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There is no substitute for a personal relationship with the Author when reading His Scriptures.  However in the mystery of the interaction of the Holy Spirit and our minds the guidance of others is always welcome.  We can get His gentle whisperings or the mind of Christ wrong at times.  So God has given us the collective mind of Christ in our brothers and sisters.

Well, anyway, I thought this* was so good that I had to write out chunks of it again here:

The Big Picture

four squares

“Each of the four wisdom books (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs) is different in its contribution to our education in wise living. … The four books balance each other theologically, and any one of them read out of the context of the others can be easily misunderstood.  Basically, Proverbs presents the rational, ordered norms of life, while the other three books present the exceptions and limitations to the rational, ordered approach to life.”

The Basic Approach to Life (Proverbs)

“Proverbs presents the rational, ordered norms of life.  The many proverbs in the book are not universals (i.e. things that are always true), but rather norms of life (i.e. things that are normally true).  …”

Exception 1:  The Suffering of the Righteous (Job)

“The book of Job demonstrates that there are often events in life that humans cannot grasp or understand through the wisdom approach delineated in Proverbs.  Sometimes tragedy strikes those who are wise, righteous and hard working, and God does not disclose the reasons behind such tragedy.  Proverbs teaches us that life is rational and that the wise person can understand it.  Job qualifies this with some real-world experience….. Our wisdom approach of Proverbs fails us in these situations, and we are forced to rely on faith in the Creator.  This is what we learn from Job.”

 

Exception 2:  The Failure of the Rational, Ordered Approach to Provide Ultimate Meaning to Life (Ecclesiastes)

“The book of Echardworkingclesiastes is an intellectual search for meaning in life.  While the author acknowledges that being wise is better than being stupid, he concludes that wisdom does not by itself provide meaning to life.  Also, while Job told the story of one exception to the norms of Proverbs, the cynical analysis in Ecclesiastes chronicles numerous exceptions to the thesis of an ordered, rational universe.  The ultimate conclusion in Ecclesiastes, not disclosed until the final verses, is that the only way to find meaning in life is to be in relationship with God.  Logic and rational thought (wisdom) can help you on a day-to-day basis, but ultimate meaning in life requires relationship with God.”

Exception 3:  The Irrationality of Romantic Love between a Husband and Wife (Song of Songs)

“Proverbs gives good, practical, wise advice about marriage.  It advises men not to marry women who are irrational love Piquarrelsome or ill-tempered (21:9, 19) and it depicts clearly for women the fate of lazy fools and drunkards, thus implicitly warning against marrying such men.  ….. All this advice is good and rational.

“However it is difficult to build a great love relationship in marriage with only logic and rational thought.  The Song of Songs celebrates the wild, irrational, mushy, and corny aspects of true love.  This book  suggests that in the marketplace husbands and wives may need to be the quiet, discerning, hard working people of Proverbs, but that once the lights go out in the privacy of their home, they need to be the crazy, madly-in-love, slightly irrational couple in Song of Songs.”

Amen to that.

*All quotes are taken from “Grasping God’s Word” 3rd Edition, by Duvall & Hays, Chapter 22.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. (John 11:33)

The word translated “deeply moved” contains the sense of a brimming over and the word translated “troubled” is a hard word more akin to anger.  Jesus wept shortly afterwards.  The context is the death of His good friend Lazarus.

As a church we recently experienced to loss of a seven year old who had fought cancer for years and finally died of complications arising from the struggle and treatment.  All sorts of emotions arise when you attend a funeral like that.  Anger at God might be one of them.  But being angry with (i.e. in company with) God might be a better way of seeing it.  Jesus is God and He was angry too in similar circumstances.

So what troubled him so much that he brimmed over, wept and was angry?  He knew what He was about to do.  And it wasn’t too long before that He had told Martha that amazing truth:

” I am the Resurrection and the Life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”

So it wasn’t the death so much as the distress caused by the death that was the issue for Jesus.  All that terrible consequence of the fall of Adam.  Perhaps He was also thinking of what He had to go through to finally put an end to death.

So, anger is not a wrong emotion to feel at such times.  Jesus felt it so there is no good reason why you shouldn’t also.

Seeds and Trees

Of all the things a man may see, few are as beautiful as a tree.  It is an astonishing creation.

First of all there is the seed.  A seed of a birch tree contains the program to grow a birch tree, an acorn contains the program to grow an oak, a beech nut to grow a beech, etc.  Unless a seed falls into the ground and “dies” it remains dormant, dead and lifeless.  Such a contradiction, a seed must die to create life.  A seetreed is a self replicating programmed machine that has a battery (or inbuilt food supply), sensors and two separate growth mechanisms.  The sensors detect the conditions around the seed and when the soil conditions are exactly right (heat, humidity and possibly substance) it starts its self destruct sequence.  The root contains sensors to detect gravity and it uses the food supply to grow downwards.  The shoot contains sensors to detect light and it uses the food supply to grow upwards.  Once the root detects water it moves towards it and starts passing it and muck/ minerals up to the shoot.  The shoot begins to collect sunshine and carbon dioxide combines it with the water and muck and starts to make a tree.  It then no longer needs the battery but has its own power supply which it uses for the rest of its life.  The seed has done its job then and is no longer required.

Jesus said that His word is like a seed (Mark 4, etc.) and like a seed, if it is planted into the right conditions in our heart it produces a shoot.  As we continue to feed the shoot it produces a plant and perhaps a tree of life to others as they begin to eat the fruit of our feeding of that word within us.

God wants to recreate the Garden of Eden in the midst of our souls with the tree of His life in its centre.  Our souls are enormous and all types of things can grow there hidden away in corners or out in the open.  If we feed whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is of good report in our lives and continuously work to remove the weeds of thoughts that so easily fly in from all sorts of angles then we become those who can bless others.

Jesus uses His word of life to make the muck and mess of our lives into something beautiful.

Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you.

Immediately before that in Luke 17 there is a passage about 10 lepers that are healed.  I protested to the Lord about some of this:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

“What is with You here Lord?” I practically shouted out while driving my car to work the other day and listening to an audio bible on my smartphone.  “You told them to go and show themselves to the priests.  They were obeying You and yet You commend the one who doesn’t and reprimand the ones that do what You told them!”  On top of that they were obeying the law also.  What did they do wrong?Sheldon_Cooper

I don’t know if you watch the Big Bang Theory.  I don’t actually, just seen an episode or two (no really).  Well anyway in it there is this character called Sheldon.  He is very bright but has no cop on at all.  He can’t see why the most obvious things are wrong.  No matter what you say to him he will take it up literally and answer according to exactly what you say, truthfully every time (I watch it just to experience the cringes).  When I thought of it, my reaction to that passage was a lot like the way Sheldon might have reacted.

Any child with any sort of manners would think it obvious to give thanks to the one who made him well.  Why didn’t the others respond from their hearts instead of just religion?  Had their religion made them miss the obvious?

Hmm…

 

Revelation 10

A mighty angel brings it down from heaven – it is only a little book but it sure has had a big impact!  So it is not surprising that it should be introduced with such a fanfare.  We also know that of all books this one has the right to be considered as coming from heaven (2 Tim. 3:16).

Robed in a cloud – the book can be surrounded with mystery at times

With a rainbow above his head – the rainbow is the sign of the covenant made with all mankind after the flood (Genesis 9:8-16).  We don’t have too many physical things that speak as loudly as the bible does about the fact that God is with us.  However whenever I see a rainbow I rejoice in this other clear sign that God cares about us.

His legs were like fiery pillars – so we can stand firm in the midst of trial once we have this book, this little book.

He was holding a little scroll (book) which lay open in his hand – this book reveals so much, and it is open to all, not the preserve of a few.

He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land  – in this case we could consider the sea as being things of the spirit and the land as things of the earth with the book connecting the two in a way nothing else does (see this blog on the sea).

He gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion – this book proclaims God’s word just as loudly and with just as much authority.

When he shouted the voices of the seven thunders spoke – ok I haven’t a clue what this is about :-)

I’m also not sure what mystery of God the angel is talking about in verses 5 -7.

In verses 8 – 11, John is told by the Spirit to go and take the book from the angel, who then tells him to eat it.  There is no doubt in my mind that if anyone comes to God he will be quite clearly shown by the Spirit that he ought to devour the bible, feast on it, take it all in.  It will taste like honey when you do.

But it will make your stomach bitter, you will not be able to hold it in, it must come out.

You must prophesy if you eat this book.  You will have no choice but to.

 

(Note:  there are other interpretations of what the little book is (e.g. the book of life) but I think this fits best)

“Up from the grave He rose with a mighty triumph over His foes!”  The words of the old hymn reflect a theme which is well known, that of Jesus’ triumph over the devil when He rose again.  So here is another take on it inspired by studying Revelation 12 (as part of my ongoing study of Grasping God’s Word by Duvall and Hays).

In the Old Testament Satan turns up in some unusual places:

The Garden of Eden (Genesis 3)

Among the sons of God in the presence of the Lord (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7)

Standing before the Angel of the Lord accusing Joshua and being rebuked by the Lord (Zechariah 3:1-2)

And is he the one among all the host of heaven that Micaiah saw in 1 Kings 22:19-22?

But whatever his place in the Old Testament there is no doubt about his place after Jesus was risen and glorified.  Revelation 12 makes it clear:  Israel bears a Child and that Child is caught up to God and His throne and now, because Jesus is there, there is no longer any place for Satan nor his angels.

“Now salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of the brethren, who accused them before our God day and night has been cast down.  And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony and they did not love their lives to the death.  Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!  Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea!  For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” (Rev. 12:9-12)

Rising from the Sea

As people who are born from above we ought to walk on the Sea in heaven (Rev. 15:2) and not live beneath its surface nor be earth bound in our thinking.  There, before the throne, sprinkled on the mercy seat, the blood speaks a better thing that Abel’s did.  His blood cried out for vengeance, Jesus’ blood cries out “Forgive!”  Mercy triumphs over judgement.

What is your testimony?  Can you say: “This is what God did for me today” or “This is what He spoke to me today” or “This is how I obeyed His calling on my life today.”  Today is the day of salvation.  The word of your testimony is that God is alive and active in your life constantly pushing back the devil’s claims of this age and his way of looking at things.  The word of your testimony says that you have direct communion through the Holy Spirit with God the Father because of the finished work of Jesus.  This defeats one of the devil’s main lies that you have to go through some man with a collar (or without) to find God.

Is your life constantly laid down for another in Christ?  Do you continually walk in the death of Christ so that you may also know His resurrection? (Phil. 3:10-11). This is the great challenge for comfortable Christendom in this age.

Oh God!  May I also be given the grace to walk in the light of heaven with my eyes fixed on the throne where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God when the devil turns up with a fair face and in that delusion that, if possible, would even deceive the elect! (Matthew 24:24 and 1 Thessalonians 2:10 -12)

 

 

blue_parakeet_by_midoriakaryu-d67kcj5I’ve just finished reading Scot McKnight‘s book “the Blue Parakeet” (sub titled: “Rethinking How You Read the Bible”).  It was a timely read for me.  It addresses several topics but two were of particular interest to me – what is our relationship with the Bible and what about those difficult passages that don’t seem to fit in with our current practices (Scot calls the latter Blue Parakeets for reasons he explains in chapter 2) particularly about women teaching adult men?  

On the first one it was good to read “God does not equal the Bible” (pg. 88) .  I knew that of course but it is funny how many evangelicals don’t seem to.  Another good phrase is on page 91:  “God gave the Bible not so we can know it but so we can know and love God through it.”  It is good to be reminded of these things.  Seeing eye to eye with Scot on these issues helped give me confidence about his views on “Blue Parakeets”.

Before I read the book I had been going in depth through an issue that bothered me in the bible.  It was the passage in Acts 15:20 where James recommends that Gentiles follow certain laws (abstain from the meat of strangled animals and from blood) which Paul, for one, and I and many other Christians ignore these days.  Like all Blue Parakeets (difficult issues) in the Scripture there is an answer that is satisfying to the mind in relationship with Christ (we have the mind of Christ – 1 Cor. 2:16) and for this issue I was satisfied after studying it in depth for about a week.  These commands fall under the general command to love your neighbour as yourself, or more specifically, not to cause your Jewish Christian neighbour (c.f. Romans 14, 1 Cor. 8) to stumble.   Nowadays very few of us live near Messianic Jews and, with the understanding we and they have of the relationship between the Law and our relationship with Christ, they would probably not be stumbled by non-Jewish believer’s eating rare meat at least in Ireland.

Scot’s says about this and other difficult passages in the Bible that no matter who you are, you do pick and choose (or adopt and adapt) when it comes to interpreting them.  Of course this particularly applies to the Old Testament but it is also true about the New Testament.  No where is this more clear than in relation to the current controversies in evangelical circles about women teachers.  It was refreshing for me to read someone finally addressing comprehensively the infamous “silencing” passages of Paul in 1 Cor. 14: 34-35 and particularly 1 Tim. 2:11-15.

In reality I can’t help but think that Scot’s main reason for writing the book was to address this issue.  He addresses it in the context of rethinking how we read the bible but it is the main subject of the book.  He dedicates the book to someone he thinks was not given the opportunities to minister that she should have gotten and he spends over a third of the book directly addressing the issue of the role of women in the Bible and Church.

Of course I liked his arguments in favour of allowing women to teach adult men.  They made a lot of sense.  Also the mind of Christ, that I like to think I share, witnesses within me that of course qualified anointed women, like qualified anointed men, should be permitted to teach adult men.  The admonitions of Paul, like those of James, applied to the particular circumstances in which they were written.  That was then and this is now.

For me probably the best passage in the book was where Scot quotes F.F. Bruce.  Here are excerpts from the text on pages 206 – 207:

"Professor F. F. Bruce, perhaps the most widely known evangelical scholar of the previous generation and a specialist on Paul, had invited our family to his home.... During a break... I asked Professor Bruce a question that I had stored up for him (and I repeat our conversation from memory):  "Professor Bruce, what do you think of women's ordination?"
"I don't think the New Testament talks about ordination," he replied.
"What about the silencing passages of Paul on women?" I asked.
"I think Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah."
Wow! I thought. That's a good point to think about.  Thereupon I asked a question that he answered in such a way that it reshaped my thinking:  "What do you think then about women in church ministries?"
Professor Bruce's answer was as Pauline as Paul was:  "I'm for whatever God's Spirit grants women gifts to do."
So am I. Let the blue parakeets sing!"

Having the mind of the Spirit is the crucial thing for individuals and churches always.  The Bible was never meant to be a book of rules.  It is God’s story written for those who have the mind of Christ.  Unless you are born again you cannot see the Kingdom of God – and really there is little point in reading the Scriptures for you.  It will only tie you up in knots, or if you are like I was before I was born again, bore you to tears.  But if you are born again, it is a joy to hear the Spirit speak His love story and satisfy our mind together as we read, hear it preached and discover and love God more through the Bible.

I want every women called of God to preach and teach as He leads them.  For there is no difference, in Christ there is neither male nor female, we are all one in Christ Jesus.  And I think I have the mind of Christ in this matter (as Paul might say).

The company Jesus keeps

The Great Banquet

Grasping God’s Word – Assignment 15-2

Passage

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus replied:

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses.

The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it.  Please excuse me.’

Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out.  Please excuse me.’

Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

The servant came back and reported this to his master.  Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’  ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’  Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Luke 14:15-24

Context

Luke 14:7-14

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this person your seat.” Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

12 Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

The Main Point

Jesus' friendsThe parable is introduced in the context of someone making a statement about the kingdom of God.  So we can take it that the original audience and readers would have understood the parable to be about that.  Then it is not unreasonable to assume that the “certain man” Jesus introduces is God who has prepared a feast for His people.  The point first century readers would have picked up is that those he first invited – the Jews – refused to come to what he had prepared and so he invited the Gentiles, the spiritually (and materially) poor, crippled, blind and lame who are outside the house to come instead.

The context in which Jesus spoke brings home the point for his audience at the time of his telling of this parable.  Jesus is at the house of a rich Pharisee (v1) who, no doubt, would have invited his – equally rich – friends to dinner on many occasions.  This time, for whatever reason, he has invited Jesus along with them – there is no mention of any of His disciples or followers being invited.  It is not clear how the man with dropsy got in, perhaps he was one of the Pharisee’s old servants, but the attitude of the Pharisee and his friends before and after the man is healed does not impress Jesus (v2-6).  Neither does the guests approach to the table (v.7 – 11).  Jesus then challenges the Pharisee to not just invite his relatives and rich neighbours to meals like this one but also the poor, crippled, lame and blind (v12-14).

Jesus then explains in this context that God has invited some people to a feast.  Jesus gets the Pharisee, and his guests, to imagine what it would be like if, after all the preparations, all his friends began to make excuses not to come – some of them quite lame.  Jesus knows what God will do, He will invite others to come in their place.  Actually He will go out and make them come in.  And they won’t be healthy and rich like the Pharisee’s friends, they will be poor, crippled, lame and blind like the man with the dropsy.  With all that context, the message must have come home loud and clear to the Pharisee and his guests:  you may have invited Jesus to your house but unless you understand His heart towards the poor and outsiders you are in danger of taking His far more important invitation to the Kingdom of God too lightly and missing out.

Application

We often use the phrase “I invited Jesus into my heart”.  However this parable makes it clear that if you have invited Jesus in to the house of your soul you can expect Him to bring a lot of others with Him.  He kept some strange company of outcasts, poor, lame and crippled.  He is not impressed by how clean, tidy and well-ordered your house may be, or how well off you are, he will still bring them with Him.  We need to be open to the company that Jesus keeps.

As I have been reading and re-reading this post I can’t help but think it doesn’t do justice to the importance of the canon as we have received it.  I can’t see anything specifically wrong with it but I am concerned that it could be picked up as somehow denigrating or making little of the bible.  Anyone who knows me and who reads my other posts will know that I consider the Scripture/ canon/ bible as being of great importance.  Please feel free to comment.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 in Context

Grasping God’s Word – Assignment 14:2

Summary

The statement by Paul that “all Scripture is inspired by God” has been a significant pillar in popular evangelical doctrine to emphasise the importance of the canon – the bible as we know it.  However what was meant by the word “Scripture” in Paul’s time and what mainline evangelical Christianity means by it now are very different.  Not even the OT was the same as the references to Jannes & Jambre in 3:8 make clear.

This lack of certainty about what exactly is meant by “all Scriptures” is not limited to the fact that Paul and Timothy’s versions were so significantly different from what we recognise as the canon today.  There are significant differences in translations of the canon and even the underlying Greek texts.  It is also clear that there are many schisms in Evangelical Christianity that have arisen because of different interpretations of the texts that most people agree are in the canon (e.g. the Baptism in the Spirit to name just one obvious example).

The conclusion that this study comes to is that God never intended the canon or whatever we interpret by the words “All Scriptures” to be used as the ultimate basis for our faith.  That basis is Jesus Christ in us and a living relationship with Him.  However once that is clearly understood the canon does have a significant role to play.  It is the main source of the anointed words that Paul so encourages Timothy to preach.

Therefore preaching is very significant, perhaps more than we realise.  It is the preached word that creates faith in the person hearing and that is the main means God uses to save people (Romans 10:4-18, 1 Cor. 1:21-25).  We need to pay more attention….

Step 1: What did it mean to the original readers?

Context Summary

2 Timothy is written from Paul to his “dear son” Timothy towards the end of Paul’s life.  Despite his innocence Paul is in prison chained like a criminal.  He has many enemies and many of his disciples have left him, most not for good reasons.  Despite this he is encouraged and looking forward to the reward that he now feels sure is awaiting him.  He writes to Timothy to encourage him with the encouragement that he feels and to remind him of the principles of how to stay encouraged in the face of similar adversities.  Things are not going to get any easier but there are things Timothy can do:

  • Keep focussed on Jesus, strengthen himself in Him, remember Him
  • Remember the gospel
  • Remind himself of how Paul lived
  • Stay preaching the word

In other words: “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures..” (3:14-15).

Who is Timothy?

Timothy was a “son in the faith” to Paul, his true disciple and someone with oversight over churches in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3).  He was Paul’s disciple and, along with Titus and possibly others, was Paul’s next generation, his legacy, of preachers and apostles.

What Scripture is and what to do with it

In this context Paul reminds Timothy that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (v. 16,17).  Since this is the nature of Scripture, Timothy is then strongly encouraged to preach the Word i.e. use the Scriptures in the way they were meant to be used, for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training others in righteousness.  All of this is summed up by Paul in his exhortation and command to Timothy to preach the Word (see also 1 Timothy 4:13).  It seems Timothy had a gift which, given the context of 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6, was probably preaching.  The time will come, Paul warns Timothy, when men will not put up with sound doctrine.

The definition of Scripture

But what did the term “All Scripture” mean to Timothy?  And what does Paul mean by “sound doctrine”?  As Paul says to Timothy he had known these holy Scriptures since his infancy, i.e. before any of the New Testament was written.  So all Scripture in this context is probably the Old Testament as the Jews of Timothy’s time knew it.  That that was not the same as the OT that we have in our canon is indicated by Paul’s references to two characters that are not mentioned by name in our OT i.e. Jannes and Jambres (3:8).

But there is also something related in Paul’s emphasis upon his own teachings to Timothy – what you have heard from me  – sound teaching (1:13) and his reference to sound doctrine in 4:3 – that would have meant that Timothy would have been as likely to give Paul’s utterances and writings as much importance as the Scriptures he had read.  See also verses 2:2, 7, 15; 3:10, 14.  In 1 Timothy the emphasis on sound doctrine as taught by Paul is even stronger.  If Timothy had also heard Peter’s opinion of Paul’s writings (as he expressed in 2 Peter 3:15) then he would have understood the relative importance of Paul’s teachings vis-à-vis the Scriptures he had been brought up on, i.e. that both were Scripture and both were therefore as useful as each other in the way described in 3:15.

This was towards the end of Paul’s life, i.e. about 67 AD[1] and some of the other NT books and letters had been written by this time.  Perhaps Timothy could recognise which of these were inspired, i.e. canon, and which were not but this is speculation.

Step 2: What are the differences between the original readers and us?

Not many of us personally know people that are significant leaders in the church and that are in prison for their faith.  But otherwise much of the same situations apply.  If it was the last days in Paul’s time (at least the writer to the Hebrews thought so – see Hebrews 1:2) then it certainly is for us.

The particular role of Paul as a writer of one of significant components of the canon  is not one that we have a counterpart to today.

We also know the NT canon, a lot of which was not written when Timothy got this letter.  So we have a bit more certainty perhaps than Timothy about the importance of the letters he got from Paul or which he had read himself.  But that is very much a “perhaps” – Timothy had a “gift of God” probably similar to what we have.  The Holy Spirit is well able to teach him and us and guide us all into all truth once we have received that same gift.

Step 3: What are the theological principles in the text?

  1. All Scripture is inspired by God
  2. As a result, all Scripture is useful for
    1. teaching
    2. rebuking
    3. correcting
    4. training in righteousness
  3. The result of using Scripture in this way is make a man of God thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Step 4: How do these principles fit in with the rest of the bible?

These principles are backed up by Peter in 2 Peter 3:15.  The word of truth and the Scriptures themselves are nothing but a set of statements that can be used in many ways if the person reading them is not filled with the Spirit and taught by God.  Ultimately Jesus is the Truth and the Word of God and unless you are being taught by His Holy Spirit in a real experiential way you will eventually be confused and unsure of what to believe.  No amount of reading of the bible or study will bring you to God, only faith in the preached word does that (see 1 Cor. 1:18-31).

Step 5:  How should we live out these theological principles?

Most Christians have not been exhorted by a godly Apostle to preach the word or use the Scriptures in the way Timothy was though there are those who have received that gift from Jesus.

But the biggest applications for my personal walk that I get from these verses is as follows:

  1.  Listen to godly, gifted preachers, who are preaching the Word of God in the way God intended.  Be prepared to be taught, rebuked, corrected and trained by this preached Word.
  2. The Scriptures are not the same thing as the Word of God.  It takes the action of the Holy Spirit working His gift through a godly man to make Scriptures useful.
  3. Both Paul and Timothy’s versions of the Scriptures were different from ours as has been the case for many Christians even after the canon was decided.  Different translations and underlying texts can make significant differences even today.  We should not get too tied up by the fact that Scripture cannot be precisely pinned down to the last Greek letter. The Holy Spirit does not want us to make a fetish out of the words on the page. As Paul says elsewhere:  “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

[1] Zondervan NIV Study Bible

A cure for the love of money!

Grasping God’s Word – Assignment 13-3

I Timothy 6:10a

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (NIV)

Grasping the Text in their town

Roman slave mosaicIf we take the verse in context the original readers would have seen this verse as a follow on to the earlier verses about being content with food and clothing (vv. 6-8).  These verses themselves relate to earlier verses (vv. 1-2) about slaves showing respect and serving their masters well despite the fact that they are slaves.  Far from a cry for slaves to pursue their freedom, Paul says that they should be content.  He also says in vv. 3-5 that anyone teaching otherwise is motivated by thinking that godliness is a means to financial gain.  This is the link verse to the remainder of what the chapter teaches about the love of money.  It is probable that the idea had got out that if you can be free you can make money and that money will bring about happiness.  Paul wants to knock that idea on the head.

The differences between their situation and ours

Slavery, per se, has been outlawed in nearly every country though variations of it exist all over the world.  Otherwise things aren’t much different as far as this passage is concerned.

The theological principles in the passage

love of moneyProbably the main principle, for me anyway, is elaborated in verse 7:  “We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.”  This makes the following three verses clear – being eager for money, loving it, can cause you to wander from the faith.  The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil that stem from a wrong perspective on life, giving importance to those things that are not since we won’t be bringing any of it with us.

Does this fit in with the teachings of the rest of the bible?

This principle is central to many of Jesus’ teaching and to the whole ethic of the NT.  Jesus attitude to money during His earthly ministry might at times be considered cavalier by those who give money more importance than He ever did.  In Matt. 6:19 – 34 Jesus teaches us to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth.  He also says that no one can serve both God and money.  He also says not to worry about tomorrow or indeed anything to do with what we eat, drink or wear (the same things that Paul says we ought to be content with having – we shouldn’t be looking for more than these).  In Matthew 17:24-27 it is obvious that He and His disciples are penniless and cannot pay the temple tax.  However, Jesus isn’t bothered, He doesn’t even go looking for the money Himself but sends Peter to get it from a fish!  In Matt. 19: 16 – 26 Jesus warns that it is very hard for someone who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And so it goes on.

How should we apply this principle today?

Even though there aren’t any slaves that we know of today in Ireland anyway, many people feel like slaves either because they are in demanding low paid employment or because they are in debt.  The natural inclination of most people is not to be content in these situations, to want to find a way out.  But if it was true that those who were slaves in Paul’s time ought to be content with food and clothing (v.8) then it is also true for us now.

One of the biggest issues that I, and probably others, have is that we are not content with just food and clothing.  We feel we have a need for a whole plethora of other things:

  • Education9598540-cartoon-home-appliance-icon
  • Health care
  • Justice & security
  • Elaborate dwelling places with all sorts of facilities such as:
    • Hot showers
    • Electric ovens
    • Central heating
    • Flushable toilets
    • Comfortable furniture and beds
    • TV
    • Computers
    • etc.
  • Motor vehicles
  • Mobile phones
  • Holidays
  • Recreational trips
  • Eating out
  • etc.

But according to the bible we don’t actually need any of these things, just food and clothing (which presumably includes shelter) and with those we should be content.

Some chance!

september-9-11-attacks-anniversary-ground-zero-world-trade-center-pentagon-flight-93-second-airplane-wtc_39997_600x450But the reality is that all these things are very precarious.  The world economic system is continuously on a knife edge.  Economic disaster is never far away from any of us.  Wars can break out in the most unlikely places in unimaginable ways (9/11), there is no lasting security on this earth.  I, and perhaps you, live in the illusion that we will always have more than we need, I take it for granted and can’t imagine what it would be like not to have these “basics”.  But there is nothing basic about this list of things nor is there any certainty that any of us will have them.  The only thing we can be certain about is that our heavenly Father will give us what we truly need:  food & shelter.

The answer then is to start being truly thankful for everything else for as long as we have it all.

Which mightn’t be for long.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim. 6:17)

Be ThankfulThank you Jesus!

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