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!
God of All Nations
Gods Kingdom Forever
Good Morning! Please Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Daniel chapter 7. If you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.
We have been reading through the book of Daniel in a series we have been calling “God of all Nations.” We are gong to see why again today. Chapter 7 of this book is both a transition chapter and a connective chapter. The historical part of the book is over. The story of Daniel and his friends time in Babylon is over.
Now, we are going to go start in the prophetic or the apocalyptic section. God shows Daniel a series of visions that both show some of the future and some of the behind the scenes things about the eternal, victorious Kingdom of God.
It is important to keep, at the front of our mind, that these visons and dreams are necessarily symbolic and utilize a lot of imagery that stands in for reality. We need to be careful to not interpret some of this symbolism and imagery into things that God never meant it to be. One Bible teacher makes the point, “The text cannot mean what it never meant.”
Many commentators and theologians will make a lot of specific interpretations of these things in the visions and dreams. Some of them may be right. Most of them will be wrong, or at the very least, incomplete and out of context.
And don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to figure out the details and identify the real-world side of the symbolism. But it is to say a couple of things. First, be careful. Don’t read things into the text that are not in the text. Second, ask yourself, what is the Bible trying to communicate with this text? Third, and most important, is this bringing closer to and focusing more on Christ? Or is this distracting me and taking my focus off of Christ?
We will get more into some of those things during the sermon, but as we continue, there are some more tidbits we need to recognize as we continue on. Daniel chapter 7 is still being written in Aramaic. This is the last chapter that will be written in that language before switching back to Hebrew in chapter 8. This helps bridge the book instead of only being slit in to two different and distinct sections, almost like they were two different books.
There are also a number of correlations between Daniel chapters 2 and chapter 7. We will get into many of these, specifically and especially the four kingdoms that are mentioned and represented.
Last thing before we jump into the text, our goal when reading the Bible is to figure out what God is saying to us. Not what we want him to say, or what we think he should say, but what he is and already did say. There is a reason that one of the first rules of theology, which simple means Study of God is that we don’t build our doctrines off the cloudy and the unclear. We build our doctrines off what the Bible says crystal clearly. We build our doctrine on what the Bible is most clear on.
Ok, so Daniel chapter 7. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Versions and I greatly encourage you to read along in your preferred translations as we read Gods Word. I’m going to start with verses 1-9 and we will walk through this chapter.
Daniel 7:1-9, Daniel records
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2 Daniel declared,[a] “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6 After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.
All right! So, we go back in time, back to between chapters 4 & 5, to the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. And God sent Daniel dreams and a vision. This vision starts with four winds from heaven blowing over the great seas. The sea, in the Bible, was often a symbol for great turmoil, chaos or of sinful nations.
Out of the seas, four beasts rose up, one after another. Each one was different from the last. These are snapshots of these beast coming out of the sea. And these four beasts are almost universally considered the same 4 kingdoms that were in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Daniel interpreted back in Daniel chapter 2.
The first beast that came up was like, that’s a key word for us to remember, especially in prophecy and apocalyptic literature. But this beast was like a lion with the wings of an eagle. This was represented Babylon as the greatest empire of the time. Babylon was often represented by lions in art from that time. And one of the things we see, starting with the first beast, with Babylon is that these empires and beast get their power and authority and success directly from God, not from within themselves.
The second beast is like a bear. This bear represented the Medo Persian Empire. Now, we don’t have much time to get into the historicity of this empire, if you like history, read up on them. Its fascinating. It really is.
Now, this bear like beast was raised up on one side. This has been said to mean anything from its up on two legs and ready to pounce, or it could be the difference in the power dynamic between the Meads and the Persians, to any number of other things.
The bear had three ribs in its mouth and was told to go and devour. Now, many try to attach special significance to these three ribs and what they represent. I tend to agree with the theologians who give no special significance to the number three, that there are no people, nations or whatever to be identified by these ribs. It looks to me like this is a sign that the bear is hungry and ready to go devour, to conquer many nations, to feast on power.
The third beast that rises up is a weird looking leopard with four wings and four faces. This would be the fast acting, fast moving Greek empire under Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world and was then dead at 33.
The fourth beast is one like no other. We don’t get an animal to compare it to. It was dreadful and terrifying. This is the Roman empire. It came up and assimilated all the other kingdoms. One Kingdom to rule them all.
Here we see the infamous 10 horns, with one little horn pushing out three of those 10 horns. A lot of people will look towards future or current fulfillment of this here. They will see end times and antichrist allusions here. And they are likely right, but many also insist on trying to identify every single one of the horns here and I think that’s a mistake.
As we are going to see later in this chapter, the identities of these horns are not vital to understanding what God is communicating through this vision. It can be useful to study and speculate, but more often, what I have seen is that it takes our eyes off if Christ and instead, puts too much trust and fear into todays current events.
What we have seen here is that this vision builds with four successive kingdoms building, conquering each other and ending with one kingdom ruling the known world. Iain Duguid simplifies this point, summarizing the begging part of the vision, saying, “The vision declares that our world is being run by a succession of fearsome monsters that will go from bad to worse, each one more frightening than the one before.”
Daniel’s vision continues in verses 9-14:
“As I looked,
thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
And here we are introduced to the Ancient of Days. Father God himself. Contrasted with the chaos and the energy of the four beasts coming up out of the sea, God is patiently sitting on his throne, waiting for the fullness of time. He is never surprised; He knows all that is happening and will happen. He is in control of all the world and all their kingdoms.
He is seated on a fiery throne and is surrounded by and worshipped by so many multitudes, reminding us of the scene is Revelation 5 and Revelation 7 which show all the saints surrounding the throne in heaven.
The fourth beast is struck down, showing that he too is under the sovereign control of the almighty God. Duguid again comforts us, saying, “The purpose if the passage is not to give us nightmares but to calm our nightmares.”
In this vision, after we see the Ancient of Days on his throne, we see one coming like the Son of Man. This is of course Jesus Christ. And he is presented by God with the throne and the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He comes down on clouds. This is important because in the Old Testament, only God is shown to come on the clouds. So fully God, and like the Son of Man, appearing as a man, Fully Man. This is Jesus Christ.
His humanness here is contrasted with the beasts we just saw. Jesus is the fulfillment of man, who man was supposed to be. Where Adam failed and severing our relationship with God and condemning us to a life of sin, Jesus succeeded. He lived a sinless life, earning our redemption, accessed through the Grace of God and through our faith in Christ. Jesus redeemed us, restored our relationship with God the Father and defeated death and sin.
This is not referring to the Second Coming of Christ. This is referring to his first coming. His entrance into this world. This is referring to him getting the keys to the kingdom. Jesus himself said, in his earthly ministry, that the kingdom of heaven is here. And he earned those keys with his life, death and resurrection. Then with his ascension, he went back up to heaven and was seated on the thrones and is ruling over the kingdom at this very moment, as we speak.
This is an everlasting kingdom. A kingdom that rules over all other kingdoms. This kingdom will never be destroyed and none who are citizens of this kingdom will be left behind.
Babylon rose and fell.
Persians rose and fell.
Greeks rose and fell.
The Romans rose and fell
But the Kingdom of God will rise and will not fall/ Gods kingdom remain forever.
We finish up this chapter with Daniel 7, verses 15-28, where he writes:
“As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me[b] was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So, he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’
19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.
23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’[c]
28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”
These visions understandably make Daniel nervous. He wants to know what all these details mean. See? Daniel is a man, just like us! We are not alone. I know that’s the interesting part to many people of these stories, these visions. And so, Daniel walks up to an angel that is standing there and asks him to interpret this vision.
Notice that the angel is not concern with identifying the kingdoms, who all the horns were or who the beast is/will be. Instead his focus is on what God has made clear. To me, verses 17 & 18 are the key points to the entire chapter, maybe even book.
Everything else is interesting, but this is the main point. Christ became man to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. The general gist of this vision is what’s ultimately important and we all have to agree in.
Then we also that the saints of the Most High will also receive their portion of the kingdom. Paul tells us in Romans that we will be Co heirs with Christ.
Daniel essentially says, I don’t care about that! Yeah sure, I know the general stuff. I know that things are going to end up working out in the end. That the other kingdoms are going to be knocked down by you and will end up pointing towards you as the ultimate ruler. But I want to know the all the intricate, unknowable, cloudy, unclear minutia and details.
This is what we often do. James made sure to point out that Elijah was a man, just like us. The same holds true for Daniel as we see in this section, making him much more relatable.
The angel answered Daniel and essentially told him what we already knew. He says that the fourth kingdom will be widespread and super powerful. He mentions the 10 horns and the three horns and says they are rulers of kingdoms. I read this and I see these numbers being used as specific, symbolic numbers like scripture often does. 10 being a number for completeness. Three being a significant portion of that 10 and one coming out of them to be the ultimate leader and ultimate representative of sin. This one will blaspheme God; he will persecute believers and he will change laws of the land.
Many try too hard in my opinion to make specific correlations to these 10 horns. A specific example is a number of years ago, when England joined the European Union, this made it so that 10 countries were a part of it. Many saw that this was triggering end times events.
But we need to be careful to not be too literal in places where God does not mean or the text to be literal. Sinclair Ferguson makes this point, saying:
Such anticipations of fulfillment of the details of visionary teaching may be fundamentally mistaken. It would be like looking for exact doctrinal equivalents to the Fathers kiss, the robe, the ring, and the fatted calf in the Parable of the Prodigal Son., or the donkey, innkeeper and the coins in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is to fail to grasp the genre of the passage whose details do not have on to one equivalent. Where details of the symbolism of the vision are not given further weight, the symbolism probably has general significance. Where that symbolism is underscored and elaborated, then it is fitting that we pursue the matter further.
And so we see that there are details in these visons that God does want to us to think on and investigate, but he, nor the angel interrupting this vision give any indication of the identities of the leaders that these horns represent, nor does he give any indication that they are specific individuals, or specific kingdoms either.
Now, it is commonly understood that the little horn that supplants the three other horns symbolizes the end, ultimate antichrist that will rise up. God will give him power and authority for a time, times and a ½ a time. We saw the same phrasing with Ol Nebbys mental issues, when he was made to be like the beasts of the field for 7 times. Many assume that a time equals 1 year, though we have no biblical evidence for this. If this happened to be true, the little horn would be in power for three and ½ years.
We know from 1 John especially that there have been, are and will be many antichrists in the world, who will come against God and his people. Gods people spend a lot of time trying to identify them and dig them out. This little horn will be the apex of evil in the world. He will be the culmination of all that is being built to in the world today. He will be what brings the world to that point where it was right before the Flood, where God has determined the time for his coming back and when he will put an end to all these things. As Ferguson says, “The Ancient of Days will bring all this activity to a halt with his righteous decree.”
Again, the important aspect of this, Gods rule reigns. His Kingdom prevails. His saints will rule. His kingdom will rule forever over all other kingdoms. Eventually every earthly kingdom will fall away. When that happens now, another one rises up to take its place as a world superpower. Eventually, there will be no more and only Gods kingdom will stand.
Daniel says in verse 28 that this vision and the thoughts associated with it alarmed him and his color changed. He was concerned for what the future holds for Gods people. This vision is a picture of Gods church through history and it is a warning that we would know that hard times and persecution would be coming. But it is also an encouragement that God will bring us through it and will and is in fact already victorious over sin and death. Sinclair Ferguson wraps things up well, regarding the ultimate purpose of this vision and this chapter of the book of Daniel.
The overarching concern of this chapter is to focus our attention on the age-long conflict between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. Just when Daniel is anticipating the deliverance of the kingdom of God from its oppression in the form of the return from exile, he learns an important lesson: This conflict is endemic to world history until the end. Rather than decrease, it will be perpetuated until it reaches its zenith in the ferocious blasphemies of the Little horn.
And yet, and yet in all this, we go back again to verse 18, But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’
The affect this had on Daniel was to pray for the future saints and what they will be going through. So too should we. We look and see what fellow believers are going through around the world. And we need to occasionally focus on that, instead of always focusing on how that persecution will be coming for us. Pray for fellow believers and future believers and what they will have to go through. Pray boldly and powerfully, knowing that the end is already achieved and determined by the power and sovereignty of God. Look beyond our present situation, look at church history, look at the church’s future and look at the good and bad for both. The good infinitely outweighs the bad, because God himself is pure good.
Things can and will be tough. This is not meant to downplay that. But the cure for the disease has already been administered. Now we wait for the symptoms to cease. God is God. God is powerful. God is sovereign. And God wins in the end. What an encouragement to not eliminate the tough times, but to help get us through them.
God of All Nations
3 men and a Furnace
Good Morning Bangor Community Church and anyone else that may be listening. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 3. In the book of Daniel, especially the first 6 chapters, there are a lot of stories that we are at least partially familiar with, and we may think that we are intimately aware of. These tend to be classic Sunday School Lessons.
Today, the story we will look at in Chapter 3 is a prime example. We are going to look at the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego (Babylonian names) getting thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. And I think that we are going to see a lot of things that we assume were part of the story, or that we assumed we understood that we just didn’t see before now. I know that’s at least what happened with me.
Before we get into that, however, let’s look at what’s already happened n Daniel, that led to this point. Ol Nebby had, in chapter 2, had a dream revolving around a huge statue where he was the golden head. When Daniel was able to tell him what his dream was and to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream for him, The King acknowledged Daniel’s God as “God of gods and Lord of Kings.”
What the King did NOT do, however, was turn to and acknowledge Yahweh as exclusively God. He still ruled over, lived in and believed in a pluralistic community. There were many gods, over many things, each nation had their own god, and all were valid and powerful.
In this, Daniel was put as, essentially, the Kings right hand man, he was given authority over all the magi and wisemen. Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego were appointed as governors over the province of Babylon.
As we move forward into chapter 3, we see that the theme of this chapter and the theme of the entire book as a whole is that God is not just a god among gods but is God over all. He is the God of all Nations. He is the God of all Kingdoms. He is the God over all other so-called gods. He is the God of all people. That is why I have titled this series, God of all Nations.
So, with all that being said, let’s go ahead and start reading Daniel chapter 3. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your Bibles, with your preferred translation. So, Daniel chapter 3, we will start with verses 1-7, though we will cover the entire chapter 3 this morning.
Daniel 3:1-7, Daniel writes:
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits[a] and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
May God Bless the Reading of His Word
So, we see from the beginning a couple of questions that pop up to me, but that we won’t find answers for in the text. First, we don’t know how long after chapter 2, that this chapter takes place. It could have been very shortly afterwards, when the dream was still fresh in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, or it could have been much later on, as the impact of the interpretation has faded just a bit. We also don’t know where Daniel is during this story. He may have been left behind to tend to business while all the other officials were at the statue. He could have been alongside Nebby during this, and just exempt from the command and punishments. The truth is we just don’t know.
But we start this chapter off with very clear connections to Nebbys dream. He builds a statue made of gold, and he builds it 90 feet tall. This is a huge statue for the day, but it’s also not unheard of, meaning it’s incredibly impressive, but not unbelievable. To give an example of the scale, the Sphinx in Egypt is 66 feet tall.
I want us to look at one possible motivation here as well. Nebuchadnezzar built this statue out of Gold. Now it was likely Gold plated, but it was still, the entire thing was Gold. It is likely and it seems obvious to me that Nebby was trying to ignore or to undo the interpretation of his dream. Daniel was clear that, while Nebby was the golden head of the four kingdoms and that the ones who came after him would be progressively inferior. Nebby was a narcissistic sociopath. He would have greatly accepted that he was the golden head. He may have, though probably not have accepted that strong and superior kingdoms would have defeated him. But he most certainly would not have been willing to accept that inferior kingdoms would replace him. And so, in the imagery of his statue, he eliminated them and made it all about him.
So, he builds this monstrous monument to himself. And all the movers and shakers, all the government officials, all the influencers, all of them came to stand before the statue, came for the event of the dedication and the unveiling. They all came to pay homage to Ol’ Nebby.
Nebuchadnezzar tells them how. When the signal hits, in this case the orchestra playing, when you hear this, you will bow down and worship this golden image of me!
Now, for me, when I usually think of this story, I think of it as, every time you hear music you have to bow down. But that’s not what we see here. This is not an ongoing thing, this is a onetime event, a show, or maybe a test of loyalty.
And here is the law. If you do not keep this command, you will be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive. This was not an uncommon punishment for those days. And there would have been a giant furnace, or a kiln may be a better way for us to think about it, right there. It would have been used to forge and smelt the metals and the gold used in the construction of the statue.
And yes, it seems odd to us today that people would bow down and worship a statue of their king, or that Nebby would build a 90 foot statue of himself in order for people to worship, but it’s not that odd. It is that days manifestation of Romans 1:25, where Paul writes: they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
Today we see it in our practical worship of our jobs, our schooling, our sports teams, our politicians, our favorite celebrities, even our families, husbands, wives, kids and their activities. John Calvin wrote that the “human heart is an idol factory.” It can even be our way of life, our comfort, or our nation that we make an idol in these days.
We are rarely called to literally bow down before our idols, though in some places and to some idols that still happens today. But we sacrifice for them. We put them first. We put them above God himself, even if we believe in God.
Our politician says something, no matter what, no matter what the Bible says, and we agree with it and we manipulate the bible to make it fit. We forget that the Bible is more important and more applicable to a Christians life than the Constitution is. We have kids who have activities Sunday mornings and so we justify ignoring church to worship at the altar of our kids, or our own hobbies and interests. These idols are still out there, and we are still bowing down before them, even today.
In verse 7, the music played. The band struck up a tune and the people all bowed down to the statue. All bowed down. All nations, all languages, all tribes. False gods don’t discriminate.
Music can be very powerful. That’s why we like to have music when we sing our songs of worship and praise at church. That’s one of the things, outside of fellowship, that I miss the most in this time of not meeting together.
But music can be used to manipulate as well. Many of the false teachers today use music to manipulate their congregation into emotional experiences. When you can make worship an experience, you can focus and steer that experience towards the desired object of worship.
You may often hear of these places where during the worship was a spectacle, it is described as an environment, people get caught up in the moment of that worship.
Sinclair Ferguson has some good things to say about this in his commentary on Daniel. He writes about this story: there was an aesthetic effect in abundance on the plain of Dura. A person would have had to be extremely narrow-minded not to share on the sheer magnificence of the occasion and the splendor of the music.
He continues: The sad reality is “all that glitters is not gold.” The important thing about worship is its object. Do we worship God or ourselves? The test of whether worship is God centered or centered on ourselves will be found in the question: Do we worship God according to His revelation or according to our own disposition? In worship, the statement, “How I like to worship is…” is irrelevant. All that matter is how God chooses to be worshipped.
And of course, worshipping and bowing down to a 90-foot statue in the image of Nebuchadnezzar is not how he chooses to be worshipped. Songs more about our feelings and emotions are not how he chooses to be worshiped. But worship these people did.
Let’s continue on with Daniel 3:8-18, as he writes:
Therefore, at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared[b] to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.[c] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
King Nebby didn’t discriminate. He didn’t care what nation you were from. He didn’t care what language you spoke. He didn’t care which gods you chose to worship. As long as you worshipped him. Again, same thing we saw in Rome. You can worship Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD. We see it today. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you worship science, inclusivity, tolerance, self-reliance, America, comfort, social justice, celebrity culture, communism, capitalism, achievements, worth health, Obama or Trump. As long as you bow down and worship at least one of those, go right on ahead and believe in Jesus.
And we see that the Chaldeans came to Ol Nebby and told him of three men who would not bow down to hum and his statue. They were very pointed in their accusations as well. It says they, “maliciously accused the Jews.” Some see some anti-Semitism in this, in how they singled out that they were Jews. That’s definitely possible. Some see this as personal jealousy that these three guys had such privileged positions after so short a time. That’s definitely possible. Some say it was a combination of the two. That seems most likely.
The fact is that all the people in attendance were told to bow or they would be punished by law. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t. Sinclair Ferguson uses them as an example to point out that we are not to make big shows of ourselves when we take stands like this. The three men didn’t make a big deal. They didn’t protest the statue. They didn’t sit down and so a hunger strike. They didn’t boycott. They just stood quietly and off to the side. They didn’t hide obviously, but they didn’t draw any undue attention to themselves.
We have a tendency, as human beings, to think like this,” Did you see me not doing that thing that everyone else was doing? Yup, I’m pretty holy. Did you see me doing that thing that nobody else was doing? Yup my faith in God is strong and uncompromising.”
We have seen this in the last two months, where churches have decided not to listen to the various state at home orders by the governors and the opened up anyway and various things have come if those situations. But most of them are not quietly meeting, not making a big deal of it, many of them are flaunting their disobedience in the name of religious liberty.
But Shad, Mac and Abe didn’t do that. They just stood to the side and refused to bow down. The Chaldeans kind of come across as annoyed children. I know I see in my house, “Daaaaaaad! They’re not doing what they are supposed to be! They are not listening to you!”
And if course, Ol Nebby was furious, to put it mildly. He brings the 3 guys in to give them a chance to make things right. It may be that he couldn’t believe it because he trusted. It could be he didn’t believe it because he could believe that anyone would dare disobey him.
Either way, it is surprising what happens. He gives them a second chance. He says, “They told me you wouldn’t listen, well here’s your chance. Ill strike up the band again, and if you bow now, we can put thus whole scenario behind us. If you don’t, well… you know the consequences…”
In fact, he says, who is the god that can save you. Essentially, he is saying that he is the one with ultimate power and authority and their god has none and cannot save them. Part of this seems to be that the furnace, or the kiln, is right there. There is no transportation. There is no waiting or delay. So, there is no time for another god to step in and help them.
Of course, the decline the invitation. They make their point; No matter what God can save them. He may choose not to, but even if that’s the case, we will still choose to worship Him, and we will never bow down to you.
Stephan Miller writes: although no doubt existed in the minds if Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-ego about the ability of their God to deliver them, they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants.
The early church father and historian Jerome, also says this: Thereby they indicate that it will not be a matter of Gods inability but rather of his sovereign will if they do perish.”
In addition to Gods ability to deliver and save regardless of whether he chooses to, here’s I, I think, the biggest point that I can take away from this. Yes, we are to obey Gods laws over man’s laws. Yes, they were right to take their stand and not bow to the statue. But man’s laws still stand. God puts every leader into authority, and he has granted governments their power and authority. So, if we decide that a situation or a law goes against Gods law, we may be right in choosing to not obey or submit to the situation or the law, but, and here is the kicker, You need to be willing to, and expect to face the consequences of your choices.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were right to obey God instead of man, and not bow down. But they were also willing to submit to the punishment and consequences of their decision. This is one spot where, here in America, I think, Christians are soft. We want the right to disobey the laws and rules that we think are unbiblical and wrong, but we also want immunity from doing so.
We saw a crystal-clear example a few years ago, after the supreme decided that same sex marriage was legal. There was a county clerk in Kentucky. Her job was to sign the marriage licenses to make them legal. She decided that she was not going to sign the licenses for same sex couples. That was her conviction regarding obey Gods laws instead of mans. But then there was a whole uproar after she was arrested for not complying with the law. She was well within her rights to refuse to do so, but that doesn’t mean she should not have been punished for it. Christians, brothers, sisters, there are times and circumstances when it is right and good to reject man’s laws because they go against Gods laws. As Martin Luther famously said as he came before the synod at Dort, as he was told to recant of his 95 Thesis, he said he would not recant, he would not back down. He said, and I quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
But we have to remember that there are consequences that come with it and we may not like them. We may be harmed, we may be imprisoned and killed for these stances. We need to know that ahead of time and we need to be willing to go through with that if and when we choose to stand for God against man’s laws.
Ok, so let’s read the next chunk of verses, Daniel 3:19-23:
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,[e] their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Now, their response, as you would imagine, did not go over well with Ol Nebby. In fact, his fury raged. He was incensed. He ordered the furnace to be heated up to 7 times hotter than normal. It seems obvious with eh number 7 being used that this is an expression meaning to get it as hot as possible. He ordered that the 3 men would be thrown into the furnace immediately.
The guards tied them up, still in their clothes and took them to throw them in the firs. The furnace had gotten so hot that the guards throwing them in where overwhelmed by the heat and died. Many suspect that this was either because of the urgency of Nebuchadnezzar’s command, that they didn’t have time to prepare themselves, protect themselves from the heat. Or that there was a sudden shift of the wind direction right as they were throwing the guys in. I personally like the second one, because if that’s what happened, it speaks to God acting in the situation regardless of if he decides to save the 3 men in the furnace.
Let us read the last chunk of verses, Daniel 3:24-30:
4 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Highest God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
What a scene that must have been for Ol Nebby. He had the three of them thrown in, tied up, into a fiery furnace that was made as hot as it could possibly be, so hot that it killed the guards who threw them in. And Nebuchadnezzar looks in and is shocked and amazed. He says, not three, but four men! Unbound! Walking around! He couldn’t believe it! He had to show others as well to make sure he wasn’t seeing things!
And the fourth had the appearance as a son of the gods. Now, there has been a lot of speculation about this. Whether this was a physical appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus, otherwise known as a Christophany. I believe that it is. Some believe, as many of the Jewish scholars did, that this was the archangel Gabriel. It isn’t explicit in the text, but here is what we do know. Nebby didn’t know who it was either, but from his appearance, it was clear that this fourth person was divine. He was more than a man. He would not have had any idea who Jesus was or that this was Jesus, but he knew that this was a divine being in there protecting Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
Nebby was so amazed that he called for the three to come out, along with the “Most High God.” Now, to the Jews and to Christians now, this title refers to the one and only, living God. But to the unbelievers, especially of the day, to those in a polytheistic, pluralistic society, this would have meant the highest of many Gods.
So, the boys came out and everyone around saw that they were unburned, unsinged and that they did not even smell like fire.
Nebuchadnezzar is so amazed, and he declares that their God is a god. That he sent an angel to save them. Their god saved them because they wouldn’t bow down to any other gods.
He then, for this particular instance, reverses his course and his decree. He says that anyone who says anything bad against their god will be punished. By not saying anything about it, he says that they no longer need to bow before his statue.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar repented of his idolatry or his blasphemy. There is no evidence that he tore down his statue. There is no evidence that he trusted in the one true God, the God of Israel, the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The god of the Jews was a great god, a god to be feared and respected and a god of which nothing may be said against, but he was not the god of Nebuchadnezzar.
In the end, Nebuchadnezzar restored the boys to their positions over the province of Babylon and even gave them a promotion of sorts.
This is the biblical story of 3 men in the furnace. This is not the typical Sunday School story. This is not the veggie tales’ story. This is what happened. The more I preach on stories in the Bible, that are supposedly well known, the more I see that God is incredible and he puts so much more into these stories than we see on the surface. It inspires me to try to look deeper and I hip it does the same for you.
Again, the main point of all this is that God is over and above all. He is over and above everything else. He is not one of many. He is not the greatest of many. He is the only and the highest. He is the all holy, all knowing God of all tongues, tribes and nations. As the only God, he sends only one means of salvation.
By his grace and his grace alone, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, truly man, and truly God. ON that note, I will leave you with a passage from the Gospel of John. John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
2 Timothy 4:1-5
Life in the Local Church
Paul’s Appeal to Timothy
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 4. As usual, if you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.
Well, we are on to the last chapter on 2 Timothy, chapter 4. We have been working our way through 1 & 2 Timothy, Paul’s letters to Timothy as Paul was imprisoned in Rome and Timothy was pastoring the church in Ephesus. Paul knows this letter is coming to an end and he knows his life is coming to an end. He is writing Timothy what Timothy needs to hear and needs to know. And we titled this series, Life in the Local Church, because Paul is writing what we all today, as a part of the local church need to hear and need to know as well.
And one of the main things that Paul has been focused on is the importance and the primacy and the sufficiency and the authority of God’s Word. HE says, the False teachers are here, and they are going to come up through the church, so watch out. Here is what they look like, hers is what they sound like, here is what they act like. Essentially, here’s how to identify them and here is what their bad fruit will be.
But make sure that you are focused on Christ. Jesus Christ who is the Word of God become flesh; Jesus Christ who is God become man. Focus on the Word, which is the Holy Scripture, collected and printed right here in this book that we get to carry around with us, or put into out tablets, our computers, even our phones so that we are never without it. Focus on the Word, scripture which is God Breathed, which is inspired by God, which is inerrant, without error, which is sufficient and complete, useful for all things and everything.
2 Timothy kind of has two bookmark verses and points that Paul makes. The first is back in 2 Timothy 1:6 & 7, where he says,
I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
And he has spent the last three chapters pushing Timothy towards the charge that he is going to give him here at the beginning of chapter 4. He has been, in essence, telling him to live by this book, to live by the scriptures, by the Word of God. The last two verse of chapter 3 he reminds or establishes, depending on your background, that the scriptures are, in fact, the very Word of God and that it has all the authority that God himself has, because it is His revealed Words to us.
And that leads to what he says here at the beginning of Chapter 4. So, lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, 2 Timothy chapter 4, verses 1 through 5. I am reading out of the English Standard Version, my preferred translation. Please follow along in your preferred translation.
Paul here is writing the very Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as he charges and exhorts Timothy, saying:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
May God Bless the reading of his holy, inspired and inerrant Word.
First, maybe this is just me and my brain, but since I’m the one up here, I get to ask you the question. Does it feel like something is missing from verse 1 right here? For me, it feels like one of those transitions where Paul would put a “therefore.”
This is what false teachers look and act like. They disobey the scriptures. The scriptures are Gods very Word and revelation and instructions to us. Therefore, I charge you… The good news is that scripture is useful for teaching, Paul just said that. Scripture has taught us that we look for those transitions and the connections between them. Every paragraph is not a standalone paragraph. Context matters and context bridges; from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph, from chapter to chapter, even from book to book sometimes.
Because of everything that Paul has written since chapter 1 verse 6, therefore, Timothy, I charge you. This is your calling, your responsibility. Its not really your choice. This is what you are to do. And this charge is giving by Paul to Timothy, but the call that Paul is referring to is not giving by him. It is administered by Paul and done so in the presence of He who has given the call, God the Father and Christ Jesus.
And Notice again, Paul contrasts truth against what the False teachers teach. They are teaching incorrectly about who Jesus is and what He has and will do. And so, Paul affirms some truths about Jesus. First, by the title Paul gives him, he affirms that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah. He is the Savior whom God promised to send on our behalf back in Genesis 3. He is God become man to save sinners. He is the Christ.
Christ Jesus is the judge. He will judge right from wrong. He will judge the living and the dead. Sin will be judged and sin, not redeemed, will be punished with eternal damnation. You often hear people justify their sin by saying, “You can’t judge me, only God can judge me.” I want to plead with them, “Yes! And that should scare you!” Gods judgment is nothing to trifle with. Its nothing to dismiss. No matter how symbolic or how literal you think it is, reading the various judgments and bowls and trumpets in Revelation should testify to that.
We don’t all get to go to heaven. We don’t get to plead our case, our worthiness to Him when we stand before him. He will judge is solely on whether we are redeemed by His blood. Our salvation is through nothing but the grace of God alone, though faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Christ Jesus will appear again. He is coming back We can disagree on when. We don’t and won’t know the day, but when he comes back, there will be no doubt, the whole Earth will know, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that he is LORD. We don’t have to agree on what the millennium is or what the tribulation is or when He will return in relation to either of those. But we do need to agree that he will physically return. That is a core, central, necessary tenet of Christianity.
Lastly, Christ Jesus is King over his Kingdom. Right now, He is reigning over his Kingdom, all of creation. And after he returns and judges the nations and refines the world so that we will reside in the new heavens and the new Earth, Jesus will hand his Kingdom back over to the Father and will be seated at his right hand, reigning along side him.
Paul says that in all of the things he has warned about, all the false teaching. The Apostasy within the church. In the face of cultural and fake Christianity. In the face of current to them and upcoming to us persecution, what are you to do? Paul says, I charge you, in the presence of God and Christ Jesus to do this in the face of all of that. Preach the Word.
Preach the Word. Preach the Gospel. Teach others about Jesus and about what the Bible says bout him. Preach it using words. The Gospel never doesn’t need words. Our lives can and will help to testify to what we say we believe, but preaching the Gospel always requires words. Evangelize. Share the Gospel with others. Let them know what it means that Jesus died for our sins. Let them know who Jesus actually is. Not everyone who says the believe in God or believes in Jesus will be talking about the same God, the same Jesus as the Bible defines. Let them know that the Bible says that we need to repent from our sins and believe that Jesu Christ is LORD.
And this is to be done In Season and Out of Season. We are to Preach the Word and share the Gospel when its easy and the words come easy and people seem receptive. And we are to Preach the Word and share the Gospel when its hard and we can’t think of the words and people don’t want to hear it. We need to remember that this is literally a matter of life or death, eternally speaking.
One of the things that the Bible teaches and the letters to Timothy specifically convict me of is that we are to not only teach and preach what is right, but we are also to point out error when we see it.
I’ve shared this with you guys before, and mi shamelessly stealing it from Ligon Duncan, though I don’t know if its shamelessly stealing if I give credit, but anyway, the following is a great illustration of this point. Duncan says:
I’ll never forget–a friend of mine…we were talking about a very famous professor, and we both had a great admiration for him. And he shared a story. He sat down with another minister who knew this professor. He’s a very godly man, a very wise man, a very kind man, though he didn’t like to critique wrong views. He was given simply to stating what was right, and then when people would ask him, “But, what about…” he’d say, “Well, I don’t want to get into criticizing those other views.” And so, he was talking with this pastor, and this pastor said, “You know what his problem is? He’ll draw a picture of a horse and say, ‘That’s a horse’; but he won’t draw a picture of a cow and say, ‘That’s not a horse.’ And that was his colorful way of saying this man will tell you what’s right, but he won’t tell you what’s wrong. And Paul is saying to Timothy, ‘It’s not enough to tell the people of God what’s right; you also need to tell them what’s wrong. They need to know the difference, and they need to learn how to discern the difference, and that means being both positive and negative in your proclamation.’
Paul continues in verse 2, saying that we are to reprove, rebuke and exhort. Very similar wording to what he said just a few lines earlier in chapter 3, verse 16. All of those things that the Bible is useful for, for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, all those things, we are to continue to do and to use the Bible to do them.
The Bible is not a self-help book, no matter what many TV preachers try to peddle. The Bible is not simply a set of moral guidelines, though it does include those. The Bible is not a science book, though it is trustworthy and without error where it mentions science.
The Bible is book, a collection of books about the history of His redeemed people, about His glory about his love and about his Holiness. The Bible is a book about Gods plan of redemption. The Bible is a book about Jesus and who He is.
And we are to share this book with others with complete patience and teaching. We teach, showing each other and others “This is what the Bible says…” “The scriptures say…” “Jesus said, and then quote him correctly or give chapter and verse.” The Bible says…
This is how we teach. We use the Bible, which is Truth, Given directly from God, the author of Ultimate Truth. We use that Truth to teach. And we do so with patience. No all who respond will do so immediately. Some will change a little bit at a time. Some will change the moment they here the truth. Some will have to hear the truth a lot, building a foundation and then the change will seem immediate. And some will not respond at all. This is about sharing the Gospel with those who do not believe. Remember that we sow the seed, but God brings the increase, God does the work. He calls us to Him and often drags us, kicking and screaming to Himself. But don’t dismiss this idea because you see it mainly about evangelism.
This is also for each of us and our learning. This is for our growth and our sanctification. Not a single one of us has everything right. We need to be taught by each other. Some of us, when we are taught the truth, we will change immediately, some if us will gradually change, some if us will resist it and then seem to change all of a sudden, and some of us will never change out views or thoughts, no matter how much truth we are shown. Search your heart and ask God to make sure you are open to hear the Truth as the Bible teaches it.
And Paul goes on to show why he specifies the preaching of the Gospel both In Season and Out of Season. He lays it out in verses 3 & 4. The time is coming. The truth is the time is hear and the time has been here since Paul wrote this to Timothy. People don’t want to hear. They don’t want to listen. Again, this applies to those outside the church, to those who don’t believe, but it applies just as much to those in the pews every Sunday.
Natural human desire is to hear what affirms what we want to hear, to affirm what we already think. Studies have been done that show that we hear what we already agree with. Think about your politics and try to watch with open eyes. I see this all the time. Some one from the left says something and someone from the right says the same basic thing. Those on the right will defend what their side said and dismiss and mock what the other side said. The person on the left will do the same thing. And its when both politicians say the same thing. We want to hear what agrees with what we already think and believe.
People want to listen to people who make them feel good. We want to be told that we are the hero of the story. We want to be told that we are David, standing up against Goliath, our sins and slaying them. The truth is that we are the scared, paralyzed, quaking Israelites who need Jesus to fight our battles for us. And praise God that he does, but that’s not the story we want to hear.
False teachers gain big audiences appealing to, quote, “common sense.” Unquote. They make scripture less accurate. “No one could survive being in the belly of a fish!” “God uses Evolution!” “Jesus only appeared to have risen from the dead but isn’t that still inspirational!” And my favorite, by favorite I mean drives me crazy, “Do we actually lose anything if we lose the virgin birth?” YES! Yes, we lose everything if we lose that!
Teachers and so-called pastors who teach these sorts of things have large followings and lots of influence amongst those who don’t believe. And they draw people away from the Truth. Jesus says that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When we substitute anything else in for Jesus, we lose everything. When we focus on anything else besides Jesus, we lose everything.
As for you, Paul continues to contrast faithful believers with those who teach falsely and those who follow false teachers. In contrast to them, unlike them, be sober minded. Be safe and smart, not dismissive and not panicking. We touched on that on Wednesday, as we were reading through Psalm 10. Given the hysteria from some and the complete dismissal of others regarding the pandemic going on from the coronavirus, COVID-19, what are we to do? We know that God is in control of all things. We know that he is sovereign. He calls us to pay attention to what’s going on around us. We have a biblically taught human responsibility. A responsibility to take care of ourselves. A responsibility to love our neighbors and care for others. A responsibility to be smart and safe in this world. But our focus is to be straight up, into the heavens, right on Jesus Christ. If we panic, we are trusting in our own ability to save ourselves instead of trusting in the sovereignty of God. If we ignore completely and dismiss reality, we are ignoring the plain teachings of the Bible and especially the command to love and care for our neighbors. In all things we are to be sober minded.
We are to endure suffering. We look to biblical examples such as Paul, and Job and so many more. We can probably think of people in our lives who have endured suffering and in that enduring, they were an incredible witness for Christ. The ran the race and finished well. All things to the Glory of God. That’s easy to say and think when things are going well, but its so much more important when suffering is involved.
Do the work of an evangelist. Share the Gospel, spread the word, share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We show those around us why we have Hope in such trying times. Why we don’t need to panic over the things of this world. Why we can endure the suffering that will come.
But we are not to be salesmen in a consumer culture. We are not selling a cure, or our best life now. WE are not selling healing and financial gain. We are not selling anything at all. We are proclaiming the truth. The truth of the Word of God revealed to us in the book we hold in our hands. We truth that reveals Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.
Notice Paul’s constant contrasting of those who dismiss and reject the truth and those who are faithful and loyal to the truth. That’s because those are the only two choices we have. There is no middle ground. There is no gray area. You are either in Christ or you without Christ. You are either a sheep, to whom Christ will see in the end, “Well Done, good and faithful servant,” welcoming you into eternal life with Christ, worshiping the King of Kings in eternal paradise, in perfection, the Kingdom of Heaven. Or you are a goat, one who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, rejecting Christ and his salvation. To whom Christ will say, “Go away, for I never knew you.”
The Word instructs us, repent and believe in the Gospel. Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, he is the Christ. He is the savior. I want to leave you with Philippians 4:4-9 as Paul writes:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
2 Timothy 2:20-26
Life in the Local Church
A Life Worthy of the Gospel
Good Morning, please turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Timothy chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one off the back table as our gift to you.
As you open your Bible, we want to look at where we are in Paul’s letter to his protégé, Timothy. The passage we looked at last week is completely tied together with the passage we are looking at this week and so I want to refresh for some of us, a few of the things that Paul mentioned in verses 14-19.
First is of course, the main verse and possibly one of the main verse in all of Paul’s letters, verse 15 reads, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[c] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
HE continues to make his point that we are to avoid quarrels over words and avoid irreverent babble. That subject, that line of thought is going to come up again here today.
And then lastly, leading directly into the verses we will look at this morning, Paul ends verse 19 by telling us, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
One of the main points of that passage being that we are to repent and turn away from our sins. It is a call to holiness. We are to live a new life, and that our actions will show our faith and our love of Christ.
That being said, lets go ahead and read the passage we will look at this morning, 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 20-26. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to ty a variety of translations and find the one that stays faithful to the original languages and makes the Word of God the most understandable to you. Then bring that Bible and follow along as we read Gods Word.
2 Timothy 2:20-26, Paul under direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes Holy Scripture, telling Timothy:
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable,[d] he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Thus, says the Holy, inspired, inerrant and sufficient Word of God.
So, we start here with Paul showing us the concept of what Holiness is. To be holy means to be set apart. And Paul uses an analogy of household items to show this point. Some vessels in the house are made of silver and gold and they are designed, they are created for, their purpose is noble and honorable tasks.
Other vessels, instead, are made of wood and clay, and they are designed for and purposed for dishonorable tasks. Some vessels are created to be set aside and set apart and made holy. Some are not created to be set aside and set apart in order to be made holy, though they still serve the purpose of God.
Paul says that we, as vessels can be cleansed from dishonorable and unclean use and design and purpose and change to be a clean and honorable vessel, useful to the master and ready for all good works.
Now, I know some of you are very good cleaners. If you are given something to clean, no matter how dirty, I trust that, if you hand it back to me, it will be clean. I don’t trust me that much, that’s for sure. Often, my preference, if it’s bad enough, would be to throw it out and buy something new.
I don’t want to be crude, put when Paul says dishonorable uses and the like, when talking about the vessels, I want you to think of a bed pan or from the olden days, chamber pots. Thinking of that, I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how good of a cleaner you are, I’m not trusting that item to ever, EVER, being clean enough to eat out of. Sorry, just not that trusting.
But the Good News of Jesus Christ is this. We are born as dishonorable vessels, as unclean spirits before God. Through Jesus life, death and resurrection, through the work of the Holy Spirit and through the grace of God, we are able to be cleansed and made clean, changing from vessels made for dishonorable use, to a vessel made for Gods glory, for honorable use, a vessel made to be holy and set apart.
We can and do often try to cleanse ourselves. We try harder to be good. We use our strength to try to stop sinning. We try to bleach and sanitize our lives. And in fact, we often use that as a reason to put off coming to God. “As soon as I clean up my life, then Ill come to God.” But we can’t clean ourselves. It takes God the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside before we can do that. We need to come to God before we get clean otherwise, we never end up coming to him.
And Paul says, once you belong to Christ, then cleanse yourself from all the unclean things in your life! Get all the unholy away from you!
Put the sin in your life, the unholiness around you and the unclean, put it to death. This is so important in the scriptures. Isaiah 52:11 commands us: Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.
Isaiah chapter 6 tells of Isaiah coming and standing before the LORD. His response, being in the presence of God, he says in verse 5:
I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
And the response to Isaiah in the following two verses:
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
We see the twofold point played out here. We are unclean, unholy. We cannot undo this ourselves. But God (remember we talked about that phrase last week?) But God himself is the one who can make us clean.
And this cleanliness is not just a surface level cleaning. Its not just on the outside, producing a moral outer shell on our lives. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:27 & 28:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
That’s not clean. That’s not changed. That’s not Holy. That doesn’t touch the heart. That doesn’t touch the deep recess of the mind where sin still sits and crouches and lurks. This was American society up until relatively recently. Yes, individuals were godly, and the outer moral shell of the country was set up by those godly values. But the rest of the country was able to stick their head in the sand and keep sin and wickedness hidden and below the surface, while portraying the appearance of godliness. Now they are not even trying to maintain that appearance of course.
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
What chance do we have when the very thing we need to change and to cleanse is within our very hearts. By the way, “Follow your heart,” worst advice in the history of the world.
The chance that we have is God himself. Ezekiel 36:25-27, God tells his people:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a]
God himself, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can change our deceitful heart and gives us a new spirit. That new spirit allows us to have saving faith in the only one who can cleanse us from our sins, forgive us, atone for us, God the Son, Jesus Christ.
In verses 22-24 here, Paul shows us the expectations of how a Child of God should act. These are not the expectations that would then make us children of God. But instead, because of the change we just mentioned that the Holy Spirit does inside of us, this is a part of that change that comes along with being a child of God. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The First thing Paul mentions here in 2 Timothy is that we are to flee our youthful passions. This is not an admonition just for the young, but for all of us as we struggle with temptation. There are some types of sins and temptations that are especially associated with youthful passions. Things like lust, like anger and impulsiveness. Things like rebellion and aggression. Things like lack of self-control and impatience. Vanity and the like. That’s not an exhaustive list, but a sampling of things that we should be on the look out for inside ourselves that we are to flee.
Again, this is not that we should just resist temptation. That’s a given, but its not enough. Charles Spurgeon Writes about these “youthful passions: Run away from them. It is no use contending with them. Fight with the devil. Resist the devil and make him flee but never fight with the flesh. Run away from that. The only way to avoid lust of the flesh is to stay out of its way. If you subject yourself to carnal temptations and fleshly lusts, remember it is almost certain that you will be overcome by them.
We must ask the question, and Spurgeon partially answers it, why should we flee these temptations? It is because the closer we are to them, the closer we walk near them, the more we will give in to them. The question can never be, “How close to the line can I get?” If that’s our question, we have already crossed it in our heart. That was the game the Pharisees were plating that Jesus addressed in the Sermon on the Mount when he showed us that lusting after a woman in our heart is adultery. Thinking about killing someone in our mind makes us guilty.
Our natural human nature, as a result of the Fall in Genesis 3, our natural nature is a sin nature. In Genesis 4, God tells Cain, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to[c] you, but you must rule over it.”
And how do we rule over it? We flee from those sins and temptations. And when we flee from temptation, the direction we run is to pursuing righteousness as Paul brings up next.
And there are two initial things I want to point out here. The first is that these two opposing things are on a spectrum. Our youthful passions, our sinful temptations on one end of the spectrum that we are to flee from. Righteousness on the other end, which we are to be pursuing. The closer we get to one, the further we get from the other.
The second thing is, we have seen Paul identifying the passion and the energy with which we are to flee unholiness. And he is encouraging us to use the same energy, the same conviction, the same passion when we pursue righteousness. And righteousness along with faith, love, and peace.
Paul also shows us that this is not a solo endeavor for us as Christians. We are to pursue these things along with all who call on the LORD with a pure heart. Ligon Duncan writes:
if it is true that bad company corrupts good morals (and it is, because the Bible says it), it is also true that it is in the company of fellow believers that right living and right believing is cultivated. That’s where you grow. That’s where you pursue righteousness: in the company of fellow believers.
Christianity is a personal religion, that is for sure. But it is never meant to be a private religion. We are meant to come together, to be involved in each other’s lives and to encourage, love and help each other.
Two of the things that Paul mentions us pursuing include love and peace with each other. And those two are tied together inextricably. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Biblically, we can vehemently disagree with each other over secondary and minor issues, musical styles, translation preferences, parenting methods and so much more. But within that disagreement, we can see past that and into the bottom line.
If I know that you love me and my family and that, above all, you want Gods will to be done, I don’t have to agree with you on those secondary issues or about what Gods will is that we both want done. Knowing that baseline, that love is there for God and for each other, allows us to deal with each other and personality differences and methods of communication that would otherwise cause annoyances, quarrels and fights, leading to division and sin. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Paul again comes back to something that he has been warning Timothy about for a letter and a half now, including part of what we looked at last week. He says that we are to avoid foolish and ignorant controversies. We are to rise above these foolish quarrels. Paul says back in verse 16, again, from last week, avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.
I saw one resource this week sum up why we are to avoid these things in tow points. First, they are false. We talked about truth and untruth. God is truth. Untruth is satanic. Avoid untruth, flee from lies and untruths just like we flee from our youthful passions. Flee from ALL unholiness. And second, avoid these quarrels because they are unproductive. They take your eyes off Jesus and our pursuit of righteousness. And anything that takes our eyes off Jesus is wrong.
In verse 24 & 25, Paul gives us very hard instructions. He writes: And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.
We, we as the LORDs servants, as Children of God, as honorable vessels, we must not be quarrelsome. We are to be kind to everyone. Kind to who?
We are to be kind to everyone.
Not just those whom we like.
Not just those who vote like us.
Not just those who look like us.
Not just those who worship like us.
Not just those who are nice to us.
Not just those who share similar interests and hobbies with us.
We are to be nice to EVERYONE. Full Stop.
I know that’s easy for us to say that we do. But you want to be convicted. Watch every joke you make. Watch every word you say. Watch what you say about people that are not around when you say it. Watch what you say about people in the news or on TV. Watch what you say about those who are not here today. Watch what you say. This is not as easy as it sounds. One of the reasons is what else Paul says, we are to patiently endure evil. Not repay evil for evil. But to patiently endure evil.
If there is a fellow believer that you don’t really like, how do you talk to and about them? Do you still, despite it all, treat them as a Child of God? Do you talk to them and about them, treat them like a fellow brother or sister in Christ?
If there is an unbeliever that you don’t really like, how do you talk about them, talk to them and treat them? Do you treat them as a human being, created in the image of God? Do you treat them as being inherently worthy of honor and dignity and respect?
Notice God does not give qualifications here. Not unless they were mean to you. Not unless they talked about you. Not if they treat you well first. Be kind to everyone.
And we are to correct our opponents with gentleness. Not fighting with them. Not mocking them. Not shoving it in their faces. Or insulting or dismissing or patronizing. But we are to correct with gentleness.
We must confront false teaching or wrong teaching, remember that’s one of the biggest things that Paul is addressing in his letters to Timothy. We are to address these teachings firmly, truly but we do so in a way that others will be able to hear and hopefully listen.
And again, why? Why do we have to confront false teachings and false teachers? Why do we correct with gentleness and treat kindly everyone? Because God may grant them repentance, therefore freeing them from the snare of the devil.
We never know who or when God is going to save. No one is beyond Gods reach. We see that in current day, and we see that in the writer of this letter, with Paul. Paul was the last person the early church would have expected to see saved. As long as one is drawing breath, there is still hope that God will indeed save and free one from his wrath and judgment.
The enemy loves to use believers to turn off and become a stumbling block to potential children of God.
Our responsibility is to act well, to treat others with respect, treating everyone kindly. We are to forgive quickly and to bear the fruit of the spirit. We are to sow the seeds of the Gospel and to love Jesus Christ.
God is sovereign and in control. He waters and brings the increase. He grants repentance. He changes our heart, giving us the gift of faith. And it is by his grace that we are given that faith and that this faith is in Jesus Christ. That faith is what God uses to clothe us in Christ’s righteousness and it is through that faith that we see the forgiveness of our sins.
By this faith, we are justified, declared innocent in Gods eyes. It is through this faith that we are Sanctified. That we bear the fruit of the Gospel and we grow in holiness, that we grow in spiritual maturity, that we grow in wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. It is through this faith that we will be glorified. That we will be resurrected into our new, physical, sinless and perfected bodies so that we can dwell with and worship in the glory of the LORD
forever and ever and ever and ever. And when we get through with all the forever’s, the Amen!
2 Timothy 2:14-19
Life in the Local Church
Words Mean Things
Good Morning! Please turn in your Bibles with me to 2 Timothy, chapter 2. Before we get started, thank you all for the prayers, the groceries and the love that you all sent out to us over the last two weeks, and especially to Dave for covering my teaching and preaching duties here. We are praying that none of you get hit with this major bug that we got.
So, we are going to pick up where we left off a few weeks ago, in 2 Timothy 2. I’ll give a brief review and then we will jump into this week’s text. So, Paul is coming to the end of his life, imprisoned in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar and tradition says he was beheaded after being found guilty from that trial. He is writing this letter to his young protégé, his child in the faith, as his last warnings, his last encouragements and his last directions to the local church.
Back in verse 8, he tells Timothy to Remember Jesus Christ, truly man and truly God. Remember the Gospel, that God became man to save sinners. Verse 9 is powerful where he declares that despite Paul being chained, bound in prison, the Word of God is not bound! Paul finishes up that section by sharing a faithful and true saying, likely quoting an early, well known hymn, verses 11-13:
The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
What a wonderful amazing statement! No matter what happens, HE remains faithful and HE cannot deny himself.
So, on that note, we will go ahead and read the next passage of scripture in this letter. I was originally planning on going through the rest of the chapter, hence the verses up on the screen, but we are only going to go through a couple of verses this morning. We will be reading through 2 Timothy 2, verses 14-19. I’m going to be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along with your preferred translation.
2 Timothy 2:14-19, Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing the very Words of God, tells Timothy:
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,
and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
May God Bless the Reading of his Word.
Paul starts off telling Timothy to remind them of these things. Remind his congregation of the things that Paul is teaching Timothy and remind his congregation about the things that the faithful saying and the hymn teaches. We need that constant reminder. We are forgetful people. We need to remind ourselves each and every week. This is why scripture is constantly saying “Remember what you have been told,” Remember what you have been taught,” We have to be reminded often.
But we also, have you noticed this about yourself, because I’ve noticed it about me, we spend a lot of time trying to remind those around us instead of reminding ourselves. “Hey, Hey, did you hear that?”
We often listen to sermons and instead of thinking of how it applies to our own lives and how we can grow and glorify God, we think things like, “oh good, So and so really needs to hear this.”
We sometimes try to play the part of the Holy Spirit, maybe we nudge our spouses when we think there is something they need to hear. But when we do that, we can too easily undo a lot of what the Holy Spirit might be doing and working on inside the other person. We are very poor imitations of the Holy Spirit.
Or sometimes we are reading our Bible and we come along a passage that we ignore the personal application and growth and we think, “See, if only so and so would read this passage!” We are so often more worried about being right and showing others that we are right, instead of seeing what Gods Word has for us.
But what does Paul say here? Remind them constantly of Jesus. Remind yourself of the Gospel. And don’t quarrel about words. Quarreling does nobody any good, except for the enemy. Because quarreling causes hurt to the hearers. It causes division, it leads to gossip and slander, even when we don’t realize it. These are very common characteristics of false teachers, as one example. That is one of the key things that Paul is warning Timothy about. And those who stir up and cause controversy and division, they are to be dealt with and avoided.
2 Timothy 2:15 is a great verse to memorize if you haven’t yet. There is so much packed into this verse, we are going to barely scratch the surface, I’m afraid. We start with the charge that Paul gives, that we are to do our best to present ourselves as one approved.
We are to stand tall, holy and blameless before God. And not because of anything about us, but because He has made us Holy and blameless in His sight. We see again the last part of the faithful saying Paul just shared, that even in our unfaithfulness, He remains Faithful. That’s his character, that’s who he is, and he cannot deny himself.
No matter what, he remains faithful. And because of who he is and his faithfulness, we can stand firm in his promises and we can stand tall, a worker for God. We have no need to be ashamed. But we will be told that we have reason to be ashamed.
Those of us who stick with the Word of God and believe what it actually says and that it is in fact the word of God, we will often be called names and made to feel that we should be ashamed. We will be told that we think we are better than others. We will be told that out views and thoughts are bigoted, intolerant and on the wrong side of history. We will get called self-righteous and hypocritical.
Those things are designed to make us feel ashamed. But we know the truth. We are not better than anyone else. All sin removes us from Gods grace and places us under Gods wrath. And we are all sinners, worthy of his judgment. But we know Romans 5:8, that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We know that have done nothing to make ourselves right in Gods eyes, but instead we have been saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are standing tall, saved by God, brought into his family by him, now children of God.
Another way that False teachers especially will try to shame us is by saying that we get the word of God wrong. They will say that we take the Bible too literally. They will say that we use the Bible to back up our own prejudices and exclude groups of people, that we divide or keep out certain groups of people or shame people who are in certain sins and sinful behaviors.
Just this week, one False Teacher was responding to a statement that we need to follow not just the parts of the Bible we like but follow the whole Bible. Her response was, “C’mon, nobody really obeys the whole Bible.” What kind of message is that to send out on social media? Its certainly not a biblical message. Now, do all of us always follow everything the Bible says every single second of every single day? Of course not. But we are called to be Holy. We are called to obey his commands. We are called to pursue righteousness. This false teacher’s point was not that we all are sinners in need of grace. Her point was that those who call people to repentance are not being loving and instead are being sexist, intolerant, racist and bigoted.
False teachers accuse us of twisting the word of God for our own purposes and instead it is they who twist Gods word in order to lessen who He is. They take away from some of his attributes, his holiness, his judgment, his hatred for sin. And they say that God couldn’t possibly mean what it looks like he says, because that would not be very nice. That would not be inclusive and that would not affirm what they have already decided is right and loving.
The truth is, the more faithful we are to the Word of God, the more we will be attacked for it. And we will be attacked by those who take scripture out of context. Those who make scriptures about themselves instead of about the Holy, all powerful God of the universe. Those who don’t believe that the Bible is Gods Holy and Inspired Word, infallible, inerrant and sufficient. Those who, despite their words, by their fruit, do not believe what Paul writes just about 1 chapter from know, that All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16 & 17)
They have no respect for the holiness of God. They have no respect for the truth of Gods Word. They twist scriptures for their own purposes. The New Testament is ripe with Scriptures about False Teachers within the church, what to look out for and what the consequences of them are. Here are just a few of them.
1 Timothy 4:1: 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
1 John 4:1-3: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
2 Peter 2:1-3: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
And the last one, Jude 4: For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
But if we truly trust the Word of God in all things, if we have the utmost respect for His Word and we hold it up as the very Word of God as it proposes to be, that means that every single, solitary word in here is put in here specifically and purposely by God.
It means not just the letters in Red, though it includes that as well. Not dismissing Paul’s letters and his teachings because his words are “not the words of Jesus.” When in very fact, Jesus is the Word of God. Johns Gospel starts out with that fact. John 1:1. He writes: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And then John 1:14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Bible is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word become flesh. Every Word in the Bible, no matter who wrote it or who spoke it are in fact the Words of Jesus himself, the Very Word of God.
Paul calls us, maybe charges us is a better way to say it, he charges us at the end of verse 15, to rightly handle the Word of truth. And that means believing and following every Word of what the Bible says.
The Word of God is what guides us to holiness. Its what teaches us and leads us to our sanctification. Its how God speaks to us today. Hebrews 4:12, the author 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.
Straying from the Word of God, on the other hand, leads to irreverent babble. It leads to more and more ungodliness. And rejecting the authority and sufficiency of the Bible is a slippery slope that is incredibly difficult to come back from.
Paul says that this type of thing spreads like gangrene. When we talk, our words spread like wildfire. I use that descriptive word purposely because we all have seen firsthand how quick that is. It’s not an exaggeration to say that words spread that quick. True or false, right or wrong. The problem is that false lies are often more believable than the truth. And often, based on our own, human wisdom and understanding, we want to believe the lies more. Romans 1:18, says that we suppress the truth with our unrighteousness.
And the lies and the gossip and the slander and the divisive talk spreads and it travels quickly. And it takes people down with it. Gossip and lies are sins because they go against the truth. They are anti truth. God is Truth. He cannot lie. He cannot deny himself. So, for us to lie, for us to deny him and his words is to sin against God.
Paul gives a specific example of one case of lies and false teaching going on in the church in Ephesus that are spreading through the body if Christ. Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching that the Second coming had already occurred. They were saying that the resurrection had already occurred. They were teaching people that the only resurrection that takes place is the spiritual resurrection that takes place at the moment of salvation, when we move from death to life. They were teaching that there is no future, physical resurrection. This is of course, refuted in many passages in scriptures, including but not limited to Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and in 1 Corinthians 15. But this false teaching was spreading, and it was upsetting the faith of many in the congregation.
But, BUT… and the Bible has a lot of Big Buts, some of the greatest parts of the Bible hinge on a But. Look at Ephesians chapter 2, I want to read verses 1-10 so that you get the full context of what Paul is saying, but I’m just going to read verses 3-5 and encourage you to read the rest on your own. Ephesians 2:3-5: we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
One more real quick, 1 Corinthians 6, verses 9-11: do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
But God…Two of the greatest words God put into the Bible.
Despite all the lies running wild in this world, despite the false teachers undercutting the Word of God, Despite all the attacks on the authority of Gods Word and his laws and his commands. Despite all of that, we see in verse 19 here, But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
Gods firm foundation stands. The true church, Gods elect, his people are what he builds upon that firm foundation. The foundation is Jesus Christ. It is, as we read in Matthew, built upon the statement that Peter makes that Jesus Christ is Messiah, the LORD, the Son of God, God himself. Upon that rock, he builds his church.
The LORD knows who are his. Those of us, being saved from our sin and from the wrath of God, by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, not works or anything about us, but faith alone in the foundation of all of it, the cornerstone, Jesus Christ alone. Those of us who are called by the Holy Spirit, bearing His seal. We stand firm on his foundation, unashamed of our past, because it is forgiven, covered in Christs righteousness, because we have none of our own.
Part of being his, is that everyone who knows the name of the LORD, everyone who is his, depart from iniquity. Paul well get more into this later in this chapter, we are to mark and avoid false teachers and those who spread division and deception.
We are to walk upright and blameless by strength of God. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[c] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. Amen.
1 Timothy 4:6-16
Life in the Local Church
What a Good Servant Looks Like
Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Timothy chapter 4. If you do not own a Bible, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.
We are continuing through our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we have titled “Life in the Local Church.” The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, after leaving and placing Timothy in Ephesus as the Pastor, the head elder. He wrote to Timothy in order to encourage Timothy, to build him up and to challenge him.
Timothy was placed in Ephesus in order to deal with the issues that the church was dealing with, most notably, but not limited to false teaching and the false teachers who teach them. One of the ways that Timothy should be counteracting these issues is by knowing and applying how to act in the local church.
Paul has dealt with proper prayer, with worship, with church offices and the authority of those who hold leadership positions, and more. Now, Paul turns his attention to encouraging Timothy, teaching him, encouraging him and reminding him that his focus, and ours should be on building, training and growing ourselves, first, as a good servant of Christ.
Let’s go ahead and read this week’s text, 1 Timothy chapter 4, verses 6 through 16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your own preferred translation. Once again, 1 Timothy 4:6-16. Paul, under the inspiration of God, the Holy Spirit, bring forth the very inerrant, infallible, immutable Words of God, writes to Timothy:
If you put these things before the brothers,[a] you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive,[b] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,[c] so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
May God Bless the reading of his word.
We know that the Bible is a unique book. Paul is very specifically writing to Timothy. But we also know that Timothy is not the only person being written to and being instructed here. Like ripples emanating from a rock thrown in a pool, the ripples going out, there are many separate people groups being spoken to. First, of course, like we said, Timothy. Second, pastors, elders, church leaders are being taught through this letter how to lead Gods people. Third, as with all the Bible, all Gods people are being instructed, as we have said, in “Life in the local church.”
Paul starts here, saying to put these things before the brothers. These things being the culmination of everything that we have looked at in the first 4 chapters. All the things that Paul has shared and taught Timothy up to this point. Bring all those things and put them before the brethren, the brothers and sisters, the body of Christ in the local church. Paul essentially telling Timothy, “Do the things that I am teaching you and you will serve the LORD well.”
Paul tells Timothy to be trained in the Words of the Faith. Paul gets more into what that means to Timothy specifically in his second letter to Timothy, but for here, we have one of the biggest points to take away from today; Read Yo Bible!
Be trained in what the Bible says. Above all else, above whoever else you are allowing to teach you, even above anyone else that is speaking into your life, Read Yo Bible. And then Read it again! And then again. Continue to read your Bible. Be trained by it and by the words of God in it. And then put it into action!
And we know that to put the Bible in to action correctly, we need to read it in the proper context (Ding!) Paul emphasizes this when he says that not only are we to be trained in the words of the faith, but in good Doctrine as well. Right understanding of the Word of God is so very vital and important. Context is everything! If our heart is truly Gods, then we should have a driving desire, a need to get it right!
None of the words of God are accidental or incidental. He gave us these words for very specific reasons. His words mean one thing and one thing only. And in order to know that one thing, we must study and be trained by it. In order to act on it, we must be trained by his words, fully and completely.
But we need to remember that, when you remove yourself from the Word and when you remove yourself from sound, good doctrine, you will struggle, and you will trip over the worlds and/or false teachers world views. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
What’s and who are around us will influence us. What we watch, what we listen to, what we read, who we spend time with, all those things will affect us. The enemy and false teachers, they want to separate us and isolate us from God, his word and his people.
You know, in Prayer meeting this week, we read Psalm 1 and had some real good discussion there. And we talked about this point as well. Psalm 1 is a short one, but a powerful one, lets read it really quick. Psalm 1, the Psalmist writes:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
In that, we see that those who are righteous, those who belong to the LORD, who know Jesus Christ, they are like trees planted next to streams. Of Course, we will see fruit that comes to bear on those trees. But what else we see is that the trees that are planted need a steady stream and they need to be planted in a single location.
If I plant a tree up by the house, then after a short time, I see no growth, and I dig it up, plant it somewhere else and continue this for a while, there will be no growth of that tree, it will wither. The same as if the water source dries up. We see that every summer here, right? Look outside at the church grounds right now. No water, for an extended period of time and the tree will die.
We need the Word of God to teach us truth, good doctrine and right application. We need each other to help us to stay on track, to grow and to have right knowledge and right doctrine.
Paul reminds us, having mentioned this in the beginning of chapter 1 as well, that we are to have nothing to do with silly, irrelevant myths. This includes getting into conversations about just ridiculous stuff. Supposed genealogies and the “ancestry” & “descendants” of Jesus. This is making parables out of the Gospel stories. This is putting any credence into the “lost” Gospels and into secret knowledge.
You ever have a conversation with someone, and they say something, and its so absurd, so out of the realm of possibility, and its everything you can do to not respond, to just let it go? That’s one of the things this is talking about. If you respond and get into this conversation, you will have wasted your time and nothing you say will have an affect on them. It is similar to casting your pearls before swine, though that is specifically talking about the Gospel.
Silly, irreverent myths are spiritually immature. They take the focus off of God the Father, His son, Jesus Christ and the Word of God itself. It places the focus on anything and everything else; trivia, minutia, unknowable speculation, the other person, and ourselves.
Paul says that instead, we should train ourselves in Godliness. The habits that we develop, the spiritual disciplines that we practice, these are the things that train us in Godliness. This is not easy. Distractions, laziness, other good but not God things, friends, family, sleep, phone calls, our favorite show, all these things will try to get in our way of practicing spiritual discipline. These and much more will attempt to stop us from practicing and training and spending the needed and necessary time in Gods Word.
Paul contrasts this with bodily training, with taking care of ourselves physically. He shows us that this is a good thing. Watching what we eat, keeping in good physical shape, taking care of the bodies that God has given us, these are good things. These are very good ideas and they are incredibly important. They have some value. But they are not as important as spiritual training.
Spiritual training, which leads to Godliness, is everything. It is completely valuable. It is eternally valuable. It has promise and value in this life for sure. But more importantly, it has more promise and more value in the next life.
When Paul wants to really and truly emphasize a point, he says, as he does in verse 9 here, some variation of: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. And so, we need to pay extra attention to what Paul says here. V 10: For to this end we toil and strive,[b] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
We work because of our hope and our faith. We work because of what God has done for us. We work because of the living God, Jesus Christ. We work because of the work that he did on the cross, accomplishing our salvation, rising from the dead and, once and for all, defeating death and sin.
The invitation to salvation, sent out to all, extended to all. As Paul writes elsewhere, there is no Jew, no Greek, no male or female when it comes to who is able to be saved or our standing before God. And it is those who believe, that accept the invitation. It is solely by the grace of God, only through the faith that he has given us, in the only way to salvation, his Son Jesus Christ that we are saved.
It is because of this that we work. It is not that we work for this, but because of this. Sometimes those small, semantic differences can make all the difference. Scripture shows us this time and time again.
Verse 11, Paul tells Timothy, Command and teach these things. Teach these things that I just shared and reminded you. First and foremost, of course, the Gospel that he just shared. Teach and share the spiritual disciplines. Teach and share the importance of Godliness. Teach the focus that needs to be on God and his Word above all else.
Paul starts this last section of our passage as an encouragement and a challenge. Timothy is a timid man, quiet, maybe shy. That’s the personality that God gave him. Timothy speaks to me in that way. I see a lot of myself in him. God gives us our personalities and he uses them for his purposes. We will get back to that in a moment.
Paul addresses one of the obstacles that Timothy is dealing with in Ephesus. Paul says, let no one look down upon you, reject you or not listen to you because of your age. Age isn’t, or shouldn’t, be an issue. What is an issue is your call, your qualifications, your godliness.
I look around and I realize that I am the youngest adult in this church. I was the youngest adult in my previous church as well. Without getting into it, we see two different ways of looking at my situation. Some of you here have been Christians for longer than I have been alive. But you know what? I never hear you say that. You don’t use that as a reason to not listen to me or to reject what I am saying or teaching.
Timothy was encountering this. I’ve encountered this before. The truth is that God has called me here. He has called me to be here as a Pastor, as a shepherd, as a Teacher and as a protector of the flock. I have a lot to teach and a lot to share. Age is not an issue with who God chooses to call to certain positions.
Now, I mentioned our personalities before, and I want to touch on those now as well. God has created each and everyone of us personally and with our unique traits and personalities. Some of us are louder, some quieter, some more outgoing, some quitter, some more cautious, some impulsive. Each given to us by God the Father himself. These are gifts and good things.
But, each of these also has the potential to be a pitfall as well. The person who is quiet and timid might avoid confronting sin in others or avoid confronting false teachers and their false teachings. The person who is louder and outgoing, might offend, they might confront sin where there isn’t any, or put themselves and their thoughts, teachings above Gods.
The point that Paul was making was this, to Timothy, to me, to you, to all of us. Don’t use your personality as an excuse to sin. Its way to easy, it takes an incredible amount of self-reflection and it takes walking a very thin line sometimes. But, do not use your personality as an excuse to sin!
We are called to deny ourselves. How often do you hear, as an excuse for sin, “I was born this way.” In a sense, that’s true. We all are born sinners. But we are called to put that old self aside, and to repent of our sins. Paul tells us elsewhere that when we are in Christ, our old self has died, and we are now new creations. We have a new heart, we have new desires, we have a new nature when we are in Christ. We are not to stay the way we were born, but instead, we are called to be born again.
And so, Paul says to set the believers an example. An example of Godly living. How we live and how we act. Our faithfulness to God. These are but some of the ways that we can show those around us and those who watch us the work that God has down for us all and what he expects in holiness and godliness.
In verse 13, we see again, in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, the purpose of the local church. We see the reason that Paul (more specifically God) placed Timothy in Ephesus, and that is to combat false teaching. And we see how. By the public reading of scripture, by exhortation and by teaching. Especially and specifically the teaching of that public reading of scripture. This even goes back to Old Testament times. Nehemiah 8:8 says:
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly,N1 and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
In Verse 14, Paul points out that Timothy was given a spiritual gift from God. It is an unknown gift, though presumably teaching or preaching, something for sure along those lines of pastoring in Ephesus to combat false teachings.
And in verse 15 & 16, Paul emphasis self-inspection and spiritual growth. He says, practice your gifts. Do your duties, whether they are your gifts or not. Practice and grow your devotion to God and what he has called you to do.
As the fruit on your tree grows, as you develop your spiritual disciplines, as we grow in sanctification and maturity in Christ, People will see, and they will notice.
Verse 16, Paul tells Timothy to keep a close watch on himself and his teachings. Let me say it this way. It does no good for you to call out false teaching if you just replace it with other false teaching. The point is to replace it with the truth. Keeping a close watch on ourselves and our teachings is what will keep us from falling in false teaching or from becoming false teachers.
The single easiest way for one to start false teaching is to stop paying too close attention to what you are teaching or sharing. Often this will happen without noticing. Kind of mentally shifting into cruise control. This will have the thoughts of thinking we know it all, or that we have no need to study Gods Word or to get deeper into it.
By keeping a close watch on ourselves and our teaching, we will not only prevent ourselves from falling and failing, but because of the community we are called to, as the body of the local church, we will help others from falling into these false teachings as well, thereby saving them from, to use some language we used last week, walking out from under the umbrella of orthodoxy and into the rain of heresy.
I think that there really are three points I want you to walk away from this morning remembering. The first one, remember, was READ YO BIBLE! And make sure that you are desiring and focusing on the right and true word of God and right doctrine in how to apply it.
Second, your personality is a gift from God abut don’t let it be an excuse to sin. Use your personality to share and show the Word of God, and Jesus Christ and his work on the Cross.
Lastly, keep a close watch on yourself and your teachings. Recognize and combat false teachings and make sure that you are keeping yourself in the truth and speaking the truth, no matter what else.
These things are the basis and foundation for us building up the local church and for us and the church to fulfill its purpose.
Let’s Pray on these things and remember the grace of God that we are saved despite all that is stacked against us because of sin.
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Life in the Local Church
Give Grace because we Received Grace
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 2. We are continuing through our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that I am calling, Life in the Local Church. The Apostle Paul is writing to his spiritual son, Timothy, whom he has been discipling and whom he sent to Ephesus to pastor and shepherd the flock, and to protect them from the wolves that are False Teachers.
Last week, we look at one of the ways that we deal with False Teachers. Essentially, as we made clear last week, as the last resort of dealing with them is that we are to separate from them, to remove False Teachers from the fellowship of believers in our local church. This is specifically the last resort for those who refuse to repent and those who work towards disunity and discord and continue to spread a False Gospel.
And again, the purpose for this seemingly extreme position is not to punish, it is not to repay evil with evil, but it is, as Paul wrote, so they would learn not to blaspheme. Jesus tells in Matthew 18 that every opportunity should be made for a person to repent and turn back to the true Gospel. When we confront someone, we do so lovingly, to bring them about to repentance.
With that in mind and established, lets start looking at this week’s text. Overall, 1 Timothy chapter 2 is going to be a look at what prayer and worship look like in the local church. This week we will be looking at 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I greatly encourage you to read along in your preferred translation in front of you. 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing the holy, inerrant, infallible and immutable Word of God writes:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Many commentators say that Paul changes subjects at this point and moves on to something different than he was just talking about. I think that’s only partly true. He does indeed move on from talking specifically about false teachers and moves on to prayer and worship. But I think that Paul is also showing the other side of the coin, so to speak.
And so, therefore, First then. These are all ways that Paul transitions in his letters. Including what he just wrote and using that to give context to what he is saying next. We just went back over what Paul said last week, at the end, in the extreme, that is how we deal with False Teachers. In the meantime, this is how we treat people until that point.
Here’s a little bit of information, some behind the scenes info on your pastor by the way. I still have a kids sense of humor. I have 5 boys at home, their sense of humor is prevalent and will continue to be for several years. So I’m reading this passage and writing my notes and I realized something. The Bible is telling us to spit on people!
Bear with me for a moment. I know the list is slightly different in different translations, but it is telling us that we are to give all Supplications, All Prayers, all Intercessions, and all Thanksgivings for all people. The first letter of each of those words is SPIT! Now, don’t literally go out and spit on anybody, but if that is able to help you remember the list, then it’s a funny pneumonic device.
Now, in all seriousness. Paul is telling us something very difficult right here. We are to do these things FOR ALL PEOPLE! This is, of course, the people we like, our family, our church family, our co workers and the people we choose to have in our lives. But, maybe more importantly, and more challenging, this includes those we looked at last week, it includes those in a position of power over us in this world. It includes our enemies, our hated and those who do us wrong. It includes those who we chose not to include in our life.
Paul refers here to Kings and those in high positions. Often, and especially when Paul was writing this letter, those who assume power, those in physical power, most often will not believe in our orthodox Christian beliefs. Many who claim to, will not stand up to uphold or defend our orthodox Christian beliefs.
Caesars, such as Nero at the time this letter was written, kings, presidents, Generals, governors. All these positions are more likely to fight against our beliefs than for them. And sometimes it turns into physical persecution, such as we have not yet experienced, but Paul, Timothy and those in Ephesus would have been intimately aware of. Remember that Paul was writing this letter as a prisoner of the Roman Empire.
Are there some leaders who believe what we believe? Yes, I believe there are. Are all who say that they are, really believers, of course not. Even when they agree with us politically, that does not mean that their faith is real.
So many on both sides of the aisle claim to be Christians, claim to have faith, and yet how many do we see upholding and living what the bible says?
There has never been a president of the United States that has not identified themselves as some denomination of Christian or in the case of John F Kennedy, as Catholic. There have been 0 Jewish, 0 Muslim, 0 Mormon, 0 atheists that have been president. Kings and those in high positions will claim to be for us and with us, but rarely will share our beliefs and protect us.
And yet we are called to pray for them. And not just pray for them, but we are urged that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for All people and Paul specifies Kings and those in high places as those who especially needs these things.
Ligon Duncan says that the reason that Paul uses so many words for prayer here in this section is so we can’t just walk through our prayers. We can’t just tack on a quick prayer for them at the end of the things that matter to us. Do you really hear this? We are to be praying for AND TO BE THANKFUL for people like Caesar Nero. People Like Presidents Obama and Trump. We are to be praying for and giving thanksgivings for men like Governor Newsome.
I know that’s not easy to hear. And its even harder to do. But we go back to the Words of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells his followers:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We are called to a higher standard than we want to be called to. We don’t get to respond to people the way that they respond to us. The attitude that we have towards the world, towards false teachers, towards heretics, to those in power who oppose the church, to those who have personally wronged us; our attitude towards them is called by God to be one of supplication, one of prayer, one of intercession and one of thanksgiving.
We don’t have the right to respond with rancor. We don’t have the right, as followers of Christ, to respond in the same way that people treat us. Remember, our lives do not belong to us. When we surrender to Christ, our lives are not our own, but instead, we belong to Christ. We move from being slaves to sin, to be a slave to Christ.
Paul continues and says that we are to lead a peaceful and quiet life, one that is godly and dignified, for this is pleasing to God. This comment leads me to remember a few passages that Paul also wrote, all of them in 1 Thessalonians.
First, Paul twice mentions clearly what is the will of God in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Paul writes this:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[b] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[c] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Lest we think that the will of God is all about outward actions, Paul also says in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18:
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Gods will is not hidden. He has been very clear. What His word says, we are to do. Period. It may not be as detailed or specific as we want it to be. We may not see how it applies to each minute decision that we make, but that doesn’t mean that He has not already told us how to proceed. And when he says, to live a peaceful and quiet life, that should be our goal.
Now, how does this relate to verses 1 & 2? Well, I think it comes back to us having a right heart, and a right attitude. With us being in the right place spiritually, it will allow us to focus on what important. Doing God-glorifying, kingdom work for God. It will allow us to not get caught up in the quarrels, the hatred, the discord that comes from, first, false teachers teaching falsely, and second, from wanting others who have wronged us to “get what they deserve.”
Those issues, those attitudes and those actions continue to escalate unless they are dealt with and they most certainly are not peaceful. They are not quiet. They are not godly, and they are not dignified.
Those are the things that are pleasing to God, to God our Savior. To God who desires ALL people to be saved. This speaks to the love, compassion and mercy that accompanies the grace of God. But this does not negate the justice and wrath of God as well. We know that Scripture does not contradict scripture.
So, we know that this does not mean universalism, where false teachers teach that ALL people will be saved and all people will go to heaven, no matter what their faith and no matter what they belief about Jesus Christ. False teachers will focus on the love of Christ to the detriment of all Gods other attributes.
This also does not mean that God rejoices in the destruction of some, or that he was a blood thirsty monster. False teachers will often teach that God of the Old Testament and God in the New Testament, manifested in Jesus Christ are, essentially, two different gods. They will teach that the Old Testament god was an angry, vengeful God. And that Jesus came along in the New Testament and replaced that angry, vengeful god with love, mercy and grace. We know, however that The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God, three persons. There is only one God and God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
And this also does not mean that we can be saved from any other source or method than by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. There are not many paths. There are not many gods who can forgive or offer salvation. It does not matter how sincere and genuine the faith of a Muslim, or a Hindu or any other religion is, without faith in Jesus Christ, there is no salvation. The gods of other religions are not all the same god with different names or seen from different perspectives. There is one God. And Has chosen to reveal himself through His Son Jesus Christ as recorded in Gods Holy Word, the Bible.
We can only be saved with knowledge and faith in the truth. The truth that Paul lays out right here in verses 5 & 6. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Again, Paul is using the truth to address and combat false teaching, both of his day and of our day as well. There is only one God. Not many like the Romans and various cultures from then worshipped. There is a God, unlike what many in our culture today say. And many today as well believe that the idea that there is only one God is egotistical of us. Specifically, the fact that we can claim to know who among al the gods that are worshipped out there is the true God. Who are we to say? Well its not us to say, its God himself who says, right here in his Word.
There is also only one mediator between God and men, and that is the man, Jesus Christ. One mediator, one path, one method. As we just addressed a moment ago, not many paths, many mediators, many saviors. This also means that there are not many go betweens. Saints are not mediators between us and God. Angels and spirits are not mediators between us and God. Pastors, Priests and ministers are not mediators between you and God. I do not have “an in” with God that you don’t have. I am not closer to God or having any sort of influence with him that requires you to come to me to pray to God.
There is but one. One commentary describes a mediator as “one who brings together parties who are out of communication, and who may be alienated, estranged or at war with each other.”
Well, if you know anything about human nature, about our sins, if you have read the Bible and seen what God has said about us, you know that this describes us and God. We are in rebellion against him and his sovereignty. Our sins have estranged us from Him.
But God. But God wasn’t satisfied with our estranged relationship and sent his son. He who was himself God, but he who was himself man as well. Again, Paul addressing false teaching here.
There were many teaching that Jesus was not actually a man. He was God, but he was not a man. He only appeared to be a physical human. His resurrected body was just an apparition, almost a ghost. Paul is emphasizing here that Jesus was indeed a man, a physical, literal man. This is essential for his mission to mediate, to bring together humanity and God, because he was both.
In order to bring us and God together, our sins needed to be atoned for. Because we were sinful, any atonement we tried to bring forth, would be woefully insufficient. If Christ was not a man, he would not be able to atone for mans sins. And because he was God, he was able to live a sinless life so that his atonement would indeed be sufficient, and not only for himself because he had no sin that needed atoning for, but sufficient for all those whom He has called.
The fact that Jesus was both God and man is absolutely essential to our faith. If a church is teaching that Jesus is not one or the other, it is a false church. One of the ways one church is teaching this today is by saying that while Jesus was here on earth, he was not God. He was only man while he was here. The teaching goes that this means that the miracles that Jesus did during his earthly ministry, we can also do as well, since he did them as just a man.
Please do not listen to or fall for this unbiblical heresy. If someone teaches this, run! This is a false Gospel that Paul, in scripture, in Galatians 1 curses to the depths of hell.
And so, Jesus, being able to atone for our sins, being man, gave himself as a ransom for all our sins. Marks Gospel uses Jesus own words that he came to be a ransom for many.
This is the truth that we are to come to knowledge of. This is the truth of salvation. This is the truth of God and his mission and his word. This is what Paul, Timothy and all believers have been called to believe and to share with others. It is what Paul and Timothy and I have been called to teach and defend from attacks from all directions. To teach in faith and truth.
Remember the grace that you have received, the gift of faith that has been given to you by God. And remember that if not for that grace, that we did nothing to deserve or to receive, that we are just as worthy of Gods wrath as those we don’t want to pray for and for those, we don’t want to give thanks for. But God.
What an amazing two words. Paul shows the importance of those two words in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2:1-7, he writes:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So when we think of those kings and those in high places that are antagonistic at best to our faith and the way we live it out, when we see those who are actively trying to work against our faith, we remember that God tells us that we are to not only pray, but pray honestly and earnestly and give thanks for them as well.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
1 Timothy 1:18-20
Life in the Local Church
Continue in Faithfulness
Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. We are going to pick back up in our series today, going through 1 & 2 Timothy, called Life in the Local Church. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or do not own a Bible, please grab on from the back table. We would love the Word of God to be our gift to you.
Now, its been a few weeks since we have been in this series and so we need to do a brief review before diving into todays text. Paul is writing to Timothy, who is the Pastor at the early church in Ephesus. Timothy is personally, very close to Paul, with Paul referring to him several times as a son to him.
Paul is writing to Timothy because there have been some issues and some teachers that have gained a foothold in the Ephesian church that need to be dealt with. The biggest issue we see that has been mentioned by Paul is that False teachers are False teaching a False Gospel. And there is no room for that in the church, of whom Christ is the head. Christ, who is revealed in Scripture, whose Gospel is revealed in Scriptures, not through the smooth words of people who look and sound good.
Paul is both encouraging Timothy and challenging him to do what needs to be done. And he is actually going to name names of two men who have been causing confusion and discord amongst the church.
So, with all that being said, lets go ahead and look at this morning’s text. Ill be reading 1 Timothy 1:18-20, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation that you have in your hands. 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verses 18-20. Paul, inspired by God, writing the holy and inerrant scriptures, writes:
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
All right, so Paul here is returning to his train of thought from earlier in the letter, back in verses 3-7. Timothy, do what you have been called to do. Do what has been entrusted to you. We know that with great power comes great responsibilities. And with great responsibility can come great rewards.
Paul has shown Timothy that God has entrusted him with great responsibility. Timothy is responsible to and charged to protect the flock at Ephesus, to protect the truth from the attacks of the enemy. He is to refute false teachings and teachers with the plain, pure, simple truth of the true Gospel.
One of the things we see about Timothy, if we study his life as recorded in the Bible, is that Timothy has a timid streak. He is not the loudest, surest, most take charge kind of guy. In that, a lot of the encouragement and challenges that Paul gives to Timothy, hit very close to home for me. Timothy does not always seem to be entirely sure of his ability to do the things that he needs to do to fulfill his responsibility.
And so, Paul reminds Timothy that God has called him to do this job. When God calls you to do something, he will equip you to accomplish exactly what He has called you to accomplish. This does not always mean that we will be successful at the task laid before us. We are not always called to be successful. We are called to be faithful and to do what God has said. In that, He will equip us as we need it.
As an example, I am called to shepherd the flock here at Bangor Community Church. I am also called to be a missionary to the community in and around Bangor, Ca. I may or may not be called to grow this church numerically. I may or may not be called to do many baptisms or to see firsthand many people come to faith. The results of my faithfulness are in Gods hands. I’m not responsible for that. I am responsible to Preach the Word and Love the People.
And guess what? That’s what God has equipped me to do. And what he has called you to do, he will equip you for exactly that task and the outcome that he has determined. And with that faithfulness comes great reward.
In this I am reminded of the parable of the talents. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that he entrusts each of us with different things, different tasks, different amounts. We are not responsible for each other’s talents. Talent was a unit of money, or gold back then. It works for material goods, for talents as we know them today, for anything because the idea is our level of faithfulness transcends it all. I am not responsible for your talents and how you use them. I am, to a point responsible for Hopes and the kids and how they use them. But I am primarily responsible for my own talents.
You are not responsible for my talents and how I use them. You are not responsible for each other’s talents, with your kids and your spouses being partial exceptions. We are responsible for helping to encourage, exhort and equip each other, as a body of Christ, as Paul shares in Ephesians 4. But you will not stand before God and must give an answer or an account for why I did or did not use my talents faithfully. You will stand and give an account regarding how you used your own talents.
In the parable, three men were given different amounts of money to take care of while their master was gone. One of them, given the most, was very faithful and got a return on his good works, he bore much fruit because of his faithfulness. The second was given a middle amount and was faithful to what he was given and he bore some fruit from his faithfulness. The last man was given a small amount and he was not faithful, bearing zero fruit. The first two were rewarded because of their faithfulness and the third was rebuked because of his lack of faithfulness.
God called those men to be faithful with what they were given, and he gave them the ability to be carry that out. Did the second man bear as much fruit as the first? No, but he wasn’t called to. He was still successful in carrying out what God had called them to.
So, the leads us to looking at, what was Timothy called to by God here in Ephesus? First, Timothy knew what he was called to because Paul and many elders laid hands on him, prayed over him and for him and prophesied over him. We see an example of this happen at the beginning of Acts chapter 13, with Paul and Barnabas. We will get more into prayer over the next couple of weeks but that is something we are still called to do. To pray over each other and to pray for each other. And there is something that happens, something that makes it much more personal and meaningful to both the person doing the praying and the person being prayed over.
But we also know that the prophetic offices have been closed. Gods Word has been fully revealed and there is no more extra biblical, special revelation. We need to remember to discern and see when to read the scriptures as descriptive, relaying that this is what happened, and when to read prescriptive, saying this is what we are supposed to do.
But at this point, in part because of the prayer and prophecy put onto Timothy, he was clear in his mission and his call. He is to fight the good fight. He is to wage good warfare. He is to fight against what Paul has already been writing about in this letter.
Timothy is to wage war against False Teaching in the church. He is to wage war against the False Teachers who are doing the false teaching. He is to wage war against the enemy’s scheme to destroy the witness and the mission of the Church. He was to wage war against the lies and the corruption and the sin that come along with all those things.
And Timothy is to also go the other route as well. He is to fight for Gods Truth. That’s Truth with a capitol T. The only actual truth there is. The Truth that all other claims are to be tested against. Timothy is to fight for Gods holiness, something we, as a Christian community in 21 century America don’t fully understand or grasp. He is to fight for the purity and sufficiency of the Gospel. And he is to fight for Gods righteousness, because we have none of our own and can only receive Christs perfect righteousness trough the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
And this is also what, in general terms, we are all called to do as well, in our lives, in our family, in our circle of friends and in our church. And it isn’t easy, and it takes an incredible amount of discernment.
Because this is one area where we must be careful. And we are going to use False Teaching as an example here. Not all False Teaching is heresy. One definition I like says this: “Heresy is a false teaching about the essential doctrines of our faith – the ones we must adhere to, regarding who God is, who Jesus is, salvation by grace, and Jesus’ resurrection.”
And so, False teaching about the non-essential issues is not heresy. It still needs to be confronted and dealt with, but we need to be careful about what words we throw around when we do indeed confront it.
Also, not all teaching that reads the text differently is false teaching. For example, we look at the various views on the end times. What did Jesus teach? Well, his speaking of the end times are summed up in be ready for it and nobody knows the time when it will come.
And yet the church today has three very different views about when Jesus will return and each of these three will influence how you read scriptures and are influenced by how you read scriptures. Now, in the end, two of those three will end up being wrong. But you can teach each one of them from a biblical standpoint and therefore, they are not, by definition, false teachings.
They are opinions and preferences that we believe. And we can hold them tightly even. But they are secondary issues that we should not divide over. I love Village Missions Statement of Faith on this subject. It reads, and I forget the exact wording, but it reads, We believe that Jesus Christ will one day, physically return. Done. That’s what we unite over in this subject. If we deny that part, that Jesus will physically return, then we get into heresy area. But if we disagree on whether we are pre, post or amillenial in Christs return, we simply read the text differently.
Some of these things that we differ on, they are differences of opinion. They are our interpretation. They are our preconceived notions and preconceived views, of which we all have. Some of these things, as I have said, we can still be united together as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, despite those differing views. Some of these things you can see or think differently than I do and I can still that you have a genuine and pure faith. And it is that genuine and pure faith that Timothy and all of us are called to defend and to protect.
So we also look at what the Bible says is the faith that we hold in a good conscience. Of course there is John 3:16, maybe is, and definitely used to be the single most well know bible verse in the world. John writes: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. And I also like what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
That is what we cling to. This is what we hold tight to. And this is what, if we reject it, we make what Paul calls here, a shipwreck of our faith. Those who reject the faith, those who reject the Gospel, also those who claim to believe the Gospel but reject those closed handed Gospel issues, they are not just rejecting salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But they are also rejecting unity. They are rejecting the Gospel, despite what they claim. They are rejecting the true Biblical God and the true biblical Jesus.
And when you have rejected these things, you have rejected the faith. Paul names two men who have been in the church and have fallen into this category of False teachers, rejecting the core tenets of the faith and teaching heresy. Alexander and Hymanaeus are specifically named as having been dealt with and have been handed over to Satan.
Now, we can not just take that verse and start doing whatever we want with it. We need to be really careful with what we take from it and how we apply it to today.
When we separate from people, we do so after having tried everything we could do on our end for repentance and reconciliation. We see Matthew 18 as the go to text about how to treat issues like this. We separate only after much prayer. We separate only after much effort. We do so only after every other option has been exhausted.
And we do so for what purpose? As shown here and in 1 Corinthians 5:5, We separate from others, we remove them from the church only as a last resort, in order to bring them to repentance. We do so in order to, ideally bring them back into the fellowship of the saints and bring them back into the body of believers.
In this instance, if Alexander and/or Hymanaeus were to repent of their false teaching and they were to accept the full, clear, simple, true gospel, Paul would welcome them back into the church with open arms.
Now, we don’t know what exactly they were teaching that fell into the category of false teaching, though we could make fair guesses based on what Paul has already written in this letter. But we do know that Paul says they are guilty of blaspheming God.
Here is one definition of blasphemy: To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. Blasphemy is verbal or written reproach of God’s name, character, work, or attributes.
Does that help any of you? Practically it was not very much help for me. So, I will describe blasphemy in this way and this is not specific or entirely complete, but it helps me practically. Blasphemy is giving Gods attributes and identity to someone or something else. Giving credit for Gods Works to someone or something who is not God. It is giving to God lesser attributes or taking away from Gods true identity.
Cause here’s the thing. God and God alone has the right to determine who he is. God and God alone has the right to what his identity is. He is God. He has revealed who he is in his revealed word, the Bible that you have right in front of you. God is the creator and the author of all things. He is the almighty and he is a jealous God. And all of creation was made to give glory to God. So, if we give the glory that is rightly due to God, to anything else, we are blaspheming God. Let’s not do that.
See what God himself says in his word. Believe in his Gospel, that Jesus his son, died for our sins and rose from the dead to full achieve the forgiveness of our sins. That forgiveness and eternal life with God, available by Grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
So, we continue to do what has been entrusted to us. Fight against the false teachings and sin that has corrupted this world. We stand up for and fight for the Truth and holiness of God and we trust both the results of our fight and our salvation to God and God alone.