Message for Centre Union Church, Dec. 26, 2021
"Christ's Coming: Help and Hope."
Text: Isaiah 9:1-7.
Discipleship is at the heart of biblical leadership. Through the last seven weeks of study, we focused on the leadership principles of stewardship, influence, service and discipleship, but the last is uniquely Christian. After watching and reading the content from various leaders in secular and religious settings, I have come to see these leadership principles are interdependent on one another. A leader’s stewardship is basically taking care of that which does not belong to him. Part of a leader’s stewardship is indeed material things such as budgets and buildings, but I would put forth the most important part of a leader’s stewardship is the people whom he leads. Enter influence. One cannot be in leadership if he does not have followers. Those followers are influenced by the leader in various ways, for better or for worse. A leader who truly cares for his people and any who might follow him or those he influences in the future must himself have a strong emphasis on service. The biblical leader is the one who seeks to serve in order to influence people toward a saving knowledge and relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Enter discipleship. Discipleship is that ongoing relationship of influence and service toward those in the leader’s stewardship. While studying these principles, I also had an opportunity for an ongoing conversation with our senior pastor whom I see everyday and pray with at least twice a week—for each other, our families and the church whom we serve. My formal interview with him on December 2, 2021 was insightful. According to Pastor Kurtis, influence and respect is attained by first following Christ himself and encouraging others in everyday life to “point to Christ in everything.” Ultimately, the Christian leader should influence others by “caring, instructing, and walking with people.” We both agreed that this is a great definition of discipleship and that influence, stewardship, service and discipleship should all go hand-in-hand.
A Leadership Model
Before these studies, I had a general idea of an effective leadership model, given my own past experience and studies in Scripture. However, I have gained much perspective which has both confirmed my choice of language and helped me hone the true meaning of “Empower, Equip, Encourage.” The study of the pastoral epistles was particularly insightful, as I had never read them through the lens of “biblical leadership” specifically. Each letter features one of the four leadership principles prominently, yet discipleship is woven throughout. Thus, everything we do in our lives as Christians should be to the end of making disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the mission of every true Christian: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Jesus’ disciples were never meant to carry out this mission on their own strength or understanding. They were supposed to keep at the forefront of their minds Jesus’ last words to them, “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Mark also points out at the end of his Gospel, “..they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:20, emphasis mine). Luke makes it clear at the end of his Gospel and his follow-up account in the book of Acts that this help and power is given through the person of the Holy Spirit. “You are witness of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49). We see this promise fulfilled in Acts 2. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:4). These early disciples speaking in other languages was a means by which to carry out the Great Commission in the midst of the people from various regions and ethnic backgrounds gathered in Jerusalem. Peter got up to preach, saying, “…Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Those who believed, having received the Holy Spirit, then sought to be discipled and eventually disciple others. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 47).
Empowerment can also be seen in the pastoral epistles. The beginning of 2 Timothy is a good example of this. A verse often quoted is 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Paul is reminding Timothy of the source of his power to overcome fear and carry out his calling. The Spirit helps him love others, pointing them to Christ’s love (service). Discipline shares the same root word as “disciple.” Timothy can effectively influence others as he is living a disciplined life, reflecting his own relationship with the Lord. This may entail suffering: “…join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (1:8). Paul encourages Timothy to “guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (1:14). That treasure is sound doctrine by which he is called to instruct others (1:13, 2:2). Paul also reminds Titus that the basis on which the Church is to “engage in good deeds” is the new life in Christ—“washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5-8).
Ultimately, to empower disciples of Jesus Christ we need to point them to the source of power—the Lord himself, through the indwelling and sanctification of the Holy Spirit. If the source of our power is our own wisdom, man-made structures or systems, or human-derived effort, will will burn out. We will also see that our witness, and thereby our discipleship, will be hindered. Submit to the Holy Spirit’s work, and we will see some awesome things!
Spiritual gifts are the primary means by which disciples of Jesus Christ are equipped. Every Christian needs to understand that through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit they have something to contribute to the Body of Christ. “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12, emphasis mine). While all gifts are indeed from God, he often uses his people to carry out the equipping through various means.
Through Paul’s relationship and service, Timothy now has something to share: “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). Timothy’s gifting was then to be entrusted to others who would disciple still others. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2). Similarly, Titus was to pass along what he learned from Paul: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you…but as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 1:5; 2:1).
Teaching doctrine, practical instruction for tasks, fervent prayer and sincere fellowship are all important for the work of ministry—the normal Christian life, not limited to those in vocational ministry.
The very fact that Paul took time to write to those whom he had entrusted to the Lord speaks to the power and importance of encouragement. We are not meant to be isolated in the Body of Christ; rather, we are meant to be dependent on one another as point one another to Jesus. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” We each have a burden—or many. Christ took our biggest burden—our sins which would have led to eternal condemnation. In doing so, He brought us eternal life which is to be lived now by faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul calls “the law of Christ.” Just before this verse in Galatians, Paul was instructing the Church to no longer live “fleshly” lives but to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). Thus, we should be looking for ways to not only encourage each other with our words but also to meet each others’ basic needs in such a way that all would be empowered, equipped and encouraged to truly walk by the Spirit. This is a submission to Christ’s love, and it takes us all seeking to serve. This will start with those to which God has entrusted stewardship and influence. As retired Air Force general Loren Reno says, “Seeking to serve takes serving to a new level that will prosper a leader’s organization.” In the Church, this looks like every member prospering in their daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, overflowing in the exercise of spiritual gifts, to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 12:1-7).
Applications for the Church
My hope is that the reader understands the spiritual implications of everything we do, whether or not you serve in vocational ministry. We are all in full-time ministry as born-again believers—Spirit-filled, Christ-following, children of God our Father. The Holy Spirit has empowered us to equip and encourage one another, and discipleship happens in the context of everyday life. We are all disciples of Jesus Christ, and we are called to seek to learn, to seek to serve, and to seek the lost. Who will set an example for the Church and for the world of the power of God’s love to bring eternal life? We are in this together, and the Lord is still working mightily alongside his disciples!
Message for Centre Union Church,
November 28, 2021 "Be Imitators of God As His Family"
Ephesians 5:1-2, 21--6:4
Tyler Shepard takes us through Ephesians 5--understanding family members' roles in light of Christ's work and calling on our lives in the Church.
Effective leaders Reflect. On the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered an infantry assault consisting of 12,500 men to exploit a weak point in the Union army’s line at Cemetery Ridge. Even after being advised by his subordinate officer Lt. Gen. James Longstreet that the attack would be futile, General Lee stood by his orders.
General Meade of the Union army, understanding his force’s weak point, predicted the Confederate army would attack the center of their lines that morning. The Union forces concentrated artillery and rifle fire at the center, and the Confederates advanced 12,500 men over 3/4 of a mile. Pickett’s charge failed with over 6,000 casualties to the Confederate forces, and the Union went on to win the Civil War.
The Confederates failed to reflect adequately, and the Union took time to reflect and strategize. Understanding where they were weak was key to winning the Battle of Gettysburg and eventually the war. As Christian leaders, we must understand that we are weak and that Jesus is strong. If I fail to reflect on that first, then the temptation will be to carry out my ministry on my own strength and wisdom. That will lead to certain defeat, as our enemy Satan is cunning.
I would like to take some time to share a personal reflection which will hopefully be helpful to all the churches. Dr. Kimble’s point on intentionality in his discussion on “reflection” stuck out to me the most. This is the word that has been coming up the most for me in my prayer times the last few months. I just took on the calling this last summer as Associate Pastor for a new church in PA, having transitioned from teaching public school in OH. This class is very timely for me, as the Lord is calling me to serve, lead and facilitate a greater experience of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in the Body of Christ. We need to see revival in the American Church, and this takes intentionality on every believer’s part.
It has to start with us who lead. One verse that has come up frequently is 2 Chronicles 7:14. Dr. Kimble’s point about exemplary living ties in directly to reflecting, as he said we must be “lead repenters.” Hearts will be restored, souls will be reconciled to God, and the Church will be ready to meet Christ as we respond to God’s judgment in humility. God promised Solomon when His people “pray…seek…turn” He will indeed “hear from heaven” and restore them. God has entrusted us with he word of reconciliation as His ambassadors on earth (2 Cor. 5:20). Let’s take hold of the vision that we are here with a mission, as in a foreign country, with the most important message ever entrusted to a human being. We must first be transformed.
Like General Meade, let us be mindful of our weakness so that we can be fully equipped for the battle to come. “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet…” (Hebrews 12:12-13).
Hebrews 13:8 tells us the object of our faith: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The same Lord who brought about the outcome of the faith of those who led us, those who led them, and all those who persevered from beginning to end (Hebrews 11), is the same Lord who will bring our faith to completion. Let’s keep in view the ultimate goal as we shape our everyday tasks: “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come” (Heb. 13:14).
Is that the first thing you think about in the morning?
Paul’s greeting in Titus 1:1-4 reminds Titus of God’s work and the call for all who would be His ministers. God chooses and the minister is to help cultivate faith in the chosen with special attention to teaching what will lead others into godliness. God gave an unbreakable promise of eternal life ages ago. Now manifested, this eternal life is something for the minister to hope in and proclaim. Paul addresses Titus as “my true child in a common faith” (1:4). Paul, through his own ministry, saw Titus come to faith. Now Titus is called to do the same for others.
In the rest of chapter 1, Paul gets down to practical business. Paul reminds Titus to set up elder-overseers in every city, and he gives a description of qualified men. Described as stewards with godly character, they need to be able “to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (1:9). Specifically, Paul warns Titus about “rebellious men” in the church who are upsetting the sound doctrine of faith in Christ alone. Much like Paul’s writing in Galatians and Romans, some Jewish Christians were compelling Gentile Christians to be circumcised as if they were incomplete Christians without circumcision. These rebellious men “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (1:16).
Chapter 2 turns to sound doctrine—that which leads God’s people into pure living. Looking at the structure of these 15 verses, the hinge is the first word of verse 11, “For.” Meaning “because,” Paul is justifying his instructions in verses 1-10 with doctrinal truths in verses 11-15. God has made His grace apparent to all, enabling any who believe to receive salvation. God’s grace “instructs” us to live changed lives—those purified by the Lord Himself—as we wait for His return.
Those who participate in the Lord’s sanctifying work should be marked by the behaviors addressed by very specific roles. The older are supposed to teach and set an example for the younger, all with an aim to prove themselves children of God. Paul takes this line of thought further in chapter 3 addressing specifically how the Church should treat outsiders. The Church should “be ready for every good deed…showing every consideration for all men” (3:1, 2). In fact, they should “be careful to engage in good deeds” (3:8), with the understanding that meeting each others’ needs is the only way to be “fruitful” (3:14).
Essentially, everything should be done with the aim of bringing people to faith in the one who “saved us, not on the basis of deeds done which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (3:5-7).
Implications For the Church and Leadership
Clearly, doing good deeds is important as Paul punctuates his letter with the idea multiple times in the last chapter. The good deeds (or service, we might say) are for all people, not just leaders. “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds…” (3:14). They are also to be ready and look for opportunities to serve those inside and outside the Church. This is “seeking to serve.” To facilitate this building up of His Body, Christ has called certain men to live as examples, stewards, and leaders. In order to understand good deeds, people need “good” defined for them. According to the letter to Titus, “good” is that sound doctrine which secures godliness and cultivates lives purely devoted to the Lord. Thus, teaching is required.
Just as in the first century, we still have false teachers who claim to know God but are living in rebellion to Him. Knowing sound doctrine is important not only for leaders but also for every member of the Body of Christ. If we are doctrinally weak, we are more susceptible to the enemy who would steal our fruit. Leaders will be held especially accountable because they are charged with protecting God’s people in every way, even anticipating every need and potential attack on each individual’s faith.
Even though we may be attacked, we are called to love people inside and outside the Church. Our love and care for one another is the fruit of our connection with the eternal life of Jesus Christ. Our hope in Christ’s coming kingdom according to sound doctrine is the lens through which we should see every person: they are either children of God or potential children of God. As we have this glorious hope of the present and everlasting experience of eternal life in Christ, we will indeed be “zealous for good deeds” (2:14).
If we find ourselves lacking love for others, being shaken by people mistreating us, compromising in sound doctrine, or putting off serving, then we have to ask ourselves some hard questions. “Am I truly putting my hope in Christ alone?” “Am I myself submitting to His Lordship over my life, as I am encouraging others to do?” Jesus is not looking for what we can do for Him. He accomplished it all for us! We are redeemed! How can we not throw ourselves completely on the mercy and grace of our awesome Lord and Savior? That is the only way to serve as a leader—a servant, a steward, a teacher, a shepherd—in the Body of Christ.
This second and final letter to Timothy from his mentor, Paul, is an exhortation and encouragement to continue in all that Christ has imparted to Timothy through Paul’s ministry. Paul is close to death—this likely being his last letter written—and he is passing the proverbial torch from his failing hands. Paul encourages Timothy to entrust the sound doctrine and godly lifestyle to still others who will take up that torch. Paul’s main point can be summarized here: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (1:8). “Join me in suffering.” Paul has set an example, a precedent to be followed. This is discipleship. “For the gospel.” The mission of bringing the message of true life in Christ to all people should be the point of everything. We are stewards of the message of life. “According to the power of God.” God has given the Holy Spirit to help Timothy—and all ministers of Christ—carry out this mission. He should be the source of our influence. This letter is a reminder of the mission and the means to carry it out amidst likely increasing opposition both within and outside the Church. All of this is a work of service from selfless faith.
The Power of God
This key verse starts with the word “therefore.” One must ask the question, “what is it there for?” (Pun intended). The previous verse describes in three points how the mission will be accomplished: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (1:7). Paul strove by the power of the Holy Spirit, displaying these in his own life, and now he is encouraging Timothy in like manner to display this to others. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul was encouraging Timothy to remember all that he learned from Paul and to pass it on. All Christians are called to do this by God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Paul is describing normal Christian life. Paul gives three examples to sum up what he has taught Timothy (the Gospel). These also describe a faithful man of God.
A Three-Point Gospel: Soldier, Athlete, Farmer
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:3-6).
Soldier, athlete, and farmer are three metaphors which give a full picture of the Gospel message entrusted to Timothy. The first two are linked together with the “and” at the beginning of verse 5. The second builds on the first in some way. That also makes the third (farmer) distinct from the other two. Really, these three all build on each other. The first two describe a faithful man of God. The Farmer is someone else—for whom they are working or competing. Who is the farmer and what are the crops?
2 Timothy 2:7-10. Remember Christ raised from the dead—the gospel for which Paul is imprisoned. Paul was enduring hardship like a soldier, that others would receive the gospel—the word of God which is not imprisoned. God’s Word is Christ raised. We cannot imprison that!
Paul then reminds Timothy of a faithful saying, “For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
These three verses parallel the soldier, athlete, farmer metaphor, as the points build on each other in like manner. Like a soldier, Timothy is to be no longer entangled in affairs of life. We have died to a former life. The promise is that we will live with Him. We now partake in the resurrected life of Christ. In that life, there are certain rules to follow as we endure like a highly trained athlete. The promise is that we will be crowned, reigning with the Lord. Christ is faithful, like the hardworking farmer. The “crop” He is cultivating in us is His life by FAITH. We have to keep the faith.
Again, Paul is reminding Timothy to live out what he learned from Paul by example. Paul sums up his exhortation and encouragement to Timothy in chapter 4:7,” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul himself was a good soldier, a diligent athlete, and a bearer of good crop—faith—unto the Lord. In a statement, this is Paul’s message: Die to the former life, submitting to the new, with selfless faith. This honors the Lord, striving by His Spirit in three things: power (to die to former life); love (evidence of submission to new); and discipline (the Lord cultivating faith in me).
In terms of ministry leadership, it would be prudent to ask some hard questions at this juncture. Is the fruit of Faith seen in my everyday life? At home? At Work? The future seems uncertain, but we can be certain of the One who has given us His life. Let us not try to preserve our own lives the way we see fit. We will experience hardship and suffering as we follow the Lord. Some people may not want to associate with us. Do we try to find “life” in relationships with other people? The Lord’s sacrifice once for all made it so we can be free from fear and participate in a new type of life. That takes endurance. We can thank the Lord through our suffering. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” This helps us love those who hate us.
Am I concerned about earthly success? Where do I find my significance? I need to be disciplined to look for the spiritual implications in everything and to look to the Lord for providence and provision, realizing His presence in my life. Looking at Psalm 127, written by Solomon—the wisest man on earth—it can be observed that all human effort is vain apart from cooperating with God’s work. Earthly ideas of success can permeate our lives and quench our faith. “God gives to his beloved even in his sleep”—that is, the rest which is a life lived by faith. So the “fruit of the womb is a reward” means that which our faith begets. Are we caught up in God’s work of building people up so they will be prepared to meet God? If we live our lives as a soldier and an athlete to please the Farmer, this is what we will see ourselves doing, the ultimate end of biblical Christian service.
I am realizing I tend to be selfish with how I use my time. My personal reflection on Psalm 127 is that I should not be confusing productivity for fruitfulness. I do not always ask the Lord what it is I should be focusing on for any given day. He will certainly show me if I have ears to hear. Just yesterday, I wanted to get a lot of specific work done, but I ended up spending a lot of time in conversation with needy people--quality time!
Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, that we would walk in them. In other words, God has specific work for us as we share in Christ’s resurrected life. We have to adopt a mindset of service in which we are always ready to follow the Spirit of Christ, the ultimate servant. The specific activity may be different day-to-day and moment-by-moment as we follow HIS lead. That is a work of selfless faith which will be truly fruitful.
1 Timothy, when read in a spirit of personal devotion, illuminates some important principles for biblical leadership. At the very beginning, Paul opens his letter with a bold charge for Timothy: “To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:2-4). Paul refers to Timothy as “my true child in the faith.” He had imparted a very life to Timothy from His own experience with the Lord. That life is one in which Timothy now has access to “God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul charges Timothy to instruct people who err in the faith, who apparently do not have their minds on “furthering the administration of God…” The Greek word, οἰκονομίαν (oikonimian), here translated “administration,” more fully means the management of a household or a stewardship. From the outset, the church is to be understood as the household of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. All doctrine should conform to the purposes of the Head of the Household! This household has a shared life, an eternal one, which Timothy is to fight to preserve: “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1:18-19). Paul comes back to the “good fight of faith” at the end of the letter, which, together with the charge at the beginning of the letter, emphasizes both the present contention inside and outside God’s household and the future hardship to come, only to end when the Lord returns for His Church! “Fight the good fight of faith, take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:12-14). This indicates the resolve and conviction with which Timothy was to carry out his ministry—a ministry which involved contending for sound doctrine, facilitating discipleship, and cultivating an atmosphere of care and concern for every member of God’s Household.
As sound doctrine influences everything the Church does, including discipleship and cultivating a caring community, this theme is at the forefront of this letter. At the beginning, Paul reminds Timothy of what their doctrine should accomplish in the Church by saying, “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1:5). What can be observed here is that doctrine should call God’s people to action, starting with inward transformation. As we have a sincere faith in Christ, we have our conscience cleared and our hearts purified. That is the condition from which we love others properly. In the rest of chapter 1, Paul describes people who have strayed from this goal. Instead of seeking transformation by which they may serve God’s household, they are wanting to puff themselves up. They seek to teach God’s people using God’s Law, but they are not submitting to God’s Spirit. Hence, some of these men are blasphemers, getting nowhere in their faith (1:18-20).
Chapter 2 reminds Timothy the means by which the good fight of faith is to be waged and won: prayer. This in itself is a doctrinal truth which leads the household of God to boldly proclaim Christ, who empowers them. Paul then gives some instructions specific to men and women. Men are to “pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” (2:8). In other words, they are to be unified in their submission to the Lord. Women are also to submit to the Lord by showing that submission to men in the Church who are given the authority to instruct God’s household.
Chapter 3 details the roles of these men in leadership before giving the crux of the sound doctrine being taught: “I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (3:14-16). Again, the Church is described as God’s Household, and this household is supposed to display and defend the truth of the Head of the Household. “He who was revealed in the flesh…” Jesus came in a human body. Is He currently being revealed in our bodies? “…Was vindicated in the Spirit…” Jesus was proven to be the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit in his life on earth, death on the cross and victorious resurrection. Are we being proven children of God by our submission to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit? “…Seen by angels…” Jesus came from heavenly realms and returned after His resurrection to sit down at God’s right hand—the place of ultimate authority. Are we recognizing His authority in every area of our lives? “…Proclaimed among the nations…” The same God who displayed Himself through Israel to all nations has now appeared to the Church to do the same. Are we indeed proclaiming Him everywhere we go? “…Believed on in the world, taken up in glory…” Jesus came to display a different type of life—one reconciled to God in which we can display His glory again. Are we putting our hope only in this new life or our life in the world?
Chapter 4 details false teaching to come which might draw God’s household away from living these truths. In verse 11, Paul turns to Timothy with a more personal tone, reminding Timothy of the “spiritual gift” within him which was given by the laying on of hands of the church. It is with this spiritual gift that Timothy is to, in everything he does, “show [himself] an example for all who believe” (4:12-14). Through this example of the doctrine lived out, Timothy could carry out his stewardship in God’s household of making disciples.
All these doctrines which Paul is laying out for Timothy are nothing new. He is actually just reminding Timothy to follow his example of faith—a true experience of Christ which he outlines in chapter 1:12-17. He could not help but give God the glory, given God’s awesome mercy and patience. These are two aspects of discipleship. The first is to follow in the footsteps of one who is following Christ wholeheartedly. The second is to recognize God is the one doing everything through the disciple who gives all glory to God.
Chapter 2 demonstrates how God’s household should be committed to teaching and being taught. Men are given the place of teaching. Chapter 3 gets into specific roles. The instructing and servicing responsibilities of elders and deacons is predicated on the God-honoring management of their own households. Here, we can observe that discipleship should start at home. If a husband or father is not discipling his family properly, he has no business doing it with anyone else in the Church.
Caring community starts with the family and works outward. Chapter 5 goes into some detail regarding specific groups of people. All are to be regarded as family members, even if they are not blood family. With this mindset, all people in the Household of God should be caring for one another. This is a responsibility—a stewardship—which Timothy was to take hold of and to influence others with.
Chapter 6 brings the letter full circle back to doctrine, now with an application for every day life: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (6:3-6). In other words, be content with your situation in God’s household, and you will treat others the way you want to be treated. This brings unity as we actively conform ourselves to godliness. Any other doctrine which hinders this needs to go. This clearly shows that doctrine, discipleship and caring community should conform us to Christ Himself, who is the head of the household.
Of the leadership principles of discipleship, influence, service, and stewardship—themes which indeed are all present—stewardship is emphasized the most in 1 Timothy. Paul frames the Church as the “household of God,” a family. The Greek word οἰκονομίαν can literally mean “stewardship.” In a sense, Timothy is a steward over God’s Household. He has been placed in a position of authority to preserve and promote sound doctrine in the family of God. Really, the people themselves are Timothy’s stewardship, and it is reasonable to suggest that Paul did not intend for this letter to be exhaustive in terms of Timothy’s charge. He should indeed influence by way of instruction and modeling (4:12-13; 6:17-19). This instruction and exhortation is indeed service in itself, but the goal of that instruction is “love from a pure heart” (1:5). That is an all-encompassing lifestyle, to include things like caring for widows (5:1-8). Regarding service, it could also be inferred that what Paul says of himself in 1:12-17 is also expected of Timothy to some degree. Discipleship, the practice of which is a stewardship in itself, is the second most developed leadership principle in this letter. Timothy was to follow Paul’s example of following Christ. As Timothy worked out Christ’s character in his own life (6:11), he was also charged with discipling other men who could be charged with discipling still others (3:1-13). Still, within these discipleship relationships comes the understanding of a stewardship. Elders and deacons are only qualified to serve if they can manage their own households well (3:5, 12). Timothy was charged with making disciples who would hold onto the true faith in Christ, all helping each other grow in godliness in the context of a caring community in the midst of trials. We are charged with no less in our contemporary world. This is a calling to take seriously.
The Christian story is indeed better than the Atheist story in that it begins with the mind instead of mere matter. The reason for this is that a mastermind implies purpose. If everything has happened by chance, then there is no objective reason to exist. The Christian story also fulfills the longing in each person for some form of transcendence--something beyond ourselves. We have hope.
Another reason the Christian story is better is that the atheist/naturalistic view is downright contradictory. This quote from C.S. Lewis points this out: “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creature with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” In other words, our search for meaning proves that there is indeed meaning beyond ourselves. Even atheists search for meaning, except their meaning is without hope. If there is no meaning, why live—or even survive? Alex Roseburg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality seeks to persuade people toward atheism. However, if we are just a product of chemical processes in the world and our brain, then it stands to reason that persuasion would be impossible since we would have no free will. His writing is a hopeless endeavor based on a hopeless worldview.
If there is an eternal, omnipresent, immaterial, and all-powerful source of creation, how should that affect our lives? We should be living in fear. We should not fear death, as all people without hope do; rather, we should recognize our accountability to this being. If we were wise, we would consider different “theories” of human origins and significance.
How does the Christian view that God is good stand up to the fact that our world is filled with evil? This boils down to human choice. Humans were created a living soul in God’s image and likeness, with a mind, a body and a sharing in God’s spirit (God breathed his Spirit into Adam). Adam and Eve were clothed in the glory of God, reflecting His very being and character. They were given a mind with which they were to choose to honor their Creator, enjoying His presence and provision. They had eternal life, and a perfect knowledge of good and evil, as they had access to the mind of God Himself—through relationship with Him. However, they were tempted with the desire to have life apart from God.
The temptation for humans is the same today. When people refuse to receive life from God, evil results. Jesus Christ is our way back to perfect communion with God, and He will bring it to completion one day in a new, perfect heavens and earth (See Romans 1:18-32…https://www.rivervalleychurch.us/blog/judge-yourself-and-share-your-hope-in-christ (Links to an external site.)).
Review: Chapter 1 tells us the Gospel is the free gift of a righteous life in Christ—Receive it or suffer God’s wrath. Chapter 2:1-11 tells us that this new life should be marked by change, and we are called to judge ourselves whether or not we are participating in the Gospel. As this change occurs, we have great hope to share! (Remember Proverbs 24:11-12)
**If I am not sharing my hope in the riches of Christ’s kindness, tolerance and patience, perhaps I am not sharing in his invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature--His grace to overcome my old life and share in the new. ** This awesome gift is for all who will believe, Jew and Gentile alike. Remember, all humans were made in God’s image and likeness, sharing in His glory, but they exchanged that glory for what was not truly life (1:21-23).
The rest of Chapter 2 addresses Jew and Gentiles in relation to the Law of God given to Israel. The verses just prior contrast those doing “evil” and those doing “good.” The evil ones are those participating in everything described in chapter 1 OR sharing the gospel message for their own gain (“selfishly ambitious” vs. 8). God is not looking for those who look religious, but for those who truly do “good.” The “good” is living the righteous life of Christ by faith (1:17). That includes abstaining from former life and sharing the hope of the new.
The Law gives knowledge of Christ to all through their conscience
vs. 12-13…Whether or not one has the Law does not affect God’s judgment for sin. Only those who do the Law are justified—whether or not they have explicitly heard it. Remember, God has made Himself known through His creation and in our own consciences.
vs. 14-16…God will judge everyone by the standard of Christ Jesus Himself who has made himself known to people through their consciences. God has written the work of the Law in all peoples’ hearts. The “work of the Law” is to show a man he has the wrong type of life. “Doing instinctively the things of the law” is an extension of recognizing God’s character through His creation. Those whose thoughts will accuse them (vs. 15) are those who continue to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (chapter 1). They don’t want to change the way they are living. Those whose thoughts will defend them are those who want a change of life in Christ. When the day of judgment comes, all will be held to the standard of Christ Jesus—his righteousness—even though some will have not known Him by name (the same as not having the Law). (See Eccl. 3:11-15…God’s Son has always been known, and He made us to seek Him. Heb. 13:8)
Be careful of hypocrisy
vs. 17-24…A series of rhetorical questions. Through their breaking the Law, the Jews show they truly do not have anything to boast about. God is clearly showing them the spiritual nature of the Law (knowing His will, approving the essential things, having the “embodiment of knowledge and truth”), yet they are not keeping it. In fact, if they are relying on the Law in vain because they are dishonoring God. They are not truly receiving the new life He has for them in Christ. They are also ruining their witness to the rest of the world. This is the opposite of the “good” discussed earlier in chapter 2. Also, many of them were indeed “selfishly ambitious.” They have missed the spiritual matters of the law (See Matthew 23:23).
—vs. 24 quotes Isaiah 52:5. In the context (Isaiah 52:1-5), the prophet is recounting the peoples’ afflictions in slavery and captivity. Whenever God’s people mixed with nations of the world, they would take on their idolatrous and ungodly behavior. However, after these verses in Isaiah, the LORD promises that He will redeem His people once for all “that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God…” “…Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see and what they had not heard the will understand” (vs. 6-15). In other words, all people of the earth will know what Israel knows and be able to enter God’s presence just the same (the sprinkling of blood).
Paul’s commentary on this verse is that all now have free, open access to God if they will simply leave their worldly, natural lives. To call ourselves Christians and take on worldly patterns of behavior is hypocrisy! That is the old life we must leave behind.
Cut off the useless flesh—our nature—by the power of the Spirit
25…Physical circumcision is actually uncircumcision if the Law is transgressed
26…uncircumcised who keeps the Law is counted regarded as circumcised
27…the latter will judge the former—BY THE LIFE HE LIVES—by way of contrast, not judgmental behavior
28-29…true Jews are those who, by the power of the Spirit, put their flesh to death. These are those who seek praise from God, not men.
The establishment of Christ’s new covenant is the fulfillment of all God’s covenant promises:
The question of all this is, “Do I seek my praise from God or men?” If I seek praise from God, it will be shown in my behavior. I will recognize my need for a new life, understanding the spiritual nature of all God has said. He is not asking us to perform for Him, like the Jews thought. That leads only to hypocrisy and judgment by God.
THOSE WHO SEEK PRAISE FROM GOD PUT THEIR FLESH TO DEATH.
If we are truly seeking praise from God, we will not lift up ourselves or any other person. Rather, we will be putting our own flesh to death. Like the Jews did, are we as Christians boasting in our spiritual practices? If I put too much weight on my own performance, I am probably thinking lightly of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience (2:4).
God has called a people for Himself among Jews and Gentiles to be a light to all nations. Let’s see that we are living holy lives by the power of His Spirit.
Review: Romans 1 lays the groundwork for the rest of the letter. Paul defines the Gospel then points out why all need it.
—vs. 1-17, we came to the conclusion that the Gospel is the free gift of a righteous life in Christ. Faith in Christ, as the Romans understood it, was not enough. Paul points out that obedience is also required (vs. 5). This obedience reveals Christ’s righteousness as I submit to Him, keeping the faith (vs. 17).
—vs. 18-32 points out that those who reject this free gift are under God’s wrath—both now and in the future. These verses make it clear why this gift from God is such an awesome, undeserved offer. Among that list, even the “small” things make those who practice them “worthy of death” (vs. 32). God also has made His free gift of life and consequences for rejecting it clear. He has displayed His invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature in His creation—both outside us and within us through our conscience. People understand that there is a God and they know their evil, yet they speculate about what true life is and suppress the truth about God and their depravity. Submit to the Creator’s purpose or suffer His wrath. ALL ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE (vs. 20).
This is where Chapter 2 picks up…
-“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment…” (vs. 1)
-Paul now uses the second person tone—YOU. The previous chapter is not about wicked people “out there…” The judgment of God falls on all who judge others.
vs. 3…God is asking each person to judge himself—that he is just a man (“O man”) not worthy of God’s gift—otherwise he will not escape God’s judgment!
vs. 4…After making a proper judgment of myself, I should see the surpassing value of God’s kindness and tolerance and patience. God’s kindness leads us to repentance. Repentance is turning AWAY from something TO something new. His offer is to give us HIS LIFE (righteousness) in replacement of our old, worthless one. The question is—do I think of my life as worthless? Do I see Christ as just adding value? (“I can go to heaven now that I have faith.”) He is my life…
Let’s not miss what Christ expects in the present.
vs. 5…stubbornness and unrepentant heart “stores up wrath” for judgment day.
vs. 6-8…a contrast is being drawn here, and the OT verse quotation is key in understanding it. He is not just talking about ceasing evil activity, but he is also addressing a proactive approach to “doing good.” The verse quoted is Proverbs 24:12. Reading vss. 11 and 12 for context helps us understand that it is talking about turning others from evil. There will be consequences if we don’t do this! (Compare Ezekiel 3:17-21).
—“Obey the truth” means Christ in me doing His work. Cleaning me out for service.
—As I experience the righteous life of Christ, I cannot help but share it.
—Rather than passing judgment, share the hope of eternal life!
—We are called to speak hard to truths to people (just as Paul is!) and “no longer [give] hearty approval” to those practicing evil (1:32).
If I am not wanting to share this good news of a righteous life in Christ, perhaps I myself have not received it, or I am not cooperating with Christ in me as I should.
Judge yourself and share your hope with everyone. There is no hope in a man, including myself, but we can share God’s kindness, tolerance and patience.
vs. 7—we need perseverance to do good because not all will like our message! Seeking Christ’s glory and honor and immortality is evidenced in sharing the hope of eternal life--this is the type of life we can experience even in the present time. It is Christ’s life.
vs. 8—“Those who are selfishly ambitious…” Those who share Christ for their own gain are the same as those in chapter one who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” In this case, they are withholding the truth about God from other people! They are also worthy of death, under God’s wrath.
God’s Word will do His work—speak it unashamedly (Just as Paul does!…chapter 1:16).
vs. 9-10…another contrast. Tribulation and distress for those who do evil. Glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good. These principles hold true for everyone—Jew and Gentile.
“Doing evil” means those who suppress the truth—either they have not received the free gift of a righteous life in Christ or they are trying to use this message to their own gain.
“Doing good” means those who judge themselves correctly in light of who God is, receive His awesome gift and share it with others.
vs. 11. God is impartial. The riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience—the free gift of a righteous life in Christ—is for all who will repent. His wrath abides on all who reject Him.
The question is, “Am I judging myself correctly?” Do I truly think my life is worthless without Christ? Do I think that He only adds value to my life, rather than completely turning away from my former life (SEE THINGS AT END OF CHAPTER 1)? What do I have my hope fixed on—eternal life or worldly gain? OUR HOPE: We will be restored to the glory and honor of God and experience His peace in the present if we persevere in the true gospel.
Matthew 7:1-5…remove log, then you can judge! This is done by the power of Christ, not my “standard of measure.”
2 Cor. 4:1-4…”manifestation of truth” is Christ’s life in me—a change of nature. Many hate this message, but we shouldn’t compromise even when called “judgmental Christian.” vs. 16-18…though we don’t see the whole weight of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience, we can experience it now…we fully will one day!
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!