculous conversion sets him apart from all the other apostles called by Jesus. With what parts of his story are you able to closely identify? Have you ever wished that Jesus would appear to you as powerfully as He did to Saul? What difference does it make to you that Saul, out of all the other apostles chosen by Jesus, experienced such a radical, astounding conversion? How does your conversion experience differ from that of Saul's, and how does that experience seem to fit with who you are now?

Dusty Road by Rich Slim, Creative Commons License

Monday, March 18, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Hospitable and Able to Teach

Hospitable and Able to Teach

1 Timothy 3:2

What has gone before...

Paul's description of a person suitable for consideration as overseer of a church began with one who was above reproach: faithful in marriage, sober-minded, self-controlled and respectable.

Moving on...

"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable..." 1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV)

HOSPITABLE: philoxenos "fil-OX-en-os" (fond of guests); from philos (dear, as a friend; fond or friendly, referring to an associate or neighbor) and xenos (foreign, as alien or novel; a guest or entertainer)

"Hospitable" seems to provide at the same time the means and the motive for spending time with new acquaintances: treat them as friends and regard their quirks as entertaining.

The word, "hospitable" is found three times in the Bible: used twice by Paul in similar directions to Timothy and Titus concerning overseers. The third instance was from Peter:

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace." 1 Peter 4:7-10 (ESV)

Peter's admonition focuses on the importance of self-control, sober-mindedness, prayer and love in regarding others. The implication here is that Christians can be judgemental, unable to see beyond past offences. If we look at God's grace toward ourselves, we allow His Holy Spirit to bring our rebellious hearts in line with His...we become more self-controlled, more aware of the danger of bitter unforgiveness...we will be moved to pray more for others, and love for the unloveable will become possible, even desireable.

Hospitality is the opportunity to show others, especially others who are different than us, the gift of love and grace that God has given to us. There may be others in our church, or in our work, or in our homes, who are "different": they may dress differently or smell differently...they may worship high fashion, or sports, or another religion...they may talk too much or too little.

Peter warns us to avoid grumbling:

GRUMBLING: gongysmos "gong-goos-MOS" (to grumble: murmur or mutter in complaint; to growl or snarl; to rumble)

We often grudgingly show hospitality to others, showing a fake smile and complaining afterward of the cost, the discomfort or the boredom. The muttering and snarling after our guests are gone show our disregard for the grace shown to us by God.

"Hospitable" includes a root word which means "foreign":

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Matthew 25:35 (ESV)

STRANGER: xenos “XEN-os” (foreign, as alien or novel; a guest or entertainer)

"Stranger" is the word found in the root of "hospitable". Jesus was identifying Himself with people off the streets, hungry and thirsty, ill-clothed, sick or in prison. When the religious people shunned strangers, Jesus rebuked them, warning them of impending eternal punishment. Treating the unloveable as friends, loving to share food and drink with people in need of friendship, is a result of a righteous heart, which is given as a gift of God.

Hospitality is sharing with others what God has given us.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Paul and Peter both connected hospitality with prayer, and Paul identified four different occasions of prayer. Can you make a comparison of the four types of prayer with four types of hospitality? What would each type of hospitality look like?


  • Supplications: urgent, desperate prayer from deep emotional desire
  • Prayers: consistent, regular prayer of worship and praise
  • Intercessions: momentary, unexpected encounters with others which lead to prayer
  • Thanksgivings: expressing gratitude for God's favor, His gifts of joy


  • ________________________________________
  • ________________________________________
  • ________________________________________

Of the four occasions of hospitality, which do you find yourself providing most often? Which do you experience the least often?

Hospitality can easily connect with the next characteristic of the ideal overseer:

"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach..." 1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV)

ABLE TO TEACH: didaktikos "did-ak-tik-OS" (instructive, "didactic"); from didaktos (instructed or communicated by teaching); from didasko (to teach); from dao (to learn)

Inviting others, especially others who are "different", seems a good situation in which we may share food and drink, physically and spiritually. Paul encourages the leaders of the church in Ephesus to be "able to teach", as well as hospitable.

The word translated as "able to teach" only occurs twice in the Bible, once in each of Paul's two letters to Timothy. This first instance refers to the overseer of Christ's church, and the second refers to "the servant of the Lord":

"The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV)

"The Lord's servant" referred to one who is given the "grace that is in Christ Jesus", "a good soldier of Christ Jesus", one who "endures everything for the sake of the elect", "an approved worker" of God, "rightly handling the word of truth". (2 Timothy 2:1-15)

Paul introduced this exhortation to "the Lord's servant" by urging Timothy to put together a group of faithful men:

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 2 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)

Interestingly, "able to teach" is translated from a phrase that is different, although related, to that used in Paul's first letter to Timothy:

ABLE TO TEACH: hikanos didasko "hik-an-OS did-AS-ko" (competent to teach, as if coming in season; ample in amount, or fit in character); related to heko (to arrive, to be present) and dao (to learn)

Why the difference between the two verses?

Paul's first use of "able to teach" seems to be a general term for teaching, similar to that of a job title or function. The second version of "able to teach" seems to emphasize the quality of teaching, rather than the function. Both references to "able to teach" include the root word: "didasko", to teach. But Paul qualifies the second instance by adding the word "hikanos", which is related to "heko", meaning to arrive or to be present.

"Able" (hikanos) is found 41 times in the Bible. John the Baptist declared that he was "not worthy" to even tend to the shoes of Jesus, using the same word that is elsewhere translated as "able" (Matthew 3:11). A Roman centurion humbly said that he was "not worthy" to have Jesus enter his house, using the same word (Matthew 8:8).

The Jewish leaders successfully persuaded Roman soldiers to lie about the disappearance of the body of Jesus after His crucifixion, paying them "a sufficient sum of money", using the same word that is elsewhere translated as "able" or "worthy" (Matthew 28:12).

Luke used the same word in connection with teaching:

"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)

"A great many" is translated from the same Greek word as "able".

Paul's modification of "teaching", adding the word "able", emphasizes both the quantity and the quality of teaching required for "the Lord's servant". Paul was describing a situation much different than simply doing the job of teaching. Timothy was not to be a teacher in name only, but was to have a heart and mind that was "worthy" of the priceless truth of Christ. The teaching provided by Timothy was to be "large" enough to encompass the timeless, universal truth of Christ. Timothy was to regard teaching as a major part of his ministry to the church.

Paul didn't allude to this in his first letter to Timothy. The verse with which we began this study uses the simple word "teacher", with no reference to the quality or quantity of teaching required for overseers.


About 30 years after meeting Christ, Paul completed three separate mission trips. He was arrested and imprisoned by the Roman emperor, then acquitted and freed from prison. During this time of freedom he wrote his first letter to Timothy, sometime after 63 AD.

Five years passed. Paul traveled throughout what is now Europe and the Mediterranean states. Rome was burned and horrific persecution of Christians ensued, with Paul being re-arrested, tried and executed by emperor Nero. Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy shortly before his martyrdom.

It was his last letter.

Paul's final letter, his second letter to Timothy, is tender and passionate. He expects death soon, and prepares Timothy for similar persecution. Paul's first letter to Timothy was a primer on pastoring a church. His second letter was a love letter written to the church, full of last words, urgent prayer, lessons borne of suffering.

We should consider the simple word, "teacher", found in Paul's first letter, to be closely connected with "able", used in his second letter. Overseers, as well as all who consider themselves "the Lord's servant", should grasp the depth of the phrase, "able to teach".

For a leader, teaching is not to be a duty, or an assignment, or a "have-to". Teaching should be considered a primary, heartfelt, life-consuming expression of worship and ministry.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Paul's first reference to "teacher" seems to place it as one of several desireable character qualities for an overseer, without special emphasis. But his second reference describes it as much deeper and urgent. Should we regard pastors as different than overseers in regard to their teaching? Not all Christians are gifted with the ability, or desire, to teach...are they never to be considered for the office of overseer? Why would Paul later not require of deacons, or their wives, the ability to teach? Who in our church do you consider to be "overseers" or "the Lord's servants", and is teaching a major part of their ministry?

Friends & Coffee by David, Creative Commons License

Monday, March 11, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Sober-minded


1 Timothy 3:2

What has gone before...

In Paul's "job description" for overseer, the first and last descriptors function as an introduction and summary: above reproach and well thought of.

Paul requires Christians to consider whether they are above reproach concerning marriage. Biblically, marriage is a life-long, socially legal contract between one man and one woman. If this contract is broken, it must be only for the cause of sexual immorality. Divorce for any other reason is evidence of sin-hardened hearts.

Until such a heart is submitted to Christ in repentance, such a one should not be considered for the office of overseer.

Moving on...

After faithfulness in marriage, Paul next urges us toward sober-mindedness.

"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded.." 1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV)

SOBER-MINDED: nephaleos "nay-FAL-eh-os" (sober or circumspect, wary and unwilling to take risks); from nepho (to abstain from wine, to keep sober or be discreet)

This word occurs only three times in the New Testament, each instance as part of a description of godliness. Aside from Paul's mention of sober-mindedness here, as part of the job description for overseer, he refers to it twice more:

"[Deacon's] wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things." 1 Timothy 3:11 (ESV)

"Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness." Titus 2:2 (ESV)

The root of "sober-minded", nepho, meaning abstention from alcohol, occurs seven times, and each time is figurative for being watchful, alert and ready for action.

Wine taken to excess will dull a person's alertness, preventing them from recognizing dangers, confusing their motives and priorities. To carefully control one's desire for wine, or to abstain from any such influence, demonstrates a desire to be alert, to recognize danger and to maintain integrity and honor.

Paul urged Christians to "be sober" for the sake of faith, love and salvation:

"We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation." 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 (ESV)

"The day" refers to the day on which Jesus will gather together all who belong to Him, all Christians past and present. To belong to "the day" requires people to live every moment with the awareness of Who Jesus is (faith) and how He regards us (love) and what He's done for us (salvation). Ignorance of these things, or apathy, or rejection, makes a person spiritually "asleep" or "drunk": unable to respond appropriately to reality.

Sleep and drunkenness both cause ignorance of reality, a dull awareness of what is happening. A person asleep or drunk does not easily respond to words spoken, opportunities arising or dangers approaching.

Being sober-minded is the spiritual equivalent of being awake and alert, unaffected by sleep or drink, prepared to act in accordance with reality.

For a Christian, being sober-minded means to deliberately and consistently live in faith and love, applying the truth of our salvation to every situation. It means to work diligently, despite suffering, doing good that glorifies Christ. Paul spoke directly to Timothy, but the essence applies to all of us:

"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV)

A person sleeping, or drunk, will not be working, they will not be helping others. Notice that sleeping is not sin...we all must sleep. Drinking alcohol is not is often described as a good pleasure. But sleeping, or drunk, when alertness is required is sinful. Sleeping in order to avoid work is sinful. Drinking to the point of drunkenness to escape duty is sinful.

Paul refers to alcohol directly in verse three, warning churches to disqualify from the office of overseer any person who is "a drunkard".

DRUNKARD: paroinos “PAR-oy-nos” (staying near wine, tippling, a toper); from para (near) and oinos ("wine", literal or figurative); perhaps from Hebrew yayin (wine, as something fermented; intoxication); from an unused word meaning to effervesce.

"Tippling" means one who habitually drinks alcohol, from a word meaning "tumble over". "Toper" means one who drinks alcohol to excess, on a regular basis, from a word meaning "overbalance" or "slanted" or "tilted".

Because "sober-minded" at its root means staying away from alcohol, it seems important to ask whether Paul intended overseers to abstain from alcohol, especially since he includes a warning against drunkenness.

"Drunkard" occurs only twice in the New Testament, each time describing the qualifications of church leaders. The word for "wine", however, occurs 33 times, often as figurative language describing godly characteristics.

"Wine" describes the new spiritual life of a Christian converted from unbelief and darkness (Matthew 9:17). Jesus described Himself as "eating and drinking", obviously a reference to wine since critics reproached Him for being "a drunkard" (oinopotes, "a tippler", Luke 7:34). Jesus helped celebrate at a wedding, turning water into wine (John 2). Paul slipped in a small bit of medical advice in his letter to Timothy, recommending wine for frequent stomach ailments (1 Timothy 5:23). Finally, God's wrath is described as wine (Revelations 14:10).

John the Baptist, however, completely abstained from wine all of his life (Luke 1:15) as part of his vow of a Nazirite (Numbers 6).

Although convinced that nothing is unclean in itself, Paul listed wine as one thing that is liable to cause others to stumble (to strike at, to surge against, to stub on or trip up; Romans 14:21). Paul exhorted Christians to not get drunk with wine, comparing drunkenness to debauchery (unsavedness, profligacy, reckless extravagance, wasteful; Ephesians 5:18). Deacons and older women, as well as overseers, should not be given to much wine (1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 2:3).

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What has been your position regarding drinking? Because wine is often used figuratively in the Bible to describe happiness or abundant life, what experiences have you had with alcohol that have definitely been a blessing for you? What negative, harmful experiences have you had? What other substances are comparable with alcohol?

Sleeping in the subway by Samantha Marx, Creative Commons License

Monday, March 4, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Husband of One Wife

Husband of One Wife

1 Timothy 3:2

What has gone before...

Paul has written a "job description" for the office of overseer, beginning and ending with two similar descriptors that serve as general heading and summary: Above Reproach and Well Thought Of.

"Above reproach" and "well thought of" are open to various definition, according to who is watching or judging. Paul lists twelve specific attitudes, behaviors or conditions which help define these two character qualities.

Moving on...

"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." 1 Timothy 3:2-7 (ESV)

HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE: aner (a man, an individual male) and mia (one or first) and gyne (a woman, specially a wife)

The word translated as "husband" does not always mean "married". It often refers to any man, whether married or not.

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Matthew 7:24 (ESV)

Simon fell down before Jesus, exclaiming, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." Luke 5:8 (ESV)

John the Baptist described Jesus as a man:

"This is he of whom I said, - After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me." John 1:30 (ESV)

In each of these instances, "man" is the same word as "husband".

However, at times it does describe a man married to a woman. Jesus once spoke to a woman living with a man, after being married previously five times.

"The woman answered him, - I have no husband. - Jesus said to her, - You are right in saying, - I have no husband - for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband." John 4:17-18 (ESV)

Each instance of "husband" in this passage is the Greek word "aner". The woman had lived with six "aner", and five of them had been HER "aner", but the sixth and last "aner" was not HER "aner".

A man becomes a husband only when he belongs to a woman, and "belonging" is more than simply living with. Only when a woman can legally say, "I have him", can a man be a woman's husband.

Marriage is a contract between a man and a woman, binding them together in a way that is legally and socially recognized. The marriage contract provides privileges and protection that are not available otherwise. It also specifies duties and responsibilities not required of the unmarried.

"A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." Romans 7:2-3 (ESV)

"Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time." 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 (ESV)

Biblically, marriage is between one man and one woman. If the wife has authority over more than one man at a time, and the husband has authority over his wife, someone, sometime, will be frustrated. Multiple marriage partners at the same time results in confusion and unsatisfied privileges and responsibilities.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What compelling reasons make it essential that marriage be a matter for a society's legal system? What harm does society suffer if a couple were not to have their partnership legally recognized? How does society suffer if a marriage were homosexual?

Paul used marriage to illustrate the Christian's "marriage" to Christ:

"I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV)

How could a Christian be obedient to more than one God at a time? How could a wife be under the authority of more than one man at a time? How could a man be under the authority of more than one woman at a time?

Paul's reference to marriage here implies that having multiple marriage partners at the same time was common, or at least familiar, to his readers. Just as it was possible for a Christian to go astray, leaving Christ for another god, so it was possible, perhaps frequent, that a woman would leave her man without cause and marry another, or a man leave his woman without cause and marry another.

Paul's first essential element in a person being "above reproach" was faithfulness in marriage. He is not necessarily commanding overseers to be married (see 1 Corinthians 7). But if the man is involved with a woman, it is to be sealed by a marriage contract and to no other woman is he to act as if he were married.

This one-man, one-woman marriage relationship is binding upon them both until death or dissolution (1 Corinthians 7).

Does divorce disqualify a person as "reproachable"? Does "one" mean the "first and only" wife?

"One" can be translated as "first". Mary came to see the sepulchre on the "first" day of the week (Matthew 28:1). This use of "one" as "first" occurs only eight times out of the 79 instances in the New Testament. All but one of the uses of "one" as "first" refer to the first day of the week. The only exception is found in Paul's letter to Titus (ESV):

"As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him." Titus 3:10 (ESV)

"Once" in this verse is the same word translated elsewhere as "first" or "one". The intent here is to focus on how many warnings are given, rather than which warning was first in order of time.

However, there is a much more common Greek word for "first":

"A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, - Come, for everything is now ready. - But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, - I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused. - And another said, - I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused." Luke 14:16-19 (ESV)

FIRST: protos (foremost in time, place, order or importance)

"Protos" occurs 104 times in the New Testament. It refers to one of a group of more than one, with that one being the first one, whether in time, place, order or importance.

Interestingly, this verse includes the words, "all alike" which is translated from the same word that Paul used in his letter to Timothy, the word translated as "one".

When Greek writers wished to imply that something was "first", they most often used "protos".

Looking simply at word meanings, it seems clear that Paul did not mean to say that an overseer must be a person still married to the first woman he had ever married. Translating "mia" as "first" occurs only eight times in the Bible, and then it specifically refers to the day of the week, and only once as a reference to the number of warnings that ought to be given to a troublemaker.

Jesus, however, did see divorce as evidence of a selfish, sinful heart. Unless for the cause of sexual immorality, divorce forces the couple to become adulterers (Matthew 5:32). Jesus regarded any other ground of divorce to be due to hardness of heart (Mark 10:5).

The disciples recognized the ramifications of their Lord's words:

"Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away? - He said to them, - Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. - The disciples said to him, - If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." Matthew 19:7-10 (ESV)

DIVORCE: apolyo (to free fully; to relieve, release, dismiss, let die, pardon or divorce); from apo ("off", away) and lyo (to "loosen")

Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage contract. For the man who divorces his wife, except in the case of her sexual immorality, the divorce is evidence of the man's hard heart. The same applies for the woman who divorces her husband.

To divorce your spouse is to sin against them, unless they have been sexually immoral.

Unrepentant sinners, including people with hardened hearts, remain guilty before God. They are not above reproach.

Thank God for His merciful forgiveness and grace.

"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him." Colossians 1:21-22 (ESV)

Unrighteous divorce is evidence of sin, yet it is not unforgiveable sin. Everyone in Christ is presented holy and blameless and above reproach before God.

Paul requires Christians to consider whether they are "above reproach", which means that they are faithful to Christ as their source of mercy and forgiveness. How many of us were once "reproachable", guilty of hard hearts, selfish superiority and uncontrolled passions? Only in Christ can one become "above reproach", including those of us who have divorced and been divorced.

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

"I anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you experienced judgement from others, disqualification or disregard, based upon previous sin that you knew had been dealt with on the Cross of Christ? What should be our response when our worth is devalued by others because of our sinful life before Christ? How much time should elapse between a person's repentance and full restoration to the Christian community and service in ministry?

Husband & Wife by momo, Creative Commons License