Thursday, September 30, 2010

First Timothy Chapter Four

Warning dark days ahead!

When we move to chapter four the mood of the epistle changes. Paul is warning Timothy about apostasy that is coming to the church. The word “apostasy” means a willful turning away from the faith. Apostasy is not something new that is taking over the church in her last days. Apostasy began while Paul was still living. He warned the Ephesian church just before he left that once he departed wicked men (Paul called them wolves) would enter into the church and lead people astray. The apostle John wrote that in his day there were already “many antichrists.”

Apostasy is not new, but I believe it has progressively gotten worse. The words of Paul ring true today. False teachers and preachers have entered the church and are leading multitudes astray. In fact the goal of every apostate is to get people to follow after them instead of following Christ. They don’t win new converts they just steal someone else’s. This will continue to get worse until the day the Lord comes and calls the true church away. At this time the “fake” church that is left behind will enter into total apostasy.

In verses 3-5 Paul tells us two ways that a false teacher will try to control its members. The first way is to control their diet and the second way is to control their marital status. For a church to condemn marriage or to say that being unmarried is more spiritual than being married is a false doctrine. Why would God himself say “It is not good that a man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him” if it was more holy to be unmarried? The answer is that He wouldn’t. It has always amused me that the Catholic Church will not permit their priest to marry when the man they consider to be the first Pope (Peter) had a mother-in-law.

Next the false teacher or false church will try to control your diet. Certain foods are considered to be taboo and are said to affect your spiritual life. How silly! Jesus stated in Mark 7 that all food is clean and He reaffirmed it to Peter in Acts 10. If you can eat something and be thankful for it, then go ahead.

Next Paul warns about the false doctrine these men will teach. In verse seven we are warned against “old wives fables”. This means to attribute something to the Bible that actually is not found in the Bible. People seem to enjoy talking about traditions and preferences instead of studying the Bible. A study group is great as long as your goal is to discover what the Bible teaches, not to get others opinions.

In verse 10 Paul warns Timothy that if he stands up to these false teachers it may cost him something. When we are willing to stand for the truth there will be some who will not like it. In verse 11 the church was saying that Timothy was not qualified to pastor, because of his youth. The only way to deal with opposition is to continue to stand for what is right. Be an example, was Paul’s advise.

So the question is raised “What are we to do in these dark days?” Beginning in verse 13 Paul answers this question. The first thing he says to do is read the scriptures. “Give attendance to” means to devote yourself to something. It was said of D. L. Moody by one of his neighbors, “Every time Mr. Moody comes home, you can just tell how much he’s grown spiritually.” I wonder how many of our neighbors could say that of us.
Don’t neglect the gift God has given to you. I am a firm believer that every saved child of God is given a gift to perform for God’s glory. Do you know what God wants you to do? You should.

Lastly, Paul tells Timothy in verse 15 to meditate on the things he has said. Meditation is a lost art of the church. I don’t mean to sit with your legs crossed and hum to yourself. This word means to be diligent in study, to give yourself wholly to it. Don’t just read the Bible for the sake of reading it. Let it sink in. Take time to see what God is trying to show you.

As I have said, we are living in dark days. Kids are carrying guns to school, our prisons are overflowing, homes are falling apart and people are giving their lives to vices like drugs and alcohol. They are dark days indeed. One of the most frightening things happening today is that many are being lead astray and into apostasy. God help us to know the truth and stand up for it. Please take the time to know what the Bible teaches, its doctrines, its themes and thoughts. If we know right we will be less likely to be lead astray when faced with that which is false.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Timothy Chapter Three

Someone once said that “everything rises and falls with leadership.” This is certainly true in the home and in the church. One of the greatest gifts God gave to the church was gifted men such as pastors and deacons. In this chapter Paul writes to Timothy and reminds him that there are certain requirements that must be met by these men.

The Office of Bishop
Paul first deals with the office of Bishop. The word “bishop” in verse one means to be an overseer or a superintendent. In the early church the pastor was called by several names. He was called an elder, a pastor, shepherd, bishop and minister. It is interesting that he was never called “reverend” which actually means “terrible, that which incites terror.” This was a name describing God not the pastor.

The office of a bishop is a wonderful office and for a man to desire such an office is to desire something good. When we ask our children what they want to be when they grow up they may say “a baseball player or a doctor.” I wonder if we admired the man of God like we do our favorite ball player if it would change their minds?

Beginning in verse 2 and extending through verse 7 Paul gives a list of positive and negative requirements a man must meet to hold this office. So tighten your boot straps and follow along if you dare.

A bishop must be blameless. This word means “nothing to take hold upon.” A man cannot stop people from spreading rumors and lies about him. A bishop must live in such a manner however that they do not give these people anything to talk about.

A bishop must be the husband of one wife. It is unrealistic to believe that the church would think about appointing a man who is a polygamist as their pastor therefore the only logical explanation is that the bishop is to have only one living wife at a time. For a bishop to be divorced and remarried it only opens himself up to criticism. How could a young couple confide in their pastor about marital trouble when the pastor couldn’t keep his own marriage together? I could spend many paragraphs explaining this, but I will not, for the sake of time. Let me just say before moving on that a man and woman are bound together as long as they both live. Should one of them pass away then the living spouse is free to remarry in the Lord. This is the only time in the Bible when remarriage is permitted.

Next we are told he is to be vigilant which means to be temperate or calm. A pastor should be able to keep his cool in all situations. He is to be sober meaning that he is serious. And he is to be of good behavior. Careless conduct will get you into trouble (even if you are innocent).

Verse three tells us that a bishop is not to be given to wine, he is not to have a love for money and he is not to be a brawler. God’s man cannot be a drunkard, he should not preach just for the money and he is not to go around looking for a fight all the time. A preacher that wants to fight all the time is just as bad as the man who is a drunkard.

In verse 5 we are told the bishop must be able to control his own home. How can a man take care of God’s house when he can’t take care of his own? In verse six we are told the bishop should be a man of experience and in verse seven he is to have a good testimony in the community. To have a good testimony in the community means that he pays his bills, he is honest with his neighbor and he lives what he preaches.

The Office of Deacon
Just as there are requirements for the bishop there are similar requirements for the office of a deacon. The word deacon means a “minister, or servant.” The first deacons were called in Acts chapter 6 to assist the man of God. The first deacons were called to care for the needs of people, namely the widows, so that the man of God would have time to study and pray. The office of deacon is an office that handles material matters mainly. That does not mean they do not have to be spiritually qualified as well.

Beginning in verse 8 the deacon is to be grave which means he is to be a man of dignity. The deacon is not to be double tongued or two faced. A deacon cannot be the type of man who tries to please everyone. He must have the courage to stand up for what is right. A double tongued man is a liability to the church.

A deacon is not to be given to much wine. God expects us to use temperance in everything we do. In Paul’s day, wine was used for medical purposes (I Timothy 5:23). When people want to use alcohol as a beverage they are asking for trouble. Lastly in this verse the deacon is to not be greedy, or not controlled by money.

In verse 9 the deacon is to be doctrinally sound and in verse 10 he must be proven. A man must never be placed into this role until he has first proven himself to the church. If you study the scriptures you will see that on many occasions God required men to prove themselves before they were used.
  • ·         Joseph was a servant in Egypt for 13 years before he was the second ruler of the land.
  • ·         Moses cared for sheep for 40 years before God called him to deliver the children of Israel.
  • ·         Joshua was Moses’ servant before he took his place.
  • ·         David was tending sheep in the field when Samuel came to anoint him king.
  • ·         Jesus was raised up laboring in a carpenter shop before he began his ministry.
  • ·         Paul worked as a tent maker.

In verse 11 the deacon is to have a godly home. Not only is the deacon to be qualified, but his wife must be as well. A deacon’s wife is to be grave, meaning serious. She is to not be slanderous, meaning she is not a gossiper and she is to be faithful to her husband, children and to her God.
Lastly the deacon is to have a good standing. He is to be a bold witness for Christ. He is the kind of man that you can look up to.

You may have read the above paragraphs and thought to yourself, “These are mighty high requirements.” May I submit to you that these are mighty high offices? God’s standards are high, but if a man lives up to them the reward is worth it.

Our churches desperately need godly men to step forward, stand for the truth and be a moral compass for the people in the church to follow.

My prayer is: “God please give some of these godly men to the church. In the dark day that we live in, we need men who will be a bright light. Thank you Lord for the godly men you have placed in my life to shine the light, showing me the path of righteousness.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

First Timothy Chapter Two

It is a Biblical principle that everything done in the church should be done in order. God does nothing haphazardly. From creation to today everything God did and does He has an order to it. I’m not sure where we got the idea that the church is an exception to this rule. I’m all for people shouting, raising their hands and letting God take over a service. I have been in many services however that I witnessed people acting out of order and claiming God wanted them to act that way. One person said that the church is an “organism” not an “organization” therefore we should not be worried about “order.” The problem is that when an “organism” is in disorder, it dies. It would seem that Timothy was having some trouble with this in Ephesus.

Paul speaks about prayer in this chapter and the order it has in the service. He begins the chapter with the phrase “first of all” which seems to indicate that prayers should have the number one priority in the church. A church that does not pray does not have any power with God. One preacher said: “Much prayer, much power. No prayer, no power.”

Pray for those who rule over you (verses 1-7)
Paul wants them to pray for those in power, meaning those in public office (verses 1-2). Do you pray for the President? How about the Senate and Congress? Do you do this in church? If you don’t then you should. The question is raised, “Should I pray for them when they are so wicked?”The answer to this question is “yes”. Paul wanted these people to pray for their leader and at the time Nero was ruling in Rome. Nero was one of the most wicked, blood thirsty men alive and still yet they were to pray for him. You may not agree with the President or your congressmen, but that does not excuse you from praying for them.

The next question is always “Why?” Well that question is answered in these verses. We should pray for these people so that we can see the lost saved. Today it is perfectly legal for me to tell someone about Christ, invite them to my church, and lead them to the Lord. We should pray so that this does not change.

How men should pray (verse 8)
Next we are told how men are to pray in the church (verse 8). Men are to pray “lifting up holy hands.” Some criticize people for lifting their hands in church, but this is a good Bible practice. It was the custom in this day to pray with your hands lifted toward heaven. Notice however what kind of hands we are to lift up. We are to lift “Holy Hands.” Holy hands are hands that are clean.

To have clean hands does not mean that you don’t have dirt under your fingernails, but that you are in good fellowship with God and with others. You may disagree with me, but I think it’s wrong for a person to live like the devil all week, then come to church on Sunday and shout, pray and testify like nothing is wrong. If you are a troublemaker it should not surprise you when you have no power in prayer.

Men are to pray prayers of faith. Why is that we pray about things so many times, but in our heart we really don’t believe God can or will answer our prayer? When we pray we should take God at His word, pray with faith and trust God to answer our prayer. I think you would be amazed at what God could do for you and your church if you prayed this way.

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew the great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”  Jeremiah 33:3

How women should pray (verses 9-15)
You and I live in a day where women in the church are placed into one of two extremes. One extreme is to let a woman do whatever she wants in the church. They preach, hold offices, lead the choir and so on. No position is withheld from them, and as a result women are not only prominent, but also dominant in the church.
The other extreme is not allowing a woman to be heard in the church at all. They are not allowed to pray, sing, testify. The problem with this is that those churches are giving up a great deal of talent that God could be using for His glory. God can and will use women for His work.

Let’s establish first that God has used many women in the Word of God. God used Deborah, Esther, Ruth and others. It was a group of godly women that followed Jesus to the cross and ministered to Him after His death. A woman was the first to herald the message that He was alive. We read of women like Lydia, Priscilla and Berean. Paul greeted at least eight women in the letter to Roman and he entrusted the letter to Rome to be delivered by Phebe. There are multitudes of women down through history who have been used by God for His service.

Paul does have some words of wisdom about the role of the woman in the church. Paul begins by saying that a woman should be “modest” in the way they dress. This word "modest" means to avoid extremes, to have self control or to have good sense. I’m not saying that a woman should dress like a nun covered from head to toe, but I am saying that she should show some self control in the way she dresses.

Next Paul teaches that a woman is not to take the role of authority in the church. In this day many women were experiencing something they never had experienced before and that was equality. In Paul’s day women were treated like they were inferior to men, but the gospel teaches that all people are on equal ground in the eyes of God. Because of this new freedom found in Christ, some of the women were getting out of control in the church it would seem. Paul warns them that they could be damaging the service of God by trying to take over.

Paul gives two arguments for what he is teaching. First is the argument of creation. Adam was created before Eve. The second argument is that man was not the one who Satan deceived, but instead it was the woman.
Let me finish by saying what I began by saying, everything God does He has an order to. This includes the home (children are to submit to their parents, the wife is to submit to the husband, and the husband is to submit to God). This also applies to the church (a woman is not to take the role of authority in the church). 

The Bible is very clear in its teachings, sometimes we don’t understand or even like what the Bible teaches but that does not change it. I do not believe that one person is superior to another just because of their sex, but I do believe God has order to everything He does.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Timothy Chapter One

Paul begins this book like he does so many others, by emphatically stating his apostolic authority. It is interesting that Paul says that he was an apostle because of the “command” of God. Paul told us in the epistle of Ephesians that he was an apostle by the “will” of God but now he does not the word “will” but rather the word “command”. I wonder if Paul (Saul) felt unworthy to be an apostle at first. He mentions several times in his writings that he did many terrible things to the cause of Christ, going as far as to call himself the “chief of sinners.” Paul did not walk with Christ as the other disciples did, he never saw a miracle, never heard a sermon.

Obviously there came a point where God told Paul he was going to be an apostle. So many of us are guilty of doubting that God can use us for His work. We feel unworthy because of things in our past, lack of education or poor upbringing. If you have been saved God has a work for you to do. It is your work, find out what it is and get busy.

One reason it’s so important to be busy working, is because many false teachers have brought false doctrine into the church (verses 4-10).  It has been said that a lie makes it around the world and back while the truth is lacing up its shoes. This can be said about false doctrine. While those of us with the truth sit around debating on doing something, false doctrine pulls people away from the truth day by day.

According to verse 5 and 6 true doctrine will produce love, faith and a good conscience while false doctrine produces “vain jangling” which means empty chatter or meaningless talk. (Just a tip, keep your eye on someone who tries to flatter others all the time.)

Next we have a personal testimony from Paul. Paul is thankful that God has placed him into the ministry, had mercy on him, and saved him by His grace. Then in verse 15 Paul tells us something very profound, but very simple, and that is that the reason Christ came into the world was to save sinners. Christ did not come into the world to work miracles, although He did. He did not come to feed the hungry, although He did. He did not come into the world to be a great teacher, although He was. The reason Christ came into the world was to save sinners.

Lastly Paul charges Timothy to fight a good warfare. So many have turned astray and Paul did not want Timothy to become a casualty. The Christian life is not an easy one. There is constant danger of falling. Every day we are faced with temptations, problems and wicked people. There is constant danger of shipwreck. Because of this we must be determined like Martin Luther was when he said, “Here I stand; I can do no other, so help me God.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Introduction to First Timothy

I wonder if the Lord were to place a help wanted ad in the newspaper what it might say?

“Help wanted. Men and women needed to build my church. Warning many times you will be misunderstood (even by those you work with), this job may cost you your home, ambitions or even your life.”

In spite of this description many men and women have answered the call, turned in their application and gladly given their lives to Christ. Timothy was one such person.

Timothy is an interesting Bible character. He was brought up in a mixed home, his father was Greek and his mother was a Jew. Timothy’s home life was a good one filled with good examples; Paul mentions the godly example of his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy was saved under the ministry of Paul and became a great help to him on his missionary journeys.

In spite of all Timothy’s good points he had his problems as well. Timothy was easily discouraged, we see Paul having to encourage him in this letter. Timothy had physical problems as well. This young man is a wonderful example of how we all have our good and bad points, but if we turn our lives over to God he will uses us for his glory. Never let the devil convince you that God is unwilling to use you because of some past failure, or a physical aliment. If you have been saved then God has a work for you to do.

When Paul begins to write this epistle he introduces us to a new kind of epistle commonly referred to as the “Pastoral Epistles.” These epistles are unique in that they speak of the church in a very practical manner. In First Timothy, Second Timothy and Titus the church is not referred to in a spiritual way as it is in other epistles. Paul speaks of the church is practical way by discussing problems a church faces, qualifications Christian leaders should conform to and he even deals with the way a church uses its recourses to help those in need.

Paul’s main focus in these letters is to make sure that the church is right in all areas of its ministry. Today much is said about the inside of the church namely the worship done in a church. “Should people raise their hands? Shout? Sit quietly?” Just as important, the church must be correct on the outside. The church must be an example to the world. Our witness and work are just as important as our worship. We can have a wonderful time of worship on Sunday, but if we do not witness and work on Monday then we are the kind of church God wants us to be.

We will discuss these issues further in future blogs. I hope you will follow along with me as we explore the epistles of First and Second Timothy. I believe the Lord will bless us as we learn together.