1 & 2 THESSALONIANS AND 1 & 2 TIMOTHY
A Devotional Look at Paul's Letters to the Thessalonians and Timothy
F. Wayne Mac Leod
LIGHT TO MY PATH BOOK DISTRIBUTION
Copyright © 2010 by F. Wayne Mac Leod
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise specified, are taken from the New International Version of the Bible (Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used with permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers, All rights reserved.)
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved
Scriptures marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible
Special thanks to the proof readers and reviewers without whom this book would be much harder to read: Diane Mac Leod, Pat Schmidt
First and Second Thessalonians were written to the church in Thessalonica (modern day Greece) to encourage believers in the midst of persecution. Paul particularly addressed questions they had about the return of the Lord. Despite their struggles, this church had become a model of hope, faith and love for believers in the surrounding area. Paul commended them for their example but challenged them to even greater maturity in Christ. In the second letter he particularly addressed individuals in the church who had stopped working and were living off others in the community as they waited for the return of Christ.
Paul’s letters to Timothy were intended to instruct and encourage the young pastor in his ministry. The apostle advised Timothy on a variety of matters such as the qualifications of elders and deacons in the church, or how to care for a growing number of widows. Paul wrote as a father to his son encouraging Timothy to be strong and guard the truth he had taught him.
As with all the books in this series, this commentary is not meant to be read in a single setting. I would challenge the reader to take his or her time reading through it. Ask the Spirit of God to speak to you and help you to learn and apply the truth of His Word. The commentary is only a guide. I trust it will lead you not only into the truth but also help you to apply that truth in a life changing way. May the Lord be pleased to use this work by opening his Word to you. May God richly bless you as you take time to study these important books of Scripture.
This book, along with the others in the series will eventually make its way to over forty countries to bless pastors, Christian workers and ordinary believers in their ministries for our Lord. Pray with me that the Lord would be pleased to use it to expand his kingdom wherever it goes.
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
In Acts 17 we read how the apostle Paul spent time in the city of Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. The response he received toward his ministry was not very favourable. His preaching disturbed the people in that city so much that believers had to help him escape to save his life (see Acts 17:1-10). Despite this difficult beginning, the Spirit of God was working and a church was born and flourished.
God's ways are not our ways. How many times have we felt defeated in our efforts? I can only imagine what the apostle Paul felt as he left the city of Thessalonica after seeing the people of that city reject the message he preached. God saw things very differently, however. What we see as failure, God can use to accomplish good. Not only was a church established in Thessalonica, but it became a powerful model for believers in that region.
This letter comes from Paul, Silas and Timothy (verse 1). They write to the church in Thessalonica. Notice in verse 1 that Paul speaks of the church as being in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. These believers were part of the family of God. Their trust and confidence was in the work of the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.
Paul told the Thessalonians that they always thanked God for them by mentioning them in their prayers. It was the practice of the apostle Paul to pray for those among whom he had ministered. This was an important part of his ministry. No matter where he was, he was able to pray for these believers.
Notice that Paul uses the word "mention" in verse 2. There were times when Paul's prayers for the believers were very intense. Here Paul told the Thessalonians that he simply mentioned them to the Lord with thanksgiving. This does not mean that these prayers were any less important. Sometimes all we can do is remember our friends and loved ones, thank God for them and commit them to his keeping. God hears these prayers as well.
Paul was very thankful to God for the work of the Holy Spirit among the believers in Thessalonica. He has already mentioned the work of the Father and the Lord Jesus. He also speaks of the work of God's Spirit in their midst. The work of the Holy Spirit was evident in different ways. In the verses that follow, Paul shares with us what the Spirit of God was doing in the church of Thessalonica.
Their Work Produced by Faith (verse 3)
Paul tells the Thessalonians that he remembered before God their work produced by faith. Not all work is produced by faith. All too many works are based on human effort and not on faith. When a work is produced by faith it is rooted in obedience to the call and guidance of the Spirit of God. Those who produce works of faith die to themselves, their own ideas and agendas. They trust God's leading and enabling. The church of Thessalonica understood this. God was guiding them and working in them. They were following his leading and depending on his strength and wisdom. As a result, great things were happening in their midst.
Their Labour Prompted by Love (verse 3)
Love was the motivation behind the labours of the Thessalonian believers. Overflowing with the love of the Lord Jesus, they reached out to minister to those around them. They were not motivated by pride or desire for approval. The love of the Lord Jesus was so strong in them that they felt compelled to reach out. This love motivated and gave them perseverance in the difficult times.
Their Endurance Inspired by Hope (verse 3)
Serving the Lord was not always easy. There would have been many times when these believers could have given up. They would not always have been accepted by the community where they lived. There were attacks from the enemy and from the Jews, and from others around them, but they did not give up. They remembered what they had in the Lord Jesus and why he had come. They understood that this world was not really their home and that the Lord was preparing something far greater for them. They remembered that death was only a stepping stone into the presence of the Lord Jesus. They were not caught up in the pursuit of worldly possessions. Their eyes were focused on heaven and the Lord Jesus. This gave them courage to keep going even when things were difficult.
In verse 4, Paul told the believers that they were chosen and loved by God. He reminded them of how the gospel had come to them in Thessalonica. The gospel did not come to them in words only. It came with the power of the Holy Spirit behind it resulting in deep conviction. In other words, when the gospel came to this place, the Spirit of God moved in a very powerful way. When Paul saw how God was moving in Thessalonica he knew that God had a special purpose for them.
Paul challenged the Thessalonians in verses 5-6 to take their example from the lives of the apostles. We understand from verse 6 that the church in Thessalonica was facing severe suffering but that did not keep them from serving the Lord. They persevered and kept their eyes focused on the hope the Lord had given them, thus imitating the apostles in two ways. They imitated them first in their perseverance in suffering. The church of Thessalonica had seen Paul being cast out of the city. They understood, from the very beginning, that living the Christian life would not be easy. They saw how Paul and the other apostles faced tribulation without giving up and chose to follow their example.
The second way in which the church of Thessalonica followed the example of the apostles was in their willing-ness to welcome the message of the Holy Spirit with joy (verse 6). They not only welcomed the preaching of the Word of God but also committed themselves to live in obedience to it. The result was that they were filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit in the difficulties that surrounded them.
The believers in Thessalonica demonstrated true Christianity in the region of Macedonia and Achaia (verse 7). They were an example in works of faith, labours of love and enduring hope. They did this in the midst of severe suffering. People all around heard of their faith.
People were talking about how the church of Thessalonica had opened their hearts to the apostles and received their message. They also spoke of the change that had come to the region. They saw how people had turned from idols to the living and true God (verse 9). They saw how, despite opposition, they set their hearts and minds to wait for the return of the Lord Jesus to rescue them from the coming judgment.
Paul said that their example was such that he hardly needed to preach in that region. They demonstrated, by their lives, the entire message of the gospel. People saw practically how the Lord could change sinners and fill them with joy and purpose.
What a powerful example we see in the life of the Thessalonian church. If people were to look at your life, would they understand the message of the gospel? Would they see in you the wonderful change Jesus has made? Would they see how much your hope in him has changed your life? Would your words reflect that you trust the Lord even when things are difficult? Our lives are powerful examples of the gospel. Many have turned from the message of the gospel because they have not clearly seen the difference the Lord Jesus can make. May our lives, like the lives of these Thessalonian believers, point all we meet to the Savoir.
* Have you ever gone through a time when you felt like you had completely failed? What encouragement do you find from the fact that the church of Thessalonica grew despite the fact that Paul was kicked out of the city?
* What is the difference between work produced in the flesh and work produced by faith?
* How has your hope in Christ given you courage to keep going? Give an example?
* How has the Lord shown you his love and favour?
* How much of a model for other believers are you? What area of your life do you need to surrender to the Lord?
* Ask the Lord to help you to be a model for those around you.
* Ask the Lord to examine your motivation in service. Ask him to make love for him and his people the motivation for your service.
* Thank the Lord that he can use even what appears to be failure to accomplish great good.
* Thank the Lord for the wonderful hope he has given us. Ask him to remind you of his promises in times of difficulty.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
We have seen how the church in Thessalonica, despite tremendous obstacles, proved to be a wonderful example to the believers in the surrounding regions. When Paul first arrived in the area he was not well received by the general public. He was forced to leave the region be-cause of the opposition. God was pleased, however, to do a powerful work and a church was established.
In chapter 2 Paul was remembering how he and his co-workers had ministered among them. This chapter has some significant things to say about how Christian leaders are to minister. Paul gives us an example to follow in our own ministries.
Paul begins by reminding the church that his time with them was not a failure. If we read the account of how Paul was forced out of the city we can understand how easy it would have been for him to feel like he had been a failure. Paul did not see things in this way. Instead, he kept his eyes fixed on the Lord. Despite the fact that he had to leave the city, Paul believed that the God who called him would use the time he spent in the region for his glory. God did not make mistakes. There was purpose in all he did. Things are not always as they appear. God will use what appears to be great failure to accomplish great good. We would do well as leaders to keep this focus.
Paul had often suffered and been insulted in the ministry of preaching the gospel. Not everyone understood what he was preaching. Some responded violently to his words. This was the case when he was in Philippi just before arriving in Thessalonica. There Paul and his companions were stripped, beaten and imprisoned. Despite the opposition, however, they did not lose hope. Leaving the city, they continued on to Thessalonica and again preached the gospel.
Notice that Paul and his companions did not do this in their own strength. Verse 2 tells us that "with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition." It was with the help of God that Paul and his companions were able to continue preaching the gospel after such opposition in Philippi. Their human strength was inadequate. They found strength in God to go to Thessalonica where they continued to share what God had put on their heart.
Notice in verse 2 that in Thessalonica they preached the gospel "in spite of strong opposition." The apostles knew that they would have to suffer for the cause of the gospel. They were willing to face insults, persecution and opposition to preach the gospel. We are called to do battle with the enemy. As soldiers in the battle we must accept the fact that sometimes things are going to be difficult. We don't share the gospel because it is going to be easy. We share it because people need to hear. We will face opposition and hardship but we must not be discouraged. The apostles were ready to face opposition to get the message of the gospel to those who needed to hear it. The strength for this came from the Lord God. His strength is available to us as well.
According to verse 3, the apostle Paul's preaching did not spring from error or impure motives. He did not try to trick people into the kingdom of heaven. Paul did not resort to questionable techniques to convince people to follow Jesus. How easy it is for us to have people come forward at an evangelistic meeting or raise their hands to accept the Lord Jesus. We can ask them to sign cards of commitment to the Lord Jesus and promise them wonderful blessings. We can entertain them or impress them with how friendly we are but only God can change lives. Only what he does is truly lasting. Paul's focus was on preaching the gospel. The Holy Spirit would bring conviction of sin and salvation. He didn't want people to focus on him. He did not have any programs or techniques to win them. He believed that the Spirit of God alone was powerful enough to change the human heart and give life to those who heard the truth. Paul’s motives were pure. He did not try to trick people into the kingdom. He allowed God to work in them through the faithful preaching of the Word. Paul had a strong view of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the truth. As believers today we too need to see afresh the ministry of God's Spirit through the proclamation of truth. God has been pleased throughout history to use his Spirit and the preaching of the Word to change lives. He will continue to do so in our day. Paul's focus in ministry was the Spirit and the Word. That combination had a powerful effect on the lives of the people who heard him speak.
Paul spoke as one who was approved by God (verse 4). In other words, God had set him apart and called him specifically for this purpose. The power of Paul's ministry was not only because he focused on the Spirit and the Word but also because he had God's special call on his life. Paul was approved and chosen by God to do what he did. He preached what God called him to preach. He lived and ministered as one who had been approved by God. He preached not to please people but to please the God who had set him apart for this purpose.
People did not always accept the words of the Lord. Sometimes they walked away or spoke evil of him. Sometimes they physically attacked him. Jesus too was rejected. The apostles were beaten and stoned because of the message they preached. They made it their goal, however, no matter the cost, to seek the approval of God and not people.
Paul did not resort to flattery in his preaching. When we speak of flattery we speak of insincere praise. The one who flatters says all kinds of nice things about people in an attempt to win them over. Paul did not resort to flattery. He simply spoke the truth. He wanted the Spirit to do the work in the lives of those who heard him. Some-times people follow us because we tell them what they want to hear. Sometimes they follow us because we make them feel good. Paul was not content with this. He wanted the Spirit of God to work in the lives of his listeners bringing real change.
Paul did not put on a cloak to cover up greed (verses 5-6). He was not interested in making money. He preached the gospel because God was moving him to do so out of a heart broken for the needs he saw around him. He would preach whether those who heard him gave him money or not. He didn't try to gain the sympathy of those who listened to him. He didn't make appeals for money. He was called of God and he knew that God would provide.
Greed can be a problem for Christian workers. In Paul's day, traveling evangelists and prophets depended on the gifts of God's people. It was quite easy for them to become greedy and to focus on what they could get. The challenge for us is to examine our motives in preaching the gospel. Are we preaching for what we can get for ourselves (money, affirmation, or attention)? Do we trust the Lord for our resources or are we using all kinds of techniques to obtain the favour and gifts of God's people?
In verse 6 Paul wrote that he did not want to be a burden to the church. He chose to preach freely and minister freely among them. He was quite willing to leave without any financial blessing from them. Would you take a reduction in your salary to go where God called you to go? Would you be willing to follow the call of God even if there was no financial provision for you? Is money more important than ministry? Paul's motive was to preach the gospel. He was willing to do this freely and sacrificially.
Paul compared his ministry to a mother caring for her little children. As a mother, Paul willingly made great sacrifices for the church. What mother expects to be paid to raise her child? The heart of the mother is to see her child grow and mature. She freely cares for and nurtures her child with gentleness and compassion. She willingly sacrifices her own comfort for her children. As Paul says in verse 8 they were willing to give their lives for the Thessalonians because they had become so dear to them.
Verse 9 adds another dimension to this picture of the apostles being like a mother to the Thessalonians. Like mothers, they toiled and worked night and day for the Thessalonians. They were tireless in their efforts. It was love for their spiritual children that kept them going. They put their own interests and comforts aside to care for them.
It was not enough to preach the truth of the gospel. The apostles also demonstrated it with their lives. They lived holy, righteous and blameless lives in the midst of the Thessalonians (verse 10). They were examples of what they preached. It does no good to preach if we are not going to live what we preach. The Thessalonians saw in the apostles an example to follow.
Paul also compared the ministry of the apostles to that of a father. They treated the spiritual children as a father would treat his children, encouraging them to keep going when times were rough. They came alongside of them and lifted them up in their discouragement. There were times when the believers, like little children, needed some big arms to cry in. There were times when they needed those big arms to surround them, comfort them and protect them from harm. This is what the apostles did for them. As fathers, the apostles urged the Thessalonians to live lives worthy of God who had called them into his kingdom. They motivated and challenged their children to become everything they could be in Christ.
The task of ministering to God's people will not be easy nor will it always be appreciated. Paul challenges us to keep two things central in our ministries.
First, we are to focus on preaching the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit no matter the cost. We must not to allow ourselves to get sidetracked by seeking approval or resort to human tactics and techniques to win men and women to Christ. Instead we must put our faith and trust in the Holy Spirit to convict and bring the change he desires.
Second, we must commit ourselves to minister as a mother and father to God's children.
We must be willing to make great sacrifices. With gentle-ness, compassion and personal example we must give ourselves to building up the body seeking God's approval only.
* Are you willing to face opposition for the spreading of the gospel?
* Have you ever found yourself trusting more in your techniques, programs, personality or gifts than in the Holy Spirit?
* Have you ever found yourself trying to please people in your ministry? How does this hinder the advancement of the kingdom of God?
* What are the characteristics of a father and mother? How are we to demonstrate these characteristics in the body of Christ and in our ministry for him?
* Ask the Lord to examine your ministry and show you any way that you have not been trusting in his Holy Spirit.
* Have you ever had a spiritual father or mother? How did they encourage and bless you? Thank the Lord for these individuals. Ask the Lord to give you the grace to be a father and mother to those around you.
* Commit yourselves to seeking the approval of God alone in your ministry. Ask God to break any desire you may have to seek the approval of people.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
Paul had been like a mother and father to the Thessalonians. While he had not been well received in the com-munity, some people had accepted his message. Paul thanked the Lord for those individuals (verse 13).
Notice in verse 13 that the Thessalonians received the word not as a word of men but as the Word of God and believed it. The Spirit of God brought the conviction to their hearts that what they were hearing was from God. Paul praised the Lord for this.
Notice also that this Word was at work in those who believed. The Word of God is living. It has the power to change and transform the lives of those who believe and receive it. One of the greatest proofs that the Bible is the Word of God is in how it is transforms lives and hearts. The enemy knows the power of the Word of God to transform and heal. The Word that Paul preached to the Thessalonians is still transforming lives today. It is much more than a list of doctrines and practices. Those who see the Bible as only doctrine miss something very powerful. The Bible is alive and active. It has the power to change and transform the lives of those who will listen to and obey its truth. This is what was happening in the church at Thessalonica.
While the Word was active in the lives of the Thessalonians, this did not spare them from personal trials and suffering. In fact, at this point in history, believing the Word of God often required suffering. Verse 14 tells us that the Thessalonians were being persecuted at the hands of their own countrymen.
Paul knew what it was like to experience this persecution. He suffered at the hands of his fellow Jews. They refused to accept the Lord Jesus and became hostile towards those who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah (verse 15).
It was hard for the Jews to believe that God would reach out to the Gentiles and accept them as his own. From their perspective, the Gentile was unworthy of God's grace. According to verse 16, the Jews made every effort to keep the apostles from speaking to the Gentiles so that they might be saved. According to Paul, by hindering the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles the Jews were heaping up sins to the limit. This was a serious matter indeed.
There are many ways we can hinder the preaching of the gospel today. We can do this by our bad example. We can hinder the gospel by not sharing it with those the Lord brings on your path. We can hinder the gospel by not using our resources to help and encourage those who are called to go. Paul tells us that to hinder the gospel is to heap up sin. We need to confess this if we have been guilty of such a sin. In the case of the Jews, God had already judged them (see verse 16). May this not be the case for us.
When Paul was in Thessalonica he was forced to leave because of the persecution that broke out against him. In verse 17 he told the believers that though he was torn away from them, he made every effort to return. Though separated from them in person his thoughts and prayers were with them continually. He had a very deep concern for them and their spiritual walk. He knew the situation in which they were living. He had personally experienced the resistance of the community to the gospel and was concerned for the safety and growth of the believers in that region.
It is interesting to note that the apostle Paul was often forced to leave cities where he preached the gospel. He had a tremendous burden for the believers in those communities but the Lord did not allow him to stay with them for long. We need to understand that God had called Paul to share the gospel with as many people as possible. It was not the purpose of God that Paul remain in any one area for long.
Having said this, however, Paul took his role as apostle very seriously and made every effort to nurture and encourage the people of God in their faith. Notice in verse 18 that while Paul wanted to come back to see the Thessalonians, Satan stopped him. Here was a man of God who was filled with his Spirit. Paul had cast out demons and seen God do powerful works through his life, but here Satan is hindering him.
Paul often battled with Satan in his ministry. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 he speaks of his personal struggle with Satan on a daily basis:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Sa-tan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Paul was afflicted by this "messenger of Satan." While he prayed about this, God would not take away this "thorn in his flesh." Here in this passage we see how Satan kept Paul from going to Thessalonica to encourage the believers.
There are two things we need to understand from this. First, even though Satan was very active, God remained in control of Paul's situation. We are reminded of Job and how the enemy stripped him of all he had. Satan did his utmost but in the end the Lord had the victory. Job was kept through his trials and ultimately restored to even greater blessing. God can even use Satan to accomplish his glory. This is what he did with Paul's "thorn in the flesh." God told Paul that he was going to allow the "messenger of Satan" to continue to afflict him but that he would use that messenger to demonstrate his power. Paul was hindered by Satan from going to Thessalonica but this did not mean that Satan was in control. God would use what Satan was doing to accomplish his glory. The church in Thessalonica grew despite the fact that Paul did not get to see them. They became an example for all around. God used their trials to mature them without Paul.
The second thing we need to understand here is that God's victory does not always look like victory to us. We often fail to see the whole picture. Paul went through life with a "thorn in the flesh." Despite this thorn, the gospel went forth. Did Paul have victory over Satan in the end? He sure did. Satan hindered Paul from going to Thessalonica but God blessed the work anyway. Satan’s efforts were defeated!
Paul concludes this chapter by reminding the believers that they were his hope, joy and crown. He would glory in them in the presence of the Lord.
Paul was filled with joy as he thought about the Thessalonians. He was thrilled that they had come to know the Lord despite the difficulties they encountered. He was happy because God had given him the privilege of being part of their coming to Christ. He rejoiced because God had been maturing them despite the tremendous obstacles they faced in their city.
The Thessalonians were Paul's crown. A crown in Scripture is the reward the believer receives for faithful service. Paul speaks of this crown in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25:
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
Paul wanted to win the prize. He lived his life and served with the intention of pleasing the Lord and to wear a crown for faithful service. The Thessalonians were part of his crown. They were the fruit of his labours for which he would receive a reward in heaven.
The apostle told the Thessalonians that he would glory in them in the presence of the Lord when he returned. He was proud of them. They were the reason why he would not be ashamed when the Lord returned. He would be able to present them to the Lord as the fruit of faithful service.
* What is the connection between believing the Word and living in obedience to that word? Can we say we believe it if we are not ready to obey it?
* How has the Word of God been transforming your life?
* What are some ways we can we hinder the preaching of the gospel?
* What do we learn about God using Satan to accomplish his glory? What encouragement do you receive from this?
* Is it wrong to want to receive a reward for faithful service? What does Paul tell us in this chapter?
* Paul would present the Thessalonian believers to the Lord as the fruit of his service. What do you have to present to the Lord?
* Thank the Lord that his Word is true and that we can rely completely on it.
* Thank the Lord that even when Satan strikes and afflicts us we can still have victory in His name.
* Ask the Lord to keep you from hindering the message of the gospel in any way.
* Thank the Lord for the rewards He has promised to those who faithfully serve Him.
* Ask God to give you greater fruit for your labours here below.
Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Paul reminded the Thessalonians in the last chapter that they were his joy and crown. He had been responsible for them coming to the Lord and now he had a deep burden on his heart that they would continue to grow in their relationship with Him. The church in Thessalonica had suffered much because of their commitment to the Lord Jesus. Paul was concerned for what they were going through.
Paul told the believers in verse 1 that when he could bear it no longer he sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them while he was in Athens. In the last chapter we saw that Satan had hindered Paul from going to see the believers in Thessalonica himself. Paul longed to comfort and encourage this church in their trial so he sent Timothy in his place to strengthen them in this time of need.
What an encouragement it would have been for these believers to see the deep concern Paul had for them. Notice that Timothy had been sent to them to strengthen and encourage them in their faith (verse 2) so that no one would be "unsettled" by their trials. Paul understood that the problems these believers were facing could cause some of them to question their faith. Paul decided to send Timothy to answer some of their questions.
In these verses we see the importance of the body of Christ. The church in Thessalonica needed the support and encouragement of godly spiritual leaders at this time. God will often empower his people through the Holy Spirit to encourage and strengthen each other. Timothy would be God’s chosen man to encourage this church.
The apostle Paul knew the opposition there was to the gospel in Thessalonica. He was not surprised that the believers were being persecuted for their faith, and he was very concerned for them. He needed to know how they were doing. He knew that Satan would tempt them with and try to turn them from their faith. Paul sent Timothy with the great task of encouraging and strengthening the believers to face their trials and persecution.
What a blessing is was for Paul when Timothy returned from Thessalonica bringing news from the church. He told Paul about the faith and love he had seen in the Thessalonians (verse 6). He also told him how the Thessalonians had very pleasant memories of him and his co-workers. They longed to see Paul as much as he longed to see them. What good news this was for Paul. He was encouraged to see that the Thessalonians had not abandoned their faith. In verse 8 he says: "For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord."
The news that he had not laboured in vain in Thessalonica gave Paul new life and zeal. We all need these encouragements in our ministry. Every so often God will open the windows and let us see the fruit of our labours. This brings us fresh strength to persevere. Paul's heart overflowed with thanksgiving to God with the news Timothy brought him. "How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?" he asked in 1 Thessalonians 3:9. This encouraged Paul to pray all the more that he would have opportunity to minister again to them (verse 10).
Paul concludes this section with three prayers for the Thessalonians. His first prayer is that the Lord would clear the way for them to visit (verse 11). His desire was to be with them to minister to their needs and encourage them personally.
The second prayer of Paul was that that Lord would make their love increase and overflow. In order for something to overflow it first has to be filled. You can't overflow with the love of God if you do not know that love yourself. You cannot give out of emptiness. God is calling us to be so filled with his love that not only are we filled but we also overflow.
The first place this love was to overflow was to the family of God. How many people have turned from the Lord because they have seen Christians who did not overflow with love to each other? If we do not first love each other, how can we be a witness to the world around us? How can we speak to the unbeliever of the love of the Lord if we cannot first find it in our heart to love our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Once the Thessalonians were filled with the love of Christ and were overflowing to each other the next step was to share it with everyone else. This included the unbeliever and those outside of the church. They could only share this love if they had first experienced it themselves and were demonstrating it among themselves. When this was taking place they could also overflow to those around them.
Paul's third prayer for the Thessalonians was that the Lord God would strengthen their hearts so that they would be blameless and holy. Notice that he does not pray that the trials would be removed. Paul told the Thessalonians that they were destined for trials in verse 3. Paul prays here that God would use the trials they were going through to make them blameless and holy. He expected that God would purify them through their trials. These trials, like a raging furnace would burn away the impurities and draw them closer to the Lord. How often we run from our trials and tribulations instead of letting God use them to purify us. We will all have to face difficulties in this life. We are often refined through the difficulties God allows.
We see in this section that the Thessalonians were destined to suffer for the gospel. Paul prayed that God would fill them to overflowing with love for each other and for their community in the midst of that suffering. He reminded them that God would use their trials to refine them and draw them closer to Himself. Through these trials the Lord was strengthening the church in Thessalonica, and they had already become a powerful model for other believers in the surrounding regions.
* What does this passage teach us about Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians?
* What do we learn about the need to support and encourage each other in the body of Christ? Is there someone you need to encourage?
* Will Christians have to suffer in this life? What does persecution accomplish in us?
* God uses our trials to refine us. Have you ever asked God to take away the refiners fire?
* Why is it important to be filled with the love of God ourselves if we want to share it with others? Can we share what we are not experiencing our-selves?
* Can we share the love of Christ with the unbeliever if we first don't love each other in the body of Christ? Explain.
* How has God used trials in your life to shape and refine you? What lessons have you learned through trials and suffering?
* Are you facing a particular trial right now? Ask the Lord to teach you through it and to refine you in it. Thank him that he is in control.
* Ask the Lord to open your eyes to the needs of the body of Christ around you. Ask him to show you practical ways in which you can share the love of Christ with those around you.
* Are there people around you who are struggling or going through a trial? Ask the Lord to strengthen and encourage them through this. Ask him to show you if there is any way you can be an instrument of encouragement and support.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Paul has much good to say about the Thessalonians in this epistle. This is not to say that they did not have their faults. While they had been a powerful example to those around them, Paul encouraged them to keep on growing in the Lord. All too many times we come to a place in our relationship with the Lord and stop growing. We became content with where we are. The challenge of this passage is for us not to stop growing. There is much more of God to experience. Paul's challenge is to continue growing and experiencing more of God.
In verse 1 we see that Paul had already given instruction in how to live in order to please God. Instruction that is not put into practice is of very little use. This church not only listened to the instructions of Paul, but they had been putting into practice what they had been taught (verse 1). Paul was truly thankful for this.
Paul now urged them to follow more and more that the instruction he had given them. They were to press on in knowing God and his purposes. We can be content with so little. Have you been trusting God? Trust him even more. Have you seen the Lord use you? Ask him for more. Have you had victory over a particular sin in your life? Ask him for more such victories. Paul's encouragement to the church was to keep doing what they were doing but to do so in an even greater measure.
Paul tells the believers in verse 2 that the reason they were to persevere in his instructions was because these instructions had been given by the authority of Christ. What Paul taught them was not just his will. It was the purpose of God for them. They were to obey the instructions he had given them because they had come from the Lord Jesus himself. In particular, Paul speaks to the church about three areas of concern.
In verse 3 Paul reminded the Thessalonians that it was the will of the Lord that they be sanctified. The word sanctify implies being set apart for a holy and righteous purpose. God had set them aside and wanted them for Himself. It was His purpose that they be holy and pure.
Paul went on to say that because it was the desire of the Lord that they be set apart for holy living, they needed to avoid all sexual immorality. By being sexually immoral they defiled themselves before God. The world, in which the Thessalonians lived, just as ours, was filled with sexual immorality. God was calling them to something different.
The temptation in our day, too, is very real. We see immorality all around us in advertisements, movies and books. It fills conversations at our work place. The standard of this world with regard to what is morally acceptable is very different from God's standard.
In verse 4 Paul makes it clear that if we are going to avoid sexual immorality we will have to learn how to control our bodies. It is not without reason that one of the fruits of the Spirit of God is self-control. Have you wrestled with sexual sins? You need to pray for a demonstration of this fruit of self-control. Self-control will run away from a situation where it is being tempted. Self-control will close its eyes or turn its head. Sometimes people feel God is just going to take the desire away from them and they won't even want to sin. This is not always the case. There are times when we will have to struggle deeply with sin. We will need the enabling of God to fight and control our bodies so we do not fall into the sin of immorality.
There were pagans in Thessalonica who did not exercise this self-control. These individuals surrendered to their passions and lusts. They allowed their fleshly appetites to control their actions. Whatever the body desired they pursued. They were not governed by principles of godliness and morality. They followed the appetites of their bodies (verse 5). There are people like this in our day.
The apostle reminded his readers in verse 6 that when they committed sexual sin they not only defiled them-selves but also those with whom they committed this sin. He reminded them that God would punish those who commit sexual immorality. God called them to a holy life (verse 7). Sexual immorality was incompatible with the holiness God required.
As believers, the Thessalonians were the temples of God's Spirit. To defile these temples was to sin against the Holy Spirit. How terrible it is to take the temple of God and use it for sexual immorality. Paul challenges the believer to keep the temple of God pure and holy for His use.
Paul wanted to present the believers in Thessalonica to Christ pure and blameless. He encourages them, there-fore to live pure and holy lives free from all forms of sexual immorality.
The second area that Paul wanted to address was the area of brotherly love. In verse 9 Paul recognized that the Thessalonians were already doing this. God had been teaching them to love each other. Their love extended beyond their church to the brothers throughout the region of Macedonia. Paul does not remind the Thessalonians about this matter of brotherly love because they had fallen short but because he wanted them to grow in it more and more.
We need to understand that the love Paul spoke about here needed to be developed and grow. It would require an effort on the part of the Thessalonians. All too often we wait for God to change us but we don't take the initiative. We want God to give us more love but we don't realize that it is only as we prove faithful in using what He has already given that He will give more. Paul challenges the Thessalonians to look for even more opportunities to overflow in love.
There were good things happening in the church of Thessalonica but Paul called them to greater things. Paul calls for a holy discontent. He calls us to stretch our faith and to step out into uncharted territory. One of the greatest shames of the Christian life is that we never reach our full potential and settle for something far less than what God has in store for us. Paul challenged the Thessalonians to stretch the limits and excel even more in the art of brotherly love.
There is one final matter that Paul brings to the attention of the church in this section. In verse 11 he challenges the believers to make it their ambition to lead a quiet life. This quiet life was to be demonstrated by minding their own business and working with their hands.
Notice the phrase “make it your ambition” in verse 11. In other words, this matter of living a quiet life was to be a disciplined focus and priority for their life.
The quiet life Paul spoke about required that each believer minded their own business. When Paul told the Thessalonians to mind their own business he was telling them to take care of their own needs by working to provide for their families. They were to do this so that their daily life would win the respect of the outsider. The Thessalonians were quite excited about the things of the Lord. They were expecting the Lord to come at any time. It is quite possible that some believed so strongly that the Lord was coming in their lifetime that they began to neglect their work and families to serve the Lord. Paul told them that they were to keep working as they waited for the Lord (verse 11). They were not to be dependent on anyone else.
We are to live our lives in such a way that if we knew Jesus was coming tomorrow nothing would change. We do what we do because we believe it is what God has called us to do. You work in the factory because that is where God has put you. You are going to school because this is the will of the Heavenly Father for you. You work in the fields to provide for your family because this is what God expects of you. When he returns you want to be doing what he has called you to do. Some of the believers in Thessalonica had been ignoring their responsibilities because of their belief that Jesus was returning soon. This put a burden on other people to provide for them. Their families were suffering because they were not being provided for. Paul encouraged them to care for their own families. Their love for the Lord and desire for his coming was not an excuse for neglecting the needs of their families. They were to mind their own business in the sense that they were to take care of their own business and provide for the needs of those who were under their charge.
Paul challenged the Thessalonians to grow in their relationship with God, resist the temptation to sexual immorality, excel in brotherly love and work with their hands to provide for the needs of their families. In so doing they would gain the respect of their community and be pleasing to God.
* Have you been content with far less than God re-quires? Explain.
* How strong is the temptation to sexual immorality in your society? How does this affect the church?
* What is self-control? What comfort do you find in the fact that it is a fruit of the Spirit? How does it keep us from falling into sin?
* What would change for you if you knew that Jesus was coming tomorrow?
* What does this passage tell us about the need to provide for our families? What does this tell us about the importance God gives to families? Is it possible to neglect our families in Christian service?
* Ask the Lord to stretch you more and more in faith and service for him.
* Ask the Lord to give you more of the fruit of self-control to overcome the temptations that surround you.
* Ask the Lord to open your eyes to new ways of loving those around you.
* Ask the Lord to keep you faithful to the things he has called you to do.
* Ask the Lord to forgive you for the times you have become content with far less than his purpose for your life.
* Thank the Lord for your family. Ask him to help you to provide for them and their needs.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The church in Thessalonica needed some instruction regarding the return of Christ. As we have already seen, these believers were expecting that Jesus was coming in their lifetime. Many had questions about His return. In this section, Paul takes the time to answer some of their questions.
The first question Paul addressed was in regards to what happened to Christians who died. In verse 13 Paul said that they had no reason to grieve like the rest of the world at the death of a believing loved one. Even as the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, so God would raise those who belonged to him (verse 14). By his death, the Lord Jesus paid the penalty for sins and broke the power of the grave. Death is not an end for those who belong to the Lord Jesus.
Paul went on to say in verses 15-16 that the day was coming when the Lord Jesus would return. He would come with a loud command. The picture is that of a great military commander whose army awaits his command. With that one shout, the fate of the world will be sealed. That one word will unleash the forces of heaven on this earth. The day is coming when that command will be given. For some it will be a sign of victory but for others it will mean their defeat.
Paul also told the believers that the Lord would return with the voice of the archangel (verse 16). The archangel was the highest ranking angel in heaven. We learn from Jude 1:9 that the name of the archangel is Michael. There are several references in the Scripture to Michael the archangel. From Revelation 12:7-9 we understand that it was Michael who cast Satan out of heaven:
"And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."
We also meet Michael in the book of Daniel. There he is fighting to keep back the forces of evil that reigned in the region of Persia (Daniel 10:13). He is described in Daniel 12:1 as the protector of the people of God.
What we need to understand here is that when the Lord Jesus returns he will come with Michael the archangel and his forces. They will come to do battle against the forces of evil and to put an end to them.
Paul also told the Thessalonians in verse 16 that the Lord would come with the sound of the trumpet. The trumpet was used to announce a battle. It was used to declare the coming of a great king. Jesus is that great King who is coming for battle.
When the Lord Jesus comes, those believers who have died will come back to life and rise to meet Jesus in the air (verse 17). There will be no mistaking the fact that this is really Jesus. There will be clear signs. Only when these things have taken place will those who are alive be caught up also into the presence of the Lord in the clouds. From there the believer will be taken to be forever with the Lord.
Paul challenged the Thessalonians to encourage each other with this teaching (verse 18). As believers they were facing severe suffering. Some may have even had to die because of their commitment to the Lord Jesus. Their death was not the end. The day was coming when those souls would hear the cry of the Lord and rise to meet him in the air. It is for this reason that they did not need to grieve like those who were lost in their sin. Death was not the end for them. It was only the beginning of an eternity in the presence of their Saviour and Lord.
This reminder would have been a real encouragement as they were suffering for their faith. Life was not going to be easy for them on this earth but they had a bright hope for eternity in the presence of the Lord God. The assurance of an eternity with their Lord would have given them confidence to face their trials on this earth.
* How does our hope in Christ change how we see death?
* How can you be sure that you are ready to meet the Lord?
* What will happen to believers when the Lord re-turns?
* Who is Michael? What is his role?
* What particular encouragement do you take from the teaching of Paul about the future hope of the believer?
* Thank the Lord that He has broken the power of the grave.
* Thank the Lord that He promises to return for us.
* Do you know someone who is not yet ready for the Lord's return? Take a moment to pray for that individual.
* Ask God to help you to always live in the hope of an eternity with Him.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Paul has been speaking about the return of the Lord. He said that the Lord would come for His people and that they would meet Him in the air. They were to encourage one another with this hope. On that day, God's people who have already died will rise first. Those who are alive will follow. They will be with the Lord forever.
All this discussion brings up the question, when will Jesus return? Paul told the Thessalonians that Jesus would return like a thief in the night (verse 2). No one knows when the thief will come. The thief comes when we least expect it. This is how the Lord will come. He could come at any moment. Paul did not have an answer to this question of when the Lord would come. He simply told the Thessalonians to be ready at all times.
Even though Jesus has told us that He will return, there are many people who will not be ready. Paul said that in the last days people will talk about peace and safety but great destruction will come on them. People will be living with a false sense of peace and security when the Lord returns. Their confidence will not be in God but in their own ability to create peace and security among the nations of the earth. All their security measures and peace talks will amount to nothing. The day of the Lord will come on them inevitably, like labour pains on a pregnant woman. In all their talks they forgot the most important dimension, that is, peace with God. On that day they will stand before a holy God with whom they have never made peace. What a terrible day that will be. There can be no true peace until we first have peace with God.
No one can predict the day the Lord Jesus will return. People of every generation have expected Jesus to come in their lifetime. The Thessalonians were expecting him to come in their day. The simple fact of the matter is that we don't know. God's schedule is not ours. When he has accomplished His purposes with this world, He will come and take us to be with Him. No one knows when that will be but we must be ready at all times.
Paul has every confidence that the Thessalonians were not like those who lived in the darkness of sin. The Thessalonians would not be unprepared on the day the Lord returned. They were living in the light. They would have nothing to be ashamed of when He returned.
In verse 6 Paul challenged the believers in Thessalonica not to be like those who were asleep. The thief often comes when we are asleep. Paul told the Thessalonians that there were many individuals who were spiritually asleep. They were not serving the Lord. They were not growing in their relationship with God. They were not dealing with the sins in their lives. They were not using the gifts God had given them. They were spiritually lazy. These individuals would have to answer to God on the day of His return. They were wasting their lives. They were unprofitable servants.
It should be understood that it is not just the unbeliever who is not ready for the return of the Lord. Even Chris-tians can be unprepared for the Lord's return. If you are not serving the Lord and using the gifts He has given you then you are not ready to face Him. If you are overcome by sin then you need to make a break with it if you are going to be ready.
To be ready for the return of the Lord requires diligent effort. Paul told the Thessalonians that they needed to be alert and self-controlled (verse 6). To be alert means to have our eyes open to the influences around us, to set a guard around our mind and our eyes and be aware of the tactics of the enemy and the weakness of our own flesh. The guard who is alert will see the danger coming and take the necessary action. If we are going to be ready for the return of the Lord Jesus, we must never let down our guard. We must always be diligent in our spiritual walk and aware of the enemy’s efforts to distract us.
Paul also told the believers that they needed to be self-controlled. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. There are many people who know what they need to do but they never seem to be able to do it. Self-control supplies the effort necessary to do what is right. Spiritual alertness in not enough, we also need to obey. This requires discipline and self-control. This means effort and hard work. It requires that we be willing to deny ourselves in order to do what is right. There is a battle before us. As soldiers we need to discipline our minds and bodies to face the battle and walk as true and holy soldiers of Christ.
If the believer is to be ready for the return of the Lord he or she must also clothe themselves with faith (verse 8). Faith gives us assurance of the truth of God. It provides courage and strength to persevere under stress and trials. Faith in what Jesus said keeps a believer obedient and faithful no matter the cost. Faith trusts the Word of God, believing what God says. Faith trusts when things don't make sense. The faith of the believer will surely be tried as the days of the Lord’s return draw near. Satan will increase his efforts to cause the believer to stumble. Faith will keep us strong as we wait the return of the Lord.
Paul told the Thessalonians that they also needed to put on love as they waited for the return of the Lord. We do not honour the Lord if we serve without love. We cannot honour Him if we do not love Him. All our actions and attitudes must be motivated by love. The Lord is looking for more than heartless obedience. There are many ways we can serve the Lord. Some people serve the Lord out of tradition. They attend church or give to the needs of the church because that is how they were brought up. They have no personal relationship with God but they are faithful church attendees and give generously to the cause. Others serve out of fear and obligation. These individuals are afraid that if they don't serve or obey something bad will happen to them. They fear God's judgment and do all they can to merit His favour. Finally there are those who serve because they love Him with all their heart. The service of these believers rises up to God as a sweet smelling offering. He is pleased with these offerings because they are seasoned with love and true devotion to Him. Paul is telling the Thessalonians that if they want to be ready for the return of the Lord they were to be a people who love the Lord God. Their actions and service needed to come from love. This is the only true motive for service. God is looking for a people who love Him with all their heart.
Also in verse 8 Paul told the Thessalonians that they needed to put on the hope of salvation as a helmet. When we speak of hope we are not speaking about wishful thinking. The hope spoken of here is a firm conviction. Paul is telling us that we need to have this firm confidence of our salvation if we are going to be ready for the Lord. In other words we need to have a solid conviction in what the Lord Jesus has done to make our salvation possible. Our hope and confidence must be solidly rooted in Him and His work on the cross.
God's people have been appointed by Him to receive His salvation from judgement through the work of Christ (verse 9). The Lord Jesus died for them so that they could live forever in His presence (verse 10). He will be faithful to accomplish His work in them. This hope is not based on anything they have done themselves. It is based on the sure and certain work of the Lord Jesus on their behalf. Because salvation is based on the sure work of Christ, it cannot fail. In order to be ready for the return of the Lord, one needs to be sure that they have trusted and accepted the work of Christ on their behalf.
There is one more thing we need to see here. Paul told the Thessalonians that they were to encourage one another and build each other up as they prepared for the return of the Lord (verse 11). This matter of getting ready for the return of the Lord is not something we do all by ourselves. God has designed us in such a way that we need each other. We need the encouragement and blessings of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need their gifts and talents. They also need my blessing and encouragement as they prepare for the return of the Lord.
In this section, Paul helps the Thessalonians to under-stand how they can be ready for the return of the Lord. He reminds them that they will need to be alert because they could expect to face opposition. He challenges them to be self-controlled, to clothe themselves with faith, love and the salvation of the Lord. They were also to encourage and stand with each other as they prepared for the second coming of their Lord.
* Does anyone really know when the Lord Jesus will return?
* Paul speaks here about those who were asleep. How can Christians be spiritually asleep?
* What is self-control and what role does it play in getting us ready for the return of the Lord?
* How does faith motivate us to persevere and be ready for the Lord's return?
* What role does the body have toward each other in this effort of preparing for the return of the Lord? How does God want to use you to help others be prepared?
* Ask the Lord to show you any way in which you have been spiritually asleep.
* Ask him to show you how you can minister to those around you to encourage them to be ready for Christ's return.
* Ask God to make you more alert to the attacks of the enemy.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
In this final section of this letter, Paul brings a series of challenges, touching on a number of issues.
Respect for Spiritual Leaders (verses 12-13)
Paul begins with the challenge to respect those who were working hard among them, particularly their spiritual leaders. Notice in verse 12 that these leaders were admonishing them. To admonish is to warn or to caution. These leaders were watching out for the good of the believers. There were times when they had to say things that the church did not want to hear. Sometimes the church needed to be corrected or rebuked. All this was for their spiritual good.
Paul told the church to love and hold their spiritual leaders in high regard (verse 13). Notice that they were to do this because of the work they had been called to do. These individuals represented the Lord and his purposes. To oppose those whom God had called was to oppose God’s purposes for them. The church in Thessalonica would have to answer to God for this. There are a number of ways we can demonstrate a lack of respect for our spiritual leaders. How easy it is to complain about our spiritual leaders and the way they do things. Paul calls us to hold our leaders in the highest regard.
Live at Peace with Each Other (verse 13)
Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to live in peace with each other (verse 13). This does not mean that we have to agree with each other in all things. It is quite possible to have differences of opinion in certain matters and still be at peace.
If you have ever been in a choir you will know the difference between singing in unison and singing in harmony. When we sing in unison everyone sings the same notes. Singing in harmony is very different. Those who sing in harmony sing different notes but all those notes blend together to create a very harmonious sound.
There are churches that function on the unison principle. They insist that everyone in the church believe the same thing, worship the same way and follow the same life-style. They often have difficulty with anyone who does not do things exactly like them and many such churches refuse to fellowship with anyone who is different. The reality of the matter, however, is that there is great diversity in the body of Christ. We all don’t worship the same way. There are differences of opinion regarding minor doctrines. Despite these differences, we are to live a peace with each other. Each believer with his or her differences has something to contribute. It is possible for us to live in harmony when we accept each other’s differences and allow them to be expressed in a loving way in the body as a whole.
There are also those who believe that living at peace has to do with an absence of conflict. They believe that they are at peace when in reality they are avoiding each other. Imagine a family where the members avoided each other because they knew that if they were to get together there would be conflict. Can we say that this family is at peace with each other? There will be times when we have to resolve differences in the body of Christ. Being at peace doesn’t mean that we don’t have struggles or conflict from time to time. It does mean, however, that we are willing to work those things out and respect each other’s differences.
Warn Those Who Are Idle (verse 14)
In Thessalonica, there were believers who were being idle. Some of those believers expected the Lord was going to return in their lifetime. They stopped working because they believed Jesus was coming soon. This created a problem. These individuals were not caring for their families. They were forced to live off other people. Their witness was being destroyed because they were not providing for the needs of their family and they were being a burden to the community. Paul expected that each believer be a productive member of society. Idleness only caused problems. Paul felt that those who were being idle were wasting their time and their gifts and would one day answer to God for this. They were being an unnecessary burden on the rest of the church thus wasting the resources of God. Paul encouraged them to work hard to provide for their families as they waited for the Lord’s return.
Encourage the Timid and Help the Weak (verse 14)
The church was also to strengthen those who were timid and weak. They were to come alongside of these individuals and lift them up with great patience. Timidity and weakness kept some of the believers from being useful for the sake of the kingdom of God. It is the heart of God that every member of the church be fruitful.
Perhaps you can identify with timidity. You look at your-self and wonder if the Lord could ever use you. Your faith may be weak and you may wonder what your spiritual gifts are. Paul reminds us that God has a purpose for each believer. Even the weak and the timid have a role to play. Paul challenged the Thessalonians to encourage the weak and timid so that they would understand their place and purpose in the great work of the kingdom.
Show Kindness (verse 15)
Things do not always flows smoothly within the body of Christ. There are times when people say and do things that deeply offend us. The temptation is to seek revenge. Paul told the believers in Thessalonica that they were never to repay wrong for wrong. Instead, they were to show kindness to those who wronged them. Notice that this kindness was to be demonstrated not only to the body of Christ but also to those outside the church. Christians should be noted for their kindness whether this be among themselves or in the society as a whole.
Be Joyful (verse 16)
Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to always be joyful. Remember that the Thessalonians were suffering for the cause of the Lord. It is one thing to be joyful when everything is going well and quite another to be joyful when things are difficult. Paul made no distinction be-tween the good times and the bad times. He told them to be joyful always.
It is possible to be joyful in the midst of trial. This does not mean that we enjoy the pain and loss we suffer. Our joy comes from the Lord and his control of our circumstances. It comes from the fact that He will never leave us. He promises to use every situation we face for our good. Every athlete knows that pain and joy can walk hand in hand. Imagine the athlete competing in a race. He runs with all his strength. As he runs, the pain is obvious in his lungs and legs. He pushes his body beyond its limits. He strains and agonizes as he presses on to the finish line. His pain does not mean that he is not experiencing joy as he races. The pain is real but so is the joy. The same is true in the Christian life. Paul challenged the Thessalonians never to lose their joy and confidence in the Lord their God.
Pray Always (verse 17)
Obstacles get in the way in the Christian life. When we come up against those obstacles we must commit them to the Lord. When things get difficult and your joy seems to fade, bring those problems to the Lord in prayer. He promises to take them and carry them for us. As we pray the Lord leads, comforts and guides. Through prayer the storehouses of God’s blessing are released and we are strengthened for the task ahead of us.
Give Thanks for Everything (verse 18)
Not only do we need to commit our problems to the Lord in prayer but we also need to give thanks in them. You can't experience true joy and thankfulness if you cannot trust God. You can only be thankful when you accept that God has a purpose in what He is doing. Thankfulness and trust in God are linked. Paul challenged the Thessalonian believers to learn how to thank God in both the good and the bad times, recognizing that He would use all things to accomplish His greater purpose in their lives.
Don't put out Spirit's Fire (verse 19)
Paul warned the Thessalonians about putting out the Spirit's fire. The Spirit of God was working in their midst. He was using the pain and persecution they suffered to bring maturity and growth to the church. It is possible, however, to resist the work of the Spirit.
We can resist the work of the Spirit in many ways. We can do so by disobedience. Paul challenged the Thessalonians to live in obedience to the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7. We can resist his work by not accepting what He brings our way. Sometimes God allows pain and suffering to refine us. This is what He was doing in the church at Thessalonica (see 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4).Often, however, we complain and grumble about what God is doing. We can put out the fire of God’s Spirit by not being thankful and trusting. We can also put it out by trusting in our own reason and not seeking His leading and direction.
We need the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Without the Spirit's ministry, nothing of any value will be accomplished. We must be a people who welcome his presence and surrender to his leading. To grieve Him and put out His fire is to hinder what God is doing.
Don't Treat Prophecies with Contempt (verse 20)
Part of putting out the fire of the Spirit had to do with treating prophecies with contempt. The prophets spoke from the Lord to his people. There were also many false prophets moving about in that region. Sometimes it was difficult to confirm what the prophet said. It is for this reason that Paul told the Thessalonians to test everything, to hold on to the good and avoid the evil (verse 21). No prophecy was to be accepted without being tested. At the same time, however, the church was not to treat the prophetic ministry lightly. Instead, they were to welcome it and let God speak through His servants to them for their correction, blessing and strengthening.
Paul concludes this first epistle by blessing the church. Notice in verse 23 that it is his desire that the God of peace sanctify them through and through. To sanctify is to set something apart for a holy purpose. This is what Paul wanted to happen to the Thessalonians. He wanted God to set them apart for a holy purpose. He had given them instruction in this letter, but he knew that the work of making them more and more holy was the work of the Spirit of God.
Paul also desired that they be kept blameless in body, soul and spirit. He wanted them to be holy "through and through." This was an ongoing lifelong process. He wanted the believers to continue to grow in their relation-ship with the Lord. He reminded them in verse 24 that the Lord was fully able to keep them until he returned.
Paul concludes in verse 25-28 by asking the Thessalonians to pray for them (the apostles). He asked them to greet each other with a holy kiss and to read this letter to all the brothers.
* How can we show disrespect for those God has put over us? Have you ever been guilty of this?
* Can you live at peace with someone even if you don't agree with them in every matter?
* How is idleness a sin? Have you been idle? How would God have you use your time more wisely?
* Have you ever responded in a way that was less than kind toward a brother or sister in Christ? How should you have responded in that situation?
* Is it possible to be joyful in difficult circumstances? What is the source of our joy?
* How can we put out the fire of the Spirit? Have you ever been guilty of this?
* Have you ever resisted the words God spoke to you through a brother or sister? What is the challenge of this passage to you in this matter?
* Ask the Lord to forgive you for times you have not respected His servants.
* Ask God to give you greater grace to work with and love those who see things differently from you.
* Ask God to help you to be kind in your dealings with people you encounter this week.
* Thank the Lord for the trials that He has sent your way. Ask Him to give you joy in these trials.
* Ask the Lord to open your heart more and more to the work and ministry of his Spirit.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
This is Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians. In the first letter Paul challenged these believers to grow in their relationship with the Lord. While they were suffering at the moment, Paul reminded them that the day was coming when the Lord Jesus would return to take them to be with Him forever. We see from this first chapter that the church had taken Paul's instruction seriously.
Paul begins his letter with a blessing. His desire was that the grace and peace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ rest on the believers in Thessalonica. Grace is the unmerited favour of the Lord. Where would we be without this favour? We have often fallen short of God's requirements. In His mercy, the Lord forgives and restores us to fellowship with Him. Each day we need a fresh measure of His forgiveness, grace and mercy. How we need to thank Him that his grace is unlimited.
The peace of God was particularly necessary for the Thessalonians. They were suffering much for the cause of the Lord Jesus. With the enemy all around them, it would be easy for them to be troubled and question where God was in their pain. Paul's desire for them was that they would experience the wonderful peace of God in their hearts and lives in the midst of their troubling situation. That peace would keep them and protect them in trials.
As he did in his first epistle, the apostle Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he thanked God for them in his prayers because of their faith. Their faith was growing more and more. Not only was their faith increasing but so was their love for each other. Paul had encouraged the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4:10 to continue to grow in their love. As he writes this second letter, he is encouraged to see that they were doing just that.
Despite their trials, these believers were growing and maturing in their relationship with God. Paul boasted of their perseverance in the churches where he ministered. Sometimes the greatest growth comes through trials and tribulations. These trials have a tendency to help us get our priorities right with God. Often, however we want to run from our trials. We pray that God would help us to grow and yet we run away from the least sign of difficulty. Maturity in Christ will not come without struggle and pain.
In verse 5 Paul told the Thessalonians that their perseverance proved that the judgment of God was right. In other words, God was accomplishing His purposes through the trials they had been facing. Are there not times in our lives when we wonder if what the Lord is asking us to go through is more than we can handle? Paul reminded them that the Lord knew exactly what he was doing. He will never give us more than we can bear. All the pain and trials that we face will ultimately be for our good. We can be confident that his judgments are right.
This church was being matured in faith through the trials and tribulations God had allowed. Through these trials they were being proved and tested like metal in the furnace, in the end, they would be proven worthy of the kingdom of God.
God was not blind to the pain these children of His were facing. While He allowed them to face these difficulties, he would hold those who had troubled them accountable for their actions (see verse 6). God will not always keep us from trouble. Sometimes he chooses to keep us through the trouble and use it to develop and mature us in our faith. The day was coming, however, when the Lord God would call those who have troubled his people to give an account of their actions.
In time, God would bring relief from trials. Suffering would not last forever, but would come to an end when the Lord Jesus returned. He would come in the skies in blazing fire with his powerful angels (verse 7). The fire that Paul speaks of here is the fire of his judgment. On that day, the Lord would bring total rest for his people and final defeat to Satan and his evil spirits. Death and sin will be overcome and the believer will live in complete victory. Relief would come when the Lord returned. Our present sufferings should not discourage us. Instead, we should set our eyes on the goal and face these trials with confidence. The struggle may be great but the reward will be much greater.
Those who belong to the Lord Jesus have tremendous hope. Though they suffer much in this life, they have a hope of eternity in the presence of God where they will be relieved of all their pain. This is not the case for the unbeliever. Paul states in verse 8 that God will punish those who do not know him and obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus his Son. While there is great hope for the believer there is only judgment and condemnation for those who refuse the gospel. Paul makes it clear that those who reject the message of the gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction. There will be no escaping this judgment. Their condemnation will be forever. Notice that they will be shut out from the presence of God, his majesty and his power. What would life be like shut out from the presence of God? While God is a just God, He is also loving, kind and good. His presence in this world holds back the forces of evil. If God were to withdraw His presence, majesty and power what would happen to this earth? Without the presence of God to restrain evil, anger, lust, jealousy and bitterness would reign. The earth would be plunged into spiritual darkness. Each person would do what came natural to their own flesh. We can only imagine the chaos that would reign if God did not hold back the forces of evil. While we can see evidence of evil in our world today, this is only a small part of what evil man would be capable of were he not held back by God. To live with those who are shut out from God for eternity will not be pleasant. Imagine a world filled with people governed by their evil hearts and desires. This is what it would be like to be shut out forever from the presence of God and His power.
How different it will be for those who love the Lord. When the Lord Jesus returns, he will be glorified and marvelled at among those who believe. We can only imagine what that day will be like. Those who see Him come will raise their voices in praise and thanksgiving. They will stand in awe of His presence. Their relief has come. All pain and agony will be over. Their enemies will be judged and truth will prevail.
Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians who were suffering for the cause of Christ was that God would count them worthy of his calling. In other words, that God would keep them to the end by giving them the strength necessary to persevere thus enabling them to face their struggles in such a way that they would have nothing to be ashamed of on the day of His return.
Paul also prays in verse 11 that these believers would be filled with power to fulfill God's purposes and every act that was prompted by faith. These are acts that are motivated by the Spirit of God. God wanted to lead His people. Paul's prayer was that the Thessalonians would be open to receive all that God wanted to give them and that they would be obedient to what God was putting on their hearts to do.
Paul concluded by praying that the name of the Lord would be glorified in this church as they persevered in faith and obedience despite the obstacles and trials they faced. His name would be glorified in them as they produced fruit in His name and as they stood firm against the attacks of the enemy and lifted up His name.
Notice, however, that Paul also prayed that the Thessalonians would be glorified in Christ. It was one thing for them to glorify Christ and another for Christ to glorify them. Does it surprise you that the Lord Jesus wants to glorify you? To glorify is to lift up and exalt. The day is coming when the Lord Jesus will lift us up. On that day, we will be rewarded for our faithful service. We will be given new glorified bodies that will never die nor will they ever be affected by sin. He will honour us.
While we can expect that there will be much suffering and pain in this life, we are to set our eyes on the Lord and His promises. God will come to give us relief and to bring justice on the earth. In the meantime, we need to realize that while He may allow us to suffer for a time, He will use that suffering to accomplish His purposes in us. He will not forget us.
* Have you ever questioned the judgment of God in what he has allowed you to go through in life? Explain.
* What lessons has God taught you through pain and suffering?
* Should the Christian expect to live a trouble- free life according to Paul?
* What do we learn about the destiny of those who reject Christ?
* What does it mean for Christ to glorify us? While ultimately this glory will be complete in the world to come, is there a sense in which we experience the glory of God in our present lives?
* Thank the Lord that he can use all that the enemy throws at us to teach us and draw us closer to Himself.
* Ask the Lord to teach you the lessons He needs to teach you through your pain.
* Ask the Lord to open your heart to the potential that is in you for his kingdom.
* Take a moment to pray for someone who has never accepted the Lord. Ask God to spare them from the terrible judgment promised here in this passage.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
The church in Thessalonica had a real interest in the return of the Lord. They were eagerly expecting His return. It appears, however, that there were false teachers in their midst who were causing confusion concerning the second coming of the Lord Jesus. Paul felt compelled to address this issue.
From verse 1-2 we see that there had been a prophecy (possibly in the form of a letter) circulating in the region of Thessalonica, said to have come from the apostles, stating that the day of the Lord had already come. We are not told who was responsible for this. It is quite clear, however, that it did not come from the apostles. Someone had used the names of the apostles to promote their own false ideas.
This idea that the Lord had already come was troubling for many individuals in Thessalonica. It was especially troubling because the letter was said to have come from the apostles. Satan will not hesitate to do whatever it takes to keep people from the truth. He will resort to lies and deception if by doing so he can take people away from the truth. How careful we need to be to examine everything we hear.
We can only imagine the trouble this letter caused for the church. Had they missed the return of the Lord? Had He rejected them as His people? They were not quite sure what to think.
Paul wrote to straighten out this issue. He assured the believers that the letter in question had not been written by the apostles, so they had no reason to be alarmed. In verse 3 Paul told the Thessalonians that the Lord would not come until a great rebellion had occurred and the man of lawlessness had been revealed. We need to examine this in more detail.
Paul told the Thessalonians that certain things would happen before the return of the Lord Jesus. There would first be a period of great rebellion on the earth. Second, there would be the appearance of a "man of lawlessness." Jesus also clearly spoke of this. Listen to what he taught about the last days in Matthew 24:10-13:
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
In the last days people will turn from the Lord and there will be great rebellion on the earth.
Paul also speaks of a "man of lawlessness" who will appear. The apostle John speaks of this man as well in 1 John 2:18 when he says:
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
There have been many individuals throughout the history of the world who have been antichrists. They have hated the Lord Jesus and done much to destroy the church. These individuals are not the antichrist that Paul speaks of here. We have yet to see this antichrist. John speaks more of him in the book of Revelation. He is referred to there as a beast:
The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him? The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander His name and His dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world." (Revelation 13:2-8)
While this man of lawlessness will ultimately be doomed, he will cause great problems for the church. Verse 4 tells us that he will oppose and exalt himself over God. He will demand worship, expecting that everyone bow to him. In the history of God's people, there have been individuals who have set themselves up in this way. Paul reminded the Thessalonians, however, that the day was coming when a great Antichrist would come. All these smaller antichrists point us to what we can expect to see as the days of the end approach.
For the moment this "man of lawlessness" was being held back. It is true that the power of lawlessness was already at work in the world (verse 7) but things will get much worse. God is holding back the man of lawlessness until the message of the gospel has gone out to the entire world. Jesus taught that only when the gospel was preached to all who needed to hear would the end come:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
This is the time for the gospel. This is the time for us to respond to the message of the gospel. The Spirit of God is moving across this world drawing men and women to salvation and holiness. The power of evil and lawlessness is still evident but it is being restrained until those who are going to come to Christ have received him and know his forgiveness.
The day is coming when God will stop holding back this evil one. Satan will be released from his chains. He will work through this man of lawlessness and lash out at the church. This is the clear teaching of Revelation 20:7-9:
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves.
When Satan is released there will be terrible things happen on the earth. We can expect lawlessness to rule. This will not last forever. The Lord God will overthrow the man of lawlessness by the breath of his mouth.
This antichrist will come with great signs. He will be able to do great miracles. He will be given power by Satan to deceive as many as possible or cause them to fear. Many will be deceived by this man of lawlessness. They will fall into his trap and be overcome. Paul told the Thessalonians that those individuals would perish because they did not love the truth. Instead they fell to the temptations of antichrist and his miracles and signs.
The Word of God will never change. This Word that you are studying right now is your guide into truth. If someone comes to us with miracles, signs and wonders but does not stand firmly for the truth of this Word we must reject him. God has given us His Word so we will not be deceived by false prophets and their powerful signs.
Notice in verse 11 that because these individuals turned their backs on God and His truth, God gave them over to their own minds. God does this by withdrawing from them. Because they have resisted him, God stops holding back evil. They are overwhelmed and conquered. Left to themselves they plunge deeper and deeper into their evil and seal their condemnation. They bring this on themselves by their rejection of the truth.
Where would we be today if the Spirit of God stopped holding back the forces of evil intent on defeating us? Where would we be today if the Spirit of God left us to our own ideas and desires? How we need to thank the Lord for the way he has been keeping us and protecting us.
Paul concludes this section with a word of encouragement. The Thessalonians were not like those who had turned their back on God. They were deeply loved by God (verse 13). They were his children and he cared for them. God had chosen them from the beginning and put his Holy Spirit in them to guide and keep them. They would be sanctified (set apart for God’s glory) by the Spirit and the Word.
God has given us these two tools to keep us and make us more like Christ. His Holy Spirit will empower and enlighten. His Word will be our guide, comfort and instruction. As the last days approach we need to be a people who lean heavily on the truth of the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Paul reminded his readers that the Lord God had called them to share in the glory of Christ through the gospel. This was their destiny as children of God. They would be partakers of that glory even now as they trusted in him and His work in their lives.
Before the return of the Lord there will be difficult times. The man of lawlessness will be unleashed on the earth. There will be trials and tribulations but the Lord Jesus had a wonderful purpose for them. Paul challenged them to keep this teaching close to their heart and stand firm in it. His prayer in verses 16-17 was that the Lord Jesus would encourage their hearts and strengthen them in the work He had called them to do. They were not to lose hope and courage.
The believers were not to be deceived by the false letter that was circulating in their midst. They had not missed the Lord’s return. There were things that still needed to happen before the Lord returned. In the meantime, they were to persevere in the strength of the Spirit and the guidance of His Word. In due time God would reveal himself and they would be with Him forever.
* What evidence of false teaching is there in the church today?
* What does Paul tell us we can expect as the days of the end approach?
* Who is the "lawless one" spoken of in this pas-sage? What does Scripture tells us will be his end?
* Can miracles, signs and wonders come from Sa-tan?
* What does this passage teach us about the importance of the Word of God? How will it guide us in those times of deception by the enemy?
* What do we learn in this passage about how God restrains evil in this world?
* Thank the Lord for the way he has kept you from falling by hindering sin and its efforts in your life. Think of an example of how God has kept you from falling into sin and rebellion.
* Open your heart to the Lord God and ask him to reveal anything that he wants to deal with in your life. Surrender to him and let the Spirit do this work in you.
* Ask God to help you not to be deceived by the false teaching of the enemy. Thank him for His Word that is our guide into all truth.
* Ask God to teach you more about the role and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Read 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18
As Paul concluded this letter to the Thessalonians he asked them to pray for him. Paul had some particular prayer requests.
That the Message may Spread Rapidly (verse 1)
Paul's first request was that the message of the gospel spread rapidly. There is a sense of urgency in this request. Paul felt compelled to get this message out as quickly as possible. In order for this to happen, the obstacles to the gospel needed to be removed. Satan was doing his best to hinder Paul’s preaching. Paul is asking the believers to pray for a breaking down of those obstacles. It was important to him that the gospel be preached without delay to as many people as possible.
That the Message would be Honoured (verse 1)
Paul second prayer request was that the message of the gospel be honoured by those who heard it just as it was by the believers in Thessalonica. When Paul first came to them with the message of the gospel, they accepted the message and gave their lives to the Lord Jesus. Paul asked for prayer that the message he preached would be accepted in this way by those who heard him it.
That we may be delivered from Wicked Men (verse 2)
Paul knew that as he preached the gospel it would not be accepted by everyone. There would be wicked men intent on harming him because they did not like what he was preaching. Paul asked for prayer that he would be protected and delivered from those who wanted to stop his preaching.
We, too, need to be ready to face the opposition of those who hate the Lord Jesus. Paul understood he would be opposed as he preached the gospel. He also knew that while man would oppose him, God would be faithful. He would strengthen and protect him in response to the prayers of God’s people on his behalf.
Paul understood that the Thessalonians were also being opposed. He reminded them that God would not abandon them. He would strengthen and keep them from the evil one (verse 3). It should be noted that being protected did not mean that the enemy would not oppose them. Paul understood that there would be difficulties and trials along the way. The enemy would do his best to hinder them. Life would not be easy for the believers in Thessalonica but God would be with them. The trials and opposition would be real but so would be the protection of the Lord.
In verse 4 Paul expressed every confidence that the Thessalonians would persevere in the teaching he had brought to them. He believed that even though they were facing trials, God would be faithful and keep them. He would give them the strength necessary to persevere to the end. His prayer for them was that the Lord would direct their hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance (verse 5).
It was important to Paul that the Thessalonians under-stand the love of God. This is what would keep them. When their hearts were filled with love for God they would persevere no matter the cost. Out of love for him they would lay down their lives rather than dishonour him in any way. Knowing God’s love for them would encourage and support them in their deepest trial.
Paul also prayed for Christ’s perseverance for the Thessalonians. The Lord Jesus demonstrated to us what it means to persevere. He was faithful to death. Though he was innocent of all crime, he willingly surrendered his life for his people. He lived a perfect life in complete obedience to his Father. He went to the cross in faithfulness to the Father's will and purpose. Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians was that they would have this type of perseverance. He did not pray that God would keep them from trials. He prayed that God would keep them faithful in the trials that came their way.
In the remaining section of this chapter Paul addressed the issue of idle believers in the church of Thessalonica. It is quite possible that these believers who were so convinced that the Lord was going to return in their lifetime that they no longer felt any obligation to work. Instead of working to provide for their families, they became a burden to the church and a poor example to the community.
Paul addressed this issue in 1 Thessalonians but now he is more forceful in his words. He told the Thessalonians that they were to deal with these individuals who refused to work. Paul's advice was that they keep away from believers who refused to work (verse 6).
These believers may have thought that they were more spiritual than their brothers and sisters. They may have stopped working because they were waiting for the return of the Lord. Paul tells them, however, that what they were doing was not spiritual at all but a hindrance to the gospel.
Paul reminded them of his own example when he was with them. He worked hard when he was in Thessalonica. In fact, the apostles worked to provide for their own needs so that they would not be a burden to the church (verses 7-8). Paul told the Thessalonians in verse 9 that while they had a right before God to receive help, they chose to put that right aside in order not to be a burden to believers in that region. They also wanted to set an example for them to follow.
It was important to Paul that every believer did his or her part for the expansion of the kingdom of God. There was no place in the kingdom for laziness. It was not proper for one believer to take advantage of another when he was fully able to provide for himself. Paul went as far as to say: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (verse 10).
What we need to see here is that it is the will and purpose of the Father that we use the gifts and talents He has given us. Remember that Paul asked the believers in Thessalonica to pray that the gospel would go forth quickly. There was urgency in Paul's ministry. For Paul, there was no reason not to be occupied in the work of the kingdom. It is God’s will that we discover what He has called us to do and occupy ourselves with it. What has God called you to do? When he returns will he find you occupied with that task?
In Thessalonica there were individuals who were idle. In their idleness they were being busybodies. They were a burden to the church. They were expecting others to provide for them. Paul commanded them to stop living in this way and instead do whatever they could to provide for their own needs.
Paul felt so strongly about this that he told the church in Thessalonica to take note of those individuals who were not doing their part and separate themselves from them. The purpose for this was to make them ashamed (verse 14). They were to be careful not to treat these individual as enemies but to warn them about their laziness and sin (verse 15).
Paul commends those who were working hard and told them not to grow weary but to keep doing what was right. He challenged them not to let those who were lazy in their midst discourage them in their work.
All too often the work of the church is being carried on by a small group of faithful individuals. Every time there is a need, they are there to do whatever they can. I have also seen these individuals grow weary in this work because they find themselves alone. Other members of the church are content to do nothing. They too have gifts but they are not being used. What would Paul say to these individuals today?
Paul concluded his letter by offering his blessing to the church. His desire was that the peace of the Lord fill them in every way. He wrote a final greeting in his own hand-writing reminding them that this was a distinguishing mark in all his letters. In light of the false letter that had been circulating in the region, it may have been important for Paul that the Thessalonians recognize this handwriting so that they would know that the letter was from him.
We see Paul's urgency in this chapter to get the message of the gospel out to as many people as possible. Paul challenged the Thessalonians to be very serious in this matter of doing the work of the kingdom and to deal with any who were being idle. They were not to waste their time in idleness but be productive members of their society and faithful workers for the kingdom.
* What does this passage teach us about the urgency of preaching the gospel?
* What are the obstacles you face in serving the Lord?
* What role has God given you in the kingdom? Are you being faithful in that task?
* What keeps you from being a more diligent and faithful worker?
* Ask the Lord to show you how you can serve him more?
* Ask God to give you a deeper sense of the urgency of the task of reaching the world for Him.
Read 1 Timothy 1:1-11
This is a personal letter to Timothy from Paul the apostle. Paul met Timothy as a young man in the region of Lystra. He was so impressed with Timothy that he decided to take him on his missionary journeys. Timothy would become a spiritual son to the apostle. On several occasions Paul sent Timothy on missions for him. We see, for example, how he was sent with Silas on a mission to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2). From this letter we see that he had also been sent to the region of Ephesus (verse 3).
As Paul begins his letter to Timothy he introduced himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ by his command. He reminded Timothy in verse 1 that the Lord Jesus was his hope. Paul never lost sight of the fact that his hope was in the Lord Jesus. This was the message he preached wherever he went. Human beings were separated from God because of sin. The only hope they had was in the Lord Jesus and the work He had done on the cross.
As we have already mentioned, this letter is written to Timothy who was, according to Paul, a true son in the faith. Timothy was a son because of the relationship he had with Paul. Paul was particularly fond of Timothy and held him in high regard. More than this however, Timothy was a son because of how Paul had taken him under his wing and trained him. Paul had been a spiritual father to Timothy. He had the spiritual welfare of this young man on his heart. Paul had spent countless hours with Timothy on their journeys instructing and training him in his relationship with God.
As was his custom, Paul began with a blessing. He blessed Timothy with grace, mercy and peace. Grace is the unmerited favour of God. Mercy is God's way of dealing with us as sinners. We do not deserve his favour but he pours it on us anyway. The peace of God relates to our general well-being especially as it has to do with our relationship with God.
Paul reminded Timothy in verse 3 of his commission. When he went to Macedonia, Paul urged Timothy to stay and minister in that region. In particular, Timothy had been challenged by Paul to remain in Ephesus to minister to the believers there. There were several things Paul felt Timothy needed to do in Ephesus.
There were individuals in the region of Ephesus who had been teaching false doctrine (verse 3). Paul wanted Timothy to remain in Ephesus to command these men not to teach this false doctrine. His ministry in Ephesus was a ministry of teaching the truth. The early church would have very easily fallen prey to the false teachers who were circulating in the region. Timothy was to spend time with the church to instruct them in the truth.
Myths and Genealogies
In Ephesus there were other individuals devoting them-selves to myths and endless genealogies. Notice that Paul used the word "endless" when speaking about genealogies. It is clear from this that these myths and endless genealogies were of little spiritual value. The discussions about myths and genealogies only promoted controversy. They did not advance the kingdom of God. While Paul does not tell us the nature of these myths and genealogies, we can be certain that they were of human origin and not from the Word of God.
Paul told Timothy in verse 4 that the work of God was "by faith." This is very important in this context. These false teachers were trying to understand the realities of life and the plan and purpose of God in their own reasoning. Paul told Timothy that these individuals had missed the point. There were things about God that needed to be taken by faith.
All too often we try to understand the mind of God. Paul reminds us that there are some things we simply cannot explain logically. God calls us to trust Him by faith. There were individuals in Ephesus who were getting lost in all kinds of intellectual discussions. They debated and discussed but they did not have faith so they not only missed the point but were leading others away from the truth of God. Paul warned Timothy not to get caught up in these endless discussions but to accept God’s Word by faith.
Paul reminded Timothy that the goal of his ministry in Ephesus was love (verse 5). These false teachers were intellectual people. They knew how to reason and argue but they did not love God nor did they love His people. Their arguments divided the church. They caused controversy and chaos wherever they went.
Paul made it clear to Timothy that the love he was speaking about was a love that came from a pure heart. This love is the result of a powerful work of God. It was pure and clean with no selfish motivation. This love came from a clear conscience. In other words, it is a love coming from a right relationship with God, from a heart whose greatest desire is to be in communion with God and obedient to Him in every way. It also came out of a sincere faith. A sincere faith is a faith that is true. There are many who practice the externals of religion but whose heart is far from God. Paul speaks of a people who are pure throughout. Their motivations are honest. Their hearts are right with God.
There were individuals in Ephesus who spoke and taught ideas and principles. They debated and argued about details of little importance. I suppose many of them were quite impressive in their ability to reason and argue. Paul told Timothy, however, that his goal was not to produce a people who could debate and argue doctrine but rather a people who loved God, whose hearts were pure, whose conscience was clear and whose faith was sincere.
The temptation in Ephesus was to wander from loving God. People were getting caught up in meaningless discussions. There were many who loved to debate the law and the requirements of God. While they reasoned well, Paul told Timothy that they did not know what they were talking about (verse 7).
Paul reminded Timothy in verse 8 that the law was good when it was correctly applied. It was designed to convict those who were not living the way God intended. In verses 9-10 Paul reminded Timothy of how the law spoke against rebellion and ungodliness. It condemned sin and ungodliness, murder, adultery and perversions of all sorts. It spoke against slave traders, liars and perjurers. It exposed sin and taught what was right.
Paul was not against the law but there were individuals in Ephesus who misrepresented the law and its purpose. Instead of letting the law point them to Christ, these individuals reduced it to doctrines, rules and regulations. Like the Pharisees of Jesus day, they taught the strict observation of the law but did so without love. Their concern was not to love God out of a pure heart, clear conscience and sincere faith. They were more concerned with letters, words, doctrines and lifestyles. They used the law to divide the body of Christ. They used it to control and manipulate. They promoted a lifestyle, not a relationship with Christ. They promoted religious activities and sacrificed devotion to the Lord God.
It appears from this that Timothy’s ministry was to stir up the Ephesians to loving God and loving his people. Their faith seemed to be more about right doctrine, right lifestyle and right traditions. They were in danger of losing their love for God. This is exactly what the Lord told the apostle Paul when he wrote to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-5:
(2:1) “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: (2) I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. (3) You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. (4) Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. (5) Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Though the church of Ephesus was devoted to service, truth and perseverance they had lost their first love. Christianity is not primarily about promoting doctrine. It is not about rules and regulations. It is about entering into a deeper relationship with Christ. In our ministry we can produce people who can debate and argue with others over doctrine but do they love the Lord? They know truth but are they living in the reality of that truth? They know about faith but do they have faith?
The church of Ephesus was being attacked by religious people intent on promoting doctrine and a certain lifestyle. They were being tempted by teachers who could reason and debate. Paul sent Timothy to teach them how to live out of love for the Lord.
* What problem did Paul want Timothy to address in Ephesus?
* What did Paul tell Timothy to have as his goal in ministry?
* Is it important that we understand everything about God and his purposes? What is the role of faith in our relationship with God?
* What is the difference between "knowing" truth and "living" truth?
* Is it possible to preach and teach for the sake of correct doctrine and not for the sake of loving Christ?
* Do you love the Lord Jesus or has your relation-ship with him become about doctrine and traditions?
* Ask the Lord to search you to see if your heart is pure, your conscience is clear and your faith is sincere.
* Ask the Lord to give you faith to trust him even when you don't understand.
* Ask the Lord to forgive you for times when you shared the truth without love.
* Ask God to fill you with greater love for him and his people. Ask him to let all that you do flow from that love.
Read 1 Timothy 1:12-19
One of the amazing things about the apostle Paul is that he never seemed to lose sight of the wonder of his salvation. He stood in awe of God and His decision to use him in ministry. He never seemed to stop thanking God for the privilege of serving Him. He was excited about his ministry and calling in life.
Notice in verse 12 how he thanked the Lord Jesus for considering him faithful and appointing him to serve as an apostle. He thanked the Lord not only because He chose him but also because He empowered and strengthened him. What has God called you to do? What gifts has He given you? Do you delight in this call? Does your heart fill up with thanksgiving and praise when you consider how God has given you this ministry and how He wants to empower you in it for his glory?
What made Paul all the more thankful to the Lord was the fact that he did not deserve that God should call him in this way. He had been a blasphemer. He had persecuted the church. He had been a violent man who attempted to force Christians to curse the name of Jesus (Acts 26:11). God showed tremendous mercy to Paul because he acted in ignorance and unbelief not knowing what he was doing.
The Lord Jesus prayed that the Father would forgive those who had crucified him because they did not under-stand what they were doing (Luke 23:34). There is forgiveness for those who are acting out of unbelief and ignorance. Paul was shown mercy because he did not understand. He leads us to believe that those who deliberately sin even though they know the truth will not be guaranteed this same forgiveness. Consider what the writer to the Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 10:26-27:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
It is possible to know the truth and to turn your back on it. It is one thing to act in ignorance and quite another to act in rebellion against the truth we know. Many unbelievers act in ignorance. They simply do not understand the truth. They believe in their hearts that they are doing right. There are others, however, who have heard the gospel and understood it but who refuse to submit to it. They rebel against the truth. They reject the call of the Spirit of God to repentance. Those who reject the only hope they have will perish.
When Paul understood what he was doing he repented. He was forgiven and God used him in a powerful way. Though he persecuted the church he did so without true understanding. He did so in ignorance.
Paul does not credit his salvation to anything in himself. He knew he was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor of the church. In verse 14 he told Timothy that God had poured out His grace on him in abundance. Paul could not explain why the Lord would pour out His grace on him in this way. He was indebted to God, however, for this wonderful forgiveness and pardon. Notice as well in verse 14 that God also poured out faith and love on Paul. Paul saw his faith as a gift from God. The love that filled his heart was also a gift from God. Paul knew that the faith and love he experienced was not part of his nature as a sinner. Paul owed everything to the Lord. His salvation, his faith, his love were all gifts were from God.
Paul often marvelled that God would take an unworthy sinner and put His Holy Spirit in him. There was no questioning the truth that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Paul never lost the wonder of this truth. He knew he was one of the worst sinners who walked on the earth. He had gone to great lengths to destroy the work of the Lord. He had persecuted the church. He had been responsible for the death and imprisonment of believers. Paul never forgot his sin. For the rest of his life he lived with the memory of the faces of those he had persecuted.
The reality of how evil he was only intensified Paul's sense of amazement at the grace of God. He knew that God had used him and his example for the world to see. God had taken the worst sinner and displayed his unlimited patience and grace through him. God could have condemned Paul. He could have turned his back on him. Instead, he showed wonderful patience. He forgave him so that others would have hope. If God could save a blasphemer and persecutor of the church he could save anyone. How many people have been encouraged by the testimony of Paul? His testimony gives hope. It reminds us that God can reach even the hardest soul and bring it to himself.
The thought of what the Lord Jesus had done blessed Paul. He seemed to well up in praise and thanksgiving to God. In verse 17 he expressed this praise. He worshiped God as an eternal King. As an eternal king his reign will never be taken from him. He is immortal. He cannot die. This means that He will always be there for us. He is invisible. Though we do not see Him we can still trust Him. Though we do not understand his ways we can have confidence in Him. This eternal King is deserving of all honour and glory, praise and worship. He is an eternal King but He reaches out in love to the worst sinner.
Paul has been speaking to Timothy in this chapter about dealing with those who were getting caught up in teaching endless genealogies and myths. He had reminded Timothy that he was to teach them to love God from a pure heart, with a clear conscience and sincere faith. Paul demonstrates what he means here in his testimony. Paul's faith was about Christ. For Paul Christ was central. Doctrine was important but not as important as the Lord Jesus. What excited Paul was how much Jesus loved him. He was filled with love for Christ in return. The teachers of Ephesus were more concerned about doc-trine and practices. They lacked passion for the Lord Jesus. Paul wanted Timothy to stir up this passion for Christ in the church of Ephesus.
Paul concluded this section by reminding Timothy that he was giving him a charge in keeping with prophecies that had been given about him. We are not told what these prophecies were. We do read, however, in 1 Timothy 4:13-14 how Timothy received a particular gift through a prophetic word:
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
According to Paul, Timothy was seeing the fulfillment of this prophecy in his ministry at that very moment. He encouraged him to persevere in it.
Paul's challenge to Timothy was to command the false teachers of Ephesus to stop their useless discussions. He was to teach the word and lead people into a deeper love for God from a pure heart, clear conscience and sincere faith. Paul reminded Timothy that by following these instructions he would be able to fight a good fight. He could only fight a good fight, however, by holding onto faith and a clear conscience (verse 19). The problem in Ephesus was that some had lost sight of this. Their teachers did not love God from a sincere faith and clear conscience. They had shipwrecked their faith. Hymenae-us and Alexander were examples of these. They were now blasphemers. We are not told how they had fallen into this sin.
Paul told Timothy that he had handed these individuals over to Satan in order that they might be taught not to blaspheme. These individuals were beyond teaching. They had hardened their heart and, at this time, no amount of teaching was going to help. They needed to be handed over to the enemy. Satan would be quite happy to strike them. They were removed from the fellowship of the church. The blessing of God was removed from them. Separated from the church and the blessing of God, these individuals would have to learn their lessons the hard way. They would see firsthand where this path of rebellion would take them. They would be buffeted by Satan. God would let Satan have them for a time. Like Job they would be stripped of all they had. They would be cast into darkness for a season. God would withhold His blessing and His presence from them so that through this discipline they would return to Him and His love.
There are times when, because people refuse to listen to the truth, we need to let them learn the hard way. There are times when we must separate from them so that they do not affect other members of the body. Sometimes these rebellious believers fall deeper into sin and rebellion. Paul is confident, however, that God will not abandon his rebellious children. Though they are for a time in the hands of Satan, they can still be purified and restored to God’s love again.
* Do you still have the excitement of your salvation? What causes us to lose this excitement?
* What encouragement do you find in the testimony of Paul's salvation?
* Is it possible to know that truth and turn our backs on it? What is deliberate sin?
* What does it mean to be handed over to Satan? What is the purpose of being handed over to Sa-tan?
* Thank the Lord that He softened your heart and let you see the truth.
* Ask the Lord to keep you living in obedience. Ask him to forgive you for times you knew the truth and disobeyed.
* Thank the Lord that He is able to keep all those who rely on him.
* Thank the Lord that He is able to break the hardest sinner and reveal Christ to him or her.
* Do you know a believer who is walking in rebellion right now? Ask the Lord to purify them and restore them to his love.
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-8
After challenging Timothy to speak to those who were engaging in futile discussions in Ephesus, Paul moves on to some other practical issues. Here in the first part of chapter 2 Paul reminds Timothy of the importance of calling men (and women) to pray.
In verse 1 Paul states that requests, prayer, intercession and thanksgiving should be made for everyone. We will examine this statement in greater detail. While it is helpful to examine the different words Paul uses here, we need to be careful not to make too much distinction between them. Paul's focus is not so much to teach about the different types of prayer as it is simply to get people to pray. Having said this, let’s briefly look at the words Paul uses here.
Paul challenges us to bring our requests to God. The word "request" speaks of needs and wants. Paul is telling us that we are to bring our needs and wants to the Lord. How easy it is for us to feel the need to be in control of everything. It is sometimes seen as a weakness to ask someone for help. Paul is telling us here that we need to be humble enough to realize that we need God. He calls us to come to him with those needs and wants. Instead of trying to do everything ourselves, we can present our requests to God and let him lead and provide.
The second word Paul uses here is the word "prayers." The Greek word used here comes from two words. The first, is the word for “forward” or “toward” implying a drawing close. The second word is the word for “wish” or “will.” In other words, prayer has to do with drawing close to God to express our wishes and desires. This is the kind of conversation two people who are very close to each other would have. It is a time to speak to God expressing the desires and burdens of our heart. This is very intimate in nature. It is not to just anyone that you express your deepest desires and longings. Prayer is the unveiling of our heart with its burdens, delights and desires to God as one who loves and deeply cares for us.
The next word used Paul uses is the word "intercession." The word implies bringing a petition to God. It can refer to a meeting where two parties sit down to work out an issue. To intercede is to bring a cause to God and work out with him the details of that cause. It not only includes telling God our burden but also has to do with listening to him and receiving his wisdom.
The final word used here is "thanksgiving." This is quite clear. It simply means giving thanks. We are to do this when things are good but we are also to do it when things are difficult. It involves praising and worshiping God for who he is and what he has done.
Notice in verse 1 that these prayers were to be made for everyone. This implies those who are close to us as well as those who cause us difficulty and problems.
Paul challenged Timothy to have men pray for those who are in authority over them. This includes those who are in spiritual authority over us but also those who are in our government. Paul told Timothy particularly that he needed to pray for kings and political leaders. These leaders needed wisdom and direction of God as they governed the land.
In particular, Paul asked prayer for those in authority so that believers could live a peaceful and quiet life in godliness and holiness. As believers, we will not always be accepted. There are countries where it is very difficult to be a believer and live the Christian life. Believers are persecuted for their faith. Paul asks us to pray that leaders would give our brothers and sisters peace and the ability to live godly and holy lives. This was the desire of God for His people (verse 3). God takes no delight in those who make life difficult for His people. His desire is that His people live out their faith in peace and holiness before the world so that their lives are a witness and testimony to all.
Paul reminded Timothy in verse 5 that there is only one true God and only one mediator between God and human beings. A mediator is a person who brings two sides together. The only one who can bring sinful human beings and God together is the Lord Jesus. He gave Himself as a payment for our sin. Notice that Paul says that Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all people. No one is excluded. There is no one who can say that Jesus did not provide for his or her salvation.
According to verse 7 Paul had been called by God to reach the Gentiles with the message of salvation. These Gentiles were living in darkness. What is important for us to note here is that while these Gentiles were lost in sin, individuals in Ephesus were busy arguing over genealogies and myths. There is a real contrast here. Paul challenged the believers in Ephesus to open their eyes to the needs around them. In chapter one he called them to put aside their futile and useless discussions of unimportant issues. Now he calls them to cry out to God for the souls of leaders and for men and women everywhere.
Notice how Paul called men in verse 8 to lift up holy hands without anger and disputing. They had become so busy disputing these myths and genealogies that they had neglected the more important details. Instead of debating and dividing over these senseless matters, Paul challenged the believers to cry out to God for souls to be saved and for believers who were suffering, that they would have strength and wisdom to persevere.
How easy it is for us to get caught up in issues of little importance. Churches have been divided over minor issues. Believers have refused to work together because of differences in minor theological matters. Meanwhile people perish in their sin. Others are being persecuted for their faith. Paul was looking for men and women to pray. He calls us to get our priorities right and put aside our minor differences to pray and seek the expansion of His kingdom.
* Are you tempted to try to solve your problems on your own without bringing them to God? Explain.
* Paul calls us to prayer. Do you have a time for prayer? Why is it important?
* What is the place of listening in prayer? How has God led you in prayer?
* What kind of minor issues get in the way of the spread of the gospel? How have these issues kept the church from advancing as it should?
* Ask the Lord to open your heart to those things that have distracted you from the priorities He has for your life.
* Take a moment to thank God for who He is and what He had been doing in your life.
* Ask God to reach out to political and spiritual leaders in your community. Ask Him to move is such a way that they would create an atmosphere in your region where Christians can live out their faith in peace.
Read 1 Timothy 2:9-15
In the first part of this chapter Paul spoke to the men. He challenged them to be men of prayer. In the second part of chapter 2 he turns his attention to the women. He has a special word for them as well. Let’s break down what Paul has to say to the women in this passage.
Dress With Modesty (verse 9-10)
The apostle begins by telling women to dress modestly, decently and with propriety (in a way that was appropriate and respectful). The temptation for women of the day was to dress to attract attention to themselves. Notice in verse 9 that they were braiding their hair and wearing gold jewellery, pearls and expensive clothing. They wanted people to know they had money and social standing in the community.
Paul challenged the women not to get caught up in this type of behaviour. Instead, they were to dress modestly. In our culture and society, very often we judge people by the type of clothes they wear or how they look. We feel important if we look good and have nice clothes. Paul tells the women of Ephesus that clothes and appearance were not the measure of a woman's value. Paul is not telling them to dress in rags or to try and look bad. He is telling them, however, not to get caught up in a worldly concept of beauty and value. God does not measure the value of a person by outward appearance.
Beyond this question of value was the temptation to dress in a way that would be a cause for men to stumble or to lust after them. Paul challenges the women of Ephesus to dress decently and respectably so as not to be a stumbling block for anyone.
Instead of focusing on their outward appearance, Paul encouraged the women to dress in good deeds (verse 10). In other words, instead of worrying about what to wear and how to make themselves look more beautiful on the outside, they were to focus on using their spiritual gifts to bless others. The beauty that Paul speaks of is a beauty that comes from the heart. Maybe you have met women like this. They are filled with compassion and love. They feel for those in pain and reach out to them. Sometimes they are not noticed. They are beautiful, not because they wear fancy clothes but because they are filled with love and compassion. Their beauty is far deeper than the surface. This is what God is looking for.
Quiet and Submissive (verse 11-14)
Paul's second challenge to the women of Ephesus was that they learn in quietness and submission. We need to understand that this quietness was not reserved only for women. Paul told the Thessalonians (men and women) in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 to make it their ambition to lead a quiet life:
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.”
While Paul expects that we all learn to live a quiet life, in this passage he speaks particularly to the women of Ephesus. Notice that the quietness and submission Paul spoke about was partly in the context of public teaching. Paul told the women of Ephesus that he did not permit them to teach or to have authority over a man (verse 12). He challenged them instead to learn in silence.
There has been much debate over this passage. Some see Paul's teaching applying only to Ephesus and a particular problem that existed in the church of Ephesus at that time. They feel that what he says here does not apply to the church of our day. This understanding, however, has some significant problems.
Paul explains in the passage that the reason women were not to teach or take authority was because Adam was created first and then Eve. In the culture of that day, the firstborn had a special role to play. He was expected to be leader of his family. He was given the inheritance of the father and was to care for that inheritance. Paul tells us that Adam was created as the firstborn. Because he was the firstborn, he had certain responsibilities and obligations before God. God expected him to be head of his family. Being the first born did not mean that the man was more important. If anything his role was the role of a servant. He had a God given responsibility to care for his family and minister to its needs.
The fact that Paul bases his teaching about the quietness and submission of women on this law of the firstborn shows that his instructions to Timothy about women were not exclusively related to problems in Ephesus but a principle that went back to the creation of man and women in the Garden of Eden.
In verse 14 Paul gave Timothy another reason why women were not to teach or take authority over a man. He reminded Timothy that it was Eve who was deceived by Satan into eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. After eating the fruit she then gave it to Adam and he also ate. Eve's actions brought sin into the world. Paul seems to be saying that there were consequences to Eve’s sin.
It is important that we understand that Eve's submission was not the result of sin. Being subject to the headship of Adam was not a punishment for yielding to Satan’s temptation. We have already seen that Adam was the firstborn. As the firstborn he had a headship role to play. The book of Genesis tells us that Eve was created to be a “helpmate” for Adam (Genesis 2:20-22). As a helpmate she had a different role to play. Eve's fall into sin did not change God's plan for her to live in submission to her husband.
Paul seems to be saying here that Eve’s deception by Satan and her leading Adam to sin had consequences not only for her but for generations to come. Every child born from Eve onward would be guilty before God. She would have to live with the knowledge that she had opened the door for the death of her relationship with God and the destruction of this world by sin. Wars, famines, abuses, the breakup of marriages and families, murder, rape, dishonesty and every other terrible deed ever done in the history of this world is the result of sin’s entrance. All this can be traced back to that one day in the Garden of Eden when Eve surrendered to the temptations of Satan and opened the door for sin. While Adam also ate of the forbidden fruit in the garden, it was Eve who would be known as the one who opened the door for sin’s entrance.
While there are various opinions on the matter of the role of women in the church, we need to understand here that Paul's argument is not cultural but theological. He takes us back to the law of the firstborn. He reminds us of how sin entered the world through Eve. He teaches that according to the doctrine of creation, God gave different roles to men and woman.
I believe we need to respect what Paul is teaching us here. It is true that we have gone too far at times and have held women back in ministry. Men have often dominated and controlled ministries. Paul encourages women to minister. He told them that their beauty would be found in their ministering heart. They were to clothe themselves with good deeds. All this shows us that we need to open the door for women to minister in various ways in our churches. At the same time, however, if we are to respect what Paul is teaching us here, men are to take their role as leaders seriously. They must do so, however, as servants, allowing women to fulfill their God given responsibilities within the body.
Paul's focus in this passage is the public role of teacher/elder. He reminds us that God's heart is to see Chris-tian men take this role of teacher and leader seriously. This position does not lift them above women. If anything, it makes them servants to the whole body. The clear teaching of Scripture is that leaders are servants. Women were to respect the servant/leadership role God gave to men. Men, on the other hand, were to be faithful as servants to the women in their midst. They were to watch out for their needs and minister to them even as Jesus ministered to his body the church.
Saved Through Childbearing (verse 15)
Paul concludes this chapter with a very strange verse. He told Timothy that women would be saved through childbearing if they continued in faith, love and holiness. We need to examine this in some detail.
Paul told Timothy first that the women would be saved through childbearing. We need to understand this in the context of the rest of Scripture. Paul makes it quite clear that there is no other way to be saved but through the Lord Jesus and his death on the cross. Having said this, it would be impossible for us to interpret this verse to mean that women will be saved by having children. If this were the case than those women who could not have children could not be saved. There needs to be another interpretation.
Some see a reference to the birth of the Lord Jesus. In the context of this chapter, Paul has been reminding us that Eve had opened the door to sin and evil in the world. This was not the end, however. While it was through a woman that sin came into the world, it would also be through another woman that God would bring salvation. Eve brought sin into the world but Mary brought Jesus Christ. The word "saved" here can mean "restore" or "to make well again." Could it be that Paul is telling us that the shame of being the one who opened the door for sin would be stripped away when yet another woman would be chosen by God to bring the Saviour into the world? Mary removed the shame that Eve brought by giving birth to the Lord Jesus who would restore what had been lost by sin.
Notice also in verse 15 that Paul told Timothy that a woman would be saved or restored through childbearing if they persevered in faith, love and holiness. The true test of the genuineness of our faith has to do with how it stands up to the test of time and trial. Throughout the Scripture, God calls men and women to persevere in their faith, love and holiness (see Hebrews 10:23, 36; James 1:12; Revelation 2:26). The genuineness of a woman’s faith would be seen in her perseverance in faith, love and holy life.
God has a purpose for His church. He has called men to take a role of servant leadership. He has called women to be active in service and good deeds. He reminds us that the shame of Eve has now been removed through the birth of Mary's child Jesus Christ who came to restore what had been lost by sin’s entrance into the world.
* Have you ever judged beauty by the outward appearance? What do we learn about true beauty in this passage?
* What does Paul teach us about man being the firstborn? What is his responsibility as firstborn?
* What role does woman have in the church today? Is there a difference in male and female roles in the church?
* How was Eve's shame removed?
* How has the church held back women in ministry? What is the balance between releasing women into greater ministry and men taking their headship role seriously?
* Ask the Lord to help you to look beyond the externals to see people as he sees them.
* Ask the Lord to help you to respect and honour those who are in authority in the church.
* Ask God to show you clearly what your role is and how you can exercise that role in submission to the headship he has established in the church.
Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Paul moves his focus now to the leadership of the church. He speaks to Timothy, in this section, about overseers and their qualifications.
Paul begins by telling Timothy that if a man sets his heart on being an overseer he desires a noble task. The task of overseeing the work of the kingdom of God is a very important task. Those involved in this ministry deserve a place of honour. They are to be respected for the work they do.
The ministry of overseer was not to be taken lightly. Not just anyone could be an overseer. Overseers were representatives of God and as such needed to live for him and set an example for the flock. Paul set out what he believed to be the essential qualifications for any overseer in the church. We will examine these qualifications here in this section.
Above Reproach (verse 2)
The word "reproach" means to be blameless. He who is beyond reproach is one whose life is in tune with God. There is nothing that anyone can bring against him. This is not to say that this individual never sins. When he does fall, however, he quickly makes the matter right. He does not live in sin and rebellion but confesses and receives the forgiveness of God.
The Husband of one Wife (verse 2)
Paul told Timothy that the overseer should be the husband of one wife. There are a couple of things we need to say here. First, we need to understand that it is the purpose of God that men only have one wife. It is true that in the Old Testament men often had more than one wife. God allowed this but it was not his plan. God gave Adam only one wife. God did give rules and regulations to the men who took more than one wife, but this was to protect the women from any abuse. Paul makes it clear that an overseer was not to have more than one wife.
This matter of being the husband of one wife can become quite difficult to understand. Can a man who has remarried after his wife died be an overseer? While he is only married to one wife, he did have more than one in his lifetime. What about a man who has been divorced and remarried? Divorce is permitted in the Scripture for unfaithfulness or when an unbelieving partner leaves. Imagine that an overseer has a wife who persists in being unfaithful, despite his efforts to love her. If she divorces him and he remarries does he still qualify as an overseer? What about a man who was unfaithful to his wife but has confessed this matter and is now reconciled and restored to a faithful relationship to this wife? What about a man who lived an immoral life before coming to know the Lord Jesus? What do we do with the man who lives in a culture where it is acceptable to have many wives? Does he disqualify himself from holding any position of leadership in the church? Jesus tells us that if a man looks on a woman to lust after her he has committed adultery with her in his heart? If a man has lusted after another woman in his heart at one time does he, by this lustful act, take another wife in his heart? To answer all these questions would require a separate book in itself. Let me give a couple of principles.
First, if we start digging up everyone's past there would not likely be anyone who would qualify for leadership in the church. The apostle Paul was not proud of his past. Then there was Peter who, after coming to know the Lord Jesus, denied Him three times. Repeatedly in Scripture we meet leaders who fell short of the standard of God. God chose to use Paul and Peter as overseers, despite their past failures. We need to be careful about digging too deeply into the past lives of our leaders. When God forgives He will never hold what has been forgiven against His people. His forgiveness is complete. Even Paul, the worst persecutor of the church, was forgiven and given a place as an overseer. In choosing an over-seer we need to remember that Christ forgives our past failures and sins and restores us into full fellowship with himself. The question we need to ask is this: Does the person live presently in tune with God and his purposes. Has he been forgiven by God and does he live in that forgiveness?
Second, as we make decisions about the men God wants to be in leadership it is important that we also keep the good of the body in mind. The apostle Paul teaches much about being a stumbling block to another believer in the church (Romans 14:15-21). If it is determined that a certain brother would be a “stumbling block” for others in the church, it may be best not to allow that brother to serve in this capacity. Imagine that a man comes to know that Lord after living a sinful lifestyle. Possibly there are a number of believers in the community and the church who are fully aware of his former lifestyle. If this is an issue with the church and community, it may be best that the church allow time to pass and the man to establish a new relationship of trust with people in his church and community before allowing him to serve.
There is one more detail we need to examine in this context. Does an overseer need to be married? Paul tells us that an overseer was to be the husband of one wife. What if he doesn't have a wife? Can he be an overseer? We need to understand that Paul himself was not married. He encouraged believers, not to marry if they have the ability so they could give themselves fully to the work of the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 7). This being the case, we should not require that an overseer be married.
Temperate (verse 2)
The word "temperate" has to do with the use of alcohol. To be temperate is either to abstain from the use of alcohol or to be moderate in its use. The overseer was not to be a drunkard. He was to be in control of his own body, his desires and cravings. What is applicable to alcohol is also applicable to other issues. The overseer needs to be moderate in all things. There are many habits and addictions that can take control of our lives. The overseer must be in control of his desires, cravings and appetites.
Self-controlled (verse 2)
Very closely related to temperance is this matter of self-control. Self-control is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift should be evident in the life of the overseer. Self-control is the ability to discipline ones thoughts, attitudes and actions so that they are in line with the purpose and plan of God. The leader who has self-control is able to hold his tongue when it needs to be held. He is able to discipline himself to take time in the Word of God and prayer. He is able to keep himself from going places or watching things that would distract from God's purpose and plan in his life. He disciplines himself to live a godly life and do what God requires.
Respectable (verse 2)
The overseer is also to be respectable. To be respectable is to live in such a way that he gains the favour and respect of those around him. His manner of living is such that people admire and look up to him as an example to follow.
Hospitable (verse 2)
The word used for hospitality refers to a love for strangers. The overseer does not only minister to those he knows and is close to but reaches out to strangers. Hospitality also has to do with generosity. The overseer needs to be generous. His focus is not his own interests and friends. He needs to be open to all people regardless of race, social standing or appearance. He reaches out and shows kindness and generosity to all.
Able To Teach (verse 2)
The overseer needs to be someone who is able to teach. This was one of the primary functions of the overseer. He needed to teach those who were under him the ways and purposes of God. The word "able" here means to be skilful in or to be gifted in. When someone took on the role of an overseer he did so with the purpose of instructing and guiding the people of God into truth. Paul makes it clear that the overseers had a responsibility to teach and instruct God's people in the truth of His Word.
It should be noted that there are various ways of teaching. Not all teaching is done in a Bible class setting. Some of the most powerful teachers are those who live out their faith before people. Others are able to give wise counsel and guide people into the truth of the Word of God. Not all elders or overseers can stand behind a pulpit and preach but all should be able to teach either through word or example.
Not Given To Drunkenness (verse 3)
We have already spoken about this issue earlier. An overseer needs to be someone who was in control of his desires, passions and appetites. He needs to be self-controlled. Here in particular he needed to control his use of wine or any other alcohol. Drunkenness in an overseer was forbidden. The overseer was to be controlled by the Spirit of God. He was not to give himself over to the control of alcohol.
Not Violent but Gentle (verse 3)
Not only was the overseer to be in control of his use of wine and other addictive substances he was also to be in control of his emotions. Paul told Timothy that the over-seer was not to be violent. The idea here is that he was not looking for a fight. Instead he was to be gentle, patient and mild. It would be easy for the overseer to push himself on others and get angry when they did not listen to him. Some leaders tend to be demanding and harsh. Paul told Timothy that the overseer was to lead his people with gentleness and compassion. I have met many Christians who have been hurt by church leaders who did not treat them with kindness or respect. The motives of these leaders may have been right but their methods were wrong. Paul told Timothy that the leader needed to be gentle and loving to those under his leadership. The true leader will respect God's people and treat them with dignity and honour.
Not Quarrelsome (verse 3)
We have already seen that the overseer was not to be violent. Paul went on to say that the leader was not to be quarrelsome. Someone who is quarrelsome focuses on differences. They delight in finding fault with others and proving that they are right. The leader needs to be seeking peace. The New American Standard Bible uses the word "peaceable" in the place of “not quarrelsome”. The idea is that the overseer needs to be someone who is seeking the harmony of the body. This does not mean that the overseer should allow anything and everything in the church. There are doctrines and practices that have no place in the body of Christ. The overseer is to clearly deal with these false teachings and practices. On the other hand, however, the overseer is to have enough humility to accept that there are differences on minor issues in the body of Christ. We have all met overseers who expect that everyone in their church believe exactly like them. They quarrel and argue about minor doctrines and practices thus hindering the work of God in the church. Paul's teaching here is that the overseer needs to be willing to work with those differences instead of being quarrelsome and argumentative. He is to seek peace and harmony of the body but at the same time recognize that this harmony does not mean that everyone has to agree with him in all points.
Not a Lover of Money (verse 3)
The overseer should be free from the love of money. Money should not be his motivation for ministry. Perhaps you have met pastors who make a decision on what church to serve in based on how much money they would make. Our motivation ought to be the love of God and his call in our lives. Money can blind us to what God wants us to do. Money has caused many to stray from the call of God. The overseer is to be free from the love of money and possessions so that he can hear the call of God. Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden by offering her many things. He tempted Jesus by offering Him the kingdoms of the world if He would bow down to him. If an overseer loves money and possessions, he provides Satan with a target.
He Must Manage His Own Family Well (verse 4)
The overseer needs also to demonstrate his ability to lead the church by the way he manages his own family. In particular, Paul tells us that he was to see that his children obeyed him and showed proper respect. This is not to say that his children were to be perfect. The overseer, however, was to take his role as father seriously. His leadership abilities were to be seen in his family. His family was to respect him as a leader, not because he demanded it and forced obedience and respect on them, but because they saw his example and respected him for it.
If you want to know what kind of leader a man would make then look at what happens in his home. Is he demanding and insensitive to his wife and children? What does he do when his children wander from the truth or fall into sin? Does he show unconditional love and seek restoration with them, or does he reject them. A Christian leader must demonstrate Christ's love in every situation.
As a man is in his family so he will be in church leader-ship. Look at what he does with his own children? Does he dominate and control? Does he allow for differences or does he demand that everything be done his way? Does he care about the spiritual well-being of his family and children? Does he grieve when his children wander from the path? Does he reach out to them in love to bring them back? These questions need to be asked if we are to understand what kind of overseer an individual will be. What happens in his family will very likely happen in his ministry.
There is another aspect of this we need to see. It would be possible for an overseer to be so busy with his ministry that he neglects his wife and children. We need to consider this as well. Paul makes it clear that the overseer needs to manage his family well. This means that he cannot spend all his time with the church and neglect his family. He must have a balance between family and ministry.
Not a Recent Convert (verse 6)
An overseer must not be a recent convert. Paul told Timothy that the overseer needed to have experience with the Lord. He should be someone who knows the truth and has proven that he is able to walk with the Lord in truth and faithfulness. He is to demonstrate that he can handle the struggles and difficulties that come with walking with the Lord.
The particular temptation that Paul is concerned about here is the temptation of pride. Humility is not something that comes automatically. To give someone authority when they do not have humility to handle that authority is a very dangerous thing. Imagine putting an inexperienced driver behind the wheel of a car. A car can be very dangerous when in the hand of someone who does not know how to drive. The same thing applies to spiritual authority. An overseer must know how to handle spiritual authority. He must be able to exercise his role with humility. Pride will blind us to the needs of others. It will deafen our ears to the voice of God. It will ultimately destroy us and damage the work of God. We need to be sure that those who are given the authority of overseer are able to handle that responsibility. Remember that Satan himself fell because of pride. Paul reminded Timothy in verse 6 that the overseer who became proud would fall under the same judgment as Satan. This is a serious matter.
A Good Reputation (verse 7)
The overseer must also have a good reputation. Notice that this reputation is not just within the church but among those who are outside the church. The overseer represents the people of God and the cause of His kingdom in the world. Those who see the overseer should see the character of Christ in him. Paul makes it clear that that the devil will set a trap for overseers (verse 7). His desire is to bring disgrace to the work of the kingdom. He will do this by targeting leadership and trying to get them to fall. How often has the enemy succeeded in this? He has tempted Christian leaders through money, alcohol and sexual immorality. He has caused them to fall through pride or by stirring up their fleshly tendencies to violence and anger. Many have fallen into his trap. When they do, the work of God is disgraced in the eyes of the community.
He who desires the position of an overseer desires a very honourable position. He should be aware, however, of the responsibilities that God places on him. He will become the target of the enemy. May God give us overseers who are up to the task.
* Does an overseer need to be perfect? How do we find the balance between forgiveness of past sins and walking with God in the present?
* Why is it so important that an overseer be in control of his passions, desires and emotions?
* What false motives can we have for being an overseer? Can you desire to be an overseer for the wrong reason?
* How important is gentleness and respect for differences among sincere Christians? What hap-pens if the overseer is not gentle and respectful of other opinions?
* What do we learn about the efforts of the enemy to destroy spiritual leaders and cause them to fall?
* Take a moment to pray for the leaders of your church. Ask God to protect them.
* Ask the Lord to give you a life that is a testimony to the unbeliever.
* Ask God to give you the ability to be in control of your passions, desires and appetites.
* Take a moment pray for the family of your spiritual leader. Ask God to bless and keep them. Ask him as well to give your overseer balance between ministry and family responsibilities.
Read 1 Timothy 3:8-13
In the first part of this chapter Paul explained to Timothy the qualifications of an overseer. Here in this next section he focuses his attention on the role of deacon. There is a distinction made in the New Testament between the role of overseer and deacon. While both of these roles are spiritual in nature, the deacon acts more in the everyday practical matters of the church. The overseer is to be a teacher and guide to the people in their spiritual walk. The overseer is known today as a pastor or elder. The deacons assist the overseers in practical matters enabling them to give themselves more fully to the spiritual welfare of the church.
The deacon is to take his role very seriously. Paul speaks clearly in this passage about the qualifications for those who want to be deacons. Again we will take a moment to examine each of these qualifications.
Worthy of Respect (verse 8)
Paul told Timothy that deacons were to be men who were worthy of respect. The term "respect" indicates that these men needed to be admired for their character. They were honourable in their dealings with others. They were honest and sincere. People could look at them and see in them a positive example to follow. Before becoming deacons, these men already had the respect of the church and community.
Sincere (verse 8)
Notice second that deacons were to be sincere. The New American Standard Bible catches the meaning of the word sincere here by using "not double-tongued." This is the literal meaning of the word sincere in the original language. When a person is double-tongued, he says one thing to one person and something else to another with intent to deceive. To be sincere is to be pure, clean and transparent. A sincere person is the same on the outside as he is on the inside. The deacon was to love and serve God from the heart.
Not Indulging in Much Wine (verse 8)
The next characteristic of the deacon was that he was not to be a heavy drinker. Paul does not forbid the deacon from drinking wine but he speaks very clearly about the abuse of wine. The deacon was to be in control of his appetites. He was not to disgrace the ministry he was called to by being a drunkard.
Not Pursuing Dishonest Gain (verse 8)
Like the overseer, the deacon was not to be a lover of money and possessions. We have already seen that the deacon was not to be controlled by wine. Neither was he to be controlled by money and possessions. He was to be honest in his dealings with others in the community. If he was a businessman, he was to have proven his honesty in business. People must know they could trust him.
Keep Hold of the Truth (verse 9)
The deacon also had to prove himself spiritually. Paul tells us in verse 9 that the deacon was to keep hold of the truth of the faith with a clear conscience. There are two aspects to this statement. First, the deacon was to keep hold of the truth. The word “hold” is used to speak of marriage vows. To hold is to be joined closely to some-thing in such a way that we never let go. The deacon was to hold to the truths of the Word of God. He was to be willing to live and die for those truths. He was never to compromise those truths or water them down to suit his needs.
The second aspect to this verse is that the deacon was to hold on to the truth with a clear conscience. To hold on to something with a clear conscience is not only to believe with the mind but also to practice it in real life. You can believe something and not live it out with a clear con-science. Paul tells us here that the deacon is not only to know the truth but to live that truth every day. He was to have nothing to be ashamed of in regards to his lifestyle. He was to know the truth, stand up for the truth, and live it out each day.
Tested (verse 10)
The deacon was to be tested before being given his position. In other words, he was someone who had proven himself in real life. We ought not to be too quick to choose a deacon. He should not be a new convert. He needs to understand the truth of the Word of God. He needs to have time, not only to prove himself in the community, but also in the church. His faith needs to be proven to be genuine and sincere.
Their wives (verse 11)
Paul tells Timothy in verse 11 that their wives (NIV) were to be worthy of respect. It is important to note that the word used for wives is the same word used for women. This has led some to say that verse 11 refers to women who exercise the role of deaconess. Others chose to interpret the word as "wives" and see Paul referring to the wives of deacons.
Like the deacon, the woman (wife or deaconess) was to be worthy of respect. She was to be an example to other women in both faith and deeds.
Second, these women were not to be malicious talkers. The word malicious is the word "diabolo" in the Greek. This is where we get the word "devil." Malicious talkers are those who accuse and speak falsehood against another. They use their words to hurt and destroy. Paul makes it quite clear here that these women were to be in control of their tongues. They were not to be gossiping and slandering.
The women were to be temperate and trustworthy in everything they did. To be temperate is to be moderate and not given to extremes. It can refer to the use of alcohol or any other practice. A woman who is temperate is not given to extremes in what she eats, drinks acts or how she dresses. She is moderate and dignified in what she does.
She is also to be trustworthy. This means that her husband can rely on her and so can those she meets each day. She is faithful to her husband, her family and her community.
Husband of one wife (verse 12)
As with the overseer, the deacon was to have only one wife. We have discussed this in some detail in the last chapter so I will not repeat it here. This does not mean that a deacon needed to be married but if he was married he was only to have one wife. For further discussion on this see chapter 16 of this book.
Manage his Children (verse 12)
Again, like the overseer, the deacon was to prove himself in his own family. This meant that he was not to ignore his family for ministry. He was to be given the time necessary to minister to his family. He was also to live out his faith in his own home and encourage his children in the ways of God. This is not to say that the children of the deacon needed to be perfect. Each child would have to give an account before God on their own. What is important here is that the deacon manages his household and brings up his children in the ways of the Lord.
Paul concluded his comments on the qualifications of deacons by reminding Timothy that those deacons who served well would gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith. They would be honoured by God and rewarded for faithful service. They would be able to stand before God with great assurance, unashamed, having lived for his glory and honour.
* Have you gained the respect of those in your community? How do they see you?
* What is the difference between holding on to the truth and living out the truth in real life?
* What role does a wife play in the ministry of an overseer or deacon? How can she bless or destroy that ministry?
* Take a moment to examine your life according to the characteristics we have discussed in this chapter. Where are you weak?
* Ask the Lord to give you a spiritual life that is tested and proven.
* Ask God to search your heart and reveal any in-sincerity in you.
* Take a moment to pray for your own family. Ask God to bring each member to himself.
* Pray for the families of church leaders. Ask God to protect and keep them true to him.
* Ask God to encourage the deacons in your church. Pray that they would be faithful servants to the body of Christ.
Read 1 Timothy 3:14-16
Paul encouraged Timothy to teach those who were under his care. It was Paul's desire to see Timothy soon (verse 14) but he gives him instructions so that if he was delayed he would have a clear understanding of how believers needed to conduct themselves.
It should be noted that while Timothy was exercising the role of teacher/pastor he was not beyond being taught. He willingly accepted Paul's instructions. This ought to be the characteristic of any pastor or teacher. We may be teachers of the Word of God but we must be willing to be instructed ourselves. Timothy had the humility necessary to listen to Paul and his instruction. We need to be aware that instruction will not always come from someone who is more mature. God can use anyone in your congregation to teach you. He may use your children or even an unbeliever to challenge you in the way of godliness. What is important is that we be ready and willing to listen.
As we begin this next section Paul has some important truths to teach us about the church as the body of Christ (verse 15). Let's take a moment to break this verse down and examine Paul's teaching.
Paul speaks about the church in this verse as "God's household." The members of that household belong to the same family or have been adopted into that family. They have the same father and are bound together by blood. They share responsibilities in that household and work together to protect and care for each other. This is what the church ought to be. It is a family. Those who are part of the church have the Lord God as their Father. They are under his authority and are bound to honor and respect him as their head. As children of the same Father, we are to care for each other as we would the members of our own family.
Church of the Living God
Paul also speaks of the church as the “church of the living God.” It is important that we understand that God is a living God. He is alive and active today. All too many churches worship a God who was very much alive in the life of Abraham and Paul but they do not see that he is alive and active today. God is not a doctrine or idea. He is not a tradition or concept. He is a living Being. His power has not diminished with time. He is as much alive today as he was in the day of Paul. Because this is so, we ought to expect great things from God. We ought to rejoice because he is alive in our midst. The church as the body of Christ is powerful and awesome because God is living within it.
The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth
Paul reminds Timothy in verse 15 that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. A foundation is what a house is built on. A pillar holds up the house. Paul is telling us that the church has two obligations. First it must be the foundation of truth. In other words it must be built on the truth of God as contained in the Scriptures. Second, as a pillar, it must hold up and support that truth. The church stands on the truth of God’s Word and it preaches and upholds that truth before the world.
THE MISTERY OF GODLINESS
Paul moves on in verse 16 to what he calls the mystery of godliness. Since the fall of humanity into sin and separation from God, one of the greatest mysteries of life is how human beings can be right with God again? How can sinful beings be reconciled to God? In the Old Testament countless sacrifices were offered and yet human beings were still not right with God. Only when the Lord Jesus came was the answer to this mystery revealed. Jesus was the way through which human beings could be reconciled with God. Notice what Paul tells us about the Lord Jesus as the mystery of godliness.
He Appeared in a Body
The penalty of our sin was death. A sacrifice needed to be made for forgiveness to be possible. Justice demanded that sin be punished in the flesh. The Lord Jesus came to this earth as a man taking on a human body. He lived among us and identified with us.
Vindicated by the Spirit
The word "vindicate" in the Greek means to justify or to be made right. Jesus was accused of wrongdoing though he was innocent. They nailed Him on a cross as a common criminal. He was lifted up for all to see. He died and was placed in the grave. He rose from the dead in the power of the Spirit. He was vindicated by the Spirit. His resurrection from the dead proved that his sacrifice was acceptable to God.
Was Seen By Angels
Not only did the Spirit of God "vindicate" our Lord Jesus but He was also seen by angels. The fact of the matter is that angels could always see the Lord even as they can see us. In this case, however, the angels saw Jesus for the purpose of ministering to Him. They came to minister to Him in His suffering. When Jesus ascended to heaven these angels bowed down to worship and adore Him as the faithful Lamb of God who brought salvation to His people.
Preached Among the Nations
Jesus came to bring salvation. He lived a perfect life and brought that salvation through His death in our place on the cross of Calvary. When He returned to his Father, He commissioned His disciples to share the message of His salvation with the whole world. Those disciples preached Christ's salvation. People of every nation are hearing of the hope Jesus brings and the wonderful salvation he offers.
Believed in the World
Not only was the Lord Jesus preached in the world but though the power of the Holy Spirit, many are coming to believe in His name. All over the world men, women and children are accepting Him as their Lord and Saviour. They are surrendering their lives to Him and joining the household of God.
Taken up in Glory
Christ, the mystery of godliness, was taken up into glory. He lived and died on this earth for our sins. He rose to be with His Father. There in the presence of the Father he was honoured. He now lives in heaven with His Father as the Lord of lords and King of kings. He is the sovereign ruler of the universe. Because He overcame sin and the grave, we too can have hope.
This message of the mysterious work of the Lord Jesus for sinners brings us wonderful hope and confidence. Because of his wonderful work we can experience the forgiveness of sin and look forward to an eternal dwelling in the presence of our heavenly Father.
* Do you have a teachable spirit?
* Paul describes the church as the household of God. What kind of relationships ought to exist in a household? Is your church an example of love?
* Paul speaks of the church as being the "church of the living God." Is God alive in your church? Is God alive to you personally? How is this evident?
* The church is the foundation and pillar of truth. What does this mean? How are we the foundation and pillars of truth?
* What is the mystery of godliness? How does Christ open the door for us to live in the presence of the Father? How is He our hope?
* Thank the Lord He has chosen to use us to reach out to the world.
* Take a moment to thank the Lord for the fact that He has put you in a wonderful family. Ask Him to help you to minister to your brothers and sisters in the faith.
* Thank the Lord that He brought a solution to the problem of our sinfulness and that the mystery of how we can live as godly people in the presence of the father has been solved in the person and work of Christ.
* Ask the Lord to equip and enable your church to be a foundation and pillar of truth.
Read 1 Timothy 4:1-6
In this next section of his epistle, Paul speaks to Timothy about false teaching. He encouraged him to point out the false teaching in Ephesus so that those ministering with him would be aware of the schemes of the devil. From this we understand that one of the schemes of the devil is to distort or water down the truth.
Paul begins by reminding Timothy in verse 1 that the Spirit had clearly revealed that in the last days people would abandon the faith. This was also the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus as well. In Matthew 24:5 we read: "For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." Jesus also says in Matthew 24:23-25:
At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.
As the end approaches we can be sure that there will be an increase in false teaching. Paul told Timothy that many would abandoned their faith at that time. God will use this to separate those who truly belong to him from those who were believers in name only. These false teachings will be accompanied by great miracles and signs. People will see these powerful demonstrations and be deceived. It is true that signs in the Scripture often confirmed the truth but not all miraculous signs are from God.
Notice the source of the power and false teaching in verse 1. Paul makes it clear that these false teachings and signs come from deceiving spirits and demons. These demons were using men and women to spread their false doctrines and practices. In verse 2 Paul tells Timothy what these false teachers looked like. It is important that we examine what Paul tells us in this passage so that we too will be able to recognize those who are not preaching the truth.
False teachers were hypocritical. As hypocrites they were willing to deceive people. They were skilled at hiding the truth about themselves. Satan loves to use hypocrites. He is a master of lies and deceit. He needs individuals who are willing to play his game. These false teachers did not look like false teachers. They looked like good Christians. Paul tells Timothy not to be deceived by their looks and actions. Under that exterior was a tool of Satan.
Notice secondly that these individuals are liars (verse 2). Satan cannot use someone who is truthful. He works in lies. He is the father of lies (John 8:44). If he is to spread his false teaching he will need someone who is willing to lie and twist the truth.
False teachers also have a seared conscience. To sear is to burn something with intense heat. This makes the object hard. The idea seems to be that these false teachers had so often rejected what their conscience was telling them that it no longer disturbed them when they did something wrong. When you brand an animal a mark is burnt into the skin. That mark leaves a permanent scar and identifies the animal with its owner. The conscience of these false teachers had been marked by the devil as his own.
Notice the doctrines of these false teachers. First, they forbade people to marry. We are not told here why they forbade marriage. What is important here is the word "forbid." They control and manipulate. They put all kinds of expectations on individuals that they could not keep. The apostle Paul encouraged people not to marry but also taught that not everyone was able to remain single. These false teachers, inspired by demons, forbade marriage. This would obviously have caused real frustration for many.
The second thing these false teachers demanded was that their followers abstain from certain foods. Again we need to realize that the Old Testament did have food laws. God had a standard his people were commanded to maintain. These false teachers went one step further however. They ordered that their followers abstain even from food that God had created to be eaten with thanks-giving. The result of this was that what God created as good was now despised. What he created to be eaten with thanksgiving is now rejected.
Paul told Timothy that everything God created was good. Under the New Testament nothing was to be rejected if it was received with a thankful heart. In fact those things that were once considered impure were now consecrated by the Word of God. In other words, the Old Testament food laws no longer apply to believers in the New Testament. Paul makes this clear in Romans 14:20 when he says:
Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.
Notice that Paul taught that all food was clean. Paul is telling Timothy that God's Word now declared that all food was clean and could be eaten when consecrated by prayer. As we commit our food to him with thanksgiving and praise God accepts our thanksgiving. He blesses that food to us and our use whatever that food might be.
The false teachers were encouraging people to despise what God had created. Notice that there were elements of truth in what they were saying. Paul encouraged people not to marry but recognized this was not for everyone. The false prophets forbade people to marry at all. The Old Testament commanded that believers not eat certain foods but these false prophets took that a step further and ordered that people not even eat foods that God had declared good. They twisted the truth. They manipulated and controlled people. Their focus was not on Christ but on law and externals.
Likely these false teachers lead people to believe that the miraculous power they had was from God. They took elements of the Scripture and twisted these elements to suit their needs. They were not teaching immorality. They were not openly denying the Lord Jesus. They were, however, promoting a legalistic faith apart from Christ. They were manipulative and controlling. Paul claimed that evil and deceiving spirits of Satan were behind these men.
Could these false teachers be among us today? Could they be seeking to draw attention to themselves and away from Christ? Could it be that they preach and perform great signs and miracles in the power of Satan? How careful we need to be. God has given us his Word to be our guide. We need to beware of those who twist and distort it to suit their own needs.
In verse 6 Paul challenged Timothy to point these things out to the people of God. Timothy had been raised in the truth of the faith and had received good teaching. He is now being challenged to be aware of anyone who did not stand firmly on that truth. The enemy was looking for any opportunity to confuse the people of God and lead them astray. How we need in our day, man and women with great discernment who will recognize these lies and stand firmly against them.
* What does Paul tells us will happen in the last days?
* What does this passage teach us about the deceitfulness of the enemy?
* Why is it important to listen to our conscience?
* What does Paul tells us are the characteristics of false teachers?
* Is manipulation and controlling from the Lord? How does the Spirit of God work?
* Ask the Lord to give you a greater desire for the truth.
* Pray for greater discernment so that you will not be deceived by the enemy.
* Pray that God would expose false teachers in your midst.
Read 1 Timothy 4:7-16
Paul speaks in this passage as a spiritual counsellor and adviser to Timothy, his son in the Lord. He challenges Timothy now, as his spiritual father, to train himself in godliness. Notice that being godly is something we must train for. The word used here is the same word used to speak of an athlete who trains for a sport. There is discipline and effort involved. Becoming a godly person will require much work and effort. In this passage Paul gives Timothy advice on how to train himself to be godly.
Have Nothing to do With Godless Myths
Paul begins in verse 7 by telling Timothy not to have anything to do with godless myths and old wives' tales. We are not told what these myths were but Paul speaks of them as godless. These myths were obviously the inventions of the human imagination. They were not based on the truth of the Word of God. There are many such myths even in our day. Perhaps you have met individuals who teach that God is such a God of love the he would never punish an individual in hell. Maybe you have met those who believe the myth that if they live a good life, God will be obligated to receive them into His kingdom. There are all kinds of ideas about God in the world but not all of them are based on the teaching of the Word of God. They are godless myths. In a similar way the "wives' tales" Paul mentions were superstitions and ideas that were rooted in the culture but not founded on the truth of God's Word.
Paul makes is quite clear to Timothy that he needed to separate himself from all these myths and tales. If he was to be the man God intended him to be, it would have to be on the basis of the truth of God's clear Word. He was not to be distracted by the ideas of human beings. If he wanted to be godly, he would need to separate himself from the false and ungodly teachings that filled his community. The Word of God was to be his basis and foundation for godly living. He was not to be distracted by the philosophies of even well-meaning teachers. All he needed for life and godliness was to be found in the Word of God.
Paul reminded Timothy in verse 8 that while physical exercise had some value, training to be godly had even more value. Physical exercise helped in this life, but godliness had value also in the life to come.
As Timothy trained himself to be godly he needed to discern the absolute truth of God's Word. He was to have nothing to do with human myths and ideas but base everything he did on the clear and inspired teaching of the Word of God.
Put Your Hope in the Living God (verse 10)
The second principle Paul gave Timothy was to put his hope in the living God and Saviour of all men (verse 10). Paul mentions two things about God in this verse. First, He is the living God. As God, He is all-powerful and sovereign. As the living God we know that He is still as powerful and sovereign as He always was. We see examples of His powerful work in the past. He has never changed. He is the same God today.
Paul also told Timothy that this God is the Saviour for all men especially for those who believe. This connects God to His people. As Saviour, God is interested in the needs of His creation. He reaches out to them to empower, protect and equip. Those who have accepted Him as their Saviour know His power and enabling in a deep way. They have experienced His provision, protection, guidance and strength.
If we want to train ourselves to godliness, we need to start by setting our hope in the living God our Saviour. God delights to be the Saviour of all who will trust in him. Only from this starting point can we make any progress in godliness. We could never by our own efforts make ourselves godly. We need the empowering work of a living God to break away the sin and refine us. Timothy's confidence and trust was to be in God and not in his own ability.
Set an Example (verse 12)
Paul understood that Timothy had a problem in Ephesus because he was young. Some people looked down on him because he was so young. Paul told Timothy to put these fears aside and become an example for all. There are a couple of comments I would like to make about this statement of Paul.
First, Timothy was not to let anyone look down on him. In other words, he was not to let what people thought about him influence his actions. How easy it is for us to be influenced by people. The level of our spirituality is very often determined by the spiritual culture in which we live. We become content to do what is expected of us. Some-times what our brothers and sisters expect of us in not what God expects. Those who do stand out spiritually are misunderstood. Sometimes people see them as attention-seekers. They are seen as radicals. Paul was telling Timothy that he was not to let what others thought influence his training in godliness. Timothy was to commit himself to being an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity. If you want to train yourself to be godly you will have to have victory over what others think or expect. You will have to be willing to stand out from the crowd and be different, putting God's heart for your life before the expectations of others around you.
The second thing we should understand is that we can hinder ourselves in godliness. Imagine Timothy listening to the people of his congregation. Imagine him saying, "They are right. I am very young and inexperienced. What can I do?" Paul told Timothy that despite his youth and inexperience he was to be an example to all. This would require faith and trust in God. If he was be a godly example he needed to believe that God his Saviour would protect, keep and strengthen him to be that example. If you want to train yourself to be godly you will have to be willing to leave your comfort zones. You will have to trust God to do what you can't see yourself doing. You will have to put aside all your insecurities and trust God to enable you to become all He wants you to be.
Devote Yourself to Public Reading (verse 13)
In verse 13 Paul told Timothy that in this training to godliness he was to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Where did this public reading and preaching take place? It took place as believers met together. In other words, Timothy needed to be part of a fellowship where the Scriptures were being honored and the Word faithfully preached and taught. Godliness is not obtained in isolation but in fellowship with the people of God around the Word of God.
Do Not Neglect Your Gift (verse 14)
In verse 14 Paul moved on to tell Timothy that in this training for godliness he was not to neglect his spiritual gift. This particular gift had been given to him through a prophetic message. We are not told what that gift was. What is important for us to understand, however, is that God expects us not only to learn and study his Word but also to use our gifts for his glory. Paul is telling Timothy that study of the Word of God, as important as that may be, is not enough. We need to exercise our spiritual muscles. Godliness is not just about knowing truth, it is also about putting that truth into practice. The apostle James puts it this way in James 1:27:
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Imagine an athlete studying the rule book but never playing the game. All too many people spend their time studying the Bible but never actually put into practice what they are learning in their studies. If you want to grow in godliness you will have to "play the game." God expects us to be faithful in service. Our spiritual gifts are not only for the equipping of others, they are also the means by which God trains us in godliness.
Paul challenged Timothy to be diligent in these matters. He was to give himself to them wholeheartedly. Paul promised him that if he was diligent in the things he had shared with him here, people would see his progress (verse 15). By watching his life and doctrine, and by persevering in this teaching, Timothy would save both himself and those who heard him.
When Paul speaks here of Timothy saving himself he speaks about judgment. As a pastor, Timothy had an obligation to God. Timothy's salvation was assured but he would still give an account of his life and actions to God. By his example and teaching Timothy would rescue many from sin and rebellion.
As believers we can miss out on the wonderful blessing of God. We can do so by not training ourselves to be godly and not reaching our potential in Christ. We will stand before the Lord one day and give an account of our lives. There is much to lose if we do not train ourselves to be godly.
* Is it possible to be godly without discipline and hard work?
* What is the connection between our discipline to become godly and the work of Christ in us to make us godly?
* What do you need to do to be more godly?
* How can the words and attitudes of others hinder us in our training to be godly? Have you been an encouragement to others to live a godly life? Have you ever been discouraged by others?
* What role does fellowship with others around the Word of God have in our training to be godly?
* How important is it that we use the spiritual gifts God has given? How has God used your spiritual gifts to help you to grow in godliness?
* Ask the Lord to give you the discipline necessary to grow in godliness.
* Ask the Lord to speak clearly to you about those things that hinder your training in godliness.
* Take a moment to commit yourself afresh to living in godliness.
Read 1 Timothy 5:1-16
In the first part of chapter 5 Paul gives Timothy some instructions on dealing with the problem of widows in the church. Before addressing the issue in detail, however, Paul has some general comments to make about relationships in the body of Christ.
Paul begins by telling Timothy not to harshly rebuke an older man. He encouraged him to exhort him as if he were a father. Paul is not telling Timothy that he was not to challenge an older man if he was wrong. He was to do so, however, with respect for his age. Timothy was to deal with an older man with humility, realizing he had gained much experience in life. He was to show an older man all the honor and respect his age deserved.
The older women were to be treated in the same way because of their age. They were to be given a place of honor in the church. Timothy was not to rebuke them quickly. These older women were to be treated as a loving son would treat his mother in her older years.
As for the younger men, they were to be treated as brothers. A brother helps, encourages, supports and protects. A brother listens to and stands side by side with us no matter the situation. There is a bond between brothers that is not easily broken.
Younger women were to be treated as sisters. Who would think of mistreating his own sister? We protect our sisters. We stand up for them. We do not dishonor them and take it seriously when someone else does.
Having given these general instructions regarding relationships in the body of Christ, Paul speaks more particularly about widows. The issue of widows in the early church was an important one. These women often had no one to care for them and their families. The family was often their only source of income. In a world where the men worked and the women remained at home, these widows often had real need, especially if they had small children to feed and care for.
The church of Ephesus had recognized the needs of widows and did what they could to support them. Paul encouraged the church to continue in this. It is important for us to realize that the task of the church is not only to preach the gospel but also to minister to the practical needs of the body as well. Jesus showed tremendous concern for the poor and those in need. He expects his followers to follow his example.
In the remainder of this section Paul gives Timothy some guidelines for the church to follow in their ministry to widows.
If a Widow Has Children (verse 4)
Paul's begins by telling Timothy that if a widow had children or grandchildren then they were to care for their mother. They were to remember the years of care she had given them as children and honor her in her need by caring for her. The assumption is that these children are old enough to do something about their mother’s need. God expected children to care for their parents when they were in need. If a widow had children who could care for her, then the church was not to be burdened with the responsibility.
Two Types of Widows (verse 5-6)
Not all widows were the same. Some were women who were putting their trust in God, while others were dead to the things of the Lord. Paul seems to be communicating to Timothy that the church needed to examine the widow to see where she stood spiritually. Did she live for pleasure and the things of this world or did she put her confidence in God and live for Him? The church was not to be burdened with the care of those who wanted nothing to do with the Lord and who would only waste the resources given to them by living a sinful lifestyle.
Paul asked Timothy to remind the Ephesians of the dangers of living for the pleasures of the world (verse 7). He was to instruct them in this so they did not fall into this trap. Instead, they were to cry out to God and seek his purposes.
A Word To the Family (verse 8)
Paul adds a word to the families of widows. He told them that if they did not provide for the needs of their relatives and especially their immediate family then they had denied the faith. They were living in disobedience to God’s Word and were worse than the unbeliever. Even unbelievers understand the need to care for and provide for their family. The church was to deal with believers who did not care for their families. These families were living in rebellion against God and needed to be disciplined.
Widows over Sixty Years (verse 9)
Paul instructed Timothy in verse 9 that no widow over the age of sixty was to be put on the list for support unless she had demonstrated certain qualities in her life. She was first to have been faithful to her husband. The widow was also to be well known for her good deeds, kindness and compassion. She was also to have brought up her children faithfully. She was to have shown hospitality and washed the feet of the saints. In other words, she was to have a humble and servant attitude. The widow was to be someone who had come to the aid of those who were in trouble around her. Widows over sixty would only be qualified for support from the church if they demonstrated these qualities
Younger Widows (verse 11)
If a widow was under sixty years of age she was not to be put on a list for support from the church. Paul told Timothy that the reason for this was that their desires might overcome them and they would want to be married. Notice how Paul told Timothy that if these widows married, they were putting aside their dedication to the Lord and would bring judgment on themselves by breaking their first pledge. What does Paul mean by this statement?
Paul is not telling us that remarriage is wrong. He makes it quite clear in Romans 7:2-3 that a woman whose husband has died is free to remarry:
“For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.”
What we need to understand here is that the women who were being supported by the church also served the church in various capacities. They ministered in good deeds on the church's behalf. It is for this reason that Paul insists that these widows have a good reputation in their community. Paul required that these widows demonstrate certain qualities before receiving support from the church because they were going to be its representatives in the community. This passage comes in the context of Paul's discussion about the qualifications of overseers, and deacons. Paul speaks about widows because like overseers, deacons and elders the widows too had a very important service role to play in the church of the day.
Paul tells us that widows in service of the church who wanted to remarry were turning away from their commitment to this particular service of the Lord in the church. They had committed themselves to this ministry but were now being tempted to leave it because of their own physical desires. Paul has no problem with widows being remarried. In this context, however, he was looking for widows who could commit themselves to Christ by remaining unmarried and serving the Lord full time.
For this reason Paul told Timothy that only widows over sixty were to make this commitment and engage in this paid full time work of the church. The younger women were not to make a promise they might not be able to keep. It would be better for them to get married than to make a vow of service to the Lord and then break it.
There was a second reason why Paul felt it best for younger women to get married. They had all their youthful energy. The temptation for these young women would be to go from house to house in their idleness, gossiping and being busybodies. Remember that in this cultural context women were not as free to work as men were. With no work and no husband they would be tempted to be idle. This would lead to all kinds of problems for the church and the community.
Paul counselled younger widows to get married, to have a family and to give themselves to raising that family so that the enemy would not be given an opportunity to tempt them. Idleness can be an open door for the enemy in our lives.
In verse 15 Paul told Timothy that some of these widows had already turned away from their commitment to the Lord. They had fallen into the temptations of the enemy. Paul encouraged believers who had someone in their family who was a widow to take care of her so that the church would not have to carry this burden.
* Why does Paul place all these qualifications on widows supported by the church? Does this mean that we should not support unbelievers in their practical needs? What kind of widows is Paul speaking about in this passage?
* What do we learn about the need of the church to minister in practical ways in the community?
* How important is it that we care for our own families? How have you been doing this?
* What is the danger of idleness?
* What do we learn about the importance of keeping our vows to the Lord?
* Are you a widow or widower? How have you been using your time? What challenge does this pas-sage bring you?
* Ask the Lord to show you the needs in your own family.
* Ask God to open your eyes to the needs in your community.
* Are their widows in your church? Take a moment to pray for them. Ask God to show you personally how you can minister to them.
* Are you a widow or widower? Ask the Lord how you can use your time to serve Him more.
Read 1 Timothy 5:17-25
In this next section of his epistle to Timothy, the apostle Paul takes time to speak to him about elders in the church. His desire was that the church respect and honor elders as men of God. Paul has several instructions to give Timothy regarding elders. He charges Timothy to pass these instructions on to those he was teaching.
An Elder is Worthy of Double Honor
Paul begins by reminding Timothy that the elder who directed the affairs of the church well was worthy of double honor. According to Paul, this was especially true of those who were involved in a ministry of teaching and preaching.
What does Paul mean by "double honor?" Verse 18 gives us the answer. In verse 18 Paul reminded Timothy of the Old Testament law regarding the ox that treaded the grain. This was the way the grain was separated from the stocks. In Deuteronomy 25:4 the law clearly stated that when an ox was used to tread the grain, he was to be allowed to eat freely as he worked. The ox was not to be muzzled or kept from eating the grain it trampled. Paul told Timothy that the worker deserved his wages. Honoring the elder has to do with providing him with his necessary livelihood. An elder was to be paid so that he could devote himself to the ministry of teaching and preaching.
What is particularly interesting is that Paul himself did not seek a salary. He chose to work to earn the money necessary to preach and teach. Paul is not saying that everyone needed to do the same. He makes it quite clear, however, that those who ministered in teaching and preaching deserved to be paid for their services. While certain teachers or preachers might decide to follow Paul's example, the church was to be willing to pay their spiritual leaders. They were to honor their leaders by providing for them in their needs.
Notice that Paul says that the elder deserved double honor. Paul is not telling the church that the elder was to be paid twice as much as anyone in the church. He is saying, however, that their ministry was one of tremendous importance. These individuals cared for their souls. They were to be especially honoured and cared for because of the importance of their ministry.
I served some years ago in a church that had always had missionary pastors. On one occasion a national believer, trained in Bible School felt the call of God to return his home town as a pastor. The church refused to contribute anything toward his salary stating that if he wanted to be paid to be a pastor his motivation for serving was very suspicious. Eventually the man moved away and was trained in another occupation so he could make a livelihood. Admittedly, there are individuals in the service of the Lord who are "money-seekers." Paul makes it quite clear, however, that the ministry of the Word is more deserving of financial support than any other work. By honoring our spiritual leadership in this way we also honor God.
Accusations against and Elder (verse 19)
Leaders are not perfect. They can make mistakes and fall into sin just like anyone else. There are times when an elder will be called to give an account of his actions before the people of God. Paul makes it clear that accusations against an elder were serious.
Any accusation against an elder was to be proven before it was brought against him. Two or three witnesses were required to confirm the facts. If what was spoken against the elder was false it could destroy his ministry. Those who spread the lie would be held accountable. It is all too easy to accuse and speak out against the leadership of a church. This can have devastating consequences. While we are to be careful not to let sin remain in the church, we are to confirm our details before we destroy the reputation and ministry of an elder. We are to honor the elders in our church by not quickly and thoughtlessly bringing an accusation against them. We can be guilty of destroying the reputation of an elder by gossip or criticism in small things. The leadership our churches deserve respect. We must be careful not to hinder their ministry by what we say about them.
In verse 20, Paul instructs Timothy about what to do when the accusations against an elder were true. The elder who sinned was to be rebuked publicly. The public rebuke of an elder made it clear where the church stood on this matter. This would be a testimony to the whole church and to the community. It would remind other elders that they had a responsibility to honor God in their actions. It was a testimony to the community as well. The community would see where the church stood on this matter. The church was not to cover over the sin of an elder. They were to expose it and deal with it in the open. Remember, however, that this elder was still deserving of honor. This means that in disciplining him, he was still to be treated with respect, dignity and love. Paul also instructed Timothy that he was to be careful to keep these instructions without partiality. The church was not to show favouritism. Every elder was to be disciplined when the need arose.
Hasty in Laying on Hands (verse 22)
Paul goes on to say that the church was not to be hasty in laying on hands (verse 22). The laying on of hands was for the purpose of appointing an elder to his position in the church. What Paul seems to be telling Timothy is that he was not to be hasty in appointing elders. It was important that these men had proven themselves. We can put people in position who ought not to be there. We need to take our time in selecting elders so that we are assured that they are God’s choice for the church.
In this final section of chapter 5 Paul has some advice to offer to Timothy as his son in the Lord. In verse 22 Paul challenged Timothy to keep himself pure by not sharing in the sins of others. Timothy was to focus his attention on the Lord and serve him with all his heart. No matter what everyone else was doing, he was to keep himself pure and do what was right. All too often when we see others compromising in their faith we feel that we can lower our standards as well. We measure our faith and spirituality by how it compares with other believers and not by how it compares to the Word of God.
Verse 23 tells us that Timothy was frequently ill. It is interesting to note that Timothy was not healed of this illness. Paul very likely had prayed for Timothy about this but Timothy was still sick. Paul's advice to Timothy was to drink some wine for his illness. Wine had value as medicine for Timothy. Paul was telling Timothy to take this wine as medicine. This is significant.
Paul had seen God heal individuals without medicine. There was no question in his mind that God could heal. At the same time he was aware that there were other times when God left a "thorn in the flesh" to keep believers humble and trusting in him. Paul was not against taking medicine. He encouraged Timothy to take some on a regular basis, suggesting that this was the way God may have chosen to give him relief.
Paul concludes by reminding Timothy that the sins of some men were obvious (verse 24). These sins, because they were obvious, were judged quickly. Other sins were not so obvious. They were done in secret, unnoticed by people. These sins would be judged when the individuals stood before God.
The same principle applies to good works. Some works are obvious. Everyone sees these works. The works of others, however, are hidden. They do their good works in secret, unknown to those around them. Just like our sins will one day be uncovered, so will our good works. We will stand before God and receive a reward for faithful service. God is not blind to our sin. He is not blind either to our good works. For this reason we need to be faithful. The day of reward is coming when everything will be exposed.
* Do the elders or spiritual leaders of your church receive the respect they deserve? Explain.
* How important is the role of spiritual leader in the church and community?
* What does Paul teach us in this section about bringing a charge against an elder?
* What do we learn about Paul's view of healing? What role does medicine have in God's healing purposes?
* What does this passage teach us about rewards and judgments?
* Take a moment to pray for your spiritual leaders. Ask God to protect them from the attacks of the enemy.
* Ask God to give your church a deeper respect for its leaders. Ask him to help your church to stand behind its spiritual leaders.
* Ask God to equip your spiritual leaders to minister effectively as God wants them to minister.
* Ask God to expose any hidden sin in your life so you can deal with it immediately.
Read 1 Timothy 6:1-2
Paul concludes his first letter to Timothy with a series of comments on a number of subjects. He begins with some important teaching to Christian slaves. Paul's teaching here has some very practical applications to us in our day as well.
It is important for us to note that while Paul speaks to slaves he does not encourage slavery. He makes it quite clear in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 that slave trading was contrary to the will and purpose of God:
“We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine" (emphasis mine).
While it was not the purpose of God that people be enslaved, slavery was already widely in practice in the culture of the day. What Paul addresses in this chapter has to do with how those who were already slaves should live. Their situation was not ideal nor was it the perfect will of God, but they were slaves and they could not get free from their bondage. What were they to do as believers? How were they to live in their current situation? These were the questions Paul wanted to address.
Paul begins by instructing Christian slaves to consider their masters worthy of full respect. They were to do this so that the name of the Lord would not be slandered. Imagine a Christian slave who decided that because slavery was not God's perfect plan and purpose, he was going to escape from his master and set out on his own. What kind of testimony would this be? His master would not be pleased with him. His reputation in the society would be tarnished because he was not faithful to his master. He would be seen as the one who abandoned his responsibilities. This would not be a good testimony for the Lord. Those who knew him to be a Christian would blaspheme the name of the Lord because of his actions.
It is important to note that not all masters were gentle and compassionate. Some of them were harsh and cruel. Paul makes no distinction between harsh masters and good masters. Both good and bad masters were to be considered worthy of respect. It was not because of their actions that they were considered worthy, but because of their position.
Paul teaches that Christians are to respect those in authority over them. This was true for slaves but also for those in government as well (see Romans 13:1-2). Whether our leaders, masters or bosses are cruel or loving, we need to be faithful workers and citizens. We do this for the sake of our testimony and because we represent the name of the Lord.
The slave was to respect his master through hard work and faithfulness. He was to live in such a way that his master could put complete confidence in him. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. As a servant in the house of Potiphar, he worked so hard that his master put full confidence in him. We read in Genesis 39:4
“Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.”
Joseph gained the favour of his master. Later when he was falsely accused and thrown into jail, Joseph again proved to be faithful. He gained the favour of the warden who so trusted Joseph that he put him in charge of the prison.
“So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, be-cause the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (Genesis 39:22-23)
It would have been so easy for Joseph to become bitter. He could have refused to work because he believed he did not deserve to be a slave or a prisoner. He could have rebelled and protested, but he didn't. Instead, he chose to honor his master and do all he could for him. He served with all his heart, honored God and blessed those who cursed him. God rewarded him for this.
The same is true of David who was pursued by Saul. Saul sought to kill him on numerous occasions. David refused to speak against Saul. He respected him as king and the Lord's anointed. Though he had opportunity to kill Saul, he refused to lift his hand against him. In all this David honored the Lord and the king.
Jeremiah, speaking from the Lord to those who had been exiled to Babylon said:
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. “(Jeremiah 29:7).
Notice that Jeremiah challenged his people to seek the prosperity of the enemy towns where they were enslaved. They were to do everything in their power to bring prosperity to the city of their enemies. They were to plant their crops and harvest them. They were to be model citizens in enemy territory.
What does all this have to do with us today? Perhaps you are married to an unbeliever or find yourself in a difficult marriage. The challenge is to honor your partner and seek to bless him or her. Maybe you are in a work situation you don't like. Possibly your boss is unfair? The challenge for you is to be the best employee you can be. Maybe you have been falsely accused like Joseph. You are to bless those who have persecuted you. We must never fight the battle on Satan's territory. Satan would love to have us get angry and critical. He would love to see us bitter about what has happened to us. We will never defeat Satan by using his tactics. Instead of anger, we must choose love and forgiveness. Instead of lashing out and seeking revenge we are to bless and honor.
This is the challenge of Paul to the slaves of his day. He realized that some of them were living in very difficult situations but he still encouraged them to consider this as an opportunity to bring honor to the Lord. What is your trial? Are you honoring God in that trial? It doesn't matter why we are in this situation. Maybe you are there, like Joseph because someone falsely accused you. This is not your concern. What is your concern is how to live in such a way that God receives the greatest glory in your life through your situation.
Paul speaks to slaves about a second issue in this passage. There were some slaves who had believing masters. Slaves and master might possibly even worship together. In Christ they were brothers and sisters. The temptation was for these slaves to take advantage of their situation. They felt that they should be treated differently now because they were Christians, too. Paul told these slaves that they were not to take advantage of their believing masters. They were to serve them even more faithfully now because they loved them not only as a master but as fellow believers.
Again we need to be clear that Paul is not encouraging slavery. For some of these slaves this was their only means of survival. They served their master and he took care of them and provided for their needs. The believing master was to do all he could to provide for his slaves.
There are situations in life that are not ideal. We live as believers in an imperfect world. Sometimes we find ourselves in difficult situations. Injustice, falsehood and cruelty abound in this sinful earth. These things are not God's plan and purpose but we have to learn to live with them in a way that honors his name. Jesus demonstrated this to us better than anyone. He lived in a world filled with sin. He was falsely accused. Among his very own followers was one who would deny him and another who would betray him. Jesus worked with these men. He lived in the midst of a sinful world and honored his father. He calls us to follow his example.
* What does this passage have to teach us about respect for those in authority over us?
* What kind of example do you have in your work-place?
* Do you have a difficult boss? Do you find yourself in a very difficult work or life situation? What is the challenge of this passage for you?
* Do you find yourself under a difficult boss or in a challenging life situation? Ask God to bless those who are making things difficult for you. Ask him to give you grace to honor him in your situation.
* Do you know someone who is going through a difficult time? Take a moment to commit them to the Lord. Ask God to keep them and help them to honor him in their problems.
* Thank the Lord that He willingly took on flesh and lived in a sinful world out of love for us.
Read 1 Timothy 6:3-10
Paul shifts his attention in this next section of chapter 6 to the subject of false teachers. Paul told Timothy that those who taught false doctrine were conceited. What is the connection between false teachers and pride?
The Lord Jesus is God. This is clear to all who open their eyes to see Him. Jesus healed the sick and restored sight to the blind. He spoke as one who had authority. This authority was obvious as even the demons fled at the sound of his voice. Anyone with an open mind and heart had to admit that Jesus was everything He claimed to be. Those who reject the obvious signs and refuse His clear teaching are a proud people who refuse to humble themselves before the Lord and accept Him and His teaching. False teachers set themselves up against the Lord Jesus and call people to believe them instead.
We can all fall into pride in one way or another. Anytime we turn our back on the teaching of the Lord because we feel we have a better way we are acting with pride. What an insult this is to the Lord Jesus. As believers we need to realize that the Lord knows what is right. His ways are perfect. We need to humble ourselves and surrender to His purpose and teaching. False teachers were conceited because they believed and taught that they had a better way than God himself. They placed their own ideas in opposition to the clear teaching of the Word of God.
Paul has something else to say about false teachers in this passage. He told Timothy in verse 4 that they had an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels. This was a result of their pride. These false teachers wanted to appear intelligent and knowledgeable. They argued about words and ideas. Their teachings were fuelled by the flesh and the devil. This was obvious in the results. Wherever they went they stirred up controversy and quarrels. They would try to outdo one another. They wanted to be right and would forsake love and compassion for the sake of proving their point. This resulted in envy, strife and suspicion. Wherever these teachers went, the fruit of evil was evident.
These false teachers were dividing the church. They sowed confusion and disharmony with their false teachings. They were a danger to the unity of the body of Christ. Paul reminded Timothy in verse 5 that these false teachers had corrupt minds. Their minds were proud, unloving, divisive and evil.
Paul went on to say in verse 5 that false teachers believed that godliness was a means of financial gain. They were not interested in the glory of God. They were interested in money and personal profit. They expected to be paid to teach error. Religion was a means of financial and personal gain for these individuals. They used the name of Christ to advance their own financial interests. Paul was a firm believer in the fact that those who preached and taught the truth deserved to be paid for their service. Paul is not saying that we should never accept any financial reward for our ministry as servants of God. What he is saying however, is that these false teachers had a very unhealthy interest in money and financial gain. This became a motivating factor in their preaching and teaching. They preached and taught to make money, not to build up the kingdom.
In verses 6-8 Paul reminds us in that godliness with contentment has great gain. Notice how he uses the word contentment with godliness. Contentment accepts whatever God provides. It does not pursue more than what is provided. It rejoices and is satisfied with God's provision. It does not push and strive for more but rejoices in what it has.
How wonderful it is to be content and satisfied. Those who strive for more and more never find the satisfaction they desire. How different it is for the believer who accepts and learns to enjoy everything the Lord gives. What freedom this brings. God's peace fills us and we are able to rest in confidence that He does what is best, and provides all that is necessary.
Paul challenges us to rest in the provision of God. He reminds us in verse 7 that we came into this world with nothing and we will take absolutely nothing out with us. Our pursuit of money and possessions is futile. Paul instructs Timothy in verse 8 to be content with having enough food to eat and clothes to wear. His focus was not to be on the things of this world but on the kingdom of God. The pursuit of riches will ultimately cause a believer to fall into temptation (verse 9). If we choose to feed the desires of the flesh we will find that it has a terrible appetite. It will never be satisfied. Its desires will quickly overtake us and ultimately plunge us into ruin.
The love of money has been the basis for all kinds of evil in this world. Murder, immorality and crimes of all sorts have been committed out of a love and pursuit of money. Countless people have wandered from the faith because of the lure of money. Some have turned from the call of God in their lives. Others have compromised their faith and testimony in business out of their desire for more. Paul warns us here of the dangers of getting caught up in the unhealthy pursuit of worldly possessions.
Paul tells Timothy in this passage that false teachers were proud individuals who did not hesitate to challenge the clear teaching of Christ and promote their own ideas. They created confusion and disharmony in the body of Christ. They divided believers and caused division in the church. They loved money and possessions. Their focus was not to build up the body of Christ but to build up their own personal interests.
The challenge for us as true believers and preachers of the Word is for us to accept without question the clear teaching of Christ. The Lord is searching for a people who will trust Him and His Word completely. He is calling for a people who will not only trust what He says but will also be satisfied with his provision. Those He is seeking have a deep love for Him and a sincere interest in building his kingdom.
* What does Paul mean when he says that a false teacher is proud?
* Have you ever questioned the teaching of the Word of God or tried to reinterpret what seemed to be clear to suit your need? What does this tell us about what we think of Christ and his Word?
* What is your motivation in serving the Lord? Have you ever been tempted to pursue the things of this world?
* How important is contentment in the Christian life? What benefits does contentment bring?
* Have you ever questioned the Word of God? Ask God to increase your faith and trust in him.
* Ask God to give you his contentment in the situation you find yourself in now. Ask Him to give you grace to trust and enjoy what He has already provided.
* Are their false teachers in your midst? Ask the Lord to reveal himself to them in a very clear way.
Read 1 Timothy 6:11-21
In this final section of his first letter to Timothy, Paul has some personal words for his son in the faith. Paul was very concerned about Timothy and his spiritual walk. In this final section, Paul gives his son Timothy godly advice and counsel.
Paul begins in verse 11 by challenging Timothy to flee from the issues he has been talking about in the first part of this chapter, that is, the pride of false teachers and how they divided the church and loved money. Paul expected greater things of Timothy.
Notice the use of the word "flee." Pride, divisiveness and the love of money are deadly enemies. They will ensnare and destroy their victims. Paul encouraged Timothy to escape their grip. Timothy was instead to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentle-ness. We will take a moment to examine these qualities individually.
Righteousness is the condition of someone who is in a right relationship with God. This is only possible through the work of the Lord Jesus. Through His work all barriers have been broken down and all who have trusted in His work are declared righteous by God. Notice, however, that while we are declared righteous through the work of the Lord Jesus, we must still pursue this righteousness.
Paul is challenging Timothy here to make it his priority to maintain this right standing with God. Nothing was to distract him from living for Christ and pursuing even greater intimacy with him? The word "pursue" has the sense of striving or fighting for. To pursue something requires hard work, discipline and effort. Timothy was to jealously guard this new found relationship with God. He was to let nothing come between him and his Saviour.
Timothy was also to pursue godliness. If Timothy was to pursue godliness he would have to deal with everything that kept him from being godly. This meant that he would have to remove the sin and evil in his life. He would have to deal with his ungodly actions, habits and thoughts. He was to strive to become more and more like the God who created him in character and actions.
The faith Timothy was to pursue is an absolute confidence in God and His Word. The enemy would seek to shake Timothy's confidence in God and His Word. He would try to cause him to doubt His provision and enabling. This was what he did to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Faith trusts when logic tells us there is no hope. It is a confident assurance of God's trustworthiness. If Timothy was to become a true man of God he would have to place absolute confidence in God and His Word.
Timothy is also called to love. This love was the motivation for all he did. He was to love and serve God out of a heart overflowing with love. He was to love his brothers and sisters in Christ and treat them with the respect they deserved. There are no hidden agendas in love. Love does not serve for what it can get. Its intentions are honorable. Only when love is our motivation can we truly honor God and those we serve.
Endurance is the next characteristic on Paul's list. Timothy needed to have a purpose and stick with it. He was not to be distracted from that purpose. Endurance implies struggle and hardship. Becoming godly will not be without its difficulties. There will be opposition from all sides, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Paul calls Timothy to endure these hardships and to pursue godliness, faith, love and righteousness whatever the cost.
The last characteristic mentioned by Paul is gentleness. Paul expected Timothy to pursue gentleness in his ministry. He was not to be harsh or to push himself on people. He was to treat those he ministered to with respect and dignity. He was to love and honor them as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul told Timothy to fight the good fight of faith (verse 12). It is interesting that Paul uses the word "fight." This makes it clear that the Christian life will not be easy. Satan will do everything in his power to defeat us. We must be prepared to do battle. He will tempt us through our fleshly desires. He will cause us to become discouraged. He will seek to bring doubt and confusion. Who among us has not felt these temptations and attacks of the enemy? To be godly is to fight a fight with faith in God, His Word and His enabling.
Timothy was to take hold of eternal life. The idea here is to live in the reality of this eternal life. All too many believers do not live in the reality of eternal life. They live for this world alone. Their focus is on the things of this world. When we take hold of eternal life our priorities change. This world loses its attractiveness. This influences how we minister and live. Timothy was to live with eternity in his eyes.
Paul reminded Timothy in verse 12 that he had already taken hold of that life when he made a confession before many witnesses. We are not told the circumstances of this confession. It is not clear whether Paul was speaking about a single incident or if he is speaking about Timothy's witness wherever he went. What is clear is that Timothy had taken hold of eternal life. He had trusted in the Lord Jesus and committed himself to living for Him. Timothy was to keep this as his focus in life.
In verse 13 Paul commanded Timothy, in the sight of God and the Lord Jesus, to keep the commands he had given him. He reminded him that it was God who gave life. He was also able to take life. Timothy was to live his life with a healthy fear and respect for this life-giving God before whom he was accountable as pastor of the church in Ephesus.
Paul commanded Timothy to keep his commands before the Lord Jesus who had made a good confession before his accuser Pilate. Jesus had been faithful unto death. He willingly laid down his life for his people. We now have an obligation before him to do the same. He set an example for us. He did not call us to do anything that He himself was not willing to do for us.
In light of these facts, Paul further challenged Timothy to endure and remain true to the Word, no matter what obstacles came his way. He was to keep himself without spot or blame until the Lord Jesus returned. This would not be easy. It would mean suffering hardship, trial and persecution.
In verses 15-16 Paul overflows in praise for the Lord God and his wonderful work. He reminds us that Jesus is the blessed and only Ruler. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. There is no one above him. He rules and controls all things. He cannot die. He will rule forever. We can place our confidence in Him.
This God lives in unapproachable light. He is an awesome and holy God that we could never approach on our own. To approach him in our sin is to perish. In the days of the Old Testament those who approached the mountain on which God descended were immediately struck dead. He is a God to be respected and feared. No one has ever seen God. He is invisible and does not have a form like we do.
These thoughts about God seem to fill Paul's heart. He praises him and thanks Him for who he is. In light of who He is, who would not want to honor and serve him? Paul challenges Timothy to reflect on the character of this awesome God. He was to remember what His Son did for him on the cross. He was to let these thoughts motivate him to live in light of eternal life.
Paul advised Timothy to speak to the rich and tell them not to be proud (verses 17-19). The temptation for the rich was to see themselves as being more important than the poor. Timothy was to challenge them not to put their trust and hope in their wealth. Their wealth was uncertain and could be taken from them in an instant. Instead, they were to put their hope in the Lord God who would provide everything for their enjoyment. There are two things we need to see here in this verse.
First we need to understand how easy it is for us to place our confidence in riches and not in God. It is easy to feel we need God when we don't have any other way. Often God is our last resort. We pray when we have no other choice instead of trusting God from the beginning. This was the temptation for the rich. Paul challenged them, however, to cast off this self-dependence and trust in God. No matter how much we have we still need to trust the Lord. We still need to surrender to Him.
The second thing that Paul tells us here is that God will provide everything for our enjoyment. I find this particularly interesting. How often we fall into the trap of saying that God will only provide our necessities. God is not harsh. He does not hold back His blessings. He actually delights in pouring out His blessings on us. He cares deeply for us and our need but He will also provide for our refreshment and enjoyment as well.
Paul told Timothy to command those who were rich to be rich in good deeds and to be generous with what they had received from God. They were to do so realizing that God would care for them in their needs as well.
Notice that not only would God care for their needs if they gave generously, but in giving they would be able to lay up treasures for themselves in heaven. This is part of what Paul meant when he challenged Timothy to live in the light of eternity. Instead of storing up possessions for this life, the rich were to think about the life to come. Instead of building up their earthly bank account they were to build up their heavenly bank account by using the resources God had given them to minister to others.
Paul's final piece of advice to Timothy was to guard what had been entrusted to his care. The context of this verse would indicate that Paul is speaking about the truth of the Word. He told him to guard this truth by turning away from godless chatter and opposing ideas. All too many people had fallen prey to the opposing ideas of human logic. In doing so they had wandered from the truth. Paul challenged Timothy to do his best to guard the truth that had been entrusted to him. He was to preach it, believe it and live it. He was to fight for truth and turn away from those who would teach another doctrine.
Living the life God requires will not be easy. It will require effort and endurance on our part. If we are to become the men and women that God requires, we will have to take Paul's advice to Timothy seriously.
* What particular temptations do you need to flee from today?
* What do we learn in this section about the Chris-tian life as a battle? Should we expect that things will be easy for us? What particular battles have you had to face?
* What does it mean to take hold of eternal life? Are you living with eternity on your heart and mind?
* What do we learn about how God gives? Does he give with hesitation?
* Have you ever found yourself trusting in your own resources rather than God? What challenge does Paul give to us here?
* Ask the Lord to keep you true to Him and His Word.
* Ask God to set your mind on eternity and keep you from living only for this world.
* Thank the Lord that He gives generously. Ask Him to give you this generous spirit.
* Ask God to give you the strength to endure to the end and to fight the good fight of faith.
Read 2 Timothy 1:1-18
This is the second letter Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith. Paul's concern for Timothy is obvious as he challenged him to move forward in the gospel and the cause of the Lord Jesus.
Paul begins his letter by introducing himself. It was not that Timothy needed any introduction. What is important for us to note is that Paul was quite proud of his calling. He reminded Timothy that he was an apostle of Christ according to the will of God. Paul had been chosen by God for this ministry. Paul never lost sight of the tremendous privilege and honor it was to be called of God to this role. Notice that he was an apostle according to the promise of life that was in Christ Jesus. It was this promise of life that Paul preached. The Lord Jesus came to offer life through the forgiveness of sin. Paul was chosen to be the messenger to share that promise with the world.
Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, whom he considered to be a dear son. As a spiritual father to Timothy, Paul wanted Timothy to become everything he could be in the Lord. Notice in verse 2 that Paul's personal desire was that Timothy experience the grace, mercy and peace of God.
In verse 3 Paul told Timothy that he thanked God, as he served with a clear conscience, remembering him day and night in his prayers. There are two things we need to note here.
First, Paul served the Lord with a clear conscience. As he served the Lord there were no false motives. There was nothing between him and his God. He was a clean vessel through which the Lord could flow.
Second, Paul remembered Timothy day and night in his prayers. As Timothy served the Lord, Paul cried out to God on his behalf. What an encouragement this would have been for Timothy. What a blessing it would have been for him to know that the great apostle Paul prayed night and day to God on his behalf. This shows us the deep concern of the apostle for his son in the faith.
Notice the love Paul has for Timothy in this passage. In verse 4 Paul speaks of Timothy's tears. We are not told when Timothy shed those tears. It may have been when he left Paul to serve in Ephesus. Obviously, Paul was touched by those tears and wanted all the more to see Timothy.
Timothy had grown up in a home with a grandmother who loved the Lord. This faith was passed down to Timothy's mother. Now Timothy carried that same flame of faith.
Paul also encouraged Timothy to fan into flame the gift God had given him. That gift had been given to him through the laying on of hands. It was by means of this gift that Timothy would pass on his faith to others.
Our spiritual gifts need to be developed. These gifts are like smouldering fires. It is possible for them to go out if they are not used. On the other hand, they can also be fanned into flame and become very useful for the king-dom. These gifts can be used powerfully for the kingdom of God or you can chose not to use them at all. You can let them shine brightly or you can let the flame slowly die. God has given you a spiritual gift for a reason. He has uniquely equipped you to minister in a special way. He wants to use you in the area of your gifting. Your ministry will be unique. It will not look like anyone else's ministry. You have a very special role to play in the body of Christ. How important it is that we fan the gifts God has given us into full flame so that God’s kingdom is expanded.
It appears that Timothy sometimes hesitated to step out in faith. Paul reminded him, however, that God had not given him a spirit of timidity. Instead he had given a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.
How often have we, too, hesitated to step out in faith? We feel unworthy or incapable of the task to which the Lord has called us. How the enemy loves it when we hide in our corner. He delights to see timid Christians refusing to minister because they feel unworthy or inadequate. As long as believers surrender to these feelings, they will never be useful for the kingdom of God. The spirit of timidity keeps us from reaching out. This spirit is not from God.
The spirit that God gives us is a spirit of power. God's Spirit in us is a conquering Spirit. With God's Spirit in us we are not afraid to face the enemy because we know that we are more than conquerors. God is the God of the impossible. Paul challenged Timothy to place his confidence in the all-powerful God. All too many believers fail because they have never tapped into the source of power that is theirs in Christ. Instead they are caught up in a sense of powerlessness and inadequacy. This is not from God. He has given us His spirit of power.
God has not only given us a spirit of power but also of love. Power without love is very dangerous. There have been powerful leaders throughout history who have not demonstrated love. Their concern was for themselves and not for others. Love enables us to see and feel the needs of others. Love willingly sacrifices all for the sake of those it serves. God has given us a spirit of love. Any Christian who does not serve out of love fails to serve as God requires.
Notice also that the spirit that God gives us is a spirit of self-discipline. This spirit allows us to control our passions and desires so that our lives can be used for the glory of God. This spirit submits itself to the will and control of the Lord Jesus. Paul demonstrated this self-discipline in 1 Corinthians 9:27 when he said: "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
The spirit that God gives us as believers is a spirit of self-discipline. It is a sacrificial spirit. It is a spirit that will give of itself, its time and its efforts for the sake of the king-dom. It is a spirit that has a single focus.
God had given Timothy a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. For this reason he did not need to be ashamed to testify about the Lord Jesus. There were individuals who looked at Paul's life and wondered why his God allowed him to suffer so much in ministry. They asked the same question of the Lord Jesus. They told Jesus that if he was the Son of God then he should come down from the cross (Matthew 27:40).
Paul reminded Timothy that suffering was the result of sin and evil in the world. Men and women reject the Lord Jesus and the message of salvation. This was no reason to be ashamed, however. Soldiers fighting in a war know that they will have to suffer. They are not ashamed of their suffering but bear that suffering with honor. They are proud to suffer for a cause that is noble and right. Paul invited Timothy to join him in suffering for the cause of the gospel.
Paul reminded Timothy of what the Lord Jesus had done. The Lord Jesus saved us and called us to a holy life (verse 9). We were destined to an eternity of separation from God. The Lord Jesus rescued us from the hands of the enemy. He forgave us and made us His children. We were set apart to live a holy life. In being called to live a holy life, we were set free from our futile life of sin.
Not only did Jesus come to bring us to the Father but he also came to destroy death. Death can no longer hold us. We have been set free from its chains. This does not mean that we will never die. What it does mean, however, is that death is not an end for us. For those who have accepted the Lord Jesus there is the hope of eternal life in His presence through the gospel message.
Paul had been appointed by God to be a herald, apostle and teacher (verse 11). God had called him to spread the news of this gospel. He was to announce it wherever he went. He was to teach it and lead God's people to live in the truth of this gospel. Paul was not ashamed of this call on his life. He was proud to be an ambassador of Christ to share this message with all who would listen.
This message, as wonderful as it was, was not accepted by all. In fact, not only did people reject the truth, they were hostile to those who preached it. For this reason, Paul had been thrown into prison. Paul was not ashamed to be in prison for this cause. He believed in what he preached. He was convinced that the Lord Jesus would not abandon him in his prison cell. He believed that the Lord would complete the work He had begun in him. He did not allow his suffering to distract him from his confidence in God.
Paul was absolutely convinced that though his circumstances looked bad, his God was still in control. Nothing could stop the plan and purpose of a sovereign Lord. This was cause to lift up his head and be proud. No matter what the enemy did to him, Paul knew that he would win the battle by simply clinging to his Lord and trusting him.
Paul challenged Timothy in verse 13 to follow carefully the teaching he had given him with faith and love. It is quite possible to believe the right doctrine and never come to faith in the Lord Jesus. Being a believer is much more than holding onto a set of teachings or living in a certain way. There are many people who are Christians in name only. They follow the teachings of Christ and they live the way He would have them to live but they have never put their complete trust in Him alone for their salvation. Paul tells Timothy that he was to keep the teaching with faith in Christ.
Notice second that Timothy was also to keep the sound teaching he had received with love. I have seen churches that were very strong on the truth but had little tolerance for those who did not believe exactly as they did. I have been in churches that had all the right doctrine but demonstrated little love among themselves. Truth in itself is not enough. Scripture makes it clear that the greatest commandment of all was to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10:27). You can know the truth but fail miserably in your Christian life because you do not love as Christ calls you to love.
Paul encouraged Timothy also to guard the good deposit that had been entrusted to him (verse 14). From the context we understand that this deposit was the truth of what the Lord Jesus had come to do. The deposit that Paul speaks of here seems to be the wonderful hope of the gospel and the new life it brings. Paul challenged Timothy never to lose sight of this wonderful truth. He was to keep his eyes fixed on Jesus and his work. The Spirit of God who lived in him would enable him to do this (verse 15).
By way of warning Timothy of the dangers of not guarding the deposit entrusted to him, Paul tells him in verse 15 that there were people in the province of Asia who deserted him. He mentions Phygelus and Hermogenes by name. We are not told why they had abandoned Paul. It may have been that they were ashamed of Paul's chains and the suffering he had to face for the cause of the gospel. Perhaps they were willing to believe in a God who would keep them from trouble but had a hard time accepting a God who allowed his servants to suffer for preaching the truth.
In verse 16 Paul also mentions Onesiphorus and his household. He told Timothy how this man and his family had often refreshed him in his suffering. Paul told Timothy that this family was not ashamed of his chains. Paul was very grateful to Onesiphorus because, when he heard that Paul had been brought to Rome, he searched him out in order to minister to him. Onesiphorus had also been a wonderful blessing to the apostle in Ephesus (verse 18). While Paul could not return the favour, he prayed that God would notice his efforts and bless him abundantly when he stood before Him on the Day of Judgment.
Paul seems to be writing out of a sense of disappointment. He had seen many people abandon him in his trial and imprisonment. Many turned from him in shame when he was arrested and led to prison. Are we willing to suffer for the gospel? Will we fan into flame the gifts that God had given us and step out in power, love and self-control to spread the news of Christ and his work no matter what that means or will we fall away in shame and hide in our corner afraid? This section encourages us to stand firm and unashamed of the Lord Jesus and his work.
* What do we learn about the relationship between Paul and Timothy?
* What gifts has God given you? How have you been fanning them into flames?
* What does Paul teach us about suffering for the gospel? How have you suffered for the cause of the gospel?
* Paul told Timothy that God had given him a spirit of power, love and self-control. Do you see evidence of this spirit in your life and ministry?
* Is it possible to know that truth and not know the Saviour? Explain.
* Ask the Lord to give you a “Timothy” to encourage and strengthen.
* Ask God to show you the gifts He has given you. Ask him to show you how to use those gifts for the sake of the kingdom.
* Ask the Lord to forgive you for the times you have been ashamed of Him and not stood up for His name.
* Do you know someone who has fallen away from the truth because of difficulties? Take a moment to pray for them.
* Ask God to demonstrate his Spirit of power, love and self-control in you in a greater way.
Read 2 Timothy 2:1-7
In chapter 1 Paul challenged Timothy not to be ashamed of suffering for the cause of the gospel. Some had turned away from the Lord when they understood they were going to suffer for his name. They were ashamed of Paul and the fact that he had been imprisoned for his faith.
Paul calls Timothy, in this chapter, to be strong in the grace of Christ. The grace of Christ has to do with His favor toward us. That favor is demonstrated in many ways. It is demonstrated in the gifts He gives and the strength He provides. Timothy was to open his heart and receive all that God wanted to pour out on him so that he could be effective in the ministry of the gospel.
Not only was Timothy to be strong in the grace of Christ but he was to teach others what he had heard from Paul. His responsibility was to equip and train reliable men so that they could equip others. Timothy was to train up a team of faithful workers who could stand with him. There was much to be done. Timothy could not do it himself. He needed to find reliable believers to stand with him in his efforts.
We need the gifts God has given our brothers and sisters in Christ. No army can function with one soldier. We all have a role to play. Each person is necessary. Paul challenged Timothy to see it as his responsibility to build up a team of faithful soldiers to stand with him for the cause of the gospel. Pride will keep us from working with others. The enemy loves to see believers struggling on their own. It is much easier to defeat a single overworked believer than one who is in close fellowship and partner-ship with his brothers and sisters. Timothy was to make every effort to surround himself with others who could stand with him in ministry.
In the next few verses Paul uses illustrations from every-day life to show Timothy how he was to live as a true servant of God. In this we see the father heart of Paul toward Timothy his son in the faith. In these illustrations he gives Timothy three important principles for his ministry and Christian life. We can only touch on these principles briefly in this context but they deserve our careful consideration.
Discipline and Focus
In verse 3 Paul used the illustration of a soldier. He told Timothy that he was to endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ. A good soldier did not get involved in civilian affairs. His life was dedicated to pleasing his commanding officer (verse 4). One of the key characteristics of a soldier is discipline and focus.
A good soldier knows the seriousness of the battle. He does not have time to concern himself with the affairs of everyday life. He cannot afford to let his guard down. The enemy is all around. To let his guard down even for a moment was to perish. He needed to be disciplined, focused and alert at all times.
Paul encourages Timothy to be as disciplined and focused in his ministry as a soldier in the midst of battle. He was not to get caught up in worldly and trivial affairs but to please the Lord and to do His will. What sacrifices are you ready to make for the sake of the kingdom? What distracts you from the ministry that God has given you? Are you serving the Lord as a disciplined and focused soldier?
While the first illustration speaks of battle and warfare, this second illustration speaks of games (verse 5). Paul speaks to Timothy about an athlete who competed in the games. If the athlete was to win the victor's crown, he needed to compete according to the rules of the game. An athlete who cheated would be disqualified. The only way to win was to play according to the rules. Paul is showing Timothy the importance of obedience in the Christian life. Sometimes we forget the importance of absolute obedience. We cut corners and compromise at times. Paul reminds us that just as the athlete can be disqualified by not obeying the rules of the game, so we can be disqualified ourselves in our walk with God by not walking in absolute obedience.
If we want to please the Lord God we will have to put aside our own ideas and do things God's way. This means strict obedience to all that the Word of God teaches. This means dealing with every sin in our life and confessing it to the Lord. It means absolute sincerity and honesty in all our dealings. If we are to serve the Lord and expect to be rewarded we will have to do things His way and live in absolute obedience.
Paul’s third illustration in verse 6 is of a farmer. The farmer has to work hard. He is up early in the morning and sometimes works until late at night. When the farmer comes home at night he is hungry and tired. His muscles are sore and his hands are calloused. Sometimes he has to work even when he doesn’t feel well because he knows that a good harvest depends on his hard work. The work is exhausting but the farmer also knows that there is a reward in the end. That hardworking farmer will be the first to receive a share of his crops. In other words, the day will come when he will be rewarded for his efforts by harvesting the crops he worked so hard to obtain. His efforts would not be in vain. The work was hard and there were many sacrifices, but God would bless the efforts of his hands.
Paul is telling Timothy that the work of ministry was a hard work. There were sacrifices to be made and long hours of painful toil but the Lord would bring fruit from those efforts. Timothy was not to be afraid to work hard. He would not always be understood. He would face many disappointments in life and ministry. There would be long hours and many obstacles but God would use his faithful efforts to expand His kingdom.
Paul concluded this section by challenging Timothy to reflect on what he had been teaching him. He reminded him that the Lord would open his mind and give him even greater insight on how this teaching applied personally to him.
The work of the kingdom of God is a team effort requiring the focus and discipline of the soldier, the obedience of the athlete and the hard work of a farmer. As we serve faithfully in this way we can be sure that God will use us to bring in a harvest for His name.
* What do we learn about the importance of working as a team? Why do we need others in ministry?
* Who do you have to encourage and pray with you in your ministry?
* Is there anything in your life that you are not willing to sacrifice for the expansion of His kingdom? Is there anything that distracts you from being a more effective servant of God?
* How important is obedience to the Lord? Are there any ways in which you have compromised in your walk and service of God?
* Consider the three illustrations here in this section (the soldier, the athlete and the farmer). Which of these illustrations speaks particularly to you and why?
* Ask God to give you brothers and sisters to surround you in ministry.
* Ask God to search your heart to see if there is any area of your life where you are not living in absolute obedience to His Word.
* Ask God to help you not to get distracted in the work of the kingdom but to have the discipline and focus of a soldier.
* Thank the Lord that after all our hard work he promises a harvest. Thank him for any harvest you have already seen.
Read 2 Timothy 2:8-15
Paul has been speaking to Timothy about persevering in the Christian life. He has reminded him that the Christian life will not always be easy. Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel. He wrote to Timothy to remind him that he should not be surprised to see that he had to suffer. While Paul does not want to see Timothy suffer he preferred to see him be obedient to the Lord no matter the cost. In this section, Paul spoke to Timothy and challenged him to stand firm despite the obstacles that would come his way.
This section begins with the challenge to remember the Lord Jesus. There are several things Paul wanted Timothy to remember about the Lord Jesus. He wanted him to remember first how He was raised from the dead.
The Lord Jesus died for a very particular reason. He died for our sins. He became the sacrificial lamb to bring us to God. The fact that He rose from the dead is an indication that His death was acceptable to the Father. He rose in victory over Satan, death and sin. If our Lord rose from the dead there are two things that are true. First, He is alive today. This is our hope. Second, we also can have victory over sin, the grave and the devil because of Him. What hope this gives us in the midst of obstacles and trials in life. Death itself is not the end for us. Even if we have to lay down our lives, we still have this wonderful hope. This was to encourage Timothy to keep going even when life was difficult.
The second thing that Paul wanted Timothy to remember about the Lord Jesus was that he was a descendant of David. As a descendant of David, the Lord Jesus was fully man. He identified with us in our humanity. He went through all that we go through. He suffered what we suffer. This means that the Lord Jesus perfectly under-stood any suffering that Timothy faced. He had suffered and died for the cause He represented. Again this was to encourage Timothy to face the difficulties that would come his way.
The whole message of the gospel hinges on these two important truths. Jesus humbled himself and took on the form of a man. He lived, suffered and died on the cross for our sins. He rose victorious over the grave. Because of His life, death and resurrection He is our hope.
It was for these truths that Paul was suffering (verse 9). The truth of the gospel is a wonderful truth but not everyone is ready to receive it. This simple truth can set the captives free. It has the power to release the sinner from the grip of Satan. For this reason, the enemy reacts violently against those who preach it. Paul told Timothy that he had been chained like a common criminal for preaching the good news about Jesus. This is the nature of the ministry to which we have been called. We have been called to proclaim the truth to those who have been held captive by the lies of the enemy. It is a truth that will set people free from the bondage of their sin and hopelessness. The enemy hates this truth and will do all he can to keep it from reaching the ears of those who need to hear.
One thing that comforted Paul in his suffering and imprisonment was that while he was chained, the Word of God could never be chained. The enemy could restrain Paul but he could not hinder the Word of God. The history of the church has shown this over and over again. In times of intense persecution the church has grown. The Word of God continues to have an effect in the lives and hearts of those it touches. Satan has never been able to stop the spreading of the Word of God. Paul was in prison but the Spirit of God was continuing to do his work. In this Paul found great hope. God's Word would ultimately triumph over the forces of evil.
Notice also that Paul knew that if he was called to die for Christ and His cause, he would also live with Him. He had a wonderful hope of an eternity in the presence of His Lord. To die was to be with Christ (verse 11). The worst the enemy could do to him was to send him directly to the arms of his beloved Saviour.
If Timothy endured with Christ he would also reign with him (verse 12). There is a reward for those who persevere. They will be with Christ in glory. There in the presence of Christ they will live as victorious saints. They will live as kings and queens in the presence of Christ, having overcome and conquered in His name. The sufferings of this life are only temporary. To die is to live forever. To endure is to reign with Christ.
The only way we can lose is to turn our backs on the Lord. Paul reminded Timothy in verse 12 that if we disown the Lord he will disown us but even if we are faithless God will remain faithful because he cannot disown himself (verse 13).
The word "disown" used in verse 12 means to say "no", to refuse or to reject. Paul is making it quite clear that if we reject the Lord Jesus we will perish. On that day when we stand before him, if we have not accepted him as our Saviour, he will turn his back on us. How important it is for us to open our hearts and lives to him. To reject the Lord Jesus is to seal our fate. If we disown Him or have nothing to do with Him in this life we should not expect that He will accept us in the life to come.
Paul went on to say that if we are faithless God will remain faithful. To understand what Paul is saying here we need to ask ourselves an important question. To what or to whom is God faithful? One interpretation is that God will always be faithful to His Word and His character. In His Word He makes it clear that He will punish sin. If we are faithless, we can expect that He will judge us as He promised. This is what His Word teaches and we can be sure that God will always be faithful to His Word. He will not make any exceptions. To disown Him is to perish. To be faithless is to suffer the consequences according to the clear teaching of His Word.
In verse 14 Paul told Timothy that he was to warn his people about these things. The truth of the Word of God was very simple. To reject the Lord Jesus was to perish; to be unfaithful was to suffer the consequences. Theologians have done all kinds of things to this truth. As in the days of Timothy there were individuals who were trying to get around this truth by arguing about words. They complicated the simple truth but debating and interpreting it to suit their needs. Paul warned Timothy about these individuals. They were leading people astray by turning them away from the simplicity of the gospel.
Paul challenged Timothy to keep warning these individuals about what they were doing. They were a constant threat to the body of Christ. They were turning people away from the truth. Way back in the Garden of Eden Satan challenged Eve to question what God said. God told her that she was not to eat from the tree in the centre of the garden. Satan challenged this simple command telling her that God was actually hiding something from her. He complicated the simple truth and led her into disobedience. Many people have fallen into this trap.
Maybe you have met individuals who, instead of accepting the simple truth of the Word have interpreted it to suit their own needs. In verse 15 Paul challenged Timothy to present himself to God as one who was approved. The only way he could be approved by God was by living and preaching the truth. He was to be a workman who had no reason to be ashamed because he correctly handled the Word of Truth. He was to pass on the truth exactly as he had received it. All around him false teachers were teaching their own ideas. They were rejecting the simple truth of the gospel. They were arguing about words and ideas. The truth was being lost in these scholarly debates. Believers were being divided.
The word was meant to be simple. The enemy will do all he can to complicate it. The simple reality, however, is that if we disown the Lord He will disown us. How willing the Lord is to accept us and receive us as His children. If we will turn to Him He will receive us with open arms. To reject Him, however, was to perish eternally. This was the message the apostle Paul had been called to preach. It was a simple message and yet it was a very important message. Paul was willing to suffer whatever was necessary to get this message out to those who were lost in their sin. He was even willing to lay down his life to communicate that truth.
Obviously Timothy found himself in the midst of many who were teaching another gospel. It is quite possible that these men had brilliant and scholarly minds. Like Satan in the Garden of Eden, however, they questioned the words of God. They exchanged the simple truth for a complicated and watered down error that led people astray. Paul reminded Timothy of the simplicity of the gospel and challenged him to remain faithful to what he had heard.
* Paul speaks of the gospel in this section as the message that Christ as a descendant of David was raised from the dead. How is the gospel found in these two truths?
* What does Paul mean when he tells us that if we disown the Lord He will disown us? Why is this message so important to communicate?
* What does this passage teach us about the hope that Paul had even in death?
* What do we learn about how the enemy will attack the truth and try to complicate and confuse it? Have you seen evidence of this in your community?
* Ask the Lord to help you to be a workman who handles the Word of God correctly.
* Thank the Lord that He has made the truth so simple that all can understand it.
* Thank the Lord for the wonderful hope the gospel gives to all who will believe it. Ask Him to give you grace to live a life worthy of your call to this gospel.
* Ask God to open the eyes of your friends and neighbours to this simple truth of the gospel.
Read 2 Timothy 2:16-26
As children of God we must demonstrate to the world the difference the Lord Jesus can make in our lives. In this next section of his letter to Timothy, Paul challenges his son in the faith to be a model to those around him. Let’s take a moment to examine Paul’s counsel to Timothy in this regard.
Avoid Godless Chatter
The first word of advice Paul offers Timothy is to avoid godless chatter. What is godless chatter? The context may give us some help. Paul speaks to Timothy about two individuals who had fallen into this error. Hymenaeus and Philetus, according to verse 18, had been teaching that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. They had turned from the truth of the Word of God to teach their own ideas. According to Paul, they were guilty of godless chatter. The things they taught did not bless the body of Christ or lead His people into the truth of God. They shared their own thoughts and ideas and wandered from the Scripture. They were leading many people astray (verse 18). Godless chatter, according to Paul, seems to relate to the teaching of human ideas and thoughts that are contrary to the clear teaching of the Word of God. It is godless in that it does not come from God and His Word nor does it build up the body of Christ.
Notice the warning Paul gives Timothy about this godless chatter. The apostle told Timothy that those who engaged in this type of talk would become more and more ungodly. As long as we are not looking to the Word of God we open ourselves up to all kinds of error and false doctrine. God has given us His Word as a means of knowing the truth about Him and His purposes.
Throughout the history of the church we have seen men and women compromise their faith by twisting the Word of God to suit their needs. They have added to the Word or misinterpreted that Word to suit the culture of their day. Even in our day there are churches that follow programs and techniques and place their confidence in them to grow the church. Some have gone as far as to not preach on certain Biblical themes because they might be offensive to the people who are coming to their church. When we do this we imply that the Word of God is not a sufficient guide to faith and practice. These churches may grow in number but often sacrifice maturity. True faith comes from hearing the Word (see Romans 10:17). When we substitute human ideas and philosophies for the Word of God, ungodliness will be the result.
Notice that the godless teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus spread like gangrene (verse 17). There will always be those who will fall prey to false teaching and godless chatter. This teaching is like gangrene that eats up the flesh. Godless chatter, according to Paul was like gangrene that needed to be cut off lest it spread to the entire body. This false teaching had the capacity to destroy the entire church.
Paul challenges Timothy to remain close to the Word of God. It is the Word of God that will purify and mature us in our walk with God. Scripture must be our authority and guide. We must remain close to it and not fall prey to the godless chatter of human ideas and worldly philosophies.
Turn Away From Wickedness
There are many human philosophies and ideas in this world. We are bombarded daily by those ideas through the media and in our conversations with those around us. There is only one truth that will stand the test of time. Human philosophies and ideas have come and gone. The one truth that remains is the truth of the Word of God. Paul compares this truth to a solid foundation. The Word of God stands firm. God's promises are fully reliable. We can trust what He says. It will guide us and keep us.
Paul reminded Timothy that the Lord knows those who are His. His people are those who confess His name and turn from wickedness. How do we know what wickedness is or what God requires? Is this not written for us in the Word of God? If we are to turn from wickedness we must be a people of the Word of God. We must study it and meditate on it in order to be pointed to the truth of what God requires.
In verse 20 Paul used an illustration of a house. He told Timothy that in a large house there were two types of articles. There are some articles made of gold and silver. There were also articles made of wood and clay. Some articles were unclean and others were clean. For example, imagine inviting guests to your house and serving them food in dirty dishes. The dishes must first be cleaned if they are to be used for our guests or anyone else. The same thing is true in our spiritual lives. In verse 21 Paul reminds us that if we cleanse ourselves we will be instruments for noble purposes. We will be holy and useful to the Master. It is for this reason that we need to flee from wickedness. If we want to be used we must do everything in our power to be clean instruments before God.
As instruments in the hands of God, we must flee the evil desires of our flesh (verse 22). We must die each day to the sinful desires in us. Notice that Paul uses the word "flee" in verse 22. Our flesh wants to be satisfied. It is attracted to evil. Paul tells us that we need to take control of the flesh and deny it. We must see these evil desires as an enemy to our walk with God. We must run from them like Joseph fleeing from Potiphar's wife when she wanted to seduce him (Genesis 39:11-12).
Instead of feeding the flesh we are to pursue righteous-ness, faith, love and peace. Our flesh wants to pursue evil rather than righteousness. The flesh casts doubt through reason and intellect rather than exercising faith. The flesh harbours bitterness, jealousy and strife where there should be love. This leads to conflict and division where peace is needed. To be a noble instrument in the hands of God we must make it our goal to flee the evil desires of the flesh and commit ourselves to God and His purposes.
The Importance of the Body
It is important for us to note in verse 22 that our pursuit of righteousness, faith, love and peace is not done in isolation. Paul makes it clear that we are to pursue these things along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart. As we live and serve with other believers we will be sharpened and encouraged. If we want to become the instruments God wants us to be, we will need to do this in the context of the larger body of Christ.
A well maintained fire will burn brightly. But if a single coal is taken from the fire and set aside it will quickly go out. God has called His people a body. We need the gifts, encouragement and challenge of other believers if we are to minister effectively within the body. We need each other in order to become everything God wants us to be. If you want to be a noble instrument in the hands of the Lord God you will need to surround yourselves with other sincere and godly believers who can challenge and encourage you in the faith.
In verse 23 Paul reminds Timothy that he was to have nothing to do with foolish and “stupid arguments” (NIV). The reason for this is quite clear. These foolish arguments only produced quarrels. Paul says in verse 24 that the Lord's servant was not to be quarrelsome. Instead, he was to be kind to everyone and not resentful. There are those who use the truth of God like a hammer to beat people over the head. They have little tolerance for anyone who does not see things exactly as they do. What Paul seems to be telling Timothy is that the true servant of God could work with differences. He would accept true believers as children of God and his brothers and sisters despite the fact that they differed in certain minor issues. He would show patience with others as they grew in their spiritual walk and understanding.
The false teachers of the day stirred up the people they taught. They argued about words and quarrelled over doctrines. There was little demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit in their teaching. Love, kindness and patience were not present. Paul challenged Timothy to gently instruct those who would listen to him with the hope that God would lead them into repentance and the knowledge of the truth.
It is one thing to defend the truth, and it is another to do so in a godly way. Some of us defend the truth using the tactics of the enemy. We argue, debate and seek to manipulate. This is not God's way. Paul is telling us that we must teach the truth with gentleness. How easy it is for us to try to push our interpretation of the Word on others. We are not to take on the role of the Holy Spirit. It is his role to convince. Paul challenged Timothy to teach with gentleness. He was to stand for the truth but he was also to treat everyone he preached to with love and respect.
It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to bring individuals to their senses and set them free from the snare of the enemy (verse 26). We often try to do the work of the Holy Spirit. We feel that it is our responsibility to convince and change people. The reality of the matter is that our job is simply to proclaim the truth in love and let God do the rest.
If we are to be noble instruments in the hands of the Lord we must make it a priority to be people of the Word. We must avoid all the godless and false notions of individuals who feel they have a better way than God. We are to do our best to be clean instruments in His hands by dealing with any sin that keeps us from Him. We are to open our heart to the correction, encouragement and challenges of the larger body and serve with gentleness and love.
* What do we learn about the importance of the Word of God in our spiritual growth?
* Paul compares false teaching to gangrene in this passage. What does this tell us about the danger of false teaching?
* What is the role of other believers in our spiritual growth? How has the body of Christ helped you to mature?
* What is the danger of truth without love?
* Is it possible for believers to try to take on the role of the Holy Spirit? What is the role of the Holy Spirit? What is our role?
* Ask the Lord to search you to see if there are any areas of sin and rebellion in your heart that would keep you from being a clean instrument in his hands.
* Ask the Lord to give you love for those who differ from you in doctrine and practice.
* Thank the Lord for those who have ministered to you and helped you mature in the faith.
* Ask the Lord to give you gentleness in your minis-try with other people. Ask him to forgive you for the times you have tried to take on the role of the Holy Spirit yourself.
Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9
Paul shifts his attention in this next section to a discussion about the end times. In the first section of chapter 3 he has told Timothy what would happen as the day of the Lord's return drew closer.
The apostle begins in verse 1 by telling Timothy that there would be terrible times to come. The word "terrible" has the sense of fierce, hard to bear, dangerous or harsh. As the day of the Lord's return draws near, we can expect that things will become more difficult for believers and unbelievers alike. Paul explains what he means by this in the verses that follow.
Paul warned Timothy that in the last days, people will be lovers of themselves. They would live to please them-selves and advance their own interest. Concern for neighbors, friends and family will diminish. People will not hesitate to step on each other if by doing so they can serve their own purpose. Self-centeredness will prevail. This will obviously have a tremendous impact on the church and the society as a whole.
Notice second that people will become lovers of money. Along with this, of course, is a love for the things that money will buy. In the end times we can expect to see people becoming more focused on accumulating worldly goods. They will become discontent with what they have. They will pursue the pleasures and possessions of this world. They will spend their efforts trying to obtain more and more. I remember seeing a bumper sticker on a car once that said: "He who dies with the most toys wins." This is the philosophy Paul is speaking about here. It believes that the successful person is one who accumulates the most wealth and possessions in this life. As the day of the Lord draws near we will see more and more people pursuing that goal. God will be pushed aside in favour of money and possessions.
Paul goes on to tell us that people will become boastful and proud. There will be an increasing confidence in the ability of human beings to conquer and prevail. There will be an increasing trust in science, medicine and politics to solve the problems of the world. People's eyes will be turned from God and focused on themselves. People will no longer see their need of God. Instead, in pride and arrogance, they will boast of their own ability and achievements. Again God will be pushed aside.
We will also see an increase of abuse. The Greek word used here speaks of blasphemy, slander and evil speaking. In other words, relationships between individuals will become strained. Men and women will speak evil of each other. They will take advantage of each other and use each other for their own purposes. Again imagine a society of people whose only interest is themselves. They will not hesitate to speak evil and ruin the reputation of their friend or co-worker if by doing so they can advance their own interest.
Children will also be caught up in these terrible times. Paul told Timothy in verse 2 that children would be disobedient to their parents. Respect for parents will diminish. When there is no respect for parents we can be assured that there will also be no respect for teachers or those in authority. Respect for authority will be destroyed. Each person will do what they please. Authorities will become increasingly incapable of dealing with this disrespect. Again imagine the effect this will have on the society.
Ungratefulness is the next thing Paul tells Timothy he could expect to see as the day of the Lord draws near. People will begin to feel that everyone owes them. They will take all they get but not have a true sense of appreciation for it. Instead of receiving with thanksgiving, they will demand their rights. As the day of the Lord draws near, people will demand to be served but never thankful for what they receive.
Ungodliness will also increase. People will not see their need of God. They will turn away from Him and His Word. They will do what they please. Sin will increase in the land. Immorality, dishonesty and evil of all kinds will become more obvious.
Paul went on in verse 3 to say that individuals will be without love. In other words, they will not be guided by love in their relationships with others. They will care nothing for anyone but themselves.
Because they do not operate out of love, they will not forgive those who have harmed them. Instead, they will hold onto bitterness and anger. This will result in the multiplication of all kinds of evil. People will slander each other by saying all kinds of evil. Their tongue would be like a sword cutting and killing its victims.
In the last days people will be out of control. We have already seen that they will be unholy and disrespectful of authority. They will also be unforgiving and unloving. They will drink when they want to drink. They will strike out in anger and vengeance. Paul describes them as brutal in verse 3.
In the last days, Paul told Timothy, people would not be able to be trusted. They will not love good. They will prefer evil. They will lie, cheat and steal because they have no respect for the principles of goodness or for the law of the Lord. People will be treacherous (verse 4). They will willingly turn on their friends or loved ones. They will be a people without principle.
In verse 4 Paul used the word, “rash” to describe the people of the last days. They are reckless in their actions and decisions. They will not consider the consequences of their actions. They will be irresponsible. They will be conceited and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, choosing an immoral lifestyle. They will have no concern for the principles of God. Their only desire will be to please the lusts of the flesh. These people will live for themselves with no respect for God or authority. Imagine a society filled with this sort of people.
What makes all these things worse is the fact that these people have a form of godliness. In other words, they will appear to be spiritual when in reality they are far from God. Their faith will be powerless because they are not in a relationship with God.
Notice in verse 5 that they will deny the power of God, turning their back on the Spirit of God. They will resist his work in them. Paul told Timothy to have nothing to do with these people. Obviously there were people like this already in Paul's day. He reminded Timothy, however, that as the day of the Lord’s return approached there would be more and more of these individuals.
The ungodly individuals of the last day will not be content to keep their evil and rebellious heart to themselves (verse 6). They will seek to influence others, particularly those who are most vulnerable. In that day women, in particular, were uneducated and could easily be taken advantage of. These false teachers will seek out the vulnerable and weak in society. As the day of the Lord approaches more and more people will be deceived. People will fall from the truth to follow the teaching of these evil prophets.
While these individuals will seek out the simple- minded who are easily deceived, this does not mean that they are not intelligent people. Paul tells us in verse 7 that these false teachers were always learning. They were intelligent people who accumulated knowledge. One can have a great deal of knowledge but never come to understand the truth of the Word of God and the work of Christ
In verse 8 Paul compared these individuals to Jannes and Jambres. These men are believed to be the magicians Pharaoh brought out to imitate the signs that God gave Moses to perform before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:11). These individuals will perform signs and wonders to deceive those who listen to them. Jesus tells us that in last days there will be many false signs and wonders. Like these two magicians in Egypt they appear to be very powerful but they are depraved and sinful individuals who are far from the truth and have no place in the kingdom of God.
The encouraging thing in this passage is what Paul tells us in verse 9. He reminded Timothy that these individuals would not get far. While Jannes and Jambres did deceive the people of Moses' day for a time, the truth was ultimately exposed, and God had the victory. There came a time when they could no longer do their signs. Eventually, the whole nation of Egypt was brought to its knees. Moses was shown to be the true prophet of God. The same will happen to these individuals. The day is coming when their lies will be exposed. The truth of God will prevail.
* Describe the last days before Jesus comes. What kind of society should we expect to see as the day of the Lord approaches?
* What evidence do we see in our own society that the day of the Lord is approaching?
* What do we learn about the deception of Satan?
* How easy is it for us to be misled by signs and knowledge? Are all powerful signs from God? How do we avoid being deceived?
* What is the difference between having knowledge and understanding the truth?
* Ask the Lord to keep you from being deceived by the enemy and his false teachers.
* Ask the Lord to help you to remain true to his Word and to be an example in a world that is moving away from the truth.
* Thank the Lord that, just as he revealed the truth in the days of Moses, he will also expose the lies of the enemy in the days to come. Thank him that he will be victorious over the evil and falsehood.
Read 2 Timothy 3:10-17
In the last meditation we saw how Paul reminded Timothy that in the last days there would be many false teachers. The days before the return of the Lord would be terrible days filled with evil and sin. People would turn from God and his purposes. They would do what was right in their own eyes. They would be lovers of themselves and lovers of money and possessions. They would not accept God or His servants. This meant that there would be suffering ahead for those who wanted to serve the Lord with all their heart. In this next section Paul reminds Timothy of the importance of remaining true to the Word in these difficult times.
In light of the difficult times that were ahead, Paul challenged Timothy to remember several things. Notice in verse 10 that he was first to remember the teaching of the Word of God. Already there were many false teachers preaching other messages and many people had been deceived by them. Paul encouraged Timothy to remember the truth so that he would not be deceived by these crafty and smooth teachers of error. Timothy was to teach the truth he had learned from Paul so others would not be deceived by the false doctrines circulating in the day.
Not only was Timothy to remember and pass on the teaching of the apostle Paul but he was also to remember Paul's example. The truth was not just to be taught, but it was to be a way of life. Paul was a man filled with passion for the Lord and his work. He lived a godly life, turning from his sin and seeking the Lord in all he did. Timothy was to be sure to follow the example of Paul, who though often tried and persecuted, never wandered from the truth or compromised his walk with God.
Paul also challenged Timothy to remember his purpose (verse 10). What was Paul's purpose? It was to honor and know the Lord God. On one occasion the apostle Paul looked at all he had accomplished in life and said that it was rubbish compared to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). Paul's great purpose in life was to know Christ. In light of the coming persecution and trials, Paul encouraged Timothy to keep his eyes focused on the Lord. He was not to let anything take his eyes off Christ. He was to set as his goal in life to know the Lord Jesus and to serve Him with all sincerity of heart.
There would be difficult days ahead. In these times Timothy was to walk by faith. To walk by faith is to trust when we cannot see with our eyes or hear with our ears or even understand with our mind. It is to have confidence that whatever happens, God is in control and will accomplish His purposes. It is to accept what God is doing even though we can't see our way out. The enemy will do all he can to cause us to doubt the purpose and character of the Lord God. In these times when everything seems to be dark and unclear we are to trust in our Lord and his Word.
Closely related to this idea of faith is patience. Patience is the ability to remain under a pressure or trial without giving up. To be patient and to endure is to keep going when everything in us wants to stop. It is the ability to remain under stress and pain for as long as it takes for God to accomplish his purposes. This is closely related to faith because we can only endure and be patient when we are trusting God by faith, knowing that He is in control and will use what we are going through to accomplish His greater purpose for our good.
Timothy was also to remember love. How easy it is in the midst of trials and afflictions to lose sight of love. It is easy to become bitter and angry. Paul challenged Timothy to never lose his love for God and for his people. No matter what happened he was to love. All his actions and responses were to come from love. If insulted and persecuted he was to respond with love. Just as Jesus forgave those who crucified him, so Timothy was to show love in everything he did.
Notice in verse 11 that Paul demonstrated all these characteristics in the midst of persecution and suffering. It is relatively easy to be patient and loving when everything is going well and people are treating us with respect. It is not so easy when they hate us and cause us much suffering.
Paul reminded Timothy of the persecutions he endured in his missionary journeys and how the Lord God rescued him from them all. Paul’s example is a real challenge to us. He faced more opposition than the other apostles. He was stoned, beaten and insulted. Paul tells us, however, that the Lord rescued him from all of his suffering. That did not mean that Paul was spared from pain. He felt the sting of the stones as they hit his body. He felt the agony of the insults and rejection of his message. God did not keep him from problems, but he did carry him through every one of them.
Paul told Timothy that anyone who wants to live a godly life will have to face persecution (verse 12). There is no exception. Satan hates the things of God. He will do everything he can to oppose the work of the kingdom of God. If we want to live a godly life and serve the Lord Jesus, we will have to face the enemy head on. In these times we are to remember what Paul teaches Timothy in this passage. We are to persevere in faith, patience and love believing his Word and waiting for him.
According to Paul, evil men and impostors will increase and deceive many people (verse 13). We are told this in advance so we do not lose courage when it happens. In the last days, the faith of many will be tried. We will see a greater persecution of the church. We will see Satan's kingdom advance, but we are exhorted not to lose heart.
As the days of Christ’s return approach, it is important that we continue in what we have learned and accepted by faith (verse 14). Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures were able to make him wise for salvation through faith in Christ (verse 15). These Scriptures were the means by which he came to faith in the Lord Jesus and grew in his walk with Him.
The Scripture we have is not merely a book of stories and doctrine. Paul tells us in verse 16 that all Scripture is God-breathed. That is to say it comes from the mouth and heart of God. The Words of Scripture, though written by human hands, are the words of a God who cannot lie. His Word is absolutely reliable and trustworthy.
These Scriptures are useful in four areas of life for the believer. Paul tells us first that the Scriptures are useful for teaching. That is to say, that these Scriptures will direct us into truth. They will instruct us in what is right and godly. They will point us to the meaning and purpose of life. They will instruct us about God and what he requires of us. They are the only truly reliable guide to knowing God and His purposes.
Second, the Scriptures are useful for reproof. In other words as we receive the teaching of this Word it will reveal to us the error of our ways. It will rebuke us in the areas of darkness in our lives. They will convict us of our sin by exposing evil.
Not only will the Scriptures reprove us but they are also useful for correction. Correction relates to getting back on the right path. Scripture not only shows us where we are going wrong but it also teaches us how to get back to where we should be. It does far more than show us we are lost. It also shows us how to find our way back to God and his purposes again.
Notice, finally that this Word will also train us in righteousness. This training will keep us from falling back into the same errors. The Word of God will strengthen us against the attacks of the enemy. When he comes against us to try and deceive us we can resist him by this Word. This is what Jesus did when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness. Satan tried to deceive him. The Lord Jesus constantly returned to the Word of God and resisted him until Satan was forced to retreat.
Notice in verse 17 that Scripture will teach us, reprove us, correct us and train us so that we can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Notice two words in this verse. The first word is "thoroughly" and the second is the word "every." What is Paul telling us here by using these two words? He is telling us that the Bible contains all we need to know to be fully and totally equipped for any work that God would call us to do or any trial He would allow us to face.
Paul challenged Timothy to be a man of the Word in light of the difficult days that were coming. God's Word would comfort, guide and teach him in a world full of false teaching, error and sin. As the days of the end approach we need more and more to be people of the Word.
* Paul challenged Timothy, in light of the difficult days ahead to remember his teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience and love. Re-examine your own life in light of these principles. What area do you need to work on?
* How is the Word of God useful to us in our trials? How has it encouraged and kept you personally?
* How has the Word of God influenced your life? How has it changed you? Give specific examples.
* How important will the Word of God be as the day of the Lord's return draws near?
* What is the difference between knowing the truth of the Word of God and living in that truth?
* Paul tells us that the Word of God will teach, re-prove, correct and train us. Explain in your own words what Paul means by this.
* Thank the Lord that He has given us His Word to teach, rebuke, correct and train us.
* Ask God to give you a greater passion for His Word.
* Paul challenged Timothy in light of the coming persecution to remember his teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience and love. Ask God to show you if there is any particular area here that you need to work on.
Read 2 Timothy 4:1-8
In this final chapter the apostle Paul gives Timothy a two-fold charge, which is, in reality, a summary of what he has been telling him throughout the letter.
The charge that Paul gives to Timothy is given in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ. That is to say, it is given by the God’s authority. Notice that Paul has two things to say about the Lord Jesus.
First, the Lord Jesus was going to come to judge the living and the dead. This placed an obligation on Timothy to do his utmost to warn those who would be judged by God. Timothy was to serve the Lord with the understanding that there was a judgment coming.
The second thing Paul told Timothy about Jesus was that He was going to return to set up his final kingdom. No one would be able to withstand him. He would defeat the power of the enemy and reign as Lord of that kingdom. Victory is the Lord's. This was reason to rejoice. This was reason to keep going when things became difficult. The forces that oppose the gospel will be destroyed. The Lord will reign over all. Timothy was on the winning side. He could not lose. He was to live in the reality of this victory. God cannot lose. Satan can do whatever God allows him to do, but he cannot win. The Lord will set up his kingdom and nothing Satan can do, will hinder this. It is in the light of these two great truths that Paul brings his two-fold challenge to Timothy.
Preach the Word
The first charge to Timothy is to preach the Word. He was to persevere in this ministry of the Word. There are times when we can get discouraged. Even as I write these commentaries the enemy has often caused me to wonder if what I am doing is necessary. The reality of the matter, however, is that our society needs the Word of God more than anything else. There are problems in our society that have nothing to do with science, politics or medicine. There are problems that only God can solve. If our society would get back to the clear teaching of the Word of God then many of the problems we are facing would be solved. Disobedience brings a curse on our society. Only by returning to the Word of God can that blessing be restored. Paul challenged Timothy to keep on preaching the Word.
Notice that Timothy was to be prepared in season and out of season. In other words, he was to be ready to speak the Word of God at all times. There would be times when people were willing to receive what he had to say. There would be other times when they would not receive his teaching. Timothy was not to be concerned about the response of the people. He was simply to preach whether people agreed with him or not.
Notice in verse 2 that his preaching was to correct, rebuke and encourage. He was to apply the Word of God to each situation. Sometimes that word would rebuke. It would point out error, sinful actions and attitudes. Some-times the word would correct. It would show people how to get back on track with God and His ways. Other times it would encourage them in their struggles and trials. In all these cases the Word preached was to build up the body and draw them closer to the Lord God and His purposes.
As Timothy preached, he was to be pay special attention to what he was saying. He was to be very careful in his instruction. He was accountable to God for the truth he taught. Not only was Timothy to be careful in his instruction but he was to teach with great patience (verse 2). Not everyone would accept the truth right away. Sometimes it would take a while for people to come to understanding and acceptance. There were things that needed to be broken in their lives. The Spirit of God would do His work but at times men and women resist that work. In these cases, Timothy was to be patient. He was to let the Spirit of God work. He was to be patient with those who were slow to listen and slow to learn.
The day was coming when great patience would be required. As the day of the Lord approached, men and women would be more resistant to the truth of the gospel. There would turn away from God and His Word. True teachers of the Word would be replaced by those who would tell people what they wanted to hear (verse 3). People would turn from the truth and accept the lies of the enemy.
The second charge Paul had for Timothy was to endure hardship. Paul made it clear that those who want to serve the Lord Jesus will have to endure suffering and persecution. We will not always be accepted. The enemy will do his best to hinder the work God is doing through us. If we are serious about being a servant of God we will face opposition.
Timothy was to keep his head in these difficult times. In other words, he was to trust in the Lord, His plan and purpose. He was not to become bitter and angry. Instead he was to be patient and trusting.
Despite the fact that people did not accept him, Timothy was to do the work of an evangelist (verse 5). This would not be easy. The unbelievers would resist him. Paul understood what it meant to be an evangelist to those who did not want to hear the message. He was stoned and beaten. He was insulted and threatened. Doing the work of an evangelist would be difficult in these times, but Timothy was to remember that the Lord would call him to account. He was to take courage and persevere. He was not to slack off in his duties. Even when things were difficult, he was to keep going. He was to be faithful and dependable no matter what happened.
Paul reminded Timothy in verse 6 that as an apostle of Jesus Christ he had been poured out like a drink offering. His strength was pouring out of him. His time was coming to an end. He did not know how long he would be on this earth. In some ways Paul was entrusting his ministry to Timothy. He was telling him that he was going to die and be with the Lord and it would be the responsibility of Timothy to pass on what he had learned from him to others.
It had not been an easy life for Paul. He had suffered much. The battle had been hard. He had been wounded many times. As he looked back on his life, however, Paul had the confidence that he had fought a good fight. He had not given up. He had done all he could. He had resisted the enemy and persevered. He had done his part and finished the race. He could now see the finish line ahead of him. He knew, as he approached that finish line, he had run well. He had kept the faith. He had not denied the Lord. He would face his Lord and receive his reward. He looked forward to the crown that was in store for him. Paul told Timothy that this same crown was available to all who long for Jesus' appearance. You can only long for the appearance of the Lord Jesus if you are ready for His return. He who is being unfaithful does not long for the Lord to return for he knows his unfaithfulness will be discovered. He who has wasted his time and gifts does not long for the return of the Lord. Only those who serve Him well can experience this longing and readiness for his appearance.
Paul challenged Timothy in this passage to preach the gospel and to endure hardships. This is the call of God for each of us. In these days we need more people who will preach the truth to our society. We need people who are not afraid to face opposition and difficulty. Are you ready to stand up for the truth? Are you willing to suffer and endure for the sake of the truth? This is Paul's challenge to Timothy. It is also his challenge to us today.
* How does knowing that the Lord Jesus will one day judge, change how we serve and live?
* Are you living in the light of the certain victory of the Lord? How does this keep you from becoming discouraged in your efforts?
* How would our society be transformed if it were obedient to the clear teaching of the Word of God? What changes would you expect to see?
* Do you have confidence that you have fought the good fight? Are there areas in your life that need some work? What are they?
* Thank the Lord that He will win the battle.
* Ask the Lord to give you the courage to face the persecutions and trials that will come your way. Ask him to give you a greater boldness.
* Ask the Lord to search you to see if there is any-thing in your life that holds you back from running the race He has set before you.
* Thank the Lord for His Word. Ask Him to help you to have more confidence in its power to transform lives and societies.
Read 2 Timothy 4:9-22
In the final section of this second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul expressed his feelings of loneliness and encouraged Timothy to come to see him as soon as he could. We were created with the need for human companionship. When God created man in the Garden of Eden He said it was not good for him to be alone so he created woman to be a companion for him. It is interesting to note that Adam did have fellowship with God at this time. While he had fellowship with God he was also created with a need to have fellowship with other human beings. When we do not have this fellowship, even though we are right with God, we will feel the loneliness that Paul speaks of here. Let’s take a moment to consider what Paul has to say to Timothy in this final section of his letter.
In verse 9 Paul asked Timothy to do his best to come to him quickly. This follows Paul's comments about the end drawing near. Paul had fought a good fight. He had run a good race. Now his time was coming to a close. Paul did not know how long he was going to be on this earth and, before he died, he wanted to see his spiritual son again. He asked Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible.
Paul's sense of loneliness was intensified by the fact that many people had either deserted or left him. In verse 10 Paul told Timothy that Demas had deserted him and left for Thessalonica. What made this desertion all the more painful was the fact that Demas had abandoned Paul because of his love for the world. He had turned his back not only on Paul but also on the gospel. This left Paul doubly pained.
Demas was not the only one to leave Paul. Crescens had gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke remained with Paul at that time. Paul worked with others. On his missionary journeys he always seemed to have other people with him. Jesus worked with a team of 12 disciples. The apostle Paul followed the example of the Lord and he too worked with a team. We need others in ministry. We need their protection, encouragement and support. Paul missed the companionship of these godly men.
Notice in verse 11 that Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark with him when he came because he was very helpful in ministry. Mark, also known as John Mark, had been the cause of a split between Paul and Barnabas (see Acts 15:36-38). Paul did not want to work with him because he had abandoned him on an earlier missionary journey. Now, however, there had been reconciliation between Paul and Mark. He asked Timothy to bring Mark to him because he was very useful in ministry. Mark had learned his lessons and grown in his faith. Paul had opened his arms widely to him and now longed to see him.
Tychicus, who had been with Paul in his missionary journeys (see Acts 20:4), was being sent to Ephesus to minister to the believers there. Obviously, this was a sacrifice on Paul's part but he was willing to part with him so that the Ephesians would be blessed.
In verse 13, Paul asked Timothy to bring the cloak he had left with Carpus. We are not told why he left his cloak. He may have forgotten it or possibly in his haste had to leave it behind. Paul's desire for his cloak may tell us something of the conditions in which he was living or possibly something of his failing health. Obviously, he did not have the money necessary to purchase another one. Quite possibly the cell he was in was cold and he needed it to keep warm. What is quite clear is that the servant of God is living in poor conditions. He is in need of the very basic essentials of life. God does not always promise us great wealth and prosperity. Sometimes his servants will suffer and do with very little in life. Paul also asks Timothy to bring the parchments – papers he had left in Troas -- as well. We are not told what these parchments contained.
In verse 14 Paul told Timothy that Alexander the metal-worker had done him a great deal of harm. He does not get into the details of what Alexander had done to him. What is important is that we see how Paul dealt with him. Paul committed what Alexander had done to the Lord. Paul warned Timothy about Alexander so he could be on his guard against him and the harm he would cause (verse 15).
The Lord God cares for us as his children. He knows the pain we feel. He is not blind to the things others are doing to us. Instead of taking things into our own hands we need to bring these people to the Lord and let him deal with them. This will mean dying to our own desire to seek revenge. The enemy will bring what our enemy had done to our minds. It is not for us to seek revenge. It is for us to love, forgive and leave the matter with the Lord.
Paul had been facing all kinds of false accusations. People were abandoning him or opposing his message. This was a time when he needed support and encouragement. No one came to support him. Notice in verse 16 however that Paul chose to commit this to the Lord. He asked the Lord not to hold this against his friends. Though everyone deserted him in this time of trial, Paul knew that the Lord was with him. He felt the strength of the Lord to get through. The Lord used him at this time to share the message of the gospel. Not only did God strengthen and use Paul but he delivered him as well. He was spared from the lion's mouth. There was nothing more that his accusers wanted than to deliver Paul over to the lions to be killed. God protected him and kept him from that fate. Paul was confident that the Lord would rescue him from every evil attack and bring him safely to heaven. Paul realized that even if he had to die, the Lord would keep him in death. For this Paul praised the Lord.
As he concluded his letter, Paul sent his greetings to Priscilla and Aquila who had worked with him in his missionary efforts. He also greeted Onesiphorus (verse 19). He brings news to Timothy about Erastus who had stayed in Corinth and Trophimus who was sick in Miletus (verse 20). He sent greetings from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers. These were individuals both Paul and Timothy knew or had the privilege of working with in ministry.
In verse 21 Paul asked Timothy to do his best to get to him before winter. Perhaps this was the reason why he asked for his cloak. He concluded by praying that the Lord would be with Timothy and encourage his spirit.
We catch a glimpse of the personal heart of Paul for Timothy. He loved Timothy as a son and felt a deep need in his heart to be with him and to see him personally. Knowing that his death was approaching, it was particularly important that Paul see his son in the faith. The whole letter of 2 Timothy is devoted to Timothy. In it Paul seeks to encourage and bless him. He instructs him in how to continue in his faith and passes on to him the task of ministering the gospel that had first been committed to him.
* Have you ever felt lonely as a believer? What does this passage teach us about our need of each other in the body?
* We see in this passage how Paul and John Mark were reconciled. Are there people you need to be reconciled with today?
* What does the fact that Paul asks for his cloak tell us about the conditions he was living under? Does God always promise that we will live in riches without any struggles in life?
* How does Paul deal with Alexander the metal-worker? Have you been able to commit those who have harmed you to the Lord?
* Are there any lonely Christians around you today? What do you suppose God would have you or your church to do for these believers?
* Thank the Lord that while everyone else may abandon us the Lord will always be with us.
* Are you facing a trial today? Ask the Lord to show you His presence in that trial.
* Ask God to help you commit to Him those who have harmed you. Ask Him to help you to love and forgive and let Him deal with the rest.
* Ask the Lord to search your heart to see if there is anyone you need to forgive and be reconciled with today.
* Do you know someone who is lonely today? Ask the Lord to show you how you can minister to them.
Light To My Path Book Distribution (LTMP) is a book writing and distribution ministry reaching out to needy Christian workers in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Many Christian workers in developing countries do not have the resources necessary to obtain Bible training or purchase Bible study materials for their ministries and personal encouragement. F. Wayne Mac Leod is a member of Action International Ministries and has been writing these books with a goal to distribute them freely or at cost price to needy pastors and Christian workers around the world.
To date thousands of books are being used in preaching, teaching, evangelism and encouragement of local believers in over sixty countries. Books are now been translated into a variety of languages. The goal is to make them available to as many believers as possible.
The ministry of LTMP is a faith-based ministry and we trust the Lord for the resources necessary to distribute the books for the encouragement and strengthening of believers around the world. Would you pray that the Lord would open doors for the translation and further distribution of these books?