Elihu’s Rebuke #5: Suffering as a Discipline

Let’s take a step back and look at the situation from a wider angle. Like I said in the beginning, Elihu not so much addresses why Job suffers, but is more concerned with how Job suffers. Elihu is exhorting Job to suffer well. So then the question is: how do we suffer well?

Let me draw four principles out of these chapters which Elihu addresses:

We have to rightly assess our righteousness
Elihu talks about God’s righteousness for nearly three chapters (Job 34:1 – 36:23). Righteousness comes from God alone (Ps. 11:7). And Romans 10:3-4 says, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” On the cross, Jesus gifted His righteousness to us who are unrighteous. It is given to us by Jesus is we believe, or have faith, in Him and His work alone. (2 Cor. 5:21). Rightly assessing the source of our righteousness helps us to understand that when God brings about suffering it is not because of something we have done, nor does it change our standing before Him.

We have to rightly assess our treasure
What the three friends fail to see is that Job’s greatest agony came from the fact that he thought that God abandoned him. Job’s greatest treasure was God, and the thought of losing God brought greater agony than the loss of worldly possessions. You see, in one sense, suffering happens when our treasure is taken away (or threatened to be taken away) from you. We should not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but rather in heaven. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) Rightly assessing where our treasure is helps us to understand that when God brings about suffering to hold on to everything else but God with loose hands.

We have to rightly assess our knowledge
Elihu says, “Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge, you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind? Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?” (Job 37:15-18) We have to come to the conclusion that God knows more than us. Rightly assessing our knowledge helps us to understand that when God brings about suffering we do not have to question God about the reason, but remember and trust in God’s words: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Pro. 3:5)

We have to rightly assess our words
Elihu says as his closing words, “The Almighty—we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate. Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.” (Job 37:23-24). Elihu confronted what he believed to be Job’s arrogance in saying that man deserved an audience or a justification from God. Rightly assessing our words helps us to understand that when God brings about suffering we do not need to engage in an argument or debate with God, but we should simply fear Him “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Pro. 3:7-8).

Suffering will come, and it won’t be easy when it does. But I pray these four principles may help.

Elihu’s Rebuke #1: An Introduction
Elihu’s Rebuke #2: God Is Gracious
Elihu’s Rebuke #3: God is Just
Elihu’s Rebuke #4: God is Great
Elihu’s Rebuke #5: Suffering as a Discipline
Elihu’s Rebuke #6: Conclusion

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 Year Of

The year of 2009 (According to our Gregorian calendar)
The year of the Ox (According to the Chinese calendar)
The year of discipline (As this is much needed in my life)
The year of the Cross of Christ (As I need to “feel” its weight more in my life)
The year of the ESV Study Bible (As I ordered one yesterday and really look forward reading it)
The year of CCIE (Will I decide to go for it? Will I pass?)
The year of Barack Hussein Obama II (Will he be He to many, or just stay he?)
The year of Canon EOS400D (Will I actually start having a hobby this year?)
The year of 35 (That old? Yes!)
The year of budgeting (I hope)
The year of #2 (We hope)
The year of Jehoshaphat (Well, only for two weeks actually)
The year of preaching (Or at least an attempt to)
The year of choosing a structure (I sincerely hope)
The year of repentance (much needed)
The year of humility (much needed)
The year of finally getting it (much needed)

Mission Accomplished! Now What?

Well, I did it. Enter a blog post each day for a whole month. Mission accomplished! Yes, I did cheat a bit as I was on vacation for two weeks and so I had to plan and schedule posts, but in a way that only meant more work. It was an interesting experience, but I am not sure if forcing myself to write something benefited the quality of some of the posts. I don’t know. I am not sure if I will do it again next year, but you’ll never know. I might.

I also came across NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Write Month. On November 1, begin writing your novel. Your goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight, local time, on November 30th. Starting November 1, you can update your word count in that box at the top of the site, and post excerpts of your work for others to read. Watch your word-count accumulate and story take shape. If you write 50,000 words of fiction by midnight, local time, November 30th, you can upload your novel for official verification, and be added to our hallowed Winner’s Page and receive a handsome winner’s certificate and web badge. We’ll post step-by-step instructions on how to scramble and upload your novel starting in mid-November. This seems like an interesting challenge as well, and something which can be combined with the NaBloPoMo (as I can submit the daily writing to my blog). Yet I won’t be writing a novel, but have some ideas for a book. Luckily I still have 11 months to decide.

So, now what? Well, I think I am going to take a small break from blogging. I may post here and there, but no long series, no deep theological stuff. Apart from December being a busy month as it is, I will also be preaching on the topic of Christian dating (so I might submit my notes to my blog), and am working on a paper/teaching on eschatology, which should be done by February, and I am working on a document for the vision and implementation of a men’s ministry for my church, so there is plenty to do apart from blogging.

But it has been a good experience in terms of disciplining myself. I can still grow a lot in the area of discipline. Now I am not saying that being disciplined in blogging, but the underlying theme can be applied in other fields obviously.

Lastly, Eric, thank you for inspiring me to join on on this NaBloPoMo quest. I had fun!

Until I post again,

The Fruit of the Spirit #9 – Self-control

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

Would you not like to be self-controlled? To be in control of one’s self. I know I would! But what does it really mean to be self-controlled? The Bible talks about four aspects of self-control:

The first is “egkrateia“. This is what is talked about here in the fruit of the Spirit. It is the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites. This type of self-control is also spoken of in 2 Peter 1:5-7 “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love,” which talks about growing in Christian virtue. Evident here is that you need knowledge (understanding) in order to practice self-control; and that self-control leads to perseverance which ultimately leads to godliness and (agapē) love.

The second is “egkrateuomai“. This is drawn from athletes, who in preparing themselves for the games abstained from unwholesome food, wine, and sexual indulgence. The best Scripture to illustrate this is 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, which says: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.” Meaning that we should be self-controlled for the purpose of winning. Winning a prize which is eternal, not temporal. And so in order to do this we have to run with purpose in every step, making everything we do intentional.

The third is “egkratēs“, which means being strong, robust; having power over, possessed of (a thing); mastering, controlling, restraining. This type of self-control is mentioned in context of an overseer (Titus 1:7-9). It’s being self-controlled for the sake of others, to be an example, to lead your family well, to lead and correct the flock.

And, lastly, the fourth is “sōphronismos“. This is more an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self-control. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

So self-control goes hand-in-hand with putting up a good fight, working hard. “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” (Colossians 1:28-29). The Greek word for striving here is “agōnizomai”, which means to contend with adversaries, fight; to struggle, with difficulties and dangers. We must strive according to His power to be made complete in Christ.

Self-control, then, is being in control of one’s self; in the context of the Scriptures, the control of self so as to be in harmony with the will of God. You say no by faith in the superior power and pleasure of Christ. The self-control that is the fruit of the Spirit is actually Christ-control.

We can and have to choose not to sin! “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:5-7). Because “do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). We no longer have to choose to sin. We are being freed from the power of sin in our lives. We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin, so we should live according to the Spirit, and set our mind on the Spirit. For “those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit” (Romans 8:5).

Let me give you a quote from John Piper: “And how does the Spirit produce this fruit of self-control in us? By instructing us in the superior preciousness of grace, and enabling us to see and savor (that is, “trust”) all that God is for us in Jesus. When we really see and believe what God is for us by grace through Jesus Christ, the power of wrong desires is broken. Therefore the fight for self-control is a fight of faith.” “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:11-13).

We should “apply your heart to discipline, and your ears to words of knowledge” (Proverbs 23:12). We should “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7b). But how can we apply our heart to discipline? How can we correct our heart? How do we create stamina, like an athlete, with regards to training the heart? I believe we need to really fully understand the love that God has for us, and realize that the same Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus Christ for His earthly ministry is the same Holy Spirit that is available to you and me today for our earthly ministry, so that we can strive according to His power, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin, so that we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, so that we can bring salvation to all men, so that we can live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, for “a person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls” (Proverbs 25:28). Without self-control there is no defense, and are food for our adversary, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b).