14 October 2007

Updating This Old Thing

Updating the Spot
Last post was August 1! It's all flown by rather rapidly. Josiah is talking more and more lately and “says the darnedest things” as expected. Jenny and I had a great time in Nairobi when we visited for two weeks in August. Dan Huffstutler and I have been able to get to together to talk things through a bit. From what I can tell, I think we will get along with the Huffstutlers and Weavers quite well. Pastor Pearson and I have been emailing back and forth about our joining Grace Baptist Mission.

In other news, I am doing my seminar paper on the atonement and common grace. My hypothesis is that the warning passages in Hebrews (esp. 10:29) and a few other texts forge an exegetical connection between the two concepts. Up to this point, I’d been relying on a purely theological construct to make the connection between the common grace and the atonement. This paper seeks to shore up the point a bit. Dr. Compton had me do an article critique on a Zane-Hodges type interpretation of the warning passages which provided a necessary interpretational first step in demonstrating my hypothesis. In Amos, I will be writing on the theological basis for the condemnation of the non-Israelite nations in chapters 1-2. No connection to the atonement on that one, just a lingering question that I’ve wanted to explore.

So that's a quick overview of the semester. I hope to post more frequently in the future, but most of my time at the keyboard is eaten up by writing for school these days. So blogging may be skimpy until I finish the Th.M. in July.

09 July 2007

That's Why We Labor and Strive

Five themes trace through our next paragraph: (1) promise vs. (2) temporality; (3) labor in and responsibility to the (4) apostolic tradition (5) against which the false teachers spread their myth.

If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

Always Believing.As we saw in the first paragraphs of the letter godliness is intimately connected with the “truths of the faith” and “the good teaching.” Godliness in these texts involves fulfilling our responsibilities as recipients of the apostolic tradition. It is proclaiming and living the gospel.

Some have understood the phrase “physical training” as a reference to the ascetic practices of the false teachers. This does not make poor sense of the context. If you’ll remember (from way back) the previous paragraph dealt with the prohibition of marriage and meats. However, it seems unlikely that Paul, immediately after proclaiming the goodness of all God made, would say that abstaining from certain kinds of meat “is of some value.”

Instead, Paul is doing what he often does in pulling an example from the athletic realm. Striving and laboring for godliness is similar to the training of an athlete—in American idiom, “No pain, no gain; no guts, no glory.” The message is consistent with what Jesus and Paul teach us elsewhere, “No cross, no crown.” These mottos state negatively what Paul is saying positively in this paragraph.

Godliness holds forth promise for the life to come. Our efforts will not be in vain, for our hope is set on the living and saving God.

22 May 2007

Everything God Made is Good

While Christ is now reigning, though his victory over sin and death are secured, there remains an abiding manifestation of the old age. Spiritual enemies of Christ continue to attack the church. The battle is real, and casualties are eternally disastrous. Paul addresses a specific demonic strategy of attack against the church in Ephesus with the following paragraph.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

The skies proclaim the works of his hands.From a church history perspective, it is interesting to note that demonic activity has often used this covert strategy of spreading heresy over against more overt paranormal activity. Perhaps we find it easier to fall into religious pride than outright witchcraft.
This paragraph gives another example of how the false teachers want to be teachers of the law, but do not know what they are talking about. Paul clearly alludes to the Penteuchal words, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31). In that sense, God’s word has “sanctified” creation. Creation is also sanctified when Christians acknowledge that it came from God. The temptation to idolatry is not a fault in the creation itself but is a symptom of unbelief and culpable ignorance of the truth. When believers acknowledge the source of the gift and love the Giver more than the gift, the gift is “sanctified.” Christians should embrace marriage and meat because God made them for his praise.

16 May 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness

A friend pointed out this abstract to me on the Resurgence.

What Piper might call Christian Hedonism, Lewis called Christian Eudaimonism. Both etymologically (pursuit of pleasure and pursuit of happiness) and substantively, they are strikingly similar if not identical.

Here's a bit from the abstract that roused me to courageous virtue in my personal pursuit of God:

A eudaimonistic perspective does not see ethics as a strictly separable domain of issues or rules, only extrinsically related to the overall aim of one's life. Nor, as Lewis points out, does it understand the ethical life as primarily negative or restrictive. Rather, a Christian eudaimonistic approach sees all of one's life, including the ethical life, as a positive, passionate pursuit of the Good worth ultimately seeking, which unifies and integrates all of life and ultimately satisfies one's deepest desires.

15 May 2007

Great Is the Mystery

It is not always that the author of a Biblical document clues us in directly as to his purposes for writing. We are happy to find that 1 Timothy has just such a statement.

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem.The hymnic structure of the final phrases is evident. It represents one of a few well-attested examples of early NT liturgy or catechizing. It exemplifies what the church should always be doing: distilling the great truths of the gospel into crisp, beautiful, memorable sentences. The church at Ephesus had just this kind of responsibility to the truth, as we do today. This responsibility comes from what the church is—responsibility comes from identity. The church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” In context, these words refer not to the origin of the truth, but the proclamation of the truth. In other words he is not saying that truth gets its authority from the church. He is saying that it is the church’s responsibility to keep the truth above ground, up where everyone can see it. Included in this are both propagation and perpetuation.
What truth shall be propagated? The victory of Christ over sin and death is the central truth. This victory is exhibited in the worldwide reception of Christ by the nations and in the heavenwide reception of Christ by the angels. He is Lord with all authority. He reigns over the earth and heaven as God’s Man, the final Messiah, and the message of his victory spreads by means of assemblies of sinners who have experienced a taste of the kingdom life he will one day usher in.

06 May 2007

Portrait of a Servant

Just as the noble task of shepherding requires applicants to show themselves worthy, so also the recognized servants of the church must match certain qualities.

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Deaconesses too?The historical situation guaranteed that Paul was going to mention perseverance in “the deep truths of the faith” as an essential quality. Service motivated by financial gain (6:9) and malicious speech (5:13) had also infected the church through the heresy. Those who served the church must be tested and trustworthy, lest they become part of the problem rather than of the solution.

The word translated “standing” here and in most versions is somewhat ambiguous; English doesn’t really have a word with equivalent ambiguity. It can mean something like “social status,” as almost all English translations imply. In other words, Paul could be applying the sayings of Jesus to the office of deacon, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43). However, the word can also mean, something like “spiritual progress,” as the standard Greek dictionary indicates. In other words, Paul could be saying that the spiritual discipline required for good deaconship also results in growth in Christlikeness (2 Cor 3:18).
In either case, godly reward (not financial gain) motivates godly service, and Paul doesn’t think that this is a second-rate way to motivate people to serve. As Jesus says elsewhere, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

04 May 2007

The Resurrection and Apologetics (co-opted)

Las Cruces.Baylor at Luther’s Stein recently posted on the need to use the resurrection in apologetics. In the following discussion, he pointed out that it is incumbent upon the apologist “to address every part of the unbeliever’s worldview” and “to fully present our own,” which includes, if I understand him, a presentation of the resurrection as a demonstration of the validity of Christianity.
Though I still want to hear more about what Baylor and the others think about this, I think we have a measure of agreement on our understanding of the role of evidences. Let me demonstrate what I mean by describing how the resurrection would work in an encounter with unbelief. In a practical setting, I would present the resurrection as a historical vindication of Jesus (both his message and his mission). In other words, I would preach the gospel. If the Spirit works, and the unbeliever repents, no specifically apologetic task is necessary. If the unbeliever rejects the truth, then apologetic dialogue must begin. I need to find out why or on what basis he rejects the Scriptural account. Is he Muslim? Is he atheist? Perhaps he thinks the resurrection is historical, but he doesn't think that means he should stop following the Wiccan way. Whatever the case, I need to figure out what he believes that causes him to reject the clear testimony of Scripture. I also need to highlight the precariousness and futility of his autonomous worldview. I need to show how that rejection conflicts with his own intrinsic-but-suppressed knowledge of God. And I need to point the way to the Christian worldview.
At the end of the discussion, Baylor asked, “Do you believe evidentialist and presuppositionalist apologetics to be mutually exclusive?” In some ways, they have to be. On the evidentialist understanding, the universe of evidence is a neutral arbiter between anti-theism and Christian theism, and either position is a live option. On the presuppositional approach, the universe is distinctly Christian-theistic, and the anti-theistic worldview is futile. In another sense, I don’t mind presenting the distinctly Christian evidence as a starting point for the conversation. The whole universe speaks perspicuously, “God is glorious!” By grace, someone may find it convincing, repent, and join me in trying to interpret the universe Christianly. But if he rejects the evidence, it is due to some point of depravity which keeps him from accepting the authority of self-attesting revelation.

28 April 2007

A Portrait of a Shepherd

I guess it's more of a landscape.The war-torn church had many casualties. Despair and confusion pervaded. Surely not our elders—they would not fall; they would hold the faith. “Even from your own number,” Paul’s words from that sermon on the beach years before echoed in their ears, “Men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). It happened, just as Paul had said. But the Spirit was not thwarted; he sovereignly raised a new army of shepherds to care for sheep and to fight pride and lies and greed. Timothy was there not only to silence the false teaching but to restore order to the church, and presiding over the choice of officers is part of that. Here Paul paints a portrait of the shepherd for the recovering Ephesian church.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
He is to protect the sheep through apt teaching and a godly example. He is not to stoop to the bickering and peddling of the false teachers, nor is he to abandon his home responsibilities as they may have. The task before them is noble, so they must show themselves worthy of it.

27 April 2007

On Happiness and House-elves

I've talked before about how humans were meant to be royalty, to rule and to subdue the earth. But I think that truth has a complementary one: humans were made to serve God. The service we are intended to render, though obligatory, is not supposed to be burdensome or servile. Instead, it is a robust, lively activity, the only activity in which we will find thorough and profound happiness. One of the greatest duties—no, the greatest duty—we have in service to God is taking delight in him.
It was with that theological framework that I approached the text of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Perhaps it is only a silly parallel, but I really thought it was pertinent.
As our parallel begins, Winky, a female house-elf, is quite depressed because her role as servant to the Crouch household has been terminated. The house-elves, like humans, were made to serve. But unlike fallen humanity, house-elves delight in serving their masters. It is, even in Dobby’s case, part of their nature. Dumbledore takes Winky on to serve at Hogwarts, but the devastating blow of being sacked is too much for her to handle. She is an emotional wreck. All of the other house-elves at Hogwarts think of her as a disgrace. Hermione tries to defend Winky, telling the other house-elves that Winky is simply unhappy. But they respond:

‘Begging your pardon, miss,’ said the house-elf, bowing deeply again, ‘but house-elves has no right to be unhappy when there is work to be done and masters to be served.’ ‘Oh for heaven’s sake!’ Hermione cried. ‘Listen to me, all of you! You’ve got just as much right as wizards to be unhappy! You’ve got the right to wages and holidays and proper clothes, you don’t have to do everything you’re told (p. 538).

Of course, Rowling’s point is that Hermione’s quest for elf-liberation is immature, but still--Leave it to human autonomy to completely ruin the picture. We humans would rather rule ourselves than be happy with God’s rule over us. Instead of actively doing everything we’re told, in the expressed divine will, humans insist, “No, I have every right to be unhappy!”

17 April 2007

Saved Through Childbearing

Eve First?In the following paragraphs, Paul continues to give Timothy instructions about how the church is supposed to function. By observing distinctions in gender roles in family and church, Paul tells Timothy, the members of the Ephesian church will escape spiritual disaster.

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Apparently the false teachers encouraged (or their teaching resulted in) the usurpation of male roles in the church by women. Some have suggested that these, who forbid to marry (4:3), and who perhaps downplay normal family obligations (5:8), may also have a view of the role of women which is contrary to the created order. In any case, these, who want to be teachers of the Law (1:7), are refuted by the Pentateuch itself. In the church, God intended official teachers to be chosen from among the men, and for the women to teach younger women (Titus 2:2) and children.

Observance of these roles in church and home is very important to Paul. In fact, he attaches “salvation” to it in verse 15. If one takes 4:16 as a parallel, the verse may be a little easier to understand. There Paul instructs Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” So Timothy must persevere in a gospel-saturated walk and talk. In so doing he will act as a conduit of grace as God, through the means of perseverance, brings Timothy and the Ephesian congregation to final salvation. With the same hope, the Ephesian women must persevere in their roles as women in the church and home, continuing “in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

14 April 2007


Maybe I'm just twisted--Do these guys ever remind you of these guys?

11 April 2007

Reasons for Universal Intercession

Christ Prays for CultureIn the following verses, Paul grounds prayer for the conversion of all humans in God’s pleasure in saving, in God’s unique supremacy over all, and in God’s unique work in Christ.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-- the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle-- I am telling the truth, I am not lying--and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

Essentially, the prayers recommended here are prayers for the progress of the gospel. One means to that end is prayer for the wisdom and well-being of the imperial and regional political leaders in maintaining peace and order in the empire. Christian apologists of the early centuries were able to point to these practices to show that they were not anti-Roman, even if they did not worship the emperor as most residents of the empire did. These prayers may have been in direct contradiction to the false teaching at Ephesus.

Here Paul gives Timothy and the Ephesians three reasons to pray for the universal progress of godliness. First, in the sense that God desires obedience for all of his commands, God desires that everyone come to acknowledge the apostolic testimony, that is, “the truth” (v. 4). So praying for the conversion of everyone is consistent with God’s moral demand on everyone to heed the gospel. Second, for all humankind, there is only one God. Because conversion entails repentance from false idols (1 Thess 1:9) and dead works (Heb 6:1), it pleases God to pray for the conversion of those who worship that which is not God. Third, for all humankind, there is only one Savior. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Because conversion entails despising all false hopes and turning to Jesus, it pleases God to pray for the conversion of those who hope in that which is not Christ.

09 April 2007

Making Changes

This sign has been destroyed by a lawn mower.
New domain addy,
New theme and blogger template,
New destination--
church-planting, leader-training
Mission: Nairobi, Kenya

06 April 2007

The Pervasive Influence of the English Bible on the American Mind

*$I asked for a refill of coffee at Starbucks.

I get the obligatory question, "Would you like room for cream?"

Before I give the obligatory answer, "No," the barista amends his question, "Or perhaps I should say, 'Would you like room for the cream?'" Then he explained, "Sometimes the King James Version confuses people."

I agreed and thanked him for my refill.

15 March 2007

The Corporate and Individual Dimensions of Keeping the Faith

In the following paragraph, Paul returns to the charge he has given Timothy to silence the false teachers.

Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
Why does Paul give this charge to Timothy in accordance with the prophecies? Paul gives the charge to Timothy so that Timothy will fight the good fight for the salvation of the assembly and hold fast to his personal faith. I conclude that “fighting the good fight” is not synonymous with “holding on to faith” because Paul’s charge primarily concerns silencing the false teachers in the church. Giving the charge to silence false teachers so that Timothy would continue to battle sin in his life doesn’t follow. In addition, while a prophecy concerning Timothy’s usefulness in defending orthodoxy in the church does not seem out of place, a prophecy concerning Timothy’s perseverance seems unlikely. However, if “fighting the good fight” is not equal to “holding on to faith,” it is dependent upon it. It is important to keep in mind that keeping the faith has both personal and corporate dimensions, and the corporate dimension is dependent on the personal dimension.

There is a theology of perseverance which is assumed here but it is made clear elsewhere in Paul. To use the analogy of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul is exhorting Timothy to beat his body so that he will win the prize. If Timothy does not struggle to win, he will be disqualified from the prize and not become a participant in the benefits of the gospel. This is not to say that Timothy’s struggle merits the benefits of the gospel—far from it. Timothy must maintain faith as well as obedience. He must strive to keep the gospel central, to remember that Jesus came to save sinners! If he does not hold on to these things, he will shipwreck his faith like those false teachers who “want to be teachers of the Law.” The excommunication of Hymenaeus and Alexander provided a vivid example for Timothy to remember.

Only by holding on to personal faith and obedience will Timothy be in a position to silence the false teachers and reorder the church around the apostolic tradition.

09 March 2007

Grace to the Sinner Means Glory to the Savior.

Who gets the glory?The Law, Paul teaches in the previous few verses, was written against all those who endorse behavior contrary to “the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to” Paul. The fact that God had so entrusted him, or counted him faithful, is the source of the current doxology.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
To put Paul’s “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength” in bold relief, it must be contrasted with another prayer of thanksgiving offered by a certain man Jesus mentions in the gospels, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Luke 18:11–12). Paul’s opponents in Ephesus also had their food laws (4:3) and sought financial gain through their “godliness” (6:5).

What’s the difference? The difference is that “the grace of our Lord was poured out on [Paul] abundantly” (v. 14). Why is it that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners as bad as Paul (or as you and I)? It’s because, while unrepentant Pharisees are making lists of who they're better than and all the external requirements they fulfill, Paul is extolling the infinite mercy of Christ to those who believe and the eternal glory of the King who grants them eternal life. Grace to the sinner means glory to the Savior.

04 March 2007

The Law is Good

Sinaitic InjunctionsOne word rests on my fingertips ready to fit itself right into a one word summary of this passage: condemnation.

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 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 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

It seems that Paul is both expanding on and implying what he said in Romans 7:7, “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” Because the false teachers sought to teach the Law as a regulation for the Christian life, Paul shows just how the regulatory function of the Law looks when it is applied to sinful humanity. When the Law is applied to life as a regulation, it results only in condemnation of sin. That condemnation is not for the justified (Rom 8:1) but for lawless rejecters of Paul’s gospel. The Law, when used properly, is on Paul’s side against those who wish to be teachers of the Law. That’s why it’s so obvious to Paul that these teachers “don’t know what they are talking about” (v. 7).

However, those who submit to Paul’s gospel will not evaluated by the law. They will be granted mercy as Paul, the chief among sinners, was granted mercy (v. 16).

Theologically, what is the role of the Law for today?
I think using the Ten Commandments to show unbelievers their personal sin is not necessarily a bad idea. Paul evidently intended the list here to roughly parallel those Sinaitic injunctions: the fifth through the ninth commandments are especially clear and in order (though the fourth commandment is conspicuously absent). However, we must make clear to unbelievers that keeping the law “from now on” is both impossible and ineffective in erasing past sins. In addition one aspect of genuine conversion and union with Christ is dying to the law (Rom 7:4). The law’s condemnation is laid to rest along with its regulatory authority over believer's lives. The Law is good, but it works for Paul’s gospel, not against it.

25 February 2007

Divine Training

Religious HumanThe first full paragraph of the letter works to answer a very important question for the purpose of Paul’s correspondence with Timothy: Why must Timothy continue to work to silence the false teachers?

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work-- which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

Human religions produce religious humans; the gospel produces godly ones. The false teachers at Ephesus represent the former; Timothy and his apostolic mentor represent the latter. The love advanced in this passage is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom 13:10). It is a summary word for the godly life. But being a law-teacher does not produce this love; for Paul, there is only one way to bring it about, “God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith” (1:4, NET). The only way to this love is divine training (BDAG) accomplished by faith.

So why must Timothy continue to work to silence the false teachers? Because their ignorant and heterodox teaching of the law works against God’s training in love by faith. To promote the program of divine training in love by faith, Timothy must silence the ignorant, heterodox, and counterproductive law-teachers. There is an inescapable link in Paul’s mind between the gospel and godliness. One cannot have the kind of love God desires without the gospel; and, therefore, if love is to be promoted, the gospel must be preserved.

This results in two questions by way of application:
Are we seeking to silence falsehood?
Are we silencing falsehood to promote God’s training in love by faith?

21 February 2007

Hope Worth Fighting For

HopePaul begins his letter with his customary modification of the standard Greek letter-heading.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Three items in the first two verses give us a foretaste of the content to follow:
(1) Paul’s apostolic authority is rooted in the “authoritative directive” (BDAG) of God himself. If the false teachers were to appeal to the authority of the OT law to bolster their teachings, Paul could appeal directly to the God of the OT who sent him as a messenger of Christ.

(2) Timothy’s delegated authority is authenticated by the fact that Timothy is Paul’s “legitimate child,” that is, a disciple who accurately represents Paul’s apostolic doctrine and interests. If the false teachers were going to fight against Timothy’s efforts to restore the church to order and orthodoxy, Timothy could appeal to Paul who sent him as a delegate for the sake of the true gospel in the Ephesian church.

(3) The fact that God is “our Savior,” Christ “our Hope,” and both the source of grace, mercy and peace will bolster what Paul has to say about the gospel over against those who “want to be teachers of the Law.” The gospel’s availability to sinners (1:15) and indiscriminate call to salvation (2:4) would probably have scandalized Paul’s opponents. But Paul and Timothy are set on stabilizing and maintaining the Ephesian church as the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (3:15).

What might be thought of as a dogmatic and power-hungry move from Paul is shown to be something entirely different when, among other times, he pens the unique phrase, “Christ Jesus our hope” (see Col 1:27). Paul’s defense of the gospel against heresy is not grasping for power but battling for truth—and not just any truth, the ultimate truth, that the divine Messiah who conquered sin and death will save from wrath those who trust him and deliver them to a kingdom of righteousness and life.

15 February 2007

Heresy Takes Its Toll

War TornWhen dealing with Pauline literature, never underestimate the importance of occasion. I think a lot of people approach the “Pastoral Epistles” as instruction books for Pastors and for running local churches. I know that’s the boat I was in before this semester.

A closer reading in recent weeks has opened my eyes to the pervasive reach of the false teachers and their doctrine in the church. The false teaching had led some of widows astray (1 Tim 5:15), thus the qualifications for being added to the church roster. It seems likely that the reason for appointing leaders in the church is that some of the previous leaders had been lead astray, just like Paul prophesied in Acts 20:30. That gives Paul good reason to remind Timothy to make sure that even the deacons, not to mention those who would teach (see 1 Tim 4:16) were orthodox (1 Tim 3:9). The narrow-minded Judaizing teaching (1 Tim 1:7) is probably the occasion for Paul’s statements about God wanting everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4) and about God as “Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10).

The entire letter is directed at rebuilding and reclaiming a war-torn church. False teaching had taken its toll, but Paul is convinced that hope remains as long as Timothy will devote himself “to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). For in giving due attention to his life and doctrine, Timothy will save both himself and his hearers (1 Tim 4:16).

10 February 2007

1 Timothy -- Introduction

TimotheusI'm thinking about posting this semester on the theology and application of 1 Timothy. The posts will be a product of a class I am taking in seminary, but I hope to get beyond the academic and post something of the significance of each paragraph for present-day affairs.

This will probably be the main thing I do with the blog over the next couple of months, but it will not be the only thing. If I have time, I may do a few Westminster Wednesday posts, and I'm not finished saying what I have to say about Christ and Culture. But this 1 Timothy material will be central.

Writing on a book of the Bible will have drawbacks. I decided long ago that blogging and exegesis of the original languages are not yet compatible. Some of my readers will probably be grateful that they don't have to wade through that, and that's okay. I am just warning others of you that I'll be very reluctant to address exegetical details in this venue, even when provoked. But discussions on theology and application are eagerly anticipated and will be warmly welcomed.

Like many of Paul's letters, 1 Timothy arises from a situation in which his apostolic authority is being questioned. However it seems that the rejection of Paul's (and therefore Christ's) authority is seen through the rejection of Paul's representative to the Ephesian church, Timothy. The letter is written to authenticate Timothy's authority and to encourage him to keep up the battle for the truth in the minds of the Ephesian believers.

The battle for truth, the battle to maintain the gospel from distortion, is a battle that continues today. So Paul's letter to Timothy has compelling relevance for our situation.

05 February 2007

Lukenya Bible Conference - March 2007

I was just invited to participate in a team blog for members of a ministry team headed for Kenya this spring. We will be participating in a conference for national pastors and deacons held near Nairobi. The conference will center on themes of progressive sanctification and pastoral counseling. Pray that God will use us for the spread of his fame and guide us in future ministry planning.

02 February 2007

Vote for Weaver

A friend from college and seminary has entered a picture to win a camera at engadget.com. Paul Weaver's photo shows a Maasai fiddling with his ipod! What a pic! Please vote for him here.

22 January 2007

My Own Hobgoblin

My hobgoblin is napping. “A foolish consistency” opines Emerson, “is the hobgoblin of little minds.” This week a friend and I discussed whether the Christian should try to argue people into consistency. Specifically, we were talking about pushing Arminians to acknowledge that their theological tendencies—if followed consistently—undermine the atonement, which is at the center of the gospel itself. My interlocutor offered that arguing people into consistency can often be messy business, perhaps especially if one follows the transcendental argumentation of Cornelius Van Til.

I agreed: I think I see [your] point. Arguing people into consistency can be both fruitless and harmful to the reputation of Christ.

But the reductio ad absurdum is not unique to the Van Tillian approach to apologetics. I think, with prayer and effort, it can be used in a gracious way, whether it is applied to worldview critique with an unbeliever (as Van Til did) or to theological debate with an Arminian.Isn’t this the kind of argumentation Paul uses when he says, “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal 2:21)? If I understand the argument correctly, Paul is arguing the Judaizers into consistency. He is saying, “Well if you are saying this, then you will also have to conclude this (assuming, of course, you Judaizers want to be consistent). To conclude that the Messiah died without attaining his purposes is absurd, so (to be consistent) we have to conclude that righteousness cannot be gained through the law.”

Obviously I am not saying this is a full-fledged Van Tillian transcendental critique. At this point, I’m not even saying that Paul would have endorsed that method if it were explained to him. All I’m saying is that Paul apparently argued people into consistency without violating his own directive, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph 4:29).

My friend responded skillfully, but I’ll have to post on that later.

15 January 2007

When the "Want To" and the "Ought To" Don't Match

I found this short article this morning, and I thought it was so good that I might actually restart pittsspot with it. I hope to begin blogging again with some degree of regularity, probably twice a week. What you read below is not revolutionary; you might remember singing it since the time you were a child: Obedience is...doing exactly what the Lord commands, and doing it happily.

If your "want to" does not conform to God's "ought to," what can you do to have peace? I see at least five possible strategies.

  1. You can avoid thinking about the "ought to." This is the most common strategy in the world. Most people simply do not devote energy to pondering what they should be doing that they are not doing. It's easier to just keep the radio on.
  2. You can reinterpret the "ought to" so that it sounds just like your "want to." This is a little more sophisticated and so not as common. It usually takes a college education to do this with credibility, and a seminary degree to do it with finesse.
  3. You can muster the willpower to do a form of the "ought to" even though you don't have the heart of the "want to." This generally looks pretty good, and is often mistaken as virtue, even by those who do it. In fact, there is a whole worldview that says doing "ought to's" without "want to" is the essence of virtue. The problem with this is that Paul said, "God loves a cheerful giver," which puts the merely "ought-to givers" in a precarious position.
  4. You can feel proper remorse that the "want to" is very small and weak - like a mustard seed - and then, if it lies within you, do the "ought to" by the exertion of will, while repenting that the "want to" is weak, and praying that the "want to" will soon be restored. Perhaps it will even be restored in doing the "ought to." This is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy hides one of the two contradictory impulses. Virtue confesses them both in the hope of grace.
  5. You can seek, by the means of grace, to have God give the "want to" so that when the time comes to do the "ought to," you will "want to." Ultimately, the "want to" is a gift of God. "The mind of the flesh is hostile to God . . . it is not able to submit to the law of God" (Romans 8:7). "The natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God . . . because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Corinthians 2:14). "Perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25).

The Biblical doctrine of original sin boils down to this (to borrow from St. Augustine): We are free to do what we like, but we are not free to like what we ought to like. "Through the one man's disobedience [Adam] the many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19). This is who we are. And yet we know from our own soul and from the Bible that we are accountable for the corruption of our bad "want to's." Indeed, the better you become, the more you feel ashamed of being bad and not just doing bad. As N.P. Williams said, "The ordinary man may feel ashamed of doing wrong: but the saint, endowed with a superior refinement of moral sensibility, and keener powers of introspection, is ashamed of being the kind of man who is liable to do wrong" (First Things, #87, Nov. 1998, p. 24). God's free and sovereign heart-changing work is our only hope. Therefore we must pray for a new heart. We must pray for the "want to" - "Incline my heart to Your testimonies" (Psalm 119:36). He has promised to do it: "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). This is the new covenant bought by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 8:8-13; 9:15).

Looking to Jesus, my life,

Pastor John

By John Piper October 29, 1998