Daniel 8 God of All Nations: Knowing the Future in Advance

Daniel 8
God of All Nations
Knowing the Future in Advance

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 8. As usual, if you do not own a bible or do not have a bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.
This morning we are looking at Daniels second vision as recorded in his book. This vision is going to be different from the first in that this is going to much more historical, more specific and have a more speck and given interpretation.
Because this is going to be more focused on what, for us, is contained in the past, and it may seem to have less practical application. But it was all taking place in the future for Daniel and so we will see two major points that we can take from today. These two points are two major points that we have been looking at over the past number of weeks. There is not anything new in these two points that we haven’t been seeing.
First, God knows the future. He reveals the future in many instances in the Bible, one of the reasons He reveals the future is to show that He is indeed God. And God knows the future because he determines the future. And that leads to our second point. God is in control of all Nations. This is why we have named this sermon series “God of All Nations.” God is not just the God of Israel. He is not the God of only those who believe in Him. He is the God of everyone, everything and every nation. He is behind the rise and the fall of all nations. He orchestrates the rise and fall of all nations until, His Kingdom will be the only Kingdom left and will reign forever.
But back to the first point for a moment. God often in the scriptures “predicts” or prophecies the future, or he unveils specific details of the future that will come to pass in history hundreds or sometimes thousands of years in the advance.
He does this with the Israelite Exile that Daniel is in the midst of here in the book of Daniel. He does this with the birth of Christ. He does this with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And what we will see this morning, he does it with the Greek empire and Alexander the great and another ruler, a type, or foreshadowing of the antichrist.
This vision is going to take a look at this morning in chapter 8 will fill in some of the gaps that were left in the 2 and 3 kingdoms of last chapters vision.

So, let’s go ahead and read the first part of Daniel chapter 8, we will look at the vison first, verses 1-14. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 8:1-14, Daniel records:

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some[a] of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression,[b] and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me,[c] “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and inspired Word.

So, we are moving around in time again, as we pick up 2 years after the vision in chapter 7, before the events of chapter 5 take place. Remember that unless it is specified otherwise, rarely do the events of the Bible take place chronologically. We can get ourselves into trouble when we read through certain sections and try to take them chronologically. The other keynote is that Chapter 8, starting with this vision, is where Daniel switches back to Hebrew from Aramaic. There are some ideas as to why, though no consensus, but on surface level investigation, it seems to have to do with whether Daniel is addressing Israel or the nations as a whole.

Now, onto to the vision itself. Daniel saw himself, not aside some general sea, as he did before, but in a very specific location. This helps show that the vision is not in general about the future, but about specific events to come.
Daniel saw two animals. The first was a ram with two horns, the second horn being bigger than the other. This, we will find out, represents the Meado-Persian empire that was conquered Babylon and that Daniel was serving at the end of the historical section of the book. This was the empire symbolized by the bear in the vision in chapter 7.
One of the things we see with the two horns is that the horn that came second was bigger and stronger. Historically, this is quite accurate for the Meads and the Persians. The Persians came along second but were much bigger and much stronger than the other part of the alliance. This is also possibly alluded to in the bear where it says that he was raised up on one side.
The Meads and the Persians would come from the east and they would be all powerful. None, not even the all-powerful Babylon could end up standing against the powerful Ram with two horns.
Then, we see a goat coming from the west. He is not touching the ground, a reference to his great speed and striking power. Out of the goat was a great horn, representing a great leader. And they demolished the Ram with two horns.
In reality, this big horn would become Alexander the Great, whom he mentioned briefly last week. He became exceedingly great and he conquered the know world at the time. He only ruled for 10 years, dying young. And it only took him 4 years to crush the great and mighty Persian empire. But His empire did not last long. The Great horn was broken, to be replaced by four little horns. Out of one of those 4 horns, a little horn grew that is what much of our focus will be on this morning.
This horn, out of the four horns that had come up would be an evil and powerful, a cunning and ungodly ruler. He would wag ware on God and terrorize the Jews. WE will get into more specifics in a little bit, but he would deface and make unclean the Temple and he would put an end to the sacrifices for 2300 days.
Now, there is a lot of unknows about this number, including whether its literal or symbolic. There are no exact matchups in terms of time frames and dates matching, that we know of. Iain Duguid suggests that is a significant but limited period of suffering. I concluded that it is either symbolic or God has not revealed to us the exact fulfillment.
We see in verse 12 that it will be because of transgression that this ruler will be able to do the things that he does. Some see this as the ruler himself is transgressing by doing what he is doing. More likely this is the transgressions of Gods people that cause him to raise up this ruler and allow him to do his evil, for a time.
So, a lot of what we see here, a lot of the details that Daniel sees we will touch on after we read the next section, the interpretation of this vision, verses 15-27. Daniel continues:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat[d] is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his[e] nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

All right, so we see again that Daniel doesn’t understand what he just saw! Now, yes, he understands some of it, and he will understand the big points. But this should be a big neon sign reminder that most often, WE WON’T UNDERSTAND PROPHECY AHEAD OF TIME! Please, let’s all remember that.

But the arch angel Gabriel comes along. Gabriel, who is only named here in Daniel and in Luke chapter 1, is going to interpret this vison for Daniel.
First, when is this vision for? Verse 17 tells us this is for the time of the end. This means the end of a time. This does not mean the end of time or the “end times.” This is the end of the time that is prophesied about in this chapter.
The Bible has a lot to say about the end times and the end of time. But just because it says a lot about that doesn’t mean that we should think that everything is about then. What happens is that Christians often end up looking like kids on a long car ride, continually asking God, “Are we there yet?” We will get there, there is no question about that, but we are not there yet, and only God knows when we will be.
This vision is not looking a few thousand years into the future. It is looking a few hundred years into the future. This vision is looking to the end of the Greek empire and the reign of Antiochus IV and there should be no less amazement at that just because the timing is different.
Gabriel identifies the ram with two horns as the Meads and Persians as we already looked at a few moments ago. Then he identifies the Goat as Greece. It has the great horn, which breaks. Then four horns grow out of it. Four kingdoms come out of the Greek kingdom.
The Greek kingdom is divided between 4 of Alexanders generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. It is out of the Seleucid line that this other little horn will grow. None of these will be as powerful as the first, as Alexanders rule.
But at the end of the time of the Greek empire a King arises who would become a type, a foreshadowing of the antichrist. Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. His power and his authority would not be his own we see in scripture.
Sam Storms comments on this, saying, “is an allusion either to God’s providential role in putting him in place or a reference to Satan’s energizing presence in his oppressive rule.”
It could also be both. Either way, he gets a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going throughout history. Satan was using this ruler to wage war on the people of God, and through them God himself. God ultimately is on control of all these things and allowed it to happen for a season and for a purpose.
The Jewish people have faced a lot of persecution over the years. When the persecution under Antiochus took place, it was by far the worst they had seen yet. I mentioned earlier that he ended the sacrifices in the temple for 2300 days. HE replaced the high priest with one of his own and then later had the real one assassinated. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.
In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.
He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.
More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings. At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through Gods grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

As Gabriel finished up the interpretation of the vision, he told Daniel to seal it up, for it refers to many days from now. Duguid points out that to sela up is not to keep it a secret, but instead Daniel is to keep it safe during turbulent and troublesome times.
And this vision does take place many days from then. The time that Daniel received this vision was somewhere in the 550 BC range. Alexander the Great reigned and conquered from 333-323 BC. Antiochus IV ruled from roughly 171 BC till his death in 163.
Daniel obviously would not live to see the fulfillment of these visions and prophecies. Daniel, as we all are, are in time. We are a part of time. We go along in our lives in a chronological time flow and we can’t do anything in regard to that. God however is outside of time.
He created time. He is in the future, he is with us here today and he is with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and everywhere and every time in between, all at the same time. Time is more like a movie film, the actual film itself, spread out in front of him where he can see all the scenes all at once. So, these prophecies and visions where he “predicts” events hundreds and thousands of years in advance should not surprise us. It isn’t surprising him after all.

In the last verse if the chapter, we see that Daniel was sick over what he saw in these visions and that he didn’t fully understand it. Remember this is the guy who understood and interpreted two dreams by Nebuchadnezzar and the Handwriting on the wall (though that event would not have happened yet when Daniel got this vision). My point is that if anyone would understand this vision, we would expect Daniel to. Again, we are not going to understand all of or even much of the prophecies that we are looking at in Gods Word.

But Daniel wasn’t going to harp on and get down on himself based on what he saw. He had work to do. He had his life to live. He had to get up and continue on about the Kings business. I love the dual meaning here. First, Daniel was working in service of the King of Babylon, who was Belshazzar. That was his job and he had served three kings up till this point with at least one more to come. But this also alludes to out going about Gods business. He is our King and we serve him above all and any others.
God has put us here and now for a reason. For such a time as this, as Esther is told. One commentator says that to go about the business of our king is to “serve the culture with all the Ability that God gave us.”
And this is my big takeaway from Daniel chapter 8. We learn and we read, and we see these things going on around us and going to happen in the future and much of it is terrible and terrifying. And the end result will be glorious and will be worth it all. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And those are super important things because they will help answer the big question. What does that mean for us here and today?

Sinclair Ferguson says this: Daniels attitude illustrates an important biblical principle: In view of what the future holds, we must live holy lives now. He caught a glimpse of realities that would take place centuries later. These events were shadows of the last conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world.
He continues: How then shall we live? Passage after passage gives the same answer: Do the Kings business, walk in obedience, live in holiness, purify yourselves as He is pure.

God has called us for here and now and he has promised that he is coming, and he has won. But he has warned us that our focus should be on Him and today.
The other question I ask as I read this chapter is What was the purpose and reason for God sharing this vision he had given to Daniel?
Sone, I believe is to show the true nature of good vs evil. We see this vision, including some of the behind the scenes parts so that we would take spiritual warfare seriously. We remember that Paul writes that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but powers and principalities. Sinclair Ferguson says that this vision gives insight to the nature and causes of the conflict. We see the true nature of evil and how far it will go to try to win. As one theologian says, evil Finds attractive what is offensive to God precisely because it is offensive to God.
The other thing I think we see here is the consistent pattern of opposition that comes against the work of God. We see Antiochus trying to eliminate the sacrifices made to God. And he did for a stretch. We see that Satan was doing everything he could to eliminate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We see the desecration of the Temple of God by Antiochus. Today, we look around and what do we see, desecration of the temple in every sense of the word. Our bodies, giving in to every lust, ever temptation, every desire. Houses of God slandering the character of God, dismissing his word, deceiving and preaching as true what is false and evil. And Jesus Christ himself, dismissed as a fairy tale, as a good moral teacher instead of God, instead of the Messiah and the savior that he is.
We see lastly, the weakness of even the greatest and strongest of men. None can do anything, none can rule anything, none can live, without God. We have seen throughout this book that Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius all ruled their kingdoms because God allowed them too and set them up to rule. We see today the rule and reign of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes are allowed, determined and set up by God, well ahead of time.
This isn’t just our physical lives either. Spiritually we are born dead into sin. Spiritually we are born dead and will remain dead unless and until God intervenes. And our God is a good and loving God who of course knew this ahead of time and God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit put into effect their rescue plan. The Messiah coming and redeeming us. Saving us by Gods grace, from the wrath of God. His blood shed, the penalty of sin, paid. Death defeated. We are then saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
And that salvation is what allows us to live the life that God has called us to live as we wait on the coming of Christ. We focus on and find our fulfillment, not in waiting, but in doing what God has called us to do, serve him and his kingdom. To use our gifts for his glory and the glory if the kingdom. To love our neighbors as our selves and to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Todd Friel has a Christian radio program called Wretched Radio and I’m going to steal his sign off call this morning before praying. Every day at the end of his show, without fail, you hear him say, Now, Go Serve Your King!
Let’s Pray

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Ambassadors for Christ

 

 

 

          Good Morning everybody! If you would, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We are just going to take a few minutes today to look at some scripture. This is intended to be more of a short devotion or maybe a sermonette, than a full sermon.

What I want to do is show you one of things that I’ve seen over the past 2 plus months. I have seen a lot of Christians fighting and tearing each other apart over what’s right, over what’s wrong, and over how they think we should respond and react to the wrongs going on in the world around us.

And my point is not going to be that one way is clearly right or that one way is clearly wrong. I’m not here to say that one method or one decision or one reaction is clearly right or clearly wrong. I think there is a lot of leeway for Christian Liberty here.

But with the passage I’m going to share this morning, what we will see is that in all times, in all circumstances, in all situations, that we are to model Christlikeness to all people.

Its easy to forget that, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard than this world adheres to. Actually, kind of the point is that we are all held to the standard, but we acknowledge the eternal truth and reality of that standards, whereas no Christians do not recognize the authority of God to set that standard.

We are not held to the standard of the world. We are not held to the standard of society and culture. We are not held to the standard of America and the Constitution even. We are held to higher standards than that. We are held to harder standards. WE are called to die to our selves daily. We are called to bear our cross.

We are called not to respond to people and groups in the same way that they talk to us, how they act to us, or how they treat us. We are called to the standard of Christs righteousness.

This is a foreign concept to much of the world. This is a concept born of the flesh. The prevailing instinct is to treat others how they treat you, or worse, and often, before they get a chance to.

 

 

Every single life, every single human being is born in the image and likeness of Christ. This goes for Americans and non-Americans. This goes for Democrats and Republicans. This goes for Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. This goes for liberals and conservatives. This goes for black, white, brown, red, yellow, purple, green, polka dot and chartreuse.

Every single human life on earth is created in Gods image and likeness. This is the entire basis and the entire and full foundation of our pro-life position. If we do not believe this, we have no right to say anything is regards to the whole sale slaughter of millions of unborn babies.

Now, born in the image and likeness does not equal a child of God. It does not mean that all are saved. That is reserved for those who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

But we are not called to only be nice and to only treat well other Christians. We are called to treat every single human being in this world with the same dignity and respect that we want others to treat us with and the Bible does not give us any exceptions. We are to remember that our battle, our war is not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm, against powers and principalities.

That brings us to our text this morning. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 16-21. In this passage, Paul writes:

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

 

So, we start with Paul showing us that our duty is t treat others around us with Christs Spiritual standards, as opposed to the worlds physical, fleshly standards. We used to live, believe in and act according to those standards. We are born into those actions and beliefs.

But God… Remember, what I considered one of the greatest truths of the Bible. But God, through his grace alone, delivered through our faith alone in his Son Jesus Christ alone changes us. It brings us out from death to life. It changes us from the inside out. It changes our heart. It changes our identity and it changes our nature.

We are then New Creations. We are now reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ. Once we are reconciled to him, we are new creations, the old identity is gone, though habits, temptations and actions will remain.

Charles Spurgeon, in one of his devotions says: In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active and loses no opportunity of employing all the weapons in its deadly arsenal against newborn grace: while on the other hand, the new nature is always on the lookout to resist and destroy its enemy.

 

          When we are new creations in Christ, the change in us should be clear and noticeable. And when that happens, we have one single job to do. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ, Ambassadors on the behalf of the Kingdom of God.

We speak and share the official position and official view of the kingdom of Heaven. Now what we want the official view to be. Not what we think it might be or should be. But we are a conduit. We are to funnel the Word of God to the people who need to hear it.

We present and announce what our King has already decreed. We do not make laws. We do not determine official positions. We share Christ and he crucified. We Preach the Word and We Love the People. We fulfill the Great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the Christ has commanded.

Jesus Christ is our King. He is reigning today, here and now. He is not waiting to reign. He reigns now and forever. There is no waiting for tomorrow. Christ is King. And he will be our savior if, by Gods grace we put our faith in his son.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,

Jesus says, repent and believe in the gospel.”

So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

These are the Words of Christ, written down in the Bible you hold in your hand, that is accessible to so many, so many more than ever in history. He is our King; He is our savior. We literally owe our eternal life to him. He does this free and clear, nothing we can do to earn it or to influence it or to cause it or to bring it to bear.

Jesus does, however, tell us, after we are saved, we have certain responsibilities. Top of that list and I think summing up all the others is that we are to be Ambassadors of Christ and all that this means. I encourage you to reflect on this. To think about what it means to be an Ambassador.

How are we supposed to act? IS it how we have always been taught? Or is it more complex and nuanced. How influenced are we by our family, our society, our culture, our nation, our history, our morality, our nation? Or are we influenced by the Bible, the written and inerrant and inspired and sufficient word of our King, of God himself, creator of Heaven and Earth, creator of the universe and the ultimate authority of all that is?

 

 

Now, Speaking of Jesus as our King, He was more than that as well. He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis and no matter when our first week back was going to be, we were going to celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 1:1-21 God of all Nations: Daniels Character Established

Daniel 1:1-21

God of all Nations

Daniels Character Established

 

          Good Morning. Please go ahead and grab your Bibles with me and turn to the book of Daniel. Daniel, despite being a largely historical book, because of the prophecies in the second half of the book, is placed as the last of the Major prophets in our Bible.

Last week, we look briefly at the first few verses and generally looked at the background and introduction of the Book of Daniel. This week we will look at the whole of the first chapter and we will see the character of Daniel established. This is really the foundation for the rest of the book, and an introduction to Daniel and his friends, as well as an example of his dealings, interactions, and work that they would have with Babylon.

One of the things we will see clearly in this chapter, as well as, I think the main theme of this entire book, is Gods sovereignty over anything, anyone, and everything. God is in control. Everything that happens, happens because God allows it and decrees it. And we see that starting right at the very beginning of chapter 1.

This morning we are going to read and look at Daniel chapter 1. That is a bit of materiel to cover, and so there will be a lot of scripture being read. I am going to attempt to do this throughout the book. I have found that many of the Old Testament books are best broken down into those chapter segments. The New Testament can be broken down into smaller chunks and some of the Old Testament can as well, but especially with Old Testament books with historical narratives, I find it keeps its context best and keeps the flow best by breaking it down by chapter.

So, Daniel chapter 1, verses 1 through 21. I will be reading out of the ESV, and I greatly encourage you to read along at home in the translation of your preference. Daniel writes, according to the Holy Spirit:

 

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.  And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.

They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.  Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

 

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.

So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.  At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.

And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

 

 

May God bless the reading of his holy and inspired word.

 

So, as I was saying, we see right from the beginning, that God gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, over to Nebuchadnezzar. This is why we have titled this series, “God of all Nations.” God raised up Babylon, made them a world power, brought them into a fight with Judah and handed Judah over to them. We looked last week at the reasons why, about Israel and Judah and their constant apostasy, or turning away from God, that God prophesied that he would turn them over to other nations as punishment and as judgment. And for Judah, the southern Kingdom, that time was now.

God handed them over to Babylon. They were told this was coming, all the way from Moses, through to the prophets, including but not limited to Jeremiah and Habakkuk. God not only knew ahead of time, he orchestrated it all ahead of time.

Nebuchadnezzar not only besieged Jerusalem and defeated Judah, but we took many treasures and vessels from the house of God, artifacts from the temple. This will come into play in a few chapters especially.

And just like the vessels and treasures of the house of God were carried away from Jerusalem, so too were vessels and treasures of God himself. Gods people were captured and carried away and brought out of their homeland of Judah to be exiled into a foreign and hostile land in Babylon. And not just to any foreign and hostile land, but to the land of Shinar. This was the place of the tower of Babel. Stephan Miller, in his commentary on Daniel, says that Shinar is “a symbol of rebellion against God.” And so, it is apt that Nebuchadnezzar brings the vessels and treasures of God including the vessels of God, his people, and takes them to the place of his gods, the physical location that most represents in that day, rebellion against God.

And again, we see that God is in control of all of this, as he is in control over everything. Not just the big picture stuff, like this is what the outcome will be, but everything that happens is under Gods complete control. Jesus tells us about the sparrows in Matthew 10, that if even a tiny sparrow falling to the ground is not out of his control.

We even see in the scriptures that the death of Jesus Christ was permitted, determined, and orchestrated by God far ahead of time. The reason that death exists in this world is because of sin. Adam and Eve brought it into this world in Genesis 3. Paul tells us the wages of sin is death. That means that our sin makes us deserve of death. Death is the penalty or the payment of sin. And we all sin, we are all guilty of sin the moment we become alive. That is our fallen sin nature.

Jesus, being himself God, God the Son, never had that sin nature. He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, all One and all God, the trinity. They, before time began, figure out this plan to rescue and save those who would become his children.

Jesus was God, came down from Heaven, was born a man, lived a perfect and sinless life, therefore, having no need to die, no penalty to pay. His death on the cross was unmerited and therefore was big enough to cover our sins and he died in our place. By the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to Him and the penalty for our sins are paid. Jesus then was risen from the dead, by god the Father. In order to defeat death so that we may have eternal life with Him. All of this was planned, orchestrated, and fulfilled because God said so. Because he willed it. Because he is sovereign overall, even life and death.

 

 

And so, the defeat of Jerusalem and the exile of many of the Israelites who were in Jerusalem and the placement of Daniel and his friends, all was orchestrated and planned out by God.

And Nebuchadnezzer wanted the cream of the crop from Jerusalem. He wanted to incorporate those he was bringing back from Judah to Babylon into the culture. He wanted to win them over as opposed to having to keep them all under guard or under lock and key. One of the ways to do that is to get the young generation and make them committed to you. Look around us today. If you win those who have influence, you will win those whom they influence. So, he called for young men, cream of the crop, from royal and noble blood. They were to be good looking, in good shape, they were wanted to be to be a good face for the regime. They were to be smart and wise, “to be competent to stand in the Kings palace.”

And as part of their re-education, they were to spend three years learning the ways, the language, the wisdom and the writings of the Chaldeans, the Chaldeans being the controlling culture within the Babylonian empire. This is what Iain DeGuid calls in his commentary, “Spiritual reprogramming.” We are not going to spend too much time on this because we spent some time on it last week as well, but this is what the world around us is trying to do.

All religions are good and valid. None are THE one. Even redefining Christianity to the point that Christ is not God, or the Bible is not the Word of God or Christ comes below our nation or political affiliation. That is exactly what Babylon was doing. Sure, Christ is fine, as long as He comes below Nebuchadnezzar. That’s what Rome did. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD.

Remember I quoted a number of weeks ago, Voddie Baucham. He said, “There is an easy way to avoid persecution. All you have to do is compromise.” And that’s what we constantly see the world around us, the cultures throughout history, including America and both sides of the current political climate are trying to do to us.

Yes, Yes, believe in Jesus, but make sure that you put America first. Make sure that you put these social issues first. Make sure that you vote for us first.

 

Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah. These are all names that have an el or a yah sound in them, showing that they are names that give credit and tribute to God. The true, God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Yahweh and Elohim.

In Babylon, their names were changed to names that gave credit and tribute to the Babylonian god, Marduk. Their new Babylonian names were Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego.

 

One of the things that we see through the book of Daniel is that he was willing to serve the King and to work for the good of the Babylonian Kingdom. He was not willing to go against his strong foundation of his faith in the true God. Part of that is that, though they answered to and responded to their new, Babylonian names, they did not fully embrace them. They still went by and answered to their Hebrew names as well.

Second, we have the words of the prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah 29:4-7 says:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.

Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

 

And that’s what Daniel and his friends would do. They worked for the good of their new community. We know that Paul tells us that all that we do, do it to the glory of God. Seemingly, Daniel knew that God was orchestrating all that was happening to he and his friends. So, he knew that God had placed him right there in the Kings court. He was going to bring God credit and glory by do what he was called to do to the best of his God given abilities.

And yet we see in verse 8, that he would not allow himself to be defiled by eating the king’s food and drinking the kings wine. Now, the Bible does not tell us how he would have been defiled or why that was the line that he would not cross. Of all the theories I have read, the one that makes the most sense to me specifically, is the fact that the king’s food would have gone against the Jewish dietary laws that were laid out in Leviticus. However, again I must say that all speculation into why that is exactly, speculation.

Miller, in his commentary makes the point: It would have been completely natural to argue that since God had not protected them from captivity- this horrible situation- they did not have to be careful to obey his commands. They could have become bitter toward God during this time. Sometimes believers fall into this trap. All these factors could have caused some people to compromise, but Daniel and his friends remained faithful to their God.

 

Daniel was not going to allow himself to be defiled. But notice how we acted. He did not fight. He did not protest. He did not do whatever he wanted, and the King and his servants would just have to deal with it. This wasn’t a hunger strike, and this certainly is not a recipe for a godly diet today, no mater how many books that would sell. I was reminded this week of a quote by Oswald Chambers, when he says, the only right a Christian has is the right to give up his rights.

Daniel did not appeal to his rights, Daniel simply asked. The man that was in charge of him and his friends, was in charge of feeding and providing for these young men. God worked on Daniels behalf and gave him favor in the head Eunuchs eyes. This guy did not want to stick his neck out. The King wanted Daniel and his friends to be in their tip physical shape. If they weren’t, it could cost the chief eunuch his head. He liked Daniel, but not enough to die for him.

Scientifically and nutritionally, Daniels diet was terrible. IF you compare it to someone eating a full complete diet, vs eating vegetables and drinking water, you see no protein, no fat, no calories, etc. One of them would be in much better physical shape.

That’s why the king didn’t want to agree to this. But Daniel offered a 10-day free trial. Let him and his friends try it for 10 days and if it doesn’t work out, they would rescind their request and the king would not hear another word about it.

Again, the point is not that Daniels diet was better, or even good. The point of it is that God took care of Daniel. He rewarded Daniels faithfulness and his hunger for righteousness. God caused Daniels diet to make him big and strong and then he was brought before the King. And we see in verse 19:

And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 

Again, using their Hebrew names at this juncture.

 

We see again, in verse 17, the phrase, “God gave…” God gave these four youths knowledge and wisdom and understanding and all the things, the skills and the talents they needed to stand before the king and serve him. They impressed the king and they were 10 times better than all the other of the king’s magicians and enchanters. In a bit of foreshadowing, though not too far into the future, we also see that Daniel was given by God the ability to interpret dreams.

 

 

Now, the moral of the stories of Daniel and especially of this first chapter of Daniel is not, repeat, not Be like Daniel. The moral of this story of Daniel and this first chapter especially is Gods sovereignty and his faithfulness.

I am going to finish us off with an excerpt from Iain DeGuid’s commentary on this first chapter of Daniel. He writes:

 

There is one final note that we must not miss in all of this. The reality for most of us is that when we look at our own lives, we find that we are not like Daniel and his three friends. We are far more like the nameless multitude who were deported along with Daniel, who adopted foreign names, ate the king’s food, and all together became like the Babylonians. In many respects, we are assimilated to the world system in which we live, and our futures are mortgaged to it. So, if the message of this book is simply, “Be like Daniel and all will be well,” then we might as well stop reading now. The more we get to know Daniel, the more we come to realize that we are not Daniel.

The Good News of the Gospel, however, is not simply that God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. It is that a savior has come to deliver faithless and compromised saints like us. Our salvation rests not on our ability to remain undefiled by the world, but rather on the pure and undefiled that Jesus has provided in our place. Jesus Christ came voluntarily into this world, with all of its pains and trials. He suffered far great temptations and sufferings than Daniel did, or than he ever will (Heb 4:15). Yet he remained entirely faithful and pure until the very end, without spot or blemish, and grants the perfection of his obedience to all who trust in him by faith (1 Peter 1:19). What is more, Jesus has already returned from his time of exile ad now sits at his Father’s right hand in Heaven. He has prepared our places there, and his presence there already is our guarantee that one day we will be with him there as his people. The cross is the means by which Gods faithfulness redeems the unfaithful; the resurrection and ascension are the surety of our inheritance in heaven.

Remind yourself often of this Gospel. Fix your eyes on Jesus Christ crucified, raised, and exalted. He has not only pioneered the route home; He is the route home. Trust in him and ask him to work in you a true faithfulness. Ask him to put you in places where you can be a blessing to your community. Be a breath of heavenly wisdom in your home, your school, your workplace. Be constantly dependent on his sanctifying work, looking to him to keep you faithful, not your best efforts to “Be a Daniel.” Finally, long for the day when his heavenly kingdom will invade this earth and bring the fullness of your inheritance.

 

Let us Pray

2 Timothy 4:6-8 Life in the Local Church: Faithfulness is more important than success

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Life in the Local Church

Paul looks at His death

 

                Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 2 Timothy, chapter 4. Today, we are almost finished with our series through 1 & 2 Timothy. So, with all that is going on around us today, with the spread of Covid-19, with it creeping closer and closer to us here at Bangor Community Church, we are not currently meeting physically together on Sunday morning right now. I figured I would provide, write and record a couple of devotionals for you all. However, as we got closer to Sunday morning, Butte County received its first confirmed case and Yuba county received two confirmed cases and it looks like this “shelter-in-place” will continue further than we originally anticipated. So, it just makes sense to continue our teachings until we know what is going to happen. Ultimately, as I will say later on in this sermon, our job is to be faithful, trusting God to take care of what’s going on around us.

So, 2 timothy, chapter 4. The Apostle Paul finishes his letter to Timothy as his life and his ministry are winding down. Paul has come to the end of his life. He has fulfilled his ministry as he just finished encouraging Timothy to do. He has written much to Timothy; encouraging him, exhorting him, challenging him. He has been showing Timothy to follow the example that Paul ahs laid down, the foundation that Paul ahs built, Preaching the Word, sharing the Truth, no matter the circumstances, sharing our hope in and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Paul is imprisoned in Rome, scheduled to appear before Caesar Nero and correctly expects to lose his life afterwards. And so, here Paul begins closing his letter to Timothy, the last letter that he would write, the last letter we have record of.

So, this morning we are going to read 2 Timothy, Chapter 4, verses 6-8. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Paul, in the last words of his we have record of, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing Holy Scripture, tells Timothy:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

 

May God Bless the reading of His Holy, inspired and sufficient Word.

 

 

Paul tells Timothy, more clearly than he has up to this point, that he is coming to the end of his life. He is being poured out as a drink offering. A drink offering is a metaphor for death. And this is not the first time that Paul has used this metaphor. Over in Philippians 2, verses 17&18, Paul writes:

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

 

But there is also more to it than just death. It is purposefully in the language of sacrifice or offerings. It makes me think back to where Paul writes in Romans chapter 12, verse 1 that our bodies are to be presented to God as living sacrifices.

Paul knows that his life belongs to Christ. He has been purposeful in making sure that he lives up to that responsibility. He knows he is coming to the end, and he is not afraid. He knows where he is going. And he was looking forward to being with Christ.

When he wrote to the Philippians, he addresses this. Chapter 1, verses 19-24:

for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

 

                Paul knew then that he wasn’t going to die. He knew that Christ still had more for him to do, more Gospel for him to preach. More Christ for him to share. Now, he knows different.

He changes from present tense to past tense going from verse 6 to verse 7. He will change again from past tense to future tense when he goes to verse 8. Here in verse 7 though, he knows that he has indeed fulfilled his ministry. He knows that his life is coming to an end. And Paul knows that once God was done with Paul’s mission here  in this world, He would bring him to the next. As he recounts in Acts 20:24, But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

And Paul gives us 3 metaphors that show that he has been faithful up until the very end. He has fought the Good Fight. He has finished the race. He has kept the faith. How we live is important. It shows the fruit of our faith and can, along with theWord of God that we share, be an important part of witnessing to non-believers.

But even more than that, how we finish, how we continue through up until the end can be an even more credible testimony. One of the things that scripture is clear on is that Our faithfulness is greater than success. Being faithful is more important than being successful. Our success is out of our hands. We have no control over that. But our faithfulness, that is completely in our hands.

Now, the Bible teaches a natural tension, where man’s responsibility and Gods sovereignty co-exist right next to each other, with Gods sovereignty being above all things. God is clear than once we are saved, once the Holy Spirit has changed our heart, once that has occurred, we will be faithful in the end. God will keep us faithful. This teaching is called the Perseverance of the Saints.

I take this from the Reformation Study bible, by Ligonier Ministries to describe this doctrine:

In declaring the eternal security of God’s people, it is perhaps clearer to speak of their preservation than, as is usually done, of their perseverance. Perseverance means continued adherence to a belief despite discouragement and opposition. The reason that believers persevere in faith and obedience, however, is not the strength of their own commitment, but that Jesus Christ thought the Holy Spirit preserves them….

 

 

The regenerate are saved through persevering in faith and Christian living to the end (Heb 3:6, 6:11, 10:35-39) as God preserves them.

This doctrine does not mean that all who ever professed to be Christians will be saved. Those who try to live a Christian life in their own abilities will fall away (Matt 13:20-22). The False Profession of many who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” will not be acknowledged. (Matt 7:21-23)

The regenerate may backslide and fall into in sin. In doing so, they oppose their own new nature and the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin and compels them to repent and be restored to righteousness.  

 

 

But the Bible also teaches that we are responsible for our actions. It teaches that a life without repentance, a life without change, a life without fruit is life that has no evidence of salvation. We are responsible for our actions. And after he are saved, we are to follow his commands. In fact, we will have a desire to follow and obey the command of God. Without that desire there is no salvation.

Both of these sides of the coin are actually on congruence with each other. They are not at odds with each other. In fact, they work together to ultimately do the most important thing, bring Glory to God.

Our faithfulness is more important than our success. This should ease the burden that we often put on ourselves. We think that success, bringing people to Christ, growing the church, stopping the spread of a virus, we put the burden on ourselves that its all up to us to do. Ultimately, its in Gods hands instead. We sow the seed; he brings the increase. Acts 2:47, the LORD added to their number day by day those who were being saved.  God is in control over everything, especially the outcome of all things. Our job is to be faithful.

 

 

As I said, Paul then turns to the future in verse 8, looking at what is going to happen as he enters into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

 

There is much debate over what this Crown of Righteousness actually is. Could they be some sort of literal, physical crown? Maybe, many people think so. Could they be a metaphor, such as for perfect righteousness? Perfect righteousness that is not actually ours, but is His that is given to us to begin with? Nobody actually knows, though I heavily lean towards the latter.

Paul is saying, however, that this is given by the LORD at judgment day. A perfect righteousness, given by THE righteous judge.  It is given to all who are declared righteous or justified. Meaning it is given to all who have, by the grace of God alone, faith alone in Christ alone, reveal through the scriptures alone, and of course, all things done to the Glory of God alone.

Ultimately, what the crown is, we lay it down at the feet of Jesus. I think if the encouragement that this is to the New Testament church. Both Peter and James also mention a crown in their letters. Look first at 1 Peter 5:4, he writes:

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

                And James writes in chapter 1, verse 12:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

 

This crown, I believe is symbolic of the gift of Christs righteousness and eternal life. It is the gift that God gave us at our moment of salvation. And once that happens, our life belongs to Jesus. Completely, fully and eternally. With our life belonging to Him, we give him all of our selves. We are not partial Christians. Our lives don’t belong to him, sometimes. But we take our lives and lay them down on his behalf. All that we do, we do for and because of him. All that we do, we do simply and solely for his glory.

Paul knows that he is about to see the Glory of God. He knows that he is about to receive that crown of life, that unfading crown of glory. And he knows that though they are given to him by Christ, they do not belong to him, but to Christ. If Christ has given you eternal life and perfect righteousness, though they were given to you, they do not belong to you, but to Christ.

I mentioned it earlier, but I want to leave you with Romans 12:1 & 2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

 

 

2 Timothy 2:8-13 Life in the Local Church: The Same Glorious Gospel

2 Timothy 2:8-13

Life in the Local Church

The Same Glorious Gospel

 

                Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 2. We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we are calling “Life in the Local Church.” I anticipate that this series will take us up through Easter and then we start a sermon series through another book of the Bible, presumably from the Old Testament. As we open to 2 Timothy, if you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

As we start looking at this week’s passage, it will be extra important to look at some of the things that Paul has written earlier in this letter. I think specifically to the last thing he said in the passage we looked at last week. Timothy 2:7 he wrote to Timothy, think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

                This is not only talking about what Paul had just written, but the entirety of his letter, and the previous letters as well. Specifically, I want \us to remember what he wrote in chapter 2, verse 1, he told Timothy, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul is not saying new things. He is saying the same thing over and over. He is sometimes saying it different ways, or from different angles, or slightly different applications, but he is still saying the same thing.

That will be the first point we look at after we read this mornings passage. We will be looking at 2 Timothy 2, verses 8-13. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. So, 2 Timothy 2:8-13, Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meaning his Words are the Word of God, writes to Timothy:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

 

 

May God bless the reading of his Holy and inspired Word.

 

 

So, Paul tells Timothy, he tells us, that we need to remember Christ Jesus. Think on these things, God will give you understanding in everything and in that context, Remember Christ Jesus. This not just some one-off comment by Paul. Again, this is purposefully immediately following what Paul said about God giving understanding. The most important piece of knowledge is one that only God can give us and that is that Jesus is LORD. We won’t come to that knowledge without God revealing it to us.

Once God has revealed that knowledge to us, we need to dwell on it continuously. Again, Paul is not telling us something that he isn’t doing himself. Before this passage we are reading this morning, Paul has mentioned by name, Jesus Christ 8 times. He will do so twice more in this passage. That’s 10 times through 1 & ½ chapters. Paul is making sure that we, the readers as well as He himself, the writer will continually remember.

There is a great quote that is frequently attributed to Martin Luther regarding us needing to be continually reminded. It is said A church member asked Luther “Why do you preach the Gospel to us week after week?” Luther replied, “Because week after week you forget it. ”

                There is some debate as to the authenticity of this story and quote, but truth lies in it, nonetheless. We are a people who are a forgetful people. We are constantly forgetting and need to be reminded of several things. We need to continually be reminding ourselves of who we are, we are sinners, scriptures say that we are sinners form within our mother’s womb. But we think we are good people, or good enough anyway and that people, especially us are generally good at heart, down deep inside.

We need to remind ourselves of our need. We are sinners and therefore we are in need of a savior. We are in need of forgiveness. We are in need of grace. None of which we deserve, nor can we achieve or acquire for ourselves. We need to remind ourselves of that too. That we cannot do this on our own.

We need to remind our selves of our savior. Jesus Christ is our savior. He is, as he says in John 14:6 The Way, The Truth and The Life. We need to remind ourselves that it is not our works, but his works that turns into redeemed souls, saved from our sins, regenerated, justified, sanctified and soon to be glorified. Not our works, but his works, His death, burial and resurrection. The forgiveness that He bought with His blood. The fulfillment of so much prophecy. The fulfillment of all the prophecy. All of it done by Him and by God the Father on our behalf so that we can receive and be clothed in his righteousness and be called the sons of God, co heir with Christ.

And we need to remind ourselves of who he is. Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. He is the Messiah. He is God the Son. Let me say that again. He is God. And Paul specifies that point. He says Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. This establishes his deity. If Jesus is not God, then we are done. We are lost. We are worshipping an idol. And he has no power to save.

Christs resurrection is absolutely vital to our faith. Our most important holiday of the year celebrates the resurrection. Easter is us remembering and celebrating this! This does not take away from Christmas. Yes, he needed to be born in order to die, in order to rise from the dead. That our other important holiday, celebrating his birth. But his resurrection is what proved he was God. Its what defeated death. Its what allowed us to have a hope for the future and it shows us what to look forward to with our own resurrection in the end.

This is so central to so much of what Paul teaches. 1 Corinthians 15, starting with verses 3-7, Paul writes:

 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

 

Then look at verse 12-19 where Paul shows why this is so important:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

 

Christ is God. Jesus is God. God became man to save sinners. He was born, he died, he was resurrected. In order to be born, he must also be man. That’s what Paul says when he refers to Jesus as the offspring of David. Yes, this fulfills prophecy. God said that the Messiah would come from the line of David. But that’s not what Paul is pointing in this text, in this context. He is pointing out Jesus humanity. God became man. We need to remind ourselves of this at times too. Many of the false religions, the cults, many go wrong because they either deny Christs deity, or they deny Christs humanity. He was both. Truly God, Truly man. And He, Jesus Christ is the point, the focus, the subject of the scriptures, of the true, biblical Gospel.

And Again, it is this Gospel that Paul is imprisoned for preaching. That Christ is God. That sin is sin. That we are sinners. That sin needs payment. That Christ paid it for us. That he calls us to holiness. Paul is imprisoned as if he were a criminal because he preached nothing but Christ and him crucified.

But the good news is that, despite Paul being locked up for preaching the Word of God, the Word of God is not, will no and cannot be locked up!

 

We know that Hebrews 4:12 tells us:  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

                And we know some of the things that happened because of Paul’s imprisonment. He writes in Philippians 1:12-14, of a previous imprisonment:

I want you to know, brothers,[e] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[f] and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the

word[g] without fear.

 

 

                The Word of God is powerful. The Word of God is free. It can stand on its own. Charles Spurgeon is attributed with saying: “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”

                As we look at what Paul write sin verse 10, it takes me back to what he wrote in Philippians 1. In verse 10 here he says that all that he is going through is for a purpose and that purpose is to further the Kingdom of God, to bring more people to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ and to God may be glorified.

He endures suffering and he does everything possible so that the elect, all those whom God has called, may come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 6:44, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.

                All whom God calls will respond to him. And all those who are put into Jesus’ hand will obtain salvation. By the grace of God alone, through Faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. It is all to the Glory of God alone, not our glory. And salvation comes through the scriptures alone. Romans 10:17. Faith comes by hearing and hearing of the Word of God. The unchained, unbridled, living and active, sufficient Word of God.

This in no way means that we don’t have to do anything, that we just let God do his thing and we kick up our feet. No, also in Romans 10, faith comes by hearing, but how are they to hear if no one tells them? Its been said that Spurgeon had this to say about making sure we follow scriptures and evangelize:

If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.’”

 

                Our job is to let nothing be an excuse for someone to not come to know the LORD. We are to let nothing be a stumbling block. We are to present the information, to present the Word, to share the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit call forth those whom God has deemed.

Romans 8:30, And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

The eternal glory, as Paul puts it here is 2 Timothy is what we are all waiting for. Its what we have hope in. RC Sproul in his commentary on this verse says:

This glory is the final, complete salvation of the elect in the new order of God. The saints will have resurrection bodies and transformed human natures. They will experience the triumph of Christ over sin and death and know fullness of joy in a life secured for them by Christs death, resurrection and ascension.

Amen?

 

Paul then quotes what is likely and early Christian hymn, reciting a known truth in the early church. He recites:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

 

                If we die with, if we die to self as he calls us to do. If we kill the sin in our life, as a fruit of our faith and the work of the Holy Spirit. If we repent and believe the Gospel, this all lead to eternal life with Christ, that eternal glory we just mentioned, in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

And we are called to endure. Paul has made mention often in this letter that we are called to suffer on behalf of the Gospel. We are to endure this life, the suffering that come with it.

Romans 8 again, this time verse 18, Paul writes: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

                And in the glory that is to come, we will reign with him as co heirs. Right now, Jesus is sitting on the throne, he is the king over every single solitary thing. After he comes back, after he puts away death as the last enemy to be defeated, he will hand the creation back over to God the Father and sit at his right hand, reigning over the new creation. And we will be right there with him.

But that sonly if we respond to the Word of God and we come to a saving faith in Him. This hymn or whatever, warns against those who do not. Those who deny him, Christ will also deny.

Jesus says in Matthew 10, 32 & 33:

So, everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

 

Without Christ, we have no hope. Without Christ, we have no righteousness. Without Christ we are locked out of the Kingdom of God and we will suffer eternal wrath and judgment that is deserved from our sins. That is the holiness and justice of God.

Some who deny Christ will think they are Christians and they will be at church every week and they will say all the right things and do all the things they think they are supposed, memorize the Bible verses, say Amen, but they will not truly know Jesus in their hearts. They will instead, be trusting in their own works and in their attendance and their memorization and all that instead of Christ.

Some will call themselves Christians but will never set foot in church, will never open their bibles, will live just like the rest of the world lives. They will produce no fruit and have no repentance showing evidence of their salvation.

Some will reject Christianity and Christ outright, as we are seeing more and more of today. But all know, deep down inside, they know the truth, though as Romans 1 puts it, they suppress it in their unrighteousness.

But through it all Christ will remain faithful, even in our unfaithfulness. And in the end, every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD.

Now, here is how powerful Christ is, not even our unfaithfulness is big enough, strong enough or powerful enough to undo Christs faithfulness. Our salvation, our standing with God has nothing to do with us. Not our works, not our obedience, not our faithfulness. Because the truth is that we will fail. We will be disobedient; we will be unfaithful to God.

But it is impossible, it would go against his very nature, it would be sin, the one thing that God cannot do. We hear and see all the time that God can do anything, but there is an exception to that. God cannot go against his own nature, He cannot sin. And for him to go against his word, for him to be unfaithful would be for him to sin.

And that just aint gon’ happen.

 

God has made a covenant. He made a covenant of works that we, starting with and symbolized, us represented by Adam, we failed. We did not then, through Adam and we cannot know because of our sin nature uphold the covenant of works. Obey my commands and have everlasting life.

But Jesus Christ came and fulfilled the covenant of works so that we may take part in the covenant of Grace. Who so ever believes in Christ, will not perish but will have everlasting life? That is an unbreakable covenant. That is not one that we can undo. Because it is secure in the works of Christ on the cross, in the tomb and in his resurrection. That is the new covenant.

God is faithful to his word. If you deny him, you will face everlasting wrath and justice in hell. If you believe in Christ and repent of your sins, you will be brought into the new covenant, into the family of God and will take part in that eternal glory with Christ.

And it is that new covenant that we remember on the first Sunday of each month. We remember Jesus Christ. We remember his works and we remember his live and his sacrifice. We remember Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have two things to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

Second, this is a time of reflection. Your hearts and mind should be clear and right before God. We, as followers of Christ, have been forgiven, but 1 John says that we are to confess our sins. If you have sin that you haven’t dealt with before God, take this time to do so. IF you can’t, it is better to pass the elements and make your heart right with God.

There is no judgment in these things, Paul wants us to make sure that our minds are focused on the remembrance of Christ and his works and love for us.

So, what we are going to do is Mike and Jim will come up. One of them will pray for the bread, which symbolize Jesus body. The body that he gave up for us to pay the penalty for our sins. We will then pass those out and when they are all passed out, we will take the bread together as a church family, unite underneath the Gospel. Then, the other one will pray for the juice, which is a symbol for Christs blood. His blood purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will pass those out and again, take them as a church family once they are all passed out.

 

Let us go ahead and prepare our hearts and come to the LORDS table.

With Christ, we receive his mercy and forgiveness. With Christ, though not righteous on our own, we receive Christs righteousness.

2 Timothy 2:1-7 Life in the Local Church: Singleminded focus on Christ

2 Timothy 2:1-7
Life in the Local Church
This age and the age to come

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, we invite you to grab one off the back table as our gift to you. We are continuing our series today through 1 & 2 Timothy entitled Life in the Local Church.
This would end up being Paul’s last letter that he would write that we have recorded in the scriptures and he knows his time is coming to an end. He is writing to his friend, his spiritual son and his disciple Timothy, who is pastoring and leading the church at Ephesus.
Paul, in the section of the letter we looked at last week, told Timothy that he was not to be ashamed, either of Paul and his ministry, for being in jail, or of the Gospel itself. He exhorted Timothy to be steadfast, loyal and faithful. And he reminded Timothy that Character both matters and is seen by others, both good and bad.
Here, Paul is going to, among other things, give Timothy three analogies of faith. These analogies are going to be examples and they are going to model wholehearted, single minded devotion such as we are called to have for Christ.
So, lets go ahead and read this mornings text, 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 1 through 7. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to bring your preferred translation and follow along in our readings with your bible in your hands. Read for yourself what the Word of God says. 2 Timothy 2:1-7. Paul, being inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

May God bless the reading of his Holy, sufficient and inerrant Word.
All right, so Paul here, because of all that I just wrote, because of all that you just read, You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Gods grace alone is where our salvation comes from. But the grace of God not only saves us, it strengthens us. It gives us the strength to do what God has indeed called us to do.
Paul brings these themes together, the themes of Gods grace, the strength it gives us and the works that we are to be doing, he brings them together in other letters as well. In his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 8-10, he writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This theme that Grace leads to salvation leads to the ability to do the good works that God has called us to is woven throughout scriptures and always in that order. Paul talks about the importance of the order just as much. That the good works that we do cannot and will not do anything to save us. They contribute nothing to our righteousness. They are, in the tame translations, like dirty rags in Gods eyes.
And yet, after we are saved, after we are clothed in Christs righteousness, we are commanded, and not only commanded but inwardly, by the Holy Spirit, compelled to do good works, to produce good fruit.
Paul teaches all this clearly throughout his letters. And he tells Timothy to take what he has learn from Paul, what he has heard from Paul, he is to take all of that. And not just what Paul has personally told him, but what Paul has publicly taught, in his letters, in his public teaching, in front of many witnesses, take it all and what do you have? You have the very words of God. You have what is being understood, even in those days as scripture. Peter himself, in his letters likens Paul’s writing on the same authoritative level as the Old Testament scriptures.
So, the Gospel, the teachings, the scriptures, take these things that Timothy has heard from Paul and heard from others and others have heard from Paul, and teach it to others. Not only teach it to others but entrust it to others who are able to teach it to others.
Part of the mission of the local church part of what God has commission us to do teach and make disciples who then go on to teach others and make disciples. Matthew 28: 18-20, Jesus tells his disciples right before he ascends into heaven, Matthew writes:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now, that’s the general application. We make disciples who make disciples. We share our faith, share the Gospel and share the Good News that Christ died for our sins. The sins that we commit that deserve eternal death. That it is only through Christs death and resurrection that we have any righteousness and that we can gain access to the Father. Not our works, but the works of Christ. We share that so that others may believe and may be reconciled to God.

Paul here gives both that general application and a more specific application. This is applying to elders and those in leadership in the local church. They are to be able to teach. That’s one of the qualifications of an elder laid out back in 1 Timothy. They must be able to teach, and they are to be entrusted with the Gospel. The elders must be faithful to the teaching of the Gospel and of the scriptures. They must be faithful to the sound doctrine of the Word of God.

Paul then give the first of three analogies that point to the importance faithfulness and single minded focus. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
Now, Paul has already told Timothy that he is to share in the suffering instead of being ashamed, back in chapter 1 verse 8. While the Old Covenant promised prosperity for faithfulness, Jesus was quite clear that the New Covenant promises that there will be adversity if you are faithful to the teachings of Christ and to the confession that he is God.
This adversity can be the consequences of sin in our life, it could be the repercussions of our choices and life decision. It could also be the spiritual warfare that is being waged by powers and principalities in the spiritual realm. The enemy does not want the Good News of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us and the love that the father has for us to be known and shared. So those who are faithful, will face adversity in some way, shape or form.
And Paul tells Timothy to share in that suffering like a good soldier. Remember, the Bible does not say that God won’t give us more than we can handle. That’s actually the opposite of what it says. But what God does promise is that he will be with us always and he will bring us through what we go through.
We are to be like a good soldier, focused on one thing. We are to follow the orders of our superior and to do so fully and completely. We strive to accomplish the mission given to us. We have a loyalty to the one who gives the orders.
Our loyalty is to Christ, no matter what else there is. No matter our circumstances. When something else grabs our loyalty, that is the definition of idolatry. Within the analogy, that is treason. Our loyalty lies with Christ, with the Word of God, the Word became flesh.
We are given a mission. The Great Commission, as it were. Which we just read. We have been given a mission and we are to do everything we can to accomplish that mission.

Paul then brings out the second analogy. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. Paul often uses athletic language. Run the good race. The benefits of bodily training, even if not as much as spiritual training. But this training, whether physical or spiritual, they both take similar attributes and characteristics. Faithfulness. Discipline. Focus. Determination. Single Minded Focus. Clear Vision. One purpose, one goal.

That Goal is the crown that Paul mentions, Eternal Life with Christ. But to get that crown, we must complete by the rules. Now, we know that it is not the act of following the rules that earns us the crown. The would be the equivalent of us behaving well enough or being good enough to earn salvation. Salvation is received by Grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But we look at what Jesus says after people come to trust in him.
Now, go and do as I have commanded you. Obey my commands. Repent and believe. If you love me, feed my sheep. Just a small collection of what Jesus says for us to go do. I saw a good illustration this week that I shared on Facebook, some of you might have seen.
A cup isn’t a cup because it holds coffee. It holds coffee because it’s a cup. Likewise, we aren’t Christians because of our good works, but we do good works because we are Christians.
Those are the rules that we compete by, and we do so because we have laid hold of the crown, the eternal rewards.

The third analogy that Paul gives is that of a farmer. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Farming, of course, is hard work. Its not easy. It can be a struggle. Jesus does tell us to take up our cross and follow him. He does not say that this will be easy. He tells us, in fact that it will be hard.
However, he also tells us in Matthew 11, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Again, Jesus gets us through the adversity that we should be expecting to encounter. Farming is hard work. Sowing seed is hard work. Its not easy. Its not always comfortable. Its not always immediately fruitful.
But the one who puts in the world should get first share of the outcome. Now, I don’t believe that first here equals the number. I don’t think that this is that the farmer will be first in line. From the context, it looks like first is more of a promise, a guarantee that the worker will receive what he earned.
IF you know anyone that farms, this illustration should come easy. What do farmers think of? From plowing and sowing, and weeding and pruning, all the way up through harvest, what is going through that farmers mind? Just one single, solitary thing. The crop that’s is coming in. And as soon as the harvest is done, he is already thinking of the next one.
Jesus says in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Our focus should be on planting seeds and looking forward to that harvest. Thankfully we don’t have to have the worry and the stress that real life farmers have. If the harvest doesn’t come in, that is their livelihood. But we know that we go out and sow the seed, but the watering, the growth and the harvest are out of our hands. Those are in Christs hands. He brings the increase. All we must do is share the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Because its in Christs hands, the burden is off us to produce results, we just have to be and stay faithful.
Like a soldier fighting the battle. Like an athlete running the race. Like a farmer growing his crops.

Now, Illustrations, metaphors, parables, and the like, they can sometimes be hard to understand. They can sometimes be unclear. And so, after give three real quick analogies, Paul tells Timothy, think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Christianity, following the Bible, believing in Christ. This is not a blind faith. There’s the old saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” There is some truth in there, but not nearly enough. Christianity, Jesus tells us that we need to have a simple, child like faith.
But that doesn’t mean blind, unthinking faith. We believe what the Bible says, and if the Bible says it, we believe it. But we also see that the Bible is believable. God says what he says, and he says it for a reason. He often, though not always, tells us why.
He tells us, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. In Revelation Jesus says that it takes wisdom and understanding and shows that those are things to seek. So, Paul is saying that these are things that we should think about, study and dive into. We believe it but we are called to know what we believe and why we believe it.

God gives us his Word; He has revealed his word to us so that we could know. He revealed the things that happened so that we could see the evidence of the works and wonders of Jesus Christ. As John writes in his Gospel, chapter 20, verse 30 & 31:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In his word, we have record of his death, burial and resurrection. We have record of his perfect life. We have record of our sin nature, our inability to do good. We have record of Gods promises and faithfulness. We have the promise of everlasting life in the new heavens and the new earth with Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
Jesus says Seek and you shall find. The LORD will give you wisdom and understanding if that is what you are truly seeking, but it won’t always be the way that you are looking for it, or in the way that you expect.
Remember that it is not our wisdom, not our intelligence, just like its not our works, goodness or righteousness. Let’s finish with the reminder of Proverbs 3:5 & 6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Let’s Pray.

1 Timothy 6:11-16 Life in the Local Church: Active Faith

1 Timothy 6:11-16

Life in the Local Church

Active Faith

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 6. First, Merry Christmas! Second, if you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one off the back table as our gift to you.

Now, Paul is writing to his Son in the faith, Timothy. He is closing this letter, and historically, we know that he is beginning to wind down in his life. 2 Timothy, which we are going to go through as soon as we finish 1 Timothy here in the next couple of weeks, is the last letter that Paul will write.

But here, Pau; is writing Timothy to help him combat an outbreak of false teaching that has come into the church in Ephesus. So, he has specifically dealt with those teachers and the teachings. As a part of that, Paul has also been encouraging, exhorting, teaching and building up Timothy in his faith.

In the passage we are looking at this morning, Paul has finished dealing specifically with the false teachers. He will refer to some of the teachings, but he is done addressing them directly.

He just finished addressing their evil motivations, their evil results, and their evil consequences. They have within them and as their motivation, the love of money, the love of power and influence and fame. They sow discord, discontentment, dissension and with their slander, they sow disunity.

Paul will refer to those things as he turns to address Timothy directly in this mornings passage. I am going to read 1 Timothy, chapter 6, verses 11-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, sharing the very Word of God, writes to Timothy:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which 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 in his testimony before[d] Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

May God Bless the Reading of His Word. Amen.

 

So, Paul refers to all the things that the False teachers are, all the things that the false teachers teach, all the sins the false teachers commit, and all the fallout and discord that comes from false teachers. And in referring to those things, Paul tells Timothy to Flee from those things! Flee! Get as far away from those things as possible.

Scripture is full of admonishes to flee sin. A few specific instances are that we are to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). We are to flee from youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22) And to submit to God and resist the devil so he will flee us (James 4:7) 1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to abstain from every form of evil.

These are the things that are of the world. These are the things that are of false teachers. These are the things of people who are not of God. And we are to run as fast and as hard as we can in the absolute opposite direction of these things. We are not to entertain them, or to flirt with them, getting close and saying, just this little bit wont hurt, or no one will ever know.

That is not the attitude or the heart of a Man of God, as Paul calls Timothy here. A Man of God loves God. If he loves God, He loves Christ. And Jesus tells us in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In conjunction with that, 1 John 5:2&3 tells us by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

          A Man of God is broken because of his sin and knowing what his sin has done to God. A man of God recognizes that he is sinful and in need of a savior. A man of God recognizes that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation. A man of God has put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ and repented of his sins. A man of God is grateful and gracious for the grace of God that, through faith in Christ, his sins have been forgiven. A man of God is gracious in forgiving the sins of others around him. A man of God stands firm and courageously for the truth of who God is and what he has said and what he has done. A Man of God can be a man or a woman, but they are a child of God, through the grace of God, by faith in Christ.

Paul here tells Timothy, calls him a man of God and tells him to flee from the things that are not of God, and to pursue instead these things; righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Those are the things that a Man of God does.

We are to pursue righteousness. Jesus has some things to say about this in the Sermon on the Mount. First, in the Beatitudes, he says,” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) Just a few moments later, he points out to his followers, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

Perfect righteousness is not something we have an ability to achieve or accomplish, but it is what we are to strive for, and more importantly, it is the standard that God holds us to. Perfect righteousness is following and holding to the laws and commands of God, in heart, in mind and in action. Something that, in the course of history, because of sins affect on us all, only Jesus Christ has been able to achieve.

The man of God is to pursue Godliness. We are to live as much like God as possible. Paul writes in Romans 8:29, part of Gods purposes in all things, as he says, for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.

          Godliness is being like God. Not acting like you are God but acting as God acts. Having a heart for those God has a heart for. Acting the way, he would act, rejecting and avoiding what he would reject and avoid. Living a holy life, motivated by a holy heart, thought with a holy mind.

 

 

We are to pursue faith. Faith is our rock-solid foundation. Hebrews 11:6 says, without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

There is a reason that Faith Alone is one of the five tenets of the Protestant Reformation. Salvation by faith alone. Not Faith and Works. Not Faith and kept by works. Not Works. But Faith alone, this is what a Man of God holds. Faith in Christ and Christ alone.

The man of God is to pursue love. Paul didn’t need to clarify this, but such false teaching, or weak, superficial teaching has infested the church that we do need to clarify this today. This is biblical love. This is Godly love that Paul is talking about. This is not worldly love. This is not everything we do is fine. This is not I love tacos, I love the sun, I love USA, I love God, all loves meaning the same thing.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4, that we are to speak the truth in love. This means that we are not to speak the truth and use it as an excuse to be harsh or to be a jerk. We don’t get to say, well it’s not my fault if they took it that way, or if they got offended, I said what the bible says. That may be true, but God says that it does matter how we say it, how we approach people and that the truth that we speak, the truth that the Bible speaks is said in love. I once heard it said this way; The Gospel is offensive, there’s no getting around that, but there is nowhere in the Gospel that says we are to be offensive.

A Man of God is to pursue steadfastness. This is kind of a combination, of patience, endurance and taking the long view of what’s going on around you. Steadfastness, sometimes translated, longsuffering. To take a long view. TO know that no matter what is going on in the here and now, that God is in control, that God has already won and that what is promised to come is so much better and completely worth going through what is happening now.

We are to be patient in waiting on the LORD. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that no one knows the day or the hour of his return and that we are to be ready for it. But we are not to toss the future out with the bath water, to mix up a whole bunch of things there. His time is appointed, we know it will happen, even if it seems slow to us.

Peter writes, 2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

We see everyday tragedy come up in the news. More than we should, we see shootings, killings, disasters, so much abortion, so much death and destruction. And many cry out “Come quickly, LORD!” But God says that we are to continue to do our duties, to live our godly lives, to pursue him and his righteousness every day until he comes, no matter how long that is.

Lastly, the Man of God is to pursue gentleness. This ties in with some of the others, but when we know and recognize what God has done for us, we should turn around and treat others in the same manner. Those who have repented of their sins and turned in faith to God the Father have received the forgiveness of their sins. A Man of God has had the grace of God, and his mercy just poured out over them. When they sin, when they give in to temptation and them come to God, seeking forgiveness, God is gentle, loving, kind and merciful. If one has not repented of their sins, God will be much less gentle to them. But if we are men of God and we have received the gentleness of God, then we should let that flow through us to treat those around us with gentleness as well.

 

 

After listing those things that Timothy, and we, as his children, should be pursuing, Paul says to Fight the Good Fight. This reinforces the idea, first, of an active faith. That our faith is not incidental to our lives. Everyone has faith. It may be in the one, true, biblical God, in the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three in one, Almighty God. And I pray that it is. Or it could be in our selves and our works, our goodness. It could be in other, so called gods, or spirits, or religions. It could be in our country, our politicians, or our worldviews. It could be science and rationality. But whatever it is, we all have faith, and we all live out our faith. Often, it is a fight, a hard, long fight, just to stay faithful over the course of time. We need those attributes that Paul just told us to pursue in order to fight the good fight.

We fight for the truth; we fight for what’s right. We fight for the Gospel. Even in that fight, we are still called to do so in a godly and loving manner. Sometimes that means that things take longer than we want them to, but that doesn’t mean that God is not working or that we are being unfaithful. Please remember, that not everything we disagree with is false teaching. Not everything we don’t see eye to eye on is worth fighting over and shouting about. Somethings, we just plain disagree on.

But in those things that the false teachers and the world tries to bring into the church, those things that say, sin is not sin. Those things that say Jesus wasn’t God. Those things that say Jesus wasn’t man. Those things that say we can be saved by being a good person, or by following the rules, or by any other method than by grace alone by faith alone. In those things, we fight the good fight.

Paul gives a similar charge at the end of his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 16: 13&14, he writes: Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

One question that pops up, and I think Paul is addressing here, how do we stay steadfast, longsuffering? How do we continue to fight the good fight when we look around and only see what appears to be us losing battle after battle? How do we risk it all in this world?

Paul writes, take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

We can fight the good fight, we can stand firm and we can stay faithful to Christ and his Word, we can risk it all in this world, because our reward is in the next world. Our hope, our faith, our promised destination is in the next world.

We are here for a time, an important time, but a time. We are here to live life and to enjoy life, but we are here to do so in and with Christ. And Christ came so that we may be saved from our sins, clothed in his righteousness and that we may walk through the door, the only door, the door which is Christ, to enter eternity, worshipping and praising God Almighty. This, as opposed to the only other option, life in eternal hellfire and damnation, eternal life with Gods grace, mercy and love, but with Gods vengeance and wrath and justice.

Grab hold of that eternal life! The life to which you were called. Those whom God has called. I return to Romans 8:29, but also add verse 30, where Paul writes: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

We are saved by Gods grace, those of us who are called by God. It is nothing about us. There is nothing we can do to be called. Our salvation is in no way dependent on us. The famous Jonathon Edwards quote that I share often, the only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.

Jesus says in john 6:44 that No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. There is no doubt about what Gods says in the scriptures. But, again, there is a purposeful tension that God puts in the scriptures. If that’s all God says, what point is there to act in any way, to do anything? God will take care of it all and we can just kick back our feet, put them up on our desks and wait. It would be easy to be patient and longsuffering in that instance.

So, God makes both his sovereignty and man’s responsibility, both are biblical teachings. Paul says here that the eternal life to which we are called, of that, we have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Not only were we called, and I would argue that the scriptures say that only after we have been called and because we were called, we make a public confession in front of many witnesses. There is responsibility on our end of things as well.

The faith that God has gifted to us (Eph 2:8-10), that faith, which he called us to and gave us having nothing to do with ourselves, that faith we need to respond to. That faith is an active faith. It is a public faith. We publicly get baptized and we share our faith with those we know and love. We share the Gospel, and we share our testimony, not the same thing by the way. We share it because that’s what God tells us to do. We fight the good fight, the faith of and for faith.

Paul finishes this passage with a combination of encouragement, he charges us, and a doxology, a praise to God. Verses 13-16:

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before[d] Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

 

 

Paul makes one of any connections that Jesus did many things of which we are to follow his example. In this case, making the good confession, confessing who Christ really and truly is, and doing it even when its not easy. Jesus could have saved his life, prevented getting beaten, whipped, mocked, spit on and crucified by providing a defense in from of Pilate.

We see that Paul is charging us, commanding us, encouraging us to lead that holy life he was talking about earlier. To flee from the things of this world, even if they are brought into the church. To turn to Christ, to pursue those things he listed earlier, righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. And we are to do so until Christ returns.

It reminds me of the last lines of the hymn, In Christ Alone;

No power of hell, no scheme of man Can ever pluck me from His hand Till He returns or calls me home Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

 

 

 

And it is all because of who Christ is, who The Father is. It Is because of who he is and what he has done, his holiness, his sovereignty, his eternal greatness, his almighty power, his love, his mercy, his justice. It is because he is the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords. To him be all honor and dominion. Amen.

Paul sums it up better than I ever could. Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Timothy 4:1-5 Life in the Local Church: False Teaching is Spiritual Warfare

1 Timothy 4:1-5
Life in the Local Church
False Teaching is Spiritual Warfare

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 4. If you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab on off the back table as our gift to you. We are continuing our series through 1 and 2 Timothy this morning titled, “Life in the Local Church.”
Paul, in this letter to Timothy, just got finished building up the local church and Gods design for it, that it would be the household of God and it would be a pillar and buttress for the Truth.
The truth of the simple, clear Gospel. Jesus Christ. God became man to save sinners. This is the truth that the church is to stand on, to lift up and support, to defend and to proclaim.
And from that, Paul is coming back to one of his main points in his letter. False teachers and their false teachings. And this is purposely side by side with the end of Chapter 3. The expectation and grand, divine purpose of the church, along with the reality of imperfection. We are to recognize the importance of the local church and we are to love the local church, who is the bride of Christ, but we must not mistake love for idealizing, idolizing and assuming perfection.
Christ loves us and knows that we are not perfect. I love Hope and my kids with all my heart, and I know that they are not perfect. She loves me and heaven knows I am far from perfect. And like the local church, we are to love our church, even while recognizing imperfections.
Before we get into all that, lets go ahead and read our passage for this week, 1 Timothy chapter 4, verses 1-5. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation in your hands. 1 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, writing the inspired words of God, writes:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
Amen.
Paul starts by stating, “The spirit expressly says.” He could make no stronger statement. There is no maybe or possibly. Paul is showing here that there will be false teachers that come up in the church. Don’t be surprised by them. Instead be on guard for them.
And Paul knows this because the spirit expressly says it. This is likely some direct revelation to Paul, possibly from Jesus himself as he was teaching Paul. Jesus himself says in Matthew 24, both that many will come in his name but lead many astray (v 5) and that many false teachers will arise and lead many astray (v 11). Again, no question, no wondering, just a simple clear promise that this will indeed happen.
We see too here an example of why doing a superficial, surface reading of the Bible can, at times, give us an inaccurate or incomplete idea of what the true meaning is. Paul says that it will be in latter times that some will depart the faith.
This idea of later time or the last days, the end times, is commonly misunderstood. We are not racing towards the end times. We are not only recently in the latter days. It is not an indicative of how close it is to Jesus return. Instead, this is the common terms for the time between Jesus first coming, his incarnation, and his second coming.
One commentary, summing up this common understanding, says it this way: This is not a period just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. Rather, in keeping with the overall New Testament perspective, it is the era inaugurated by Christs First Advent and completed at his second. (Acts 2:17, Heb 1:2, 1 Pet 1:20, 1 John 2:18)
So, from the time that Jesus arrived here on this earth, False Teachers have been here, trying to lead others astray. From the time that Jesus was ministering here on earth, there have been those who have been departing the faith. We know of course of Judas as the most famous example, but we see throughout the Gospels that many people followed Him along with the disciples for a time, and then the realities of what it takes, what it means to be a faithful servant of Christ rears its head and many would fall away, return home and practically forget that they ever were out there to begin with. OF course, we see Jesus tell the crowds in Matthew ch 7 that many would even do good works in his name and would not truly be His.
And that is one of the key things to remember as well. Departing from the faith does not mean that one was saved and then loses their salvation. Biblical context argues the opposite. 1 John 2:19 tells us that those who depart from the faith were never truly of the faith to begin with.
What Paul is talking about here is those who played the part. Those who maybe even thought that they were truly part of Gods church. Those who knew all the things to do, all the words to say, all the things that Christians do. And he is talking about those who have departed from orthodoxy. Essentially, orthodoxy is the established, historical biblical beliefs and faith about the bible and what it says. Orthodoxy is the umbrella that all acceptable Christian beliefs and teaching are held under. There can and are disagreements under this umbrella.
When we move outside of the umbrella, we get into false teaching, we creep along, and we get into heresy. When people in the latter days depart from the true biblical teachings of historical orthodox Christianity, they end up, usually unknowingly devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons.
Just in case you ever think that we can dismiss, ignore or allow false teaching to go on without confronting it, see what Paul is saying here. False teaching is Spiritual Warfare. And Spiritual Warfare is something that we need to take very seriously.
False teachers are lying liars who lie. They lie about what the Bible says. They lie about who Jesus is. They lie about the character and attributes and the very Word of God. But also, and this is what Paul is pointing out here, how they draw people in is through lying and insincerity.
What you will often hear out of their mouths is that they care about you, and they are the only ones who do. Everyone else is secretly saying stuff about you, lying about you, gossiping behind your back. Trust only me because I’m the only one who truly cares.
You will hear things like, I wont judge you or tell you your wrong. I will validate your feelings, your beliefs, your actions, no matter where they line up compared to the truth of scriptures. They will say things like they are sided on the side of compassion and love, and that makes it ok if we don’t quite have correct doctrine or the correct truth. You will often hear things like, don’t worry about what Paul says, after all, he is not Jesus. Jesus never said that.
These are lies that come from lying False Teachers. The truth is that they are only speaking insincerity. The truth is that False teachers don’t care about you. They only care about using you to increase their influence. They more followers they can get, the more influence they will have. They care about power. If it’s a pastor or a television or radio personality, the more listeners and followers a false teacher has, the more control and the more power they can exert over you. And the more power and influence they have, the more money they can fleece from people who usually don’t have extra money to send or to give. Usually, though not always, the more local a false teacher is, the more they care about power and influence as opposed to money. The bigger they get, the more well known the become, the more the money starts playing a factor.
One of the reasons we need to be super careful about who we listen to, who we read, and we let teach us, is because their teachings rarely start out as false teachings. You see time and time again that as a pastor or bible teacher gains influence and a bigger audience, the more they start wanting to hold on to that audience and that influence and so they start watering down their teachings and start compromising the truth. And so, we must be careful about who we recommend to others, and who we promote in our libraries and who we spend money on.
Now, other false teachers will err to the other extreme instead. They will implement and demand strict physical standards that go beyond what the Bible demands. They will be overly legalistic and demanding absolute loyalty to themselves as the sole correct interpreter of the bible. You will often here things like, “If you slip and do this thing that you shouldn’t do, then you have put your salvation I danger and are you really even saved?” They sow doubt so that you keep coming back to them.
They will forbid things that the Bible doesn’t forbid. This is exactly what the pharisees did in the New Testament times to show themselves as extra righteous. Paul gives two examples here. He starts with calling out those who forbid marriage and put restrictions on what foods we can have.
Of course, multiple other scriptures, including Jesus himself in Mark 7:19 show us that all foods are clean and available for us to consume and to receive with thanksgiving. And of course, marriage is a gift from God that goes all the way back to creation, instituted and given to us before the fall.
And of course, there are some who are called to singleness, Paul mentions those in, I think 1 Corinthians. And there are some who are called to abstain from certain foods. But those are exceptions. Because one person is called to singleness doesn’t mean that all are called to it. And just because one person is called to abstain from a certain food, doesn’t mean that all people should abstain from that food, or that that food is unclean or sinful. Those are exceptions that prove the rule.
And those who know and believe the truth, who are firmly and faithfully within the umbrella of historic, biblical orthodoxy know that this false teaching is absolute garbage.
Back in the biblical times, and shortly after, one of the groups of false teachers was called the Gnostics. In addition to believing in extra biblical and secret revelation, but also that everything physical and material was evil. And only everything spiritual and immaterial was good.
And yet we see biblical evidence that this is not even close to correct. God, of course, we see in Genesis 1, created everything physical, everything material and everything in creation was very good. And we see that there is so much so-called spirituality that is pure evil.
Paul writes in Galatians 1 that there are demons and angels, fallen angels to be specific that preach a different gospel than the true, simple gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul makes clear in Ephesians 4 that there are no other options, writing in verse 4-6:
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Anything else than that, any other Gospel, any teaching that counters the Gospel is literally and by definition, demonic. One commentator puts the problem with these false teachers this way, saying:
The fundamental error of these false teachers is that they were setting their own view of the Christian life over the view that God revealed in His word. They were forbidding what God allowed in His word, and therefore they were setting their opinion above the final rule of faith and practice in God’s holy word.
We don’t get to do that. God, if he is God, which we know he is, is indeed God. And as God, his Word is complete and total. We don’t get to think of ourselves as smarter, or that our views are more correct or as valid as Gods.
The problem comes in, when we start interpreting the scriptures through our experiences instead of interpreting our experiences through scripture. When we start treating our experiences as truer and more real than Gods word, we have left that umbrella of orthodoxy and we will, not may, not probably, but will and probably already have left the truth of Gods Word.
And we see Paul emphasize that everything that God created, his whole creation is good. They were also corrupted by the fall, including our sin nature, with us trying to put ourselves on par or above God himself.
This is not to say that our emotions and experiences are not good things, they are. But, like all other things, they are corrupted by the fall. They are less than Gods Word. They are less than scriptures and we need to remember to submit them to God himself.
Paul finishes this section by that if it is received with thanksgiving, then things are made holy through the Word of God and through prayer. This is specifically regarding refuting the diet issues, the restrictions on foods that the false teachers were presenting, but it made for much broader application as well.
If you receive food with prayer to God, giving him thanks for the provision, then it can be received with no issue. One application is to practice showing God gratitude by praying before every meal.
Bigger than that, lets remember to show God gratitude and thanksgiving for, first our salvation. Our salvation is a gift of God, given by his grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Second, we thank him for grounding us in his Word. His will, his word, his revelation is given to us in the scriptures alone, through no other source. Not dreams, not God audibly speaking to us, no other way but through scriptures. I’ve read you this quote before, but I think it fits nicely here. Justin Peters, an evangelist and an exposer of false teachings and teachers, he says that, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to heat him speak out load, read your Bible out load.”
So, we thank him for that. And third, we thank him that he protects us from the false teachers that are out there, spreading lies and deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons and insincerity. It is to the Glory of God that we abide in Him and His truth and His word and to do anything other risks showing us that we are not truly his to begin with.
Jesus says in John 14:23 & 24, If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
He has given us his Word, or his commands in some translations. This very book that we hold in our hands. Through Scripture Alone. Now we pray that he gives us the grace, strength, ability, discernment and wisdom to keep his commands and we abide in him as His children.
Let’s Pray.

1 Timothy 3:14-16 Life in the Local Church: The Purpose of the Local Church

1 Timothy 3:14-16

Life in the Local Church

The Purpose of the Local Church

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 3. IF you do not have a Bible, there are some on the back table designed to be our gift to you. We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we are calling, “Life in the Local Church.”

Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, who was pastoring the early church in Ephesus. And he wrote to encourage, challenge and instruct Timothy on how to deal with some of the issues in the local church. These letters ended up being Gods inspired Word about what the local church should look like.

As we finish up Chapter 3 here, Paul has, for now, finished talking about prayer, worship, and church offices and what those things look like in the local church. And for these couple of verses he is turning his attention to three very interconnected things. First, he will address why he is writing this letter to Timothy. Second, he will the purpose and mission of the local church. Last, he will give a poetic summation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

So, we will read this week’s text before we go any further. We will be reading 1 Timothy 3, verses 14-16. Ill be reading out if the English Standard Version though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation that you should have in your hands. Once again, 1 Timothy 3:14-16. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God Himself, writes holy scripture, telling Timothy:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He[e] was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated[
f] by the Spirit,[g]
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

 

          And all his church says Amen!

You know what’s interesting to me? Gods perfect timing. Paul is writing a letter to Timothy. A letter that survived many, many years. A letter that was inspired by God to be the very Word of God. A letter that we now have written and copied in the Bibles you are holding in your hands. And he tells here why he wrote that letter.

Paul wanted to come and talk to Timothy in person. He was trying to come to him, but what Paul was telling Timothy was much too time critical to wait for Paul to physically get there. And in that time, there were no phones. Paul and Timothy couldn’t just call each other and talk about what’s going on. There was no email, no skype, no way at all of communicating except through face to face contact or via letter.

And this is what I want to point out here. If Paul had access to any of those other forms of communication, we would not have these letters in the Bible. We would have an incomplete scripture. There would have been no record of what Paul wrote to Timothy and we would not have Gods entire word to us today.

But God knew what he was doing, God had his perfect timing and orchestrated it so that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy and we know have the full council of God’s Word, infallible, inerrant, immutable, sufficient.

This is not todays big point, but someone may need not hear this. God orchestrates life in a way that brings glory to himself 2000 years later. You may think you should be doing something that you think would benefit the kingdom of God and bring glory to God, but he is closing that door and you can’t understand why. Trust him anyway. Paul wanted to go see Timothy but had to write this letter instead so that we could read it all these years later.

But, back to the text, the reason that Paul wants to go see Timothy is to share “how one ought to behave in the household of God.” This is the same idea that is behind the title of our series, “Life in the Local Church.” Paul has already mentioned prayer, worship, Church offices, the Glorious Gospel, church leaders, along with authority and submission.

Paul is going to transition back into talking about combatting the false teaching that is pervasive in the early churches back then, and in our churches today. But first, notice something else.

What is the church? Now, we all know the saying, “The church is the people, not the building.” And there is truth to that. The point is that the building is not something to be worshiped. The goal with that saying is that we don’t shirk our responsibility to live out the Gospel when we leave the church after Sunday mornings.

But Paul makes it clear here that the Church is the household of God. The Church is the local body of Christ, gathering, and fellowshipping, equipping the saints, teaching the Word of God, worshipping the one true Eternal God. Is there more than that as well? Of course. But it is never less than what Paul is saying. The church is the equal mixture and additions of the body itself, where we meet and us doing what God has called us to.

Now, of course, where we meet is not important. In church buildings, in local granges, community centers and halls, in houses across the world, in wide open spaces, in campgrounds, in parking lots, in big stadiums, wherever. Where we meet, as the body of Christ is the household of God, the church of the living God.

And the household of God, the church of the living God, is to be a pillar and a buttress of truth. Those words mean literally to provide support. The church is Gods chosen instrument to fight against the False Teaching in this world and to share and spread and teach the truth of the Gospel. RC Sproul writes that, “the truth of the Gospel is found in and sustained by Gods Church.”

          So, Paul is doing two things here. He is showing us how important it is to know how to live and how to act in the local church, the household of God. And that’s why we see these instructions on what prayer and worship should look like. That’s why we see the restrictions and qualifications on who is to lead and have authority in the local church. Paul is not trying to be a micromanager. He is not trying to be a control freak. He is saying, this is important because this is how God designed it and this is His house!

That’s why Paul will always teach and affirm justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. That works play no part in our salvation in any way shape or form. But he will also in his letters, often talk about the way to live rightly, follow the commands and directions of God, to live by the moral law that God has passed down. Because that is how we are to live and act in the household of God. It’s a respect thing. It’s a part of our worship. Our entire lives, everything we do, think and speak are, whether we want them to be or not, an act of worship. It may be worship to the living God, or it may be worship to the gods of this world, but it is worship.

Second, Paul is showing us how important it is to have right teaching, right doctrine, right understanding of the Word of God. He is showing where that truth comes from and what our role in it is. We are to provide support for the truth that goes out from amongst us. This is why Paul started out so strong against the false teaching that is going on in Ephesus. And this is why he will be talking against the false teaching again coming up.

One of the things we can take from this is that we need to be in a local church for us to be able to stand against the false teaching. The church body, the local church, is a pillar and buttress of the truth. If we are not a part of a local church, we are isolated from the truth.

Watching preachers on TV or listening to them online or on the radio, if they are biblically solid, can be a great resource for growing our knowledge in the LORD. I will caution you that many who are on TV or on the radio are indeed NOT biblically sound. But ones that are can be a great resource. However, if that is the extent of your “Church participation,” you are in grave danger of being led astray from the truth.

The same thing is the case if you are a part of a church that is to far away. I’ve heard of pastors and their families who “pastor” churches that are over 50 miles away from where they live. If you live that far away, you can’t shepherd the flock. You are a weekly guest speaker at that point. And the congregation doesn’t have any one they can go to when they need to.

This is, of course, not to say that you have to go to whatever church is the closest to you geographically. First off, that would be incredibly legalistic and second, its not practical. Just because a church is closest, doesn’t mean its is a Bible believing, Gospel preaching church. They might differ from you on important things. Sadly, they may differ from you on core things as well. But you should be a part of a local church, where you can be involved and a part of the body.

Being a part of the local church helps people know you, see your life, see your wins and your struggles, and help to stay out of the crevices of sin that temptation brings. And the Local church helps people know you so that they can help guard against the influence of false teaching. If all your biblical input is coming from the guys on TV, you will be susceptible to falling for false teaching and for allowing false teachers to define your theology. With no one to correct and counteract false teaching we are all able to be deceived.

The local church, providing discipleship, fellowship, protection against false teaching and teaching truth is, second only to the Bible itself, the most important thing we can actively do to mature and grow in Christ Jesus.

Listen to what Ligon Duncan says about the local church from this passage:

Paul is saying that the local church is the place that God has appointed to be essential to the propagation and protection of the truth in the world. Paul’s saying there can be no “Lone Ranger Christianity.” You can’t be off on your own–you Jesus, and your Bible–and expect for the truth to prosper in your life. We need one another as believers. We need one another as encouragement, we need to see one another’s lives. We need to see the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of other believers, to encourage us to love and good deeds. We need to be saying the word to one another, memorizing the word with one another, hearing the word of God together, serving the word of God together. Together the church serves as the pillar and support of the truth, in the sense that it is essential, it is God’s essential vehicle for evangelism, for discipleship, for missions, for the defense of the faith. Paul is just pointing out that the church is absolutely crucial. It is vital in preserving and propagating the gospel. It is the local church, Paul is saying, where God meets especially with His people in the New Covenant era, and it is the local church which is the essential instrument through which God propagates His truth.

 

So many people today miss the importance of the local church. Of sitting under sound teaching and authority, of the accountability, of the understanding and proclaiming of the Truth!

And Paul shares with us that very truth that we are to proclaim as he writes to Timothy:

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He[e] was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated[f] by the Spirit,[g]
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

 

This is the truth that the local church is to stand and to proclaim and to protect. The mystery of Godliness. The mystery of the gospel. This mystery that I mentioned last week. The mystery that we heard during the scripture reading early from Ephesians 3.

God shared the Gospel all the way back in Genesis 4, right after the fall. The people of the Old Testament knew that there was a savior, a messiah coming. God promised it. And they had some insight, through the Prophets who spoke the Word of God, what that savior would look like, who that messiah would be. But overall it was a mystery to them.

When Christ arrived, it was no longer a mystery, but was revealed. At first, it was revealed in part, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, then revealed in full after his resurrection and ascension.

Paul writes to the Colossians, chapter 1, verses 25-28:

I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Paul has said that the mission of the local church is to stand for and protect the truth. And he says in that passage in Colossians his mission is to the local churches, to make sure that they know and make known the full Word of God and that they known and share the revealed mystery, Christ in you.

And that’s how Paul ends this section with the revel of what that mystery was and what the truth is that we are to stand firm on. Many speculate that this poetic waxing of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is an early Christian hymn.

Paul lists 6 truths about Christ that we are to proclaim and protect. First, Christ was manifested in the flesh. This is his incarnation. Jesus, eternally God from eternity past, 2nd part of the trinity, was made man, put on flesh and is fully God and fully man.

Second, he was vindicated by the Spirit. I’ve seen this taken to refer to either the resurrection, where as the Holt Spirit, fully God, vindicated Jesus, declaring him righteous, innocent and not guilty of any sin, or about his baptism, where the Holy spirit, in the form of a dove descended upon him and vindicated the start of his earthly ministry.

Third, Jesus was seen by the Angels. This is in reference to his ascension. Jesus Christ physically, literally died on the cross and was buried. He was physically, literally brought back to life. He was dead, then he was alive. After that, we see recorded in the beginning of the book of Acts that Jesus, back alive again, did not die again, instead he ascended into Heaven, and where He is now, we will see in the last statement.

Fourth, after his ascension, we see that Jesus disciples went out into the world and proclaimed this very truth. The same truth that we are tasked and blessed with continuing to spread throughout the world. The book of Acts is a record of how the Apostles first began spreading the Gospel.

Fifth, the Gospel was believed throughout the world. And that is one of Gods promises. We spread the seed; he will give the growth. Where the pure, simple Gospel is preached, people will be believing. Paul writes in Romans that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. That is how God has chosen to pour out his grace.

Lastly, Jesus was taken up in glory. When he ascended, he was then seated at the right hand of the Father. Christ is reigning in Heaven and is waiting for his return. He is exalted and worshipped and exactly where he is deserved to be.

One of Paul’s points is that we would do well to remember theses things. These are truths that false teachers will deny or twist. These are the truths that we are to protect. These are the truths that will guide us in how to behave in the household of God.

When we have trouble dealing with stuff, or getting frustrated with certain situations or circumstances, when we want to throw in the towel or take things into our own hands, we would do well to remember these things.

And when we hear something go against these things, we would do well to speak up. Paul will pick back up with the false teachers next week, but right now, here today. This is the truth. This is Christ. This is the mystery revealed. Let us remember and rest in that. Let us remember and rest in Him.

I leave you with the very words of Jesus himself, from Matthew 11:25-30:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[g] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Let’s Pray.

1 Timothy 3:1-13; Life in the Local Church: Qualifications for Elders and Deacons

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Life in the Local Church

Qualifications for Elders and Deacons

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 3. If you do not have a Bible, we do have some on the back table and their specific purpose is to give to those who do not have a Bible. Please help yourself as we strive to get Gods Word into everybody’s hands.

Now, we are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we have entitled “Life in the Local Church.” And this week, as we look at most of Chapter 3, we see Paul continue with some of the big themes we looked at last week, picking up a specific thread and answering questions before they get a chance to be asked.

In Chapter 2, Paul showed us some of the roles that He has called certain people to and how they are based on the creation order itself. One of the things that Paul mentions, that today is causing the most ruckus, and likely then, is that the role and office of pastor is not for design by God for women, but for called and qualified men. Which begs the question, what does it mean to be qualified. And that’s what Paul is going to answer in chapter 3.

Chapter 3 lays out the qualifications for elders and deacons. Pastors are called from within the elders, the same qualifications apply. Deacons and Elders are those who are called by God to serve and lead the church in an authoritative role. And if a man does not meet these qualifications, he is not called to be an elder or a deacon.

Let’s go ahead and read the text, the whole text straight through. We will be looking at 1 Timothy 3, verses 1-13. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please do follow along with you in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sharing the very Word of God, writes:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,[c] not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise[d] must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Paul, while going into specific examples, is emphasizing some main points here. To me, the biggest point I see being made by Paul is the importance of character when it comes to one who is called. This takes absolute and total precedence over the ability to do tasks and the accomplishments one may have achieved.

Paul starts by saying that the office of overseer, used interchangeably with elder and pastor in our Bibles, is a noble one. Therefore, because of that, because of the office, because of what God has said about it and what He has called it to be, stemming from his created design, this is what an overseer must be.

We are not going to go into full detail in each and everyone of the things that Paul has listed here. But we are going to hit the high points and the themes. Some individually, some as a group. I also want to mention that Pail, in his letter to Titus, also includes a list of qualifications for overseer. Titus1:6-9, Paul writes:

If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.   For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

We are not going to look at that text this morning, but its important to see the parallels and the consistency in the different texts. And what we are going to do is make our way through the attributes and qualities that Paul lists in 1 Timothy 3.

First, an elder must be above reproach.

Above Reproach. This does not mean, of course, to be sinless. RC Sproul says this would be more accurate to the meaning saying, “above scandalous reproach.” This means that elders are to have a good standing in the community, that they are to have a good witness amongst those outside the church.

We see many stories of scandals from pastors or church leaders who fall from their position. Sex, drugs, money, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is, when the pastor falls, the scandal breaks, there is a collective response from the outside world of, “see? What hypocrites! And they pretend to be so much better than us!” That pastor is now disqualified. That elder is now disqualified. Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is still possible. Restoration to their local church is still hoped for and prayed for. But he is no longer above reproach.

Now, one of the themes, throughout these qualifications, and I don’t know if I’ll mention it multiple times or just leave it hear as a reminder. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I know that there are some that would disagree on me about this, but I don’t believe what happened in our lives before we came to know Christ has any bearings on our qualifications. We know clearly from scripture that it has no bearing on our standing before God. Paul writes in Romans 8:1, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

          But I believe that our lives, specifically our sins from before our coming to Christ, do not disqualify one from a position of leadership. Often, it makes for a better witness and testimony to see how far God has brought us. The last point on this is that being above reproach is also to be looked at as a summation of all the rest of the things that Paul lists here in 1 Timothy 3. It is the essence of character on those whom God has called.

That plays also into the next thing that Paul lists. He says that an elder must be a husband of one wife. The Greek literally reads a one-woman man. Historically, there have been three ways this is interpreted.

First, some say that this is making a prohibition on polygamy. This is possible and polygamy is clearly prohibited in other passages in scripture. Marriage is clearly defined in scripture as between a man and a woman, starting all the way back in the Garden of Eden, before the fall. But I don’t think that’s what this verse is referring to.

Second, some say that this is in reference to unbiblical divorce and remarriage. Scriptures are clear about what God thinks about Divorce. God hates divorce. Jesus said in Mark 10:9, What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

          All scholars and commentators agree that the Bible lays out Biblical exceptions that allow for divorce, most specifically in Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 7. And most scholars and commentators agree that within those circumstances, those exceptions, then there is freedom to remarry as well, though there are a few notable exceptions on that point.

But we know that we live in a state and a society that is willing and encourages divorce for no reason whatsoever and does not hold to the sanctity or the fidelity of the covenant of marriage. So, there are many divorces and remarriages that are there for non-biblical grounds.

The last possibility is that this is referring to being faithful to your marriage bed. No affairs, no extra marital sex. Men only begin with the woman that you are married to. This is where a lot of commentator’s land based on the culture in the Roman empire of the day.

I think however, it’s a combination of the last two at least. I think that the point that Paul is making is that to be a pastor, an overseer, an elder, you must be faithful and fully submitted to what God calls marriage. The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 13:4, Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

God has ordered his creation in a certain way. This applies to gender roles between men and women. This applies to what is and not marriage. This applies to what is and is not sin. This applies to life. To be a leader in the church, you must be faithful to the role and order of Gods creation.

Third, Paul lists self-controlled, sober minded, respectable and hospitable. These come together and speak to a person’s character. These are areas where elders need to lead. Ligon Duncan describes these attributes thusly: He is a temperate, or sober-minded man. He’s possessed of a wakeful, alert, vigilant habit of mind, and he’s opposed to all sorts of excess. He’s prudent, he has mastery over his natural reactions. He’s got some self-control. He’s respectable. He lives a life that bears up under public scrutiny. He’s hospitable; that is, he’s possessed of that hospitality that is required of all Christians. Elders are to take a lead in that.

I’m hoping your noticing something about many of these things that Paul is listing that I’m going to tie together at the end of this.,

Fourthly, he must be able to teach. This is especially important given Ephesus’ problem and our current day problem of dealing with False Teachers. Elders must be able to combat these teachings that go against the Gospel.

This, again, does not mean that all elders must be great or gifted teachers. But what it means is that they can get up and they can teach the Gospel, simply and accurately. They can what a scripture passage means and while they will not always be perfect, they will be studious and knowledgeable.

As a member of the church, you should be able to bring a person who has never heard the gospel or doesn’t know the Gospel and bring them to anyone of the elders and know that the Gospel and salvation message will be clearly and faithfully presented. It may be better stated that an elder is to be able to disciple. To teach those around him who to grow and mature in Christ, to teach them about life and the Bible. Some do it from up front here, all do it done there, amongst the people, in one on one situations, small groups and anywhere the need and opportunity arise.

Fifth, Paul says that Elders are to be not drunkards, not violent, not quarrelsome and not greedy. This is kind of the mirror image in some ways of the third section. There, Paul said this is what they are to be. Here, he is saying what they are not to be.

And the point is that they are not to be giving in and controlled by these earthly, fleshly temptations. These sins are common sins to man, and they are often, though not always, easy to see from both outside a person and outside the church.

This fits right along with what Paul writes in Galatians 5, regarding the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5: 16-25, he writes:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.   And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

 

Sure, Paul could have told Timothy and the Ephesians to read what he wrote to the Galatians, but that’s not the way things worked back then. They didn’t have all the scriptures collected and ready to read in one fell swoop. Paul couldn’t depend on the church at Ephesus to know what he wrote to the Galatians.

And so, he often says the same thing in different ways in his letters. IF we don’t pay attention, it can seem that he is just repeating himself, but it is in these areas where we see what the most important things is that Paul was led to address and teach.

Sixth, Paul makes the correlation between managing one’s own household and the house of God. Again, some try to make this mean something more than what Paul is saying. This does not mean that an elder is to have perfect and sinless kids, looking at the comparison being made, that would also mean that we are to have perfect and sinless church members.   And it doesn’t disqualify an elder of his adult children are not walking with the LORD. That would disqualify a surprising amount of godly, qualified and faithful elders in churches today.

I have told this story before but I’m not sure how recently. I was at a Pastors conference many years ago. The speaker asked this room full of pastors, how many there had children who were not walking with the LORD. Well over 75% of the men in that room raised their hands.

It reminds that even when we are faithful to manage our households and to raise our kids the right way, they can’t just take our faith. At some point, they are solely responsible for their own faith.

So, whether the kids are or become saved is not what Paul would use to determine whether one’s household is managed well. One commentary brings home the point when it states, only a man capable of virtuously leading his own family can lead members of Gods family. To do one, one must first prove he can do the simpler. And yes, managing one’s own house is simpler than managing Gods house. When one is faithful with a little, God will give him more.

Seventh, Paul says that an elder, an overseer must not be a recent convert. This has to do with spiritual maturity, not physical age or maturity. Its easy, as a new convert, for us to think that, as we get to know things in and about the Bible, that we know it all. It is not uncommon to enter what’s called “Cage stage.” One article explains the term this way: Cage-stage” describes an all too common phenomenon wherein a believer comes to embrace (the LORD) and for a time becomes an obnoxious lout in defending the doctrines to all comers, whether they are interested or not. It suggests that such a newbie should spend some time in a cage until they calm down.

The article continues: The Cage Stager seems to forget the battle with sin he not only continues to have, but the battle he only recently won, by God’s grace, in coming to embrace the doctrines of grace. He seems to reason, “What is wrong with those terrible, awful, good-for-nothing sinners that they refuse to see what I only recently came to see?”

The biggest issue that comes out of being a recent convert is pride. Pride has no place in leading the people of God. Connected to this, we are never more susceptible to false teaching and sin than when we are first growing.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we mature, the more we should be resisting sin and remaining humble. We know how little we deserve to receive from God. And We know how much He has given us, His grace and His mercy and his forgiveness.

Lastly, and in summation of what Paul has already written, an elder is to be thought well by outsiders. If a pastor, or an elder, church leaders, if they fall, it should be incredibly hard for him to be restored to office. Again, forgiveness can and should come with repentance and it should come quickly. But restoration should come very, very slowly if at all, because, among other reasons, how it would look to the outside world. This is directly tied to the very first thing that Paul wrote, about overseers being above reproach.

Paul then moves to verse 8, saying, Deacons, likewise. Now, some see this as being an interchangeable continuation of his list regarding elders. Paul will use different terms interchangeably, so I get it. But I see this as a differentiation of the two offices of Elders and Deacons.

They are very similar, as we see with Paul saying, likewise, and as we see with the similarities between the two lists. We are going to burn through this list really quick and focus, mostly on how they parallel the list of qualifications of elders.

That Deacons must be dignified parallels #’s 1 and 3 especially of what we just looked at. Not addicted to much wine, or greedy for dishonest gain, parallels number 5, that elders are not to be drunkards or greedy.

Next Paul mentions the mystery of the faith. This is the Gospel. This is the mystery that was yet to be revealed in the Old Testament about who and what the Messiah would be. This is that God became man, to die for our sins and offer grace for the forgiveness of sins.

Deacons do not have to be able to teach as elders are required to be. However, they must be solid in the faith. They must have a solid theological background, not swaying on some of the core tenets of the faith. They do have to know and be able to express the clear Gospel.

Deacons are to be test first and found blameless. This parallels with # 7 in ways. Of course, we know that blameless does not equal sinless. They are to let their lives, over time, through the course of trials and testing, show fruit of the Gospel. Taking a course over time shows that they also cannot be a recent convert. Fruit takes time to grow and develop.

A quick aside in v 11 shows that the wives must also be mature Christians showing fruit of the spirit, as Paul declares they are to be dignified, not slanderous, sober minded and faithful.

Paul returns to the deacons as he mentions that they are to be the husband of one wife, just like #2 and that he must manage his household well, just like #6. Those 8 qualifications for deacons are very similar to those qualifications for elders as you can see.

They are positions of authority in the church, of leadership. But they are first and foremost positions of servanthood. Our lives and our service are to a testimony to the life and work of and our faith in Jesus Christ. All that we do, we are to do unto the LORD.

And here is the connecting thread I was wondering if you picked up on earlier. This is a passage listing the qualifications of elders and deacons in the local church. Does that mean this is a passage that is only intended to be for myself and the elders of the church? Does this mean that there isn’t any takeaway or application for you? Nope. Sorry, not that easy for you.

These are qualifications and requirements for Deacons and Elders. But this is the goal for ALL believers. Each and everyone of us, this is a list that we should strive to live out as we grow and mature in our faith in Christ Jesus.

Also, the elders and deacons of Bangor Community Church are voted on by the members of Bangor Community Church. In order to vote, you must know what you are voting for. So, this passage, this list of qualifications, is so much more than just that.

This is a list of what Gods is doing in our lives, through sanctification and through growth. This is what we should see developing in each and every one of us. This is the fruit that grows and develops over time because of what Christ has done for us.