Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reflections on Philemon

    Philemon 01 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. From Paul, who is in jail for serving Christ Jesus, and from Timothy, who is like a brother because of our faith. Philemon, you work with us and are very dear to us. This letter is to you
  2. and to the church that meets in your home. It is also to our dear friend Apphia and to Archippus, who serves the Lord as we do.
  3. I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
  4. Philemon, each time I mention you in my prayers, I thank God.
  5. I hear about your faith in our Lord Jesus and about your love for all of God's people.
  6. As you share your faith with others, I pray that they may come to know all the blessings Christ has given us.
  7. My friend, your love has made me happy and has greatly encouraged me. It has also cheered the hearts of God's people.
  8. Christ gives me the courage to tell you what to do.
  9. But I would rather ask you to do it simply because of love. Yes, as someone in jail for Christ,
  10. I beg you to help Onesimus! He is like a son to me because I led him to Christ here in jail.
  11. Before this, he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me.
  12. Sending Onesimus back to you makes me very sad.
  13. I would like to keep him here with me, where he could take your place in helping me while I am here in prison for preaching the good news.
  14. But I won't do anything unless you agree to it first. I want your act of kindness to come from your heart, and not be something you feel forced to do.
  15. Perhaps Onesimus was taken from you for a little while so that you could have him back for good,
  16. but not as a slave. Onesimus is much more than a slave. To me he is a dear friend, but to you he is even more, both as a person and as a follower of the Lord.
  17. If you consider me a friend because of Christ, then welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me.
  18. If he has cheated you or owes you anything, charge it to my account.
  19. With my own hand I write: I, PAUL, WILL PAY YOU BACK. But don't forget that you owe me your life.
  20. My dear friend and follower of Christ our Lord, please cheer me up by doing this for me.
  21. I am sure you will do all I have asked, and even more.
  22. Please get a room ready for me. I hope your prayers will be answered, and I can visit you.
  23. Epaphras is also here in jail for being a follower of Christ Jesus. He sends his greetings,
  24. and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, who work together with me.
  25. I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you.

    This short letter, which consists of only one chapter in our Bible, has as its primary purpose the restoration of a runaway slave to his master. Onesimus, a slave of Philemon to whom this letter is addressed, had runaway to Rome where he somehow came in contact with Paul. Paul led him to salvation in Christ and nurtured him spiritually until he was ready to put right what he had made wrong. Paul addressed slaves and slave masters in several of his letters, never attacking the practice, but to appeal to a proper relationship between them as brothers in Christ.

    In Rome, Onesimus would have no doubt had little difficulty remaining undetected as a runaway slave and could have remained free. But as a brother in Christ to his former master, Philemon, he had a debt to repay and a relationship to restore. Though we cannot know what debt he owed Philemon, Paul refers to it in this letter, telling Philemon to consider it his debt instead of Onesimus'. This is a secondary request, though. The primary request, as mentioned above, was for Philemon to restore his slave Onesimus, receiving him not only as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. Accept him, Paul said, "as you would me." (1:17)  Using Onesimus' name, which means "useful," Paul makes a play on words saying, "Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful to both you and me." (1:11) Paul then expresses a thought similar to his words in Romans 8:28 where he says, "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." His words to Philemon, though, were: "perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently." (1:15) In other words, what seemed a bad situation in the loss of a valuable slave, God had turned into a good situation with the salvation of that slave who would now prove to be of greater value, not only as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reflections on Titus 3

    Titus 03 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. Remind your people to obey the rulers and authorities and not to be rebellious. They must always be ready to do something helpful
  2. and not say cruel things or argue. They should be gentle and kind to everyone.
  3. We used to be stupid, disobedient, and foolish, as well as slaves of all sorts of desires and pleasures. We were evil and jealous. Everyone hated us, and we hated everyone.
  4. God our Savior showed us how good and kind he is.
  5. He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning.
  6. God sent Jesus Christ our Savior to give us his Spirit.
  7. Jesus treated us much better than we deserve. He made us acceptable to God and gave us the hope of eternal life.
  8. This message is certainly true. These teachings are useful and helpful for everyone. I want you to insist that the people follow them, so that all who have faith in God will be sure to do good deeds.
  9. But don't have anything to do with stupid arguments about ancestors. And stay away from disagreements and quarrels about the Law of Moses. Such arguments are useless and senseless.
  10. Warn troublemakers once or twice. Then don't have anything else to do with them.
  11. You know that their minds are twisted, and their own sins show how guilty they are.
  12. I plan to send Artemas or Tychicus to you. After he arrives, please try your best to meet me at Nicopolis. I have decided to spend the winter there.
  13. When Zenas the lawyer and Apollos get ready to leave, help them as much as you can, so they won't have need of anything.
  14. Our people should learn to spend their time doing something useful and worthwhile.
  15. Greetings to you from everyone here. Greet all of our friends who share in our faith. I pray that the Lord will be kind to all of you.

    Paul was concerned that the Cretian Christians have sound teaching, particularly to offset the exposure they had to the false teachers in their midst. But he was as concerned that sound teaching result in sound living. Teaching that does not result in sound living is useless whether the teaching is sound or not. Thus, in both of the last two chapters of his letter to Titus, Paul instructs Titus to remind the Cretians of living that is consistent with sound teaching. This would not only distinguish them from their countrymen and make the gospel more appealing, but would distinguish them from the false teachers who spoke of lofty spiritual things but did not live lives of good works. Their motives were for personal gain.

    So chapter three continues what was begun in chapter two. Titus is to remind the Cretian Christians to "be submissive to rulers and authorities," and "to be ready for every good work." (3:1) Furthermore, they were "to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people." (3:2) These practices are distinctly different than the practices of their former lifestyles. Such a change in lifestyle does not come about through their own efforts but "through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit." (3:5) This is a result of God's "goodness and love" towards us, not of their own "works of righteousness." (3:4, 5) Not only were they made new people through this regeneration and renewal, but they had become "heirs with the hope of eternal life." (3:7)

    This instruction, Paul says, is trustworthy and so Titus should insist on these things so the Cretian Christians will "devote themselves to good works" which are "profitable for everyone." (3:8) In the former lifestyles of the Cretian Christians they had been "foolish, disobedient, deceived, captives of various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another." (3:3) Many who live such lifestyles will argue the validity of such a life by saying, "but I'm not hurting anyone." Besides the fact that this statement is usually untrue, does simply not hurting others validate a particular lifestyle? Is it not better for all if one "devotes themselves to good works" which are "profitable for everyone?"

    Besides instructing Titus to insist that the Cretians "devote themselves to good works," he wants Titus to also instruct them to "avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law." Such activities, he says, "are unprofitable and worthless." (3:9) Getting one's doctrine correct is of little good is that doctrine does not result in a devotion to good works and an avoidance of foolish debates and quarrels which are unprofitable and divisive.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reflections on Titus 2

    Titus 02 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. Titus, you must teach only what is correct.
  2. Tell the older men to have self-control and to be serious and sensible. Their faith, love, and patience must never fail.
  3. Tell the older women to behave as those who love the Lord should. They must not gossip about others or be slaves of wine. They must teach what is proper,
  4. so the younger women will be loving wives and mothers.
  5. Each of the younger women must be sensible and kind, as well as a good homemaker, who puts her own husband first. Then no one can say insulting things about God's message.
  6. Tell the young men to have self-control in everything.
  7. Always set a good example for others. Be sincere and serious when you teach.
  8. Use clean language that no one can criticize. Do this, and your enemies will be too ashamed to say anything against you.
  9. Tell slaves always to please their owners by obeying them in everything. Slaves must not talk back to their owners
  10. or steal from them. They must be completely honest and trustworthy. Then everyone will show great respect for what is taught about God our Savior.
  11. God has shown us how kind he is by coming to save all people.
  12. He taught us to give up our wicked ways and our worldly desires and to live decent and honest lives in this world.
  13. We are filled with hope, as we wait for the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
  14. He gave himself to rescue us from everything that is evil and to make our hearts pure. He wanted us to be his own people and to be eager to do right.
  15. Teach these things, as you use your full authority to encourage and correct people. Make sure you earn everyone's respect.

    Paul's concern in this section is behavior that is consistent with sound teaching and the gospel of God's grace. God's grace, which is made available through Jesus Christ, gives us not only hope in "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," (2:13) but has "redeem(ed) us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works." (2:14) Paul felt strongly enough about this concern that he instructed Titus to "encourage and rebuke with all authority," regarding these things, and to "Let no one disregard you." (2:15) This is sound teaching about which Titus should not be timid.

    The teaching Paul instructed Titus to give the Christians in Crete was targeted to five groups: older men, older women, younger women, younger men, and slaves. This grouping does not suggest that different teaching applies to different Christians, but that different parts of the body of teaching need to be emphasized to these various groups due to the specific issues they face. So, older men are to "be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance." (2:2) Older women are to "be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine." They are also to teach the young women "to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands." (2:3-5) Young men are simply to "be sensible about everything." (2:7) Slaves "are to be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back or stealing, but demonstrating utter faithfulness." (2:9-10) Besides behavior that is in the Christian's best interest, this is behavior that will not slander God's message but will instead "adorn" it.

    Paul also had specific instructions for Titus concerning his conduct: "Set an example of good works yourself, with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us." (2:7-8) All is aimed toward a lifestyle that enriches the life of the Christian while avoiding any hindrance to other's acceptance of the gospel.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reflections on Titus 1

    Titus 01 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. From Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I encourage God's own people to have more faith and to understand the truth about religion.
  2. Then they will have the hope of eternal life that God promised long ago. And God never tells a lie!
  3. So, at the proper time, God our Savior gave this message and told me to announce what he had said.
  4. Titus, because of our faith, you are like a son to me. I pray that God our Father and Christ Jesus our Savior will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
  5. I left you in Crete to do what had been left undone and to appoint leaders for the churches in each town. As I told you,
  6. they must have a good reputation and be faithful in marriage. Their children must be followers of the Lord and not have a reputation for being wild and disobedient.
  7. Church officials are in charge of God's work, and so they must also have a good reputation. They must not be bossy, quick-tempered, heavy drinkers, bullies, or dishonest in business.
  8. Instead, they must be friendly to strangers and enjoy doing good things. They must also be sensible, fair, pure, and self-controlled.
  9. They must stick to the true message they were taught, so that their good teaching can help others and correct everyone who opposes it.
  10. There are many who don't respect authority, and they fool others by talking nonsense. This is especially true of some Jewish followers.
  11. But you must make them be quiet. They are after money, and they upset whole families by teaching what they should not.
  12. It is like one of their own prophets once said, "The people of Crete always tell lies. They are greedy and lazy like wild animals."
  13. That surely is a true saying. And you should be hard on such people, so you can help them grow stronger in their faith.
  14. Don't pay any attention to any of those senseless Jewish stories and human commands. These are made up by people who won't obey the truth.
  15. Everything is pure for someone whose heart is pure. But nothing is pure for an unbeliever with a dirty mind. That person's mind and conscience are destroyed.
  16. Such people claim to know God, but their actions prove that they really don't. They are disgusting. They won't obey God, and they are too worthless to do anything good.

    Paul's letter to Titus has a number of similarities to those he wrote to Timothy. First, Paul had left Titus with the churches in Crete to "set right what was left undone" (1:5) while he went on to other areas of ministry much as he had done with Timothy in Ephesus. His relationship with Titus was also similar to that he had with Timothy: a "true child in our common faith." (1:4)

    Another similarity with Timothy was the instruction to appoint elders in the churches. If they were to gain stability they needed leaders who lived among them and gave constant leadership. The qualifications Paul gave Titus to apply to the selection of elders were essentially the same as what he gave Timothy. The need to have leaders of this caliber is obvious. Besides the need to give sound leadership and provide a model for Christian living, the conduct of an elder, who served as "God's manager," was a reflection on God. Damage to the reputation of an elder was/is damage to God’s reputation. There are plenty of current examples of this truth.

    A further similarity between the situation with Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete was the presence, maybe even abundance, of false teachers with an agenda. Though the background of the false teachers in Ephesus is not clear, those in Crete were primarily of a Jewish background. Regardless of the background they had in common a rebellious spirit, idle talk, and deception. As for the false teachers in Crete, Paul said they were true to the Cretan reputation for being liars. The saying that had become popular, and is still used, originated with Epimenides, a Cretan poet and philosopher from the sixth century. However the saying was stated originally, it equated Cretans with lying. So by Paul's day, and even today, the term "cretan" refers to lying. Paul said the false teachers lived up to this reputation. They defiled everything with which they came in contact because they themselves were defiled -  both in mind and in conscience. "They profess to know God, but they denied Him by their works." (1:16) This is a truth that is wise to keep in mind. The giving of our trust and acceptance to a spiritual leader should follow our observation of them to see if their works follow their teaching. Paul's qualifications for elders in the church required that their reputation agree with their profession. They should have already demonstrated such behavior and have earned the qualifying reputation.

    Elders who qualify are to be capable handlers of the truth. Both in teaching church members and in refuting false teachers. The body of truth is entrusted to them. For the elders in the churches of Crete, this meant handling the truth they received both from Paul's teaching and from scripture.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reflections on 2 Timothy 4

    2 Timothy 04 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. When Christ Jesus comes as king, he will be the judge of everyone, whether they are living or dead. So with God and Christ as witnesses, I command you
  2. to preach God's message. Do it willingly, even if it isn't the popular thing to do. You must correct people and point out their sins. But also cheer them up, and when you instruct them, always be patient.
  3. The time is coming when people won't listen to good teaching. Instead, they will look for teachers who will please them by telling them only what they are itching to hear.
  4. They will turn from the truth and eagerly listen to senseless stories.
  5. But you must stay calm and be willing to suffer. You must work hard to tell the good news and to do your job well.
  6. Now the time has come for me to die. My life is like a drink offering being poured out on the altar.
  7. I have fought well. I have finished the race, and I have been faithful.
  8. So a crown will be given to me for pleasing the Lord. He judges fairly, and on the day of judgment he will give a crown to me and to everyone else who wants him to appear with power.
  9. Come to see me as soon as you can.
  10. Demas loves the things of this world so much that he left me and went to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia.
  11. Only Luke has stayed with me. Mark can be very helpful to me, so please find him and bring him with you.
  12. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.
  13. When you come, bring the coat I left at Troas with Carpus. Don't forget to bring the scrolls, especially the ones made of leather.
  14. Alexander, the metalworker, has hurt me in many ways. But the Lord will pay him back for what he has done.
  15. Alexander opposes what we preach. You had better watch out for him.
  16. When I was first put on trial, no one helped me. In fact, everyone deserted me. I hope it won't be held against them.
  17. But the Lord stood beside me. He gave me the strength to tell his full message, so that all Gentiles would hear it. And I was kept safe from hungry lions.
  18. The Lord will always keep me from being harmed by evil, and he will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. Praise him forever and ever! Amen.
  19. Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila and to the family of Onesiphorus.
  20. Erastus stayed at Corinth. Trophimus was sick when I left him at Miletus.
  21. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia send you their greetings, and so do the rest of the Lord's followers.
  22. I pray that the Lord will bless your life and will be kind to you.

    Paul's final charge to Timothy in this letter is given with urgency. To this point in the letter Paul urged Timothy to be faithful in the face of false teachers and the increasing moral decline of society. Here, though, the urgency is connected to Paul's conviction that his death was approaching and he apparently saw Timothy as his successor. Thus, in verse 1 he says, "I solemnly charge you." His charge to Timothy was to "Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching." (4:2) Timothy's focus was not to be his own convenience but primarily the proclamation of the gospel. He was to be, as Paul frequently referred to himself, a slave of Jesus Christ.

    Another reason for Paul's urgency with Timothy is seen in verses 3 and 4: "For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine . . . They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths." What motivates this turning away? Though some may claim it to be a search for truth, Paul says the real reason is because "they have an itch to hear something new." (4:3) In the face of this apostacy, Timothy was to "keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (4:5)

    Verses 6 and following turn attention from Timothy to Paul. Paul states that the time for his "departure" (death) is close, but he knows he has "fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (4:7) Therefore, he also knows that "there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing." (4:8)

    Through the remainder of the chapter and letter Paul appeals to Timothy to "Make every effort to come to me soon" (4:9) along with an account of those who have either abandoned him or gone on to ministry elsewhere. At the time of his legal defense he stood alone: "At my first defense, no one came to my assistance, but everyone deserted me." (4:16) Paul, no doubt, was lonely and longed to see his son in the ministry, but above all, he wanted a last chance to see Timothy before his "departure."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reflections on 2 Timothy 3

    2 Timothy 03 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times.
  2. People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless,
  3. heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything that is good.
  4. They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure.
  5. Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real. Don't have anything to do with such people.
  6. Some men fool whole families, just to get power over those women who are slaves of sin and are controlled by all sorts of desires.
  7. These women always want to learn something new, but they never can discover the truth.
  8. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, these people are enemies of the truth. Their minds are sick, and their faith isn't real.
  9. But they won't get very far with their foolishness. Soon everyone will know the truth about them, just as Jannes and Jambres were found out.
  10. Timothy, you know what I teach and how I live. You know what I want to do and what I believe. You have seen how patient and loving I am, and how in the past I put up with
  11. trouble and suffering in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. Yet the Lord rescued me from all those terrible troubles.
  12. Anyone who belongs to Christ Jesus and wants to live right will have trouble from others.
  13. But evil people who pretend to be what they are not will become worse than ever, as they fool others and are fooled themselves.
  14. Keep on being faithful to what you were taught and to what you believed. After all, you know who taught you these things.
  15. Since childhood, you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to make you wise enough to have faith in Christ Jesus and be saved.
  16. Everything in the Scriptures is God's Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.
  17. The Scriptures train God's servants to do all kinds of good deeds.

    In the previous chapter Paul encouraged Timothy to be willing to "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2:3) In other words, don't turn away from Christ when following Christ becomes difficult. Later in the chapter, he tells Timothy how he will be able to do this. It is by fleeing "youthful passions," and pursuing "righteousness, faith, love, and peace." (2:22) Paul continued this instruction to Timothy in chapter 3.

    The theme throughout this instruction was to remain faithful to the cause of Christ in the face of difficulty. The difficulty in mind in chapter 2 was combating false teachers.  Paul adds to that in chapter 3 the increasing moral decay of society. "In the last days." Paul says, "people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of religion but denying its power." (3:1-5) Paul considered the time in which he lived to already be in the last days and the moral decline to already be happening. It was not going to become easier, but more difficult for Timothy.

    The false teachers Timothy combated were a product of this moral decline. Paul pointed out that it was from among this crowd caught up in the moral decline that the false teachers came. "For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." (3:6-7) These are not well-intentioned but misguided people. Misguided, yes, but well-intentioned, no. Rather than being motivated by good intentions, they are instead "blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."  Yes, they hold to "the form of religion" but they are not "lovers of God." Nor are they attempting to lead others to God through their false teaching. They are to be avoided, Paul says. It is at the hands of such people that "all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (3:12)

    Paul then turned to instruction that would enable Timothy to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel.  It was through continuance in what he had learned from Paul and from the instruction of "the sacred Scriptures." For, he said, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (3:16-17)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reflections on 2 Timothy 2

    2 Timothy 02 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. Timothy, my child, Christ Jesus is kind, and you must let him make you strong.
  2. You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others.
  3. As a good soldier of Christ Jesus you must endure your share of suffering.
  4. Soldiers on duty don't work at outside jobs. They try only to please their commanding officer.
  5. No one wins an athletic contest without obeying the rules.
  6. And farmers who work hard are the first to eat what grows in their field.
  7. If you keep in mind what I have told you, the Lord will help you understand completely.
  8. Keep your mind on Jesus Christ! He was from the family of David and was raised from death, just as my good news says.
  9. And because of this message, I am locked up in jail and treated like a criminal. But God's good news isn't locked in jail,
  10. and so I am willing to put up with anything. Then God's special people will be saved. They will be given eternal glory because they belong to Christ Jesus.
  11. Here is a true message: "If we died with Christ, we will live with him.
  12. If we don't give up, we will rule with him. If we deny that we know him, he will deny that he knows us.
  13. If we are not faithful, he will still be faithful. Christ cannot deny who he is."
  14. Don't let anyone forget these things. And with God as your witness, you must warn them not to argue about words. These arguments don't help anyone. In fact, they ruin everyone who listens to them.
  15. Do your best to win God's approval as a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed and who teaches only the true message.
  16. Keep away from worthless and useless talk. It only leads people farther away from God.
  17. That sort of talk is like a sore that won't heal. And Hymenaeus and Philetus have been talking this way
  18. by teaching that the dead have already been raised to life. This is far from the truth, and it is destroying the faith of some people.
  19. But the foundation that God has laid is solid. On it is written, "The Lord knows who his people are. So everyone who worships the Lord must turn away from evil."
  20. In a large house some dishes are made of gold or silver, while others are made of wood or clay. Some of these are special, and others are not.
  21. That's also how it is with people. The ones who stop doing evil and make themselves pure will become special. Their lives will be holy and pleasing to their Master, and they will be able to do all kinds of good deeds.
  22. Run from temptations that capture young people. Always do the right thing. Be faithful, loving, and easy to get along with. Worship with people whose hearts are pure.
  23. Stay away from stupid and senseless arguments. These only lead to trouble,
  24. and God's servants must not be troublemakers. They must be kind to everyone, and they must be good teachers and very patient.
  25. Be humble when you correct people who oppose you. Maybe God will lead them to turn to him and learn the truth.
  26. They have been trapped by the devil, and he makes them obey him, but God may help them escape.

    Paul addresses Timothy directly, encouraging him to always remain faithful to Christ and to the gospel. And, not only was Timothy to do these things, but he was to "commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2:2)  First, as faithful followers of Christ they were to be willing to "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2:3) In so doing, they will be as soldiers who please their recruiter, or as athletes who compete, winning the crown without being disqualified, or as hardworking farmers who receive the first share of the crops. Along with this faithfulness to the Lord will "give you understanding in everything." (2:7)

    In a nutshell, the gospel for which Paul encouraged Timothy and those he taught to be willing to suffer is "Jesus Christ, risen form the dead, descended from David." (2:8) If Timothy and those he taught were faithful to this gospel and willing to suffer for it, they would find the following sayings to be trustworthy: "For if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful." (2:11-13) To attain this end, they would need to "present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth." (2:15)  There were those who had "deviated from the truth," such as Hymenaeus and Philetus, who were "overturning the faith of some." (2:17, 18) God's faithful workmen were not to get caught up in such "irreverent, and empty speech," as did these men. Nor were they to "fight about words" with such as these, for this "is in no way profitable and leads to the ruin of the hearers." (2:14)

    To this point Paul told Timothy what he and those he taught were to do. He turned, then, to how they were conduct themselves in order to accomplish these outcomes. They would not prove to be faithful soldiers, winning athletes, or hardworking farmers by pursuing "youthful passions." Nor would such pursuit lead to becoming diligent workmen who could present themselves approved to God without shame. These outcomes were only possible by pursuing "righteousness, faith, love, and peace." (2:22) Nor would they find it profitable to engage in "foolish and ignorant disputes" in an attempt to correct those who deviated from the truth. Rather, "the Lord's slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness." (2:24-25)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reflections on 2 Timothy 1

    2 Timothy 01 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus. God himself chose me to be an apostle, and he gave me the promised life that Jesus Christ makes possible.
  2. Timothy, you are like a dear child to me. I pray that God our Father and our Lord Christ Jesus will be kind and merciful to you and will bless you with peace!
  3. Night and day I mention you in my prayers. I am always grateful for you, as I pray to the God my ancestors and I have served with a clear conscience.
  4. I remember how you cried, and I want to see you, because that will make me truly happy.
  5. I also remember the genuine faith of your mother Eunice. Your grandmother Lois had the same sort of faith, and I am sure that you have it as well.
  6. So I ask you to make full use of the gift that God gave you when I placed my hands on you. Use it well.
  7. God's Spirit doesn't make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control.
  8. Don't be ashamed to speak for our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, just because I am in jail for serving him. Use the power that comes from God and join with me in suffering for telling the good news.
  9. God saved us and chose us to be his holy people. We did nothing to deserve this, but God planned it because he is so kind. Even before time began God planned for Christ Jesus to show kindness to us.
  10. Now Christ Jesus has come to show us the kindness of God. Christ our Savior defeated death and brought us the good news. It shines like a light and offers life that never ends.
  11. My work is to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher.
  12. That's why I am suffering now. But I am not ashamed! I know the one I have faith in, and I am sure that he can guard until the last day what he has trusted me with.
  13. Now follow the example of the correct teaching I gave you, and let the faith and love of Christ Jesus be your model.
  14. You have been trusted with a wonderful treasure. Guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit, who lives within you.
  15. You know that everyone in Asia has turned against me, especially Phygelus and Hermogenes.
  16. I pray that the Lord will be kind to the family of Onesiphorus. He often cheered me up and wasn't ashamed of me when I was put in jail.
  17. Then after he arrived in Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.
  18. I pray that the Lord Jesus will ask God to show mercy to Onesiphorus on the day of judgment. You know how much he helped me in Ephesus.

    Paul writes this second letter to Timothy from a Roman prison. He had left Timothy in Ephesus prior to writing his first letter to him while he went on to minister in Macedonia. Sometime between the two writings Paul was arrested and sent to prison in Rome. While the intent of the first letter was to instruct Timothy in leading the church in Ephesus in Paul's absence, this second one seems primarily aimed at apprizing Timothy of his imprisonment and requesting him to come to Rome. However, since Paul cannot be assured he will see Timothy, he does not miss this opportunity to advise him further.

    Paul reminded Timothy in the first letter of the gift of God that was in him, and again in this letter. It is through this gift that he will minister effectively in Ephesus and elsewhere. In reminding him of this gift, he tells him it does not include a "spirit of fearfulness," but "of power, love, and sound judgment." (1:7) Does Paul mention the spirit of fearfulness because of his imprisonment on behalf of the gospel and Timothy's risk of the same if he continues to preach the gospel? That may indeed be his point since he goes on to tell Timothy not to be ashamed either of "the testimony about our Lord," or of Paul "His prisoner." Rather than shame for either of these, Timothy should be willing to "share in suffering for the gospel." This may well be Paul's reference in his mention of the spirit of fearfulness. Their calling, and our calling, is not according to "our works," or purposes, but "according to His own purpose and grace." (1:9)

    Paul bolsters Timothy with his own testimony of being unashamed that he was "appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher of the gospel." He is not ashamed because he knows whom he has "believed and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day." (1:12) Therefore, Timothy should also guard "through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you." (1:14) Rather than shirking the calling he had to proclaim the gospel, Timothy should continue to "Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me," trusting that the Holy Spirit will guard what was entrusted to him. (1:13)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reflections on 1 Timothy 6

    1 Timothy 06 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. If you are a slave, you should respect and honor your owner. This will keep people from saying bad things about God and about our teaching.
  2. If any of you slaves have owners who are followers, you should show them respect. After all, they are also followers of Christ, and he loves them. So you should serve and help them the best you can. These are the things you must teach and tell the people to do.
  3. Anyone who teaches something different disagrees with the correct and godly teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. Those people who disagree are proud of themselves, but they don't really know a thing. Their minds are sick, and they like to argue over words. They cause jealousy, disagreements, unkind words, evil suspicions,
  5. and nasty quarrels. They have wicked minds and have missed out on the truth. These people think religion is supposed to make you rich.
  6. And religion does make your life rich, by making you content with what you have.
  7. We didn't bring anything into this world, and we won't take anything with us when we leave.
  8. So we should be satisfied just to have food and clothes.
  9. People who want to be rich fall into all sorts of temptations and traps. They are caught by foolish and harmful desires that drag them down and destroy them.
  10. The love of money causes all kinds of trouble. Some people want money so much that they have given up their faith and caused themselves a lot of pain.
  11. Timothy, you belong to God, so keep away from all these evil things. Try your best to please God and to be like him. Be faithful, loving, dependable, and gentle.
  12. Fight a good fight for the faith and claim eternal life. God offered it to you when you clearly told about your faith, while so many people listened.
  13. Now I ask you to make a promise. Make it in the presence of God, who gives life to all, and in the presence of Jesus Christ, who openly told Pontius Pilate about his faith.
  14. Promise to obey completely and fully all that you have been told until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
  15. The glorious God is the only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords. At the time that God has already decided, he will send Jesus Christ back again.
  16. Only God lives forever! And he lives in light that no one can come near. No human has ever seen God or ever can see him. God will be honored, and his power will last forever. Amen.
  17. Warn the rich people of this world not to be proud or to trust in wealth that is easily lost. Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life.
  18. Instruct them to do as many good deeds as they can and to help everyone. Remind the rich to be generous and share what they have.
  19. This will lay a solid foundation for the future, so that they will know what true life is like.
  20. Timothy, guard what God has placed in your care! Don't pay any attention to that godless and stupid talk that sounds smart but really isn't.
  21. Some people have even lost their faith by believing this talk. I pray that the Lord will be kind to all of you!

    In this final chapter of Paul's letter to Timothy he addresses the attitude of Christian slaves toward their masters, the pursuit of the rich for godliness over wealth, and then he concludes with direct instructions to Timothy.

    This is not the only time that Paul addressed the topic of slaves and masters in his letters. But usually he addresses both parties. For some reason, however, he addresses only the slaves on this occasion. Slavery was a common practice in the culture of Paul's day, but not an issue that he attempted to correct. He was more concerned with Christian conduct within this practice that Christ's name would not be blasphemed. Christianity introduced a new order which placed slaves and masters in the church as equals which had the potential of causing the slave to view his master with less than respect in the work environment. It is this issue that Paul addresses when he says that slaves who have, "believing masters should not be disrespectful to them because they are brothers." (6:2) Paul realizes that this teaching will likely sound very strange to a non-believing world and so he emphasizes that this is a part of a body of doctrine that is "sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ," and any who do not agree with it are "conceited, understanding nothing." (6:3, 4) Paul has more to say about those who disagree with this teaching for slaves and other teaching which is a part of the "sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ." He says such men have minds that "are depraved and deprived of the truth," and they "imagine that godliness is a way to material gain." (6:5)

    From this last statement concerning those who teach unsound doctrine for material gain, Paul segues into teaching concerning those who are rich or want to be rich. The desire to be rich, he says, opens the door to temptation. It is a trap with "many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction." (6:9) Furthermore, he says the love of money "is a root of all kinds of evil." (6:10) Though this statement from Paul is much quoted, it is often misquoted to say that money is the root of evil. It is not money, but the love of it that is the root of all kinds of evil. Therefore, Paul says the gain to strive for is "godliness with contentment." (6:6)

    Paul tells Timothy to "run from these things." Instead of material gain, he should pursue "righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness." (6:11) Besides avoiding the pursuit of riches himself, Timothy should teach those who are rich not to "set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy." He should also teach them to be generous with their wealth and willing to share. This will store up for them "a good foundation for the age to come."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reflections on 1 Timothy 5

    1 Timothy 05 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. Don't correct an older man. Encourage him, as you would your own father. Treat younger men as you would your own brother,
  2. and treat older women as you would your own mother. Show the same respect to younger women that you would to your sister.
  3. Take care of any widow who is really in need.
  4. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, they should learn to serve God by taking care of her, as she once took care of them. This is what God wants them to do.
  5. A widow who is really in need is one who doesn't have any relatives. She has faith in God, and she keeps praying to him night and day, asking for his help.
  6. A widow who thinks only about having a good time is already dead, even though she is still alive.
  7. Tell all of this to everyone, so they will do the right thing.
  8. People who don't take care of their relatives, and especially their own families, have given up their faith. They are worse than someone who doesn't have faith in the Lord.
  9. For a widow to be put on the list of widows, she must be at least sixty years old, and she must have been faithful in marriage.
  10. She must also be well-known for doing all sorts of good things, such as raising children, giving food to strangers, welcoming God's people into her home, helping people in need, and always making herself useful.
  11. Don't put young widows on the list. They may later have a strong desire to get married. Then they will turn away from Christ
  12. and become guilty of breaking their promise to him.
  13. Besides, they will become lazy and get into the habit of going from house to house. Next, they will start gossiping and become busybodies, talking about things that are none of their business.
  14. I would prefer that young widows get married, have children, and look after their families. Then the enemy won't have any reason to say insulting things about us.
  15. Look what's already happened to some of the young widows! They have turned away to follow Satan.
  16. If a woman who is a follower has any widows in her family, she should help them. This will keep the church from having that burden, and then the church can help widows who are really in need.
  17. Church leaders who do their job well deserve to be paid twice as much, especially if they work hard at preaching and teaching.
  18. It is just as the Scriptures say, "Don't muzzle an ox when you are using it to grind grain." You also know the saying, "Workers are worth their pay."
  19. Don't listen to any charge against a church leader, unless at least two or three people bring the same charges.
  20. But if any of the leaders should keep on sinning, they must be corrected in front of the whole group, as a warning to everyone else.
  21. In the presence of God and Christ Jesus and their chosen angels, I order you to follow my instructions! Be fair with everyone, and don't have any favorites.
  22. Don't be too quick to accept people into the service of the Lord by placing your hands on them. Don't sin because others do, but stay close to God.
  23. Stop drinking only water. Take a little wine to help your stomach trouble and the other illnesses you always have.
  24. Some people get caught in their sins right away, even before the time of judgment. But other people's sins don't show up until later.
  25. It is the same with good deeds. Some are easily seen, but none of them can be hidden.

    Chapter 5 is devoted to practical advise from Paul to Timothy about guiding the Ephesian church. In it Paul offers guidelines for relating to various members of the congregation, how to select widows who are to be under the care of the church, and the support, disciplining and choosing of church elders.

    Paul told Timothy to relate to members of the congregation as he would members of his family. Thus, approach older men as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as a mother, and younger women as sisters. Next he addressed the support of widows. Widows and orphans were considered special objects of God's mercy, and thus a responsibility of the church. But Paul recognized that guidelines were needed to avoid both an overload on the church and to avoid encouraging unwise practices. To begin with, the first responsibility for care of widows is the family and not the church. It is not wise for the church to take over that responsibility if a widow has family members able to help. Thus widows who have children or grandchildren should look to them for support. Also, any woman who has the means should care for widows in her family. This could conceivably include widows who have the means helping other widows in the family.

    Paul included further exceptions to those who should be added to the widow's list. These are best understood if one realizes that in being accepted on the widow's list a widow pledged herself to God, through the church, for her support as she would a husband, in a sense making God her husband. Paul alludes to this in 5:5: "The real widow, left all alone, has put her hope in God." It was in this context that Paul instructed Timothy not "to enroll younger widows" on the widows list because they may desire to remarry, thus renouncing "their original pledge" to God. Paul also had other reasons for not including younger widows on the list. Placing them on the list removed their need to work, thus exposing them to idleness and the temptation to go "from house to house; they are not only idle, but are also gossips and busybodies, saying things they shouldn't say." (5:13) The church has to be wise in offering help so that it truly helps rather than hurting.

    The final portion of the chapter provides guidelines for dealing with elders of the church. There are three parts to this section. The first has to do with support for elders. Those who labor on behalf of the church, especially those who "work hard at preaching and teaching," are worthy of "an ample honorarium." (5:17) Paul refers back to Old Testament teaching on this instruction. Next, the church should not be quick to make accusation against an elder. No accusation should be accepted unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. However, if an elder if found to be guilty, he should be publicly rebuked, thus discouraging others from sinning. As a safeguard against having to discipline elders, it is best to exercise caution up front in the selection of elders. Thus Paul tells Timothy not to "be too quick to lay hands on anyone." (5:22) Instead, individuals should be observed over time before offering to lay hands on them in ordination. Through observation over time, one's sins or good works will become obvious. Even those that are initially hidden.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reflections on 1 Timothy 4

    1 Timothy 04 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. God's Spirit clearly says that in the last days many people will turn from their faith. They will be fooled by evil spirits and by teachings that come from demons.
  2. They will also be fooled by the false claims of liars whose consciences have lost all feeling. These liars
  3. will forbid people to marry or to eat certain foods. But God created these foods to be eaten with thankful hearts by his followers who know the truth.
  4. Everything God created is good. And if you give thanks, you may eat anything.
  5. What God has said and your prayer will make it fit to eat.
  6. If you teach these things to other followers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus. You will show that you have grown up on the teachings about our faith and on the good instructions you have obeyed.
  7. Don't have anything to do with worthless, senseless stories. Work hard to be truly religious.
  8. As the saying goes, "Exercise is good for your body, but religion helps you in every way. It promises life now and forever." These words are worthwhile and should not be forgotten.
  9. (SEE 4:8)
  10. We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, but especially of those who have faith. That's why we work and struggle so hard.
  11. Teach these things and tell everyone to do what you say.
  12. Don't let anyone make fun of you, just because you are young. Set an example for other followers by what you say and do, as well as by your love, faith, and purity.
  13. Until I arrive, be sure to keep on reading the Scriptures in worship, and don't stop preaching and teaching.
  14. Use the gift you were given when the prophets spoke and the group of church leaders blessed you by placing their hands on you.
  15. Remember these things and think about them, so everyone can see how well you are doing.
  16. Be careful about the way you live and about what you teach. Keep on doing this, and you will save not only yourself, but the people who hear you.

    This chapter has a backward progression to it. Paul begins with the topic of a falling away from the faith that will occur in the latter times. Then he exhorts Timothy to "point these things out to the brothers." Finally, he tells Timothy to "Be conscientious about yourself and your teaching." (4:16) Paul started with the problem and worked backward to the remedy. The remedy to the problem of being drawn into the "hypocrisy of liars" and departing from the faith is to give attention to our own training "in godliness, (4:7)

    Paul, and possibly others, had received a word through the Holy Spirit that in the latter times, as Christ's return approaches, there will be an increase in those who fall away from the truth as they are caught up in "deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared." (4:1-2) Such teaching will forbid things that God has created. Things that are good and intended to "be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth." (4:3) Those who teach such things will claim a special knowledge, but in truth their teachings are the teachings of demons.

    Not wanting the church at Ephesus to get caught up in such teaching, Paul instructed Timothy to "point these things out to the brothers." (4:6) But if Timothy was to properly lead the church he would have to give attention to his own spiritual nurture. Paul didn't tell him to study these silly myths to better understand what they were up against, but told Timothy to "have nothing to do" with them. Instead, he was to "train yourself in godliness." Truth dispels error as light overcomes darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light as error cannot overcome truth. It stands on its own and shows the folly of error. So focus on truth.

    In leading the Ephesian church Timothy was to give attention to "public reading, exhortation, and teaching." (4:13) Timothy was able to carry out this assignment through the "gift" that was in him, of which Paul told him not to neglect. It was not in his own natural abilities that he would accomplish this task, but in the ability given him through a spiritual gift.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Reflections on 1 Timothy 3

    1 Timothy 03 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. It is true that anyone who desires to be a church official wants to be something worthwhile.
  2. That's why officials must have a good reputation and be faithful in marriage. They must be self-controlled, sensible, well-behaved, friendly to strangers, and able to teach.
  3. They must not be heavy drinkers or troublemakers. Instead, they must be kind and gentle and not love money.
  4. Church officials must be in control of their own families, and they must see that their children are obedient and always respectful.
  5. If they don't know how to control their own families, how can they look after God's people?
  6. They must not be new followers of the Lord. If they are, they might become proud and be doomed along with the devil.
  7. Finally, they must be well-respected by people who are not followers. Then they won't be trapped and disgraced by the devil.
  8. Church officers should be serious. They must not be liars, heavy drinkers, or greedy for money.
  9. And they must have a clear conscience and hold firmly to what God has shown us about our faith.
  10. They must first prove themselves. Then if no one has anything against them, they can serve as officers.
  11. Women must also be serious. They must not gossip or be heavy drinkers, and they must be faithful in everything they do.
  12. Church officers must be faithful in marriage. They must be in full control of their children and everyone else in their home.
  13. Those who serve well as officers will earn a good reputation and will be highly respected for their faith in Christ Jesus.
  14. I hope to visit you soon. But I am writing these instructions,
  15. so that if I am delayed, you will know how everyone who belongs to God's family ought to behave. After all, the church of the living God is the strong foundation of truth.
  16. Here is the great mystery of our religion: Christ came as a human. The Spirit proved that he pleased God, and he was seen by angels. Christ was preached to the nations. People in this world put their faith in him, and he was taken up to glory.

    Paul had gone on to Macedonia leaving Timothy at Ephesus to give leadership in the church and deal with false teachers. Thus this letter provides instructions to Timothy about his task at Ephesus besides lending him Paul's authority for his leadership. The Ephesian church would no doubt read the letter and know from where Timothy's instructions to them were coming. So with the intent of teaching both Timothy and the Ephesian church, Paul now gives instructions concerning church leaders. In particular, qualifications for pastors and deacons. These qualifications are of particular importance in light of the false teachers stirring up the Ephesian church.

    Paul lists 15 qualifications for pastors that cover his character (above reproach, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, good reputation), his moral conduct (husband of one wife, not addicted to wine), his grasp of scripture (able teacher), his relationship with others (not a bully, not quarrelsome), his motives (not greedy), his home life (competent manager of household), and his maturity (not new convert). He begins by saying it is a good thing for one to aspire to be a pastor for it is a "noble work." But aspiration does not, in itself, qualify one to be a pastor. For starters, his character must be above reproach being self-controlled and sensible and respectiable. Actually, his being above reproach could be applied to all the other requirement: above reproach in his marital status, in his self-controll, etc. If the order in the list is based on importance, the pastor's marital status is second in importance to being "above reproach." Being a one-woman man is significant if he is to be above reproach or be respected, or have a good reputation. Furthermore, it has carryover into paganism and moral issues. Only the man who has come out of these practices need be pastor. There a number of interpretations regarding this requirement for being "the husband of one wife." It no doubt prohibits polygamy and promiscuity, but does it also prohibit a remarried divorcee? If so, does it also prohibit a remarried widower? Is it referring to being married to only one woman simultaneously or throughout his life? It is amazing how dogmatic some become and to what lengths they will go regarding beliefs based on ambiguous statements in scripture while compromising on teaching about which scripture is clear.

    Next Paul addresses qualifications for the role of deacon. Though this list is shorter than that for pastor, it is similar. They, too, should be worthy of respect, not drunkards, not greedy for money, one-woman men, and competent managers of their households. They should not be hypocritical, in other words, they should be what they profess to be. There is a statement in the middle of these qualifications regarding wives that is not found in the qualifications for pastors. Historically this has been translated and understood to refer to the wives of deacons. However, the Greek word is literally "women" and is thus translated in the ASV, CEV, MSG and others. This should not be assumed, out of hand, to refer to the wives of deacons. It could refer to women deacons. However, the interpretation by some of the role of women in the chuch will not allow them this possibility. While dogmatism may come from good intentions, it ultimately leads to error when applied in areas in which scripture is not clear or is misapplied.

    When applying these qualification in choosing church leaders, we prefer to make as objective a process as possible, freeing us of error in judgment. But there is considerable subjectiveness to these lists which we cannot avoid. They are wise guidelines, however, that we should attempt to apply as closely as possible.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reflections on 1 Timothy 2

    1 Timothy 02 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them.
  2. Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God.
  3. This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior.
  4. God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is,
  5. There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us.
  6. God showed us this at the right time.
  7. This is why God chose me to be a preacher and an apostle of the good news. I am telling the truth. I am not lying. God sent me to teach the Gentiles about faith and truth.
  8. I want everyone everywhere to lift innocent hands toward heaven and pray, without being angry or arguing with each other.
  9. I would like for women to wear modest and sensible clothes. They should not have fancy hairdos, or wear expensive clothes, or put on jewelry made of gold or pearls.
  10. Women who claim to love God should do helpful things for others,
  11. and they should learn by being quiet and paying attention.
  12. They should be silent and not be allowed to teach or to tell men what to do.
  13. After all, Adam was created before Eve,
  14. and the man Adam wasn't the one who was fooled. It was the woman Eve who was completely fooled and sinned.
  15. But women will be saved by having children, if they stay faithful, loving, holy, and modest.

    Paul first addressed his concern regarding the false teachers in the previous chapter. Now he turns attention to the positive conduct of the church. His first concern was prayer. In particular, prayer for the salvation of all people, and more specifically, prayer for the salvation of those in governmental authority. At first glance it may seem that the prayers are possibly intended for the general welfare of those for whom they prayed, but verses 3 and 4 come to the point. Concerning this prayer for everyone, Paul says, "This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2:3-4) The primary intent for the prayer was the salvation of all people.

    Beyond the fulfillment of God's will in these prayers for the salvation of all people and particularly those in authority, an additional benefit is a life of tranquility and quietness in "all godliness and dignity." Persecution of Christians was on the increase at the time of Paul's writing, especially influenced by Nero's growing resentment toward them. Praying for his salvation and that of others in authority would have great effect toward "a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." What those in authority needed was not religion. Many of them may have already been heavily involved with the pagan religions of the day. What they needed was a right relationship with God, and that is only possible through Christ Jesus who is the only "mediator between God and man." (2:5)

    Urging Timothy and other readers of this letter to pray for all people and particularly those in authority, Paul then gave instructions concerning their approach to prayer. To the men he said to "Pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument." Paul was not teaching here the lifting of hands in prayer. That was a practice already common in that day. His emphases was that the hands they lifted should be holy, signifying the condition of the heart. Plus, their relationships should not be characterized by anger or disputing. Thus the praying had two benefits: first it sought to benefit those for whom they prayed, and then it benefitted those who prayed by focusing them on God and godliness.

    Paul also had a word for the women. As the men should come to prayer with holy hearts and proper relationships with others, the women were to come to these gatherings more concerned about their inner beauty than their outward beauty. Furthermore, they should not be clamoring for authority but rather accepting the authority of the men in quietness. It was not "silence" Paul sought of the women, but "Quietness." Meaning, "settled down, undisturbed, not unruly." As in other places, Paul appeals to this conduct by women based on God's design in creation. What did Paul mean in 2:15, "But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense." It is unclear, but perhaps he was encouraging the women to find their primary significance through their role in the family.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reflections on 1 Timothy 1

    1 Timothy 01 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. From Paul. God our Savior and Christ Jesus commanded me to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, who gives us hope.
  2. Timothy, because of our faith, you are like a son to me. I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind and merciful to you. May they bless you with peace!
  3. When I was leaving for Macedonia, I asked you to stay on in Ephesus and warn certain people there to stop spreading their false teachings.
  4. You needed to warn them to stop wasting their time on senseless stories and endless lists of ancestors. Such things only cause arguments. They don't help anyone to do God's work that can only be done by faith.
  5. You must teach people to have genuine love, as well as a good conscience and true faith.
  6. There are some who have given up these for nothing but empty talk.
  7. They want to be teachers of the Law of Moses. But they don't know what they are talking about, even though they think they do.
  8. We know that the Law is good, if it is used in the right way.
  9. We also understand that it wasn't given to control people who please God, but to control lawbreakers, criminals, godless people, and sinners. It is for wicked and evil people, and for murderers, who would even kill their own parents.
  10. The Law was written for people who are sexual perverts or who live as homosexuals or are kidnappers or liars or won't tell the truth in court. It is for anything else that opposes the correct teaching
  11. of the good news that the glorious and wonderful God has given me.
  12. I thank Christ Jesus our Lord. He has given me the strength for my work because he knew that he could trust me.
  13. I used to say terrible and insulting things about him, and I was cruel. But he had mercy on me because I didn't know what I was doing, and I had not yet put my faith in him.
  14. Christ Jesus our Lord was very kind to me. He has greatly blessed my life with faith and love just like his own.
  15. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This saying is true, and it can be trusted. I was the worst sinner of all!
  16. But since I was worse than anyone else, God had mercy on me and let me be an example of the endless patience of Christ Jesus. He did this so that others would put their faith in Christ and have eternal life.
  17. I pray that honor and glory will always be given to the only God, who lives forever and is the invisible and eternal King! Amen.
  18. Timothy, my son, the instructions I am giving you are based on what some prophets once said about you. If you follow these instructions, you will fight like a good soldier.
  19. You will be faithful and have a clear conscience. Some people have made a mess of their faith because they didn't listen to their consciences.
  20. Two of them are Hymenaeus and Alexander. I have given these men over to the power of Satan, so they will learn not to oppose God.

    Paul, in this first letter to his spiritual son, Timothy, gives a charge to the young man. He is to remain in Ephesus, while Paul moves on to Macedonia, and deal with false teachers in the Ephesian church. To strengthen him for this battle, Paul reminds him of "the prophecies previously made about you" (1:18) which were in keeping with Paul's instructions. Though it is not known when or by whom these prophecies were made, they convinced Paul of Timothy's fitness for this battle with the false teachers, and he also wanted them to convince Timothy. Having this assurance of his calling, Timothy was to enter the battle "having faith and a good conscience." (1:19) Without this combination of faith and good conscience Timothy would go the way of others who rejected them and "suffered the shipwreck of their faith."

    These false teachers with whom Timothy was to do battle were giving attention to "attention to myths and endless genealogies" and wanted "to be teachers of the law, although they don't understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on." (1:7) In part, what these "wannabe" teachers didn't understand is that the law cannot make one righteous nor is it for the righteous person. The law was intended to be a teacher that points out sin. Therefore, it was meant for "the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching based on the glorious gospel of the blessed God." (1:9-11) So by insisting that people turn to the law, these false teachers were turning them away from their only hope of salvation and righteousness - Jesus Christ.

    The teaching that is "trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance" is this: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1:15)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reflections on 2 Thessalonians 3

    2 Thessalonians 03 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. Finally, our friends, please pray for us. This will help the message about the Lord to spread quickly, and others will respect it, just as you do.
  2. Pray that we may be kept safe from worthless and evil people. After all, not everyone has faith.
  3. But the Lord can be trusted to make you strong and protect you from harm.
  4. He has made us sure that you are obeying what we taught you and that you will keep on obeying.
  5. I pray that the Lord will guide you to be as loving as God and as patient as Christ.
  6. My dear friends, in the name of the Lord Jesus, I beg you not to have anything to do with any of your people who loaf around and refuse to obey the instructions we gave you.
  7. You surely know that you should follow our example. We didn't waste our time loafing,
  8. and we didn't accept food from anyone without paying for it. We didn't want to be a burden to any of you, so night and day we worked as hard as we could.
  9. We had the right not to work, but we wanted to set an example for you.
  10. We also gave you the rule that if you don't work, you don't eat.
  11. Now we learn that some of you just loaf around and won't do any work, except the work of a busybody.
  12. So, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, we ask and beg these people to settle down and start working for a living.
  13. Dear friends, you must never become tired of doing right.
  14. Be on your guard against any followers who refuse to obey what we have written in this letter. Put them to shame by not having anything to do with them.
  15. Don't consider them your enemies, but speak kindly to them as you would to any other follower.
  16. I pray that the Lord, who gives peace, will always bless you with peace. May the Lord be with all of you.
  17. I always sign my letters as I am now doing: PAUL.
  18. I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to all of you.

    Following Paul's instructions to the Thessalonians in chapter two about last things and, in particular, the Day of the Lord, he now expresses confidence that the Lord will "strengthen and guard you from the evil one." and that they "are doing and will do what we command." (3:3, 4) Paul's confidence that they would continue to be obedient to instruction was not based on their ability but on the Lord's.

    Having expressed confidence that "in the Lord" they would continue to "do what we command," Paul proceeded to give a command. This is his strongest word of instruction to them, giving some indication of how serious he considered the situation. And what situation was that? It was the idleness or laziness of certain members of the church. They were not working and thus were freeloading off of other members and "interfering with the work of others." (3:11) He called it irresponsible behavior. Paul touched on this issue in his first letter to the Thessalonians but the offending members had evidently not corrected their behavior. Now stronger action was required. Paul commanded them to "keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly." (3:6) He had already commanded them earlier, when he was with them, that "If anyone isn't willing to work, he should not eat." Since the offenders had not changed they were now to keep away from them.

    To the offenders Paul also has a command: "Now we command and exhort such people, by the Lord Jesus Christ, that quietly working, they may eat their own bread." (3:12) The members were to take note of those who did not obey this command and not associate with them. The intent was to shame the offender so he would become obedient. They were not, however, to treat the offender "as an enemy, but warn him as a brother." The tone of this instruction seems directed to the members individually rather than action that should be taken as a church body.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reflections on 2 Thessalonians 2

    2 Thessalonians 02 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. When our Lord Jesus returns, we will be gathered up to meet him. So I ask you, my friends,
  2. not to be easily upset or disturbed by people who claim that the Lord has already come. They may say that they heard this directly from the Holy Spirit, or from someone else, or even that they read it in one of our letters.
  3. But don't be fooled! People will rebel against God. Then before the Lord returns, the wicked one who is doomed to be destroyed will appear.
  4. He will brag and oppose everything that is holy or sacred. He will even sit in God's temple and claim to be God.
  5. Don't you remember that I told you this while I was still with you?
  6. You already know what is holding this wicked one back until it is time for him to come.
  7. His mysterious power is already at work, but someone is holding him back. And the wicked one won't appear until that someone is out of the way.
  8. Then he will appear, but the Lord Jesus will kill him simply by breathing on him. He will be completely destroyed by the Lord's glorious return.
  9. When the wicked one appears, Satan will pretend to work all kinds of miracles, wonders, and signs.
  10. Lost people will be fooled by his evil deeds. They could be saved, but they will refuse to love the truth and accept it.
  11. So God will make sure that they are fooled into believing a lie.
  12. All of them will be punished, because they would rather do evil than believe the truth.
  13. My friends, the Lord loves you, and it is only natural for us to thank God for you. God chose you to be the first ones to be saved. His Spirit made you holy, and you put your faith in the truth.
  14. God used our preaching as his way of inviting you to share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  15. My friends, that's why you must remain faithful and follow closely what we taught you in person and by our letters.
  16. God our Father loves us. He is kind and has given us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope. We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father
  17. will encourage you and help you always to do and say the right thing.

    Throughout his first letter to the Thessalonian Christians and also in this second letter, Paul has had only good to say about them. His main concern was that they continue to mature spiritually and that their teaching might be completed in what they were lacking. He was especially complementary of their faithfulness in light of persecution they were experiencing. It is this issue with which Paul is concerned in this present chapter.

    The Thessalonians had evidently received messages, some purporting to be from Paul, claiming that the "Day of the Lord" had come evidenced by their present persecution. The "Day of the Lord" referring to God's judgment. If there was truth to these claims, it would mean that their persecution came, not from those who rejected the gospel and were influenced by Satan, but from God Himself who was judging them. Paul had already told them in his first letter, though, that those who believed in Jesus' death and resurrection for their salvation would be caught up with Him into heaven at Christ's second coming, (1 Thess. 4:14-17) and only after this event would the Day of the Lord arrive. (1 Thess. 5:1-5) Therefore, the fact that they who were believers in Christ's death and resurrection for their salvation were still present in the world was indication that the Day of the Lord had not yet come. Thus, their persecution was not God's judgment as some would have them believe.

    Paul had taught the Thessalonians these things when he was with them earlier, but due to the conflicting messages it was necessary for him to remind them of his earlier teaching. In this passage Paul gives some teaching about the Day of the Lord that is not found elsewhere in scripture. He points out that the Day of the Lord will not come until after "the apostasy comes . . . and the man of lawlessness is revealed." (2:3) But the man of lawlessness is presently being restrained so that he will not be revealed before his time. (2:6) Paul says "the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way." (2:7) Paul is not explicit about the one who restrains the man of lawlessness, but many believe it is the Holy Spirit who is present in believers. Then when believers are caught up with Jesus at His return, the Holy Spirit is removed from the world and restraint is removed and the man of lawlessness is revealed.

    According to Paul's teaching in these two letters to the Thessalonians, those remaining in the world at the time the man of lawlessness is revealed are unbelievers. And it is due to their unbelief that they are, at that time, deceived by the man of lawlessness. For due to their unbelief, "God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false." (2:11) It appears that this strong delusion comes through the ability of the man of lawlessness to perform "all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders." (2:9) And this ability comes, not from God, but from Satan. They are counterfeit acts of God. The unbelievers made a choice by which they are then condemned to unbelief and destruction.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Reflections on 2 Thessalonians 1

    2 Thessalonians 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. From Paul, Silas, and Timothy. To the church in Thessalonica, the people of God our Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
  3. My dear friends, we always have good reason to thank God for you, because your faith in God and your love for each other keep growing all the time.
  4. That's why we brag about you to all of God's churches. We tell them how patient you are and how you keep on having faith, even though you are going through a lot of trouble and suffering.
  5. All of this shows that God judges fairly and that he is making you fit to share in his kingdom for which you are suffering.
  6. It is only right for God to punish everyone who is causing you trouble,
  7. but he will give you relief from your troubles. He will do the same for us, when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven with his powerful angels
  8. and with a flaming fire. Our Lord Jesus will punish anyone who doesn't know God and won't obey his message.
  9. Their punishment will be eternal destruction, and they will be kept far from the presence of our Lord and his glorious strength.
  10. This will happen on that day when the Lord returns to be praised and honored by all who have faith in him and belong to him. This includes you, because you believed what we said.
  11. God chose you, and we keep praying that God will make you worthy of being his people. We pray for God's power to help you do all the good things that you hope to do and that your faith makes you want to do.
  12. Then, because God and our Lord Jesus Christ are so kind, you will bring honor to the name of our Lord Jesus, and he will bring honor to you.

    Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian church spoke highly of this group of Christians referring to them as his "crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming." (1 Thessalonians 2:19) The primary concern he expressed for them was that what was lacking in their faith might be made complete. Though they were relatively new Christians and their faith still not mature, they had remained faithful under persecution and demonstrated Christian love to Christians throughout Macedonia. Paul held them up as a model to other churches.

    The first chapter of this second letter to the Thessalonians reveals that they had continued to mature since the first letter. In verse three Paul expresses thanks to God that "your faith is flourishing, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing." Again he speaks of boasting of them "among God's churches--about your endurance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you endure." (1:4)

    Then Paul encouraged them in light of their persecution. First he pointed out that because they have endured pesecution they will be "counted worthy of God's kingdom." (1:5) Note, he doesn't say "worthy of salvation." That was already secure due to their faith in Christ. Then he spoke of the punishment that will come to those who are persecuting them. God is a just God and the evil that appears to have a free hand is only temporary. Those who have placed their faith in Christ must have patience and faith in God that He is just and will mete out justice. When Christ returns, God will take vengeance with "flaming fire" on those who don't know Him, and have not obeyed "the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (1:8) The primary penalty they will pay for their unbelief, however, will be forever being "away from the Lord's presence and from His glorious strength." (1:9)

    Paul told the Thessalonians in the last chapter of his first letter to them that retaliation is not an option for Christians. A Christian must always be motivated by service to God, not by the actions of others. Remaining faithful to God in all things and at all times demonstrates our trust in Him to bless us and to deal justly with those who afflict us. By trusting this to God we also understand that it will all happen in His timing and not ours.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reflections on 1 Thessalonians 5

    1 Thessalonians 05 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. I don't need to write you about the time or date when all this will happen.
  2. You surely know that the Lord's return will be as a thief coming at night.
  3. People will think they are safe and secure. But destruction will suddenly strike them like the pains of a woman about to give birth. And they won't escape.
  4. My dear friends, you don't live in darkness, and so that day won't surprise you like a thief.
  5. You belong to the light and live in the day. We don't live in the night or belong to the dark.
  6. Others may sleep, but we should stay awake and be alert.
  7. People sleep during the night, and some even get drunk.
  8. But we belong to the day. So we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armor. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet.
  9. God doesn't intend to punish us, but wants us to be saved by our Lord Jesus Christ.
  10. Christ died for us, so that we could live with him, whether we are alive or dead when he comes.
  11. That's why you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing.
  12. My friends, we ask you to be thoughtful of your leaders who work hard and tell you how to live for the Lord.
  13. Show them great respect and love because of their work. Try to get along with each other.
  14. My friends, we beg you to warn anyone who isn't living right. Encourage anyone who feels left out, help all who are weak, and be patient with everyone.
  15. Don't be hateful to people, just because they are hateful to you. Rather, be good to each other and to everyone else.
  16. Always be joyful
  17. and never stop praying.
  18. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.
  19. Don't turn away God's Spirit
  20. or ignore prophecies.
  21. Put everything to the test. Accept what is good
  22. and don't have anything to do with evil.
  23. I pray that God, who gives peace, will make you completely holy. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept healthy and faultless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
  24. The one who chose you can be trusted, and he will do this.
  25. Friends, please pray for us.
  26. Give the Lord's followers a warm greeting.
  27. In the name of the Lord I beg you to read this letter to all his followers.
  28. I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you!

    In the first section of chapter 5 Paul continues a topic he began in the latter part of the previous chapter. There he spoke of those who were asleep in death, encouraging the Thessalians not to grieve for them in the same manner as those who have no hope. Those who are dead in Christ will eventually be raised with Christ along with those who are still alive who will be caught up with Christ. Together, both groups will forever be with the Lord.

    Now Paul speaks of the coming "Day of the Lord" which will follow those events when those who are in Christ will be taken up to be with Him. The Day of the Lord will bring sudden destruction on those who are not in Christ, catching them by surprise as one is surprised by a "thief in the night." Escape from this destruction will not be possible. Those not in Christ who will be caught by this destruction are of the night, living in darkness. They are spiritually asleep. By contrast, those in Christ are "sons of light" and "sons of the day" are not of night or darkness. They are not appointed "to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (5:9)

    Paul then leaves this topic to give some further practical teaching. First, they are to give recognition and high regard to those in the church who are their leaders. Such an attitude will nurture peace among them. Next Paul tells them to minister to one another in four ways: "warn those who are lazy, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone." Then follow seven exhortations:

    • Don't repay evil for evil. Retaliation is not an option for the Christian.
    • Rejoice always. Rejoice despite the circumstances because God works all things for good for those who love God.
    • Pray constantly. At every opportunity be in fellowship with God.
    • Give thanks in everything. This is God's will.
    • Don't stifle the Spirit.
    • Don't despise prophecy.
    • Stay away from every form of evil.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reflections on 1 Thessalonians 4

    1 Thessalonians 04 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. Finally, my dear friends, since you belong to the Lord Jesus, we beg and urge you to live as we taught you. Then you will please God. You are already living that way, but try even harder.
  2. Remember the instructions we gave you as followers of the Lord Jesus.
  3. God wants you to be holy, so don't be immoral in matters of sex.
  4. Respect and honor your wife.
  5. Don't be a slave of your desires or live like people who don't know God.
  6. You must not cheat any of the Lord's followers in matters of sex. Remember, we warned you that he punishes everyone who does such things.
  7. God didn't choose you to be filthy, but to be pure.
  8. So if you don't obey these rules, you are not really disobeying us. You are disobeying God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
  9. We don't have to write you about the need to love each other. God has taught you to do this,
  10. and you already have shown your love for all of his people in Macedonia. But, my dear friends, we ask you to do even more.
  11. Try your best to live quietly, to mind your own business, and to work hard, just as we taught you to do.
  12. Then you will be respected by people who are not followers of the Lord, and you won't have to depend on anyone.
  13. My friends, we want you to understand how it will be for those followers who have already died. Then you won't grieve over them and be like people who don't have any hope.
  14. We believe that Jesus died and was raised to life. We also believe that when God brings Jesus back again, he will bring with him all who had faith in Jesus before they died.
  15. Our Lord Jesus told us that when he comes, we won't go up to meet him ahead of his followers who have already died.
  16. With a loud command and with the shout of the chief angel and a blast of God's trumpet, the Lord will return from heaven. Then those who had faith in Christ before they died will be raised to life.
  17. Next, all of us who are still alive will be taken up into the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the sky. From that time on we will all be with the Lord forever.
  18. Encourage each other with these words.

    Paul voiced a prayer in the previous chapter that he might "see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith." (3:10) In the verses of chapter 4 he seeks to accomplish that task of completing what was lacking in their faith. It was not that they were being unfaithful or had in any way turned away from the faith, but he encouraged them to do more of what they were already doing which was to "walk and please God." (4:1) To this end, Paul gave two practical instructions and one teaching of encouragement.

    The first practical instruction was to "abstain from sexual immorality." (4:3) This included every form of sexual practice outside God's will: adultery, premarital and extramarital intercourse, homosexuality, and other perversions. Abstaining from any such practice, Paul said, is "God's will," (4:3) and is a part of the Christian's sanctification, that is, their progressively being conformed to the image of Christ. The Christian is to be different from the unbeliever in this regard. Knowing God gives him a different perspective. Besides going against God's will, sexual immorality transgresses agaisnt and defrauds "his brother in this matter." (4:6) Paul told the Thessalonians that "the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit." (4:8) Should they reject Paul's teaching on this matter, it was not Paul they would be rejecting, but God who gave the teaching. Furthermore, they would be rejecting God's Holy Spirit who would enable them to abstain from sexual immorality.

    The second practical instruction Paul gave was concerning brotherly love. About this, he said, they didn't need his instruction, "because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another." (4:9) It is an intuitive part of knowing God. The Thessalonian Christians were, in fact, already demonstrating brotherly love to other Christians throughout the region of Macedonia. So Paul's instruction to them was simply to "do so even more." (4:10) In addition to brotherly love, he told them to also "lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands." (4:11) All three of these instructions were in regard to demonstrating brotherly love. The quiet life is in contrast to a noisy and distruptive life which would be an annoyance to others. Minding one's own business is an obvious demonstration of brotherly love, while working with one's own hands is aimed at not being a financial burden on anyone else.

    As for the teaching of encouragement, Paul wanted them to understand about the death of a Christian of whom Paul refers as "those who are asleep." (4:13) He didn't want them to grieve over loved ones who had died in the same manner as those "who have no hope." (4:13) In the power of Christ's resurrection God will "bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus." (4:14) It is not of any greater advantage to remain alive than to "fall asleep," or die. For when Christ comes again, those who are already "dead in Christ will rise first." Then those who still live "will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." Then, both those raised from the dead and those caught up alive "will always be with the Lord." (4:17)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reflections on 1 Thessalonians 3

    1 Thessalonians 03 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. Finally, we couldn't stand it any longer. We decided to stay in Athens by ourselves
  2. and send our friend Timothy to you. He works with us as God's servant and preaches the good news about Christ. We wanted him to make you strong in your faith and to encourage you.
  3. We didn't want any of you to be discouraged by all these troubles. You knew we would have to suffer,
  4. because when we were with you, we told you this would happen. And we did suffer, as you well know.
  5. At last, when I could not wait any longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I hoped that Satan had not tempted you and made all our work useless.
  6. Timothy has come back from his visit with you and has told us about your faith and love. He also said that you always have happy memories of us and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you.
  7. My friends, even though we have a lot of trouble and suffering, your faith makes us feel better about you.
  8. Your strong faith in the Lord is like a breath of new life.
  9. How can we possibly thank God enough for all the happiness you have brought us?
  10. Day and night we sincerely pray that we will see you again and help you to have an even stronger faith.
  11. We pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus will let us visit you.
  12. May the Lord make your love for each other and for everyone else grow by leaps and bounds. That's how our love for you has grown.
  13. And when our Lord comes with all of his people, I pray that he will make your hearts pure and innocent in the sight of God the Father.

    In chapter two Paul told the Thessalonian Christians that they were his "crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming." (2:19) In this chapter he tells them "How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experience because of you?" (3:9) He has only good to say about them. His primary concern for them is their immaturity in the face of persecution. They had not strayed from the faith, but he was concerned that they could due to the persecution.

    In light of Paul's concern, he reminded them that as Christians they "are appointed to this," that is, to persecution. (3:3) In fact, when Paul was with them previously he told them persecution would come, and it did. Too frequently the perception is that our faith in Christ should deliver us from trouble. So, when trouble comes some are shaken in their faith wondering if they are doing something wrong or if their faith is well-founded.

    Another step Paul took in light of his concern for the Thessalonians was to send Timothy to them "to strengthen and encourage (them) concerning (their) faith." Paul was elated when Timothy returned from his visit with the Thessalonians bringing "good news about (their) faith and love." (3:6) He was also pleased that they had good memories of him and wanted to see him.

    A third step Paul took due to his concern for the Thessalonians was to pray for them. He prayed "earnestly night and day" for them that "what is lacking in (their) faith" might be made complete. (4:10) The chapter closes with a prayer that Paul's way might be directed to them, that the Lord might cause them to "increase and overflow with love for one another," and that the Lord might "make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints." (3:11, 12, 13)