Delicious Shared Regurgitation (1 Timothy 4:6–11)

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. —1 Timothy 4:6 (ESV)

Gospel ministers are waiters who eat what they serve. They don’t work at one restaurant and then leave to eat at another. The word used to describe the minister of God’s Word here is the same word translated “deacon,” in 3:8. It originally referenced one who waited tables. Here the good table waiter puts “these things before the brothers.” What are these things? They are “words of faith and of the good doctrine” that they follow. The good servant serves the brothers these things, having feasted on them himself.

The gospel pastor is like one of those TV chefs who must be full by the time they finish cooking because the preparation was filled with “mmm’s” and “that’s so gooood.” What was a recipe meant to serve six is whittled down to four by their “taste testing.” When the plate arrives they apologize that the portions aren’t full—they couldn’t resist themselves. What would be disgusting in any restaurant is what is only acceptable in God’s house, the feast must come to you once eaten. In the preaching of God’s Word the truth comes to you the same way that the worm comes from mommy bird to baby bird.

Unfortunately too many ministers spend too much time concerned with their presentation instead of their digestion. They are obsessed with their flare, not God’s fare. They want people to leave praising them, not the chef. They forget people come to a fine restaurant ultimately to enjoy a fine meal, not fine service. The service should maximize the enjoyment of the meal, not seek to substitute for the lack thereof.  Many do long for the saints to enjoy the feast, but fail to see that the brothers will most do so if they themselves have first relished all the courses themselves.

Faithful elders are fat on the Word and fit in godliness. They are men who you can see eat well by their living. They are connoisseurs, lover’s of God’s menu who eschew spiritual junk food. They whet you appetite by their very delight in the Bread of Life and thus movingly declare, “taste and see for the Lord is good.”

A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. And no man lives in a more woeful condition than those who really believe not themselves what they persuade others to believe continually. The want of this experience of the power of gospel truth on their own souls is that which gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words and dead as to power, instead of preaching the gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit. —John Owen

Demon Duped about Demon Duping (1 Timothy 4:1–5)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…

Both the original audience (especially Jewish Christians), and we, can be numbskulls  concerning the threat of false teaching because we misunderstand the phrase “latter times,” but we are muttonheaded for different reasons. To see why, we must be clear as to when the “latter times” are. The Biblical answer may surprise you. Hebrews 1:1–2 says that God spoke in the past in various ways, but “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” If you think that “last days,” there is nothing more that a references to recently transpired events, you may find it harder to weasel your way out of 1 Corinthians 10:11 when Paul says that what was recorded concerning Israel was for our instruction “on whom the end of the ages has come.” Not to be outdone by Paul, John says it is the last hour (1 John 2:18).

The last days were inaugurated in the advent of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ incarnation is the presence of the future, the kingdom come. The language of the “last days,” in the epistles corresponds to the way the gospel writers speak of the kingdom. Sometimes the kingdom is future, sometimes it is present. The kingdom is here now but not yet. The kingdom is God’s redemptive rule and reign come in His Son. Redemption is here now, but not fully here yet. What would have shocked the Jewish Christian is that the kingdom and last days could be here and that there would be false teachers. They expected the kingdom to come all at once and mop everything up.

We have the opposite problem. We’re not bothered by the idea of false teachers at the end of the age. That is precisely when we expect them. We’re dull because we don’t think we’re in the last days. We are. What can we expect? Because Jesus is King, because He is risen, because He has ascended, because He is at the right hand of the Father, because He, with the Father, has sent His Spirit to empower and sanctify His church, because all enemies are being put under His feet, we can expect light to conquer darkness, but, because His redemption isn’t fully here yet, in these last days, we can expect darkness to be violently opposed to the light. Don’t be demon duped that this isn’t the time of demon duping.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. —1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

 

Awful Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8–13)

Ever try to define a word, a word you thought you knew really well, a word you use all the time, only to find yourself dumbstruck? This can be because you know the meaning so well. For instance, try to define “it.” You may stutter, but your usage likely indicates that you undertand “it” perfectly well. I’m afraid that this isn’t the case with the word “deacon.” The word is part of our churchy parlance, but, as Inigo told Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what yo think it means.” When a definition is readily offered most often the description better fits an elder. “Whereas the office of overseer is often ignored in the modern church,” writes Benjamin Merkle, “the office of deacon is often misunderstood.”

Why are we so confused? “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place,” may be my favorite hymn. It would be a mistake to understand the meaning of that title according to today’s usage of “aweful.” The word meant awesome, which is yet another word lying on its death bed. “Deacon” suffers a similar malady. We read our modern traditional idea of deacon back into the Bible, instead of reading the Biblical idea into our churches.

“Deacon,” in reference to the office, only occurs three times in the New Testament (there is a fourth instance that I believe should also be translated deacon, but that would require another, and much longer post). It occurs twice in 1 Timothy 3, and if you’re hoping for the their instance to be more illuminating, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons (Philippians 1:1 ESV).” After you survey every explicit mention of deacons in the New Testament you are left with the predicament of knowing that deacons should be, but not what they should do.

But, though the word in reference to the office is only used three times, the noun is used another twenty-nine times in a general sense, most often translated “servant.” For instance, Jesus is said to be a deacon in Romans 15:8. Further, the verb form is used thirty-seven times. Jesus is said to deacon, that is, to serve us in Matthew 20:28. The word originally refers to one who waits tables, and with that our ears perk up when we read Acts 6 in regards to the problem of hellenistic jewish women being neglected in the early church. “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve [deacon] tables (Acts 6:2 ESV).” The seven chosen to serve the church are never called deacons, but it is what they do, and I believe that the division between the twelve who minister in word and prayer, and the seven who minister to the physical needs of the body, is the same division we see in regards to overseers and deacons.

So what is the distinction between the two offices? What are their respective tasks? Overseers oversee, and deacons deacon. Or, in an attempt to be more clear, yet, at risk of being misunderstood, we could say overseers oversee souls, whereas deacons deacon bodies. The only thing I mean by that language is that overseers look after the souls of their flock, whereas deacons serve the physical needs of the flock. The church needs both offices, and not some conflagration or hybrid of the two. She needs multiple elders, and multiple deacons, and when she has them, the church is a wholesome family, well ordered, well behaved (1 Timothy 3:16, Titus 1:5).

Knowing What You Should Know (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

Questions beget questions. 1 Timothy 3:1–7 gives us the qualifications for what the KJV terms “bishops.” What is a bishop? Modern translations help in well communicating the original meaning with the word “overseer.” What is an overseer? When was the last time you heard it clearly communicated who the overseers were in your church? When Paul lists the qualifications for elders in Titus he goes on to call them overseers. Overseers are elders. Does that help? What is an elder? An elder is a pastor. Overseer, elder, pastor—all are the same office.

Diabolically perhaps, many churches uses the least common terms in the Bible, and have abandoned the most common. As a result, the Scriptures sound foreign to us. There should be a ready, one-to-one correspondence when we read about overseers and elders such that we exclaim, “I know (experientially) that,” or “I should know that!” What should be domestic, is alien, and we are like sheep without a shepherd for it. Pastor (shepherd) is only used one time as a noun in Scripture to indicate this office (Ephesians 4:11), and even then, it isn’t a proper title but a metaphor. Elder and overseer, those are the titles (by the way, “minister” and “preacher” don’t officially count either). Shepherding is the chief metaphor, teaching, the essential job skill. That this is so is seen in the following passages (all emphasis are mine):

“Now from Miletus he [Paul] sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.  …he said to them…‘Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock [this be shepherding language], in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:17–18, 28 ESV).’”

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly (1 Peter 1:5–7 ESV).”

Two things seem especially pertinent: 1. There are multiple elders in a singular church, 2. Overseers oversee souls.

The task of shepherding the flock isn’t to be done alone. Without exception, the pattern in the New Testament is that churches are to be shepherded by a plurality of elders. This was true of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22), Ephesus (Acts 20:17), Philippi (Philippians 1:1) the churches in the towns of Crete (Titus 1:5), the churches that Peter wrote to (1 Peter 5:1), the churches that Paul planted (Acts 14:23), the churches that James wrote to (James 5:14). Shepherds are to look after their own souls as well as the flock’s. Shepherds need other shepherds to help look after the flock, but also to look after them. They need other overseers to oversee their souls  for the sake of the flock’s souls.

Overseers oversee. They do not oversee the church as though she were an organization, a company, a business, a non-profit, a trust, or a charity. They oversee souls. Why did the early church esteem the office of overseer so that a “trustworthy saying” spread through the churches calling it a “noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1)? Why are they not esteemed so today? Because too many look at their leaders as professional managers, visionary CEOs, program developers, entertainers, charismatic personalities and dynamic communicators, whereas the early church knew their elders the way a sheep knows its shepherd. They knew their overseers’ feeding, leading, guarding, and knowing of their souls.

When you know this truth, you then read through the Scriptures and either know that you know (again experientially) this, or know that you should know this shepherding of your souls. And that leads to this final wowzer of a thought: as a regenerate church member, there is no bigger decision you make in the church, than who the elders of that church are, or, as a Christian, the biggest factor to consider when joining a church is who the elders are that you will entrust your soul to.

Fertile Femininity and the Impotent Feminist (1 Timothy 2:9–15)

Femininity is under attack and there is too little masculinity to protect it. Feminists are the ones who are actually anti-women, desiring to erase that which is particularly and gloriously feminine in women by trying to make them men. Part of the genius of their ploy is neutering men so as to eliminate any resistance. “Make the men women and we can make the women men.” It is serpentine—both crafty and destructive. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman… .”

Gender, sexuality, manhood, and womanhood are where the battle lines are drawn for our times. Bruce Ware captures this well,

Today… the primary areas in which Christianity is pressured to conform are on issues of gender and sexuality. Postmoderns and ethical relativists care little about doctrinal truth claims; these seem to them innocuous, archaic, and irrelevant to life. What they do care about, and care with a vengeance, is whether their feminist agenda and sexual perversions are tolerated, endorsed and expanded in an increasingly neo-pagan landscape. Because this is what they care most about, it is precisely here that Christianity is most vulnerable. To lose the battle here is to subject the Church to increasing layers of departure from biblical faith. And surely, it will not be long until ethical departures (the Church yielding to feminist pressures for women’s ordination, for example) will yield even more central doctrinal departures (questioning whether Scripture’s inherent patriarchy renders it fundamentally untrustworthy, for example). I find it instructive that when Paul warns about departures from the faith in the latter days, he lists ethical compromises and the searing of the conscience as the prelude to a full-scale doctrinal apostasy (1 Tim 4:1-5).

This means that when we come to a text like 1 Timothy 2:9–15 we mustn’t cringe in embarrassment; we must glory and rejoice. We must remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength, and, that a glorying in Biblical manhood and womanhood is a rejoicing in the Lord. This joy isn’t one that we must fain or force. Femininity is a glorious, beautiful, graceful, and strong thing, and when a woman embraces it, she outshines the world’s perversions the way the sun outshines a lightning bug.

Imagine coming up to a group of builders using hammers to drive screws and screwdrivers to drive nails. “No. You’ve got it backwards. That isn’t using them according to design.” The foolish builders say that design, function, purpose, and roles are relative and to be determined by self. Using a hammer for a screwdriver opens the door to using a wrecking ball for a hammer, and then it won’t be long before the house comes crashing down. When men are men, and women are women, it is then that they are most glorious because it is then that they are most godlike, functioning according to design, imaging forth the Designer.

Femininity is a powerful and glorious thing; something in which women are far superior to men. In a unique way that men are not able to, Christian women get to model for all humanity the grace, beauty, and glory of the submissive quietness of Christ’s bride. Submission and obedience don’t kill, they give life. When Adam and Eve rebelled and did what they wanted this house came down, and it came down because Adam didn’t step up and protect Eve’s femininity; he sat in his recliner, did nothing, and ate the food that he let her eat, and that he let her bring to him (Genesis 3:6). Freedom is a fish in water; a man under God. Under authority, man flourishes. When a godly woman is under a godly man under our gracious God, she is a glorious living parable of this truth.

This kind of beauty is attractive and powerful. It makes men want to be men. It will produce men who will bleed for such beauty, and, like our Savior, bleed to beautify it.

Headship Is (1 Timothy 2:8)

When there are problems in the church, start with the men. When there are problems in the church, men are always responsible for them; either because they caused the problem, or failed to address it. If men haven’t caused the problem, they must deal with it. If problems are not dealt with in this way, you intensify your problems. When men have failed in the church and women have stepped in to fill the void, this hasn’t solved any problems, but caused larger ones. When women lead it doesn’t help men be men, and thus, it doesn’t help women either. Women can’t help men to be men when they try to be men.

Men are women’s biggest problem (outside their own sin), but right behind men is feminism. Have feminist and egalitarians championed some righteous causes. Certainly. But this wasn’t because they were feminists. Did Nazi scientists make breakthroughs beneficial for mankind? Certainly. But this wasn’t because they were Nazis. Feminism is problem for women because it amplifies men being a problem for women.

We have so feminized the church that it is as attractive to men as a feather boa. Men failed, women stepped in, and now there aren’t any men, only mothers and boys, mothers who perpetuate the boyhood of boys. The women do while overgrown boys sit on their duff playing video games. Oh, but their video games without x-rated material, supervised by upright mothers! Right.

The reason why a disregard for gender fundamentally fails is because headship is. When Scripture speaks of husbands being heads of their wives, it doesn’t come as a command, but as a statement of fact.

“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior (Ephesians 5:23 ESV).”

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).”

Headship is stated as an indicative fact, not an imperative command. Irrevocably, men dominate. That is to say they have a headship that affect all that is under them. Douglas Wilson gets at this well,

“Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife. This is how God designed marriage. He has created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage. If the husband is godly, then that dominance will not be harsh; it will be characterized by the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by our Lord—Dominus—at the cross. If a husband tries to run away from his headship, that abdication will dominate the home. If he catches a plane to the other side of the country, and stays there, he will dominate in and by his absence. How many children have grown up in a home dominated by the empty chair at the table? If the marriage is one in which the wife ‘wears the pants,’ the wimpiness of the husband is the most obvious thing about the marriage, creating a miserable marriage and home. His abdication dominates.”

In conclusion, let me say a few words to ward off any naysayers and gender benders. First, if you erase male/female distinctions you open the door wide to homosexuality and transgender endorsement. Second, if you have a problem with submission, you have a problem with the godhead as seen in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Third, just as in the godhead, having different roles in which one submits to the other does not mean that men and women are not equal in value, dignity, and worth any more that the Son is less God or less worthy of worship than the Father. Finally, I leave you with Chesterton’s short poem, “Comparisons.”

If I set the sun beside the moon,
And if I set the land beside the sea,
And if I set the town beside the country,
And if I set the man beside the woman,
I suppose some fool would talk about one being better.

Theology Is as Practical as the Prayers on Your Lips (1 Timothy 2:4–6)

In 1 Timothy 2 Paul urges Timothy to urge prayer. In doing so Paul not only tells Timothy what to do, he shows him how. Paul wants the Ephesian church to say all kinds of prayers for all kinds of people (2:1). Paul says that such prayer pleases God (2:3), and then goes on to describe God and what he has done (2:4ff). Paul’s solution to the prayer problem was theology. This is natural, for the prayer problem was caused by bad theology. Paul tells Timothy, “First of all, then.” The “then,” relates this admonition to the “certain persons,” like “Hymenaeus and Alexander,” who were teaching “different doctrine.” Theology is as practical as the prayers in your mouth.

If you are prayerless, or if your prayers are small and selfish the wrong place to start is with disciplines regarding the time, posture, and method of prayer. The proper place to begin is disciplines regarding Bible study, Bible reading, Bible memorization, and Bible meditation. The professional interviewer who spends all of his time practicing in the mirror concerning his posture, using the right intonations and emphasis in his speech, and making sure that the time and setting of the interview are perfect, rather than studying the interviewee, will be a poor interviewer. Likewise, the Christian who spends all their time thinking about posture, time, and method will pray small, selfish prayers because all their focus is on themselves. Get to know God, and you’ll pray. You’ll know the right kind of questions to ask. You’ll grow in prayer. Your prayer life can only be as big and deep as your theology.

House Rule Number One: Pray (1 Timothy 2:1–3)

First of all—pray. Paul begins a list of house rules with prayer (1 Timothy 3:14–15). But this isn’t merely serial list so that number one could have easily been number two. Prayer is a priority. House rule number one is emphatically this: the family must pray to the Father. Paul says, first of all “then.” The calling for Prayer is related to the good warfare mentioned previously. In the very heat of this battle against false teachers, Paul says, first of all, pray.

When you move from the church to the temple there is continuity and discontinuity. Some things go, some things remain, but everything is changed because of Jesus. I’m afraid the American church has kept the bad and failed to carry over the good. We’ve carried over what was never meant to have a place among the people of God. When Jesus cleansed the temple He said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” We have carried over the commercialization of the temple and not its supplications. The church today majors on entertainment, not intercessions; on production, not prayer. D.A. Carson captures the sin adequately,

We have become so performance-oriented that it is hard to see how compromised we are. Consider one small example. In many of our churches, prayers in morning services now function, in large measure, as the time to change the set in the sanctuary. The people of the congregation bow their heads and close their eyes, and when they look up a minute later, why, the singers are in place, or the drama group is ready to perform. It is all so smooth. It is also profane.

I don’t think God is impressed with the show. Our acting betrays a boredom with God’s drama of redemption. Our productions indicate a faith in our works instead of God’s. We must pray when there is false teaching, but what evangelicals now also know is that we must pray lest false teaching.

The Backroads to Heresy (1 Timothy 1:18–20)

“…wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…” 1 Timothy 1:18b-19

Paul gives two combats tips concerning waging the good warfare; a weapon for each hand. You fight the good fight of the faith by holding faith, and holding a good conscience. The first tip makes perfect sense, as much as the drill sergeant yelling, “You kill the enemy by shooting him!” But the second tip sounds like, “You kill the enemy with good hygiene.” Huh? Yet, it’s as simple as this, when trench foot impairs, disables, or kills you, it hurts the campaign. Shoot the wolves, and stay healthy—that’s how we win.

“This,” in v. 19 is singular. It is by rejecting a good conscience particularly that some have made shipwreck of the faith. Holding a good conscience is waging the good warfare. We must contend for the faith lest we be a heretic.

There are two routes to heresy, the interstate and the backroads. The interstate is clearly marked with big green signs that read, “PELAGIANISM—NEXT RIGHT,” or “MODALISM—THREE MILES.” You know where you’re going and you mean to go there. Then there are the backroads of immorality. You were on the well-lit heavenly highway but you messed up. You pulled off the road because you wanted some darkness. Now your lost and scared, but you like this darkness, so you delude yourself. You redraw the map. You convince yourself that if you just keep this direction, you’ll still get to the heavenly city.

John Calvin wrote, “All the errors that have existed in the Christian Church from the beginning, proceeded from this source, that in some persons, ambition, and in others, covetousness, extinguished the true fear of God. A bad conscience is, therefore, the mother of all heresies.” Really? But listen to how well Calvin’s assessment jibes with Scripture.

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit [Do you hear ambition?] and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain [See covetousness?].” —1 Timothy 6:3–6

Still not convinced?

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

Just as sound belief and sound behavior go together, so do heresy and immorality (1 Timothy 1:5–6, 10; 6:3). And the relation is mutual. Heresy not only leads to immorality. Immorality leads to heresy.

“Doctrinal purity must be accompanied by purity of life. There is an inseparable link between truth and morality, between right belief and right behavior. Consequently, theological error has its roots in moral rather than intellectual soil (cf. Matt. 7:15-20). People often teach wrong doctrine to accommodate their sin. That truth is borne out by the immorality that so often characterizes false teachers.” —John MacArthur

A Religious Assassination (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Why was Paul saved? “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Paul’s salvation wasn’t accidental. Paul didn’t chance upon the opportune place at the opportune time where and when grace happened to burst through the earth’s crust. Nor was it that Paul had a core of virtue beneath a veneer of vileness so that universal grace found a ready subject.

Saving grace isn’t a shotgun; it’s a sniper rifle. God is a hunter, a sniper, who has a specific target to make a loud statement. This is an assassination to make a religious statement. The assassination was followed by resurrection. Saul became Paul because of Jesus, and Jesus killed and resurrected Paul to communicated this to wretched sinners: He can kill and resurrect any one of you.

God has a galaxy of grace to match your Jupiter of sin. Do you feel the crushing, unbearable weight of your sins? Do distress if God’s grace can match them? This is as brainless as fretting if there is enough Milky Way for Jupiter. Jupiter’s covered, and so are you if you are in Jesus.

Your thirst isn’t bigger than this ocean. Your darkness isn’t as potent as this Son’s light. Your stain is not as set as His blood is cleansing. Your sin isn’t bigger than Jesus’ atonement.