JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…any other thing that opposes healthy teaching…” (Part 1)
March 29, 2015, 1:49 pm
Filed under: R - First Letter to Timothy

“The law does not apply for the innocent but for the lawless…” The law was also meant to curb the flesh. As Paul told the Roman believers “through the law we become conscious of our sin.” (Romans 3:20) The law is for those who live by the flesh. In every letter Paul says something about the works of the flesh in contrast to living by the Spirit, it is part of learning Christ together, the tension between that which is of the flesh and that which is of the spirit and how the gathering moves forward through it in love. Even Jesus said that “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” (John 6:63) So in like manner Paul gives an interesting list of the entropy of the flesh in pairs in his first letter to Timothy. (1) Interestingly a case could be made that this list looks very similar to the abominations that described Samaria and Jerusalem, the capitols of the northern and southern tribes of Israel respectively, before their downfall by the Assyrians and Babylonians in the Book of Ezekiel, specifically chapter 22. Even the same Greek words used by Paul can be found in the Greek version of Ezekiel from the Septuagint. Perhaps all delve a bit into this in another blog. Perhaps Paul is inferring a concern of a possible similar judgment could fall upon the ecclesias as that which befell Israel if we live with a law/lawless mindset versus an innocent mindset. I have intentionally listed the writing in pairs below to hopefully see some connections. “…but for lawless and for unruly, for impious and for sinful, for unholy and for profane, for parricides and matricides, for menkillers, for fornicators, for paederasts, for menstealers, for liars, for perjurers, and if any other thing the healthy teaching opposes…” (2) Fee notes that the first three pairs seem to be “general classifications” while the other pairs have “a remarkable coincidence with the Ten Commandments (the fifth through the ninth), often giving more grotesque expressions of these sins.” (3) N. T. Wright in his little booklet says similarly. (4) The descriptions of these Greek words are pretty clear. The first three pairs are adjectives and other than the last word the other pairs are all nouns. This blog will look at the first three pairs of adjectives. (5) Lawless (6) and unruly (7) describe those who live without regard for authority and submission respectively. As Paul noted to the Roman brothers and sisters “let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong…Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” (Romans 13:1-5) Society operates by law, ecclesias operate by grace. In Christ authority describes Christ’s headship and submission. You cannot have one without the other. Brothers and sisters who are following the Lord together are under the authority of Christ, under His headship and will follow His law, a law of selfless sacrificial love. And this agape love, Christ’s life, will demonstrate itself in submission to one another, mutual submission. To live without headship to Christ or submission to others in the body is to be lawless and unruly. If there is one thing that will steal, kill, and destroy the fellowship of a gathering of brothers and sisters it is this. Additionally, if any one or more persons in the body attempt to usurp Christ’s authority, His headship, whether personally or through some set of procedures or agenda, they have become lawless and unruly to Christ. We are to live under His authority, His headship in submissive sacrifice to one another. Impious (8) and sinful (9) describe those who live without respect for others and without approval of God respectively. Brothers and sisters who are following the Lord together will be respectful and honorable towards one another, this demonstrates approval of God. There is much written in the scriptures that describe the importance of honoring God and one another. As Paul told the Roman brothers and sisters: “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) We are called to live honorably, never disrespecting others. To do so would be to disrespect Christ, His Body and His Spirit will show His disapproval by our conscious not approving. The Lord gave some remarkable words to Isaiah and is often quoted by Jesus: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13) Wow! Sadly, how much of our religious institutions have fallen to such dishonorable status with our Lord. As an archer if my arrows fall short of the target I am forfeit, I have missed the purpose in shooting the arrows. Without Christ I fall short of what God approves. We will be tempted to stray, to miss the mark of God’s purpose, there will be conflict. Let us be attuned to what our conscience tells us as His Spirit works in us in order to follow Him, His path for us, by faith with love. In Christ we are no longer “sinful.” Paul told the Roman ecclesia “Christ died for the ‘impious’” or the ungodly and cleansed us from all sin! (10) In Him, who is sinless, we have been cleansed of all that fell short of what God approved. In Christ the arrow hits the bulls-eye every time. To live with a clear conscience, innocent before one another is to manifest Christ. We live together as those who have been forgiven and now live approved by God by our respect towards one-another. Unholy (11) and profane (12) describe those who live without respect for the things of God and for God Himself respectively. Christ’s literal body was described as holy and the literal temple in Jerusalem was never to be profaned. The character of the physical Christ and physical temple are now applied to the ecclesias, because they are one with Christ. Paul articulates in great detail to the Roman ecclesia in the first part of his letter how those who are in Christ are now to “live a new life.” (13) This life is none other than Christ’s life and His life is holy! In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible “holy” is a key word that is used to describe “an object or place or day.” (14) Also, from the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, these two words often appear together. Perhaps Paul, a former teacher of the law, speaking of the “babble” of these certain persons has thoughts from Ezekiel in mind? (Ezekiel 22) Profane can also have the idea of unauthorized entrance into a building. If we gather together for the sake of forcing our agenda onto the brothers and sisters than to live by the life of Christ together, but making a pretense of such we have become a thief, entering the Home without the permission of the Home Owner. Jesus had some poignant words for the Pharisees in this regard: “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:1-2) Those who enter the gate, or the building without His authority Jesus calls a thief, a robber, a hired hand, and a wolf. We are a new creation and we now live by His new life, His holy life and we are learning to hear Christ together, Our Shepherd. May we truly hear our Lord’s words and live by His life of love together, “love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” We gratefully gather together and submit to His headship, we show respect to Christ and His body honoring Him and one another above ourselves, and we are learning to live by His holy life and hearing Him and following Him together. (1) Fee noted that he was amazed that from among the Pauline letters that “no single sin is specifically repeated in them all….They seem in each case to be ad hoc catalogues, although they also seem to be somewhat adapted to contexts.” Gordon D. Fee; 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus: New International Biblical Commentary; Hendrickson Publishers, 1988, 45. (2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 613. (3) Fee, 45-46. (4) Nicholas Thomas Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters, Second Edition, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, 9-10. (5) See the Greek Interlinear at (6) Paul, when describing those the law was meant for, uses the word “lawless” to begin the list. It could in fact generalize the rest of the descriptions. The Greek word translated “lawless” is “anomois” and means “without law,” a complete disregard for any authority. This word is used in the letter to the ecclesias in Corinth and later to Rome to describe those who are non Jewish or Gentile. To his first letter to the ecclesia in Corinth, Paul describes how he relates to both Jew and Gentile for their salvation: “I became to the Jews as a Jew, in order that I might gain Jews; to the ones under law as under law, not being myself under law, in order that I might gain the ones under law; to the ones ‘anomois’ (lawless or without the law) as ‘anomos,’ not being without law of God but under the law of Christ, in order that I might gain the ones ‘anomous’…” (1 Corinthians 9:20-21) So lawless in this regard would mean, for example those who are not Jew and do not follow the Law of Moses. Paul also said something similar to the ecclesia in Rome where he described that a person can fail to be approved of God whether one is ‘anomos’ (without the law) or under the law. (Romans 2:12) In Luke and Acts the word is used to describe those who crucified Christ Jesus. Only Luke uses this word in his gospel and in the letter of Acts. In the gospel by Luke the word is used from the Greek translation for the Hebrew ‘pō•šə•‘îm’ from Isaiah 53:12 that means to rebel against God where the author describes the Jesus fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. Some manuscripts also use the word in Mark 15:28. And in Acts Luke uses the word to describe those who crucified Christ Jesus. (Acts 2:23) It seems in the letters where a future description of the word is used and letters written later it typically refers to a state of complete rebellion against God such as Paul’s second letter to the ecclesia in Thessalonica. 2 Thessalonians 2:8. See for a summary of the definition of the word. Based on the context of Paul’s letter to Timothy this is how the word is being used. (7) The Greek word translated as “unruly” is “anypotaktois.” The forms of this word only occur in the letter to the Hebrews and Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. It literally means “not under arrangement,” without submission, and therefore means not submissive or disobedient. One form of the word is also used in Hebrews 2:8. To not be mutually submissive to one another is to be “anypotaktois” to be unsubmissive to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and because we are His body to be “anypotakois” is to be disobedient to Christ Himself. (8) The Greek word translated as “impious” or “ungodly” is “asebesi.” This word means the opposite of “respect,” without respect, and means lack of reverence and dishonorable. Paul wrote to the ecclesia in Rome that “Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6. (9) The Greek word translated as “sinful” or “sinners” is “hamartōlois.” This word is used often in the gospels and on occasion in the New Testament letters. The word literally means “to forfeit by missing the mark.” (11) (10) Romans 5:6. (11) The Greek word translated as “unholy” is “anosiois,” or without holy. The adjective form of the word holy, “hosios,” is only used a few times in the New Testament and typically describes Christ, often where Christ has fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament. Typically meaning respect for the things of God. Paul is the only New Testament writer to use the word “anosiois” and only in his letters to Timothy. “Anosiois” means without respect or without regard for the things of God, a disregard or disrespect for the things of God. (12) Profane. The Greek word translated as “profane” is “bebēlois,” which means “crossing threshold” or “improper or unauthorized entrance into a building.” Like the previous word for “unholy” the word variants of this adjective are only used in his letters to Timothy and once in Hebrews describing Esau in the Old Testament. There are two verb forms of this adjective, Jesus says of the Pharisees “on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent” and the accusation of Tertullus against Paul saying “and even tried to desecrate the temple.” Much could be said of Jesus and Tertullus statements alone, one a truth the other a lie. Matthew 12:5 and Acts 24:6. Perhaps the idea here is attempting to follow Christ apart from love and faith, perhaps Paul is reflecting back to the foolish Galatians and now these certain persons in Ephesus? (13) Romans 6:1-4. Paul argues “what shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” To do so would be to profane His Body, His Temple. Pau then describes to the Romans the importance of seeing ourselves in both Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection “so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with….no longer…slaves to sin.” We are to “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:5-14. (14) Vine’s, Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, 113.

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