Monday, July 29, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Pugnacious Smiter

Pugnacious Smiter

1 Timothy 3:2

What has gone before...

Drunkenness destroys a person's marriage, blinds them to reality, exposes them to injury and disease, brings scorn from the community, alienates them from friendship and confuses their ability to teach and learn. Drunkenness can lead to violence, the second destructive behavior listed by Paul.

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..." 1 Timothy 3:2-3 (ESV)

Violent people, smiters, find it a pleasure to pound flat into the ground anyone who might challenge their personal privileges of superiority .

"Violent" occurs only twice in the Bible, once here, and again in Paul's letter to Titus, both instances describing people unqualified to serve as an overseer or leader in the church. The word specifically means to pound or strike with the fist, or with a hammer. There are distinct Greek words which mean hitting with a stick, or slapping with the hand, as well as accidental collisions. Paul's use of "violent" here means a single, devastating blow with a fist or hammer.

The root word of "violent" is a Greek word that is usually translated as "formed", as in God's formation of the first man and woman from clay:

"Adam was formed first, then Eve." 1 Timothy 2:13 (ESV)

"Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, Why have you made me like this?" Romans 9:20 (ESV)

"Formed", "molded" and "molder" are all translations of the same word.

Thus, a "violent" person is one who attempts, usually in a single blow, to re-make their opponent, reducing them to a lump of clay or re-forming them into a shape of their own choosing.

It is easy to imagine a drunkard giving free rein to violence. The alcohol distorts reality and dissolves self-control, allowing sinful violence to overwhelm a person's mind and body.

A violent person, however, does not necessarily require alcohol. Deeply held anger...or fear, pride or lust, could regard abstainence as proof of their superiority and power. A completely sober person can respond violently to any challenge or difficulty they encounter.



The third, and last, of the negative vices that disqualify a person from leadership is that which means "sordid", translated by the KJV as "not greedy of filthy lucre" and which the ESV incorporates later as part of "lover of money".

"Not sordid" occurs three times, twice in this same chapter, and once in Paul's letter to Titus. All three references describe the character of people unsuited for leadership, people seeking "gain" from shameful sources.

"Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain." 1 Timothy 3:8 (ESV)

"Not greedy for dishonest gain" is translated from the same word that Paul used earlier: "me aischrokerdes", meaning "sordid gain". Paul connects this warning with faithful teaching:

"They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience." 1 Timothy 3:9 (ESV)

"Mystery of the faith" means the essential doctrine of Christianity, the truth that Jesus is the Only Son of God, One with God, humanity's Only Lord and Savior.

Why Paul describes the gospel as a "mystery" will be looked at more closely as we go further in this first letter to Timothy.

The shameful source of sordid gain is seen in Paul's letter to Titus. Again, Paul is describing the essential character and behavior of men who are godly leaders:

"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach." Titus 1:9-11 (ESV)

"Insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers" taught whatever "truth" might profit them. Perverting or contradicting the foundational teachings of Christ, they effectively persuaded others to abandon faith, trading it for legalistic, traditional religion.

Circumcision had become, not a sign of God's holiness, but the Source of holiness. Tradition had replaced Truth. The Sign had replaced the Savior.

And tradition was quite profitable.


photo credit: Robbie Veldwijk via photopin cc