JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope…”
August 18, 2013, 2:05 pm
Filed under: R - First Letter to Timothy

As I begin this study of 1 Timothy, Titus and 2 Timothy (which will be done after 1 and 2 Peter in chronological order) I come to these letters a bit reticent. I know many brothers and sisters and have read accounts of those who mistrust these letters and do not consider them “God-breathed.” In truth the translators seem to have been biased towards a more legalized and institutional approach to word usage and with devastating results. This perhaps is one of the main reasons for much angst in the body of Christ, those who have been hurt and abused by those who are living by institutionalism than by Christ. But this problem of using Scripture to form legalistic traditions have been found throughout history and can be done with any portion of Scripture taken out of its context reading the Scripture without seeing Christ in them, without opened eyes from the Holy Spirit, and not seeing Father’s big picture of His ultimate purpose.

This mistrust of Scriptures can be seen of the letter by James in comparison to the letter to the Galatian ekklesias by Paul. These two letters have always been fraught with controversy because of the grace versus good works mentality and with Timothy its apparent imposition of a “church hierarchy,” what some would consider a move towards legalism by Paul. Many, including Martin Luther himself distrusted the letter of James as to him it focused more on good works than on grace. To Luther the letter of James was “an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.” (1) Of course, while much good can be seen from Luther’s early life, let the reader be warned that Luther himself did not always live by grace and certainly did not show good works when his “denomination” tortured and killed other Christians who opposed Lutheranism, which oft is the manifestation of denominationalism. In Gonzalez “Story of Christianity” he states that “Luther and Zwingli accepted the notion that church and state must live side by side, supporting each other” as a result “Anabaptists were accused of heresy and of sedition” and that “probably more than those who died during the three centuries of persecution before the time of Constantine.” Brothers and sisters “were drowned…burned to death…tortured to death, or drawn and quartered.” (2) Such results when brothers and sisters live not by love but by the flesh, who try to make a world government a Christian government. Lutheranism had become another religious institution intolerant of the work of the Spirit in the life of His people. Perhaps Luther should have remembered his own testimony of persecutions by the religious institution and the state and read a bit more of James. It is important to see that the letter of James focuses on what the outward expression of Christ looks like in the body of Christ and the conflict involved in living by faith while Paul’s letter to the Galatians focuses on the body of Christ living by the inward life of His Spirit in the midst of conflict. So for the one who reads these letters to Timothy and Titus, looking at the letter from the basis of James can help dispel a lot of angst among the brothers and sisters. For me Paul is using a similar style as the letter by James.

Timothy is well known to Paul and was his companion and assistant on his apostolic journeys. Paul describes Timothy as his “true child in the faith.” Could we say the same of our brothers and sisters who are on this journey of life in Him together? This journey is a faith journey of heart love with a family. Beginning with Paul’s second apostolic mission Timothy had been used much in helping the brothers and sisters learn to live by the life of Christ together and was involved with the ups and downs of organic life among the ekklesias, the gatherings of the brothers and sisters. Timothy was now about to face one of his greatest conflicts and Paul was not there to work with the ekklesia in its resolution. It is interesting to think what might have already occurred between Timothy and the ekklesia in Ephesus by the time Timothy received this letter from Paul. How did Timothy fare in the directions that Paul had given him? Some have suggested that the rebuke found in Revelation indicates the aftermath, the ekklesia not following the advice of Timothy, a negative turn for the ekklesia in Ephesus.

I find it interesting that Paul would open his letter to Timothy as he had previously with his letters to the ekklesias in the past. Perhaps it speaks of the foundation that Paul always lived from and something that he always reiterated both with the companions on his journeys and the ekklesias. Just as Paul was a “sent forth” one of “Christ Jesus” so too was Timothy. (3) And Paul wasn’t sent because of approval from a group of people, although many recognized Christ at work through Paul, and definitely not by his own reasoning, as Paul considered anything from himself to be dung, but directly from “a command” of God in Christ Himself.

God is for us not against us! In the original language the construction of this opening shows a unique phrasing. God is the Savior “of us,” Christ Jesus is the hope “of us” and the Lord “of us.” (4) As Paul told the ekklesia in Colosse “all the fullness of the Godhead” dwells in Christ. (5) In Christ the fullness of the Godhead dwells in us! Every purpose of God from eternity past finds its fullness in Christ in us! He is the Savior of us! He is the hope of us! He is the Lord of us! May we remind ourselves of this on our journey together with our brothers and sisters.

God the Father and Christ Jesus have given us “grace, mercy, peace.” How much grace, mercy, and peace have we been given!? How in our journey in Christ in this world, with our families, with the brothers and sisters and think of the various as sundry times we have been given grace, mercy, and peace, let alone what we have already been given already in Christ! Paul made much ado in all of his letters about the grace, mercy, and peace that he had been given, it was part and parcel of the tremendous testimony that was his in Christ. What a foundation to live by, knowing how much grace, mercy, and peace one has been given knowing what was your past but now having a future of immeasurable grace, mercy, and peace that could never have been yours apart from Christ and now to be sent forth by God Himself as part of His eternal purpose! Perhaps that is a bit of what Paul is trying to get across to Timothy. What an amazing destiny and future to be living in the eternal purpose of “God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope!”

(1) Barclay comments that “The Epistle of James is one of the books which had a very hard fight to get into the New Testament at all. Even when it did come to be regarded as Scripture it is still spoken of with a certain reserve and suspicion, and even as late as the sixteenth century Luther would gladly have banished it from the New Testament altogether.” William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, The Daily Study Bible, 1961, The Saint Andrew Press Edinburgh, 3,7.
(2) Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day, 1985, HarperSanFrancisco, 56-57.
(3) The word “apostle” is literally “one sent forth.” W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 30-31.
(4) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 613.
(5) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 591.

Many “local” expressions of Christ’s one body.
August 5, 2013, 1:32 pm
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes

Just as the Biosphere is made up of many Biomes of ecosystems and ecoregions of different interrelated life expressing itself around that which is not life so to the Body of Christ is made of many “local” expressions, each have different interrelated expressions of Christ’s life around that which is not life.

Just as each ecosystem and ecoregion looks different based on it’s season and/or location in the Biosphere so to the many “local” expressions of Christ’s one body, each expressing some aspect of the unsearchable riches of Christ’s life.