Devotional # 199. 1 Timothy 2:6-15

Devotional # 199. 7/25/16. 1 Timothy 2:6-15.

 

Intro. Last week we talked about the reason Christians have hope and how Jesus was the one and only Mediator between our sin and God (Devotional # 198). This week we’re going to talk about men and women’s roles in church services.

v. 6-7. We’re talking about “the Man Christ Jesus” (v. 5) and that He gave Himself as a “ransom.” Basically Jesus traded His freedom for our freedom. The best part is that it was “for all.” Jesus was impartial when He died on the cross “for all” people, “for all” time.

Paul tells us he was appointed as “a preacher and an apostle” and “a teacher of the Gentiles.” We know the fuller story from Acts 13:2, 42-52. Paul reassures us that this is true, promising by the highest authority and greatest testimony – Jesus Christ!

Verses 8-15. Men and Women’s Conduct in the Church
The next section is on men and women’s responsibilities within the Church. As with anything in the Bible we must understand this in the context of the time period and the church this was written to. When Paul uses words like “every” and “all” it applies to all churches but if he becomes more detailed he is usually referring to a specific problem.

v. 8. Men Leading Prayer

When Paul says for men to pray “everywhere” he means in “every” church. Not that they should have their hands raised wherever they go. Regarding their hands being lifted – this was a common custom of that culture and time while praying (1 Kings 8:22; Psalm 28:2, 63:4, 134:2). There is nothing magical about it but it does give the reminder of humility for the person praying.

vv. 9-10. Ladies of the Congregation’s Modesty

Guzik gives us a great first impression of these verses: “Women should emphasize spiritual preparation and beauty more than physical preparation and beauty” (Source 1). Many people like the idea of taking the focus off of physical appearance but many Americans don’t want anyone to tell them how to dress or act. In the church we need to get rid of our pride and cultural rights if they conflict with God’s commands. Here Paul says that Christian ladies should dress in “modest apparel“, which is explained as “modesty and self-control” (ESV). Much like the mature believer who recognizes that although they have freedom in Christ, they shouldn’t always use it if it stumbles other believers or confuses non-Christians (Romans 14).

The next part needs to be understood in cultural context: “not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.” It’s very clear what Paul means: at the time of writing this, all of these things (braided hair, gold, etc.) were viewed as ungodly and incorrect action. This was because rich women’s would use these things to draw attention to themselves and their wealth and status. Church is supposed to welcome everyone not be just another reminder of how rich or poor a person is.  “How you dress reflects your heart…The most important adornment is good works. If a woman is dressed in propriety and moderation, with good works, she is perfectly dressed. Good works make a woman more beautiful than good jewelry” (Source 1).

vv. 11-15. Ladies Role in the Church Service

Paul talks about ladies being quiet and not being in authority over men. Paul first directs our attention to Adam and Eve. God’s original creation was to have husband and wife submit to Him and to hold the man responsible and to have the wife help the man (Genesis 2:18, 1 Corinthians 11:8, 9). Secondly, the Fall and the curse that came from Eve’s disobedience were used by God. When Eve left Adam’s leadership and protection, she sinned. Likewise, Adam “violated his leadership role” when he followed Eve, so women’s curse is to want to usurp man’s authority (Genesis 3:16) (Source 2). As we’ve talked about in the past, God hold’s men responsible for what happens in their households, not women (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22). Here God holds men responsible for teaching in the church. Let’s look at teaching a little more.

In the cultures of the Bible women were always looked at as inferior to men. In every command and situation in the Bible God consistently gives women more rights and fair dealings then the surrounding cultures. This case is no different. Notice that the Church is told to “let a woman learn” (v. 11) which was completely unheard of in this day and time. Paul was saying women had just as much right to an education in the Scriptures as any man did. If we couple this with the context of the Ephesian church that Paul is instructing Timothy for, it is possible that some of the ladies were taking advantage of this freedom and trying to gain teaching roles within the church. This doesn’t mean women can’t be leaders and don’t have much to offer. I think of the story of Lydia in Acts 16:14-15 and also in our own church where many women have important insight that men sometimes miss. Just as in marriage, men and women should work together in a church to keep it working for God’s glory. So here, Paul was making sure the divine structure remained intact. Remember men are held responsible for the spiritual health of the church.

Lastly, what does Paul mean by “nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control”? It is clear in the Hebrew this is talking about the women that come after Eve. The word “saved” here doesn’t mean “salvation” instead it means to remove the stigma of being the same gender known for bringing sin into the world. What can ladies do to remove the stigma? They can train up godly kids. Because mothers by nature are more nurturing and generally spend more time with kids then father’s do, they are able to train up their kids in the Lord. How will they be equipped to train up these kids? They must “continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” This is a great way for Paul to book-end his point on modesty and self-control.

Conclusion. The first part of our Devotional today focused on how Jesus died to save “all” people and that is especially meaningful to us in a study that could have initially seemed condescending towards women. God chose a women to carry the baby Savior, Jesus chose the woman at the well to explain He was God and He chose women to be the first witnesses of His resurrection. God has set up the institutions of marriage and family and the church in a specific way. He holds us accountable for what He has said and what we know. I encourage you to put aside your cultural norms and instead meditate on God’s knowledge and goodness. If you follow His commands your life and church will be blessed!

 

References.

Source 1: David Guzik: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Ti/1Ti_2.cfm?a=1121001

Source 2: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1864.

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Devotional # 181. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Devotional # 181. 3/15/16. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

 

Intro. Last week we covered the first 12 verses of this chapter (Devotional # 180) where we saw how to be righteous Christians, but I mentioned that it was laying a foundation for us to understand how the Rapture of the Church was going to go.

vv. 13-14. Having said that it is God’s will for us to be sanctified and cleaned by not being sexually immoral (v. 3), leading a quiet life, not gossiping and working hard (v. 11), Paul finishes that thought by explaining we need to be good witness to non-Christians (“outside”) and that we Christians “may lack nothing” (v. 12). With the fact that we lack nothing, Paul moves in to the truth of what our resurrection and the Rapture will be like. You see, because we lack nothing we also do not lack knowledge. That’s why Paul can say, “I do not want you to be ignorant” because ignorance is the lack of information.

I was reading Proverbs 14 this morning (as I attempt to read the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the current calendar day) and verse 6 stood out as applicable to this study: “A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands” (Proverbs 14:6). From what we’re reading here in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 there are those who are “ignorant” that heaven exists and that the Rapture of the Church will happen. Today there are very few people in the “civilized” world who haven’t heard the truth about a biblical heaven and the idea of the Rapture with movies like “Left Behind” with Nicolas Cage and the “Left Behind” book series (and films with Kirk Cameron). So we can see that many of them are “scoffers”, making fun of a Savior who would die on the cross; the ideas of sin, the Rapture and heaven. But for the Christian, we have this “knowledge” and it is “easy to him who understands.” What does this do for us? We’re told this so that we will have “hope” (v. 13) but notice that verse 14 says “if”. The “if” here makes it a conditional promise. “If we believe…” Believe what? “That Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” You can’t get much clearer than that!

In verse 14 we have the roadmap: What is to be done: “believe”, in Whom: “Jesus Christ”, Why: because He “died and rose again”, and the Result: the Father “will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” To “sleep in Jesus” sounds a little strange but is actually a truthful and perfect way to put it. Anyone who has died but believed in Jesus is not really spiritually “dead” – they are merely “sleeping.” Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples, the family and the mourners of the little girl He raised from the dead in Mark 5:35-43 (Devotional # 15) ? He said that she was just sleeping, and then proceeded to bring her back to life. What an incredible story and what an incredibly hopeful outlook – that death is not the end but merely a short time of sleep followed with the fullness of eternal life! We must keep in mind that for that little girl (and any other people Jesus raised from the dead during His ministry) they were going to have to die again since every person must die (1 Corinthians 15:22; Hebrews 9:27). But the principle still applies: God considers the physical death of His Church as merely sleeping.

vv. 15-17. Paul substantiates his claim by saying this is true because it is “the word of the Lord.” This isn’t something Paul made up or even connected the dots and made a hypotheses. No, the facts of heaven and the Rapture were told to him by God. Not only to him but we see it elsewhere in the Bible, proving the validity of these claims.

The Thessalonians were unsure in what order future things were going to happen. Would their dead friends and relative miss Jesus coming back? Hadn’t Jesus promised to save Christians from difficult times? Paul explains how things will happen and in what order:

 

First, at “the Rapture” Jesus will come down from heaven. This will be announced, as always, at Jesus’ command (“shout”), also announced by a separate voice of an archangel and lastly, announced by a trumpet blast.

Second, the Christians who have died before Jesus raptures the Church will rise before the believers who are still alive (“we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” and “the dead in Christ will rise first”).

Third, the Christians who are still alive will be taken from their earthly bodies (essentially dying) and join Jesus “in the clouds.”

 

We’ll look into these things in more detail but I think at this point it’s important to note that although many Christians refer to Jesus’ return for his Church as the “Second Coming” technically the “Second Coming” is something different that doesn’t happen until after the Tribulation. Although The Rapture and the Second Coming share some similarities, here are several key differences:

 

The Rapture vs. The Second Coming (Source 1)

  Rapture Second Coming
The Church Jesus returns FOR His Church (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17) Jesus returns WITH His Church (Rev. 19:11-16)
Tribulation Before (1 Thess. 5:9; Rev. 3:10) After (Rev. chapters 16-19)
Reason Believers get delivered (1 Thess. 4:13-17; 5:9) Non-believers get judged (Rev. 3:10; 19:11-21)
Viewed Hidden (1 Cor. 15:50-54) Visible to all (Rev. 1:7)
Timeline Any time (1 Cor. 15:50-54; Titus 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:14-18) After specific events (2 Thess. 2:4; Mt. 24:15-30)

 

 

Contrasts Between the Rapture and the Second Coming (Source 2)
Rapture Second Coming
Christ comes for His own (John 14:3; 1Th. 5:28; 2Th. 2:1). Christ comes with His own (1Th. 3:13; Jude 1:14; Rev. 19:14+).1
Christ comes in the air (1Th. 4:17). Christ comes to the earth (Zec. 14:4; Acts 1:11).2
Christ claims His bride (1Th. 4:16-17). Christ comes with His bride (Rev. 19:6-14+).3
Removal of believers (1Th. 4:17). Manifestation of Christ (Mal. 4:2).4
Only His own see Him (1Th. 4:13-18). Every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7+).5
Tribulation begins (2Th. 1:6-9). Millennial Kingdom begins (Rev. 20:1-7+).6
Saved are delivered from wrath (1Th. 1:10; 1Th. 5:9). Unsaved experience the wrath of God (Rev. 6:12-17+).7
No signs precede rapture (1Th. 5:1-3). Signs precede Second Coming (Luke 21:11,Luke 21:15).8
Focus is Lord and Church (1Th. 4:13-18). Focus is Israel and kingdom (Mat. 24:14).9
World is deceived (2Th. 2:3-12). Satan is bound so he cannot deceive (Rev. 20:1-2+).10
Believers depart the earth (1Th. 4:15-17).11 Unbelievers are taken away from the earth (Mat. 24:37-41).12
Unbelievers remain on earth. Believers remain on earth (Mat. 25:34).13
No mention of establishing Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Christ has come to set up His Kingdom on earth (Mat. 25:31Mat. 25:34).14
Christians taken to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Resurrected saints do not see the Father’s house (Rev. 20:4+).15
Imminent—could happen at any moment. Cannot occur for at least 7 years.16
Precedes the career of the man of sin. (2Th. 2:1-3). Terminates the career of the man of sin (Rev. 19:20+).

 

(For more on how Christians will not go through the Tribulation and how our current trials and tribulations are much different from the Tribulation event, see Devotional # 179).

The charts above should give you some good information (and maybe even some extra stuff you didn’t know like how unbelievers won’t be aware when the Rapture happens or that there are no signs that happen prior to the Rapture) but let’s look a little deeper at a couple of things specifically here in verses 15-17.

 

We should acknowledge that time and again in the end times it is Jesus who starts something or gives a command to begin (read Revelation). In verse 16, “The Lord Himself” who descends “with a shout” is giving a “war shout”, which shows He is “a victorious King, giving the word of command to the hosts of heaven” (Source 3). This makes sense when we realize that when the Church is pulled out here at the Rapture it is the immediate beginning of the Tribulation, the 7 years of horrible plagues that God rains down upon the earth. Jesus is signaling battle positions to His angels. After the archangel comes the trumpet blast. We should be aware this isn’t “the judgment trumpets of Revelation 8-11, but is illustrated by the trumpet of Exodus 19:16-19, which called the people out of the camp to meet God. It will be a trumpet of deliverance (cf. Zephaniah 1:16; Zechariah 9:14)” (Source 4).

 

Many say that the word “Rapture” is not in the Bible, as if that somehow makes it untrue. I would point out at words like Trinity, Jonah’s whale and the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” are also not found in the Bible but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many places in the Bible that teach the concept without using the exact word we use. So the reason we call it the Rapture is because of the phrase “caught up”. In the original Greek “caught up” is harpazo, which means “to seize” or “to snatch out or away” (Source 5).

 

We see that all of the Christians, those who were dead and those who have just died, all join Jesus “in the clouds”, “in the air.” So Jesus never actually comes down to earth but stays in the sky bringing His Church to Him. It is important for us to recognize that if He did come all the way down to earth at this point then He would be failing at the prophecy in Zechariah 14:4.

v. 18. The last part of verse 17 (“thus we shall always be with the Lord”) and this verse gave the Thessalonians, and give us nowadays, a lot of hope. The fact that all of the difficulties we have gone through on earth are over and we never have to leave our beloved Savior’s side is such a hopeful thought that it makes our current struggles worth it. Now here in verse 18 it says to “comfort one another with these words.” It’s important that we understand that this kind of “comfort” isn’t like Paul saying ‘hang in there through the tough times, the Rapture is soon’ instead he means ‘live holy lives, we have our hope of salvation!’ Do you see the difference? There is nothing wrong with being comforted by the Rapture (most Christians are!) but in the first example the focus is on us and the difficulties we’re going through, and the quick event of the Rapture, but as we’ve said many times it’s not all about us, it’s all about God. So if we “comfort” each other with encouragements to live holy lives as pleasing to God, and are hopeful and appreciative of the eternal salvation He provides, than we aren’t focused on ourselves instead our holy lives are also testimonies to the “ignorant” and “scoffers” (“outside”) who can receive his salvation just like we did!

 

Conclusion. When we recognize the foundation that Paul set in the first half of this chapter (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Devotional # 180) about living godly lives suddenly how Paul ends the chapter makes a lot of sense. And this key portion of Scripture on the Rapture reminds us of our personal responsibilities in our lives and in the lives of others. We take great “comfort” in the hope of our salvation and that we “shall always be with the Lord”. As you’ll see in Revelation 19:6-14 we come back to earth as part of Jesus’ army, so He is training us for great things. (Here, in 1 Thessalonians 4 Jesus is coming FOR His Church, in Revelation 19 Jesus is coming WITH His Church.) We have great responsibility and continued hope in Jesus!

 

 

References.

Source 1: http://christianity.about.com/od/endtimestopicalstudy/f/secondcomingof.htm

Source 2: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/rapture-versus-second-coming.html

Source 3: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Th/1Th_004.cfm?a=1115001

Source 4: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1848.

Source 5: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G726&t=KJV

Devotional # 176. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Devotional # 176. 2/13/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3.

Intro. We’ll break up 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 into several parts but the consistent theme throughout the whole chapter is remembering what God has done. Whether that be what God has directly done or what God has done through other Christians.

Just in this chapter Paul uses “you know” four times (v. 1, v. 2, v. 5, v. 11). He also uses phrases like “you remember” (v. 9) and “you are witnesses” (v. 10) to remind them of the things that they’ve seen. Why is he reminding them of these things? Let’s keep reading to find out!

vv. 1-3. Paul shows his care for the Thessalonians by using the term “brethren” (as we’ve often said this is encompassing of both brothers and sisters in the church) and he tells them that they’re already aware that when he and Silas and Timothy came to them it wasn’t a useless trip. Is he trying to remind them of something that they’ve forgotten? Is he trying to fake it because they don’t really remember it that well and he thinks that he can make the trip more “rose colored” in their memories? No, in fact he finishes this little section (vv. 1-3) by telling them there was no error or deceit. And that’s actually the reasoning of why he’s reminding them: because they have come to love the truth, they’ve stopped serving idols (1:9) and have a love for God and their salvation, so they need to be encouraged in what is true. Just like the Thessalonians, we also need to be encouraged. We have grown as Christians deeper than when we first believed. But sometimes we need to be reminded of what it was like when we first believed. This helps us be thankful for both where we were and where we’re going but it also gives us a mindset of sharing Christ with others and knowing that they’ll go through the same battles and we can prepare them for those battles because “we know” and “we remember.”

So Paul’s trip “was not in vain” because it produced these Christians in Thessalonica. And then Paul fills in the story for them, which they apparently already knew, about how he and Silas and Timothy had come from Philippi before going to Thessalonica for the first time. How were they treated in Philippi? They were “spitefully treated” which basically just means that people were mean to them whether verbal abuses or physical abuses. We actually covered the story in Acts 16:19-24, 37 (Devotional # 56). But they continued to be “bold in our God” when they came to Thessalonica. Can you imagine if Paul had just given up after Philippi? Then these Thessalonians wouldn’t have heard about the gospel at that time and they wouldn’t have become friends with Paul and grown as Christians. So much rests on us persevering and continuing on in what God is given us regardless of what outside forces pound against us. But we can’t just do this alone we have to have God’s help. Many times that means that we submit to things that we don’t like. Maybe we don’t see the persecution coming but God is calling us to prepare. He’s calling you to pray on your knees but you’re too busy. He’s calling you to read your Word and tell your family about it but you’d rather complain about work and your coworkers. Paul didn’t give up and I love that he uses the phrase “our God“, it wasn’t just that Paul was special and had a unique relationship with God instead He is “our God” also. There’s enough of God to go around! He truly is “our God“!

And in verse 3 Paul reminds them that when he was encouraging them it didn’t come from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.” These three things we need to keep in mind when we are encouraging others.

-Are we encouraging other Christians in “error“? This would be when we misquote Scriptures (accidentally or on purpose). The ends don’t justify the means; as William S. Paley reminds us, “White lies always introduce others of a darker complexion” (Source 1). No matter how small it seems and how much you think it will help in the long run, we Bible believing Christians pride ourselves that there is no error in the Bible so don’t make it start having errors now.

-What about “uncleanness“? The Hebrew had been taught by God to avoid anything “unclean.” This applied to everything in their lives, divided into threes. For animals there were “holy” ones that could be sacrificed, there were “clean” that couldn’t be sacrificed but could be eaten and then there were “unclean” that couldn’t be sacrificed or eaten. This was also a representation of people (“holy” priests, “clean” Hebrews and “unclean” Gentiles*) and Paul was showing “his ‘manner of life’ was pure, not sexually wicked” (Source 2). It’s really cool that this got mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians because in my daily devotions this morning I was reading in Genesis chapter 7 which is when Moses is bringing all of the animals on to the Ark before the flood. God tells him to bring both “clean animals” and “unclean” (Genesis 7:8). From the beginning God has made a way of salvation for the Hebrew and Gentile.

-And lastly it wasn’t “in deceit.” Paul didn’t deceive anyone into becoming a Christian. I’ve been studying when Satan deceived Eve in the Garden and it struck me that he doesn’t blatantly lie but uses half-truths and preys on her weakness. In the same way the American church has deceived non-Christians over the last 40 years or so. We’ve been trained to be nice to people and to sometimes talk about Jesus and that He loves them and if the people will just accept Him into their heart then everything will be perfect. When we do mass alter calls or even witnessing and never following up then people think of Jesus as Santa and when their life actually gets harder (because they’re dying to their flesh and suddenly Satan is their enemy) they think they tried Jesus or church but that it didn’t work. We must stop “deceiving” people into a false following of the Lord. Lay the cards out in front of them (over time, after you’ve truly showed them the love of Jesus) and explain to them why their life will become more difficult but why it’s the best and most important decision they’ll ever make.

* http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/clean-unclean.html
 

Conclusion. Paul has reminded his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica of their history with the Lord and with Paul and Silas and Timothy and their other believing brothers and sisters. In the same way we need to be reminded…and to be reminding…other believers of what they were like when they first believed in the Lord and how we have loved them and why these things are important. Go out and love the “clean” and the “unclean” today!

 

References

Source 1: http://izquotes.com/quote/141078

Source 2: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible,  p. 1844.

Devotional # 156. Colossians 2:18-23

Devotional # 156. 9/28/15. Colossians 2:18-23.

Intro. Last week we spoke about food and holidays and I asked how did Jesus saving us fit together with food and festivals? Now as we read on we see that last week’s verses (16–17) actually was starting a section where Paul encourages us Christians to not give up our freedom which Jesus Christ has given us. I usually don’t like to jump ahead to the end of the section that we’re reading but I think right off the bat this week we need to know the very last line that we’re going to read today. It is “but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (v. 23) It’s important for us to understand that the list that we’re going to read are all things that are not going to help us deal with our “indulgence of the flesh.”

v. 18. I don’t know about you but when I’m told that I’m being given a gift I immediately perk up. And if I’m told that I have a gift but that people are trying to steal it I become defensive. “Hey, my friend wanted to give that to me, what right do you have to take that from me?” In the same way here Paul tells us we have been given an incredible gift even beyond our salvation and citizenship in heaven, we have been given freedom on earth. This freedom is from religious rituals and regulations.

v. 19. Paul continues by talking about the body. We’ve seen this before where Jesus talks about the Church being the body (Colossians 1:18, Devotional # 147). Each person has a different role to play. Some people are fingers other people are legs or eyes. Here, Paul teaches us that when we latch on to the religious traditions then we aren’t doing our job as ligaments and joints. In other words Paul is saying you can’t hold on to both at the same time. Either you’re holding on to Jesus, as the Head of our Church, or you’re holding on to customs and rituals. One gets you no where the other is what you were made for. When it’s put that way it seem like a “no brainer” (forgive the “head” pun).

v. 20. Paul insinuates that we’ve “died with Christ”, which is a reference that we are familiar with from Galatians 2:20 and Philippians 1:21. In Galatians 2:20 we talked about understanding that Jesus was crucified on the cross. The terrific pain and torture that He went through while bearing our sins. In the same way we must go through a small fraction of pain while on earth if we accept Jesus. Paul continues “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I know live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Devotional # 88). Then in Philippians 1:21 I mentioned the phrase “to live is Christ” had always bugged me. And maybe it’s supposed to. Maybe it’s one of those things that we’re supposed to wrestle with, to really pour over and meditate on. The CEB Translation puts it this way: “Because for me, living serves Christ and dying is even better” (Devotional # 122). In reality this is also talked about in Romans 6:6, Romans 8:36, 2 Corinthians 4:11, and 2 Timothy 2:11, but we haven’t covered those Scriptures yet.

The “regulations” Paul is talking about, as we’ll see in the next couple verses, are concocted by men and not by God. So they have the appearance of being godly but they only impress other people who have put value on these false declarations of purity and honesty and religiosity.

vv. 21-22. Do you remember when we studied over Colossians 2:8 (Devotional #153) which talked about the “traditions of men”? I said that the solution to any tradition of man was the tradition of Jesus. And Paul is right, we’re so worried about “don’t do.” Don’t touch that, don’t taste that, don’t handle that. Often we’ve been convinced that Christianity is just a long list of what not to do. But all of those things are falling apart (“perish”) as you use them so is it really possible to please God by not doing them?

v. 23. Do you remember some of our first studies where Jesus told us how He felt about seeming to be very religious on the outside but not having a relationship with God on the inside? One place was where the Scribes were condemned. Jesus said they loved wearing long robes, being very religious, praying long prayers where everyone could see and hear how great they thought they were, but in reality they had nothing (Mark 12:38-40). I was watching the TV mini-series “The Bible” last night and I liked how Jesus said “Do the things the Teachers of the Word of God tell you to do but don’t do what they do.”

Whatever our personal religious crutch is, it doesn’t work. It was just as common in Paul’s time as it is in ours – people look very wise in their “self-imposed religion” and in their “false humility” and in obvious fasting (“neglect of the body”). But these strong words really hit home! These are self-imposed and have nothing to do with what God requires of you. Do you steal time from the Lord and then try and make it up in some way you’ve invented? Do you tell God that if He just makes you a preacher over a growing church then you’ll really devote your time to Him? Do you like sitting up front at church just so you know everyone sees you? We’ve all got some religious thing that we do that actually feeds our flesh.

That’s not the life God wanted us to have. I picture all of these people who have relied on themselves and convinced themselves that they are doing what is required by their god, when they stand before the LORD God on Judgment Day how foolish they will feel. Not only are they not going to heaven but they spent so much of their life keeping themselves in a little religious box that was unnecessary. Really if you don’t want to follow God’s request for your life you might as well party all the time because that’s as good as it’s going to get. But we’re called to be accountable for ourselves, and as much as it’s within our power we need to be praying that God would show us whatever religious thing(s) we’ve put on the throne of our heart and to take it away.

Conclusion. As I mentioned at the beginning, all of the things listed here make our selfish pride feel good about ourselves since they are “indulgences of the flesh“. But God has made it clear that we aren’t to allow this since its bad for us and goes against everything that God has set up for us.

Father, we thank You for always making us better. We know that You don’t tell us to do things to make us feel bad but always to sanctify us, to grow us in likeness to Jesus. And Jesus, we thank you for making it clear to us that we don’t have to waste our time on a bunch of religious rituals that only make us feel better about our indulgences in the flesh, instead You call us out on our thinly veiled foolishness and tell us to just accept what You’ve already done. And Holy Spirit, we pray in Your power and ask for Your intercession that we would pray according to the Father’s will. We pray that you would be that still, small voice enriching our conscience and reminding us when we’ve slipped back in to the old habits. We pray that You would guide us and work in us. We know we can’t do this on our own otherwise we already would have and wouldn’t need You. Instead make us aware and guide as we know You will do. Thank you, God.

Devotional # 110. Ephesians 5:22-33

Devotional # 110. 11/10/14. Ephesians 5:22-33.

Intro. I hate and love this passage of Scripture. I am so thankful it is in the Bible and yet wish it would just go away. This section is one of the most popular on marriage but there is something even more important also being spoken of. In keeping with the context of Ephesians we must remember that this chapter has taught us how to walk as Christians in love, light and wisdom. We also studied verse 21 last week which says, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

I said before we can properly understand marriage we have to understand how all believers are to “submit” to each other. Matthew Henry brings this into context when he says, “There is a mutual submission that Christians owe one to another… we must be of a yielding and of a submissive spirit, and ready to all the duties of the respective places and stations that God has allotted to us in the world” (Source 1).

vv. 22-24. What is a wife supposed to do? “submit to her husband” How? “as to the Lord.” At first this sounds misogynistic but there are a few things we need to understand here which will help us through this passage. What does “submit” mean? We saw a little bit in the intro but the foundation was really set in v. 21: that EVERY (man and women believer) submit to EACH OTHER in the fear of God. Remember the quote last week, “[t]o fear God is to revere Him, to hold Him in awe, and not to offend Him or sin against Him” (Source 2). So we respect God when we respect each other and our different roles. The wife isn’t actually submitting to her husband she is submitting “to the Lord”, by obeying His command and as if she’s doing it directly to Him. This doesn’t mean to surrender to a dictator, since we’ll see that in the same way the husband is to submit themselves to Christ (who we all know is not a dictator).

MacArthur notes that “no believer is inherently superior to any other believer. In their standing before God, they are equal in every way (Gal 3:28)” (Source 3).This submission is offered by the wife not demanded by the husband. Stott quotes Luther explaining there is a difference between a person and an office. In other words there can be a man named Scott but he is different than an “I.T. technician”, in the same way the woman called Maria is very different from the one who is called “student”. If we understand this, it’s easy to see that someone who holds an office (such as a congresswoman or king or husband) “have a certain God-given authority” (Source 4, pp. 217-218). They “have equal dignity as God-like beings, but different God-appointed roles” (Source 4, p. 218).

A family needs a leader (Proverbs 11:14) so it makes sense that God appoint a leader. But why does He say it’s always the man? I know some very strong willed, leading women. So why shouldn’t they be the leader if its what’s natural to them? Well, that’s actually part of the curse from sin (Genesis 3:16). My wife calls this mindset “dominating Eve”. Just because it’s easy or natural doesn’t mean that it’s right. And to be honest I, and most of the guys I know, rarely act like the leader. Beyond that we make bad decisions that our wives warned us about. But God has made the rule that the man shall be the priest of the home. We’ll see what that means next.

vv. 25-27. It seems like the husband has the prestigious and honorable and even easier task of simply “loving your wives.” But as soon as we hear what that love looks like it makes us take a step back on our initial view that the husband has it easy. Paul tells the husband that they are to love their wife in the same way Jesus loved the Church, in that He went to the cross and died for her (“gave Himself for her”). The man actually needs to sacrifice everything in order to better his wife and their family. As a priest he is supposed to be in earnest prayer for each child (as Job sacrificed and prayed in Job 1:5), he is to teach his family to follow the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 22:6) and regardless of who in the family sins or makes a bad decision it falls on the husbands shoulders as responsible. That last one should disturb most men! They will immediately say, “that’s not fair, why am I responsible for my wife’s sin?” But we will quickly shut up if we consider what it would have looked like if Jesus had said, “I have to die for their sin?! That’s not fair, why am I responsible for my creations disobedience?”

So what does the phrase “He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word”? The first understanding is that this is what Jesus does for His bride (we, the Church) and the second is that this is what husbands are to do for their wives. Stott explains, “perhaps there is a deliberate allusion to the bridal bath which took place before both Jewish and Greek weddings. The tenses of the verbs suggest that the cleansing of the church proceeds her consecration or sanctification. Indeed, the cleansing seems to refer to the initial purification or cleansing from sin and guilt which we received when we first repent and believe in Jesus…the ‘washing of water’ is an unambiguous reference to baptism (cf. Acts 22:16), while the additional reference to ‘the word’ indicates that baptism is no magical or mechanical ceremony, but needs an explanatory word to define its significance, express the promises of cleansing and new life in the Spirit which it symbolizes, and arouse our faith” (Source 4, p. 227). I asked a friend for his thoughts on the husband washing his wife “by the water of the word” and he responded, it means “Teaching them how to love like Christ (through example), Teaching them about forgiveness (To give and receive), Helping them understand the word (How and when to apply it), Making sure they are equipped daily to win the battle (Prayer and promises of God)” (Source 5).

In speaking on God’s Love, C.S. Lewis uses the analogy of a man’s love for a woman, which he says is “full of danger” but is “the most useful for our special purpose”: “It is freely used in Scripture. Israel is a false wife, but Her heavenly Husband cannot forget the happier days, ‘I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thy espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness’ [Jer. 2:2]. Israel is the pauper bride, the waif whom Her lover found abandoned by the wayside, and clothed and adorned and made lovely and yet she betrayed Him [Ezek. 16:6-15]. ‘Adulteresses’ St. James calls us, because we turn aside to the ‘friendship of the world,’ while God ‘jealously longs for the spirit He has implanted in us’ [Jas. 4:4-5]. The Church is the Lord’s bride whom He so loves that in her no spot or wrinkle is endurable [Eph. 5:27]. For the truth which this analogy serves to emphasise is that Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love. When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not rather then first begin to care? Does any woman regard it as a sign of love in a man that he neither knows nor care how she is looking? Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal…Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least: he is pleased with little, but demands all” (Source 6, pp. 45-46).

vv. 28-31. What this boils down to is that everybody loves themselves a lot. We eat food, comb our hair, go to sleep, etc. We take care of ourselves but if husbands were to take as good care of their wives as they do themselves their marriages would be way better! If you take a minute to really think about “he who loves his wife loves himself” you’ll see there is a lot of wisdom! This is the positive version of “if momma aint happy, aint nobody happy.”

vv. 32-33. This entire section is understood in these two verses. If you miss this you miss the whole thing. Paul basically says, ‘everything I said is applicable to your actual marriages but the point is actually about Christ and His relationship with the church.’ This is incredible! I used to think that first and foremost this section was to guide marriages and second, it also kind of applied to Jesus. But it’s the other way around. Every single point of marriage is God showing us what He’s like and how He loves. Anything about marriage exists because God wanted us to understand something about Him. Literally everything… “two shall become one”… sex… godly submission… adultery… the family… the marriage supper (common in Jewish culture)…love …lust… even exchanging rings, is God giving us a daily examples of Him (or lack of Him).
Conclusion. This section doesn’t really need a conclusion but I do think its important to include the context of the chapter. The understanding of how to walk as a Christian is so perfectly compared to a look of how marriage was designed to be. Full of respect, with each person looking out for each other as they would for themselves. But the reality is that whether we’re talking about walking in love, light and wisdom, exhorting each other with “psalms and spiritual songs” or understanding marriage, the whole point is that this is what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us. He pursues us like a lover, He woo’s us like a loving groom and He forgives us as only God can. He desires that we prepare ourselves as a bride in order to join Him at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7). I don’t know about you but I want to be there! I want to have applied all of this stuff correctly in my life and the life of my family so we get to be His “beloved” and attend the party He’s prepared for 2,000 years!

References

Source 1: Matthew Henry, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Eph/Eph_005.cfm?a=1102001

Source 2: Ross Rhoads, http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/april-2006/can-we-overcome-fear

Source 3: John MacArthur, John MacArthur Study Bible, (under note for v. 21), p. 1813.

Source 4: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979.

Source 5: Personal Interview, D.S. via email on 11/10/14.

Source 6: C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 1940.

Devotional # 101. Ephesians 3:8-13

Devotional # 101. 9/8/14. Ephesians 3:8-13.

Intro. Last week I said that we were going to split Ephesians 3 into 3 parts. This week is part 2. There aren’t a lot of verses but please read through it slowly and let the words sink in. Make sure you read all the way to the end. John Stott gives us quite an exhortation!

v. 8. Paul is humble in this section (and will continue to be in verse 14 when he tells us that he bows his knees to God the Father). It is refreshing to hear a man who is held on such a pedestal (the greatest evangelist of all time, etc.) by Christians of all centuries, be honestly modest. There is no false humility here. Paul truly views himself as the worst Christian. In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” (NIV). He recognizes that although the sins that he committed in the past have been forgiven there is nevertheless repercussions and consequences to those actions (such as the death of believers prior to his conversion). Read Romans chapter 7 for Paul’s frustration at continuing to sin even though he is a Christian. We all know how this feels don’t we? The stuff that we hate doing ends up being what we do (Romans 7:15). But we must then read Romans chapter 8 for Paul’s realization for the goodness of God’s forgiveness. That is why we, like Paul, can recognize what a bad Christian we are when we stand on our own actions but then are able to keep going because we have been given “this grace.” God worked something out yesterday for today’s Devotional! Our pastor gave a sermon on “the grace” that Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 2:1. This is very specifically “grace” from Jesus. To hear the sermon go to http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=9814231803 .

Paul notes that he was given this grace so that he could share the gospel with Gentiles. This is a great tie in to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me’” (NIV).

vv. 9-10. Another reason Paul was given “this grace” was “to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery”. What does he mean? Well, we discussed the “mystery” last week (Ephesians 3:3,6; Devotional 100). Remember it was that Gentiles would be equal to Hebrews as “heirs”, from “the same body” and participants in forgiveness of sin from Jesus, the Messiah (3:6)?

Fellowship” here is such a cool word. Fellowship in the Greek is koinonia (G#2842) meaning “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse: the share which one has in anything, participation (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2842&t=KJV). We saw this word used in our study of Acts 2 (Devotional # 44). Acts 2:42 is one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible about the unity of believers. It says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

And do you remember last week when we discussed why this had been hidden? For some they had been hard-hearted, and for others it wasn’t in God’s timing yet. But here Paul tells us that it has been made known to “the church.” Notice that it doesn’t say this mystery has been told only to the Pope. It doesn’t say “God only revealed this mystery to Pastor So-and-So.” No, it says to “the church”. The “church” is every Christian that makes up the body of Christ. Don’t let someone tell you that they have previously unknown information from God. This person is a false teacher. Everything we need that applies to life and godliness is contained in God’s word (2 Peter 1:3).

vv. 11-12. So the “fellowship” of all believers was God’s “eternal purpose”. This should make us pay attention to how much love we give to other Christians! How exciting that God had planned our unity with other believers before anything was even created. This was accomplished by Jesus. Because of this we have “boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” Most of us have never lived in a time when Bible reading and spiritual study were reserved only for a few special people. But the 16th century reformers had to fight, many being martyred, for their belief that the good news was for everyone and that anyone could pray to God to forgive their sins. They called this “‘the priesthood of all believers’” (Source 1, p. 124) which alludes to the access we have been given. We have talked about the 2 foot thick curtain that separated the holy of holies from the court of the priests. When Jesus died and that curtain was torn from top to bottom (showing that it was God above tearing down) it gave man access to God.

v. 13. This is a verse worth meditating on. Paul tells the Ephesians not to give up just because he was suffering in prison, in fact it was their “glory.” How does that work? Does it make sense that Paul’s pain would bring glory to the church in Ephesus! It does if we realize that the church was made up of Gentiles. Stott explains that Paul “is suffering in prison on their behalf, as their champion, standing firm for their inclusion in God’s new society” (Source 1, p. 129).
Conclusion. I can’t conclude this better than a quote from John Stott. Stott acknowledges that Paul had a special commission from Jesus so it could be expected that he would have to suffer for the church. But he says, “Nevertheless, the principle is applicable to all Christians. If the church is central to God’s purpose, as seen in both history and the gospel, it must surely also be central to our lives. How can we take lightly what God takes so seriously? How dare we push to the circumference what God has placed that the centre? No, we shall seek to become responsible church members, active in some local manifestation of the universal church. We shall not be able to acquiesce in low standards which fall far short of the New Testament ideals for God’s new society, whether mechanical, meaningless worship services, or fellowship which is icy cold and even spoiled by rivalries which make the Lord’s Supper a farce, or such inward-looking isolationism as to turn the church into a ghetto which is indifferent to the outside world and it’s pain. If instead (like Paul) we keep before us the vision of God’s new society as his family, his dwelling place and his instrument in the world, then we shall constantly be seeking to make our church’s worship more authentic, its fellowship more caring and its outreach more compassionate. In other words (like Paul again), we shall be ready to pray, to work and if necessary to suffer in order to turn the vision into reality” (pp. 129-130).

References

Source 1: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979.