Wholly Holy

1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. – Titus 2:1-10 ESV

They say the best defense is a good offense. So, in order to assist Titus in his battle against the false teachers and their heretical teaching, Paul told the young pastor to surround himself with qualified men who could help him lead the church. But Paul didn’t stop there. He also told Titus to be willing to rebuke his flock for their laziness and gluttony, so that they might be “sound in their faith” (Titus 1:14 ESV).

Now Paul gets specific. He gives Titus detailed and practical descriptions of how various groups within the body of Christ were to conduct their lives. First of all, Titus was to teach what “accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1 ESV). Sound doctrine was essential to Paul because it was the glue that held the body of Christ together. That is why he spent so much time writing letters to the churches he had helped to establish. He knew that the most difficult days for any believing congregation were those that followed their initial salvation experience. Salvation was to be followed by sanctification, and that was going to require sound doctrine and teaching that was in accord with the words of Jesus and the Old Testament Scriptures.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul reminded him that the law “is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10 ESV).

He went on to tell Timothy, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4 ESV). In his second letter to Timothy, he warned him that people would prove to be fickle and drawn to falsehood, desiring to hear teaching that condoned their behavior and excused their love of the world.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT

But not only is Paul telling Titus to teach solid, reliable doctrine. He is encouraging him to get specific and show how that doctrine should apply to everyday life. The New Living Translation puts verse one this way: “promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching” (Titus 2:1 NLT).

Good doctrine should produce good behavior. The teachings of Jesus, expounded and expanded upon by the apostles, were to have a dramatic impact on the lives of those who placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior. Christ’s followers were to be Christ-like.

So, Paul begins by emphasizing the older men in the church. He tells Titus that they are to be characterized by sober-mindedness, an ability to think clearly, unhampered by alcohol, or anything else that would confuse their capacity to judge wisely. They are to be dignified, worthy of respect, and not act in childish or immature ways. Their lives are to be marked by self-control, the ability to manage their natural desires and passions. They are to have a healthy faith that shows up in how they live their lives. And they are to be characterized by a love for others and a willingness to patiently endure with those who are difficult to love.

Paul next moves his attention to older women in the church. Their lives were to be marked by behavior that reflected their holiness. In other words, their godliness should show up in tangible and visible ways. They were not to be addicted to gossip and slander or, for that matter, wine. And they were to teach the younger women by modeling for them what godliness looked like in the life of a believing woman. And while Paul provides a list of good behaviors that the older women were to teach to the younger women in the church, I don’t think he had a class in mind. This was to be teaching by example, not a lecture. Their lives were to be the primary lesson the younger women studied and from which they learned God’s expectations for holiness.

The younger women were to love their husbands and children well. While this sounds like a no-brainer, we know how difficult this can be in a normal relationship between a husband and wife. Marriage is not always a walk in the park. Raising children can be extremely challenging. And older women were to model what loving your husband and children looks like over the long haul. Their lives were to be a tangible example of living self-controlled and selfless lives.

Purity or wholesomeness was to be a powerful motivation for these young wives and mothers. They were to be diligent workers who ordered their homes well. This does not suggest that wives are not to work outside of the home. But in Paul’s day, that was a rare option for women. He was simply calling for an attitude of diligence and order in their responsibilities, that would apply in every area of their lives – either at home or at work.

And again, these older women were to have modeled what submission to their husbands looked like. It was not an issue of worth or value, power or weakness. It had to do with exhibiting a willing submission to God’s intended order of things. Paul was not saying that the husbands were better, smarter, or more deserving of the leadership role in the home. He was simply saying that God had a prescribed order of responsibility. He had placed the man as the head of the home and expected him to lead well. Many men don’t. That is an all-too-proven fact. But God intended for the wife to be an asset to her husband, encouraging and assisting him in his God-given role. There were to see themselves as partners in this thing called marriage. In fact, Jesus would say that a husband and wife are not really partners, but a single unit joined together by God through the marriage covenant. The two of them are to act as one, in loving unison, as they raise their family and conduct their lives on this earth.

And younger men, which includes younger fathers and husbands, as well as single men, were to be self-controlled as well. They were not to be driven by their passions or controlled by their lusts. And Titus, as a young man himself, was to be a model of godly behavior, using his own life as a teaching tool that revealed integrity, dignity, and godly speech. Young men were not to use their youth as an excuse to act like fools or shirk their responsibilities as Christ-followers. They were to take their faith seriously and live their lives in such a way that the outside world could not point a finger at them and call them hypocrites.

Paul closes his list of individuals within the church by addressing bond servants or slaves. In that day and age, there were many who found themselves operating as household slaves or servants because of unpaid debts. There were others that were outright slaves, taken captive as a result of war, and sold into slavery as servants. But many of these individuals had come to faith in Christ while living on Crete and they had become members of the local churches. So, Paul didn’t want to leave them out.

It’s interesting to note that Paul doesn’t address the institution of slavery. He neither condemns nor condones it. He was not out to change the unjust institutions set up by men that took advantage of the weak or helpless. He was out to change hearts. This is why he tells Titus that these individuals were to remain submissive to their masters in everything. He didn’t tell them to rebel or run away. In fact, he told them to use their enslavement as a platform from which to exhibit their faith in Christ. They were to obey and not argue. They were to refrain from stealing and show themselves to be trustworthy and reliable. And their overall behavior, even as slaves, was to bring glory and honor to God.

Good doctrine should result in good conduct. Belief that doesn’t impact behavior is to be questioned. An individual who claims to know Christ and declares themselves to be a follower of Christ, but whose life exhibits no qualifying characteristics, is to have his faith doubted. Paul would even say they are to be rebuked. The way we live our lives is one of the greatest testimonies to the life-transforming power of the gospel. It is to be practical proof of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power within us. All of these characteristics and behaviors that Paul has listed are Spirit-produced, not man-made. They come about as a result of reliance upon the Spirit and an adherence to good, solid teaching of sound doctrine.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

A Faithful Thing

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. – 3 John 1:5-8 ESV

Once again, John refers to Gaius as his “beloved.” He will use this term repeatedly throughout his letter. And while this word carries romantic connotations to a modern reader, the Greek word John used could better be translated as “dear friend.” It was a term of endearment that expressed the closeness and warmth behind their relationship. John had a deep and abiding affection for Gaius. It could be that Gaius was a disciple of John’s, much like Timothy had been to Paul. In his second letter to his young protege, Paul referred to Timothy as “my beloved child” (2 Timothy 1:2 ESV). And he expressed his deep longing to see him again.

I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. – 2 Timothy 1:4 ESV

The apostles developed strong attachments for the local flocks to whom they ministered and the men they trained to carry on the Gospel message. While we’re not certain of the exact nature of the relationship between John and Gaius, it’s quite evident that they were close.

It seems that Gaius had shown hospitality to some itinerant evangelists who had visited their local fellowship. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul mentioned evangelists among the “gifts” Jesus had given to the church.

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. – Ephesians 4:11 NLT

An evangelist, by definition, was “a bringer of good tidings. The Greek word is euaggelistēs and it derives from another Greek word, euaggelizō, which means “to preach the Good News.” Both words stem from the Greek word, aggelos, which means, “angel, messenger, or one who is sent.”

An evangelist was a messenger of the Gospel or the good news concerning Jesus Christ. These individuals expanded the work of the Great Commission by taking the Gospel to places the apostles had not yet been able to reach. And when they had visited the local congregation where Gaius was a member in Asia Minor, he had shown them hospitality. And John compliments him for his generosity and kindness, describing his efforts as a “faithful thing.” The New Living Translation accurately renders John’s meaning by describing the efforts of Gaius as an expression of his faith in God.

…you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. – 3 John 1:5 NLT

It is likely that John had in mind the parable Jesus told regarding the final judgment. In that story, Jesus describes those who are blessed by the Father and who would inherit the Kingdom. And He provided the reason why:

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. – Matthew 25:35 NLT

But the recipients of this fantastic news respond with amazement, asking, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?” (Matthew 25:37-38 NLT). And the King in Jesus’ story answers their question by stating, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40 NLT).

Gaius had graciously provided food and shelter to strangers, the divine messengers of the Gospel who had shown up in their community. And these men had testified about Gaius’ kindness before the entire congregation. When John had received news of Gaius’ actions, he had been thrilled. The actions of this selfless servant of God were exactly what the Gospel was all about. The body of Christ was meant to function as a self-contained organism where the needs of all were met. God had equipped His church with all the resources it needed to survive and thrive. And the apostle Paul had reminded Timothy that those whom Jesus had gifted to the church as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, were to be well taken care of.

Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” – 1 Timothy 5:17-18 NLT

These individuals had no source of income. They were totally dependent upon the generosity of the local churches to care for their needs. And Gaius had been one of the first to step up and welcome these men with open arms and a heart of generosity. But John encouraged Gaius to extend his generosity by equipping the evangelists for the next phase of their ministry.

You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. – 3 John 1:6 ESV

These men were divine messengers and they needed to be treated in a manner that reflected the honor and respect due to God. He had sent them and He expected His people to provide for them. And John emphasizes that “they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles” (3 John 1:7 ESV). These men were ministering on behalf of Jesus. It was in His name and according to His commission that they made their way from town to town, bearing the Good News to those who had yet to hear it. And John emphasizes that the only financial support these men could expect to receive was from the church and not from Gentile unbelievers.

The church was to care for its own and Gaius had illustrated that truth in a way that had gained John’s attention and admiration. He was proud of his “dear friend.” And he encouraged Gaius to keep up the good work, reminding him, “we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 1:8 ESV).

Some can go. Others can give. God calls certain individuals to serve as pastors, teachers, evangelists, and missionaries, and that calling requires them to dedicate themselves to the full-time use of their gifts and resources for His service. The apostle Paul spent his entire adult life answering the call given to him by Jesus on the road to Damascus. And he was grateful for the support provided to him by local congregations of believers, like those in Philippi.

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. – Philippians 1:3-5 NLT

But not every congregation followed the example of Gaius and the Philippians. Paul had to admonish the church in Corinth, reprimanding them for their lack of support for his ministry.

Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. – 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 NLT

And Paul made his point perfectly and painfully clear.

What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.”[ Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest. – 1 Corinthians 9:7-10 NLT

God had sent these workers into the harvest. Now, He expected them to be compensated for their work. Their sacrifice was worthy of remuneration. Their efforts to spread the Gospel and to build up the body of Christ deserved the generous support of those who had benefited from their work. Those who had been blessed were to be a blessing to others. And Gaius provides a tangible expression of faithfulness to God by exhibiting gratefulness to the servants of God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Gifted For Growth.

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. – Ephesians 4:7-14 ESV

Paul has stressed that the believers in Ephesus live together in unity, recognizing their shared faith and common bond in Christ. They had each been called by God. They had been placed in the body of Christ by God. And together, they were to live their lives in such a way as to bring glory and honor to God. And to make that possible, Paul reminded them that God had given them gifts. Paraphrasing from Psalm 68:18, Paul emphasized that when Jesus ascended back to heaven, He gave gifts to men. This happened as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and was first made evident at Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit indwells a believer at their salvation, He gives them a gift – a supernatural enablement designed to build up the body of Christ. Paul described the nature of the gifts in his letter to the Corinthians.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. – 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ESV

The gifts of the Spirit are God-given, Spirit-empowered, and not man-made. They are not talents or natural capabilities. You are not born with these gifts.

Here in his letter to the believers in Ephesus, Paul talks about God’s gift of individuals to the church. These are divinely appointed and equipped leaders whom God has chosen for the task of leading His people. Just as God chose and appointed Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and just as He chose David to provide the people of Israel with leadership as they moved from a kingdom of former slaves to prominence as one of the greatest nations in the world. God provided the church with leaders. Paul describes them as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. An apostle was literally a “sent one” or messenger. The original 11 disciples had been commissioned and sent by Jesus to take the gospel message to the world. Paul, though not one of the twelve disciples who had been chosen by Jesus, viewed himself as an apostle because he had been commissioned by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. The primary role of the apostles was to spread the gospel and establish churches throughout the known world.

Prophets were “forth-tellers.” They had the divinely enabled ability to speak forth truth as based on the Word of God. They seemed to be responsible for building up the body of Christ, especially the local churches. Paul provides us with some insight into their role in his letter to the Corinthian believers: “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:3 ESV).

Evangelists were “heralds of salvation.” They were gifted by the Spirit to share the gospel. Their role was essential, in that they played a significant part in leading others to Christ. It seems that some evangelists stayed close to home, ministering in their local communities, while others itinerant, traveling from city to city in order to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

When Paul refers to pastors and teachers, it is believed that he is speaking of one function, not two. It could be translated as “pastor-teacher” – referring to a single role within the church. Regardless of whether Paul speaking of one or two gifts, these individuals were essential in shepherding and teaching the body of Christ. The term “pastor” literally means “shepherd.” His role was to minister to the needs of the flock of Jesus Christ. He was to care for them, protect them, guide and feed them. A teacher was given the responsibility to teach the people of God. He was to instruct them in the Word of God and ensure that they understood sound doctrine. This particular role was essential to the well-being of the church because of the growing problem of false teaching and errant doctrine.

Together, these gifted individuals were to minister to God’s people, equipping them for the work of the ministry. It seems quite clear that Paul did not have in mind a professional clergy who did all the work of the ministry on behalf of the people of God. They were to be equippers and trainers, ensuring that the believers under their care were able to do the work of ministry within the local congregation. It was as individual believers were properly taught, trained, and equipped, that they were able to minister to one another and build up the body of Christ. Just a few verses later in this chapter, Paul describes the outcome of a well-equipped church: “when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16 ESV).

The goal is growth. The objective is spiritual health and doctrinal soundness. Jesus did not leave His flock defenseless or alone. He provided us with the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit has given the church gifted individuals to lead, guide and equip the body of Christ. Paul has in mind spiritual maturity. There was no place for spiritual stagnation or immaturity. God expected His people to grow and so did Paul. But it was a team effort. Each was expected to do his or her job, selflessly and sacrificially. For how long? “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 ESV).

The Message of Righteousness.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV

The author of Hebrews admits that what he has been writing about is difficult to explain and just a difficult to understand. But it doesn’t help that his audience has “become dull hearing.” The Greek word the author used literally means “slow” and was used in the figurative sense to refer to someone as “stupid”. The Hebrew believers to whom he wrote had become unaccustomed to hearing difficult doctrine and deeper truths. And the topic he has been trying to explain is the message of righteousness. All of his talk about the Jesus’ sonship, deity, priesthood, suffering, sacrifice and glory have been designed to remind his readers of the righteousness that is found in Christ alone. He does not want them to fall back into their old habits of trying to gain a right standing with God through the keeping of the law. Their heritage as Hebrews, while a blessing, could become a curse, if they let it lead them back into a works-based form of righteousness. Paul made it clear that this path was futile and a waste of time. “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are” (Romans 3:20 NLT). The fear the author of Hebrews had was that his readers had regressed. He told them, “you have gone back to needing milk” (Hebrews 5:12 NET). Their lack of knowledge regarding the things about which he has been writing reveals that they were “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” They were tempted to fall back on the old truths associated with Moses, the Law, temple worship, and all that was associated with their old way of life.

Their problem was that they had not moved on to solid food. They had become stuck, stagnant. And their lack of progression had led to regression. For the Christian, there really is no middle ground. You are either growing in maturity or you are going backwards. These people, who had evidently known the Lord long enough that the author believed they should have been ready to teach others, were unprepared and unequipped for the job. They were stuck on the basics and unskilled when it came to the word or message regarding the righteousness found in Christ alone. They knew the elementary truths of the faith, such as how one is saved, but they had failed to go deeper in their knowledge. Peter provided his readers with this word of encouragement: “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment” (1 Peter 2:2 NLT). In his second letter, Peter tells us we “must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 NLT). There is no place for stagnancy or complacency in the life of the believer. As we grow in Christ, we become increasingly aware of just what He has done for us. We become more and more cognizant of our sin and just how great a salvation we have received. Spiritual growth requires spiritual food. We must develop a hunger for the deeper things of God found in His Word and explained by the help of His Spirit. We can’t stay on spiritual pablum and expect to grow in maturity. “Jesus love me this I know for the Bible tells me so” is true, but not a sufficient source of spiritual sustenance for the growing Christian.

There comes a time in all of our lives when we must become givers, not just receivers. The author told his audience “by this time you ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12 ESV), but they were still having to be spoon fed themselves. They had become comfortably content with their current status as believers in Christ. But one of the non-negotiable realities regarding faith in Christ was the fact that God expects His children to grow. Again, the apostle Peter had some strong words regarding this matter:

Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. – 2 Peter 1:5-9 NLT

Coming to faith in Christ should result in our coming to be increasingly more like Him in character. The apostle Paul told the believers in Ephesus that God had given the church leaders whose responsibility it was to equip the body of Christ so that they could build one another up. And then he told them…

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. – Ephesians 4:13-15 NLT

Spiritual maturity is not a solo sport. It is a group activity. We grow in Christ-likeness as we share with one another, as we encourage one another, as we use our spiritual gifts on behalf of one another. As we grow in our knowledge of God’s Word, we receive insight into God’s will. As we share what we are learning with others, they are encouraged and our faith is strengthened. Growth requires interaction with others. Isolation is deadly to spiritual maturity. Complacency is as well. The message of righteousness is not just that we have been made right with God through faith in Christ, but that we are being made righteous in our attitudes and actions as we grow up in our salvation and in our dependence upon the body of Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1-11

Sound Teaching and Teachers Needed.

1 Timothy 1:1-11

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. – 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT

Timothy was Paul’s disciple. He had evidently been led to the Lord by Paul during one of Paul’s missionary travels to Lystra. During Paul’s second missionary journey, Timothy accompanied him to the cities of Troas, Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, Athens, and Corinth. Timothy was a part of Paul’s third missionary journey to the city of Ephesus, and was sent by Paul to minister on his own in the region of Macedonia. This young man also made it to Rome while Paul was there under house arrest. He was well-traveled and well-respected by Paul, having earned the apostle’s trust. Paul had sent him to the city of Ephesus, where Timothy was ministering when he received this first letter from Paul. Timothy had evidently written Paul, sharing his desire to return to his side and accompany him in his ministry. But Paul was going to break the news to Timothy that he was needed right where he was. In fact, verse three tells us that when Paul and Timothy went to Ephesus on that third missionary journey, Paul went on to Macedonia, leaving Timothy behind with a job to do. “When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth.”

By this time in the story of the spread of the Gospel, there were churches all over that area of the world. The Good News was spreading fast and people were coming to faith in Christ at an incredible rate. The problem was that there were far too few men who were equipped to minister to the large numbers of churches springing up. There were infant believers everywhere and no one to lead and feed them. Paul was limited. Much of his time had been spent in prison or under house arrest. He couldn’t be everywhere at once. There were no seminaries churning out pastors and teachers. There were no schools raising up and equipping elders for the local churches. But there seemed to be no shortage of false teachers and ill-informed individuals with potentially destructive viewpoints on a wide range of topics. So Paul turned to Timothy. Yes, he was young. He was inexperienced. But he was needed. Knowing that this young man was probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by the task at hand, Paul reminded him what the true purpose of all biblical instruction should be about. “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5 NLT).

Paul’s letters to Timothy have less to do with the teaching of doctrine than the defense of it. The content is practical, not theological. Paul wants Timothy to know how to encourage the believers in Ephesus toward true life change, marked by love that manifests itself in daily life. Paul is looking for practical expressions of love. He knows that there are three things that will prevent that from happening in any believer’s life: An impure heart, a conscience that is burdened by shame, and a lack of trust in God. This is basic stuff. It trumps a head full of theology and doctrine every time. But Paul warns Timothy, “some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions” (1 Timothy 1:6 NLT). Somewhere along the way, they had become obsessed with things that were not resulting in increased faith and love. Debating had replaced serving. Controversy had become more popular than showing mercy and expressing love to one another. Paul had warned the elders in Ephesus, “some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following: (Acts 20:30 NLT). These “false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29 NLT).

The main problem seems to have revolved around incorrect teaching regarding the law of Moses. There were those who were presenting their interpretations of the law and its application to the lives of believers, and their instructions were wreaking havoc on the health of the church. Their focus was not on increasing the love and faith of the people of God, but on being seen as experts on the topic at hand. Paul tells Timothy, “they want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently” (1 Timothy 1:7 NLT). These individuals were cocky and confident, assured that their view was the right one. And all of this discussion and debating was causing confusion and conflict within the church. Paul reminds Timothy that love should be the primary motivation for any teacher of the Word of God. Teaching that does not edify and instruction that does not increase faith is misapplied and misses the point. Debating doctrine is useless if it does not ultimately foster more love for God and others. If it does not produce increased devotion to and dependence on God, it is a waste of time.

Which is why the church at Ephesus needed Timothy, and the church today needs men and women who understand that increasing the love and faith of the people of God are the primary responsibility of those who teach the Word of God. Knowledge alone is not enough. It produces pride. Doctrine by itself is insufficient. It can become sterile and little more than head-knowledge. Theology, even that which is sound and biblically-based, is incomplete if it does not result in more love and greater faith.

Father, the church is still in need of those who will take seriously the teaching of Your Word. But we need to understand that our motivation needs to be the same that Paul had. We want to help those we teach have  hearts free from impurity, consciences free from disabling shame, and genuine faith in You. That way, their lives will reflect true love for You and others, and a growing faith in You. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Ephesians 4:1-16

A High Calling.

Ephesians 4:1-16

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. – Ephesians 4:1 NLT

One of the things to constantly keep in mind when reading most of the letters of Paul is that he is typically writing to a congregation, not an individual. Except in the case of his two letters to Timothy and the one he sent to Titus, most of his letters are intended for a particular body of believers. He is addressing the church corporately. In his letter to the Ephesian church, he is stressing the unique nature of their identity as part of the body of Christ. They are a diverse group of individuals from all walks of life and a variety of religious backgrounds, whom God has called together and placed within His family. They share a common bond as recipients of the grace of God made possible through Jesus Christ. And while everything about their diverse backgrounds might naturally result in disunity and dissension, Paul calls them to unity. They have been loved by God, so now they should love one another.

He begs them to lead lives worthy of their calling. He wants them to conduct their lives in a manner that is in keeping with God’s purpose in calling them in the first place. Then he gives them concrete examples of what that kind of corporate life will look like. They are to be humble, gentle, patient with each other, and willing to love in spite of one another’s faults and failures. He stresses that their union as members of God’s family was the work of the Spirit of God and, as a result, they should strive to maintain their peace with one another. This was not an easy thing considering the natural animosity Jews and Gentiles had toward one another. And it’s important to remember that, as a result of the Gospel, the church in Ephesus was made up of both factions. Paul reminds them that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all” (Ephesians 4:4-6 NLT). Unity is the theme of this section. Unity in diversity.

God, in His infinite wisdom, has not only called together a diverse group of individuals and placed them into His family, He has gifted each and every one of them with special Spirit-enabled gifts designed to benefit the body of Christ. Among them are the leadership gifts He has given to the church in form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. These individuals were given to the church by God in order to strengthen and equip the body of Christ so that each member would do his or her work effectively, resulting in a vibrant and growing church. The Greek word Paul uses for “equip” is katartismon which means preparing, mending, or restoring people to their proper use. There are those in the church whose primary responsibility it is to help the body function efficiently and effectively. The church functions best when each individual believer is utilizing his or her spiritual gift in order to build up the rest of the body. When everyone is doing their job and conducting their lives within the body of Christ according to their individual calling, the entire body prospers. And the goal of all of this activity is spiritual maturity – “until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NLT).

Spiritual maturity or increasing Christ-likeness is God’s objective for the church, and everyone plays a vital role in the process. God’s plan calls for unity and a shared concern for one another. “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16 NLT). We are in this together. The church is not a collection of individual believers growing independently and in isolation, but a body where each part has been meticulously and strategically placed by God and designed to function in a symbiotic and sympathetic relationship. This God-ordained and Spirit-empowered entity called the church is to be a remarkable witness to God’s amazing wisdom. It shouldn’t work, but it does. But only as long as we live in humility, gentleness, patience and love with one another, doing everything we can to maintain the unique spirit of unity that God has created to experience.

Father, thank You for the church. When I consider the incredible diversity of the body of Christ and the wide assortment of personalities and backgrounds represented, I am amazed that it works at all. In spite of our individual sin natures and tendency to live self-centered lives even in the midst of community, Your Spirit makes it all function – in spite of us. Give us a growing desire to live in unity, using our God-given gifts to benefit one another. Help us to understand that we grow best when we grow together. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org