Devotional # 196. 1 Timothy 1:18-20

Devotional # 196. 6/27/16. 1 Timothy 1:18-20.

Intro. Do you have friends that have left the church? Chances are good you do, considering 69% of American evangelical teens leave the church after high school, never to return.[i] And if they do make it past high school, 712 of 18-29 year olds leave the church every single day; some return but ultimately 1.7 million will never come back.[ii] In fact, adults over 30 are leaving the church in record numbers also[iii]. There are multiple reasons for this but in today’s Devotional we’re going to study what Paul says about people “leaving the faith.” We’re going to look at where the church has failed and what we can do to fix it. Just remember some of Paul’s words can seem a little harsh but we’ll view this in light of context and that Paul told us that “love” is crucial in all situations (v. 5, v. 14).

v. 18. Paul stops talking about his personal experience with the Lord (1 Timothy 1:12-16, Devotional #195) and turns to talk about his spiritual “son” Timothy. Remember this letter was written to instruct Timothy on how to deal with the problems in the Ephesian church (see Devotional # 192 and Devotional # 193 for more). Here, Paul makes a “charge”, which means an encouraging command, to Timothy to “have faith and a good conscience” (v. 19).

Faith” isn’t blind confidence. Hebrews 11:1 clearly defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair” (Source 2). Like Timothy we must remember to recognize and agree, by taking the action of faith that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Along with “faith” Paul tells Timothy to have a “good conscience.” God has given everyone a conscience, some people chose to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit comes into their heart and enlightens their conscience. Other people chose to ignore their conscience and eventually silence and suppress and deaden it. Were you ever blamed for something you didn’t do? Your conscience was clear even if you were frustrated or punished. What about the person who does something wrong but doesn’t believe it should be considered wrong, and therefore feels like they have a clear conscience? There is obviously a difference but what exactly is that difference? We must first start with a biblical foundation to determine when something is right or wrong. Peter tells us to keep “a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:16, NIV). Clearly “a clear conscience” comes from “good behavior in Christ.” It may be closed-minded to say that a clear conscience can only come from a biblical basis, but nevertheless true.

After his “charge” Paul reminds Timothy that there were prophesies about him. These were given when elders laid hands on Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14) and may have been general although they could have been about his spiritual gift(s) (also 1 Timothy 4:14). One of the prophesies was for sure that he would “wage the good warfare.” Paul associates the Christian walk with life and death warfare, which he’s used before, for example read Ephesians 6:10-20 (Devotional #118, Devotional # 119, Devotional #120). This warfare is very precise and isn’t “a fight” or “warfare in general” but very specifically spiritual warfare. This will be important for us to remember when we look at verse 20 down below.

v. 19. Here Paul actually states the encouragement command to Timothy, “having faith and a clear conscience”, which we just studied. Then Paul moves to those who have left the church. The statistics that I quoted above came from John Dickerson’s book The Great Evangelical Recession but Dickerson doesn’t just give us the main problems with the church – he gives us biblical solutions too. Here in 1 Timothy 1:19 we see our first solution to healing our churches: unity on essential beliefs. Should the church unify in everything? No. “‘In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Christ.’ Our unity must give and insist on clear boundaries about the essentials. Our unity must grant us gracious room to disagree on non-essentials. And our unity must exalt Christ and His gospel.”[iv]

We’re told here that one of the “essentials” is “faith and a good conscience” and if anyone “rejected” that, it could not be tolerated. Paul likens it to being “shipwrecked” (something he knew about, see Acts 27, Devotional # 71) and, in a minute, he’ll call it “blasphemy” (v. 20). We can’t over overemphasize the negative affect of calling yourself a Christian but living a life without “faith and a good conscience”. Let’s read on to get a better understanding.

v. 20. Above I noted one of the biblical solutions Dickerson mentions is unity, a second solution is: healing in discipleship and shepherding. And here, in verse 20, Paul points us in that direction. He names two of the guys in the Ephesian church who rejected “faith and a good conscience”. Not much is known about Hymenaeus and Alexander except “Hymenaeus is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17 in connection with Philetus, another false teacher. Alexander may be the opponent of the faith referred to in 2 Timothy 4:14,15” (Source 3). And Paul tells Timothy that he has “delivered [them] to Satan.” This sounds questionable and harsh but as I said at the beginning we need to properly understand what Paul is saying and more importantly why. Paul is saying that people like Hymenaeus and Alexander are serving Satan and if they are doing that then they can’t be allowed to fellowship with believers.
Do you remember that Timothy was told “wage the good warfare” in verse 19? In Ephesians Paul reminded us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, Devotional #119). So Paul wasn’t saying Hymenaeus and Alexander were the root cause, they were just a symptom of the Devil’s manipulation.

Yes, it was important for Paul to kick them out of the church so that they couldn’t influence other believers to think incorrectly but equally as important was the desired outcome. Paul says he kicked them out so that they “may learn not to blaspheme.” Time and again when a person was kicked out of the church the hope was that they would see the error of their ways, repent and come back into fellowship with the congregation and with Jesus Christ (for example 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Paul is teaching Timothy and us the importance of taking a firm stance on an essential belief but also setting the people up for healing via discipleship and shepherding.

 

References.

Source 1: John S. Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession, 2013, p. 99.

Source 2: S. Michael Houdmann, http://www.gotquestions.org/definition-of-faith.html

Source 3: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1862.

[i] Source 1, p. 99

[ii] Source 1, pp. 103-104

[iii] Source 1, pp. 106-107

[iv] Source 1, p. 152

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Devotional # 195. 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Devotional # 195. 6/21/16. 1 Timothy 1:12-17.

 

Intro. Last week we discussed how love was the basis of the Law. Only Jesus can point out why certain things are bad and how to be saved from them. This week we can live vicariously through Paul who will tell us about why he needed a Savior and will praise God for being that Savior!

vv. 12-13. Paul never forgets to “thank Christ Jesus.” What does he have to be thankful for? The same that we do, as we’ll read. Jesus “enabled” Paul, “counted him faithful” and “put him in the ministry.” Jesus did all of it.

What makes this more incredible was all the bad stuff Paul had done to Jesus and Christians prior to this. Paul had been “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” by oppressing believers (see Acts 9:1-2, Devotional # 50). But Paul received mercy because he did it “ignorantly in unbelief.” This means that Paul persecuted Christians because he was uninformed and didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. But when Jesus confronted Paul about his “unbelief”, and the actions coming from it, Paul responded with repentance (Acts 9:3-20, Devotional # 50). This is how we should respond to God’s offer of grace as we’re about to see…

v. 14. The grace of Jesus “was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love.” This is interesting because His grace is more than we could want or need (“exceedingly abundant”) and is given as a gift of “faith and love.” Any “faith” or “love” that we receive or give to others is rooted in Jesus.

v. 15. This is one of the most famous and impactful verses in the New Testament. It says, “this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Paul states that what he is about to say is both completely “true” and can be trusted.  He gives us the gospel in a nutshell: Jesus came to save sinful people! This acknowledges many things: Jesus is able to save, Jesus came from somewhere other than earth, that His purpose was to save people and that people need saving because everyone is a sinner.

Paul finishes this amazing section recognizing that he’s no saint instead he calls himself the “chief” sinner or in other words, “the worse sinner.” Was he really the worse? No. Although he felt guilty for persecuting Christians technically no one’s sins are worse than anyone else’s. We must realize that if all we had ever done was stolen a candy bar or if we had murdered someone, we are still sinners. We’ve broken the law that we talked about last week (1 Timothy 1:5-11, Devotional # 194). In a sense we’re all the “chief sinner.” Also see Ephesians 3:8-13, Devotional # 101 for more.

vv. 16-17. Paul starts with “however”, reminding us to think about what he just said – that he is the chief sinner. For that reason Paul “obtained mercy.” His receiving God’s mercy was used to show others that God is “longsuffering.” We’ve talked about “longsuffering” before but it’s important we don’t just glance over it. The word might be easier understood if we reverse the two root words: ‘suffering long’. God suffers long for us. He waits and is patient, with arms outstretched as we repeatedly slap Him in the face and spit on the cross. But God used Paul “as a pattern” for his peers and for all people from that time forward. The people who realized Jesus’ sacrifice and the Father’s longsuffering “are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” I love that this sentence is written always in the present, looking toward the future! For we who are Christians, accepting Jesus’ sacrifice is past tense but for those who haven’t yet, we look forward to welcoming them to our family of faith.

Paul ends this section with a beautiful and informative doxology. We find three attributes of God, He is 1. Eternal, 2. Immortal, 3. Invisible. He is called “King”, which is a deserving title of the Being that is all three of these things but it also contrasts all of the people that Paul will talk about in a couple of verses (“all men, kings and all who are in authority” – 1 Timothy 2:1-2). Our King’s attributes in more depth are: first, He is “eternal” which means He has always existed as Job 36:26, Psalm 102:12, etc. tell us. Second, He is “immortal” meaning He cannot die as we read in Romans 1:23. I assume Paul is thinking about the phrase “everlasting life” that he just used. Jesus offers us “eternal immortality.” Who else could do this but the King who is by His very nature these things? Lastly, the King is “invisible.” I love this because God is not a man or woman because He would not be greater than His creation and He could be corrupted and enslaved; instead God is a Spirit (John 1:18). If we saw God in His true glory it would decimate us (Exodus 33:20) but this earth was given the physical representation of God through Jesus for 33 years (Colossians 1:15, Devotional # 147). When Jesus left His disciples He said it would be better for them when He was gone than when He had been there because he would send the Holy Spirit to not just be with them but in them (John 16:7-11). For more read this great article by Bob Deffinbaugh.

When Paul says only God is wise, it makes sense. Any person who has wisdom has it because God gave it to them. It’s a comforting thought knowing that our King has absolute wisdom. I’m human, sometimes I have concerns about how God can be good and let bad things happen or why it was OK for Him to act a certain way. But we are reminded that our wisdom is second to God’s understanding.

And for all these things – the same mercy Paul obtained, His longsuffering, His everlasting life, His eternal, immortal, invisible and wise attributes, for all of theses things – God deserves “honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Devotional # 194. 1 Timothy 1:5-11

Devotional # 194. 6/13/16. 1 Timothy 1:5-11.

Intro. I’ve spent a lot of time on today’s Devotional because it is exciting! We’re told that the law comes from love, but how can that be true? We’ll walk through several sins that were present in Ephesus (v. 3) and see how they contradict the 10 Commandments and how those sins also interestingly directly contradict Jesus’ love.

vv. 5-7. Last week we talked about the first part of this verse: how “love” should be behind everything we do. It’s easier to do this when we’re sharing the sharing the message of Jesus but it also needs to be done when we’re telling someone they’re doing something wrong (like Timothy has to do here with the Ephesians). For more about this “love” read Devotional # 193.

After “love” the person giving the “commandment” (which ultimately comes from God’s word) of correction should also be speaking “from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” Basically we shouldn’t be hypocrites when we’re telling people what not to do. It always convicts me when I’m talking to someone about not sinning and I’ve just done something similar. Our takeaway from this is to constantly be walking with the Lord so we can always have “a pure conscience” since we never know when God will put us into a situation where we need to lovingly correct someone.

Following his thought of “the commandment” (v. 5) Paul starts talking about “the Law.” Here (vv. 6-7) he explains that some of the Hebrews who converted to Christianity were defaulting back to their old religion. Their desire “to be teachers” so overcame them that they lost their “understanding” of the Scriptures and only desired the Law.

vv. 8-10. The law wasn’t bad since it convicted a person that they had made mistakes which the Bible calls “sin.” But as Romans 18:8 tells us, ‘the end of the commandment is love.’ Paul goes on to name some sins that apparently were happening in the Ephesian church. We’re going to look at how these break the law, for example those who are “unholy and profane” break the 3rd & 4th Commandments (“you shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” and “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” in Exodus 20:7-8). But why does this matter to us now if we don’t live by the Law? First, that we know what is not lawful and second, that we see how it conflicts with Jesus and His perfect keeping of the law. Here are the sins matched up with Jesus and how we apply it to our lives:

  1. murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers” – In the Greek the words are separate here: patroloas (Source 1) and metroloas (Source 2). It does mean to kill your parents but also includes “smiting.” So this has more to do with not beating or striking (expressly to death) your parents. The 5th Commandment says, “honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus about ceremonially washing hands, Jesus turned the conversation towards a person’s inner defilement by talking about parents (Matthew 15: 1-11). Why did Jesus use this analogy? Because the Pharisees taught that people didn’t have to take care of their parents if they used the money to tithe at church. On the surface Jesus was teaching it was wrong to disrespect and abandon your parents, but on a deeper level He was teaching that we can’t misconstrue God’s word which is evidence of a defiled heart. Jesus’ conclusion was that it was “not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:11).
  2. manslayers” –I wasn’t sure if this was like our term “manslaughter” but in looking at the Greek (androphonos) the word definitely means “murder” as in premeditated killing (Source 3). The 6th Commandment says, “you shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Jesus told us do not murder and not to say “‘Raca!’” (which literally means “empty headed”) or ‘You fool!’ (Matthew 5:21-22). Jesus is saying verbal abuse is as bad as murder because anger and hatred are the motivations. It is very obvious that hatred is the opposite of love.
  3. fornicators” –For this and sodomy we must look at Genesis for what God intended, not what sinful people have created. In Genesis 2:22-24 God commands that two people make a promise to be committed to God and to be committed to each other. A fornicator has made no promise to God or a spouse but selfishly looks for emotional fulfillment and sexual pleasure in another person. This is unnatural in God’s eyes. The idea of the 7th Commandment which says, “you shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) can apply here. In Matthew 5:27-32 Jesus digs down to the real matter: not just telling people not to commit adultery but questioning them about their heart and motives. True love is unselfishly committed to another person. In the same way Jesus became the groom dying for His bride on the cross; when we selflessly die to ourselves we can love others in such a way it introduces them to Jesus and His perfect love.
  4. sodomizers” – In the same way as fornication, sodomy seeks sexual pleasure in place of proper sexual union. Again this is unnatural in God’s eyes (1. babies can’t come from this, 2. numerous medical problems, as well as 3. disease and 4. simple disregard for God’s word, etc.) This also falls under the 7th Jude 1:7 tells us, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” We have been given examples so we don’t make the same mistakes. What are the mistakes? As the ESV translates this, they “likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire.” When we allow ourselves to be consumed by “unnatural desire” then we disagree with God; we reject His love and say we know better. In the same way that sodomy seeks love, to pursue that lifestyle actually rejects the true love of God.
  5. kidnappers” – Apparently this can mean ‘slave traders’ (Source 4) as well as “kidnappers”. We can apply this to the 8th Commandment which says, “you shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Whether you are kidnapping a child or trapping an adult and selling them into slavery it is opposed by Jesus. Note we’re not talking about slaves and masters but instead those who trap or kidnap people. To steal a person’s freedom is one of the worst contradictions to Jesus’ love. Jesus told us to serve others since “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). When we know Jesus’ love we give ourselves to serve Him (a bondservant) but this is our choice, no one can force us to do this. (See 1 Timothy 6:1-2, Devotional # 206 for more on slaves and masters).
  6. liars” – When a person lies they know the truth but tell a false story instead. But is a white lie all that bad? In Isaiah 65:16 God gives Himself the title “God of truth” and in Titus 1:2 we’re told “…God, who cannot lie…” promises us eternal life. Our God is a God of truth which is applied here since this comes from the 9th Commandment in Exodus 20:16, which says, “you shall not bear false witness.” What does John 8:31-32 say? “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” If I think my kids or my wife or my boss are lying then I can’t trust them. And it makes me wonder why they don’t trust me enough to tell the truth. Lying brings suspicion and doubt which is the opposite of Jesus’ love.
  7. perjurers” – Perjury is lying in court when you promised under oath that you would tell the truth. This is again from the 9th In Matthew 5:33 Jesus tells the people they’ve been taught to not “swear falsely” but He elaborates saying not to swear by anything because we don’t have control over situations, only God does (Matthew 5:34-36). Jesus goes on to say simply keep your word. If you say “yes” to something then do it. When we get to the heart of what Jesus is saying we see that when we love a person (friend or stranger) we won’t lie under oath to them. Honesty in love is the best testimony.

In case the Ephesians (or we today) thought they could get away with something not in this list Paul generalizes all other sins as “any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine”. Just as the 10 Commandments could be applied to the ones above we know the 10th Commandment says, “you shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, males servant, etc.” (Exodus 20: 17) so it covers anything else our mind could dream up.

As one commentator reminds us, “we understand what love is only when we see it spelled out for us in terms of the law: thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal—these are ways of describing how love acts” (Source 5). In other words the way the 10 Commandments are written (“you shall not”) is actually showing how to love others. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “love your enemies” because anyone can be nice to a person that is nice to them but it takes Jesus working through us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

v. 11. After this list of problems and profane things we’re given the answer: it’s Jesus! Paul basically told us the law isn’t bad but it’s a process to get to a goal, not the goal itself. Jesus and His love is the end goal. Paul was entrusted with sharing this “glorious gospel of the blessed God” and he is passing this important task on to Timothy and on to us. 

Conclusion. Paul started this section reminding us that the purpose of the law was love even though there were some in Ephesus who set themselves up to teach the law only and had removed the proper understanding of the Law, which, again was love. That’s why as we walked through each sin, we saw what it meant, which of the 10 Commandments it matched up to and how breaking that law was a direct contrast to the love of Jesus.

Without understanding that we are all “ungodly” and “sinners” (v. 9) we wouldn’t see our need for saving, but if we don’t acknowledge that these things are unhealthy sins and don’t accept Jesus’ love then we are not responding to the command to repent and we reject Him and His love.

 

References.

Source 1: patroloas (“murderer of fathers”): https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3964&t=KJV

Source 2:  metroloas (“murderer of mothers”): https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3389&t=KJV

Source 3: androphonos (“manslayer”): https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G409&t=KJV

Source 4: New Living Translation, Berean Study Bible, etc. Also Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Ti/1Ti_001.cfm?a=1120001

Source 5: Ray Stedman, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stedman_ray/Adv_1Ti/Adv_1Ti.cfm?a=1120001

Devotional # 193. 1 Timothy 1:3-5

Devotional # 193. 6/6/16. 1 Timothy 1:3-5.

Intro. Last week when we started 1 Timothy we talked about how the apostle Paul was writing to Timothy to instruct and encourage him. I gave you the list of problems the church in Ephesus was dealing with (see Devotional # 192) and today we’ll see a couple of those. In addition to that we’ll learn about standing against false doctrine, myths and pedigrees, but doing all of this in “love.”

v. 3. Here we see Paul had planted Timothy in Ephesus because they were doing some things that needed correction. Obviously there was no one in the church that was mature enough, experienced enough and competent enough to be trained by Paul to do this job. Let’s apply this to our lives:

I’m an Assistant Pastor at my church and if God moved our Lead Pastor to a different church we should be able to weather the transition.  Now let’s say some problems arise within the congregation; if someone from outside our church has to be brought in to keep things in order until a Head Pastor can be brought in then there is a problem. The reason is that in this example, the current leadership in our church relies upon the Lord and is mature and experienced enough to handle any issue. Personally I have been a Christian for 28 years, been in church leadership for 4+ years and have been discipled and discipled others. I have no excuse. And that’s just me, there are other men and women who should be able to prayerfully handle any issues. Sure, we may not have gone through the exact problem before but we rely on the Bible as our foundation and we know that God has placed the perfect people that He has gifted at every ministry to see it flourish. So when I see a lack of volunteers for Sunday School or an overworked pastor I know that there are other people who are resisting the call of God. In the same way that Paul is about to remind us that we do all of this in “love” (v. 5) we are not to be angry or combative with those that we feel are not helping out because we don’t fully know who God wants to put in that position. Often we think a certain person should be stepping up but we’re wrong, and then the most unlikely of candidates answers God’s call and does an incredible job. My point is that you are responsible to answer God’s call of duty in your church. Don’t worry about others (although we can pray!) just make sure there isn’t a Paul having to send a Timothy to pick up your slack!

Therefore, what are Timothy’s objectives?

First, to make sure no one teaches a false doctrine. Why is this first? Because when doctrine is taught people listen and apply it to their life. When false doctrine is taught the danger is that people won’t know it’s unsound and they will apply it to their lives and possibly teach it to others. We just saw how important it was to have the Bible as our foundation, let alone having seen “teach no other doctrine” twice in 2 Thessalonians (Devotional # 191).

v. 4. Second, to make sure no one pays “heed to fables” and third to not entertain “endless genealogies”.

Regarding “heed to fables”, “fables” here is mythos in the Greek, and can be a narrative story that can be fiction or an invention (Source 1).  I love that Timothy (and by extension, us also) is told to not allow fictional stories to be put through the church. Have you ever heard someone say “those Bible stories are all just made up” or “the stuff in the Bible didn’t really happen, that’s just where myths came from” ? Well, we believers should hate myths and fables as much as non-believers. In Paul’s day there were teachings passed down through Rabbinical leaders that added fanciful stories to the Bible’s truths. Often people who say the Bible is full of made up stories are actually just uneducated. Or, rather, they were educated on lies. And for some of this they can’t be blamed. If their parents taught them the Bible was full of lies that’s a hard foundation to walk away from. Beyond that they may have had a professor and a few disreputable websites under their belt which causes them to be confident. But if they truly want to know the truth, and aren’t just searching for an excuse, then they will be like C. S. Lewis who set out to prove the Bible was full of fables and errors and ended up being convinced of it’s validity and becoming an outspoken Christian. Yes, a Christian’s enemy are “fables” just as much as the non-Christian says “fables” are their enemy.

When Paul says, “endless genealogies” he is referring to the teaching of the family heritage that was so important to the Jews of their time. Paul isn’t against genealogies since Matthew and Luke trace Jesus’ family line to prove he is the Messiah and some of the Old Testament has family lines, instead Paul says “endless” genealogies are unprofitable. To be caught up in researching and arguing over family lines is non-essential to Jesus’ plan of redemption. This is hard for us to understand in our day and age when we can’t even name our great, great grandparents let alone have our heritage be a part of our everyday life. As Barnes says, “the whole system was, moreover, contrary to the genius of Christianity, for it served to keep up the pride of blood and of birth” (Source 2). So for our application in the present day it would be kind of like if believers had come from a family of Christians and they made a big deal about it. If you were the first Christian in your family then you would feel like you weren’t as spiritual as others who were constantly telling you what a great godly family they had. Again, this takes the focus off of Jesus and puts it on us.
The last phrase here in verse 4 is what is really important and should be applied to our churches today: “which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” We understand this to mean regardless of what our concern is, we can run it through this litmus test: does the concern cause a dispute or does it edify? Is the concern how short a woman’s skirt is? Well, modesty is commanded in the Bible but the issue shouldn’t cause the body of Christ to split. That’s a non-essential. OK, but what if the issue is bigger? What if the concern is that church leaders are selling pieces of paper that supposedly free you from your sins (“indulgences”)? Was it acceptable for Martin Luther to post his “Ninety-Five Theses”? Yes, it was necessary. Why? Because the indulgences that were being sold taught a false doctrine (v. 3). This should be clear now: if the issue is a non-essential we don’t let it “cause disputes”, if it is essential we stand for what’s right. As I mentioned two weeks ago (Devotional # 191) the desire is always for reconciliation between believers (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:20; James 5:19-20).

v. 5. We’re only going to talk about one thing from verse 5 today and we’ll talk more about the rest of it next week. The reason we’re talking about it at all is because it mentions “love.” In a Devotional about teaching “no other doctrine” and not heeding “fables and endless genealogies” we need to keep “love” as our focus. Love. Not just a pretty word with benign emotion attached but the “love” of Jesus. A love for God first, in the same manner that He loves us. A potent love that commits to honesty yet compassion. A love of others before self. A love of the person rather than the pedigree. Truly our righteous fervor should be shrouded in a warm comforting blanket of love.

Conclusion. Paul had placed Timothy as temporary  pastor and leader over the church in Ephesus. God’s power, Timothy’s willing heart and Paul’s encouragement are an unbeatable formula. Our first encouragement is to hold first and foremost to correct doctrine. We’re not to allow myths or genealogies to divide us. If we keep these things in “love”, true love of God, we will be doing His will, while building up our brothers and sisters in the faith.

 

References.

Source 1: mythos , https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3454&t=KJV).

Source 2: Barnes Commentary, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_timothy/1-4.htm

Primary Voting Day

Primary Voting Day. 6/3/16.

Primary ballots

I’ve sent out reminders over the last 6 months to be praying for our Presidential Election on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. We’ve talked about “Political Prayer Preparation”, the “Decision America Tour 2016” and “God’s Power in the 2016 Presidential Election”. Today will be short, just making you aware of the Presidential Primary Election this coming Tuesday, June 7th.

If you’re in California you can go here to find the polling place closest to you. If you don’t live in California (and chances are good that your Primary is already over!) this can still be a reminder to pray for California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota as we all cast our  Primary votes this coming Tuesday.

This will be the first time I’ve participated in the Primary Election and I encourage you to vote also. With only 5 months left, please join me in praying for whomever God chooses to make our President.

Remember, “you are the salt of the earth but if salt has lost its taste how shall its saltiness be restored?” (Matthew 5:13).

Devotional # 192. 1 Timothy 1:1-2

Devotional # 192. 5/31/16. 1 Timothy 1:1-2.

 

Introduction to 1 Timothy. The first time Paul was released from prison, he went through some cities he had ministered in before. One of the cities was Ephesus where Paul, being a good leader, decided to place Timothy there to lead them. This is what discipleship looks like. Jesus calls us to do what He did. He trained 12 guys and 11 turned out really well! But Paul didn’t just put Timothy there to be a good example but also to direct them away from the bad stuff they were already doing. There was “false doctrine (1:3-7; 4:1-3; 6:3-5), disorder in worship (2:1-15), the need for qualified leaders (3:1-14), and materialism (6:6-19)” (Source 1).

But that’s not all we learn from this book. We’ll also talk about “pastoral instruction from Paul to Timothy (cf. 3:14,15)”, “the proper function of the law (1:5-11); salvation (1:14-16, 2:4-6); the attributes of God (1:17); the Fall (2:13,14); the person of Christ (3:16; 6:15,16); election (6:12); and the second coming of Christ (6:14,15)” (Source 1).
Introduction to this Devotional. Today we’ll talk about Paul and Timothy and who the letter is actually from (God). We’ll also discuss “grace, mercy and peace” and briefly touch on mentoring (discipleship).

v. 1. The custom at this time was to put who a letter was from at the beginning instead of at the end like we do now. Paul tells you he’s writing the letter and on what authority: as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” In the same way as we talked about in Colossians 1:1-2 (Devotional # 142) Paul could have mentioned his other qualifications but all that matters is that Jesus chose him to lead and teach these things.

Paul notes that his being an “apostle” wasn’t just something  he decided on and it wasn’t just a glorious title or a religious duty. Instead Paul had been “commanded” by “God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Although we’re not called to be “apostles”, since an “apostle” was verbally called by Jesus, we are still “commanded” to answer God’s calling in our lives.

I find it interesting that Paul calls “God” (meaning ‘the Father’) “our  Savior” and then deliberately  separates “the Lord Jesus Christ” calling Him, “our hope.” Wait a minute! Paul time and again calls Jesus the Savior (Ephesians 5:23, Philippians 3:20, 2 Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:4) and explained that the only way “to salvation is through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

) so how can the Father be the Savior? And furthermore, if that is the case, how can Jesus be “the hope”, wouldn’t it be the Father? As always our answer comes from the Scriptures. 1 John 4:14 says, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (NIV). Lastly, what really bridges the gap is that it can be said of the Father that He is our Savior as well as the Son being our Savior, only since the Trinity is true.

v. 2. Paul clearly states who this letter is sent to: Timothy. Who was Timothy? Well, we’ve studied a bit about him here  and here , for example. But in the text here, Paul calls him “a true son in the faith.” We can understand this as Paul thinking of Timothy fondly as his own son. Paul had worked with Timothy since he was young (Acts 16:1-5, Devotional # 56) and Paul loved and trusted him so much that he calls Timothy a “true” son.

What words does he give to his young protégé? Paul greets him with words from the Father and the Son: “grace, mercy and peace.” In the past we’ve said the difference between mercy and grace is that: mercy is not getting what we deserve (hell) and grace is getting what we don’t deserve (heaven) (Devotional # 98).

And now Paul adds “peace”. In the same way that the Father and Son greeted the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2) “peace” is coupled with “grace.” As we mentioned above, Timothy is dealing with a lot of church stuff, he’s probably stressed out but God reminds Timothy that He will give “grace, mercy and peace” in these times. How often do we allow our cares to overwhelm us? Do you have a godly mentor like Paul to remind you that the first thing God greets you with every day is “grace, mercy and peace” ? If not, seek one out. Be discriminating, pray about who God is leading you towards asking to be your mentor.

Conclusion. We’ve talked about the reason Paul wrote this (to instruct and encourage Timothy), who greets Timothy (God the Father and the Son) and what God says to Timothy (“grace, mercy and peace”). One of the things we can take away from this is forgiveness. This morning I was reading in Leviticus where God tells the people what sacrifices to give Him for their sins. If they do these things “it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 5:10). The concepts of “grace” and “mercy” and “peace” all are concerned with the idea of forgiveness. God has forgiveness us first so it is only logical that we forgive others. This is how we show our maturity and transformed life – by forgiving others in proportion to how Jesus forgave us (Matthew 18:22).

I’ve made a few comparisons and applications for your life but the last one I want to give you today has to do with you being a mentor. Over the course of 1 & 2 Timothy we’ll probably talk about Paul’s mentoring example quite a few times. So I don’t have to belabor the point but suffice it to say that we should be mentoring. In the same way that you should have unconditional forgiveness you should be mentoring (“discipling”) unconditionally. You can’t say ‘nobody is mentoring me so I’m not going to mentor someone else.’ Maybe you feel like you don’t know enough, or you’ll do it once someone puts a little time into you first, but in your heart you know that’s not right, you know that’s not how Jesus has asked you to handle it. If every Christian sought out who God was leading them to mentor, every believer would be discipled and discipling!

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1858