Sunday, June 2, 2013


For the week beginning Sunday June 2, 2013

(The qualities GOD expects from Christians)
(1 Timothy 3 & 4)

The Apostle Paul’s two letters to Timothy, along with the letters to Titus and Philemon, are unique in the New Testament by virtue of the fact that they were written to individuals, rather than to churches. The letters to Timothy and Titus are categorized in biblical literature as “Pastoral Letters”, because they actually represent written instructions to these young pastors, as to how they should carry out their itinerant ministries, as they worked to establish, organize, and develop the early churches.  The letter to Philemon is doubly unique, because it is the only known “private letter” of the Apostle Paul’s that we now possess.     
It is clear, from several references in these letters, as well as from the testimony of history, that, these pastoral letters date from some time near the end of the “Apostolic Age”. In fact, only the letters of the Apostle John seem to be of a later date in origin. These pastoral letters reflect the growing hostility that many had, in the Roman Empire, towards the Christian church. They give us a much clearer understanding of the dangers from such hostilities, which the early Church workers, and promoters of Christianity, had to face, during the infancy stages of the Church, on a daily basis.
In First Timothy 3, verses 1-7, we see Paul first, giving instructions regarding the lofty qualifications of the church leadership position known as “Elder”, or “Bishop”, and then later, in verses 8-13, the office of “Deacon” is addressed. In the original Greek, the word used for “Elder” is “Presbuteros” (Pres-boo-ter-os), and it refers to an “older man”, or “a wise, or experienced person”. On the other hand, the Greek word used in this passage for “Bishop” is “Episkopos” (Ep-is-kop-os), and it describes a man who is “a superintendent or officer in charge of a church”, or, is an “overseer”. In the biblical sense, they are one and the same person. The one term, Presbuteros, describes the person, and the other term, Episkopos, describes their function, or role, in the church.
This passage is very informative, as it gives us information regarding the biblical standards by which these particular appointments are assessed. We will also need to incorporate a couple of verses from chapter 5 in order to provide a complete picture, or develop a more complete understanding of GOD’s guideline for the churches in these matters:
·         First, these men are “set apart” for their office. In other words, they must be men of “good reputation”, both in and outside of the church.
·         Secondly, these men had to undergo a period of testing. They had to be proven workers in the church (1 Timothy 3:10), meaning that they must have established a history in the church, of being able to handle responsibilities well.
·         Thirdly, the church that chose these men for duty must provide the means for them to live (1 Timothy 5:18).
·         The fourth thing we see is that, these men would be liable to censure (1 Timothy 5:19-22). In other words, they have to answer for their stewardship. They must be answerable first, to GOD, and then to the people over which they are given the task of overseeing.
·         The fifth thing we see is that, they have the duty of presiding over the Christian assembly, and, the duty of teaching the congregation (1 Timothy 5:17). And so we see, these men had the dual responsibility of, both, “administration”, and “instruction”. 
·         Last, but certainly, not least, the man to be chosen, must not be a “recent convert”, or “baby Christian”. The reason being is that, new Christians are, in particular, under heavy assault from satan, who is trying mightily to discourage them while they are in their most vulnerable period of the faith. It is a time when they can be, most easily, overcome with “pride”, and a sense of their own self-importance.
Every time a Christian allows himself to be overcome by the temptations of satan, he can be pointed to, or spotlighted, by oppositions of the Christian faith, and can be used as an example, or excuse, as to why people shouldn’t get involved in the Christian faith. It is especially harmful to the Christian cause, when such misfortunes occur in the upper echelons of the Christian Church.

It was the duty of men like Timothy and Titus, to ordain elders in every church (Titus 1:5), and the duty of the congregation to first choose these men for duty (Acts 6:3-6), using the standards GOD had set before them, and those standards and criteria “still” must apply to us and our modern-day churches, lest we ourselves be in danger of falling away from GOD.
The Apostle Paul tells us in verses 8-13 that, church Deacons, in the Greek, Diakonos (dee-ak-on-os), are also chosen by similar, or like, standards. Modern-day Christian Churches fail in moral structure, because we have subtly, over the years, moved away from GOD’s standards of governing HIS OWN body. We seem to be more concerned about conforming our churches to the world, than we are about bringing in “the lost”, and transforming them, from the world.
We have, both wittingly and unwittingly, over time, considerably reduced our efforts toward meeting GOD’s standards, and then tragically, we have replaced them with our own “human ingenuity”. Let us “consider” our deteriorating, unstructured existence, and then “consider” GOD’s wonderful standards that are so vividly described by Paul in these passages, and then, I challenge you, to respond to GOD, in the “right way”.
After Paul had given instructions to young Timothy regarding worship, in chapter 2, and concerning leadership, in chapter 3, he then moved on to the subjects of false teachings, and, of being a good servant of CHRIST. One of the things that the Christian Church had inherited from the Jews was the conceptual belief that things would get a lot worse, before they got better. They viewed time in two parts, or, two ages;

·         First, there was the “present age”, which was considered altogether bad, or evil, and is permeated with the influence of satan.

·         Then, there was the “age to come”, which is to be perfect, because it will be the age of CHRIST’ rule.

In between the two ages would come, the much anticipated, “Day of the LORD”, where the entire earth will be rocked from its foundation, and the ensuing great final battle with evil, “Armageddon”, would take place. This is to be followed by a final judgment from FATHER GOD (White Throne Judgment), and then finally, a new day will dawn (New Heaven and New Earth). Being Jews (except Luke), the New Testament writers all cling to that belief, because they, themselves, were raised in the spirit of that doctrine.

In 1 Timothy 4, verses 1-5, it is in this very context in which Paul is speaking to Timothy. It is a time, Scripture tells us, when false prophets and false teachers will arise and lead many people astray. In the church at Ephesus, where Timothy presided, many false teachers had already come. And even though these teachings came from demons, they came through men, men whose consciences had been branded by satan, and they only pretended to be religious (verses 1-2).

In verse 3, Paul’s statement about those, who forbade marriage, and condemned certain foods, smacks of the religious group known as “Gnostics”, who had also infiltrated the church in those days. The very essence of Gnosticism was that they believed that “spirit” is altogether good, and “matter” and “flesh” were altogether bad, or evil.

These heretics believed that men should, as much as possible, abstain from food, because food is material, and therefore, evil. They also believed that men should abstain from marriage, because marriage allowed for people to play out the sexual instincts of their bodies, which is also evil, and, that sexual urges should be entirely suppressed.

Heresy in the Christian Church is as old as the Church itself. In every generation, men have arose, who tried to be stricter than GOD. However, by doing these things, and anything else, other than the way GOD has shown us, is enormously insulting to HIM. GOD is the CREATOR of all things, and Scripture repeatedly tells us that all things, that GOD created, are good (verses 4-5).

In 1 Timothy 4, verses 6-15, Paul moves on to the subject of being a good servant for CHRIST. He starts by telling Timothy that it is his duty, as a servant of CHRIST to explain about these various heresies and false doctrine to the people of the church. However, he warns Timothy not to get involved or waste time in arguing over these GOD-less ideals and foolishness. Paul urged that, instead, he should spend his time and energy on training himself for spiritual fitness (verses 6-7).
In those days, especially in Greece, the young men were particularly interested in physical fitness, even to the point of making it a religion, by worshiping their own bodies. Also, the gyms, where they worked out, had become somewhat of a hotbed for homosexual activity. In verses 8-13, Paul is urging young Timothy to separate himself from this kind of foolishness, by focusing more on spiritual exercise than on the physical. And although physical exercise is essential to this life, spiritual exercise is more important, because, spiritual exercise will benefit you, both in this life, and, in the life to come.
Paul goes on to remind and encourage Timothy how hard Christians have to work, and how much we must suffer, in order that people will believe the truth. Our only hope is in the LIVING GOD, WHO is the SAVIOR of all people in general, and those who believe, in particular. Paul also urges Timothy not to cause people to think less of him because he is young, and, he was to do this by persisting in, and insisting in, everyone learning and obeying the word of GOD, and, more importantly, he is also to lead by example.
Paul ends chapter four, by urging Timothy not to neglect his spiritual gift, and to work hard at it so that everyone will be able to see his progress. He advises him to keep his own heart with all diligence, and be careful in his teaching by staying true to what is right. That way, GOD will save him, and, anyone who hears him. By the way, this bit of advice is still good for pastors in this day and age, and I dare say, it will also be good for those, in the years to come.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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