Friday, September 25, 2020

Friday – 1st Timothy 3 - Overseers, Attendants & the Gospel

AS we continue through this book, we come to the section which is most often consulted when churches are seeking for officers. Going by Paul's descriptions in this chapter, it is apparent that the churches in Paul's day had leaders whose offices and functions fit into two categories: bishops and deacons. Both kinds of leaders were ministers of the gospel. 

It can be shown (from other passages) that bishops (otherwise known as pastors, overseers, or elders) were generally responsible for leading in studying, preaching, teaching, and praying. The deacons (defined biblically as attendants, servants, or messengers) were authorized to handle a leadership role in any other area of church ministry that might otherwise distract the pastors from their ministry of the word. For the most part “deacon” ministry involves relationships. The first deacons were ordained because some of the church members felt neglected. The creation of a group of deacons was supposed to fix that problem (Acts 6:1-4). However, this chapter is not really aimed at the function of pastors and deacons. Instead, here Paul addresses the qualifications (or one might say, the standards of behavior) for pastors and deacons.

There are some close similarities between the requirements for these two offices. But overall, according to Paul, church officers should be holy. Once a man accepts a position of leadership, he (and his family) is open to (and should embrace) a significant level of scrutiny.

Thursday – 1st Timothy 2 - Praying & Serving up Sermons

YOU probably recall from Act 6:4 how in the selection of the first seven deacons, the apostles who served as the pastors of the first church of Jerusalem said that they would (as pastors) properly "give themselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." This is significant, especially in light of the chapter at hand. As Timothy's ministerial mentor, Paul began this letter (in chapter 1) by calling the Reverend Tim to stand for the truth; to fight for sound doctrine. Now, here in chapter 2, Paul reminds him of the importance of prayer and preaching.

The church calls many men "preachers," "pastors," "teachers," but we don't bequeath the title of "prayor" (like "mayor" or "benefactor") on anyone. Admittedly, (in the church) certain believers do indeed develop a noble reputation as individual "prayer warriors" - which is a good thing (as long as this is not sought out by these individuals as a point of pride or personal superiority). And, since prayer is chiefly a private ministry, it makes sense that the title of "prayer leader" might not grow and develop as readily in our congregations as does the title "preacher." Yet, in the spiritual life of the church, both ministries are indeed necessary (and are certainly complimentary).

When it comes to praying and preaching, both types of service are spiritual in nature. And both demands that we consider the role of authority in relation to the exercise of that service. Concerning prayer specifically, we know that we pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are required to pray for those who are in authority over us (vs. 2). We are expected to pray for everyone around us (vs. 1 & 4). And, we are ALL expected to pray. It is not JUST the "preacher's job." 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday – 1st Timothy 1 - Rejecting False Doctrine

THIS letter from Paul is different from the ones we have studied so far in that this one is addressed to an individual rather than to an entire congregation of saints. Paul was a mentor to many other preachers. One of them was the man whose name this book bears: Timothy. This epistle (or letter) to Timothy begins appropriately with a strong call to sound doctrine. It does matter what we believe. As a minster of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Timothy was responsible for the proclamation of the truth, and for the condemnation of error (vs. 18-20). It takes both.

There is no doubt that Paul and Timothy had one primary thing in common: they were both loyal followers of Jesus Christ, our Savior (vs. 17). But is that all that needs to be said? There are so many people within the realm of Christendom who can't agree on hardly anything (beyond the identity of Christ). While knowing Christ is certainly all we need for salvation (1st John 5:12), there are so many other good spiritual truths to relish and to share (Romans 8:32). Christ is all we need, but the particulars of that word "all" do actually matter. Hence, Pauls’ strict warning against false teachers and their lies. Satan is the ultimate source of bad doctrine. It was his manipulation of God's words that led to the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. It was his twisting of the Scripture that permeated the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. And, it has been his meddling hand that has pushed countless "Christian" denominations further and further away from biblical truth (some even into cultism).

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tuesday – 2nd Thessalonians 3 - Works Well with Others; or Alone

IN both of the previous chapters, Paul pointed toward our responsibility to work diligently (1:11 & 2:17) in the light of Christ's coming (3:5). In this closing chapter, he focuses almost exclusively on the importance of this principle. In fact, for those of us who tend to be workaholics, this should probably be our most favorite chapter in the whole Bible.

First of all, in verse 7 - 9, we see that Paul and his companions set a wonderful example of diligence when they were ministering in Thessalonica. By Paul's own testimony, we know that they worked "night and day" in that city while they were there (Acts 17).  On top of that, Paul categorically commended hard work & condemned laziness among the believers in Thessalonica (vs. 10-12). That particular section seems to be aimed at plain physical labor. In other words, every able-bodied man should earn his own way. The principle seems to work like this: if a man in the church is able to work, but is simply unwilling to do so, then he is unworthy of charity and should receive no aid from the church. In this sense, help should go to those who can't help themselves, and to those who are trying to help themselves. It should not go to those who can but won't.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Monday – 2nd Thessalonians 2 - A View of the Tribulation Period

THE 7 year period of Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), which is Daniel's seventieth week (Daniel 9:27), is the time of the antichrist. It will last from right after the rapture up until the second advent of Christ. This chapter is devoted to describing the order and nature of this particular future period of seven years. As we saw in the last chapter, the Thessalonians feared that they were already in the middle of this era. Paul makes it abundantly clear that such was not possible. 

Before the Tribulation and the day of Christ, several things must happen. First, there has to come a major event which Paul calls "a falling away" - a major apostasy within Christianity (vs. 3). It could be argued that this has occurred already, but it can and will get much worse in the future. The second necessity is that the Holy Ghost be removed from the earth (vs. 7).  After Christ's resurrection and ascension up to heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to comfort and indwell believers (as well as to rebuke sinners). When the rapture occurs, the temple of the Holy Spirit on earth (the church) will be totally removed. With the church will go that morally restraining influence, whom we know to be the Holy Spirit. The third precondition is actually a signal that the Tribulation has begun: it will be the revelation of the identity of the antichrist (vs. 3-4 & 8-10). The church will not know the identity of this awful leader. We will be gone before He takes over the world.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday – 2nd Thessalonians 1 - Not the Rapture

IT is readily apparent that the coming of Christ described in this chapter is not only a different event than the one in 1st Thessalonians 4. It is a different kind of an event. The rapture (during which we meet Christ in the air) will be all reunion and rejoicing. The return of Christ (which is described here) will be a day of great wrath and retribution. The rapture is for the church. This second coming of Christ will be aimed at the unbelieving world. They are different events with dissimilar purposes.

Now, it appears that someone had convinced the Thessalonian believers that the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth had already begun.  It also appears that the difficulties which they were enduring were used as proof that the time of great tribulation was upon them. In this chapter, Paul was evidently trying to clarify things a bit for them. While he certainly acknowledged the fact that they were enduring significant tribulations, he assured them that when Christ is someday revealed in all of His glory, the church will be resting, not suffering (vs. 7).

So, we really have two main topics in this chapter. First, we see the growth, security, and comfort of God's people in this era; the church. In contrast to that, we also see the miserable plight of those unbelievers who survive to see Christ's return to earth. Paul commended the Thessalonians for their faith, love, & patience. And he reassures all of us who are saints; reminding us that we will be worshipping Christ safely at His Second Coming. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thursday – 1st Thessalonians 5 - Parting Shots

HAVING raised the issue of the rapture at the end of chapter 4, here Paul reminded them that the timing of end time events is secret (vs. 2 & Acts 1:7). Not that there are no indicators at all (vs. 3, Matthew 16:2-3 & Luke 12:56). Especially for believers, Paul pointed out that we should actually be able to anticipate the coming of the Lord, or at the least be constantly ready for it (vs. 4). More than once in the New Testament, we are reminded to be on the lookout for Christ's return, & to live as if His coming is imminent. Because it is (vs. 6).

Speaking of how we live, Paul closes this first letter to the Thessalonians by offering some parting shots on how we should live our lives as we wait for Christ's return. He begins his ending by reminding us that this "looking-and-living-for-Christ's-return-thing" is very serious business indeed (vs. 8). Knowing that the rapture precedes the 7 years Tribulation Period (and realizing that through the rapture Christ saves the church from having to go through that horrid time – vs. 9), we have layer upon layer of reasons to live righteously. And, Paul gives us ways to do that.