JohnSWilson3 Blog


“…but I obtained mercy…”
September 26, 2015, 1:59 pm
Filed under: R - First Letter to Timothy

As Paul reflects on the reality of being entrusted by God with His good news his thoughts turn immediately to his own story and gives thanks to the One “who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus, the Lord of us, because he considered me trustworthy, putting me into service…” (1) In truth every believer in Christ, who is God’s good news, has a story and as we reflect on what we were and what God has done for us causes us to give thanks! The reason Paul is so thankful is because Christ has been faithful to strengthen him ever since his conversion and that God would even find him, Paul who was once a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,” trustworthy to serve Him. Imagine! Christ considered Paul trustworthy to serve, to speak for Him! And Paul exclaims: “but I obtained mercy!”

When Paul says that Christ has strengthened him he means Christ Himself has been sharing His power, His ability with Paul. (2) The first time Paul uses this intensified form of the word for strength is immediately after his conversion in Damascus where he is said to have become increasingly strengthened by the Lord confounding the Jews. (Acts 9:22) He only uses the word once in his letter to the Philippians where Paul describes Christ who strengthens him, Romans where Paul describes how Abraham even at about the age of 100 “was strengthened in his faith,” and Ephesians where Paul calls on all brothers and sisters to be “empowered in the Lord.” When we are strengthened by Christ Jesus our Lord He shares Himself, His power from within. Whatever our life was before Christ, when we are living by our indwelling Lord, that life of flesh has no power, and the reality of His blood transforms our mind to Christ’s reality that in fact the old way of the flesh is gone and dead, taken away by Christ who now not only empowers us but lives in us and is our life. (3) What times of refreshing, times of thankfulness, times of gratefulness and empowering He gives us and continues to give us as we see things as Christ sees them!

Apart from Christ we see things totally different. We see the outward manifestations of the flesh, those who are profane, murderers of fathers, murderers of mothers, murderers, fornicators or prostitutes, homosexuals, slave traders, liars and for Paul a persecutor and insolent. Or those who are lawless, unruly, impious, sinners, unholy, profane and for Paul as a blasphemer. Of course Paul lists a whole host of other descriptions of the flesh in his other letters. When we are caught up into labels and the law we identify ourselves by the works of the flesh, what we do (whether good or bad by the way), our habits and addictions. The world loves to stick labels on behavior, especially for those who don’t follow their brand of culture or law. Religions do it all the time. If I act “Christian” then I am “Christian” some would naively say, no matter what we think “Christian” means. We also do it instinctively in business. If we do a kind of job we are identified by that job. I teach therefore I am a teacher. Or those who make things: I work with leather therefore I am a leatherworker. And so on. And it becomes our mold our box that others and ourselves build around each another. We love to label others. Psychologists do it when labeling personalities or disorders. And you become what they label. You name it. Aristotle once wrote: “we are what we repeatedly do.” That is how the world thinks. While there is “some” truth in our understanding of who we are in the flesh and why we say and do the things we say and do, it is not the final word. We need to consider a different way of thinking. Even though we use to be identified or identified ourselves by the works of the flesh we are now only identified by Christ in us and His work. How thankful we are because of what Christ has done for and in us! In Christ we have been freed from the world’s labels and laws, we have obtained mercy! Perhaps that is something of what Paul was feeling thankful about.

Interestingly, Paul describes how thankful he is that God considered him trustworthy to put him into service. Sadly, some translations take a perspective that institutionalizes this thought. Not surprisingly, the mistranslations of similar Greek words is riddled in many places in the New Testament, to its inappropriate application and in some places where there is no Greek word the root word “appoint” is added anyways. For these “certain persons” Paul was trustworthy to be appointed or ordained to the ministry, appointed to a position or profession above his fellow brothers and sisters. Jealousy becomes the hallmark of such. When we place ourselves above others, labels and law are not far behind. To use the word “appoint,” in today’s English means “to select officially for an office, position, etc.” (4) Appointing is about officially selecting someone or electing them into a professional office, to be a “leader” over others. Perhaps considering Christ’s perspective He did in fact select Paul, but we love to take things from our perspective, creating confusion, standing in the place of Christ. How totally contrary is this thought with what Paul was actually trying to convey. How contrary is this idea to that of a professional office.

Another word, taken totally away from its original context is this word “service.” I think I have written about this before. The Greek “diakonian” word means “waiting at a table” which comes from the word “diakonos” which means “thoroughly dust” or to “kick up dust” and can refer to either dusting the home, cleaning dust off of feet, or to move about in one’s work. (5) In a country where dust and sand is common place it was a very familiar task for household servants. The word means nothing of an “official position” except for those who would institutionalize the word to mean a position above one’s brothers and sisters which means the exact opposite. What is even more sad is for these “certain persons” to stand behind a podium above their brothers and sisters, “leading” “their” congregation and to boldly state how he or she and they are equal, what a sordid thing to say and how delusional for the “congregation” to accept this clergy-laity dichotomy. How sad that what Christ intended to be the actual living experience of brothers and sisters serving one another by His life to be made into a platform of professionalism by “certain persons.” Technically, we could say Paul was appointed by the Lord to be His servant. But how we love to change things to fit the world’s way of doing things. Institutional churches take this and run with it and it becomes something that God never intended, a progressive revelation of sorts “certain persons” would call it and now the church does things differently because of the “modern” world we live in. How sad that when God appoints His servants man changes it into a business and ceremony and performance deluding those who are called, deceiving and hurting the ekklesia’s organic nature of living by their indwelling Lord together. The father of lies is still prowling around looking at whom he may devour. We are so easily deceived. How ignorant man is in the ways of the Lord, institutionalizing what only God is called to do. How we need to be strengthened by the Lord from within.

Paul says that he obtained mercy because he was “ignorant and did it in unbelief.” I would venture to say most of what we do would be because of our ignorance, even though we think we know what we are doing. As Jesus proclaimed on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they no not what they do.” This is not just a call to those outside of Christ, but also to those in the ekklesia. Perhaps Paul is inferring something about the “certain persons” he mentioned earlier who were focusing more on the law instead of love. They were showing their ignorance of the Lord within them. When we begin to no longer walk by faith together, even in a gathering of brothers and sisters living organically by Christ, we are moving in ignorance of the Lord towards institutionalism and a dangerous precipice. We know ourselves and our Lord very little. Our capacity to live by the flesh knows no bounds and so it is with living by our indwelling Lord together. May we believe the Lord and His promises, He can do what He says. Paul was strengthened by the Lord for his entire life in Christ from the very beginning of his conversion. He understood that ignorance of and unbelief in the Lord was no longer acceptable. Everywhere Paul went he was looking for something of Christ and Him crucified both from within himself and within the brothers and sisters who believed on the Lord. Paul believed that the ekklesia was in reality one with Christ. To be with brothers and sisters was to be with Christ Himself. May we believe the same. Lord help me, help us in our unbelief we really are ignorant of ourselves and You.

Faith beyond our imagining is in Christ Jesus. Love beyond our imagining is in Christ Jesus. Strength beyond our imagining is in Christ Jesus. Grace beyond our imagining is in Christ Jesus. Paul was captured by our Lord and given truth, a new paradigm, a new reality or way of thinking. Christ overcame his ignorance and unbelief and Paul obtained mercy which he did not deserve and so Paul proclaims: “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” We have obtained mercy!

Notes:
(1) See http://biblehub.com/greek/1743.htm.
(2) The Greek word for strengthened is “endynamōsanti” which means “in sharing power ability.” (1) It is not your typical word for power or strength that is often used in the Greek text. Most words used for power or strength are forms of the words dunamai and dunamis which are used 100s of times. Here Paul uses this word “endynamōsanti” only used once here and on a few other occasions’ similar forms of the same.
(3) Paul gives his testimony, his story of how he was saved by Christ after having persecuted the church. In Galatians 1:15-16a Paul says that “God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me…” and later in Galatians 2:20 states that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(4) Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, 67.
(5) See http://biblehub.com/greek/1248.htm and http://biblehub.com/greek/1249.htm.

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