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Category Archives: Pauline Epistles

Titus 3 – Rethinking Christian Action

Paul calls Titus to remind the Church to be subject to rulers and authorities. What if these authorities are oppressive to the Church? Should they still be subject to them then? I think Paul would say yes. At the time that this was written, the Jews and Christians alike were being oppressed. There’s a decent chance that Nero was Caesar at the time and he was known for blaming things on the Christians that caused people to persecute them. He was also known for putting Christians on crosses and lighting them on fire to light the gardens of Rome.

How does Paul call us to act as Christians in this kind of society with these kinds of rulers and authorities? He says to be obedient, be ready to do good, malign no one, be peaceable, gentle, and show every consideration for all men.

Obedient – Yes, there are times we are to go against the law of the land but we need to be careful about when/how we do this. Like in the example of Daniel, he was told he couldn’t pray but he did anyway. When Christians couldn’t worship openly, they did it in hiding. I’m not sure we can apply this to “unfair” taxes and just not pay them because we do not think it is right.

Be ready to do good – As Christians, are we known for the good that we do or for the evil that we stand up against. We should still stand up against sinful action but the good that we do should be what defines us.

 

Malign no one – We live in a country where we have the right to “Free Speech” but does this mean that as Christians we should always take advantage of this right? I’m fearful that sometimes as Christians we can become very hateful in our speech about those we feel like are opposed to us. Whether it is the President, Communists, Muslims, homosexuals, etc. we are not to speak maliciously against anyone.

Peaceable and Gentle – When people think of Christians in our society do these two words come to mind? We should be a presence of peace in this world of chaos. The world sees gentleness as a weakness but we look to the example of Christ and the gentleness that he showed those around him.

Every consideration for all men – What group of people are you least considerate towards? What person do you struggle being considerate to? Ask these questions seriously and make changes to be more like Christ on the cross who showed the full extent of consideration for all mankind.

We used to do all of those things. We weren’t worth much at all and we looked and acted just like the world…till the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared. That’s when everything changed. He saved us. It wasn’t because of anything we did but it was by His mercy through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. I want to point out here that Paul is saying that Baptism (the washing of regeneration) is not a work that we do but the mercy of God. We receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism and we becomes heirs with Christ our Savior. This is what Paul encourages Titus to speak confidently about so that the response of those who do believe in God will be to engage in good deeds.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles, Titus

 

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Titus 2 – Like a Good Neighbor…

Like a Good Neighbor…

There are so many things in this chapter of Titus that sound like an abbreviated version of several chapters of 1 Timothy.  The basic premise of this chapter takes up several chapters like it in 1 Timothy (2, 3 and parts of 4).  The idea is that Christians should be good people by the measure assigned by the community they live in.  Its all about being beyond reproach.  

Check out verse 5.  The reason women should behave in the way Paul is instructing Titus is so that the word of God will not be maligned.  Its about how the community perceives Christians.  And then the same is true of the men in verse 8.  They must follow Paul’s instructions so that those who oppose them will be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about the church.  Again, public perception matters.

One of the great tensions in the New Testament is that the early Christian movement is entirely counter-cultural.  When Jason was taking care of some of the early church leaders, a mob rightly accused them of turning the whole world upside down wherever they went.  And yet, Paul is very intent to instruct Timothy and Titus to guide the church towards being good citizens and good community members.

Unfortunately, I think Christians today miss this very often.  In fact we get it completely backwards.  We tend to be confrontational with our communities by attacking things we don’t like while having no impact on the world at large.  Perhaps it’s time to reconsider both our purpose and our approach.  Certainly Paul understood the church’s goal to be liked by those around the church while they completely turned everything on its head.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2012 in Pauline Epistles, Titus

 

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Titus 1 – Living Between Realities

I’ve worked with adolescents for 6+ years now full time and have studied that stage of life for 10 or so years now. In short, the adolescent life stage is the time between being a kid and being an adult. These adolescents live in a time of already but not yet. They are not really seen as adults by anyone but expected to act like adults. When they are childish they are quickly reminded how they are supposed to act. When they try and be adults and demand to be treated as such they are handed the metaphorical sippy-cup and patted on the head.

In the realization that all metaphors break down, we Christians kind of live like adolescents in this world. We are in a time of transition where we aren’t quite fully in the reality of the New Creation that God has promised us, the hope of eternal life that God has brought to light. This hope is the gospel that has been entrusted to Paul by the command of God our Savior. Paul begins his letter to Titus, even before addressing the letter, by reminding him of this hope.

He addresses Titus as his “True son in our common faith” reminding us of the Family of God, which we are part of. Paul continually uses this language as the reality in which he sees those he is discipling and bringing up in Christ.

Titus’ purpose is to select Elders in every town to be overseers who manage God’s household. They are to hold firmly to the trustworthy message in order to encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. What is this sound doctrine? It is the faith that Jesus is whom he said he is and that we will be resurrected from the death in him because God conquered death through Christ’s death and resurrection. Why does Paul give such a strict list of characteristics for these elders to have? They are the examples of what a Christian is to look like as someone who believes the New Creation, the Kingdom, has come in Christ and will fully be revealed in the resurrection. They are the ones who should give the example of how New Creation is embodied while the Old Creation is still in existence. Paul is so serious about Christians living out this reality that he calls for serious action against those who fail to try and live out this reality.

As Christians, we strive daily to live out what God’s Kingdom looks like in a broken world. Where there are Christians, the world should be different. When we look at the example of Christ, we live out his reality in this world, from the cross.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles, Titus

 

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2 Timothy 4 – Ear-Tickling Good

Earlier this week I was reading an article from Outreach Magazine that discussed the oft quoted idea that sometimes your greatest form of evangelism is how you live your life.  The article, found here puts forth the idea that evangelism requires words.  Personally, I agree with this idea.  I think that how we live our lives as Christians is extremely important and can open doors (or more accurately, living badly can slam doors shut) for evangelism to take place.  But at the end of the day, evangelism requires a believer who is willing to tell somebody what it is they believe.

Use Your Words Well

In this chapter, Paul is giving Timothy valuable ministry instructions.  Always be willing, at any time of the year and in any situation to preach the word.  And don’t get the visual of a pulpit here.  Neither Paul nor Timothy ever stood behind a pulpit preaching from their notes to a large number of people in pews.  Those are all constructs of the modern church.  Preaching simply meant sharing your faith and what you knew to be true about the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that others could be saved.  And what are the three main things your teaching should accomplish: correcting, rebuking, and and encouraging.  This should come as no surprise if you have read Paul’s epistles which endlessly correct, rebuke and encourage the church.  Correction applies when somebody is teaching, preaching, or believing in something other than what the Apostles (Paul included) taught about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Rebuke is when somebody begins intentionally living in sin or in opposition to God’s will.  And encouragement is what helps people doing well to keep doing well.

E. Torrini’s “Older Gentlemen Tickling the Ear of His Wife”

He cautions Timothy to avoid messages that will “tickle people’s ears.”  This is often watered down to simply mean “preachers shouldn’t just preach easy, happy sermons all the time.”  But that’s not necessarily the case.  After all, Paul dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel, that is the Good News of Jesus.  Preaching should be good and should be good news.  What he is saying is that Christians should not compromise the first two obligations mentioned above, namely correcting and rebuking, in order to not offend.  Ear-tickling-sermons are those that offer encouragement specifically to those who need correcting and rebuking.  And when ministers effectively do this, they protect the sound doctrine or healthy teachings of the church.

Other Concluding Stuff

Paul’s letter takes a dark and personal turn here.  Paul seems to realize that his time is drawing short in this section.  He makes sure that Timothy and the church know the names of several who have betrayed him and abandoned him.  If Alexander was causing problems for Timothy, this letter would have helped Timothy to reestablish some authority and position over Alexander in the church.

As always, Paul throws in a few greetings at the end.  Luke is still with him and was with him throughout much of his imprisonment.  I think that Paul likely contributed heavily to Luke’s writings, especially providing his own account of the events in Acts during this time.  Paul mentions Erastus, who stayed in Corinth.  I have seen the Erastus Stone in Corinth, which many believe to have indicated that this same Erastus possibly donated a street as a citizen funded civic project and as such had his name engraved on it.  It can still be seen today.  Pretty cool stuff.  

 

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in 2 Timothy, Pauline Epistles

 

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2 Timothy 3 – Godly Life in Christ = Persecution?

Paul continues to give instruction to Timothy about how to handle the church after he has left. We live in a culture that pushes more and more for tolerance and acceptance. While there is a lot of need for that in our culture, there isn’t much room for it in our churches. Don’t hear me wrong. We are tolerant of people who struggle with sin but Paul is strict on those who have the form of godliness but deny its power. These people are cancerous to the church and we should have nothing to do with them. Does this seem harsh? Shouldn’t we love everyone? Again…we need to be careful here and not let this verse be turned into a verse to kick “sinners” out of the church. On the other hand, we need to take the problem of sin seriously and have nothing to do with people who have become a cancer amongst the church. All that being said, it appears that Paul is addressing specific people. These people are going into homes to gain control over gullible women. These men are opposed to the truth though they are always learning. They will never come to knowledge.

Paul then turns his focus to Timothy to encourage him to continue in what he has learned from infancy and to continue on in it. After talking about the different things that he has experienced in his life, Paul then makes this comment in verse 12 that makes me uncomfortable, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This doesn’t seem like a “probably statement.” Paul is convinced that persecution comes to those who are living a godly life in Christ Jesus. Christians are called to live counter culturally. When you live drastically different from the world, you will be persecuted. If we are not being persecuted, we need to stop and ask ourselves if we look more like the culture around us or the gospel found in Christ.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – This Scripture Paul is talking about is not the New Testament though there might be some thought that Paul might think of some of the things he is writing as Scripture since he feels the need to differentiate between when God is talking and when he is talking. Nonetheless, Scripture is to be used for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Who is Scripture to be applied to though? Christians or nonChristians? Scripture is used to teach, rebuke, correct, and train those who belong to God. How quick are we to attack nonChristians with Scripture? Scripture is there to equip us for every good work and not to be used as a weapon to attack others with.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in 2 Timothy, Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles

 

2 Timothy 2 – Focus, Focus, Focus

Focus on Jesus

A good soldier is focused on his officer’s commands and doesn’t get distracted by civilian affairs.  An athlete plays by the rules and does not stray from them.  The farmer should benefit from the harvest.  These three professions are all require hard work and extreme focus.  If you get distracted from your purpose then you will fail.  Paul tells Timothy that he must be like these examples and remain firmly focused.  On what?  On Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  Timothy must remain focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not allow himself to become distracted by insignificant arguments, whether they relate to the church or are of the world.  He must keep the main thing the main thing.

Don’t Get Distracted

Paul then instructs Timothy to remove distractions from the people.  Don’t let them get caught up arguing about words.  There are more important things to focus on.  Don’t let the people get caught up in godless chatter and just drumming up things to bicker about.  There are more important things to focus on. Don’t let wicked morons like Hymenaeus and Philetus cause division and spread false teachings.  Don’t get distracted by youthful desires, but pursue the virtues of the faith.  Don’t sweat the petty things, but focus on what matters.  Be gentle with those who disagree with you.

Are you noticing a pattern.  I am not sure how many ways Paul can say that Christians, especially leaders like Timothy, should stay focused and avoid distractions to the Gospel and the work of the Kingdom.  The question for you and me today is what things distract us from the Gospel and how can we become more focused?

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in 2 Timothy, Pauline Epistles

 

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2 Timothy 1 – Fan the Flame

My dad taught me how to build a fire when I was young and it is still one of my favorite things to do. With a good structure and the smallest of sparks I can get a nice fire blazing. Paul reminds Timothy, his son in the faith, of the sincere faith that was passed down to him from his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice and encourages him to fan into flame the gift of God. Paul encourages Timothy to recognize the embers still kindling inside of him and calls him to fan these embers into flame. I’ve knelt next to many fires that were about dead and blew life back into them. The embers just need a little bit of focus and a blazing fire will erupt again. Timothy is called to ignite the Spirit within him.

This Spirit gives us power, love, and self-discipline. It is the power of Christ who destroyed death and has brought life and immortality. It is in this reality that Paul calls Timothy to join with him in his suffering. The call to suffer doesn’t make ant sense unless there is something greater than the suffering. The fire that burns within Paul is greater than any fire he encountered in this world. The fire is the Spirit ignited in him, taking over his life, and transforming it into a new creation. This is what Paul is calling Timothy to as a leader in the Church.

We have this same Spirit within us waiting to be ignited. Recognize the embers kindling within you and ignite it. Recognize the embers in each other and fan it into flame. We are not called to be timid but to be people of power, love, and self-discipline. Fan the flame.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in 2 Timothy, Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles

 

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1 Timothy 6 – Good Slaves

Some of the problematic texts in the New Testament are those that seem to condone the use of slavery.  This passage happens to be one of those.  To our modern American sensibilities this is horrific.  How could the early church sanction the practice of slavery in any way?

Well, there’s a few things that we need to understand about slavery in Israel, and I think one of the ways to understand it is to look at modern constructs of slavery in America.  For example,  I am personally enslaved to Quicken Loans, Visa, and the IRS.  My masters allow me to choose where and how I work so long as I give them what I owe them at the time intervals they establish.  Currently, they collectively allow me to keep half of what I earn while they get the rest.  If I don’t do what they require they will limit my future spending options (credit score), garnish my wages, take my home away, or maybe even throw me in jail. Granted, I allowed myself to become their slave in exchange for their paying my debts up front and I can buy my freedom anytime at a prearranged price.  This is similar in many ways to the early American practice of having indentured servants, where American landowners would pay for a European person’s passage to America in exchange for 7 years service.  In these ways, selective “slavery” can be a functional tool.

I do think though that Israelite slavery often functioned more like this than the cruel and violent slavery America practiced for centuries.  Israelites could sell themselves into slavery (like I did with my mortgage) and then buy their freedom eventually (like I hope to with my mortgage).  Admittedly there are examples in scripture where conquered nations were forced to be slaves or masters were cruel and there are no good excuses for this.

Unfortunately, the horrible evil of slavery that is part of America’s past and continues to have echoes into our present, causes us to read many passages of Scripture in this vein.  When you study God’s instructions on slaves and masters in the law and Paul’s teachings on slavery in the New Testament, I think it looks more like the indentured servant practice seen in Colonial America.  I don’t believe that anything in the Bible ever condoned or sanctioned the slave trade that treated humans like animals.

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul teaches that the early Christians should pray for their leaders.  Well, at this point their leader was the Roman Emperor Nero, who burned Christians as human torches.  Certainly he wasn’t sanctioning Nero’s actions, but rather telling Christians to live as well as they can within whatever context they find themselves.  If you are under a cruel dictator, pray for him and be good citizens so he will leave you alone and you can do the work of the Kingdom of God.  If you are a slave, be a good servant to your master so that it will reflect well on you and the one you truly serve, that is Jesus.

Certainly there are other good and valuable teachings in 1 Timothy 6 and I encourage you to make sure you read it all yourself, but I did want to take some time to deal with this difficult and uncomfortable topic.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in 1 Timothy, Pauline Epistles

 

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1 Timothy 5 – Take Care of Your Family

I was living 1,100 miles away from home when my grandmother had her stroke. Between that and some other family matters I felt like God was telling me I needed to be closer to home to be a better support to my family. I was full force into my ministry in NC and leaving was not in my plans. I began surrounding myself with people praying for discernment. During this time, 1 Timothy 5:8 weighed heavily on me, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I saw the needs of my family and felt convicted that I needed to provide emotionally for my family.

I go to conferences periodically and one of the things that drives me nuts while I’m there is the ongoing complaints about elderships. I have always worked under very supportive leaderships and never felt the need to join in on the complaining. I understand the need for seeking out advice from others with how to deal with different situations but there were a lot of ministers who would more or less one up one another with who had the worse elderships. One year, a guest speaker was up lecturing and made the comment that the only person you should complain to about your leadership is God Himself and even then you should be asking God to change your view of them. His comments made me realize how often we fail to see the important position God has called our elderships to. They have been called by God to be in the position they are in and should not be taken lightly, by them or by us.

There are a lot of things in this passage that Paul addresses and it is obvious that he is preparing Timothy for what things will be like after he is gone. There are ways in which the church should interact with one another. Respect shown in all direction no matter what age.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in 1 Timothy, Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles

 

1 Timothy 4 – Christian Leader Test

Paul is giving Timothy some oft quoted advice in this passage.  It’s used all the time in youth ministries and devotionals and the such because it says “young.”  However, the only reason Paul addresses Timothy’s youth is to point out that some people might not naturally look to him as a leader so he needs to be sure to be a good example.  In other words, Paul would have given this advice to anybody seeking to be a leader in the church.  If you want to be a good Bible class teacher, deacon, parent, witness for Christ or any other important leader in the church then you should strive to be an example in these ways.

Be an example in speech, life, love, faith, and purity.  When you set an example in these areas people will open themselves to be influenced by you and be more open to your presentation of the Gospel.

So here is the test.  I would encourage you to give yourself a grade on the following areas.  If you are currently a Christian leader, you need to strongly consider these criteria since Paul says they will determine whether or not you will be an effective leader in the church.  If you aspire to be a leader in the church then the best way to start is by improving your example in these areas.

1.  Speech – Do you use profanity or God’s name in vain?  Are you honest?  Do you say what you mean and mean what you say?  Are you an encouragement to others?  Do you speak about your faith or relationship with God before others?  Do you talk badly about others when they aren’t around?  Do you gossip?

2.  Life – How does your life reflect your priorities?  Do you choose work over family or church?  Do you value possessions over giving to God or others?  Are you kind?  Do you go out of your way to serve others?  Do people enjoy spending time with you?  Where do you spend your time?

3.  Love – Do you only love those who love you?  Do you forgive easily?  Do you show kindness to family and strangers?  Do you give good gifts?  Do you contribute to your relationships as much or more as you get out of them?  Are you there for people you care about during tough times?  Do you make sacrifices for others?

4.  Faith – How do you deal with difficult times?  Is prayer just something you do or part of a serious relationship with God?  Are you growing in your faith through spiritual disciplines?  Are you an active part of a faith community/church?  Do you share your faith with others?  Do you have a spiritual mentor?  Are you a spiritual mentor to somebody else?

5.  Purity – In your relationships with others, do you have good motives?  Do you struggle with lust or pornography?  Do you flirt with people other than your spouse?  Do you dress to get the attention of the opposite sex?  Do you make coarse jokes?  Are you genuine in your relationships with others?  Are there things in your life you would be embarrassed to tell your mom?  Your spouse?  Your Bible class teacher?

So my advice is to take the section that you got the lowest grade on and really work on improving that aspect of your life as a Christian example to others.  Pray about it and then do something.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in 1 Timothy, Pauline Epistles

 

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