Irreverent, Silly Myths

A small excerpt from Matt Chandler’s teaching called “A Shepherd and His Ungenerate Sheep” from Desiring God’s 2009 Pastors Conference.

The full teaching can be found here.

Breathed Out By God #1 – An Introduction

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra — which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 3:10 – 4:8)

Don’t you think it’s ironic that I that present seven topics that are on my list for possible next series, and then introduce something completely different? I think it is, but such is life. It is full of surprises! Yet don’t think it’s the end of that list… Please comment still on your favorite topic here.

Anyways, the reason for this series may not be so apparent, but I used the “famous” 2 Timothy 3:16 verse this last Saturday during a meeting, and spoke on Sunday with my good friend and participant of that meeting, Patricia about this verse. She wondered about the deeper meaning of this verse and its application. We did not have much time then to go deep into it, but I must admit that I too am intrigued about the depth of it. Hence, this short series.

The verse of 2 Timothy 3:16 is pretty consistent across the different translations. Let me try to summarize it: “All Scripture is [God-breathed (NIV), inspired by God (NASB), breathed out by God (ESV), given by inspiration of God (KJV)] [and is useful for (NIV), and profitable for (NASB, ESV, KJV)], [teaching (NIV, NASB, ESV), doctrine (KJV)], [rebuking (NIV), reproof (NASB, ESV, KJV)], [correcting (NIV), correction (NASB, ESV, KJV)], and [training in righteousness (NIV, NASB, ESV), instruction in righteousness (KJV)]

I prefer a combination of the ESV and KJV, which ends up like this: “All Scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” The apparent consistency in the different translations seems to indicate that it is clear how to translate it, but what does the verse actually mean? And how and where does it apply to our lives? This introductory post will attempt to take a look at the verse as a whole, and the first half of. And then subsequent posts will deal with the four individual aspects it is useful or profitable for.

The Big Picture
As with most, if not all, verses in the Bible, this verse should be looked at within the context it is written. Although the verse itself, apart from the context, holds true and should be adhered to, it is the context which gives insights into the reason why. The verse is pretty much right in the center of a section of Scripture going from 2 Timothy 3:10 through 2 Timothy 4:8, and deals with an exhortation from the apostle Paul to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, in contrast to the false teachers which Paul warns Timothy against in the first nine verses of chapter three. It addresses directly on how Timothy must resist the opponents and remain faithful to the gospel. It is an exhortation based on Timothy’s already established faithfulness (verse 10: “you, however, have followed my teaching…“).

So in order to fully understand this verse we need to take a look at the whole picture it is part of. In 2 Timothy 2:14-26 Paul introduces the false teaching (irreverent babble) and explains how Timothy should respond to it and be different from the false teachers. In 3:1–9 Paul describes the false teachers more extensively. Having exhorted Timothy to steadfast endurance, Paul now begins to address the problem directly. He speaks of “the last days” which according to Acts 2:17 are the days after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and are thus also still the present day, and the false teachers are the people who “will be lovers of self, a lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, b disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” for they will “creep into households” and lead people “astray by various passions“. Paul commands Timothy to avoid such people (verse 5), which most likely most involves excommunication if it pertains to those who remain obstinate. Paul then goes on to explain that Scripture is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

We first need to realize that Paul is writing this letter to Timothy. Paul sent Timothy to the church in Ephesus to deal with false teachers. Both letters from Paul to Timothy deal with this aspect in various form, although the second letter seem to focus more on exhorting Timothy to persevere. False teaching is corrected by correct teaching (next to church discipline and possible excommunication), and so Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is to persevere in teaching. We should in any case combine verse 16 with 17 in order to get the actual full sentence. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” So for who is Scripture profitable? So that the man of God may be competent and equipped. Who is the man of God? This is an Old Testament phrase. For instance, Moses is called a man of God (Deuteronomy 33:1, Joshua 14:6), angels of the LORD are called a man of God (Judges 13:6;8), and prophets like Elijah (1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 1) and Elisha (2 Kings 4 – 7) are called a man of God . Overall, we can say that the “man of God” is indicating a messenger of God. Both the background of the Old Testament and the context show that Paul sees Timothy as his delegate and a leader over the church. A shepherd/pastor. A preacher. Paul provides a basic framework for Timothy on how to preach. Sinclair B. Ferguson, distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminister Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas says of 2 Timothy 3:16, “Thus informed, we come to see that preaching to the heart will give expression to four things: instruction in the truth, conviction of conscience, restoration and transformation of life, and equipping for service […] Preaching, therefore, involves teaching – imparting doctrine in order to renew and transform the mind. It implies the inevitable rebuke of sin, and brings with it the healing of divine correction.” If the man of God approached the Scripture with humility, he himself will be instructed, convinced, restored, transformed and equipped in the process of preparing. If that happens, and it should, then in turn he will be able, by the Holy Spirit, to do the same when he is preaching.

Of course this is not the only application of this verse as a whole, for the Holy Spirit does not need a preacher to accomplish His work (although John 14:26 does say that the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all that Jesus said, hence Jesus’ words must be proclaimed first), but Paul, a preacher, is charging Timothy as a preacher, to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2) in order to overcome or correct false teaching.

All Scripture
What is considered all Scripture? First off, it seems evident that the Old Testament books are implied, but there are references in the New Testament which refer to itself as Scripture as well in two occasions. First, in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul says, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” Although the command to not muzzle an ox is a quote from Deuteronomy 25:4, the command that a laborer deserves his wages is a direct quote from Luke 10:7, and Paul refers to it as Scripture. Secondly, in 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter says, “And count l the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” And so it seems that both Paul and Peter refer to the NT writings to be inspired by God at a very early date, considering that Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy around 64–65 AD, and Peter wrote his second letter around 64-67 AD.

Breathed Out By God
Paul is using a Greek word here (theopneustos) which does not occur anywhere else in the Bible. I actually read that this word did not occur anywhere in Greek texts outside the Bible prior to this letter. That is quite remarkable to say the least! The word is a combination of “theos” (meaning: God) and “pneō” (meaning: to breath). In any case, Paul is clearly pointing to the fact that God breathed out the Scriptures, and does not point to the human authors of Scripture as inspired people.

In the next session I will attempt to unravel the word “teaching,” its implications and its applications.

The Pillar and Support of the Truth

I was asked to study 1 Timothy chapter three and give a 15-minute teaching on it. I figured it wouldn’t hurt putting my thoughts on my blog as well…

Chapter three of 1 Timothy is the familiar and famous chapter listing the qualifications of an elder and a deacon. Complete libraries have been written on this topic and so it seemed like a daunting task to actually do some exegesis on this text which was not done before, and at the same time making sure I don’t fall into the category of people discussed in 1 Timothy chapter 1 (if you get my point). I don’t know how often I read this chapter before, but for some reason I never really noticed the last couple of verses. Maybe because the focus of the chapter is so evidently on the qualifications that these go unnoticed. Yet Paul is never accidental in his writings and so I believe that the fact these verses directly follow the qualifications is deliberate and intentional.

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” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
Keeping in mind that Paul did not write this letter with chapters in mind, we could still say that Paul gives the outline for the qualifications without tell why these qualifications are important. Yet he does so at the end. In verse 14-15 Paul he tells us that these instructions for qualifying elders are so that we will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God. In other words, how you should behave in church. What I think is interesting is that Paul then gives a description of the household of God nowhere else mentioned in Scripture, and in a way that emphasizes his previous point. He says that the household of God is the church of the living God is the pillar and support of the truth. Paul is making a direct relation between the qualifications of an elders and deacons (church leadership) and the fact that the church is the pillar and support of the truth. I think this is interesting. And so it seems worthwhile to further explore the theme of the church being a pillar.

The pillar and the foundation of the church is truth. It isn’t that the church is the foundation of the truth, but that the church holds up the truth so that the world can see it. In ancient days pillars where often used to fasten upon edicts or declarations for all the public to see. In the Bible pillars are mentioned on a couple of times.

The Pillars of Solomon’s Temple
In 1 Kings 7:15-21 we read about the two pillars on the porch of Solomon’s temple. These enormous pillars (8.3 meters tall, 5.5 meters in circumference, with a 2.3 meters high bronze capitals) were named Jachin, which means “he establishes,” and Boaz, which means “in him is strength.” Some believe that these pillars were to remind Israel of the twin pillars from the Exodus, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Constant reminders and God’s presence. You could also say that the house of God itself was Jachin and Boaz. The temple was established by God and built by the strength of God, or “In strength shall My House be established.” You could also say that in the temple, the house of God, people experienced what the pillars were all about: people were established in their relationship with God, and people were given strength from God.

Jeremiah was made like a pillar by God
In Jeremiah 1:17-19 we read that God says to Jeremiah to prepare for action, to go out and proclaim the truth. In order to do that God makes Jeremiah strong like a fortified city and like an iron pillar. “‘Get up and prepare for action. Go out and tell them everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them. For see, today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. You will stand against the whole land – the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!'” (Jeremiah 1:17-19). In order for Jeremiah to hold up the truth, God made him like an iron pillar.

Peter, James and John were known as the pillars of the church
In Galatians 2:9 we read that the inner circle of Jesus, Peter, James and John, were known as the pillars of the church, meaning not only that they were the pillars on which the church was built, but also that they held up the truth for all the world to see. They were, in a way, like Jeremiah, made like a pillar by God.

Here is where the qualifications of an elder come in, because in order to be a pillar, to be like a fortified city that cannot be captured, to hold up the truth, you have to be above reproach. Being above reproach (blameless, well-thought-of, give no grounds for accusations, to be without any character defect) is in a sense the only qualification of an elder. Paul does the same thing here as he does in Galatians 5:22-23 when discussing the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, and an elder must be above reproach. In both cases Paul is so kind to give us some more insight into what this means practically, and he does so in four ways: First, his relation to God (he has to be a man, he has to be able to teach, he cannot be a recent convert); second, his relation to his family (he has to be faithful to his wife, he has to have respectful and obeying children, he has to be a good steward of his household); third, his relation to himself (he has to be self-controlled, he has to live wisely, he cannot have additions, he has to be able to handle money well); and fourth, his relation to others (he has to be gentle, he has to be not quarrelsome, he has to have a good reputation outside church, he has to be hospitable, he cannot be violent)

All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of God
The last reference to pillars can be found in Revelation 3:12, where Jesus says: “‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.’” I think this is very interesting. Revelation 3:12 is part of Jesus’ letter to the church of Philadelphia. Historically this ancient city suffered often from earthquakes as it was situated in a highly volcanic region. When a building collapsed in an earthquake often all that remained were the huge pillars. Jesus offers us this same strength, to remain standing in Him when everything around us crumbles. Of all of the churches in Revelation that Jesus sent a letter to, the church of Philadelphia together with the church of Smyrna are the only ones for which Jesus has no concerns. Interestingly enough, the church of Philadelphia is the only church out of the seven which is promised to be kept out of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 3:10) and with the church of Smyrna the only two churches still alive today! It is said to represent the missional church model and era. In any case, it is interesting that it is this church in particular (the missional church with no concerns that is still alive today) that is promised to become pillars in the temple of God.

Pillars are what hold up the building. The only thing supporting the pillar is the foundation. Elders are to be pillars in the church, who support the church, and they should look to Jesus as their support foundation. And so it is of the utmost importance that the church appoints elders (identified by the Holy Spirit) who are above reproach, in order for the church to hold up the truth so the world can see it. The question then remains is how does one become above reproach? And my answer would be to keep Psalm 86:11 close to heart and mind, which says: “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” A proper fear of the LORD will unite your heart with His, because it will convict you of sin you didn’t realize you had, because it will create a desire to see the full glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:4-6) which will keep you on a straight and humble path of desiring to be above reproach. Yet if you think you’re there you are not above reproach anymore.

In Active Service

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Tim 2:3-4)

Paul is instructing Timothy here to have the attitude of a soldier, and suffer hardship with him. A good soldier doesn’t give up when hardship comes his way. He endures, because he is disciplined and perfected for what he has been trained to do. Paul doesn’t instruct Timothy to be a common or ordinary soldier, but to be a good soldier. There are men who are just soldiers and that’s it. With just enough temptation they give in and become useless for their task. But the good soldier is brave and courageous all the time, and does his duty with heart and earnestness.

Likewise, if a believer is not willing to endure hardship, they will not accomplish much for Jesus Christ. They will give up as soon as something hard is required of them. We need to train hard, be disciplined, so that we will be perfected in unity with Jesus Christ (John 17:23), perfected in holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1), perfected in patience (1 Timothy 1:16), perfected in faith (James 2:22), and perfected in love (1 John 4:12), “for I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)

A good soldier detaches himself from everyday life, leaves all behind what needs to be left behind, to serve the greater purpose or goal, what he believes in. Jesus said in Matthew 16:14 that “if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” A good soldier has to be willing to give up many things. Some of them bad (pride, self-will), but also some of them good (his home, his family). This is required of him. He must give up anything that comes in the way of being a good soldier, and serve his commanding officer. A faithful soldier doesn’t have the right to do anything that will entangle him as it will makes him a less effective soldier.

Choosing Christ means that we have to give up our self-will and clothe ourselves with the will of Christ, our commanding officer. He is our drill sergeant, our general. He’s the one that disciplines us, shapes us into the good soldier he needs us to be, to serve for His kingdom, fight for His kingdom. It should be our higher purpose to please Him. To be totally obedient to Him.

Yesterday I went to see “John Rambo” in the cinema, the latest and supposedly last movie in the series. Now John Rambo has lost faith in the greater purpose and prefers not to fight anymore, so in that sense he does not serve as a good example (because we should never lose faith or give up the fight). But what is evident is that he is a trained fighting machine, no matter what. It has become second nature to him. He has been disciplined and perfected to be what he was trained to be. In the movie he says that we should “live for nothing, or die for something”. In this he does serve as an example as it echoes Paul who says “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). We should be willing to give our lives.

I must say that this is challenging. I do like the whole analogy of the good soldier, to be a soldier in Jesus’ army. I think I need to see Jesus more as my drill sergeant, let Him push me more, train me more, mold me more, shape me more into a loving “fighting machine”, so I can serve in His army and fight to advance the kingdom, regain land that has been lost. But in order to do that I also have to let go more of everyday life, disentangle myself from everything that holds me back from giving my complete focus to be good soldier.

Jesus has enlisted me into His army. It’s time to be a soldier in active service!

Power, Love And A Sound Mind

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7)

To be timid means to be lacking in self-assurance or courage, to be shy, or to be easily alarmed. But God has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. I would say that I can be timid a lot of times. I am an introvert and I am shy, and there are a lot of situations where I am lacking in self-assurance (speaking in front of others, praying out loud, doing something for the first time). I assume everybody has to deal with situations where they feel timid and afraid.

I think it’s important to understand that such fears are not from God! And I do think I realize this. The problem I face is more how to overcome this. Is it an issue of personality, of weakness of the flesh? Is there something that I need to ask forgiveness for, or repent of? How do I deal with such fears? How can I fully embrace that God has given me a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.

What does it mean to have a spirit of power? It reminds me of Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth when he says: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5). I find it’s comforting to know that even the great Apostle Paul felt weak and afraid, but it shows that when we are doing God’s work and proclaiming His glorious word and being ambassadors of His kingdom that we have all His power at our disposal, and that it is our weakness that is demonstrating the power of God in us and through us.

Many songs are written about the power of love (Celine Dion, Huey Lewis and the News, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 10CC, Jennifer Rush), but all of these are talking about love between two people. Jesus’ love is expressed in serving others. He gave up His life for us! I am more and more beginning to understand and embrace this. I was actually telling me wife this weekend how wonderful it is to serve her. I love doing this. Doing these, mostly small and simple tasks to serve her really expresses my love for her.

God has given us a sound mind. The Greek word here has the idea of being calm and self-controlled, in contrast to the panic and confusion that rushes in when we are in a fearful situation. I can really recognize this. I am usually quite calm and self-controlled, but when I am in a fearful situation then inwardly all of that goes out the window. I start getting cold and sleepy, and words usually don’t come out the way they sounded in my head. It’s quite annoying!

I think it’s important to realize that we don’t need to accept the spirit of fear as it’s not from God. We need to humbly receive and walk in the spirit that God has given us. Fear and timidity will keep us from using the gifts that God has given us. He wants us to fully embrace His power, His love and His calm thinking so we can be His ambassadors in this world. We’ve got to be bold, for “on the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3).