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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall, part 3 (Firewall cont.)

We have been examining, somewhat closely, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to build a firewall to protect the church against evil men and impostors.  We saw in the last post that the center of the second brick was an emphasis on continuing in the Word of God.
Another Brick in the Firewall, part 3(Firewall cont.)

In verse 15 Paul amplifies his argument.  He reminds his apprentice that he has known the sacred writings since childhood.  This has much to those of us who are parents or hope to be.  It is a tacit reminder to us that we are to, early and often, expose our children to the Word of God.

Paul’s emphasis is strong on this point.  The strength is obscured again by most of our English translations.  Paul places the object of the verb before the verb, literally it would read, “from childhood the sacred writings you have known.”  That is awkward in English so it is rendered differently in our translations.  Reversing the word order, though is one way of emphasizing a point.  Paul is emphasizing the sacred writings, the Word of God, to Timothy.

There is much error afloat in the Christian community, much like what Timothy was facing in Ephesus.  At a significant level what we face is orders of magnitude more difficult.  Timothy did not have to counter Radio, Television, the internet, nor was there anything yet in mass print.  Communication and the transmission of false teaching was done in person, traveling impostors.

Now we face all of that and more.  It makes it so much more important that first we abide in God’s Word and equip our children to as well.  Abiding, by the way, is more than a consistent devotional life…

Paul though, is not done with his instruction to Timothy…

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall, part 2 (Firewall cont.)

Continuing our look at 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, we are looking at the second brick in the firewall that Paul is commanding his apprentice, Timothy, to erect against evil men and impostors who are teaching a different gospel.
Another Brick in the Firewall, Part 2 (Firewall cont.)
There are two elements in this brick:

  • Abide in that which Timothy has learned from his mother, grandmother, and Paul
  • The things that Timothy has learned are rooted in the Scripture

The result of this exhortation seems to be that Paul is reiterating the need for Timothy to remember his example and to abide in that learning as well as its source the Scripture, sacred writings, God’s Word.

This is where things get confusing for me.  Confusing in this sense.  There is no question that there are still false teachers abundantly multiplying and continually gaining followers.  The source of my confusion is how it seems that leaders in the Church seem to be attempting to deal with the false teaching.

I have seen communities focus on detailed doctrinal statements as a means to protect against false teaching.  I know of classes that have been held to teach the correct way for Christians to think about certain topics.  Messages have been shared from pulpits, podiums, chairs, videos, MP3s, and books that explain the proper way to think and or act as a believer.

What I don’t see is any of those answers in the text here.  The majority of the exhortation here is centered on the Scripture.  It seems like Paul is setting personal abiding in the Word of God as a significant brick in the firewall against the propagation of error.

Yet when and where are we equipping and encouraging people to dig into God’s Word.  How often do we exhort people, remind them how critical it is for them to be in the Word of God for themselves.  Not just reading the text, but digging in, allowing it to transform our thinking, reorient our priorities.

Christ tells us in John 8:31 – 32, that we are to abide (your Bible may say continue, but it is the same Greek word translated abide in John 15:1 – 16) in His Word.  John 15:1 – 16 repeats the idea of abiding in Christ and His Word 11 times in those 16 verses.

It seems that the clear message is that we are supposed to do this.

And yet there is more to Paul’s exhortation…

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

As we have seen in the previous posts, the first brick in the firewall was for Timothy to follow the example of Paul…  Before we look at the second brick, it would probably be a good idea to note how we know there are two bricks.
Another Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

As I mentioned before our English translations somewhat obscure Paul’s repetitive structure.  The illustration below is from Bible Hub using the Interlinear option (purple highlight).  You can only look at one verse at a time in this view.  I have put 2 Timothy 3:10 and 14 together to show the repetition.  Look at the first two words circled in red, in both cases they are the same two words, Σὺ δὲ, literally “you but.”  In the NASB the two words are translated; “now you,” in verse 10 and “you, however,” in verse 14.  The second translation seems to add more weight to the second brick.  However in the original the vocabulary and structure is the same.  (One could argue that the second brick, since it is in the last position, may be more important – for your consideration.)

Now that we have established the two, let’s look a bit more closely at the second.  There is quite a bit here so we may spill over a few days.

The first thing we may notice is the continued contrast with the reality of the evil men and impostors that will continually increase in the last days.  In contrast to this reality Paul has told Timothy to follow his example and now the second thing, the second brick in the firewall, to continue in what he had learned.

The word continue, μένε (mene) is a form of the verb μένω (menō) to abide or remain.  The word is thickly repeated by John in John 15:1 – 16.  It seems to be a key concept in John.  Here Paul is using the same word to describe how Timothy is to stand against the coming reality of increasing false teaching.  He commands his apprentice to abide, remain, continue in that which he has learned.

Think through that.  We will expand on this and the rest of Paul’s exhortation in the next post or so…

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Still on One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

It is an absolute truth that none of us will ever get all that is in a text no matter how long we continue in our study.  The Word is the revelation of the thought of an infinite God, as such it has infinite depth.
Still on One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)
Yesterday we looked at the first brick in the firewall that Paul was encouraging his faithful apprentice to build in Ephesus.  My intention was to move to the second brick (another brick in the wall) today, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.  Why?  I looked at the text again, and saw more that we really need to consider.
SPOILER ALERT!  The two bricks are in 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13 and 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.  Our English translations obscure the repetitive structure somewhat – but we will look at that in the post about the second brick.
Look again at 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13.  Yesterday we noted that the first brick was Paul exhorting Timothy, as he had in several other passages, to follow his example.  But note the content of Paul’s exhortation.  He references his:
  • Teaching
  • Conduct
  • Purpose
  • Faith
  • Perseverance
In the midst of:
  • Persecutions (which is emphasized by the repetition of the word in verse 11)
  • Sufferings
He then states unequivocally that anyone who attempts to follow his example will be persecuted.

Paul may have skipped the class on motivating disciples.

The language in the Greek suggests that Timothy was not a casual observer, not a tag along.  The word, παρακολουθέω (parakoloutheō), is only used four times in the New Testament (here, Mark 16:17, Luke 1:3, 1 Timothy 4:6).  The word suggests careful observation, investigation.  Timothy was taking notes.  He was fully engaged as one who was committed to duplicating or emulating his mentor.

Structurally, proportionality helps our observation here.  Paul invests more words in describing the resistance to than he does the elements of his ministry.  The not so subtle message to his protégé is that Timothy can expect significant, intentional, sustained resistance to the task in which he is engaged.  He should expect persecution.  Based on verse 13, the resistance will not abate, but increase.

That is instructive to me.  There seems to be a fair number of believers who seem to think that if God is in something, things will go well.  Truth be told there are times that I have been thinking that way.  Timothy is engaged in a work for which he was set apart, 1 Timothy 4:14.  He was entrusted with the truth.  He is commanded to guard that with which he was entrusted.  It seems as if we could easily surmise that he is in the middle of God’s will.

Paul, though, promises him increasing resistance and persecution.  Yeah, Paul skipped that motivation class.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

We have been looking at Paul’s warnings to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1 – 9.  He is reiterating to his key man the warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30.  Having detailed the challenge, Paul now begins to tell his man how to best counter this coming, certain evil.  How to build a firewall against the impostors.
One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

The first brick in the wall is for Timothy to remember.

Timothy is to remember what he experienced as he traveled with Paul on the second and third missionary journeys (a good study is to look at Acts 16 – 27 and observe what Timothy saw and heard, the “things” of 2 Timothy 2:2, which Paul entrusted to his child in the faith).  Paul has already exhorted Timothy to share what he learned from Paul with those in the community who will be able to equip others, 2 Timothy 2:2.

Throughout Paul’s letters he calls those into whom he has poured his life to follow his example:

  • 1 Corinthians 4:16
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1
  • Philippians 3:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:7
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9

In 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13, he reminds Timothy of his example, reminding him in the process, that the assignment Timothy has been given is hard.  He will be resisted.  He will be persecuted.  But, one of his defenses in the midst of this difficult assignment under the onslaught of evil men and impostors, is to remember and follow Paul’s example.

So for Timothy, also for us.  The Christian life is not a solo enterprise.  We need examples.  We need mentors.  As each of us, based on the great commission, should have a Timothy into whom we are pouring our life; the prerequisite for our helping “our Timothy,” is to have “our Paul.”  Who is helping or who helped you?

Not only are we to imitate those men of great faith; not only was Timothy to imitate Paul; but Timothy and we are to be examples for others.  Paul exhorts both of his key men to be an example for their communities:

  • 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Titus 2:7

As we have seen, we face the same challenges of which Paul warned his disciple, Timothy.  As Timothy needed a firewall against the impostors, so also do we.  One of the important elements for that firewall is both having and being a good example.

But before the second and most important brick Paul shares a promise and a final warning.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Disciples of Impostors (Firewall cont.)

In the past couple of days we have said that those whom Paul is calling out are not content with being evil men and impostors, they are committed to lead others in the way of their “godliness”.
Disciples of Impostors (Firewall cont.)
They do this by going after the women in the community.  As an aside and as a suggestion for further study, note how much of this last letter of Paul to his closest co-laborer focuses on ministry to women.

2 Timothy 3:7, has always been a passage that scared me.  In the past I have wrongly attributed Paul’s description to the teachers.  But he is not describing them.  He is describing the women who are following them.

Regardless, the description, “always learning but never able to come the knowledge of the truth”, should still cause us a great deal of discomfort if not abject terror.  The word that is translated “knowledge” here is ἐπίγνωσις (epignōsis).  This word plays a prominent role in 2 Peter 1:3 – 10.  In that passage it is translated “true knowledge” in verses 3 and 8 and seems to have a similar force in verse 2.  The sense is that this is a clear understanding of truth.  A recognition of what God is revealing in the text.  Those who are the disciples of the impostors are not able to recognize the truth.

This is not the first time we have seen this reality in the Scripture.  Jesus rebukes the Jews in John 5:39 – 47, because they have completely missed the point of the Word.  They did not recognize the truth.  James tells us in James 1:22 – 25, that if we are not applying the Word, doing, obeying, applying it to our lives, it has no effect on our lives.  Essentially, we are not recognizing the truth.

I have encountered people enmeshed in the teachings of impostors.  They were committed and could recite nearly by rote convoluted and complicated systems of “thought” that was the teaching of the impostors they followed.  They were so deeply engaged in the false teaching that they were unable to state what the text of the Bible said.  They read and interacted through the lens of the system they had learned.  In many cases completely distorting the plain meaning of the text or else significantly redefining words in the text from any supportable historical or contextual meaning.

Some of these impostors are with us today.

The deeply troubling truth is that none of us are immune from slipping into error of this kind.  Which is really Paul’s point is it not?

He has laid out the danger.  He has described the evil men and impostors.  He next gives us an example to follow and tells us how to build the firewall against the conflagration of error that he warned the elders from Ephesus would come from among their own number in Acts 20:30; which warning he is repeating to his beloved son here.

We will dive into those remedies for error in the next posts.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Form (Firewall cont.)

Yesterday we ended by saying that we would look more closely at the evil men and imposter’s commitment to have disciples, but as I have considered that it makes more sense to invest a bit more time in 2 Timothy 3:5 (remember I was pulled into this passage two weeks ago, so deep that I lost track of time).
A Form (Firewall cont.)
As we saw yesterday, those who are evil and impostors view themselves as godly.  Paul says that they hold to a “form” of godliness.  That word “form” is interesting.  The Greek is μόρφωσις (morphōsis).  The word is only twice in the New Testament, here and Romans 2:20.  The word only shows up two or three times in the Koine literature which is used to help understand the different shades of meaning when we are digging deeper into the text.  So there is not much on which we can build our understanding.  The best practice then is to look at how Paul uses the term in those contexts.

When we look at the text, in both instances Paul is describing those who are either mishandling God’s Word or blatantly false teachers.  In Romans 2:20, Paul is rebuking those Jews who are using the Law to correct others, while not following it themselves.  Sounds like hypocrisy does it not?

In 2 Timothy 3:5, people who are evil and impostors are claiming godliness for their lifestyle.

It seems that in both cases we are dealing with those who have a skewed view of either God or the Christian life.  I get the mental picture of building a form in which to poor a concrete pad.  I need a square but the lumber used is warped, the sides are not straight and the angles are not ninety degrees.  If I were the people in Romans 2:20 I would be teaching people how to make a square form, correcting them when I had failed to make mine correctly.  If I were the evil and impostors of 2 Timothy 3:5, I would be holding my misshapen form out as the only true way to make a square form.

There are those today who fit in both categories.  Those who demand and teach what they are incapable of doing themselves, and those who portray a warped view of the Bible or Christianity as the truth.  Paul is warning us that this is the reality that we face as his apprentice Timothy did in Ephesus.

Later he tells us how to build the firewall.  But first, we need to look more closely at the evil men and impostors – tomorrow…

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Firewall cont.

Look with me at 2 Timothy 3:1 – 5.  In verse 1 Paul makes a general statement that he then unpacks in the next eight verses.
Firewall cont.
Paul warns Timothy, and by extension us, that things do not get better.  In fact, the last days, based on Paul’s description, seems to be a lush Petri dish for the growth of evil men and imposters.

Paul’s description of these men is detailed and reads like the character traits of some of our more prominent celebrities, politicians, and, unfortunately, some who present themselves as ministers of the gospel:
  • Lovers of self
  • Lovers of money
  • Boastful
  • Arrogant
  • Revilers
  • Disobedient to parents
  • Ungrateful
  • Unholy
  • Unloving
  • Irreconcilable
  • Malicious gossips
  • Without self –control
  • Brutal
  • Haters of good
  • Treacherous
  • Reckless
  • Conceited
  • Lovers of pleasure
  • Not lovers of God
I do not want any of that list applied to me.  However, I can see in my own life pulls in the direction of some of those characteristics.  Further, I can put the names of some men who are otherwise effective in ministry next to several of those traits.  It scares me.

But what makes this more incredibly and deeply horrifying is Paul’s summation in verse 5.  Those whom he is describing with this list view their life as “godly”.  They profess godliness.  Paul tells us that they don’t get it, but they are presenting themselves as godly while living out the reality of Paul’s list.

But they are not content to simply live a life of “godliness”.  They are looking for disciples.  We will look more closely at that tomorrow.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Firewall

The Plan
I started this blog post about two weeks ago.  Typically, these emerge out of my time with the Lord in my quiet time or my Bible study.  I will review my journal and look for something that really grabbed my attention.  Then I will go back to the passage to make sure that I am not misrepresenting the text.
Firewall
When I turned to 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 to review and check what I had written in my journal something happened that I hope has happened to you.  I was pulled into the text.  It would not let go of me.  In fact I have been thinking about this passage, well actually the entire chapter, for the past couple of weeks.

The Structure
In the NASB the first two words in 2 Timothy 3:14 are, “You, however…”  If you have been reading this blog much you will know that one of the things to which we continually return is the importance of observation in our engagement with the Bible.  Structure is incredibly powerful in aiding our observation of a text.  Here, Paul, uses a strong, emphatic contrast.  That contrast, begs the question, “What is Paul contrasting here?”  That question, of course, forces us to go back and reexamine the first part of the chapter.

When we look back there are several stunning elements in those previous verses that lend enormous weight to 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.

In the next few days we will examine this in some detail.  In the meantime take some time, look at 2 Timothy 3, jot down your thoughts, and let’s compare notes.