Renewing Our Values: “Regaining a Hunger for True Wealth” – 1 Timothy 6

Harder HallFor a small Florida town, Sebring has more than its share of international landmarks. In fact, while most small towns have NONE, we have at least TWO. One is the “Sebring International Raceway”, and the other is the now vacant “Harder Hall”, which is on the national registry. Two developers, Lewis F. Harder and Vincent Hall, joined the Florida land boom in in 1925, and built the large hotel by Lake Jackson, as well as the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. Harder Hall opened in 1927, and was placed in Sebring because the city was a stop on the Atlantic Coast Line railroad. By the 1950’s it became a part of the PGA Tour/LPGA Tour, and hosted celebrities Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Mario Andretti. Despite the reputation of our sleepy little town, we have seen people with wealth over the years, and our population is not immune to the hunger for nice things.

The year Harder Hall opened, the moving picture show that graced the big screen in the larger cities was simple entitled: “Greed”.

The story was about a man named John McTeague (called by his friends simply “Mac), a former mine worker who became a dentist in a small town. One day he met a woman named Trina, and her boyfriend Marcus at his office. The dentist kindled an interest in Trina, and she later fell in love with him. After Trina and Marcus met Mac, they stopped at a shop, and she bought a lottery ticket. In time, Marcus stepped aside and Mac and Trina became a couple. A bit later, Trina discovered she won $5000 at the lottery, and she quickly became obsessive about the money. Marcus, recognizing that he stepped aside from a woman who was now rich, had the law shut down Mac – because he had no official schooling for his dentistry. Trina was fearful of losing her money, and both plunged into poverty while the hidden gold sat protected. Desperate, poor and hungry, Mac presses Trina to release her gold so they can live – but it wasn’t that simple for her to do – because of simple GREED.

The movie echoed a problem of the roaring twenties, and offered a social commentary on the deep hunger for things that many felt. The sad part is that many still do. People will shoot someone for the notes in a cash drawer. What I find even sadder is that some who claim to be believers and followers of Jesus Christ – and even some of them are leading ministries – have allowed GREED to be a regular part of their character. In some cases, people even built an acceptable theology around it… The last chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy was addressed to believers – a warning to be on guard against focusing on the “wrong life”. It is easy to do… to make our goals, our hopes and dreams about the next house, the next car, the next TV set, tablet, computer…you name it. The problem isn’t with those things, but with our longing for satisfaction here in the physical world, apart from God’s use of those things to further His ends. Here is God’s call…

Key Principle: The mature believer moves his or her eyes from the temporal world and deliberate makes their primary focus the eternal view.

On our way to our lesson in 1 Timothy 6, I need to ask you to be a bit patient. Since we end our study of this letter today, I would like to accomplish three objectives – not simply deal with one lesson:

First, I want to quickly attempt to tie the letter together – to help younger believers to grasp the whole of the letter before we leave its pages.

Second, I want to finish the section that began in 1 Timothy 5:1 concerning behaviors, since it continues into what is now “chapter six”.

Third, I want to move us to the lesson on greed we introduced a moment ago in our key principle.

Grasping the Whole Letter

In this last part of our series through this letter, we again recall the lessons on renewing our values. As we have traveled through this letter by the Apostle Paul to the younger Pastor-Bishop Timothy, we have noted that most of the letter is geared toward straightforward instruction of behavior. How we behave is a statement of our true set of values – much more than any creed or doctrinal statement. Paul knew that, and Tim needed to be taught that lesson. Paul broke the behavioral lessons into eight parts:

• Lesson One: Returning to Costly Grace: (1 Tim. 1) Tim needed to be reminded that God’s grace was no excuse for bad behavior, and the scope of God’s desire was greater than simply giving us a ticket to Heaven. That set up the letter to provide other instructions on current lifestyle.

• Lesson Two: Renewing Commitment to God’s Sovereignty: (1 Timothy 2:1-8) Tim needed to instruct men to settle down and set aside angry disputations by re-focusing them on peaceful prayer.

• Lesson Three: Refocusing on Proper Affirmation: (1 Timothy 2:9-15) Tim needed to make clear to the women the need to re-examine the emphasis placed on physical appearance over the spiritual reality and correct the behavior.

• Lesson Four: Restoring an Emphasis on Character: (1 Timothy 3:1-7) Tim needed instruction on the primary need for character in relation to elders as opposed to choosing men based on a pragmatic solution to the current set of problems.

• Lesson Five: Recognizing the Value of Servanthood: (1 Timothy 3:8-16) Tim needed to recognize the high value God places on servants (particularly in relation to the deaconate) and clearly recall how this vital connection of the body has been designed to function.

• Lesson Six: Realigning Priorities to Guard Truth: (1 Timothy 4:1-16) Tim needed to recognize the value of truth above all else – directly confronting the assault on truth and the erosion of resistance to standing for it.

• Lesson Seven: Redefining Standards in Relationships: (1 Timothy 5:1-6:12) Paul made clear to Tim intended behaviors that should mark relationships among and between believers.

• Lesson Eight: Regaining a Hunger for True Wealth: (1 Timothy 6:3-21) Paul reminded Tim to teach clearly concerning a believers temptation toward temporal gain in light of eternal truth.

Understanding the Section on Behavioral Standards

To wrap up our series without skipping any verses, we must straddle for a few minutes the opening verses of chapter six and link them to the last lesson. The last chapter opens with the end of a section on instructed behaviors Paul offered to Timothy about dealing with different people in the congregation.

• We noted the words “older man”, “younger man”, “older women”, “younger women” in 5:1,2 and “widows” in 5:3, as well as “elders” in 5:17 – and took time to look at the treatment Paul expected Timothy to afford each in our earlier study. The words RESPECT and HONOR were a big part of our examination.

• The beginning of chapter six is still in that instructional mode – but with one difference. Instead of just instructing Timothy on the direct treatment of the individuals involved, it was an entreaty about what to teach those involved in the slave-master relationship (6:1-2).

1 Timothy 6:1 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and [our] doctrine will not be spoken against. 2 Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these [principles].

Rome was a world filled with slaves. Some scholars estimate that perhaps as many Romans were slaves as free at different times in their history.

The record of Pedanius Secundus, prefect of Rome under the Emperor Nero, provides an example. His townhouse was serviced daily by no fewer than 400 slaves. If all the nearly five hundred senators owned a similar number, that single group of elites alone would have owned 200,000 slaves!

Roman slavery was highly regulated, taxed and meticulously recorded (though many records have perished in time. Slaves routinely came with a “money back guarantee” if they were found to be defective, as least compared to their advertised state. The slave system was not racially based, and slaves had no special standard marker of dress (apart from the common tunic worn by others of the poorer classes. As a result, slaves who had run away were sometimes made to wear metal collars with inscriptions such as: “I have run away. Capture me. When you have returned me to my master, Zoninus, you will receive a reward.” Some scholars of antiquity estimate that between one third to one half of the Roman population were “servii”.

Obviously, many slaves heard the message of Jesus, and some accepted Christ. Sitting beside their Master in the atrium for worship may have caused some of them to lack respect as the day’s chores were later distributed – and Paul needed to address the problem. Though we do not have the same arrangement economically as Paul and his readers did, the principle of “serving Jesus by serving another” definitely applied then and now. When we do what we do for others as a direct service to Jesus – we give our best for reasons far beyond the human relationship and the human reward. This is the call of the believer that would walk in maturity.

Let us be careful to be the best employees – we who name Jesus as our King. Let us be the best of the spouses, the best of the friends, the best of neighbors. These common, daily interactions, and our attention to serving Jesus with our best through all of them, will yield fruit in eternity. Jesus is most honored by believers who recognize that whatever we do, in word or deed, it is for His glory, and therefore do it to the best of our abilities. The world waits for believers that can be seen before they are heard.

• The last part of this “behavior instruction primer” (with the possible exception of the message to the rich in 6:17-19) was directed to Tim’s handling of those who oppose the teachings of God’s Word as Paul revealed them and through that opposition, they are drawing Tim into distraction.

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited [and] understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

The modern church has been distracted by theoretical theology. The term “doctrine” as used in the letters to Timothy and Titus is a bit different than is customary in our time. Here, as in Titus 2, sound doctrine appears to refer to teachings that have practical and behavioral commands for the church to get along with people – not some “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” theoretical debate. Let me posit that it is fine for believers to have theological nuance differences in a number of areas where there is a sincere effort to understand some detail of the text of the Word – all the way until the point that such a view would allow ungodly behaviors to be licensed.

Let’s be careful to stay away from disputes that offer nothing in regards to our walk with Jesus and practice of love with each other. There is much we don’t know, and much we won’t find by arguing with other people. At the same time, the basic lifestyle questions are thoroughly explored in God’s Word. He is never unclear about what honesty, purity, love, grace, integrity are… nor is He bashful to point out vulgarity, sensual thinking and course words or actions. Let’s be careful to speak and act within what is clearly part of the life of a believer – and be on guard of teachings that cause men and women to stray from these revelations of the Spirit through the Word.

There will always be those who will use the Bible for purposes other than what it was written for – to give us the essential truths that guide us to finding and then following God. We are to acknowledge that our guard must be up – even inside the body of believers. Paul offered a specific note of caution in this passage, because the enemy will continue to attempt to spread “tares among the wheat” (Mt. 13). We need to recognize that some will come in to the body posing as real believers that:

Remain out of self-interest: The words in verse 4 “he is conceited (Gr: tuphoo: “to raise in a smoke”) and understands nothing;” reflect a self-interested person that has no real spiritual perception, even if they are accustomed to being a part of the church body.

Desire to derail the discussion into “dead end” controversies. Verse 4 again warns “but he has a morbid interest” (Gr: “noseo: to be fixated to the point of an imbalance or illness) “in controversial questions” (Gr: “zaytasis”: a matter of controversy) “and disputes” (Gr: “logomakhia”: to wrangle about empty and trifling matters) “about words”. People of this sort seem to keep things stirred up and leave the boundaries of real seeking of God. The discussions bring out the fleshly works of “envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth”. There is a key not to be missed here: If the fruit of the discussion is works of the flesh, the problem may be the discussion itself. The platform may be used by both the enemy and the magnetic pull on our old nature to tear away at the body.

• A desire to personally feed an appetite for gain. The underlying purpose of these teachers is found in the phrase: “who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” This seems to be the real issue. Gain (Gr: “porismos”: acquisition) may be a financial idea, or a power one. People stir things up to gain power, and sometimes to gain money. Believers need to carefully watch out for those stirring the pot. We need to humbly remember that we can stand most effectively for Christ when we filter the opinions of those around us through the Word of God and are consistent adherence to the Word’s principles.

Drop your eyes to the last part of this letter, because it is our focus for the remaining minutes of this study – and it is a singular but essential truth. Many believers suffer from a terrible problem…

The Problem of “Wrong World Focus”

Understanding that we have been called to a higher purpose than what can be found in this world is vital for the church to be what God intended. It is a call to our foundational thinking – a plea for recognition that our perspective must be fundamentally transformed by God’s Spirit to live as God intended us to journey through this life. It is a principle that separates the believer from the non-believer…

Key Principle: The mature believer moves his or her eyes from the temporal world and deliberate makes their primary focus the eternal view.

Even believers need to be on guard about where we find our hope and what we dream about. If we long for the things of this world in inordinate ways, we fail to walk with the right hopes lodged in our hearts. Our sure footing in the Gospel will begin to slip into old patterns of thinking and an old value system. The “old man or woman” will grow stronger in our thought life, and the “new man or woman” we are to become will slowly be disabled by starvation. God offered help in how to move to godly transformation.

Six Truths that help our transformation:

Truth #1: Resting in God’s provision and program provides its own reward (6:6-8).

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness [actually] is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

The formula for “joy in the foyer of life” begins with godliness (Gr: eusebia: taking God seriously) and adds contentment (Gr: “autarkeia”: a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed; sufficiency of the necessities of life; a mind contented with its lot). Paul goes on to note that we don’t truly own anything. We came with nothing and take nothing. That kind of thinking must be posed in the mind of one that sees the “life after this one” or it will lead to a debauched life in the here and now. Because Paul knew that life would go on, he needed only the basic necessities to accomplish his task – he could feel a sense of privilege for anything more God granted! Here is the truth: I become effectively selective in what I take delight in when I recognize this life is the appetizer, not the main course! Far too many believers are gorging on this world, and leave no room for the delicious main course in the life to follow. They don’t SEEK HEAVEN and its blessing, but rather seek to make the HERE AND NOW suffice for all their deep-seated needs. The problem is it won’t work because it isn’t supposed to.

Truth #2: Focus on the physical comforts pulls a believer in the wrong direction (6:9-10)

1 Timothy 6:9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

The temptation to be rich in the here and now pulls my eyes to fulfillment in the here and now. The fanning of the flame of desires for STUFF will war with my call to find my completion in my Savior, and use things to do His work and enjoy from His hand. You can have nice things and not live for those things – but use them effectively to help people. You can even enjoy your life – if you do so as a reflection of God’s goodness to you, and celebrate it WITH HIM.

Scripture is FILLED with places that call us to celebrate life each day and into eternity, and live today joyfully!:

• Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

• Psalm 100:1 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. 3 Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations..

To all my believing family I plead: Don’t be GLUM, but don’t make this world and its riches your focus. You are only a renter here, and your permanent home is being built right now. Don’t get too comfortable, but enjoy the day while recognizing that not all will be as it should this side of home.

Truth #3: Even godly people must be deliberate about their redirected focus (6:11)

1 Timothy 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance [and] gentleness.

I LOVE this verse!! Paul reduced the issues of godliness down to CHOICES. We have choices about which direction we face, and what we gaze at. We have CHOICES about what we pursue and what we run away from. We even have choices about HOW we move in relationship to our choices – in gentleness like the quiet bow hunter, or in stomping noises like one who is trying to scare snakes off the path in front of us. Paul made it clear:

Godly transformation is essentially about right choices in regards to deliberate pursuits. The term “pursue righteousness” (as defined by the Word). You and I will never be transformed to what God intends without choosing to pursue – energetically – the path of right choices. Let’s stop being SPOOKY in the Spirit – acting as if God will grab us against our will and somehow get us on the right path in opposition to our choices.

Godly transformation begins with taking God seriously. The idea is found in the underlying term “godliness”. Bonhoeffer famously reminded us that when we sin, we don’t HATE GOD, we simply FORGET GOD for a time. We distance ourselves from the truth that He is present with us when we make our choices. If we truly see Him as present, and we also see Him as HOLY- this should inform our choices as believers.

The text called Timothy to pursue FAITH – God’s revealed view of the world – things as HE says they are . Right is what God says, not what surveyed Americans think. Wrong is what His Word teaches – not the latest “injustice” pointed out by Hollywood.

Paul told Tim to vigorously pursue opportunities to selflessly act to benefit others who have needs around us, because that is what the term “love” means. Believers preaching truth without love are like weathermen explaining how snow is formed to a man whose car is stranded in a snow drift. At that moment, the stranded don’t need an explanation – they need a helper.

Paul then had the AUDACITY to call Tim to PURSUE A STRONGER BACK. God calls His followers to build up their resistance to whining and being crushed by troubles as we faithfully remain under the troubles of this life – as can be found in the term “perseverance” (hupomeno: to remain under).

• While troubles may assail the believer, they must not become angry or harsh – but must learn to respond with tenderness (11b).

Truth #4: The secret to a transformed perspective is how widely you focus your view (6:12-16)

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time– He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him [be] honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

Look at the secret to fighting with perseverance – it is taking hold of eternal life. It is looking up to Jesus Who understands unfair trials (as in the case before Pilate!) and yet calls us to His example of endurance and careful response.

• Don’t forget that Jesus is still in charge of all things!
• Don’t forget that God holds time in His hands, and will end all things the best way to tell His story!
• Don’t forget that our King possesses all life and dwells in unsearchable light –His ways beyond understanding of His creatures.
• Don’t forget that He is absolute in authority, unrivaled in power, unconcerned by the flexing of the muscles of the wicked kingdom.

Truth #5: Those who have abundance will need to be particularly careful (6:17-19)

1 Timothy 6:17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 [Instruct them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

Paul reminded Timothy of one more group to instruct – those who possess much in this world. He told Tim to remind them:

• Hope cannot be fixed on the temporary nature of this world and its delights – but on God Himself, Who is the supplier of all things.

• What we can do, what we MUST do – is use the blessing of this life to do good to those around us – expending ourselves this side of Heaven.

Truth #6: Godly leaders must see the truths of Scripture as a trust (6:20-12)

1 Timothy 6:20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly [and] empty chatter [and] the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.

Finally, Paul called out to his young friend who was uncomfortably seated in the place of responsibility for the lives of other believers…He needed to see the ministry as a SACRED TRUST placed in his hands by God. He needed to recognize time wasters and pot stirrers and know when to walk on. He needed to be able to see clearly those who were going in the wrong direction – and the false professors of faith. He needed to keep his HOPES on HOME with his EYES ON THE TRUTH for the protection and growth of the flock.

The church must remember we are not just an organization, but an organism – a living body that must work at health and growth. We cannot look to the symbolism of the past, nor the popular embrace of the present – we must look to our founder, and proclaim Him. It is our sacred duty, and it is our glorious opportunity to cast a rescue line to those about us! I agree heartily with the words of the theologian John McKenzie:

If the church were to lose its hierarchy, its clergy, its vast collection of learning amassed over the centuries, even the text of its sacred books, and had to face the world with nothing but the living presence of the Risen Jesus and its mission to proclaim the Good News to all nations and people, it would be no less a church than the church of Peter and Paul was. Perhaps, it might be more of church than it is now.” Why? Because when we truly proclaim HIM, it is about a different view of the world. It is about the view of the physical inside a story told for a world spiritual by the Creator of BOTH!

The mature believer moves his or her eyes from the temporal world and deliberate makes their primary focus the eternal view.

Renewing Our Values: “Handling Leaders of God’s People” – 1 Timothy 5:17-25

 Tleadersoday’s church is in what even the most casual observer would likely call “a leadership crisis”. First, the number of qualified leaders for congregations is much smaller than in decades. Entry into clerical training geared toward congregational ministry has curtailed in Catholicism and Protestantism. The ranks are thin in most countries today. At the same time, we have had significant issues with ministry personnel getting along with one another. Leroy Barber wrote an article about leaders some time ago, and I want to excerpt it as a way of beginning our lesson on handling leaders: “Leaders make decisions every day that affect the lives of many people. This list should be a reminder that our jobs are important and that we should be constantly working to improve ourselves. There are a few signs to look for that will warn us if a leader is headed in the right direction and can help guide when deciding to give someone our support. I call them the red flags of leadership:

1. The use of too many personal pronouns when describing the work of a team or organization. Most, if not all, great accomplishments are the result of a good team. No one does everything themselves, and when a leader over uses “I” and “me” to describe the work of an organization, you might have a problem.

2. When a leader surrounds him or herself with people who will not tell them no. A good leader purposely [surrounds himself with] people who will think for themselves and who will challenge decisions they make…

3. When a leader only [surrounds himself with] people who think … they way they do. You need multiple views on any given decision, and if a leader only surrounds themselves with a team that processes the way they do, this could lead to an organization with a narrow base.

4. When a leader has to criticize others to legitimize his … work. If an idea or vision is a valid one, it will stand-alone without putting down someone else.

5. When a leader can’t follow. When a leader is not a good follower, it is a major sign that they may be immature in their leadership. It is a major hypocrisy to ask people to trust and follow you and you are not able to do that well.

6. When there is no [Prophet] Nathan in the leader’s life. When a leader doesn’t have someone around them to point out when they are leading out of selfishness or emotion, then there is problem…

Barber’s list is helpful, and as a leader warning other leaders, it points to a prickly problem of leadership: how to appropriately treat others God has chosen for leadership. Clearly the Apostle Paul called out by name those who were violating truth in a gross and public way. I suspect there are times when it is necessary to do so – though we must be careful because we don’t serve as Apostles, and our sermon writing isn’t going to be canonized and Scripture!

Add to the problem of handling each other, and unless you left the country over the past three decades, you know that American Christianity has seems to have been stripped of its former innocence and rocked by scandal after scandal in its public leadership. The Catholic community has paid incredible sums in legal fees with wave after wave of charges against leaders. The Protestant community suffered through televangelist scandals that made all who held clerical titles blush with embarrassment. Clearly those in leadership needed to deal in a more effective way with those who were abusive, and those who brought derision to the name of Jesus Christ. We have to admit, the issues of handling leaders, even by other leaders, is a complex one. Two thousand years ago, Paul wrote to Timothy about his behavior as a supervisor of co-laborers in ministry, and both essential commands and stern warnings. He offered helpful standards and even some encouragement.

Key Principle: Dealing with co-laborers in ministry takes special care and wisdom, but if done well it produces long term relationships that increase both the joy and productivity of ministry.

Before we move forward, let’s glance backward to set the context. If you haven’t been following our study, I can summarize what led us to is point in three simple thoughts:

First, we noted this letter was geared toward teaching about BEHAVIORS that God instructed believers to exemplify as they sought to live out their faith. The book is not about the lost world, but about the world of believers.

Second, we noted in the section of the letter we are currently examining, from 1 Timothy 5:1 to 6:12, there is a particular focus on interpersonal behaviors, relationships between the young man who acted as shepherd to the church, Timothy, and those he served. We are reading his personal mail, and gleaning both prescribed behavior for leaders, and the goal of behaviors for all of us.

Third, we noted that Paul’s commands in the first part of chapter five were essentially two – respect believers of various ages in the church, and take a special interest in those who have found themselves in a position of need as a result of life’s troubles. We noted that respect looked a bit different for each group of people mentioned in 5:1-2, but the command to respect each person was absolute. We also made clear that those who are in need, like widows, are a SACRED TRUST to the body of Christ. We have been given a GIFT in the package of those who cannot care for themselves, because they give us the opportunity to show love, and offer care.

The section for the study in this lesson deals with Timothy’s relationship with those with whom he co-labored in the church – other leaders. Let’s first look closely at the words Paul instructed, and then carefully look for the keys to understanding the passage:

1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. 21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. 23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

Many people mistake this passage as some crass opportunity for a preacher to ask you to pay him more – but that isn’t what the passage is about at all. Preachers talking about payments due them is about as savory as Congressmen voting themselves another raise in an era of deficit spending. That isn’t what the passage is about, but it is often taught that way. Let me explain…

We must recall the first century church wasn’t structured exactly as our church is today. Long before hymnbooks, parking lots, dedicated church buildings with steeples dotting the landscape, professional clergy, church offices and printed bulletins, the church in a Roman city was a network of people who committed to follow Jesus and learn of him in small groups that met in the atrium (entry hall) or triclinium (dining hall) of Roman urban villas.

Back to the Beginning

Imagine that you lived in the first century, and as a Roman free man or woman, you heard about this man from Nazareth called Jesus. You were so moved by the love of the people that claimed to follow His teachings, you asked one of them to allow you to attend a little study and prayer group that met in their home several times a week. You visited and noticed their practices carefully. They greeted one another with a holy kiss, and they looked each other in the eye, listening to one another. You were amazed that bond or free, Jew or Gentile, Nubian, Scythian, Gaul or Roman – people didn’t seem divided, nor did they feel the need to separate by class when seated. In your class conscious society, you had never seen anything like that!

As they gathered, they held hands with one another and closed their eyes, praying… not a simple memorized set of phrases repeated over and over – but a prayer of such intensity, it was as though their God was in a room above them, intently listening. Following prayer, the people sat in a small circle as a man read from a scroll that contained a letter from the leader of church in another city. The reader paused periodically to explain the words he read as you listened intently with all the others. At the end, he explained the coming of Jesus as man’s Savior, and the story of a single God that stood alone in the Heavens as both Creator, and a personal deity that desired to have a relationship with His created.

The man who was reading the scroll acted as a Shepherd to the group. They called him an “elder”, the term you knew from the marketplace as a wise man or sage. He was not the head of the group. He was one of a number of men who served in this position, and they all served under one “overseer” who cared for the needs of the shepherds of each small home group scattered throughout the city. Though you were a part of only one house group, it became clear to you that you were welcome to join ANY of the groups in the city, as they were UNITED by common faith in Jesus Who was called the Christ.

I mention this story to make the point that the letter to Timothy wasn’t written to a “Pastor” of a church in the same way we would mean that term today. Tim was a city leader, a “Bishop” or “overseer” of a variety of men who cared for small flocks in the villa group setting. He almost certainly did not gather the whole group of believers in the city to hear him preach. In some periods of early church history, it is doubtful that everyone in the city actually ever met and fellowshipped with the overseer. His work was to select, disciple or mentor group leaders, and instruct them in properly exposing the truths from the Word of God. He was a shepherd of shepherds.

When Paul wrote to him in that capacity and said : “1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching”… it was not for him to PRESS BELIEVERS TO PAY HIM, as though he needed “cover” from the Apostle for this instruction. The problem was that Tim was a SUPERVISOR of ministry personnel spread throughout the city, and he needed guidelines to help HIM know what was appropriate in that relationship. The issue wasn’t Tim getting money for Tim, but Tim knowing the value of what each man who was serving in the field was supposed to receive, and how to place a value on their labors.

With that in mind, let’s make clear four standards Paul gave to Timothy about those who worked in the small group settings of the house churches:

First, Paul called on Timothy to ACKNOWLEDGE the value of the work of men in the Word for the growth of the Kingdom.

Go back to the first words of Paul in this section. 1 Timothy 5:17 “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” The words expose several important truths:

1. Elders who led the studies were leaders, and they had the responsibility to oversee their flock, demonstrated by the term “rule”.

2. Some of them did a better job at that work than others, and it was something that Timothy was supposed to be able to measure, based on the words “rule well”.

3. Not all of them were dedicated only to the task of teaching and preaching, as was demonstrated by the term “especially”.

4. The men who worked at teaching and preaching were also performing real labor (something made clear in the reference to WORK in 5:18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

The idea that studying and preaching was a legitimate labor was perhaps the part of the acknowledgement that was most difficult for Tim, because Roman citizens were taught to revere hard working farmers, and tough bodied soldiers. The word for a “man of the scrolls” was often a derogatory use of the term like “Jew” or “Greek”- meaning a lazy sophist, a sitting sage, or a lethargic philosopher. In a variety of Roman works, philosophers seemed to be regarded by the masses as “loafers” who sat for hours reading scrolls rather than doing true manly labors.

Bear in mind that most of the men that performed these tasks also labored in other areas, probably in work that included business transactions and public records – because they became adept at reading and thorough study in those pursuits. That would not have been true of all of them, but it is hard to imagine a farmer who did not use reading and writing skills on a regular basis becoming the most learned of the community, and acting as a teacher of the Word. The point is that in an agricultural based economy, many would not have readily understood that studying the Scriptures and preparing the instructional diet of the community was true and hard labor, but Paul made it clear to Tim that it was exactly that when performed diligently.

Perhaps the issue for “double honor” was that other elders were not demanded to put the time into the arduous labors, but performed other labors in overseeing the congregations. We cannot be sure. At the same time, it may be that the real issue was that people knew these men had “day jobs” and were gainfully employed, and could not see giving them support in addition to their other income when so many needy in the community existed. Why give to the man who is preparing Bible study sessions when there are so many POOR that could use a good meal, or a little help? That seemed like a reasonable question.

In the end, God’s Word on the matter was this: take care of them. He said: “I provided for Levites and Priests in the atonement system of Israel by gifts and offerings of the Jewish people. They also worked in their own fields, many of them, but that didn’t mean God didn’t want them to have the support of the people.” In that way, God said, even if the men have work and an income, they are worthy of double repatriation (once from their day labor and again from their Word labors). This allowed the families of these men to be compensated for the hours of labor they would work “over and above” the menial work day.

“Tim needed to learn that those among his men who were charged with preparing God’s Word were doing an important work, and he was to acknowledge them in it.”

I have noticed in my time in ministry that there are many believers who DO NOT TRULY VALUE the Word of God in their lives. In individuals, the most obvious way to spot this phenomenon is when they look at you quizzically because you mention that you are daily in God’s Word. I have met people who are a regular part of a Gospel preaching church that don’t own or open a Bible. They feel it is the preacher’s job to know it, and claim they will give him a call if they ever have an issue. When I ask if they have ever called on him for that purpose, they shrug their shoulders. It is as if life isn’t all that informed by the Bible. I know of a number of churches that give scores of hours to labors among the poor with little regard for growing adept in handling the Word of God.

Men and women, the work among the poor is essential, that is sure. The neediest among us are God’s opportunity to extend His hands of care through us. At the same time, a church that grows away from the Word will move begin serving with Spirit-led help of hurting people, but quickly find themselves opening exposure to serious emotional and spiritual challenges without the resources and parameters of the Word of God.

Second, Paul called on Tim to make clear AFFIRMATION of his belief in the men leading the church.

Beyond acknowledging the value of the work in the Word, Paul instructed Tim to be careful about his emotional support for the men. He said: 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

The sin nature of people and the nature of spiritual warfare combined with the sensitive nature of the work in people’s lives left men in ministry dangerously open to accusation. Some men would fail their Lord in purity matters. The enemy uses one true story to raise doubt in twenty false accusations. Add to that, some people would even honestly misread the attention received by ministry personnel, causing hurt feelings and raising questions about their integrity. In the years I have been in ministry, I have seen all of these develop.

What Paul told Tim was to make the standard of accusation high, in order to express affirmation to the men. Remember, Tim KNEW these men. He met with them all the time, and coached them. That didn’t guarantee they were not wandering into sin, but it did mean that he was involved and checking on them spiritually as regularly as necessary to help them walk uprightly. Paul knew that when a leader doesn’t show support for his team members, they lose heart. Even though men and women constantly fight their sin nature, God didn’t want them to serve under undue suspicion and lack of adequate support by their team leader. Even leaders need to be affirmed and trusted, if they have walked in a way to earn that trust. No one should get blamed for the acts of others simply because they hold the same post.

Third, Paul then balanced the need for affirmation with the requirement for ACCOUNTABILITY.

Note the words in 1 Timothy 5:20 “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”

People have always needed to be able to trust the integrity of the men who serve Jesus by serving them. There is no sense in which they will be regarded as flawless, but they should be keeping themselves well inside God’s revealed borders for life. Men that do not must be held accountable. I am stunned by the number of men in ministry that have been discovered in violation to their sacred walk that have been left to continue. Some feel it is not good for the church to make clear the violation – but that is not the truth. Note that Paul says the men he is referring to are CONTINUING in sin, after they have been privately confronted. When men do not humbly repent in private, they must be dealt with in public for the good of the body of Messiah.

Obviously, whether in private initially or in public eventually, sin in leaders is a serious matter that cannot be ignored. It is true that sin requires repentance, and dealing with the repentant always requires grace. We dare not make those who fall into sin and now are contrite and vulnerable feel as though they are beyond God’s mercy and love. At the same time, the standards are higher for leaders, and they know that when they enter public ministry. I chuckle when I read articles about how obtuse leaders can be, because I see myself as one of these deeply flawed vessels. In Leadership magazine, Dave Wilkinson wrote the following to pastors…

Have you ever wondered why your pastoral resume doesn’t evoke more enthusiasm? Do you ever think, “What are these people looking for?” Perhaps the question should be, “What aren’t they looking for?” because with the numbers of applications pastor nominating committees receive, their first task is to eliminate applicants. Here, then, as a public service, are statements certain to stop a resume dead in its tracks.

• “I believe empathy is overrated.” •
• “In the five churches I have faithfully served over the past two years …”
• “My hobbies are pit bulls and automatic weapons.”
• “I am willing to sacrifice my family for the sake of the ministry. I am also willing to sacrifice yours.”
• “I have learned to cope with financial crisis at every church I’ve served.”
• “I require an attractive secretary and/or organist.”
• “My extensive counseling of church members has proved a rich source of pointed sermon illustrations.”
• “I’ve been told that every sermon I preach is better than the next.”
• “My personality has provided me ample opportunity to develop conflict-resolution skills.” [Resume Stoppers, Citation: Dave Wilkinson, Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 1.]

How does this apply to the larger picture of leadership? Timothy had to find mechanisms to measure the effort, effectiveness and diligence of the men under his charge. We do no favor to men if we allow them to be lazy in ministry and not correct their behavior. It is uncomfortable, but essential. If you promote everyone regardless of their effort and effectiveness, you kill productivity. If you overlook undisciplined behavior, you encourage sinful developments.

At the same time, it is easy to overreact to accusations and quickly allow stories to be accepted as TRUTH. Let me caution you about this as it regards media ministers. I don’t always like what I hear from men in ministry when they appear before the cameras. At the same time, we need to be careful, because modern media is a FILTERED venue. The interview can be clipped, and the intent of a statement changed or contorted. When Paul told Tim to be careful about accepting too quickly accusations, he used some interesting language. The word accusation: “katagoria”: literally from kata: around, down from and “agora” the market. It meant a charge list from the “word on the street” from the marketplace. How often do we quickly believe a Facebook post of an article excerpted from an interview? If people would stop and ask the speaker to clarify before reposting, that would at least show some effort.

Note that not EVERY BELIEVER was to make it their job to rebuke the elders. The term elenghko means to call attention to, to chasten. This was the work of Tim as their supervisor, not as someone who just dropped in for a visit. One of the things that really puts a smile on my face are some of the things Pastors hear about their work…

One pastor said that the following have been said to him about his sermons (and I had to clip it out):

• “You always manage to find something to fill up the time.”
• “I don’t care what they say, I like your sermons.”
• “If I’d known you were going to be good today I’d have brought a neighbor.”
• “Did you know there are 243 panes of glass in the windows?”
• “We shouldn’t make you preach so often.”
• One of my personal favorites; was when someone told me, “Preacher that wasn’t half bad.”

Be those words as they are, the principle is still true – Leaders need accountability.

Ultimately, WE HONOR OUR SPIRITUAL LEADERS BY TREATING THEM FAIRLY. We watch and we listen, but we expect evidence to believe something that is damaging to them. Be careful! Do not jump to conclusions based on what someone tells you. The formula, “I want to think well of you, but I have this report and I want to be sure that we are walking together properly…”

The rest of the passage unfolds some COMMON DANGERS and PITFALLS that Tim needed to be aware of if he wanted to lead the other elders well.

Paul included four temptation areas that Tim needed to guard against:

First, there was a temptation to miss a BLINDING BIAS. Paul warned: “Keep the standard impartially.” (5:21)

5:21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.

The term bias was prokrimatos which is taken from two words – “before” and “judge”. Simply put, it meant “Do not PREJUDGE”.

Bias is damaging and dangerous. You can’t tell by the cover! During the preparations for an evangelistic crusade in Latin America, a very poor, unshaven man came to one of the week-long biblical counseling courses. It was unusual to see a man of this condition attending an in-depth training session. Most often, those with a better education and social standing are the ones who take an active role in this type of intensive preparation. The illiterate man attended every class, but those in leadership didn’t expect him to do much counseling. Several weeks later, all of the available counselors were busy when a physician walked in. This shabbily dressed man immediately greeted the doctor and took him into a room for counseling. Once the director discovered what had happened, he became deeply concerned. When the doctor came out, the director asked if he needed any help. The physician replied, “No, thank you. This fellow has helped me very much.” The next day that same doctor showed up with two other colleagues and asked to see the shoeless man. By the end of the week, that illiterate man had led four doctors and their wives to Christ. God needs nothing more than available servants. Christian Reader, Sept./Oct. 1991, p. 61

Paul said to Timothy, “HONOR YOUR GROUP LEADERS BY EXPECTING THEM TO ACT WITH INTEGRITY.” Don’t skip over bad behavior, and don’t give them a pass in acting rightly. It might sound odd to place an expectation on our leaders to live consistently and call that an honor but it really does honor our leaders. Integrity means that a person’s private life and public life are consistent, that the leader is seeking to live a lifestyle that reflects the values of Jesus. A person with integrity is brutally honest about his or her shortcomings and failures, but they’re not content to stay there. They want to grow, to move forward, even while being honest with where they fall short.

One writer said it this way: “Leaders are to be examples to God’s people of the beauty of virtue. But when they fail, they become examples of the ugliness of sin. So when a leader sins, it becomes a very serious concern for the church. The church must face up squarely to the fact that the one who was expected to be a model of godliness has become just the opposite, so he must be rebuked in front of those to whom he was a poor example. What an awesome responsibility leadership is!

I appreciate the words of Ray Stedman: “Timothy might well have felt inadequate, but notice whom the apostle summons to his aid, whom he says is watching: “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels.” God the Father is involved. He is in the congregation. He knows what is going on; nothing is hid from his eyes. Christ Jesus, Lord of the church, head of the body, is present also. Jesus can work from within. He can touch men’s consciences; he can get at their hearts. And the elect angels are involved, these personages whom the book of Hebrews tells us are as “ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation,” {Heb 1:14 KJV}. I do not know exactly what these angels do, but it is very important and significant. Paul tells Timothy not to be intimidated. If it requires action, act — patiently, lovingly, thoughtfully, carefully — but act.” (Though Ray is with His Savior, you can still be blessed by his Bible teaching at

And so must any good leader. We are called to make sure those under our care are acting as they should be. If they aren’t and we “overlook them because of a bias” we damage the whole organization and fail to lead as Jesus would have us.

Second, there was a warning about HASTE, a call to be patient and train the team members well before appointment (5:22).

1 Timothy 5:22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin

The act of “laying on of hands” is a symbolic placement of trust in and bestowal of office upon a man. Following the idea of judicial transfer established in the sacrificial system of the Hebrew Scriptures – a man could confer his sin to an animal – there was the idea that an office appointed by God in Heaven could be symbolized as conferred by men on earth. We don’t make Pastors, nor do we ordain men in the technical sense – God does. Just like a wedding is the physical symbol of a Heavenly made bonding, so the “laying on of hands” is a physical symbol of a spiritual act of God, who Alone calls His workers.

Paul told Tim to SLOW DOWN and take a good look at men BEFORE he conferred on them the public measure of endorsement. Failure to do so would allow the men’s sins to be cast against Tim as well. I am thankful to God that in my career I have been surrounded by men and women who have lifted me, and been an example to me! What grief comes from passing men to a congregation when they are clearly not equipped to lead them!

Third, Paul warned Tim about NEGLECT – in this case to his body. It is possible to ignore the vessel and over-engage.

I don’t think the work of ministry is somehow HARDER than other kinds of work. What I do believe is that ANY WORK performed well takes tenacity, particular energy on any undone task, and can allow you to become stressed out. At the same time, in PEOPLE WORK, it is possible to easily get torn up over the disappointments, and that appears to have been happening to Timothy. Paul wrote:

1 Timothy 5:23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

Tim needed to watch out that leaders in ministry did not get so absorbed in the work they did not use their head about caring for their body and their heart in a proper way!

I have often been reminded of this simple story: One New Year’s Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. The amusing thing was this float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas. Let those who follow Jesus and lead others be warned. The lack is not in the resource, but in the appropriation of it.

Peter Drucker, the secular leadership guru of the 20th century, said: “A leader is one who has followers. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He is someone whose followers do the right thing. Popularity is not leadership, results are. Leaders are highly visible. They, therefore, set the example. Tim needed to look to his own body, so that he could teach others to look to theirs as well.”

Part of ministry should be about ENCOURAGING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE – mentally, emotionally and physically. I find great refreshment in learning – those who know me know that is true. I take courses all the time, because they stretch my mind, and help me stay sharp. For Timothy this meant taking wine for stomach issues – for other men it is something else. I like Ray Stedman’s comment: “In writing this, Paul very likely was reminded of something about Timothy that he felt needed correction. Timothy, evidently, was leaning too far toward total abstinence from wine. We know there was a lot of public drunkenness in Ephesus at that time. The reaction of almost all Christians to public drunkenness is, ’I don’t want anything to do with that.’ There has sprung up in the church a widespread attitude that the Christian position about drinking should be one of total abstinence; that no Christian ought to drink at all. But that completely sets aside the record of the Scriptures that our Lord drank wine, and so did the apostles. Paul is evidently warning Timothy about total abstinence, especially because it was affecting his health. Timothy had not taken a balanced position. Paul warns him, ’For your health’s sake, don’t do this.’”

I have taught on this subject before, and we don’t really have the time to go far with it here. The point I would stress is this: Don’t always assume the most radical position is somehow the most GODLY. Our behaviors need to be set by the Scriptures, not by the most austere monks of Christian society.

Fourth, Paul called Tim to be careful about MISJUDGMENT of those he appoints (5:24-25).

1 Timothy 5:24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

Note the word evident in the last verse. The word prodayloi is a combination of “before” and “manifest” and means “open” or “obvious”. The fact is that it takes time and skill to recognize the hardest workers, the most valuable to the team, and those who are not accepting responsibility well. Look at both sides:

Learning to properly value them: “A gem dealer named Roy Whetstine was strolling the aisles at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show when he noticed a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He looked it over, then, as calmly as possible, asked the vendor, “You want $15 for this?” The seller, realizing the rock wasn’t as pretty as others in the bin, lowered the price to $10. The stone was subsequently report to be a 1,905-carat natural star sapphire, about 700 carats larger than the largest stone of its kind. It was appraised at $2.28 million, [but that was later challenged]. The bottom line price may never be known, but what is clear is that it is worth more than $10! (Adapted from Online Leadership Journal AOL, via Wanda Vassallo). Sometimes it is hard to tell the value of a diamond in the rough, or a gem that hasn’t been tumbled… and the same is true of ministry leaders.

Another reason Paul said that men must be more carefully watched over time was pointed out by Ray Stedman: “Some men are skillful at hiding sin. They appear to be very dedicated, committed people, but there is rotten evil in their hearts all the time. If you get into the habit of electing people to office or appointing them into some responsible position without giving time to observe them you will get into trouble. ’Time will tell,’ the world’s proverb says.

The truth is that some men get caught up in the trappings, before they show their character…A newly promoted colonel had moved into a makeshift office during the Gulf War. He was just getting unpacked when out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a private with a toolbox coming his way. Wanting to seem important, he grabbed the phone: “Yes, General Schwartzkopf. Of course, I think that’s an excellent plan.” He continued: “You’ve got my support on it. Thanks for checking with me. Let’s touch base again soon, Norm. Goodbye.” “And what can I do for you?” he asked the private. “Uhhh, I’m just here to hook up your phone.” From Leadership Journal, submitted by Ron Willoughby, Augusta, Georgia.

The fact is that ministry is designed as a TEAM SPORT. If we don’t take care of the team, we all lose…

Dealing with co-laborers in ministry takes special care and wisdom, but if done well it produces long term relationships that increase both the joy and productivity of ministry.

Renewing Our Values: “Redefining Standards in Relationships” – 1 Timothy 5:1-16

Adult and Daughter (9-10) Holding HandsBeyond showing a child how to relate to the God that created them, the next most significant lesson a parent has is to teach their child how to navigate life with proper behavior and consideration toward others. That interpersonal task is not disconnected from walking with God – it is related to the knowing and following Him. A child that learns to reflect God’s love to others will grasp much more quickly that happiness begins where selfishness ends. Meaning is found in walking according to the Creator’s purpose. Our richest delight can be found by following God’s deepest desires for His Creation as expressed in His Word.

When a child doesn’t learn to hold God’s love tightly, they don’t understand their own intrinsic value – because the value of a human being is found in the breath of the Creator within. When a child doesn’t learn that same value extends to all the others in his village, the child doesn’t learn boundaries and respect. Without an intimate knowledge of respect and value, behavior increasingly violates others and becomes caustic…On a societal level, as America shifts from our once assumed foundational morality to a different ethical environment – behavior is noticeably changing.

As the Creator’s authority was stripped from classroom, courtrooms overflowed… it was inevitable.

As Biblically molded structures are removed from the public eye, Biblically acceptable public behaviors devolve. So that I don’t speak in abstract terms, let me offer the picture from a “real life” story:

You are really tense from long hours at work, so you decide to go out with your spouse for the evening, onto the “red hot” town that is Sebring, Florida. As you get out on US 27, someone in the lane in front of you rolls down their automobile window and tosses a full bag of fast food trash from their car onto the median. You watch, helplessly, as the leftover soda cup falls out onto the highway, and the bag breaks apart. You deliberately try not to notice, because you are trying to have a good time. In a few minutes, you arrive at one of our little restaurants, and begin to look over the menu. It has been a day, so you pick out your favorites, and then start a conversation with your date, trying to talk about something other than your work and tension related issues of life. A minute into the conversation, you both are consciously struggling to hear each other because a man across the aisle is yelling into his cell phone about his work troubles, and trying to get someone to give him a break on a late fee. You suffer through the meal, listening to details of his life, payment history and many troubles – when you don’t know him and don’t intend to. Dinner ends, and though the evening has been “bumpy”, you want more from your date experience – because you both need to relax. The two of you decide to make your way to a movie for a diversion, but five minutes into the movie the group of children in front of you have decided they don’t want to watch the feature, and you shouldn’t want to either. They get up and down, make noise all the way through the movie, and distract everyone around them. You cannot find anyone claiming to be a parent. You miss critical scenes with them standing up and blocking you, and by now both of your blood pressure numbers cancel any plan for stress relief. You move elsewhere in the theatre, but they just get louder. Your complaints to the management obviously fall on deaf ears, so the two of you leave never seeing the end of the movie. Wound up tighter than a clock spring, you both decide to stop off for a cup of hot tea before heading home. You walk into the restaurant and sit as far as you can from anyone else. “Good!” you say, as you see only a handful of people in the whole place. As you sit down with your hot cup and begin another attempt at quiet conversation, a roar overtakes the room as a very loud woman two booths down shares a funny story with her small group of friends. You try to smile and think, “At least they are having fun!” Then you both notice it. Apparently, the poor young lady suffered some lapse in education, because she appeared to only be able to express happy thoughts in sentences thoroughly mixed with vulgarity – she has far too many words that contain four letters to keep in her head. Embarrassed at the crude speech, you both decide to go home, and you admit the time to relax somehow just didn’t do the trick.

Do you recognize “stressers” you have been facing this week? Public behavior is becoming a problem as the moral base of the country frays and recedes.

We all readily admit this is a problem, and there is little we can do to address it beyond reciting the “Serenity Prayer” and letting go what we don’t control. Now… if that is truly the case, why did I bring it up? Our text for study today reminds us that long ago, Paul recognized that behavior was a matter of training, and church behavior was a matter of church teaching. He spelled out relational behaviors for a younger Pastor, because he knew we would never be able to learn from the world the standard for the church.

Key Principles: Relationships are often defined and always guarded and preserved by proper behavior (right actions). For what is RIGHT, we should look to God’s definition of GOOD BEHAVIOR.

I have an app on my iPad called “Seven Little Words”. Today, we are going to take the complexity of relationships within the context of the Christian community and organize the teaching from God about this important subject around some little words that preserve the essence of the instruction to each of the people mentioned. For the sake of this lesson, let’s key in on TWO small but powerful relational WORDS – “Respect” and “Value”.

First, people must be RESPECTED:

Let’s start where the text starts with relationships…Paul opened in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 with two verses about four kinds of people that are grouped by their sex and age, and Paul related them to family relationships to help illustrate a single truth: relationships between believers must be based on proper respect boundaries. He wrote:

1 Timothy 5:1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but [rather] appeal to [him] as a father, [to] the younger men as brothers, 2 the older women as mothers, [and] the younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Respect in the context of the older men looks like asking them, in an appeal for help, not presumptive or angry correction (5:1). Address them the way you would address your father as you try to honor him.

Paul told Tim to be careful with older men (presbuteros) and not sharply rebuke them (lit. epiplasso: mold by striking with hard mallet, used only here and referring to “mallet speech”). Rather call him alongside to help (parakaleo) as you would your father! The idea is that you will gain help by humbly asking for it, not by demanding it. Good fathers don’t mind helping their children when the children don’t present an attitude of entitlement or demand, but they won’t be barked at and called to “jump through hoops”. Respect looked like Tim lovingly and humbly recognizing their value as a gift from God to the church as men that possessed skills essential to the community. Respect begins with recognition of intrinsic value.

Respect for younger men looks like comradery and brotherhood that can be drawn in when treated with the respect you wish to get (5:1b).

Younger men are to be treated as brothers (adelphos). The verb parakaleo (used as “appeal” to the older man earlier in the sentence) is grammatically linked and carries the verb to young men as well. In other words, Tim needed to “appeal” to younger men as he would to a brother he grew up with, and deeply loved. Brothers are part of that attachment we have to our past and our heritage. They are part of our blood, and (if yours were like mine) sometimes they drew blood just to prove it! Seriously, they are a part of us, and their success is familial success. They carry (along with us) the family name, and they are a direct extension of who we are.

Respect for an older women in the church looks like one who is treated with the deep respect one should give to their mother (5:2a).

So central was this respect, that it was part of the core standards of the civil code of Law, often referred to as the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20). It was repeated in constitutional law in Deuteronomy. Striking a parent was a capital crime. The Scriptures were filled with strong words about this, and Timothy knew them well:

• Leviticus 20:9 ESV: For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.
• Exodus 21:15 ESV: “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.
• Proverbs 20:20 ESV: If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.

These words represent violation, but given a few minutes we could amass a great repository of stories of care for mothers by sons – so the point need not be expounded.

Respect for younger women looks like treating them with PURITY as one would toward a sister (hagnia: purity, 5:2b).

Our culture has (sadly) objectivized women, and in doing so it has made them less than they were created to be. God didn’t create women as objects – but as His treasured, beautiful and wondrous human creation. She was made second – so some would be inclined to point out that usually a builder does a BETTER JOB the second time around. (Of course, since the Creator is perfect, that truth of human creation may not apply!). Seriously, men (and in this context in particular to a Pastor) need to be careful in their relationships with younger women.

Men, relationships with women begin with discipline of mind. God made you to desire them, and made their form beautiful in your eyes. I have it on good authority of men much older than I, that attraction does not leave us all our days. Because that is true, we must change our thinking about those dear younger women God has entrusted to our care and fellowship. We must see them differently – and that is about YOU and not THEM. Let me illustrate:

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. ‘That laundry is not very clean’, she said. ‘She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap’ Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: ‘Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?’ The husband said, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’ And so it is with life. What we see when watching others, depends on the purity of the window through which we look. (from sermon central illustrations).

We need the “spirit of windex” to descend upon our thinking. We need to see these dear ones not in FORM, but as substantive, rich, promising parts of the community of faith!

While we are dealing with the subject of purity, I want to offer something that may be helpful for some of our younger believers to bear in mind. Tim White wrote this:

Where at one time, having sexual relations outside marriage was considered liberating, current studies show that it damages one’s ability to trust, affecting future relationship, one’s respect for self, affecting every decision and diminishing the value of right decisions, and one’s respect for health. Liberating? At what cost? Drs. Freda Bush and Joe McIlhaney released a study at Harvard University that shows that exposure to immorality and participation in sexual acts during childhood years actually changes the brain, interrupting the normal production and usage of dopamine, vasopressin and oxytocin in the brain for the remainder of the life. These chemicals, when released properly, create the “monogamy syndrome”, in that moment bonding the person to another. … According to the study, … “But that bonding, which acts like adhesive tape or Velcro, is weakened when people tear away at its power by breaking off with a sexual partner and moving on from one to another to another. So when it does finally come time to bond permanently with a spouse, the ability to bond is damaged. The brain actually gets molded to not accept that deep emotional level that’s so important for marriage. When they do marry, they’re more likely to have a divorce than people who were virgins when they got married…”

Purity is an issue on many levels – but it always, always ALWAYS begins in the heart and mind Deal with it there before it grows.

The bottom line is that people need to be respected – or the church will fall apart.

Respect in the public square sounds like civil discourse that adds substance, but is careful about attacking people. Respect in the church sounds like “Yes, sir” and “No, sir”. It can be seen when we hold doors for one another, when we get a chair for the one who is struggling to walk, when we control our children so that they don’t (in their youthful enthusiasm) create a hazard for an elderly person by running about unsupervised. Respect in relationships looks like deliberate focus on careful relationships, never creating a situation that could lead another to sin in thought or action. Thinking purely adds sanctity to this whole body. Defiled TVs lead to defiled churches – because a guttered mind won’t raise because the room is filled with hymns. We must be honest with ourselves, and careful with our minds.

Now stop for a second. With all that I just mentioned in mind… don’t forget that we don’t do ANY of what we do out of obligation – we do it out of LOVE. Biblical LOVE means that I see you as one that I can HELP, not as a plaything or toy. Biblical LOVE means that I get to show my King how I feel about Him by reflecting His character in my life and His Word in my value system. I AM TIRED OF OBLIGATED BELIEVERS- I want love-sick ones!

Second, people who are in painful and disadvantaged situations need to be VALUED. They are not a “problem” or a “ministry” – they are a valuable part of the family of God!

In the rest of our remaining study, I want to focus on the words of Paul about WIDOWS in the section between 1 Timothy 5:3-16. It is obviously a primer on who qualified for assistance and specific parameters of that help. At the same time, there is a larger theme that made it fit beautifully into the passage. In ancient society, a woman’s familial relationships defined her in even a more profound way than in modernity. Women deeply desired to have children – for it was their best opportunity to contribute economically to the family’s long term benefit. Many are the stories of women in the Bible that LONGED for a child – like Hannah, Sarah, Rebekkah, and Elizabeth – just to name a few. They “hard wired” their identity to their spouse and their family. I shouldn’t smile at this point, but it reminds me of a cute and pointed little story about a widow I read some time ago:

A dear woman had “Rest In Peace” put on her husband’s tombstone. A few days after his passing, she discovered that he left her out of his will. She had added to the tombstone inscription: “Till we meet again!” (Sorry! I couldn’t resist!)

In all seriousness, we cannot be glib with the fact that widows are women who suffered a seismic shock to their identity – and that is my real point. Today, we also could perhaps include a substantial number of women who have suffered the loss of their partner by divorce – who have also survived a shock of great import. In a very real way, the Biblical period “widow” was usually quite economically challenged, as well as grappling with facing life without her soul mate. There aren’t words I can use from a pulpit that would convey that deep sense of loss and pain. What I CAN do, what I am COMMANDED to do – is to recall the unique tenderness such a woman would require from both her Pastor and the congregation of fellow believers.

In short, people must BE VALUED.

If you look at this closely, you may be surprised at what Paul said. He offers us a very special nugget from an unlikely place – and it all starts with a person shattered by events beyond her control.

Many widows, if you take the time to listen, will admit they went through a time when they felt like a “fifth wheel”. Couples they and their spouse spent time with can turn into strained relationships, because she is ALONE, and that is awkward for some. In truth, there is little we can do about that but help her gain a sense of identity apart from her late husband. Paul told Timothy he was to honor her (timao: from to set the cost of; from temeos, to value or view as precious) widows (khayrah: stripped ones, reduced ones) 5:3. Here is exactly what Paul wrote:

1 Timothy 5:3 Honor widows who are widows indeed

Immediately, Paul had to establish WHO qualified for specific aid as a widow, and it is not simply anyone who has lost a spouse to death… that made them widows, but eligibility for assistance was another matter.

Paul sought to make believers place their families in the first position in regards to their own care.

He wrote: 5:4 but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.

There are perhaps two ways to understand what 5:4 actually addresses – but both lead to the same place in principle. If, in the grammar of the passage, the intended subject of the passage is the “children” or “cousins” (translated and updated by the proper word “grandchildren”) – then the issue is that children that can care for their widowed mother should be instructed to do so. That is certainly a true statement, but may NOT be the primary issue involved in the passage.

Look at the statement again. If the subject of the Greek sentence were supposed to be the “widow” – the issue of the text changes significantly. The issue was that in many Roman homes, parents sent their children to their parent’s home while the parents served in army duty, or did hard labor in a field, working outside the home for long hours. This allowed the younger family to have their children cared for by trusted “daycare” workers (that raised them years before) and yet establish stability without the extra issues created by raising children at home. In such cases, widows had to be instructed to send home their children’s children – thus allowing the family to take responsibility in a new way – similar to the teaching above in principle. The problem would have been that the women would feel GUILTY and not want to BURDEN the family. The had to be instructed to practice piety (eusebeo: act out properly and dutifully the right order from God) and to return value to (apodidomee: restore, repatriate or give back what is rightfully owned) to their families (5:4).

Don’t get lost in the verbiage. Paul wanted the woman without a family to help her to know that the church would be called up to “step up”. Those widowed believers without families needed to live out their faith and not waste their unique opportunity. Paul said:

1 Timothy 5 Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. 6 But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

That unique place of becoming a picture is what brings about in Paul’s writing the warning: A widow who lives with extravagance, rather than caring for others about her, has missed the point of God’s blessing in this life! (5:6). Rather than become an example of God’s blessing, and an opportunity for a church to show their love to God, if she behaves badly she will create “handles” on their lives that the enemy can use (note the word anepileptos in 5:7).

Timothy was to expect believers to provide for their own families before anyone else helps them (5:8). The church could and SHOULD HELP – but must first must make clear standards for that help – because that was part of the display of God’s lesson through their lives.

Go back to verse 5 and note the words: “left alone” (mono-o, used only here) fixes her hope on God’s constant provision for her and others around her, asking God to care for them tirelessly.

Here is the heart of the teaching: The woman with the need becomes a picture of God’s provision before the whole church, as God uses the church to help her live day by day.

She becomes God’s teaching tool to her family to learn to care for her needs before asking for others to do so. She becomes a unique and deliberate tool in God’s hands to call those in the church to caring and loving acts of service. God grant that He will always raise up among us some with deep compassion who ask if needs are met!

Here is the point of God’s desire to USE HER. Her NEED isn’t a PROBLEM, it is an OPPORTUNITY for the church to learn to BE THE CHURCH. It is a display to the church of the need to slow down and not allow those who hurt to be trampled by the world with no recourse.

The widow is not a problem, she is a gift of God for a congregation to MEASURE its trustworthiness, its true desire to LIVE OUT God’s Word, and not just study its theory. Let me see if a story will make the idea of a SACRED TRUST more clear:

An elderly man was desperately ill. Knowing the time for his departure was near, he called for his closest friends to come see him one last time. Attending him were his doctor, his pastor and his business manager. The old man said, “I know you can’t take it with you, but who knows for sure? What if the experts are mistaken? I want to account for all possibilities. So I’m giving you each an envelope containing $100,000. When I die, I want you each to slip the envelope in my jacket pocket at the funeral service. Then, if I do need money in the life to come, I’ll be ready. And I’m giving the envelopes to you because you are my most trusted friends.” Shortly thereafter, the man did die. Each of his three friends was seen slipping something into the deceased’s coat pocket as he walked up to the casket to pay his final respects. Following the service, while these friends were visiting with each other, the doctor, with a sheepish look on his face, said, “Guys, I have a confession to make. You know with the cost of medicine today, I don’t make that much money. The hospital is desperate for funds. We can’t even replace the CAT scan machine that’s broken down. So, I took $20,000 for the new CAT scan and put the rest in the coffin.” The minister cleared his throat and looked down at his shoes. He said, “I, too, have a confession to make. As you know, our church is seriously overburdened by the needs of the homeless. I couldn’t just see burying that money. So, in hopes of helping the homeless, I took $50,000 out of the envelope and put the rest in his pocket.” Looking sternly at the doctor and the minister, the businessman exclaimed, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I am astonished and deeply disappointed that you would treat a solemn trust so casually. He was our friend. I want you to know that I placed in his casket my personal check for the full $100,000.” (From Sins We Love, by Randy Rowland, p. 125-126).

People that understand a SACRED TRUST will see the widow as what she is – a special gift of God. Every needy person we meet is an opportunity for believers to show how much God has provided for them, and how much they trust His ability to provide for them in the FUTURE!

Keep reading about these precious “unlikely treasures” that God supplies to the church:

1 Timothy 5:9 A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, [having been] the wife of one man, 10 having a reputation for good works; [and] if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, [and] if she has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse [to put] younger widows [on the list], for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, 12 [thus] incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. 13 At the same time they also learn [to be] idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper [to mention]. 14 Therefore, I want younger [widows] to get married, bear children, keep house, [and] give the enemy no occasion for reproach; 15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has [dependent] widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.

Paul clarified some guidelines:

• The woman must be sixty plus, and a one woman man (5:9; cp. Titus 1:6).

• She must have been consistent in her walk and have witnesses (marturia) of her work for God (5:10):

a. showing a pattern of care (hospitality)
b. showing a pattern of service (nipto: washing of feet)
c. showing a pattern of sacrifice (aiding in care of distressed ones: (thleebo: pressed down and crushed as in the case of grapes).
d. Showing a constant readiness to be on board to serve (“to be on the heels of”) the work that needs to be done.

• Young widows must be held off the permanent list, as they are not ready for this distinction (5:11-12). They are not wrong for their desires to remarry, but the list is to be solemn and permanent. It isn’t just short term assistance; it is a long term symbol!

• If added permanently to the list before the age, they are enabled to misplace priorities (5:13-15)

Paul ended by reminding believers in the congregation that they should individually care for those they can BEFORE enlisting the whole church’s support (5:16).

The point was that just as the men and women of the church are to be RESPECTED, so widows are to be moved from a “liability” and “ministry” to a place of TREASURED WORTH – because God set up a special place for the church to pour out physical assistance on them as a display of His hand working through the congregation.

Have you ever thought of widows as having a SYMBOLIC OFFICE that God established? They do. They, and others who have needs in their lives not created by their choices, but by an act of God, offer the church a unique opportunity to show LOVE for Jesus by showing LOVE for THEM!!

I need to close, but before I do, give me just a minute and let me tell you what happened to Ted Forbes back in 1984. “While walking down a street in Chicago…Ted found a wallet. Being an honest Christian man he wanted to return it to its owner. So he opened it to look for identification. The wallet contained just $3.00. No driver’s license…no Social Security card…no pictures…nothing to indicate who owned the billfold. Looking through the wallet a little more, Ted found and an old envelope. It was wrinkled and looked as if it had been carried there for years. The only part of the writing on the envelope that could be read was the return address. To find more information, Ted opened the envelope, and to his surprise, the letter was dated June 6, 1924. The letter had been written nearly 60 years before. It was a “Dear John” letter. It was written to a man named Michael, and it was from a woman named Hannah. She explained that though she loved him, and she would always love him, her parents had forbidden her to see him any more. Ted Forbes wanted to locate the owner of the lost wallet. He drove to the location listed on the return address. He parked the car and walked up to the door. A woman answered the door. Ted asked the lady if she knew a Michael or a Hannah. He was told that 30 years ago she had purchased the house from a family whose daughter was named Hannah. She said that Hannah had placed her mother in a nursing home just a few blocks down the street. Ted drove down to the nursing home. He explained the story to the Nursing Supervisor. She told Ted that the lady he was trying to find had died. However, she gave him a telephone number where he might locate Hannah. Calling that number he learned that Hannah was not living there anymore. The person answering the phone said Hannah was now in an apartment house for the elderly. Ted began to wonder why he was making such a big deal out of an old, lost wallet which contained only $3.00 and a crumpled up old letter. But he decided to keep looking until he ran into a dead end. He finally tracked down Hannah and went to visit her at the elderly apartment house. She had an apartment on the 3rd Floor. Ted knocked on the door. A gray-haired, alert, bright eyed lady with a warm smile on her face answered the door. Yes, it was Hannah Marshall. Ted told her about finding the wallet and, showing her the letter, asked if she knew someone named Michael. Hannah took the letter. Tears filled her eyes. She told Ted that the letter was the last contact she had with Michael. She said that she had never married because she never met anyone she loved as much as Michael. Then she asked Ted if, when he found Michael, he would tell him she still loved him and that she thought about him every day. Ted thanked her and left. As he was walking down the apartment house hallway, he was carrying the wallet in his hand. The janitor saw the wallet and stopped Ted in the hallway. “Let me see that wallet.” Ted handed it to him. “Why, that’s Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. I’d know it anywhere. He’s always losing it.” Ted asked where he could find Mr. Goldstein. The janitor said he lived in Apartment 6 on the 8th Floor. So, Ted quickly made his way to the eighth floor. He found Apartment #6 and knocked on the door. Sure enough, an old man named Michael answered the door. Ted showed the wallet to the old man. He asked if it was his. Yes, it was. Ted admitted reading the letter to seek identification of the owner. Mr. Goldstein asked, “You read it?” Then he told Ted that his life nearly ended many years ago when he lost Hannah. He had never married and had never stopped loving her. Then Ted said, “Mr. Goldstein, I think I know where Hannah is.” The old man became very excited. Ted simply took him by the hand, led him to the elevator and down to the third floor to Hannah Marshall’s apartment door. When she opened the door, they looked at one another in disbelief. Michael Goldstein walked slowly to Hannah. He took her in his arms. And the 60-year separation evaporated in the warmth of their love. About three weeks after Michael and Hannah were reunited, Ted got a call asking him to be their best man. They were to be married after years of separation. It must have been some sight: a 79-year-old man and a 76-year-old woman acting like teenagers. A perfect ending to a tragic separation. They had every reason to celebrate.” (From a sermon by David Rigg, When a Lost Person Is Saved, 3/30/2011)

Relationships are often defined and always guarded and preserved by proper behavior (right actions). For what is RIGHT, we should look to God’s definition of GOOD BEHAVIOR.

Renewing Our Values: "A Place for Truth" – 1 Timothy 4

phoneAs I sat down to put this lesson into final form I got a call from someone with whom I am in the middle of an important business arrangement. She called in a panic to leave a message on my voicemail, when I picked up my phone – she was flabbergasted. She almost couldn’t get her words together. She stammered, and I said her name and asked, “Is that you? Is there a problem?” My mind was rushing through what could have been wrong with her… Was she being assaulted and hit her speed dial on her cell? Did she mean to dial a woman and was surprised to get my voice? I had no idea what the problem was. In a few seconds, she recovered and began to speak, “Dr. Smith… where are you?” I answered: “Sitting in my office at my computer. Why? Are you ok?” She said, I called very upset with you because the bank officer told me that you were cancelling our appointment together with them because you are out of the country. I couldn’t believe you would LEAVE like that and NOT tell me! I called to really let you have it!” I sat puzzled. I replied, “Well, I didn’t tell you I was going anywhere because I WASN’T going anywhere. I am not sure where the wires got crossed here, but I was planning on the meeting just like you were. I think I should make some calls and find out what is going on. I will get back to you.” When I did, I was even more disturbed. The bank officer I spoke to stammered a bit, and spoke in the way you speak when you are trying to make something incredibly clear sound fuzzy. They were caught with hand in cookie jar. In a few minutes they went from passing blame to the other party, then trying to blame me for a delay I played no role in. They suggested I was holding out crucial documents. Unfortunately for them, I keep copies of most everything digitally, and have records of most all that I do in business. It is a reality of modern business and leadership.

At long last, the banker as much as admitted in a round-about way they did not tell the truth and the postponement was because they could not be prepared for the meeting. Putting off the meeting was going to cost me some discomfort with the other party, but it was nothing insurmountable, if they had told the truth. The problem is, in spreading stories that weren’t actually the facts they made me look irresponsible in a relationship that can only be maintained with TRUST. They undermined my negotiating position. I wasn’t impressed, but I was STUNNED. I couldn’t believe two things: 1) that someone would make up something rather than simply explain they got behind and couldn’t get everything done as agreed; and 2) that someone would make up a story so easy to check and confirm. Obviously I wasn’t overseas as they said, and it wasn’t going to be hard to figure that out!

I think we all understand the desire to hide when we don’t get something done and we feel like we dropped a responsibility that we had. We alI recognize the temptation to lie to cover actions that were wrong or would cause us trouble. These tempting circumstances exist in all of our lives. Yet we are called to tell the truth. We are not to lie to protect ourselves from the consequences of our own wrong behaviors. What I find significant today is the brazenness with which even public personalities will say things that are cover up the truth, even when we have solid evidence they are lying. It seems like truth has been a commodity traded for lie when the price for truth is felt to be too high. Deals that are forged in a five inch pile of signed papers don’t seem to keep the erosion of truth at bay.

We cannot win in a fight to get fallen people to speak the truth even to their own hurt – and we shouldn’t waste our time trying to do it – unless we work in a law enforcement office charged with the responsibility to do so. What we can do is look within our own hearts and ask the Spirit to shine a light on any lie that may be lurking within, standing guard over our laziness and protecting our inflated ego. After that, we are to can look to the body of believers and make sure we understand what the truth is, and WHO the Truth is. That is what today’s text is all about.

Key Principle: Believers must cherish the truth, and unite behind it. The hallmark of the church must be to train people to recognize truth and walk in it.

You will, no doubt, recall that the letter to Timothy is not an evangelistic one – for Tim knew Jesus and led a group that knew Jesus. The letter was chiefly directed at RENEWING PROPER BEHAVIOR AMONG BELIEVERS. It is important to recognize that the ENEMY of the church is NOT NEW. The issues of SIN are NOT NEW… and the solutions for the problems we face as believers is NOT NEW. Even though the problems aren’t new, we have to admit the resurgence of the enemy’s old strategy is laying gloves on us these days. A study in 1 Timothy offers an opportunity to examine eight specific problems that believers have faced through the centuries, and apply God’s prescription for both preventative care and serious correction of each. This is our sixth study out of eight. As we look over the book:

• We started the series by talking about the kind of faith that changed how we live as recorded in 1 Timothy 1.

• We saw that living that kind of transforming faith makes men able to stop being stirred by struggles on earth, and see a Sovereign God that is at work above them and pray confidently in 1 Timothy 2:1-8.

• We recognized the need for affirmation in our wonderful women, and saw how a transforming faith works to bring happiness to Christian women and fulfillment to that need as recorded in 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

• We saw the important role character plays in leadership in light of God’s Word and His work of transformation in us in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

• Then we saw how that character shows itself in service in the body as recorded in 1 Timothy 3:8-16.

Now we want to grab hold of the heartbeat of the church, and allow the number one priority in these days to emerge clearly. We want to realign the priorities of the church to one important and elevated task – to guard the Truth as Paul reminds in 1 Timothy 4.

The passage helps us directly confront the assault on truth and deliberately and measurably take a stand again the erosion of truth that is hindering our society from recognizing basic principles that will lead them to God. The text of 1 Timothy 4 can be easily split into two parts: the first addressed the problem the church faced and will continue to face in increasing ways before the King comes (1 Timothy 4:1-5). The second part related the prescription (as a medicine sometimes prevents and at other times treats illness) God offered to inoculate the church against a slide into error, or to help it recover when she stumbles (1 Timothy 4:6-16). Each of these sections deserves a few minutes of explanation…

The Problem the Church Faces (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

Paul made clear to Timothy the days ahead would be challenging in regard to truth. He wrote:

1 Timothy 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 [men] who forbid marriage [and advocate] abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

The Fact of Deception (4:1)

These aren’t words about people who DON’T believe – but the departure of people and institutions that ONCE PROFESSED BELIEF! The first words of Paul concerning this subject are emphatic – the Spirit has made this perfectly clear – the time of failing away from the truth is a CERTAINTY. It is NOT based on the work that Timothy was doing – it would happen regardless of his effectiveness. I find those words helpful, and somewhat comforting. Why?

I could fill my desk with articles, books and editorials about how the church has failed. Twenty-somethings are abandoning the church! Morality in America is dying! Atheism and agnosticism is rising! Americans are flocking out of the traditional church… we ought to be ashamed. We have been doing this “oh so incorrectly” and now we have lost our place… Wait a minute! I know of literally hundreds of solid Pastors and Youth workers that are pushing as hard as they can to bring the truth of the Gospel. I know some that could walk into this room and light up the place with their love for the Savior. They are doing the work well, and many of them are still finding fields white unto harvest. As Americans hurt more in an uncertain economy, more doors open to serve Jesus by serving people. Some of my friends are doing that incredibly well.

Are we losing the cultural blessing? Probably, but that isn’t just because we didn’t do as much as we could have or should have. God told us that defection from truth would come, and he took the time to say it so clearly that Paul could only point out that it was “explicitly communicated”. This is not to offer an EXCUSE when we do things badly, but let’s be open to the idea that the SKY IS NOT FALLING, it is PREPARING TO BRING A PRINCE WITH A TRUMPET. We aren’t DONE yet, but we are promised that at some point in the life of the church of Jesus Christ, there will be those who abandon truth for deception – that is just a fact.

Let me remind you there are only a few appeals a church can use to get people to follow God, including obligation, fear and love.

• Perhaps the Puritan church used fear in days when preachers like Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) spoke to the people of Connecticut as “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. He cried out: “…let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”

• The post-revivalist generation of the World War II returnees used “obligation” in a Wilfred Brimsley “Oatmeal. It’s the right thing to do!” sort of way. Messages from the church in the fifties made sense to fathers that had served in war, and mothers who helped at home to keep the effort going. There was DUTY, and that is what kept church people serving and preachers preaching.

• Our churches must focus on the supreme calling of love for our Savior. This is the message for our time. We don’t obey the Word of God from a mere fear of judgment or sense of obligation. People won’t respond, on the whole, to those calls. We call upon the church to follow God’s Word out of a sincere love for the One Who gave Himself for us. We want the world to behold a PEOPLE SMITTEN WITH LOVE. Jesus loved us first, and still loves us best. No other motivation will is stronger than a love for Him, and no other people will be more pleasant than those who serve the Lord out of such a love, not just of His approval, but of HIM.

Yet, in spite of the fact that we know many in love with Jesus – the defection was explicitly prophesied by God’s Spirit, and Paul made it clear. We need to be settled in the process. That is not a call to laziness. We need to fulfill our responsibility and reach out in love, but not accept responsibility for everyone else’s decisions as to whether they will walk in truth. Our role is to love them, share with them and care for them. Their role is to find and follow the Christ that motivates us. It is THEIR decision. Don’t be defensive in spirit when offering a cogent defense of the Gospel. Jesus isn’t less Lord in a room where He is NOT believed.

The Force Behind Deception (4:1b)

If the deception is a certainty, WHO will bring it in? Where will such a deep deception have its origin? What will fuel an exodus from truth? Why would people trade truth for a lie? These answers have also been clearly revealed in the end of verse one (4:1b): “paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons”.

The rooms where a departure from truth has occurred, if carefully examined, give evidence of cast off scaly skin from the serpent of old – because he has been there. The fingerprints of various demons can be found behind the lesson plans of false teaching. People are wooed away by the common and sympathetic rebellious tones played by demonic sirens.

The term deceitful spirits is “pneuma planos” – or “wandering or straying spirits” and may refer to demonic presence, or could equally mean a “spirit” within a person to wander. To make sure that we wouldn’t be confused, the text clarifies the meaning to be DEMONIC instructors.

The church does not merely wrestle with the state. The believer does not merely wrestle with an immoral educational establishment. The seminary doesn’t merely fight the influence of poorly formed doctrine. There is a concerted effort, a demonic plan, behind these forces. Knowing that will cause us to focus our energy as MUCH ON PRAYER as on protest, and as MUCH ON INTERCESSION as on apologetic debate.

The Fellowship of Deception (4:2-5)

YES, they have a club and a “motto”!! Who will be the human tools of this demonic power? Where will I see deception at work in my daily world? These opponents of truth have been clearly revealed (4:2): “…by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…”

The text reveals that most often the voices of those who have been used as “puppets of dark thinking” will offer arguments that are both factually misleading and don’t match their own lifestyle. They will proclaim themselves victims of discrimination, and then create discriminatory laws against those who hold truth. They will fall victim to the mentality that because they have a STRONG OPINION, they must have the RIGHT OPINION. I am seeing it more and more – evangelists for evil. These are people who insert themselves into conversations to share falsehood, all the while complaining about how Christians keep bothering them with attempts at outreach. Let me illustrate what I mean…

Pastor Bill Hybels, of Willow Creek Church in Chicago tells the story of an encounter he had with a young woman: “I recall one time being in a restaurant studying for a message, and a gal looked over from her table and saw me reading my Bible. She said, ‘Why do you study that stuff?’ And I thought, just to stimulate a little discussion, I’d try to knock her off balance. So I said, ‘Because I don’t feel like going to hell when I die.’ I was going to be really blunt, but I took the edge off it a little bit. And she said, ‘There is no such thing as heaven or hell.’ I thought, Well, I got something going now. So I turned in my chair and I said, ‘Why do you say that?’ She said, ‘Everybody knows that when you die your candle goes out — Poof ’ I said, ‘You mean to tell me there’s no afterlife?’ ‘No.’ ‘So that means you must be able to just live as you please?’ ‘That’s right.’ ‘Like, there’s no Judgment Day or anything?’ ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s fascinating to me. Where did you hear that?’ She said, ‘I read it somewhere.’ ‘Can you give me the name of the book?’ ‘I don’t recall.’ ‘Can you give me the name of the author of the book?’ ‘I forget his name.’ ‘Did that author write any other books?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Is it possible that your author changed his mind two years after he wrote this particular book and then wrote another one that said there is a heaven and a hell? Is that possible?’ ‘It’s possible but not likely.’ ‘All right,’ I said. ‘ Let me get this straight. You are rolling the dice on your eternity predicated on what someone you don’t even know wrote in a book you can’t even recall the title of. Have I got that straight?’ I was playing a little Columbo act with her. She looked me right in the eye and said, ‘That’s right.’ And I said back to her, ‘You know what I think, sweetheart? I think you have merely created a belief that guarantees the continuation of your unencumbered lifestyle. I think you made it up, because it is very discomforting to think of a heaven. It is a very discomforting thought to think of a hell. It is very unnerving to face a holy God in the day of reckoning. I think you made it all up.’ We had quite a conversation after that.”

Our world is filled with people who believe themselves to be experts. They are all for tolerance, as long as it agrees with their point of view. The caricature people of faith, and rehearse their rebellion with eloquence. Where do you see it?

The battle ground has been clearly revealed (4:3-5): 3 [men] who forbid marriage [and advocate] abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

Notice the first place you see it is in teachings concerning the redefinition of relationships like marriage, and move to the placement of new moral restrictions unsupported by God’s Word and real spiritual life.

• The first area, that of relationship boundaries, is clearer in the original language of the text. The terms “forbid marriage” is actually ko-loo-o – to prevent or hinder. This isn’t simply that they “stop people from being able to marry” (though that can be included). It is literally that they hinder the proper form of marriage by offering other rules concerning the practice. They blur the lines on what is RIGHT in God’s sight, so that they can spread a new moral code and rewrite the definition of FAMILY to conform to their own cause.

• Next, the deception moves to restrictions on foods that God has not forbidden. They reframe moral issues away from God’s Word and place them in areas that suit them. They create religious sounding “absolutes” that substitute themselves for the Word of God.

In summary, God warned beforehand that individuals and then whole communities, churches and even nations would defect from the truth, even when living in the truth brought great benefits. The enticement to rebellion, the magnetism of baser instincts and the downward demonic pull would drive men to become darker – a term they would cynically call “enlightenment”. They would carefully construct lies out of a desire to do as they please and reframe morality on the basis of their fallen tastes. When they did, they would teach a defiled view of the world from a sincere and yet wholly rationalized perspective. Calloused and tough to anything of the spirit, their hearts being deadened by rationalized morality, they would set out to redefine relationships and societal boundaries, creating new religious sounding moral restrictions that fit their newly made code, even when in direct violation of the Word of God. Shamelessly, they will declare their new ethic, though founded by men who violated even the nature’s laws of decency, as superior to the antiquated morality of the Bible.

The Prescription God gave (4:6-16)

God offered a recipe to inoculate the church against a slide into error, and to help it recover when she stumbles (4:6-16):

It required the constant challenge of the Word from the church’s pulpit (4:6)

4:6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, [constantly] nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.

• The process was in verbal instruction: “pointing these things out” is a way of noting that Tim was to teach them, and others were to hear what he said (4:6a). Note that it was to be done “constantly”, not just occasionally.

• The standard was found in the Word: Mature believers calling attention to the God’s Word among those who come behind them is not a luxury, but a requirement (4:6a).

• The practice was to include example: Timothy was to be continuing to live the practical relationship principles and truths in his daily life (4:6b).

In short, Tim was to live consistently, speak directly and gauge his words by the truth of God’s previously revealed Word. That wasn’t all…

It required deliberate distance from nonsense (4:7a).

4:7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women.

Because right thinking requires focus, we must learn to clean out the constant fouling of nonsense that clogs up our thoughts and lives (4:7a). Many people in our society have too much time on their hands (in the ancient world it was old women). Perhaps we should look in another direction now!

Many young people seem to have hours and hours to wander the web and find distraction there. I know some who can spend hours with nothing of consequence to show. They cannot vacuum, and they do not know how to bake something and bring it to someone in need – but they have HOURS to offer armchair philosophy to those they haven’t met in person. I want to call out anyone who is doing that kind of thing and ask you directly: “Are you willing to be involved in caring for people in life, or are you content to sit on the sidelines and sling advise at passers-by?”

Godliness requires saying NO to impulses and deliberately turning away from continual nonsense. It requires staying out of nonsense discussions in favor of actively caring for someone. Lack of discipline in life is a sign of an uncontrolled, unruly and rebellious spirit.

It required regular exercise of godly disciplines (4:7b-11).

4:7b”…On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and [also] for the [life] to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. 11 Prescribe and teach these things.

Paul called for Timothy to discipline his body for the work ahead (4:7b-11). Note the commands:

• The Discipline is Personal: “discipline yourself” (4:7b) – a simple statement to remind us that no one is responsible to do it for is! I am supposed to take on the responsibility of my own healthy growth in the Lord!

• The Discipline is Purposed: “for the purpose of godliness” (4:7b)- a reminder that disciplines for the sake of gaining prominence, securing health, wealth and prosperity are all set aside. My purpose is “eusebia”: reverence. If I discipline my life to gain anything but a greater sense of God’s ownership, even this is going off in a wrong direction. It is not for my affirmation or comfort. I walk in disciplines of life for HIS PLEASURE. Don’t forget, relationship with God is worth the sacrifice involved. There is an old story that may help:

In a Japanese seaside village over a hundred years ago, an earthquake startled the villagers late one autumn evening. Being so accustomed to earthquakes and not feeling another follow, they soon went back to their activities without giving it another thought. An old farmer was watching from his home on a high plain above the village. He looked out at the sea and noticed that the water appeared dark and was acting strangely, moving against the wind and running away from the land. The old man knew what that meant. His one thought was to warn the people in the village below. He called to his grandson, “Bring me a torch! Hurry!” In the fields behind him lay his great crop of rice that was piled high in stacks that were ready for the market; it was worth a fortune. The old man hurried out to the stacks with his torch. In a flash the dry stalks were ablaze. Soon the big bell pealed from the temple below: Fire! Back from the beach, away from the sea, up the steep side of the cliff came the people of the village, running as fast as they could. They were coming to try to save the crops of their neighbor. “He’s mad!” they said when they saw that he just stood there watching them come and staring out toward the sea. As they reached the level of the fields the old man shouted at the top of his voice over the roaring of the flames while pointing toward the sea, “Look!” At the edge of the horizon they saw a long, thin, and faint line – a line that grew thicker as they watched. That line was the sea, rising like a wall, getting higher and coming more and more swiftly as they stared. Then came the shock, heavier than thunder; the great wall of water struck the shore with a fierceness and a force that sent a shudder through the hills and tore the homes below into matchsticks. The water withdrew with a roaring sound. Then it returned and struck again, and again, and again. One final time it struck and ebbed, then returned to its place and its pattern. On the plain no one spoke a word for a long while. Finally the voice of the old man could be heard, saying softly, gently, “That is why I set fire to the rice.” He now stood among them just as poor as the poorest of them; his wealth was gone – all for the sake of 400 lives. By that sacrifice he will long be remembered, not by his wealth. He was not saddened by what his sacrifice cost him; he was overjoyed at what was saved. (from A-Z Sermon Illustrations).

• The Discipline is Promising: Note the phrase “promise for the present life and life to come” (4:8-10)- We live the truths of God’s Word for His honor and pleasure, but we do so with the absolute and unshakeable promise that these truth WORK in this life and are REWARDED in the life to come. We don’t do them for the reward, but we celebrate that they are rewarded with life now and life then!

• The Discipline is Passed: “prescribe and teach” (4:11) – the terms “paraggel’o” and “didasko” are terms that share how the disciplines will be instilled in those who follow after us. They literally share the idea “mark out the trail before them with truth” by verbally sharing each idea and concept. The truth is, words aren’t enough! Paul followed up this idea with “don’t let them discount you because of your youth – live so they will see your example (4:12). To pass the truths of the Word we must verbally rehearse them, but also outwardly live them. Modeling is essential for the words to have life!

Charles Swindoll wrote, “To walk by faith does not mean that we stop thinking. To trust God does not imply becoming slovenly or lazy or apathetic. What a distortion of biblical faith! You and I need to trust God for our finances, but that is no license to spend foolishly. You and I ought to trust God for safety in the car, but we’re not wise to pass in a blind curve. We trust God for our health, but that doesn’t mean we can chain smoke, stay up half the night, and subsist on potato chips and Twinkies without consequences. …Faith and careful planning go hand-in-hand. They always have.” [Charles Swindoll. Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication. (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1999) p. 27]

Paul continued with other encouragements about the disciplines of the faith Tim was to exercise as he closed the chapter:

12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but [rather] in speech, conduct, love, faith [and] purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the [public] reading [of Scripture], to exhortation and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15 Take pains with these things; be [absorbed] in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

• The Discipline is Public: As a teacher of the Word, Tim would face the attacks of men. Some would try to diminish his words based on some lack in his resume (4:12). There was a way to combat those detractors – by living out truth in an exemplary way.

• The Discipline is Powerful: Look at the terms “give attention”. This could be rephrased “put your energies into”. In other words, Timothy was to openly read the Word (4:13) – because the power of the Word was to be given prominence. Believers must always remember their persuasiveness is nothing compared to the sheer power of God’s truth. By reading it aloud, he allowed the audience to hear it as God revealed it, and to test whether he was telling the truth about what it said. He was also to give attention to “exhortation and teaching”. Exhortation is the term “paraklesis”: to summon or persuade to action. It is sometimes used as “encouragement” and other times in the sense of warning to return.

That wasn’t the only source of power. He was also EMPOWERED with gifts, and he was called to use them openly (4:14)

Step away from the last part of the chapter and look for a moment at the broad sweep of what Paul told Timothy. He listed some things that should be the priorities of the younger believer that was called to lead others:

• Read the Word in front of the people (4:13).
• Encourage, persuade and instruct the people (4:13).
• Work the gift God put inside you and prophesied over you (4:14).
• Meditate and ponder (take pains is melatao: to deeply ponder – 4:15) The term “absorbed” is not in the text, but a comment to help you see the Greek says “be all about this”.
• Pay close attention to yourself (4:16)
• Watch your teaching (4:16)

One cannot read these reiterations and fail to understand the weight of what Paul was saying. The truth is in the Word. Know it, share it, work it, ponder it, watch out for it, teach it, trust it. Without it you will fall. Without it you will become confused and stare at the churning of men’s false ideas and opinions. In confusion you will stumble, and those you carry will fall in with you. The truth is worth standing up for, but we must first truly pull in our hungers for other things…

Believers must cherish the truth, and unite behind it. The hallmark of the church must be to train people to recognize truth and walk in it.

Renewing Our Values: “To Protect and Serve” – 1 Timothy 3:8-16

protect-and-serveYou’ve seen it many times on the side of a police officer or sheriff’s deputy automobile. It is the simple motto: “To protect and serve” or some version of that. Though he was not a sheriff, perhaps no American has ever filled that role more consciously and effectively than our first President of the United States, George Washington. His reputation as a soldier and later a statesman are both the stuff of legend. Yet, underneath the accomplished career of the public figure, lay a gentleman of sincere character and stern self-discipline. Today we want to look more closely at a pattern set in Scripture of leaders…

Key Principle: Effective leadership flows from intentional focus on character to deliberate actions of practical service.

GeorgeWashingtonHe was born in Colonial Virginia, the son of a wealthy tobacco plantation owning father. Both his father and older brother died when he was still young and Washington became mentored primarily by William Fairfax, a professional surveyor. Washington seemed to be adept in army service, and joined the ranks of a fighting Provisional British force, rising to become a senior officer in the early stages of the French and Indian War. Much later, he was selected in 1775 to become commander-in-chief of the Continental Army of the American Revolution, and the rest, as they say, is history. Yet those were his accomplishments, not a survey of his character. Look closer at his portrait. Peel away the layers of mythology and veneration, and what appears to remain is a picture of a good man who understood the value of humility and hard work.

One particular value statement may be found in the hand written record that Washington kept from his school days – a document that survives to this day and offers a window into his value system. The document called “One hundred ten Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” is a manuscript from the Jesuits of the sixteenth century, copied by a young Washington, thought to be at age sixteen. It is worth reviewing a few of the points found on that list (and linguistically updated for modern understanding):

Rule 1: Treat everyone with respect.
• Rule 3: Don’t frighten people.
• Rule 5: If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.
• Rule 6: Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
• Rule 35: When you speak, be concise.
• Rule 40: Do not argue with your superior. Submit your ideas with humility.
• Rule 45: When you must give advice or criticism, consider the timing, whether it should be given in public or private, and above all be gentle in the manner of delivery.
• Rule 47: Do not make fun of anything important to others.
• Rule 50: Do not be quick to believe bad reports about others.
• Rule 56: Associate with good people. It is better to be alone than in bad company.
• Rule 68: Do not go where you are not wanted. Do not give unasked-for advice.
• Rule 70: Do not correct others when it is not your place to do so.
• Rule 79: Do not be quick to talk about something when you don’t have all the facts.
• Rule 110: Don’t allow yourself to become jaded, cynical or calloused.

There are many others that I found helpful, but these are sufficient to make clear my point: Behind great men and women of accomplishment are thoughtful and deliberate disciplines of character. That was the main point of the first part of 1 Timothy 3 that we looked at in our last lesson. In this lesson, we want to finish the words of that third chapter, and move from character to service, particularly as we engage the words of Paul concerning the Deaconate in 1 Timothy 3:8-16.

The text of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, when taken as a whole, makes an important argument.

The desire for character must precede the display of competence. We must learn to think and prioritize rightly before we learn how to respond rightly. What we accomplish should be an extension of what we know is truly important. Character should precede competence in construction, but it always supersedes accomplishment in importance.

Let me say it another way: Whatever we produce in life is of little lasting value if we don’t take into account the model we are displaying as we craft it. The greatest leaders are the ones that keep a focus on the model they are creating for followers. Our chief accomplishment won’t be a product we invent, but the people we impact with our value system and character. Accomplishment is, in many ways, less important than example. The most impacting people in history, the people who REALLY were the game changers over the long haul, were the ones who knew that their leadership wasn’t just about the goal in front of them, but about the team around them. They wouldn’t simply be measured by the thing they created, but the lives they sculpted in the process. That is the message behind verses one to seven…

The second half of the chapter (directed at the office of Deacons) builds on the character argument.

Paul explained that because the currency of leadership is trust, we must build the trust to lead people. The way to deposit trust in a relationship is meeting the needs of those we would lead. In other words, people need more than theory to trust those who would lead them – they need actions that are designed to meet their needs. People need leaders that SERVE THEM.

The passage on the Deaconate is obviously offered by God to settle what kind of people should be called to that post by the congregation. At the same time, the principles offer something all believers can identify with – the CONDUCT, CAUSE and CONFESSION of the Godly servant. The motto of a vibrant believer should be “serving Jesus by serving others”. How do godly servants act? What should stir them? What singular cause grips their heart and spurs them to action? These are the questions answered in the next few verses…

The Conduct of a Godly Servant (3:8-13)

What does a true servant of God look like? With all the hucksters and fakes around us, is there some way to sketch out what a godly servant should strive to be? Look at the passage:

1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Since both men and women are mentioned in these verses, and because Scripture often divides the commands and requirements along these lines, let’s look at them separately for a moment…

To be a godly servant, men must be:

1. Careful in action: Dignity (8): semnos is august, respectable from sebomai for reverenced or treated with great respect and care. The idea is that a servant is one who has a spiritual depth about them that causes others to have a sense of deep respect when around them.

2. True in word: not double-tongued (8): di-logos or “two words” as in duplicitous – saying one thing with one person another with another (with the intent to deceive or avoid clear presentation of the truth). He speaks with integrity, consistency, and grace.

3. “Uncrutched”: (not) addicted to much wine (8): addicted is the word “prosecho” – to attach one’s self to, hold or cleave to a person or a thing.

4. “Biblical value” focused: (not) fond of sordid gain (8): the phrase is found in a compound word – “ai-skhro-ker-dace’” or eager to gain things of this world, as in greedy for money. Godly servants see only temporal value in money and should not use the respect they garner from service to gain an advantage in business. They serve to honor God, not worship gain.

5. Grasping deep the truths of God: holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (9): mystery is “musterion” – hidden thing, a secret, used in pagan rites as “religious secrets confided only to the initiated”; the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly.

6. Examined and Proven: first be tested, then serve (10): tested is from the word dok-im-ad’-zo, was a metallurgy term to heat a metal and see whether a thing is genuine or not; to examine, prove, place one’s self in a position of scrutiny and be measured. Servants must not have a blot on their lives for which they could be accused or disqualified.Obviously in the context of Deaconsthis is required, but in a general sense it is the goal of all true godly servants.

7. Intentionally Vetted: beyond reproach (10): this is NOT the word ‘unhandled’ as in the leadership quality in 3:2. The word here is “asan-eng’-klay-tos” – an adjective that means “cannot be called into to account, unreproveable, unaccused particularly in relation to the examined testing mentioned above. Since the Deacons were vital to the handling of assets and resources in the early church, they needed to be impeccable. Should a godly servant on any level of ministry strive for less? No.

8. Unquestionably Faithful: husbands of only one wife (12): the phrase is the same as with the leaders above in 3:2, but is posed in an emphatic style preceded with “Let them be (estosan)”. This is an important marker of a danger area, apparently because of the depth of contact in meeting needs. When a servant has an ulterior motive of the flesh, their service is for SELF and not godly at all.

9. Properly Prioritized: Servants should be good managers of their children and their own households (13): the key word here is manager, or “pro-is’-tay-mee”, a verb used to denote ‘to set or place before’, to superintend, preside over, be a protector or guardian over.

10. Standard Bearer: obtain high standing and great confidence in the faith (13): to obtain is to peripoeomai – a verb to make to remain over; to reserve, to “lay away” or purchase in time. The term “high standing” is two words that can be translated “Beautiful threshold step” (from kalos and bath-mos’ ) figuratively meaning they raise the bar of all.

To be godly servants, women must be:

1. Careful in action: likewise be dignified (11): in the same exact way, act in “semnos” is august, respectable from sebomai for reverenced or treated with great respect and care.

2. Slow to Conclude: not malicious gossips (11): diabolos: a word from with the title devil comes, it means “prone to slander, false accuser.

3. Clear thinking: temperate (11): nay-fal’-eh-os is sober, abstaining from cloudy thinking particularly associated with wine and its immoderate use.

4. Reliable: faithful in all things (11): as consistent about responsibilities as one could expect. Not rash or given to impulsive directions.

It isn’t clear if the women in this passage are the wives of the Deacons, or if they are women selected for the position apart from that relationship. Scholars disagree on that point, but do agree that the women are evaluated carefully, as is obvious by the writing of such standards in the text.

The Cause of a Godly Servant (3:14-15)

There is more to godly service than simply a shopping list of ideals. There is a driving passion that must also be present. Some will serve to be noticed and personally affirmed – that isn’t Godly. Others may serve in public, but be sloppy in private – making more a show out of a title than a true dedication to serving with their best effort. Paul offered another element – they need to have a PASSION to do things the way God said, and to the limit of their ability:

1 Timothy 3:14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (upright column that supports the protective covering over) and support (hed-rah’-yo-mah: building term for “stone course that supports”; from the word for firm, immovable, steadfast) of the truth.

Three important truths to consider that are revealed in the verses:

1. There is a standard in God’s Word as to how we ought to act in relation to one another. When churches don’t behave, it isn’t because God didn’t offer us instruction on how to behave, it is because we don’t immerse ourselves in learning His Word, or we refuse (whether passively or defiantly) to do what He commands.

2. When servants of Jesus act as we should in the church, we hold the roof on the protective covering over the tent in which we live. It will have many holes, but one less for every believer that upholds the godly standards marked for a servant we have just annunciated.

3. The foundation of the church is the work of God in us and through us – it becomes a stable influence and example as we become a firm course that supports His work among others. Soft foundations in the church lead to collapses in the society!

We must be passionate about serving, to do God’s work God’s way. Haphazard service for the King must be rejected. Do what God called you to do with all your might. At the same time, regulate the HOW from the directions of Scripture. You aren’t SERVING when you enable people to do wrong – even if that makes the NEEDY HAPPY. The test is simple: “What did God say?”

The Confession of a Godly Servant (3:16)

It is very easy to get caught up in the requirements and passion for the Word and miss an absolutely essential element of godly service – the energy source of a well-spring of thankfulness for God’s goodness in meeting our needs. Look at this reminder of what God did for each of us.

1 Timothy 3:16 “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”

Jesus came as a SERVANT to any of us who claim to be servants of God today. His service SAVED us, and RESTORED a crushed relationship with the Father leftover from the mutiny in the Garden of Eden. Without what Jesus did for us, none of us would be servants of God today – because we wouldn’t know Him.

To grasp the text, we need to grab hold of what a confession truly is. A confession is a unified statement. It comes from “hom-ol-og-ow-men’-oce”, an adverb that modifies a “given word” and adds this sense – something that is spoken by consent of all, confessedly, without controversy. It is the word in the phrase of a judge to the unanimous verdict of a jury, “So say you all?” which is matched by the response, “So say we all!” Paul had in mind, “What the church says together about the truth”.

Six truths held in common by the church include:

God’s truths are private to the family: Note the term “mystery of godliness”: Deep revealed private markers of how God works in our life to set us free are given through God’s Spirit and His Word that cannot be understood by unbelieving people.

Jesus perfectly showed who the Father is, and what He desires. Revealed in the flesh: The church believes and knows that God was accurately and wholly revealed in Jesus. He is not an imposter, nor one of us. He came as God in human skin. The high place of Jesus is central to the whole Christian message. Mess with Jesus and His place and you destroy the heart of the redemption message. He is not the illegitimate son of a young Israelite girl raped by a Roman soldier. He is not a “good man” Who came to show us how to love one another. He was, and is, God revealed by putting on human skin (Hebrew 1:1ff).

Jesus’ work was God’s plan, not man’s device. Vindicated in the Spirit: vindicated is “dikao-o” meaning to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, or show as he wishes himself to be considered. Within the work of the Spirit of God, Jesus was shown to be exactly Who He is, and how He wishes you to see Him. Without the Spirit working in full within your life, there will be a marred view of Jesus.

All Heaven gasped at the Father’s plan as it unfolded. Seen by angels: horao is “gazed at in wonder” by angelic beings. A truth of the church that was common was the knowledge that every power in Heaven was amazed as they observed what Jesus did for man. It was completely beyond their expectation!

The Gospel’s power is known. Proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world: persuasively preached (kerudzo) or officially heralded, with authority which must be listened to and obeyed. The church does not own the message. It cannot decide the necessity of lost men to come and be saved. It is God’s message and has become powerful in nation after nation, when they bowed to Christ.

The disposition of our Savior is as a Heavenly contractor! Taken up in glory: It sounds like the historical passage in Acts 1:11 “and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” The Ascension was part of the early church’s unified statement concerning what happened to Jesus. Jesus said He was “going to prepare a place for us.” When mine is ready, He will send for me!

That is the text. It offered notes on the CONDUCT of Deacons, which we applied to godly leaders in a general way. It offered a CAUSE, a burning passion to do the right thing by the right standard, and it offered a glimpse at the glorious CONFESSION – the heart of the message of the servant.

I wanted to save a few paragraphs at the end to address some practical aspects of servant hood that should be grappled with while we are in the text and exploring the subject. I think in a day when we are trained to look at life through eyes of convenience and BEING SERVED, we need to remember why SERVICE IS SO VERY IMPORTANT in the cause of Christ today…I am offering three thin-lined sketches that offer my best understanding of what true service looks like:

First, when we truly serve people, we expose the value system of our heart reflected by the hours we serve faithfully and dutifully with no strings attached.

We need to guard our hearts…Our world is filled with causes, and many of us are in danger of an emotional “heart attack” that will diminish our effectiveness. Follow the wall posts of people on social networks, and you will see some of your friends are driven more by rage than by love. They float from one injustice to another, projecting anger as though they are just now learning that life isn’t fair, and a fallen world isn’t just. Now continue down the page and look at the posts of the “hurt-related” causes. There are puppies that are abused, dear victims of terrible weather systems that are pictured sitting on a pile of rubble, and truly heart-wrenching stories of those nearly shattered by the hardships of a broken world. For all these, we are invited to hit “like” or offer a witty comment. Hitting “like” may make us believe we are making a public statement of values – but it is a cheap substitute for action by an overwhelmed population that finds itself unable to invest much more emotion in all the injustices, let alone able to “ante up” cash for tragedies. Sometimes it feels like a global hurting village is too large a chorus to pick out individual voices and really hear them.

What we can do, what we MUST do, is pick out the call of God for each of us and serve people according to that call. The call is directly connected to our GIFTEDNESS by the Spirit of God. We are personally empowered by God’s Spirit to do what God has called us to do, and His voice will tug on us to get it done – if we don’t drown it out with the screeching sounds of the many other good causes we are NOT called to be involved with personally. Service requires the ability to prioritize and protect a call. When we do that, we will be able to invest emotion, energy and effort into serving specific people in places that need our help – and our effectiveness will increase.

• We will work at a pet shelter five hours a week instead of simply looking at pictures of abused animals online for the same amount of time.

• We will serve in a soup kitchen one day a week instead of reading articles about America’s struggling populations and wishing somebody would help.

• We will look at the buildings and assets of the local church not as projections of our corporate importance in the community, nor as our private clubhouse, but as a base of service to meet the needs of our town. We will look for ways to use what God has given us to care for people around us, and we will drive that involvement not simply to grow the number on Sunday, but to let those who live in the shadow of our church to see Jesus in action in their lives, no matter what they do on Sunday morning.

• We will search for the needy who are near where we live that have a need instead of being enraged about some injustice done to someone far away. One homemade meal for an elderly person delivered one afternoon does more direct good than one thousand “likes” on social media.

• We will set aside time to deliberately work in a children’s ministry instead of spending our time grousing about why “these kids today” don’t think the way we believe they should.

• Some who are talented will initiate a gathering of like-minded friends to learn a specific piece of worship music to lift others instead of sitting Sunday after Sunday in the congregation allowing those abilities to grow lethargic. You will prepare well, and then share that blessing with the rest of us.

• Some who are deeply wounded by the tragedy in the Philippines or troubled by the horror of the storms in the Midwest will gather to pray for the needs of those regions, and ask God how they can be engaged in the coming months to help.

• Some who have weathered a personal storm, a divorce or the passing of your loved one, will look for others who are currently passing through that stormy season, and offer some help in the practical ways that only YOU can – because you know what it takes to get through.

My point is this: A generation of programmed church events seems to have left local church people anemic in ministry – unable to serve without a sponsored slot in the bulletin and a meeting room. Why? Why can’t a mechanic give one night a week to caring for specific people that need help with an oil change without having a committee turn it into a program? Why can’t a nurse just decide to stop in and check on those who are high risk without anyone telling them to do it? Why can’t a small group of people form to meet a need, and seek God as to HOW they should tackle it without any specific move from leadership.

I want my life to reflect my values. I want the hours I spend to line up with a life message that my children can see, my wife can perceive, my friends can recognize. If I believe that discipleship and mentoring is truly important, if I believe equipping believers by use of the gifts bestowed by God in my life is really what honors Jesus, then that is where I should spend my life’s energy.

Now let me ask a pointed question: What is YOUR CALL in service to the King? What gifts have been given to YOU to be stewarded, and what are YOU doing with them? Is God getting back on His investment of gifts a good return from you? How do YOU serve Jesus with your life?

Second, when we truly serve people, we expose an essential truth – that God made them with intrinsic value, and we should long to help them restore themselves in that instilled dignity.

When we see them slumped against the wall of trouble and despair, we have an opportunity to sit with them and befriend them. When we do, we are not standing above them talking down, but sitting beside them reaching over. We communicate that they are NOT our project, on the order of some stray pet or some sad reason for pity. They are God’s creation. His image is stamped in them. They are a “work in progress” by a Master hand. They are worthy of love because they hold within them the breath of the Divine One. The weariness they project is a plea for a strong hand to hold. We must seek ultimately to place that hand in our Master’s hand, but we are going to need to lovingly and deliberately clasp it ourselves first. People find the tenderness of God when believers model that tenderness. Hurting people learn to trust God when they first feel the trust of people who claim to know and represent Him.

Finally, when we truly serve people we remind ourselves that the most important things in life are found in relationships, not in the accumulation of accolades, awards and diplomas by those who barely know us.

It isn’t awards that are life’s true reward – it is real connection to people that honors a REAL SAVIOR. That was the point of Paul including the CONFESSION in the text. When Jesus is served, life is valuable. Where Jesus is served, He will look like a small child that is hungry, a lost co-worker who is crying because his wife just walked out, an abused woman who needs our protection and our love. I would rather make a friend that touches my heart than win a trophy that collects dust.

The believers must be the ones in a “society gone crazy over stuff” that make it clear that life is MORE than the accumulation of estate sale items. I don’t want a trophy case in the room where I lay dying. I want my family, my friends, notes and cards from real people that mean a great deal to me. Plastic trophies given by jealous co-workers applauded by anonymous onlookers are no comfort them. The hand I hold is worth more than the money in my wallet.

Jesus is about serving – and I want to be about Jesus. He was about sacrificial giving of Himself for my need and yours. Can I claim a faith in His name that does less? No, or I should call myself by a different name.

Effective godly leadership flows from intentional focus on character to deliberate actions of practical service.

Renewing Our Values: “A Question of Character” – 1 Timothy 3:1-7

character 1Over the past few weeks, some in the press have been remembering the shooting of President John Kennedy in Dallas fifty years ago, and that thought led me to the bookshelf of “old reads”… Dr. Thomas Reeves may not be a household name across America, but he is very well known in Wisconsin, as a thoughtful academic, and an accomplished writer. In the dawn of the twenty-first century, he wrote an unusual book about President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. That work, A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy measured a staggering 544 pages in the paperback edition, and included a riveting study of the disparaging differences between the public persona and the private man behind the mythology. Reeves offered specific evidence for the picture of the President’s father, Joe Kennedy’s almost total control of his son’s behavior and political development throughout his career. One comment about the book that stuck out to me was that of the LA Times: “The John Kennedy who emerges from these pages was not a man of good moral character. He was reared not to be good but to win.” That alone made the book a promising read – because it didn’t celebrate the iconic President as a hagiography paying mythical homage to him, nor did it vilify him for some cheap political end. The tone of the book seemed more sorrowful than angry. The body of the book explored the question of how we ought to judge the relationship between personal character and national leadership – a lesson larger than a mere collection of anecdotes about a man who left our world fifty years ago.

In the end, we are left with the conclusion that in an age of controlled messages, very bad men can be made over to look like good ones – something we have learned over and over. We admit there is a flawed system to offer us a window into the real men and women behind the leadership images that are projected to us. We have to learn to recognize that what we see is a carefully tailored, produced and edited form of our leaders. Just like the ad agency airbrushing and manipulation of the models we see in print ads that make young ladies wish for the impossible, so the carefully sculpted form of politicians is offered to us in a packaging that may be nothing like their actual person. A Question of Character is a subtle warning to look beyond the packaging for the real man. Two thousand years before that book, a first century author offered the same warning: Look under the hood, not only at the package. Long before image consultants and focus groups, there was already the need to examine more than the public image and presentation to determine who was right for leadership.

More than any other place in the New Testament, the so-called “Pastoral Letters” offer words of solid council on the recognition of godly leaders and the standards of character qualities that should be sought as markers in them. They are both goals for the development of leaders and bench marks for people undergoing the process of recognition. Today’s lesson exposes a “shopping list” of such character qualities in 1 Timothy 3. The principle is very simple…

Key Principle: The foundation of leadership is character development, not merely a pragmatic ability to solve problems.

We cannot just choose the guy or gal with the best current solution. Why not? The truth is, we don’t know what problems will face those who enter leadership today. Think about new leaders and what they may face:

In business: The continual printing of money with no backing will eventually give way to a currency tumble in the dollar. Everyone agrees it will happen, the only question is WHEN. When the American Dollar loses its ability to drive the world economy, what will a leader need to do to keep bread on the table of American homes? How will we as a nation function when we aren’t making and bursting false bubbles of economy, but are actually forced to have only things we can actually afford to pay for? How will that affect the other countries that we purchase goods from?

In government: What will a leader need to be able to do when the increasing complexities of moral issues assail a government that has socially programmed its citizenry to look to Washington for answers to all moral, ethical and medical issues? In an age when legislators are expected to understand everything from high tech developments to designer babies and genetic selection, how will a leader know what is necessary to make good choices for the long term?

In the home: What skills will be necessary for the parent of a child that comes home from a school that encourages him or her to explore all kinds of perversity regardless of what the parent at home believes? What will a parent need to watch for in their child’s public exposure through TV, internet, social media, classmates, etc? How will the parent that is branded as “intolerant” in the coming wave be able to keep their own children from being sucked into the system that is increasingly taking his or her powers away?

In the church: What will the leader of tomorrow’s church in America need to have to make a difference and affect others for Christ? In an environment hostile to absolutes, particularly in the area of morality, how should future leaders be trained to handle audiences that are less accepting of Biblical standards? As public etiquette changes, and people become more hooked on the idea that their public comment is equal in value to the trained and skilled around them, how will the church change?

Here is my point: We don’t know what events are around the corner. Simply preparing people to have a pragmatic solution to each situation will be short-lived and in the long term be utterly ineffective – because we don’t know the nature of the problems just past the horizon.

We live in a world technologically dominated by tablets and smart cell phones that didn’t exist a decade ago. Both the future’s problems and the resources available to answer those challenges are a mystery to us right now. How then do we prepare leaders? The answer, in short, is that we carefully train them in relation to character. We develop, sculpt and encourage traits that will be essential regardless of the problems they face. That is the essence of what Paul taught when he wrote to Timothy about leaders in 1 Timothy 3. Let’s look at it together:

1 Timothy 3:1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires [to do]. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 [He must be] one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 [and] not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside [the church], so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

The Prerequisite of Leadership (3:1)

Paul began the whole discussion on character leadership with one prerequisite that should not be overlooked – the future leader must desire to become one. Leaders must CHOOSE that path, not be voted reluctantly into the line of fire. Paul began (3:1): “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires [to do]. The text uses pointed words. If a man “stretches out” (orego) to become an overseer (episkopeo), he is seeking a good work and his desire (epithumeo) is a positive impulse. He assured those who desired the office of overseer in relation to the church that such desires were NOT WRONG. Here is my question: “Why would they think it was a WRONG THING to desire to lead?”

I suspect there were two reasons. First, some believers have a misshapen idea of humility. They believe that self-evaluation of one’s gifts and preparation for a task that involves leading is a statement of EGO, and should not be a part of the Christian’s development. That is simply not part of the humility equation. To be humble in the sense of the New Testament, a believer needs to set his or her desires as second behind that of Jesus and His people. That is the teaching of Philippians 2. One who identifies their gifting in areas of leadership is not being egotistical, but practical. God gifts everyone in the body with some part of what is necessary to the whole.

A second reason some may object to the impulse to lead as a positive one can likely be found in a latent but close to the surface false theology about striving. Some believers act like working toward a goal is the cancellation of the Spirit. Throughout my career I have encountered Christians that seem to suggest that preparation is a lack of trust in the Spirit of God. I call them “spooky Christians”. They seem believe the Spirit is only available during meeting, not in the study preparing for the meeting. The more they prepare, the less they feel “led by the Spirit”. I can only respond this way: I want my surgeon to pray and trust God during my surgery, but I am glad he studied before he got in the room. I am thankful that he spent hours learning all the parts of the body, the pharmacology, the techniques, etc. I am looking for someone who is more than spontaneous, I desire one who is trained, disciplined and prepared for what will happen in the operating suite. I want no less in the Bible study room or the pulpit.

Preparation isn’t a sign that the Spirit cannot and will not be trusted – it is a sign that the believer will take heed to the Word’s warning to “study to show ourselves a workman approved and rightly dividing the Word of truth.” Spontaneous statements in a teaching of message can (and in my experience often DO) overshadow the real intent of delivering reliable truth statements. Let’s say it plainly: Preparation isn’t unbiblical, and desire to lead isn’t unspiritual. The leader must WANT the work before they prepare for it, and must enter the work prepared and knowledgeable about the nature of it. The seven passages where Joshua was in the scene with Moses before he became the leader is an exacting example of that idea.

The Pattern of Leadership (3:2-7)

What followed the simple statement about the desire to lead was a list of fifteen traits that have become the backbone of the character training of leadership in finer organizations of the faith. Each trait is essential, and failure to heed the warning of the need poses a specific danger to the organization. Let’s look at each of the fifteen, and then summarize the picture of character development before we go any further in our leadership discussion:

1. Above Reproach: “anepilemptos” is a term from a jar or container, and refers to one that is without handles. The notion of “unhandled” is NOT that the would be leader has never done wrong, but that he has taken the necessary steps to clean up the mess he created and not allowed that mess to follow him through his life. People who owe people are handled people. They can be pulled about by the debts they created prior to coming into the position. Do you want a President that is owned by big corporations? No. It is the same principle. To train a leader to be above reproach is to train them to clean up after themselves, fixing what they brake, and completing their commitments before moving on. Character trained leaders have to pay their debts, and keep their desk clean of old strings and loyalties that will compromise their office.

2. Husband of one wife: The phrase has been translated as a “one woman man” and rightly has an emphasis on loyalty and fidelity to marriage. If God intended marriage in the Hebrew Scriptures to be a picture of the Father’s undying love for Israel, and in the Christian Scriptures he intended it to be a reflection of Jesus’ love for His Church – there can be little doubt that God intended that picture be clear in the lives of our leaders. In both the imagery of Hosea and Ephesians the BRIDE may have been fickle, but the husband was steadfast – and that is the basis of the requirement. Let me be clear about this: Marriage wasn’t just a cultural convention that became the root of the nuclear family – it was created by God as a picture of something greater. As such, God has as many requirements on its clarity as He did on the exacting standards of the Tabernacle of Bezalel, who was copying the one in Heaven. God’s models are exact replicas, and He wants them to reflect precision.

In the first century church, as closely as I can discern the history, the issue wasn’t divorce of leaders from their wives for another woman – it was a legal form that no longer exists. One of the types of Roman “marriage” that existed in the past (though it has not made its way in modernity) was that of the “coemptio en manum” marriage – the ability for one to trade his child or slave to another in payment of a debt for a time in what was called a “pleasurable service” arrangement. That allowed a man to have a young woman in his home that offered regular conjugal and sensual fulfillments to a man who was already married. This was allowed under Roman law, and a normal convention among the wealthier families of the Roman world. Some of those men, no doubt, entered leadership in local churches. Paul made it clear they were not to have such arrangements. In the end, we learn that leaders can’t just do what is LEGAL, they have to care about what God said was RIGHT.

3. Temperate: The word can be translated “vigilant” (nephalios), but sometimes is translated “sober”. Ironically, the term may have originated from the vintner’s mixing of wine. The idea is one that is “clear headed”, not cloudy nor “frivolous”. To lead, God requires one that is able to clear the nonsense out of the discussion and see the issues clearly. Leaders have to be able to settle down and discern what is serious. Some people get attention by being an adult version of the “class clown” – but they aren’t character leaders. It is essential that leaders know how to both have a good time and laugh, and how and when to settle down and get serious about a problem. They cannot be disengaged or clouded, but must focus on the issue and be able to think wisely about it.

4. Prudent: This word prudent; sober or self-controlled (sophronos) is literally the legal term “of sound mind”, and means that character leaders make a judgment without any defect of mind. This is a careful warning: sin is rooted in deception. Those who are hung up on a “pet sin” are living a deception and are not “of sound mind”. Prudent leaders seek to curb inner desires and impulses. One writer says this means to have a “soundness and balance in judgment, not unstable; and not given to quick and superficial decisions based on immature thinking”. I like the words of the Pastoral sage Warren Wiersbe when he comments “He must have a serious attitude and be in earnest about his work. This does not mean he has no sense of humor, or that he is always solemn and somber. Rather it suggests that he knows the values of things and does not cheapen the ministry or the Gospel message by foolish behavior.”

5. Respectable: The term “respectable” is sometimes translated “of good behavior”. It is the word (kosmios) that we mentioned in our previous study about women’s dress as “modest” in 1 Timothy 2:9. The basic idea was they were not ostentatious, but desired the focus to be on Jesus and not them. We don’t have the ability to truly measure people’s intentions, but it is possible to detect a person who is consistently drawing overt attention of a room to themselves. They have inner issues that must be addressed before they are ready to lead.

6. Hospitable: The word hospitable (philoxenos) actually means “loving strangers”. Tough we are to desire a level of comfort and care from any leader, the primary function of the leader in this statement is NOT to build ever deeper relationships to the flock. This ISN’T about how often the leader “comes calling” on those who are in the flock – it is about the winsomeness of the leader to reach the “strangers” and draw them in. Some of this certainly is relational evangelism, but other parts of it include offering ministry and counsel to those on the edge. The character leader must aim at more than maintaining the group; he must expand their view to the hurting world outside by taking an active role in it. We can’t just read about hurting people and preach about them, we have to engage them.

7. Apt to teach: is sometimes translated “able to teach” or “teachable”. The term didactikos does not simply mean able, but ready with practical and spiritually powerful teaching rooted in the Word. Character leadership training must focus on the expounding of God’s truth so that a leader will be prepared with ANSWERS FROM GOD, and not just more pragmatic programming. Because of that, leaders need training time, and need to ready some parts of their teaching ahead of the experience of leadership. Further, they need to teach each page already knowing what happens on the next already. They are not always leading by discovering. To be sure, they continue to grow in the journey, but they have done much work to become ready before they begin the process of leading others spiritually.

8. Not addicted to wine: Grammatically, the next few words of the text seem to be LINKED to this one. “Not addicted to wine” or “not given to much wine”: is actually all one Greek term – paroinos translated literally “beside wine”. Greek records indicate that Aristotle used the word to mean “tipsy; lingering with his wine”. The issue was that wine was regularly consumed by Romans, but some over-indulged and hung out beside the wine bar the way some office workers hang out in the break room or at the water cooler. They dull their minds and allow disciplines to slip away, and what follows is TROUBLE. The words that express trouble are the next few character traits that seem to be related to their over-indulgence.

9. Not pugnacious: The character leader must distance themselves from the wine bar and not allow themselves to become argumentative or hostile because of wine or lack of some self-control issues. They cannot push off study time for incessant Facebook voyeurism, allowing themselves to become angry and overwhelmed with inflammatory writing and issue barrages. Someone who is pugnacious “carries a chip on his shoulder and is quick to get into a fight”. A character trained leader seeks to be a peacemaker instead of a troublemaker – to speak truth, but find a loving way to do so. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, so it takes training.

10. Gentle: This term in English isn’t the best way to think of what the author has in mind, in my view. The term epieikḗs is an adjective, derived from epí ” fitting” and eikos “equitable, fair”. One commentator suggests it is the idea of “true equity that appropriately fulfills the spirit (not just the letter) of the law”. The term isn’t WIMPY, but rather PRINCIPLED and REASONABLE. As we pass through the Scriptures together, lesson by lesson, the principles are deep and sometimes require time to search and apply. That is what a character must do, first in HIS LIFE, then in his teaching.

11. Peaceable: This is a great term! The word is amachos, or literally NOT MACHO. By that, we aren’t saying the character leader is indecisive or a “push over”, but simply that his impulses and ego are in check such that he will not answer with brawling of violence. This term also used in Titus 1:7 and appears to be linked to the wine issue above grammatically as well.

The point is that some leaders lingered over their wine and let their flesh take control of their decision making processes. Nadab and Abihu got tipsy and took the fire into the holy place from a strange place, displeasing God and bringing death and condemnation on themselves. In 1 Timothy, Paul warns of a more subtle result – an argumentative, unreasonable and ego-filled response that can follow in the footsteps of an undisciplined lifestyle.

12. Free from the love of money: The quality of self-control in material things is an issue of contentment. The phrase “free of the love of money” (also translated “not guilty of filthy lucre”) literally means not covetous: not a lover of money (one compound word in the Greek- aphilargyros). The idea of money love is broader than just the love of the bills or the silver, but the love of things material. For some leaders, they seem to get their esteem from new buildings or new parts and pieces of ministry. They cannot help but “take pride” in buildings, budgets and number of bodies. The truth is these are manifestations of the same spirit of love of things physical in places spiritual. Character leaders must measure success by obedience and growth by God’s delight, not simply take out a physical yard stick and start feeling more worth based on outward increase. We serve the Lord, and He alone knows our value.

13. Manages his house well: The idea of proistémi is that a character leader learns to take responsibility for what God puts in his care. He doesn’t pass off his problems or overlook them, but addresses each one. That doesn’t imply that he doesn’t face the same problems as anyone else. Budgeting will be as necessary in his home as any other, and the invasion of ungodly belief systems will attack his children as much as any other. The issue isn’t that what attacks is different, but that he handles it differently. The term pro-istemi is to “take charge over”, to be assertive and not ambivalent in the face of challenges. Every character trained leader will find it hard to both live the truth and reflect that truth throughout their home. They will want to entertain the stranger, but that has the potential to open the home to unsavory visitors. They will want to study hard, but that will bring the danger of being too distant and removed from the daily goings-on in the home. This is a balancing act at times, because that is what stewardship truly is.

14. Not a neophyte: The terms “not a new convert, or not a novice (neophyte, new planted) are used in a restrictive sense. Those new to Jesus are not to have the yoke of leadership placed upon them. The idea is that one that is new has not learned the longer lessons of stewardship. All plants look green when first planted, but managing the watering, the soil and the sun steward the plant to long term heath. New converts aren’t ready because they don’t see the maturing process yet. They can feel a sense of deserving and entitlement that is not real (3:6) and the Devil will surely use this.

15. Good reputation to those outside: The phrase translated “good reputation with those outside the church” is NOT “well-liked by the world” but rather those who are well thought of in places where the societal values match the Word of God. They pay their bills on time. They keep appointments. They act responsibly in public. The term MARTURIA is the Word “reputation”, and refers to the public’s view of their steadfastness and reliability in what they SAY they believe. The world will forgive imperfection far faster than hypocrisy.

When a congregation refuses to remove leaders who have Biblically disqualified themselves or does not hold to the high standards of the ingredients of this passage the result will be that they will undermine the moral and spiritual vitality of the whole congregation, as well as destroy the congregation’s influence in the community. It is fine to have the world stand against their leaders in areas where the world conflicts in values to the truth of the Word, but not in the etiquette and responsibility areas that are not conflicting with Scripture.

The Product of Leadership

Step back from these verses and you will see the pattern begin to define the CHARACTER TRAINING, but say precious little about the JOB DECSRIPTION of the leader. We need people who are able to apply the guidelines to the ever-changing work of leadership.

They can’t be in anyone’s pocket. They need to be loyal people who understand boundaries and live inside of the one’s established by God. They need to know what is serious and be able to focus on the right issues at the right time. They need to be orderly, not haphazard about their lives. They need to have many hours of hard work in the Word before they take the office of leadership. They need to have regular connection to those outside the circle of the faith and be developing relationships beyond the group they lead. They need to reign in physical disciplines and keep emotions and ego in check. They need to be secure in what God has given them, and not in love with external measures of wealth or success. They need to steward their lives and families well. They need to be seasoned with time, and reputable.

• If a leader has a contentious spirit, his followers will become bitter and fight oriented.
• If a leader is cold and removed, his followers will become unfriendly and uncaring.
• If a leader loves money and stuff, his followers will become worshippers of pleasures physical.
• If a leader does not act sensibly, balanced, and self-controlled, followers will become bewildered at the extremity and imbalance, and they will attract the strange and repel the normal.
• If a leader is not faithful to their spouse, they will be unfaithful to the Lord that called them.
• If a leader does not cling to the Word of God in their own walk, their followers will not treasure the Word.

The foundation of leadership is character development, not merely a pragmatic ability to solve problems.

If there is any single misunderstanding I have observed in my years of ministry, it is the stark difference between the call of leaders in the world and that of the Kingdom of God. I love that Chuck Colson years ago left these prophetic words:

Nothing distinguished the kingdoms of man from the kingdom of God more than their diametrically opposed views of the exercise of power. One seeks to control people, the other to serve people; one promotes self, the other prostrates self; one seeks prestige and position; the other lifts up the lowly and the despised…Power is like saltwater. The more you drink, the thirstier you get. The lure of power can separate the most resolute of Christians from the true nature of Christian leadership, which is service to others. It’s difficult to stand on a pedestal and wash the feet of those below.”

God called godly leaders to learn character, and to show it in serving others. They are to do, and then do it again and again and again. They are to be careful to do it His way. They are to lead by serving a great and marvelous God with their every effort. May we train such for the future of His great work until the trumpet sounds!

Renewing Our Values: "The Decoy" – 1 Timothy 2:9-15

decoyI’m not really much of an “Old Western” watching guy, but I don’t mind reading short stories, and it turned out that the short screenplay of “The Decoy” was apparently much better than the movie they made from it anyway. It was your classic western story – a lawman escorts his longtime friend to be hanged for a crime of murdering his wife’s parents. The journey unfolds in the desert, and the deputy discovers the startling truth about the murders. The whole thing is a set up, and the decoy has moved all attention from the one who committed the crime.

Decoys are supposed to do that – to attract attention away from another. As we continue in our third study on renewing our values, we want to face the problem that is caused when we distract others to wrongly gain affirmation. This lesson help us re-examine the wrong emphasis we place on physical appearance and the world’s standards over the spiritual reality and God’s Word – making a challenge to invest anew in the wrong world.

Key Principle: When we draw people to focus on the things of this world in our times of worship, we rob them of what they truly need to see.

The early church was facing shifts in Roman culture not unlike ones we face today. Paul reasserted in this letter the standards of Christian behavior. The letter to Timothy is not an evangelistic one – for Tim knew Jesus, and led people that knew Jesus. Therefore, our series will be chiefly directed at RENEWING PROPER BEHAVIOR among believers, since that was what Paul was addressing. That means the problems aren’t new, but are rather a resurgence of an old strategy of our enemy. As we progress, we will be examining eight specific problems that believers have faced through the centuries, and apply God’s prescription for both preventative care and serious correction of each. Look at where we have been:

Study One: Returning to Costly Grace: (1 Tim. 1) a study in which we examined the way that grace has been misconstrued by pitting lifestyle standards as beyond the scope of God’s desire in us.

Study Two: Renewing Commitment to God’s Sovereignty: (1 Timothy 2:1-8) where we contrasted the male distraction of angry disputations with peaceful prayer and trust in God’s sovereignty.

This is Study Three: Refocusing on Proper Affirmation: (1 Timothy 2:9-15) which will help us re-examine the wrong emphasis we place on physical appearance over the spiritual reality, and cultural affirmation over walking shamelessly in truth.

1 Timothy 2:9 Likewise, [I want] women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, [and] then Eve. 14 And [it was] not Adam [who] was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But [women] will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

The Timing of the Application: Public Worship (2:9a)

Take the small text apart with me for a moment. It opened with “Likewise” or “in the same way” – connecting this instruction with the previous portion on the correction of behavior of the men.

• Dealing with the same timing, public worship. The teaching seems to be in that context alone.

• Dealing with the same issue, how to gain effectiveness in our walk and worship. The issue of men was clearly how to come together to pray and not argue, so one can assume that the words concerning women are about the public meeting together, not about other life settings.

The Scope of the Limitation: Outer Adornment (2:9b)

“women adorn themselves” – as the men worshipped properly by setting aside disputing and opening clean and prepared hands to the Lord in prayer, so the woman should set aside any attention drawing clothing or apparel for the purpose of gaining effectiveness in worship. The term “adorn” is kosméō (from kósmos, “world”) – properly, to “beautify, having the right arrangement” (sequence) by ordering. It is linked to the word for PROPER used in the verse, kósmios (also from kósmos, “world”; it is literally the word ordered (properly organized); hence, well-prepared (well-ordered).

Proper clothing means forethought must be offered to planning the outfit. Roman men all dressed in the obligatory costume, the plain toga virilus. The task of showing status, then, was passed to their wives – who could make a grand affair of the dress and hair. Planning of costume seemed to take an inordinate amount of time, if Roman literature like that of the lurid poet Ovid is to be taken at face value.

Modestly (ahee-doce’) is from the word “self-aware” or sometimes “ashamed”. The idea is NOT that you choose to wear something that brings shame, but rather that you dress with intense self-awareness of what you are choosing to put on your body, and that choice will not draw undue attention to your form.

It is interesting to note that the POSITION OF WOMEN in the home was changing in the first century, from the time of Augustus to the time of Nero, in the background of the New Testament. The female virtues were held in very high esteem in the traditional Roman home, but times were changing. Roman girls grew up hearing about a shining embodiment of Roman womanly behavior in one Cornelia, the daughter of the famous general Scipio Africanus. She was celebrated as the model of wifely and maternal self-sacrifice, in part because she remained loyal to the memory of her dead husband—even to the extent of rejecting an offer of marriage from a king, and rather devoted her energies to educating her two sons, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, who both became important in Roman history. Yet, things were changing in the Roman home.

By the time of Paul’s writings, there were two arrangements in Roman marriages which differed in standard for submission requirements of a wife. The first was known as a “with the hand” marriage (the wife had no legal rights, all her property was transferred to her husband in the form of a dowry, and her husband, in theory, had the power of life and death over her as the paterfamilias of the family). This was traditional marriage. After the time of Livia, feminist wife of Augustus, there was increasingly a “without the hand” marriage (no dowry was offered and she was not fully under her husband’s control). In such cases, she remained under the control of her nearest ascendant male relative by birth, though living with her husband. She could complain of his behavior to her “sponsor” relative, and the husband could be chastised. “Without the hand” marriages became popular from the 1st century CE and onwards, partly because they conferred more independence on women. The traditional conventions of dress and propriety were fading when Paul was ministering.

Discreetly (so-fros-oo’-nay) is a feminine noun derived from sṓphrōn, “truly moderate”) and means literally “moderation as fitting a particular application or situation”.

In the Roman world, when a married woman of standing went out in public, assuming she was of respectable birth and lineage, she was typically chaperoned by one or more slaves. She would have covered her entire body completely, including her face. Her dress, which reached to her ankles, was known as a stola and was worn over a tunica intima (the Roman version of a slip). The stola was usually sleeveless and was fastened by clasps at the shoulder called fibulae. The stola had two belts – one below the breasts creating a great number of garment folds. The second and wider belt was worn around the waist. Not only did the stola have multiple folds, but also it was generally brightly colored. Over the stola she wore a palla, a wrap used as a cloak. The stola would only have been seen inside the home of her destination. On the street, she cloaked herself entirely. She was both conspicuous and covered, modest and showy.

Though women apparently wore togas in the early years of the Republic, the practice ended long before the rise of the Principate (time of the Emperors). By the time of Augustus and onward – the only women who wore togas were common prostitutes. Unlike men, therefore, these women donned of a toga to symbolize a lack of social order respectability. The toga was a mark of disgrace for a woman. The plain toga of coarse wool announced their profession, and evidence suggests that women convicted of adultery were at times forced to wear “the prostitute’s toga” as a badge of social shame. The point is this: Romans dressed for status, protest, and order. The way one dressed said much about who you were, and what you wanted to say with your life.

Since her standing would have been announced in her bright colors, it was difficult for a woman of standing who came to the atrium of a home for a Christian meeting to know how to dress. The template of her society was not the pattern she was to follow for that meeting. Why? Because at the heart of the meeting was ONENESS IN CHRIST.

Early believers were NOT persecuted for believing Jesus was a god. They were persecuted primarily for the “breaking of the orders”, the notion that a woman of rank could sit together in a meal with a slave girl and eat together. The “oneness in Christ” we so celebrate is what got them into their initial trouble with Roman authorities.

• Not with braided hair, gold or pearls or costly garments: “braided” (pleg’-mah) means anything interwoven, in this case “braided hair”.

Garment planning and weaving was a major feature of a woman’s work. Weaving was a HOME DUTY of a woman, and the message of these words was a reminder of propriety in lifestyle that was to be reflected in public life. Listen to this epitaph of a Roman woman ostensibly written by her husband after her death:

“Friend, I haven’t got a lot to say. Stop and read. This tomb, which isn’t fair, belongs to a fair woman. Her parents gave her the name of Claudia. She loved her husband dearly. She bore him two sons. One lives on earth, the other lives beneath it. She was pleasant to talk with and she moved gracefully. She looked after the house and worked with wool. That’s all. Be on your way.”

Her husband wanted you to know that Claudia was the ideal Roman wife—devoted, retiring, faithful, and—one assumes—utterly uncomplaining. If you examine carefully the whole corpus of funerary epitaphs, there appear to have been thousands upon thousands just like her in description. We should also note, the only stated task that Claudia performed was spinning—an activity that marked a responsible homemaker of the period. Even Emperor Augustus’ wife and daughter were expected to spin, as an example of how a woman should have behaved – but it was a total farce if you read about the life and character of Livia or her daughter Julia the Elder.

Typically, women of means showed their status three ways: their stola and hair braiding and jewels – and these were discouraged by Peter as well as Paul. Peter seems to echo Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Peter 3:

1 Peter 3:3 “Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

In each case the attempt was to make a comparison, not necessarily a restriction. The women of the body of Christ needed to develop within, not simply dispense with the outward symbols. They could wear plated hair, but that was not to be their focus so much as their desire to develop and be noticed for their godly displays of generosity and loving care.

• Paul picked up that idea in 1 Timothy 2:10 “but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness”…

Godliness in the Bible is something one lives out in actions. The acts were called by Paul “good works” (ergon agathon) “actions that are intrinsically right”. What are such actions?

An Application of Inner Adornment: Proper Actions (2:11-14)

1. The first action is the public one – becoming an avid learner of God’s Word. He wrote in 1 Timothy 2:11 “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.” The words “receive instruction” are the Greek term manthánō (from the term mathētḗs, “a disciple”) – properly, learning from experience, often with the implication of reflection – as in ‘come to realize’ “. The notion is that she should seek to be the deepest and most reflective disciple of Jesus from exposure to His Word.

To aid this end, Paul made it clear that she was not to be in the position of authority or teaching, but in the position of learning and deeply reflecting. The famous, and sometimes misused words of 1 Timothy 2:12-14 were given to help in this cause – but have become a challenge to believers who are so pressed into the mold of their culture. Let’s review what Paul said, why he claims to have said it, and then make a brief application.

Paul wrote: 1 Timothy 2:12: “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, [and] then Eve. 14 And [it was] not Adam [who] was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

As we take apart what the verses say, we see the opening thought in a negative form – what NOT to do. Paul said women in the public actions of the church (the context we established at the beginning in the word “Likewise” of verse 9) were not to:

Teach: One New Testament scholar and grammarian noted that in the Greek Scriptures, the term didáskō (“teach”) nearly always refers to teaching the Scriptures (the written Word of God). The key role of teaching Scripture was shown by the frequency of the use of the term, and the variety of its uses in related word-forms. In other words, the teaching Paul held a woman from participating in was that of the teaching of the Word of God in the worship and instruction program of the local church. The second phrase seems to modify this limitation even further…

Exercise authority over a man: The term for this is authentéō (from autós, “self” and entea, “arms, armor”) – properly, to unilaterally take up arms, that is to act as an autocrat – or become a self-appointed authority. The notion that Paul, through the ordained instructions of the Holy Spirit, wanted the women to become great reflective learners of the Word was paired with the idea of submission to men in the congregation. Though women in our day see this as a shaving of a fundamental right of equality, we need to be extremely careful – for we have only the rights and responsibilities God assigns us in this life to be found faithful.

What sounds extremely sexist and abrasive to the modern ear, is merely posing a cultural value against a Biblical one. Here is the simple question: When Paul called on believers NOT TO BE PRESSED INTO THE MOLD OF THE WORLD BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY RENEWAL OF THEIR MINDS, is this not exactly the kind of statement that we should think of? Why would Paul call on believers to be challenged by the Word and transformed in areas where the Word reflects exactly the same value system as their culture?

These instructions to the church were given on the basis of two arguments in the text:

Order of Creation: “Adam who was first created” – The making of man first applied no specific greater importance to the substance of man, but it is hard to read the opening chapters of Genesis and not come away with this simple story. God created man, and man was lacking something without woman. God created woman to help and complete the man. The word HELPER is something many Christians have become embarrassed by – but it IS the point of her creation in the story.

Order of Deception: “but the woman being deceived” – Here is another phrase that seems blatantly sexist to the modern mind. The simple fact of the story as the Bible relates it is that Adam failed to protect the woman, but she failed to do right. Her deception by the serpent is not at issue if you believe the story as it is given. She got tricked, and she got tricked first. There is a reason I am offering this painfully careful examination of Paul’s argument.

I want to take a few planned minutes to stop and mention something that is coming at the church in such force, that it would be simply unwise to ignore it.

We are being deluged by poor hermeneutical methodology.

When I say that out loud, most of you don’t even flinch. Roach infestation may make your skin crawl, and a tsunami may make you begin to search your phone for higher ground, but a deluge of poor hermeneutic of Scripture gets a “zero” on the reaction scale. It shouldn’t. The problem is serious. We have watched our Bible schools and Seminaries slip so far into speculative and even nonsense filled teachings that we are reaping a whirlwind of bad interpretation of Scripture. Why mention it here? Because it shows up wherever the church has stood against the rising tide of culture.

Let me be practical for a moment. You are raising a daughter or you have several grand daughters. You want them to follow God and be profoundly changed by His Word. You want them to love God with all their heart and serve God well. To that end, you go to a Christian Bookstore, or perhaps shop online for some Christian books written by Bible College and Seminary graduates that write on topics that will inform a young believing girl. You find a book on the shelf, and you buy it. What you don’t know, is that the interpretive system of the writer has been so badly formed that it will, in fact, do damage to your child or grandchild. The book will accommodate culture and make Christianity fit in to the world well, but at the expense of what God’s Word teaches. Let me say it plainly: The book will make wrong right, and right wrong. It will allow what God has forbidden, and forbid what God has allowed, all in the NAME OF BIBLE STUDY. Let me show you one from a website for young women by an author who writes some of these very well received books. Take a minute, because this trend isn’t tiny – it is affecting the next generation of believers profoundly, while adding to cynicism and criticism of the literal understanding of Scripture.

A young Canadian Christian woman, a mother of three children, named Mary Kasian has written a number of books for young women. She has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, and Marriage Uncensored. If you read that on the jacket of the book, you would think that meant that she had a handle on the Scriptures that would inform your daughter or granddaughter well. You would be wrong. Let me illustrate:

girls-gone-wise-f313418In her online column of June 2011, in Girls Gone Wise, she wrote concerning the very verses we are studying this morning she wrote the following (shortened for brevity, but I think fairly representing her position):

There’s been more ink spilled over the doctrinal interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 than any other passage. It’s a controversial passage that evokes very strong emotional responses and reactions — particularly in this day and age. .. the phrase “she will be saved through childbearing” seems non-sensical, if not downright outrageous. .. The last time I studied the passage in-depth was a couple of years ago, while working on writing Girls Gone Wise. … I had been studying Genesis, and was immersed in the concept of the typological symbolism of Adam and Eve. (Adam is type of Christ, Eve is type of the Church), when I turned my attention to 1 Timothy 2. It was then that I had an epiphany that seemed to resolve many of the interpretive difficulties with the text. It struck me that approaching the passage typologically harmonized many of the issues that arose from approaching it from a merely ontological standpoint – which has been the normative way of viewing this text. I was so excited about the idea that I called up [Professor] Wayne Grudem, to pick his brain about the veracity of my thoughts. He encouraged me to write them up and present a paper at ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) ..As I said before, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 makes a whole lot more sense when we understand it typologically rather than merely ontologically. …We know for sure that Paul viewed Adam as a type of Christ. We also know for sure that he viewed marriage as type of the relationship between Christ and the church — in which the role of husband is a type of Christ and the role of the wife is a type of the Church. Thus, we can justifiably extrapolate that Paul also viewed Eve as a type of the Church. … He’s trying to point out that male-female roles in the church exist to bear typological witness to the gospel. For Adam (type of Christ) was formed first, then Eve (type of Church) – and Adam (type of Christ) was not deceived, but the woman (type of Church) was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she (the Church) will be saved through childbearing (bearing fruit in Christ)—if they (man and woman) continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. Voila. This solves the conundrum … Paul reinforces the profound mutuality of men and women here. Both are church. Both are saved by the type of union that results in spiritual children—the union with our husband, Christ. Both must continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.… And that makes his directives on male/female roles in the church much easier to understand and swallow.“

The words may do something powerful in the heart of a young woman, but I argue fervently that it will be exactly WRONG. It doesn’t take into account that the first eight verses are not allegorical but written specifically to MALES and this was “likewise” to FEMALES. Just as men were instructed that angry men must cease arguing and pray – so speaking females in the public meetings were to stop. Further, her “interpretation” doesn’t take into account the Roman world that would have received the writing with no understanding of how to read the “tea leaves” of such an elaborate allegory. How could they know that Paul meant Eve represented the Church? Where did such an idea come from in the letter?

The Roman world Paul was addressing didn’t even name their daughters legally (each daughter of a man from the Claudia clan was named Claudia – the oldest Claudia Major, the younger Claudia Minor). How could one from such a culture read it the way Mrs. Kasian describes? Without a reference to the primary culture the letter was written to, Mrs. Kasian applied symbolism to the people of the passage, and ended with a meaning that expounds the opposite of what any normal reading of the passage meant prior to the modern rise of feminism. In other words, a young woman reading that kind of interpretation can defend her Bible and make it more relevant to her classmates, but will end up with an entirely opposite understanding of the passage than what can be easily demonstrated as the literal and normal truth.

So that I am not unclear, let me say it again. The passage says that women in the public meeting of the church are not to teach nor take authority over men. It is NOT because of CULTURE, it is because of the order of Creation and the order of the deception. Biblically, this is not a new concept. The Torah made it clear that a woman could not take a vow without her father, or later her husband’s consent. Her spiritual standing was found in the order God created. To make sure this doesn’t get set aside with the age-old complaint “but that is the Law”, let me say that Paul reiterated that truth in 1 Cor. 11:2-10. There is an order to creation, and the fact that both men and women are equally valuable to God doesn’t negate that He restricted both to be able to do things the other could not. This woman’s article leaves a young woman with the exact opposite standard of obedience.

If she were right, there would have surely been a number of Pastoresses appointed in the New Testament – something you will not find. There would have been a generic standard for Elder and Eldress – but those standards are strictly masculine in the text. There would have been a High Priestess or Pharisaiess or Saducceess or Mrs. Rabbi – something you did not see until the modern feminist movement. If we preached this passage as literally true 100 years ago, no one would think it strange. What changed isn’t the Bible – it is the hunger in the church to find ways to be more acceptable to a culture that simply dismissed the Bible a long time ago.

What I am concerned about is not that Mary Kasian wrote her opinion. I would bet that she is a great person and loves Jesus (I haven’t had the privilege of meeting her). My concern is that when the Bible is torqued by cultural values to say the opposite of its normal reading, we are on the path to fully capitulating to the world’s standard. We make a tacit claim that the church has been WRONG for the ages on the simplest of readings, that the text cannot be read by normal people without extraordinary understanding of typology, and that nothing can be exactly what it said – especially if it dares to conflict with our modern sensibilities in culture. In the current attempts by modern believers to make the Bible fit the culture, we often find them rewriting the Bible instead of changing the culture with its truth. The salt of God’s people applying God’s Word correctly should affect for better the meat that spoils without it.

All you have to do to make the Bible sexist is to apply a new definition of sexism. If what you mean is that if everyone before God cannot do exactly the same things as everyone else and be right with God than He is sexist – then so be it. He made my wife with a womb and me without. I am not offended. He is God and I am not. What is happening in the church is that we are swallowing the redefinition of simple Biblical truths based on newly defined cultural standards – and it will water our message to the point that people will not trust that we CAN KNOW GOD from the Bible. In an effort to make the Biblical standards more palatable, we will undermine the text’s ability to transform us.

An Application for Personal Satisfaction: Home Life (2:15)

The first action Paul called women to was to be deep disciples of His Word, and not try to run the church or teach the men.

2. The second action is in a private setting – becoming the pattern of godliness in her home. 1 Timothy 2:15 “But [women] will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

When we emphasize and allow what God says one should NOT be doing, we rob them of attentive energy on what they are CALLED by God to do. When they are learning to be Pastors, they are not applying the desire to teach and pattern in the home with the same fervency. When they are in charge of the meeting, they are not learning the same level of self-restraint. When they are satisfied in the teaching career, they are not emphasizing the deep and desperate need we have in a culture gone adrift from God in the area of marriage, family and mothering.

Read around it all you like, Paul’s simple words to women in his day emphasized finding at home a place to show the pattern of godliness. God made plain in many places an order of spiritual responsibility that is now defined as sexist. Simple words like those found in Titus 2 are now the subject of critical comments of the unbelieving culture. Here is the outrageous writing of Paul to Titus: Titus 2:4 “[Teach older women] so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 [to be] sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

Men and women, our children are being taken from our hands as we surrender one truth after another because of the strong wave of culture. Let us remain fixed on the Scriptures, and not move for them – but lovingly understand their point of view and remain courteous amid the increasing insults. We remain committed that freedom is not the casting off of all restraint, but becoming part of an intimate relationship with the Creator, and walking in His stated purposes for our lives and our communities.

I simply argue that we must teach our young ladies that there is NOTHING WRONG with desiring to be the deepest of disciples of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with learning carefully how to portray Christ to a small child, how to nurture lovingly a toddler and reflect Jesus’ actions and words to them – nor to find their CHIEF JOY in serving Jesus at HOME. There is great JOY being robbed from the Christian home when we don’t openly confront the notion that what God has made for motherhood is a precious and powerful gift. We have let the culture speak, and they have honored death and not life. They have honored rebellion and not submission. They have sanctioned wrong, and not the very carefully delivered standards of God’s Word.

For generations, believers didn’t have the written Word they could read. God used the likes of Gutenberg to change that. Now the enemy has decided that being unable to keep people in ignorance of the Word, he would apply himself to an education system that is increasingly making the terms of the Word of God into bad values – values that are abhorrent to modern thinkers. It is the wave we are facing, and we must understand it, and do our part in the face of it.

Remember our key principle? When we draw people to focus on the things of this world in our times of worship, we rob them of what they truly need to see.

In the first century, the distraction of the decoy was a woman who thought she could dress in a way that robbed the glory belonging to Jesus and take it to herself in the public worship time. Today, in the modern battlefield of changing cultural norms, the woman is again being called by the enemy to become a distraction – to take a role she is not called to have to satisfy a culture she is not called to follow. This time is isn’t her costume, it is her modern shaped “sense of fairness” that is calling into account God’s commands. She stands on the edge of the tempter’s voice, yet again. May Adam protect his dear wife this time, where he failed in the last.

Renewing Our Values: “A Voice of Confidence” – 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Franklin RooseveltOne of the voices of yesteryear that any student of American history comes to appreciate is that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was the man that campaigned against Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential election by saying as little as possible about what he might do if elected. To read the testimony of them later, the then “President-elect’s” closest associates barely knew him, (of course excluding his wife), Eleanor. Roosevelt was warm publicly, but closed personally. His public charm kept him at arm’s length from most people. In campaign speeches, he was buoyant and optimistic, and sometimes sounded more like a kindly parent. By 1933 the depression had reached its depth, and Roosevelt’s first inaugural address was delivered to outline, at least in broad strokes, how he hoped to pull America from the pit.

Roosevelt said: “I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days…”

This was the beginning of a new confidence for the people who sat by their radios, and gathered around the general store radios in the center of their towns, to hear the voice of the new President of the United States. People were losing hope with the crash of the stock market. The system had failed, and many were penniless and broken. Roosevelt knew that he needed to restore confidence in the people before they could begin to restore the system. As much as I would enjoy it, this is NOT an American history lesson, and I am not adequate to properly make it one. I mention it because it illustrates a truth that we will encounter in our study of the Word in this passage.

Key Principle: People will not attain victory in troubled times by acting like frustrated victims. They will only begin to speak with clear and optimistic words when they trust the One in charge (the Sovereign God).

Believers are not supposed to see themselves as victims of a world gone wild. We are ambassadors for the Ever Present Living One, who sits above the highest council of men and of angels. We serve the God Most High, and when we get caught up in angry protest and defensive speech – we show that we do not understand the true power of the God that we serve.

Last time we started our series “Renewing Our Values” in the first chapter of 1 Timothy and discussed “Costly Grace” – the notion that we are saved by grace through faith alone, but true faith never remains alone. It carries with it the natural companion of change. Real faith isn’t an orphan, it is the parent of a series of works in life – children of change that come naturally. Orphaned faith is theoretical, and it is false. It doesn’t save, or James should be ripped out of the New Testament. On the positive side, real faith SHOWS ITSELF. It works its way out, and responds to the prompting of the relationship of new life in Jesus! The relationship that begins entirely by faith, is grown in shoe leather outworking. What follows is one of the products of a grace through faith relationship – a sincere call to men who need to be reminded that a relationship with God REQUIRES growing lines of proper communication. Without asking for volunteers to share testimony, some of our ladies understand why God had to spell out the need for communication to males.

The Setting

Some men in the church, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, were teaching destructive things – even blaspheming God in their error. They were brazen men – not unlike those in modern culture that brazenly overturn the plain moral tenets of Scripture with complicated explanations that end up as license to do wrong. If you look back into chapter one, you will note that they made Tim want to RUN from the work (1:3). They so tied up forward progress of the people and the leaders by leading people into distraction rather than real growth in Jesus, Tim was ready to jump off the ship and swim to a deserted island. The distractions were speculative histories that added such complexity to the truth they made right and wrong hard to discern. They moved from the “main things” to the “trendy things” and Tim found himself disheartened with the hunger of the crowd to chase after the frivolous.

Paul refocused Tim by recalled the goal of sound teaching of the Word (1:5). That is the key component to growth that should capture the heart of any growing believer – a right understanding of God’s Word. If we would be a disciple of Jesus, we have to have more than the ZEAL to follow Him, we must know the FACTS of following Him. The goal of the teaching of our faith must be recited, learned and used as a bench mark for materials presented in the church. Paul spelled it out:

The goal of our instruction is this: We desire to produce LOVING ACTION (other person centered actions as defined in Scripture). These actions must have no agenda but come from pure motives (pure heart), clean moral character (good conscience) and a Biblical world view (faith).

Focus on what that looks like in the local church today:

• Our teaching and instructional program cannot simply be geared to the theoretical – it must have a practical bend.

• Our teaching cannot lead one to be comfortable living in a self-centered way – but should produce “other person centered” service qualities.

• Our teaching cannot be jaded or shaded by other secretive agendas – it must flow from the text of Scripture like clean and pure water.

• The moral premises of our teaching cannot and must not flex with popular sentiment – they must be fixed to the moral parameters of the principles of the text.

• Our teaching isn’t shaped by the pressing influences of the fallen world system and its values – it is a transformed view of life based on Biblically revealed truth.

Let’s reduce it down to an even simpler statement:

The teaching of the church of Jesus Christ should produce working Christians, who show their love for Jesus by serving each other and the world with no compromised agenda nor morally breached testimony. It should produce active Christians that define right and wrong by the Word, not the world.

In the background, we should remember Paul’s admonition… Other teaching is a distraction that leads us in the wrong direction as believers. Emotional appeals based on logic that has flimsy textual foundation will not produce well balanced and properly grown Christians.

Our emotions are tied up in patriotic feeling, personal bias, and limited experience – and that can lead us to strongly hold positions that SEEM RIGHT, because we FEEL so strongly about them. Of course you love your country – that is a GOOD thing. Of course you see things through your own life experience – we ALL do. The issue is this: That cannot determine our teaching. We need to be careful that we are not more stirred by PROVOCATIVE TONE than by facts of Scripture. Wrong foundations produce weak and collapsing structures – and there are plenty of those all around us.

Paul told Tim to cut the frivolous discussion (1:6), stay on track and press for greater competence in the Word for those who want to try and teach it (1:7). He told Tim that pursuing the goal of proper teaching of the faith would be a battle, but it was worth it! He reminded Tim to lift his eyes and see the King and His salvation, to stand back in awe and wonder at God’s great saving work! (1:12-13). That is where we left off in the last lesson – the WONDER OF THE GOSPEL!

Voyager One left earth in 1978 when I was in High School. Almost one month ago in October of 2013 NASA held a press conference to say that they are now prepared to confirm that Voyager has successfully left the heliosphere – our SOLAR SYSTEM and its magnetic influence. Voyager 1 is now almost 19 billion kilometers from earth – hurling away from our SUN (the star that lights us) and toward its next nearest sister star. It will reach it, if nothing hinders it, in record time – about 40,000 earth years. Don’t wait up! Step back and behold the sheer size of the galaxy, and then recognize it is but one of millions upon millions of galaxies. Those who have analyzed the data so far supplied by Hubble’s deep space pictures estimate they have solid evidence for at least 176 billion galaxies, known to be in the Universe at this time – but that number is tentative and rising. The Bible very clearly says in Colossians 1:16-17 that Jesus created them all, as an agent of the Father. Yet that wasn’t His greatest work. That wasn’t selfless – the Gospel was. The death of Jesus on the Cross was, Biblically speaking, the greatest work ever performed by God.

The Bible says that I am more than Joanie Mitchell’s stardust. I am more than “Dust in the Wind”. Both of these are just a nice way of calling us nuclear waste of the big bang. I am not that – I am a child of a powerful, masterful, majestic, loving, personal, funny, creative and rock solid stable God. I stand on the truth of His revealed Word, and I celebrate His soon coming. I have to close my net browser and look at stars to see the truth – the Heavens are shouting God’s glory!

Have you lost the wonder of the Gospel? Have you so been swayed by the provocations and emotional appeals of those who are signaling the death of our economy or the existential threat to our freedoms in America that you forgot how BIG our God is? If you have, then the first few verses of 1 Timothy 2 are for you. These verses are for those who have forgotten God’s Sovereignty and fallen into anger and disputation – thinking we have to win people to God by an argument in stead of by a prayerful and empowered life. This is for the defensive Christian that wants to get back on the offense squad, but it too discouraged to really do so. Don’t miss the heart of these eight simple verses. 1 Timothy 2:1 opens:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties [and] prayers, petitions [and] thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, [and] one mediator also between God and men, [the] man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony [given] at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.”

Look how simple Paul’s words to Tim were:

Verse one opens with a call to urge men to recognize they shouldn’t only pray for who they like, but for everyone in authority, whether we voted for them, like their party, or agree with their moral platform. Lay out before God all those who rule over you – so that your lives may be peaceful. Political activism doesn’t imply PANIC – it implies peaceful engagement based on confidence in the Sovereign One and a positive commitment to lay every decision in God’s hands. I have to KNOW that I don’t understand the whole plan of God, nor do I know His timing. What I do know is HIS DESIRE for men and women – that they would know Him (2:3-4).

Verse two reminded Tim that if he wanted REVERENCE and WORSHIP to be at the centerpiece of his life, he needed to pray for rulers who may not even know God. That principle is part of a believer’s call to obedience. We cannot claim to truly revere God and be angrily grousing or fearfully cowering because of those who rule us. It is simple, praying for them is the sign that we truly recognize God is Sovereign– we reverence God when we obey Him and pray for THEM and the decisions they need to make.

Verses three to seven renew the clarion call to a singular focus in Jesus – the Gospel is our MAIN THING. God’s richness can only be experienced when one surrenders their heart to Jesus and opens their eyes to the truth found in His Word. We don’t need a better party system nearly as much as we need a Gospel-filled land. We don’t need a more moral Hollywood as much as we need a more morally pure church. We don’t need a new set of social programs nearly as much as we need a clear understanding of Who made us and what He says about life.

The church needs Jesus – or the world will not see Him. We need Jesus to motivate us to SPEAK out the Gospel to our lost neighbor. We don’t need visitation on a Tuesday night – we need obedience that will draw us to lovingly engage our neighbors – to invite them over and share a meal with them. We don’t need ten more seminars in sharing our faith – we need to be in love with Jesus and in His Word daily, so the Spirit will have material to work with when someone asks of the hope that lies within us. We don’t need better priests and more potent public examples of truth – we have Jesus, and He shows truth perfectly.

We need people to KNOW their call and their appointment, like Paul said he did in verse 7. We need them to identify gifts they have from God, and begin to use them for His glory. Talk about the poor parenting in the nation, or volunteer in the nursery. Grouse about the problems in health care or visit the sick and bring them a meal. Yell about the violence of video games or take a kid for a burger and get interested in their life. Wag your finger about the one who watches too much that is immoral or engage them in a morally right activity. People will change when you stop being the angry thermometer, reading the news and playing the victim of existential fears – and start deliberately engaging people for God’s glory, using God’s empowering gifts.

Finally, Paul gets to the point that he has been drilling for – that the men would stop their disputing and grousing and drop to their knees.

Paul told them to open their FISTS and clasp their hands in prayer. He told them to CLEAN their hands of other agendas and seek to serve God by serving other people. He called them to put away the driving influence of provocations and emotions and get busy calling on God for a proper impulse to walk rightly before God. He was telling them to QUIT RAISING A PROTEST PLACARD until the FIRST sunk to their knees and called on God for direction.

• Worried about government? Seek God’s face.
• Uncertain about the future of the economy? Spend time with the God who made the stars.
• Angry about health care? Cry out about injustice to the Holy One and seek His knudge to do the right thing.
• Frustrated by a broken two-party system and a dysfunctional Washington? STOP! Drop the angry sarcasm and disrespectful and demeaning words of a people convinced of their victimization – seek the King’s BOSS – go to the throne of the Most High.

Paul’s formula was simple in verse eight: “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” Do you see it?

1. Pray, but do it without anger, a bitter heart or hands dirty from disrespect.
2. Lift up your hands and confess your need for God’s help.

We must get past the programmatic answers offered by a Christianity run by publishing houses of “McChurch” and a world system bent on ABC – anything but Christ.


The church began by sending missionaries separated out by the Spirit from sustained prayer – not a program and application process. What started as a response to passionate prayer and public selection has been largely replaced by a “fill out the forms” process – a mechanical system to replace a dynamic move of God. Again, I am NOT saying God cannot work through systems – I am saying that I am a Christian leader that LONGS to see, at least one time in my life, a person selected out by the Holy Spirit in a room FULL of passionate praying Christians.

So that I don’t get an avalanche of emails, let me crystal clear:

• You can protest your government – but not until you PRAY and ask permission and for empowering.
• You can disagree with the executive branch – but not in a sarcastic and disrespectful attack.
• You can reason with the universities – but not without clear Biblical directives.
• You can question the courts – but not with ears that have no interest in their explanations, and hearts that are full of prayers for their best future.

Don’t threaten, don’t yell, don’t slam around – take the pain to God and the power you get back to them. Either we believe that God is Sovereign or we do NOT. That doesn’t mean we don’t engage and vote or voice objection to ungodliness when we need to do so. It means we do it thoughtfully, thankfully and by permission of the King.

People will not attain victory in troubled times by acting like frustrated victims. They will only begin to speak with clear and optimistic words when they trust the One in charge.

Renewing Our Values: "The Return to Costly Grace" – 1 Timothy 1

jets versus patriotsThe Jets won 30-27 against the New England Patriots in overtime a few weeks ago in North Rutherford, NJ, but that wasn’t the end of the clash. Apparently, a man in Jets fan gear was caught on a cell phone video punching a woman in the face during a brawl outside MetLife Stadium after the game. When I saw it, I was simply stunned. Then I listened to blogosphere commentators explain why it may have been justified. I have no words… Let me ask you something: Have any of you ever been SHOCKED by a stranger’s public display? Have you ever seen someone in a bathing suit that made you believe they didn’t understand the whole purpose of clothing? If you spend any time in public these days, you may find yourself shaking your head at what some in our dear country have come to see as acceptable public behavior. Pass quickly through the channels of a TV set on any given night, and you will likely hear words that were once barred from use in mixed company. You don’t have to be a keen observer of culture to notice how far America has moved from the 1939 shocker that rippled outward from “Gone with the Wind” at the box office as Clark Gable’s famous words echoed from the broken antebellum south: “Frankly Scarlett…” (you get the idea…). Any frank look at American life will force you to conclude that our country no longer holds back. From “costume failures” to the most vulgar expressions, the standard for acceptable behavior is changing – and it doesn’t appear it is heading in the direction of restraint in any area. It is becoming swiftly redefined in movies, TV, video games and even in speeches of our public officials.

Truthfully, none of us are shocked anymore. In fact, one of the lost emotive states of the modern American is the “blush”. As the country changes, so the lines are being re-drawn in the American church. We now accept what we would not have recognized in the past. To be candid, in some areas, this is an improvement, for we drew lines in earlier times more tightly than the Bible. We fought too long and too hard over church doctrinal minutiae that now can’t get a hearing. Thankfully, we have grown more sensitive to our public perception as the people who are “against everything”, the original “party of no”! I hear more and more appropriate laughter among God’s people than I used to – and for that I am very thankful. At the same time, with the strong storms of a vulgar culture on the horizon, it seems time for us to look again at what Scripture defines as proper behavior, particularly among those who name Christ as Savior.

For that reason, in our next series of lessons from God’s Word, I want to return to the familiar territory of Paul’s Epistles to struggling younger Pastors and churches of the first century, this time for eight lessons from the first epistle written to Timothy. I am aware that most every believer, after your first years in the faith, has been invited to study these letters perhaps numerous times, so they are by no means unfamiliar, but there is a reason we need to renew our study in these ancient words. With the shift in the winds of the culture, standards appear to be changing inside the churches across our land. We must recognize the changes, and be prepared to guard the teaching of God’s Word, while being a friendly and loving congregation. We don’t want to be a negative group, because that isn’t how God has called us to think, let alone live. We want to be winsome and happy but vigilant and prepared. We don’t live in fear of coming changes, but we do live watchfully, guarding our young and preparing our people.

The letter to Timothy is not an evangelistic one – for Tim knew Jesus. Therefore, our series will be chiefly directed at RENEWING PROPER BEHAVIOR among believers, since that was what Paul was addressing. That means the problems aren’t new, but are rather a resurgence of an old strategy of our enemy. As we progress, we will be examining eight specific problems that believers have faced through the centuries, and apply God’s prescription for both preventative care and serious correction of each. For a quick preview, the eight are as follows:

Study One: Returning to Costly Grace: (1 Tim. 1) a study in which we examine the way that grace has been being misconstrued by pitting lifestyle standards as beyond the scope of God’s desire in us.

Study Two: Renewing Commitment to God’s Sovereignty: (1 Timothy 2:1-8) where we will contrast angry disputations with peaceful prayer.

Study Three: Refocusing on Proper Affirmation: (1 Timothy 2:9-15) which will help us re-examine the wrong emphasis we place on physical appearance over the spiritual reality.

Study Four: Restoring an Emphasis on Character: (1 Timothy 3:1-7) where we will recognize that true character is more important than pragmatic solution.

Study Five: Recognizing the Value of Servanthood: (1 Timothy 3:8-16) where we will again recall how the vital connection of the body has been designed to function.

Study Six: Realigning Priorities to Guard Truth: (1 Timothy 4:1-16) where we will directly confront theassault on truth and the erosion of resistance to standing for it.

Study Seven: Redefining Standards in Relationships: (1 Timothy 5:1-6:12) where we will look closely at God’s intended behaviors that should mark a believer.

Study Eight: Regaining a Hunger for True Wealth: (1 Timothy 6:3-21) where we will re-evaluate the attraction of temporal gain in light of eternal truth.

If you look over the subjects in the series, they touch issues like behavior and license, anger and confidence, emphasis on physique versus inner beauty, developing leadership with character to take us forward, remembering the sweet aroma of servanthood, building resistance to diseased thinking, learning true care toward others and making clear what real wealth is, and what it is not.

A Place to Begin – Grace Renewed

Let’s start where Paul did – with a concern about the perversion of the basic grace message of the church. To set this up, I want to take you to the words of Pastor Tim Keller that I lifted from the beginning of the sensational biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer written by Eric Metaxas. The quote succinctly explained how Germany, and particularly the German church, was set up to allow the rise of evil with so few words of protest. Kellers quote is a good explanation:

It is impossible to understand Bonehoeffer’s [written work] without becoming acquainted with the shocking capitulation of the German church to Hitler in the 1930s. How could the “church of Luther,” that great teacher of the Gospel have ever come to such a place? The answer is that the true gospel, summed up by Bonhoeffer as costly grace, had been lost. On the one hand, the church had become marked by formalism. That meant going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone, so it doesn’t really matter how you live. Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace. On the other hand, there was legalism, or salvation by law and good works. Legalism meant that God loves you because you have pulled yourself together and are trying to live a good, disciplined life. Both of these impulses made it possible for Hitler to come to power…. Germany lost hold of the brilliant balance of the gospel that Luther so persistently expounded – “We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone.” That is, we are saved, not by anything we do, but by grace. Yet, if we have truly understood and believed the gospel, it will change what we do and how we live… Costly grace changes you from the inside out. Neither law not cheap grace can do that.”

Did you catch what Keller said about grace? That is the message of Paul to the young pastor in 1 Timothy 1, and it is our key principle…

Key Principle: We are saved by grace through faith alone, but true faith (real apprehension of what God says is true) never stands alone. Real faith works. Real faith changes us. Real faith in the heart can be seen in the hands and feet.

Today we need to think about what a “grace through faith” relationship with God is all about. God isn’t asking you to clean up your life to be worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice – because you can’t do that. At the same time, the bigger problem in our time seems to be the number of people that have somehow come to believe that God is up in Heaven simply forgiving everyone of everything, because they think that is “His job”. The Bible doesn’t agree at all. God LOVES you, and that is why He paid for your sin. At the same time, God LOVES you, and that is why He wants your relationship with Him to change your life.

The Context: Relationship

Before we can explore our relationship with God, we have to admit something. We came to Jesus, most of us, because of a relationship we had with someone on earth. Someone we loved and trusted led us to their Savior, and He became our Savior. That was true of Timothy, and the man that led him to Jesus was Paul the Apostle. Look at how Paul’s letter recalls their relationship warmly.

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, [who is] our hope, 2 To Timothy, [my] true child in [the] faith: Grace, mercy [and] peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Can you hear how the relationship is the basis of the instruction? Before we even attempt to look at the instructions that God tailored for this young and struggling leader of the faith, stop and consider the five relational truths revealed in the opening lines:

First, Paul was an ambassador of Jesus Christ – and that made his words carry authority and weight. This wasn’t an edict of strong opinion, but a letter with the full authority of the Lord of Heaven. That means the words weren’t merely the advice of a fellow traveler, but were the pressing commands of a representative of the Holy One. When a believer immerses himself or herself in the study of the Word, and can wisely bring that word to bear in a situation – they become an ambassador of God to a needy and hurting person.

Second, Paul held his commission by command of the Lord. He did not feel free to allow his relationships to determine his prescriptions. He didn’t soften truth out of some misconstrued idea of love. He listened to the Lord’s instruction and faithfully accepted the command of the Lord in his life to speak that truth. People need to be able to count on us to hold fast the standard of sound words without wavering, because we are called and commanded by God.

Third, Paul shared a living hope with Timothy – the promise of a great destiny. The troubles of the current days had to be placed in the context of the whole of eternity. The sufferings of the current time, even those that included Paul’s incarceration, were always to be considered with the delights of eternity just over the horizon. Believers need to be constantly re-focused to see beyond today’s troubles and see tomorrow’s promise of eternal life with a wonderful Savior!

Fourth, Paul buried his relationship toward Timothy deeply in his heart. Paul wasn’t just an instructor, a warrior and an ambassador – he was a lover of people. He cared deeply for Timothy. What hindered his ministry, what caused him pain and suffering, also affected his mentor. People need to know we truly love them if they are going to hear hard things from us about their behavior.

Fifth, Paul hungered for Timothy to have a full grasp of God’s favor, mercy and peace. Paul didn’t want to simply “graduate” Tim from a seminar or program – he wanted to see the young man grasp more than the technique of ministry. He longed for Tim to grab and hold tightly the garment of God. He wanted Tim to understand in the deepest part of him the real favor, blessing, mercy and comfort that only God’s personal touch can bring. A teacher may be happy if the students get a good grade – a mentor wants them to get a good life. They want to see their follower end up in the embrace of Jesus.

What a relationship! In the end, a deeply loving ambassador of Jesus who followed his Lord’s commands, looked with anticipation toward sharing a common exciting future and called on Tim to listen to the words that could change his life, if they were heeded! With an opening like that, I am certain Tim gave what followed his full attention!

The Two Grace Problem

As you read over the verses of the first chapter, you get the sense that Paul was trying to unknot a string that was wound together and causing him trouble in the church. Something wasn’t working correctly, and Paul knew that it emanated from a few people who thought they knew how to teach truth – but they were far off the mark. Some were teaching costly grace, and others were using the terminology to create a cheap “knock off” of license wrapped in God words. Take a closer look and it will become clearer. Paul told Tim five important things that made the difference:

First, hold the line:

Real men and women of God don’t want to fight – they are FORCED to defend the truth against attack – because that is what honors God and His Word. Paul mentioned it in 1:3, and then reiterated it in 1:18.

3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines…18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, [my] son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight,

To fight, Paul made clear to Tim that he had to remain in place. He told him not to run from the struggle! (1:3a). There was a time when that was obvious, but it is no more! My father spent his entire life on the same job, married to the same woman, living with the same family – that would be an exceptional accomplishment today. Staying power is lost in companies – on jobs – in marriages – in relationships. Now what has been true in the world has become true in the body of Christ. Pastors stay a very short time. Workers stay for only a short time. Commitments must be in smaller and smaller blocks. Ministry seems to be in a constant turmoil of change! We must be leaders that will stay put when things aren’t easy!

At a time when the enemy will plot for a generation, churches think in six week series terms. There has to be a better strategy than the next new seminar and the next publishing house push. The Bible has 1189 chapters, and few believers ever systematically study all of them. Something is wrong, and it ISN’T that God didn’t provide the information. Men and women of God MUST, not as a duty, but as a privilege and delight, bathe our minds in the Word of God.

Second, avoid the distractions:

Real men and women of God recognize fruitless discussion and simply steer people away from it. They judge the value of the time spent by whether it helps people manage their walk with God more in harmony with a Biblical point of view.

4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than [furthering] the administration of God which is by faith.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Stay away from the speculative nibbling at the edge of Scripture. Feed your mind on the Word, and not the windless fantasy that purports to teach its lessons. If what you are reading and listening to is not the Scripture, never refrain from dropping your guard! Be careful to continually set parameters on the teaching and ideas you consume. (1:3b-4). These are times with a lot of strange teaching. People who have little knowledge of God’s Word have confident opinions – like the loud old west “snake oil” salesman. They avoid the tough words of surrender to Christ, but enjoin you to enjoy more, and indulge more.

They could convince you the conviction symptoms you felt weren’t serious. The same is happening in the church today! Here is the truth! You can know if your heart is in trouble:

• When the things of God do not stir you
• When the glories of heaven do not interest you
• When the horrors of hell do not concern you
• When the peril of the lost doesn’t move you
• When the Word of God does not attract you
• When the idea of prayer does not draw you
• When the worship of God does not delight you
• When you do not see daily life as a way to perform the will of God… you are having a heart attack.

It is time to change direction. It is time to re-open to wholesome teaching and clarity building words. It is time to look seriously at the Word and grasp anew the SIMPLE PRIORITIES of what God said.

The sad fact is that when we stop making the Main thing the Main thing, any church is bound to wander into some form of legalism or mysticism that bypasses God’s real message – intimacy that leads to loving obedience.

For some reason Christians seem to be drawn in by:

Trendy but shallow teachings that are based on pop psychology and feel-goodism.

Flashy ministries that focus on constant signs and wonders … with lots of emotionalism, mysticism, and appeals for money-ism.

Harsh voices of forceful leaders with doctrines full of rules and regulations about how to dress and talk and even think … but the next step is to decide that EVERYONE has to subscribe to their particular slant. And if they don’t … well, they’re just plain WRONG. Worse yet, they are not “worthy.” Maybe they’re not even saved. And we certainly can’t fellowship with them until the others come around and see the light.

I once spoke in a church that taught that if your children weren’t home schooled you were living a compromised lifestyle and should seek the Lord as to whether you were saved or not.

Legalism takes a lot of different forms. But it always has these characteristics:

• Legalism takes what is accessible and makes it unreachable.
• It takes a blessing and makes it a burden.
• It takes what is simple and makes it too complex for the average guy to grasp!

I laugh at this example, but this story perfectly illustrates it:

One man wrote: “I saw a pamphlet recently about simple steps to better health. Chapter 1 said: DRINK MORE WATER. I was thinking, “Hey, how hard could THAT be?” Well, I found out how hard it could be… Then they offered a few rules for water drinking:

• Never drink Tap Water — the Chlorine will give you Cancer, the Fluoride will give you Arthritis, and the Aluminum will give you Alzheimer’s
• Never drink Bottled Water — the plastic bottle contaminates it, and bacteria grows when it sits around
• Don’t drink Filtered Water – it isn’t filtered enough and Distilled Water is filtered too much to carry in it what you need.
o The only water you SHOULD drink is water from an Alkaline Filter with a PH above 7. It must go through a second Electrolysis Filter, creating a rich, dense, hexagonal molecular structure. (You can install this filter for a mere $200, or buy it in Glass Bottles at your nearest Health Food Store.) You need to drink 2 gallons of this magic concoction every day — but only at room temperature, and NOT with your meals.

Well, reading all that made me so thirsty I went outside and guzzled water out of my garden hose – and boy did that taste perfect!”

Third, focus on the proper goals:

Real men and women of God get the point of the teaching of the Word. The goals are clear. We are seeking to produce people who live a life of unselfish actions with pure motives, moral clarity and an authentic Biblical world view.

5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith… 19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.

• If we don’t give opportunity to serve in the body of Christ and in the community, we will become unbalanced Christians – and these invariably become critical and opinionated slothful believers.

• If we don’t keep proper light on MOTIVATION, we can get a room of people who come her to find mates, gain customers or look for someone to dump their responsibilities upon.

• If we don’t emphasize moral clarity, we will get a room full of people who have a SUNDAY GOD that doesn’t affect their MONDAY CHOICES.

• If we hobby-horse on a favorite subject and don’t teach the whole Word of God – our world view will be a warped one that our little group all believes – in spite of the fact that it doesn’t reflect what God’s Word truly teaches.

Paul wanted Tim to recognize the goal of the true teaching of God’s church. Don’t skip it – learn it from 1 Timothy 1:5 – it will help you spot counterfeiters.

Ask the first question: Does the teaching cause me to live out unselfish actions from pure motives? We want deliberately to produce WORKING CHRISTIANS, not just theoretical theologians. The world has seen too many who can postulate and theologize, and too few who are making an impact.

In central Italy there stands a church at Assisi that is unlike any other I have ever been to. It is a church building WITHIN a church building. The small chapel that was entirely enclosed later within a larger church recalls what Francis of Assisi (born just before 1200) did to kick off what became a world wide movement of the Franciscans. He believed God told him to “rebuild His church” – so he sold his horse to get some supplies and picked up a stone and began rebuilding a wall. He decided that if the message of the Gospel meant anything to him, he should take an old and broken down chapel and rebuild it. He thought God saved him so that he should DO something… something for others.

The Gospel isn’t just about the salvation WE GET, it is about the changed life WE HAVE, and the loving acts WE DO because of the change HE MADE! In an effort to steer people away from a works salvation, we sometimes forget that the TRUTH IS SUPPOSED TO CHANGE OUR WORKS!

Ask a second question when you engage Bible instruction: Is the goal is to produce disciples that understand MORAL CLARITY in an age where wrong is increasingly called right? Proper instruction of God’s Word must unapologetically define moral boundaries by what the Bible teaches – not what the crowd wants God to teach.

A third question should also be applied: Is the goal of the instruction to produce believers with a Biblical world view? The term “sincere faith” means a straightforward look at what God says is true (1:5).

There was a world famous animal trainer who gave command performances with his wild beasts. He used lions, tigers, elephants, horses and other animals in his acts. One of his favorite was his pet boa constrictor. He had raised this creature from a little thing and used it for over 25 years. It grew to be 35 feet long. All this time he had fed it and cared for it on a daily basis. In this act he would have the snake wind itself around him and it was strong enough to crush his body but every time it would release him at the last moment which brought cheers from the crowd. It happened one day that this act was being performed when the snake all of sudden took on its true nature and started squeezing the trainer and did not let loose as the crowd saw this man die. He screamed but it was too late for help. This story tells us something of an evil nature may seem harmless at first but in the end cause death.

The Bible makes clear that you have an enemy, and God has not been unclear about how he works in your life:

• First, he baits a hook with a temptation to dangle before you. He knows what is appealing to you, so he uses whatever he can to best to capture your attention. His goal is to destroy any effect you will have with Jesus working through you.

• Second, he works the images and desires our undisciplined mind has allowed to rattle around inside us. He pits our flesh’s strength against the shadowy world of the spirit. He makes NOW more important than THEN. He make WANT more important than HAVE.

• Finally, we forget our blessed life. We forget our good God. All we can see is that we WANT. We jump up on the throne of our lives and begin to give instruction. What we fail to see in that moment is how much our voice sounds exactly like the tempter that coaxed us to the chair.

Without an eye on the proper goals – we will spend our energies on the WRONG ONES.

Fourth, we must learn to recognize the counterfeits:

Paul didn’t just outline true goals, he helped Timothy to identify traits of the fake, and recognize problems that come with wrong focus. Some people will call the fellowship into frivolous discussions (1:6) and act like they have authority, but be thoroughly confident incompetents (1:7). There have always been sincere teachers of the Word that didn’t know what they were talking about. The teaching of God’s Word is not merely teaching from God’s Word. It is the careful explanation and proper application in life of what the text says, not what we think punctuated by verses. Look at the way Paul identified the problem:

8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted…20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.

Take it apart, and what Paul said was this: The Word of God isn’t the problem – the application is what is tricky. If we use the Word to allow things that God has said are wrong, we aren’t using the Word properly at all.

Believers have to restore right thinking (1:8-10). We must understand that the law has PRINCIPLE value in our lives, even if we aren’t bound to keep those things written to others (1:8). The law helps us judge right from wrong and good from evil (1:9). Without the standard of the Word, “good” might be a flexible term defined by our preferences or polls. We are to think rightly in the area of a core message as well, and get back to the Gospel as the main thing we share (1:10f).

o If you want to press for a Bible that disrespects parents and trashes God’s view of the family – you don’t want the Bible God wrote.

o If you want a Bible that doesn’t care about the killing of babies in the womb – you don’t want the one God composed.

o If you want a Bible that doesn’t define the terms of marriage as one man and one woman – you don’t want the one the church has preached through the ages.

By the way, I am not hobby-horsing about gay marriage. If a large group of Americans starts preaching that God is OK with lying, I will equally climb on their back. Let’s get serious. The Bible doesn’t say what they want it to say – and that isn’t my problem.

I don’t want to sound unkind – but kindness in this debate has gotten us NOTHING BUT CONTINUALLY BACKING UP until our chaplains can’t even preach the truth of the Bible in a chapel service without peril. This has gone far enough. If they want to dismiss the Bible, that is one thing – but they need to stop swearing honesty on a Bible they are now trying to re-write in front of a Biblically illiterate generation’s eyes. It defines marriage and it defines proper sexual expression. It isn’t mistranslated. It isn’t unclear. It is just inconvenient if you don’t agree with what it says.

o If you want a Bible that doesn’t smack down the idea of kidnapping, lying and cheating – you need to print a different version than the one we have had our whole lives.

God isn’t waiting for Americans to vote or agree – He is awaiting Americans that wish to open their heart to the Creator’s words as He wrote them. His universe – His rules. All the other versions being touted are cheap knock offs of the truth. God knows what He thinks, and He didn’t make it so complicated to understand.

Fifth. we must truly recall the wonder of the Gospel:

The church cannot live for a moment without its chief message – the Gospel! Look at how Paul said it:

1:12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are [found] in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost [of all]. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, [be] honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

We have to realize how good God has been to us – and share it every day! (1:12-17). Paul never lost the wonder that God could and did redeem someone like him. He viewed himself as the supreme example of God’s saving grace. Paul knew that we are saved by God’s mercy, not our merit; by Christ’s dying not our doing; by trusting and not trying! We have been saved by Grace. The end of the passage offers is a picture of the pattern of grace – “Jesus put me into service” (1:12); the power of grace – “I was shown mercy” (1:13); the perfection of Grace – “more abundant” (1:14); the purpose of Grace – “to save sinners…I am the foremost!” (1:15-16); the praise from Grace – “be honor and glory!” (1:17).

The Bible records the conversions of the demoniac at Gadara, the despised tax collector and traitor to his people Matthew, blind Bartimaeus, an adulterous Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, the Roman centurion at the Crucifixion, Cornelius, the Ethiopian eunuch, the Philippian jailer, and Lydia, among others. But of all the conversions ever recorded none was more remarkable than that of Saul of Tarsus. This bitter enemy of the cause of Christ, in his own words the foremost of all sinners, became the greatest evangelist & theologian the world has ever seen. Acts 9, 22, 26, Galatians 1-2, Philippians 3, and 1 Timothy 1 all describe aspects of his conversion.

One night in a church service a young woman felt the tug of God at her heart. She responded to God’s call and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The young woman had a very rough past, involving alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. But, the change in her was evident. As time went on she became a faithful member of the church. She eventually became involved in the ministry, teaching young children. It was not very long until this faithful young woman had caught the eye and heart of the pastor’s son. The relationship grew and they began to make wedding plans. This is when the problems began. You see, about one half of the church did not think that a woman with a past such as hers was suitable for a pastor’s son. The church began to argue and fight about the matter. So they decided to have a meeting. As the people made their arguments and tensions increased, the meeting was getting completely out of hand. The young woman became very upset about all the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry the pastor’s son stood to speak. He could not bear the pain it was causing his wife to be. He began to speak and his statement was this: “My fiancee’s past is not what is on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of the Blood of Jesus to wash away sin. Today you have put the blood of Jesus on trial. So, does it wash away sin or not?” The whole church began to weep as they realized that they had been slandering the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are saved by grace through faith alone, but true faith (real apprehension of what God says is true) never stands alone. Real faith works. Real faith changes us. Real faith in the heart can be seen in the hands and feet.