Theology

Family 101–pt.1

Foundations are the most important part of any structure. For example, a five-million dollar home, with all of its detail and opulence is only as glorious as its structural integrity. If the foundation crumbles, the whole structure goes down and then where will the opulence get you? The five-million is only as good as the concrete below…and the skill of the man who put it there.

It is no different in the family. Structurally, you could say, the family is crumbling. Well, let me clarify a bit more. In reality, the family has been crumbling since Genesis 4. If you don’t believe me, consider Cain’s actions toward his righteous brother Abel. I would call that crumbling. So, please don’t believe the panic-mongers who alarm everyone by proclaiming the disintegration of the family and then call you to jump on their conference bandwagons (for a fee) in order to fix the problem. Now, I am all for conferences. They have their place in the church (e.g. Acts 15). However, to make a living at it, and to use the leverage of the hypothesis that the family has fallen from its once lofty position of the Early American Colonies is false. The disintegration of the family is nothing new and to believe that somehow we have overcome the heart of Cain toward the Abels in the world (and in the family)  is an illusion and fantasy. 

It is more appropriate to say, I believe, that the doctrine of the family  is disintegrating in the church. Let me say it again. It is not the family that is falling apart. It has always done so. It is the doctrine of the family that needs serious overhaul. In fact, if the inspector would come to the job site and examine the work of the men laying the foundation of that five-million dollar home, I believe He would halt the project immediately and declare the work not up to code and would demand that the foundation be destroyed and rebuilt. It is the doctrine of the family that is suffering from dilapidation and the fruit of it is the condition of families in the church today.

It is always the concern of pastors that God’s people believe the truth. In fact, I am more concerned about what a Christian believes than what they do. When a child of God is told that he/she has cancer, my greatest concern is that they do not believe error as a result of that discovery and blame God for His evil in their life. That is why a faithful pastor should visit his people at home regularly and in the hospital when necessary. In the same way, the result of what you believe about the family makes itself evident in the condition of the family itself. Even in the worst of family situations, the leadership and care of a faithful, godly, husband and father becomes evident. Not by the presence of swashbuckling boys and “damsel-in-distress” girls. But by the gospel being exhibited in that situation. Neither is it acceptable to simply resign your leadership, men, to the doctrine of depravity. “Sinners will do what sinners do” is a reluctance to obedience to God, who designed, created, and is the foundation of, the family. It is a rejection of the wisdom required and demanded of Christians in the home to rescue sinners.

Saying all of that, I have been recently reminded of the need to rebuild family foundations so that the Inspector will not come to the job site and condemn the footers and foundations of our homes. Before we begin this series, I want to say a few personal words. My family and I have learned that the priority in the home is the kingdom of God. Jesus instructed His church to

“seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (temporal needs-vv. 25-31) will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33

The Lord’s instructions here are not meant to fill the shelves of theological libraries, although they do very capably. They are meant to be the pursuit of the children of God their whole life long. That includes submission to them in our homes. In fact, I will argue, it demands the priority of submission to them be in our homes before they are ever exhibited in the church or the world. To seek the kingdom at church, but shelf it at home is hypocrisy. To seek the kingdom on the street-corner with a soapbox and a bullhorn, but quiet down at home is hypocrisy. That is not from God. However, to seek the kingdom in your homes, even for singles, will insure that the kingdom will be prioritized in the church and in the world. It is not difficult to motivate Christians to evangelize once they have righted the ship and prioritized the kingdom in the home.

Second, the foundations having been built over the years are faulty. The material used to build the homes of far too many Christians include:

  • Natural revelation – “I feel that I should raise my children this way…”
  • Sacramentalism – “If we attend a church service, youth group, conference, regularly, my home will be fine.”
  • Peer influence – “My children must be around children their own age in order for the Bible to make sense.”
  • Neglect – “I am too busy in the ministry to bother with the concerns of my wife.”
  • Ignorance – “I don’t really understand why the family even exists.”
  • Shepherd-dependence – “My husband won’t…I need to ask my pastor what I should do.”
  • Societal emphasis – “I will avoid the really bad parts of society in order to ensure they don’t influence my family.”
  • Millennial mayhem – “My family is like the family of Israel and so I will make sure that I am a prophet and priest to them.”
  • Leavening – “I can’t shelter my children, so I will involve them with the world and hope things work out.”
  • Parental laziness – “My children are too high-maintenance. I need a break.”
  • Agnosticism – “The Bible does not give us comprehensive instruction about the family.”

The doctrines listed above are not acceptable in the building of the home. There are more. However, these are predominant and very influential ones of our day. The Word of God does not allow for these and neither should they be in our homes.

I want to explain comprehensively what the structure of the family is from Scripture, Old and New Testaments, such that God’s people, if they obey what is verifiably evident from His Word, will grow in the wisdom and understanding that is priority over all things in the home.

If you are reading this, please take the time to examine it carefully. Further, share this series with other Christians. The body of Christ is only as healthy and strong as the children, and families, in the churches. Because of that, we must have this series.

God’s Mercy In Trials

 

Testing is Normal and Necessary

The Bible indicates that a normal part of life as a Christian is testing. This does not refer to testing in the sense of pass or fail. It is a kind of testing that has as its purpose revelation. The revelation not so much of the Word of God, but of our hearts.

God tested Adam in the garden, calling out to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). God tested Abraham when he was commanded to take his son, Isaac, up to the mountain and offer him there as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-2; cf Hebrews 11:17). God tested Israel for 40 years in the desert (Deuteronomy 8:1-4) not so that God would find out, but so that they would find out! Moving forward into the New Testament we see that the Father even tested His Only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by means of 40 days of fasting and aloneness while being tempted to sin by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us:

Hebrews 12:4–8

A Father’s Discipline

4  You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

5  and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

6  For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

7  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

8  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

 

One such son was Simon Peter. This man, named “Rock” by the Lord Himself (John 1:42), would go on to become the pillar of the church, alongside James, the Lord’s brother (James 1:1), and John (Galatians 1:9; 2:2, 6). But, Peter needed to be tested first. Why? Because, as he was, he was not fit for ministry. His life was filled with pride, sectarianism, and spiritual short-sightedness. However, God had chosen this man to become a foundation-stone to their group, the apostles (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:19-20). He had the highest service toward God, and therefore had the furthest to go as it relates to testing. Since he would be used of the Lord to such a degree, the Lord needed to expose his own heart to him in the deepest way.

The Test

Simon was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew (John 1:40-42). Once Simon saw Christ, and Christ saw him, the Lord prophesied that he would have his name changed to “rock.” That would be a description of this man. But, right now, he was simply same-old Simon. As the Lord’s ministry wore on, with tremendous power and conflict, this man, Simon, didn’t seem to change much. However, that was not the point of the Lord’s ministry. Although the Lord would have expected these men to change, He knew what was in their hearts (John 2:23-25). No one needed to tell Him what was going on in their minds at any time. However, Simon did not know what was in his heart. And that ignorance would keep him away from effective service to Christ. If the Lord is going to call you to service, He must first reveal you. And since He already knows our hearts, He only needs to reveal our hearts to us! The years of preparation for service, the laying of seeds of teaching and example, as it were, did not sprout during the Lord’s ministry. It would almost seem that nothing took root. However, the watering of testing, pressure, needed to be applied first before the condition of the soil and seed could be made evident. The moment of water applied to the soil and seed came in the courtyard where Simon and the Lord Himself was being tested respectively. 

Our Lord is arrested, betrayed by the Satan-filled betrayer, Judas. Judas, already having it in his heart to do evil, is led by Satan to betray Jesus to the Jews and the Romans. In doing so, it would seem that the hopes of the kingdom are destroyed. The three years of following, watching, learning, practicing, ministry with Jesus now dashed. Peter is told to bear a sword (Luke 22:35-38). He attempts to use the sword to fight for Jesus at His arrest (Luke 22:49-51). Jesus rebukes him, because he was apparently operating outside of the will of the Father (v. 42). Peter did not see that, as he did not see much of a spiritual nature (see Matthew 16:21-23). Peter, along with the rest of the disciples, flee the scene.

Peter is now in the courtyard, warming himself by the fire (Luke 22:54-62). He is asked three different times by three different people if he was with Jesus. He denies that he even knows the Man. The last time, defending his own hypocritical innocence against the accusation that he was with Jesus, he does so with vehement curses (Matthew 26:74). Peter, horrified by the accompanying shame of having been with the Jesus who is, as he speaks, being tried and beaten, denies that he was ever an acquaintance of the Lord’s. At the end of the last denial Jesus, being within viewing distance to Peter, turns and looks Simon in the eyes without a word. He didn’t have to speak-he already had.

At the end of the final meal that the Lord would eat on this unredeemed earth, having eaten it with the disciples, Peter assured Jesus that even if everyone else would fall away from the Lord, there would be no possibility of him falling away and denying Him (Matthew 26:31-35). Simon was willing to die with Him. However, when it came down to it, the Scriptures were true-Jesus would be denied three times by this self-confident man. What happened? How could Peter have done this? Sure, Peter was self-assured. Sure, Peter had no idea what he was in for. Sure, Peter was ashamed of Jesus Christ, when push came to shove. But what was really going on behind the scenes?

Behind the Scenes

Luke tells us the behind the scenes scenario of this event, a devastating, but necessary one, in the life of this leader. He needed to be humbled. He needed to deny himself, not Christ. He needed to see his own weakness, and the Lord’s mercy. And that he did.

Satan, the arch-enemy of Jesus Christ, is a murderer (John 8:44). He cannot help himself, nor does he want to. According to the Lord, Satan has demanded from God, and has obtained, permission to sift Peter like one would separate wheat and the chaff. Peter would be devastated by Satan’s ravages, and God has granted permission to Satan for that very purpose. Thus, we understand that Satan is a target for Peter. This makes sense, since Peter would become the rock, or pillar, of the church in Jerusalem and beyond.

Satan obtains permission. Unlike Job, Peter at least was told it was about to happen. Yet, Jesus also mentions something more. Jesus said,

Luke 22:31–32

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;

32  but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

“Listen up, Simon, Satan has demanded, and obtained from the Father, permission to sift YOU! You are a target of Satan, Simon.” However, Peter would not be left in that horrible condition. At some point, Peter would turn back. And once being turned back, he is then responsible for strengthening his brothers, i.e. the other apostles. So, Jesus Christ, since He prayed for him, believed that God would answer His prayers and that Peter would be granted repentance and would be useful again for the apostleship.

How did Satan do it? How did Satan sift Simon? He did it through unredeemed people around him. Remember, three people instigated a conversation with Simon at the fire which brought out of Simon’s heart the hidden shame toward Jesus that he was feeling. There were no riots, officers, or clubs. It was only the accusation of the servant-girl and a couple others at the fire. Peter did not know that he was ashamed of Christ. He did not know that he was so distant from the plan of God. But he needed to know.

When Jesus Christ turned and looked at Simon at the crowing of the rooster, Peter realized what he had done. He was devastated. He was destroyed. Consider him sifted. Satan did it. Goal accomplished. He ran out of the courtyard absolutely distraught (Matthew 26:75).

The Result

But wasn’t it gracious of God to show Peter what was in his heart? Sooner or later the shame of Christ that resided there would get in the way of ministry. He needed to have it exposed and led to repentance. And he was.

It was a few days later and Peter and the others were in a boat fishing. They had gone back to fishing assuming that their fishing-for-men days were done. After all, Peter had denied the Lord, the Lord knew it, and there appeared no remedy. I can only imagine how often that scene played itself out in his mind.

The Lord appears on the shore and calls out to the men. No one recognizes Him except John (no doubt by the Lord’s sovereign choice). John exclaims to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). The ensuing conversation is the power of God. “Simon,” the Lord asked, “Do you love me more than these?” Whether it is a question of loving Him more than the fish and his fishing occupation, or more than the rest of the disciples, it is hard to know. However, Peter’s answer was less confident than his denials a few days earlier. If Simon actually loved Jesus, then he would “Feed [His] sheep.” The Lord asks him a second time, “Simon, do you love Me?” Simon again answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.” This is very different from what was in his heart a few days ago. If Simon really does, then he would show it by shepherding His lambs. The third time, “Simon, do you love Me?” Simon, apparently irritated, or frustrated, answers, “Yes, Lord, you know all things. You know that I love You!” Again, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus was calling Peter back to love for Him. Maybe, which is probably more accurate, Jesus was continuing to purge Peter’s heart because Peter was still not completely sanctified in his love for Jesus Christ as is evident in his frustration for asking a third time. Besides, the first two times the Lord asked Peter if he “loved” Him, the Lord used the word that refers to a love that is sacrificial and submissive apart from reciprocity. It is a love that reflects God’s love and does not consider the worthiness of the object of love. However, the third time, Jesus seems to even question Simon’s affection for Jesus as He then uses a different word for “love.” One that refers to an affection for something. It is, after all, the fulfillment of the Law to love the Lord your God with all your heart. Again, Peter appears to teeter on the line between complete love and simple self-produced affection for Christ, but no absolute subjection to Him.

Fact of the matter is, our hearts (and minds) are never really capable of being really worthy of serving the Lord. The reality is, we will always need our “feet cleansed” (John 13:1-20). Satan was God’s instrument, with all of his diabolical fury, for the cleansing of this self-confident, and loveless apostle. With Peter learning his lesson, and by the ministry of the Spirit of God in this man, he is now able to be a strengthener to the others. How do I know? Simply read Acts 1-15.

Catholicism.

 

I was raised Catholic. Being from an Italian/Irish lineage, I was given ample opportunity to be submerged into the culture and doctrine of The Roman Catholic Church. The traditions, the expectations, the habits, the components of religious duty, all surrounded me…but was never explained to me. I was about 17 or 18 when I begin thinking about god in some fashion. It would not be until I was twenty-one that I was seized by God with His truth being face to face with His Word, the Bible and what it teaches. I then heard about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I remember sitting in that church building, being invited by my neighbor from the dorm, listening, knowing, and affirming that I deserved Hell, I was a sinner, and that Jesus died. I absorbed all of that during my short years in cognitive interaction with The Roman Catholic Church. However, that day I visited that little Bible church in Bozeman, Montana was the day that the pastor mentioned the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The reality of that, and its significant implications, hit me deeply (to put it mildly), and immediately I was given faith to believe and submit to that Lord of Glory. I remember it well.

However, the years prior to that, I was struggling. In so many ways I was lost-angry, frustrated, hopeless. I remember thinking one particular question over and over again, “If Jesus was such a nice guy, then why did the people kill Him?” I could never get an answer to that nagging question from any Mass I attended, any discussion I heard, or any ritual I observed. There was never any sense in which you could really understand what Jesus did in my time attending the Roman Catholic Church, only that He did it. He died, gave His body, laid to rest in a tomb, held by his mother, conferred religion to mankind…all of which was enshrouded in absolute impregnable mystery. That is not for us to know, only accept. The life, death, and resurrection is not for people to understand only accept. The Jesus of the Catholic Church I attended in Kansas City, MO. and the variety of feasts as well was simply acts of response to our religion. Why? I didn’t know. It was never explained. I am convinced that if I were to ask the average Catholic “Why did Jesus die on a cross? Why was He raised from the dead? Who benefits from His death? What does the Bible say about all of these things?” they would not know either.

Pagan religions have one stick to beat people with-mystery. It is mystery that keeps you attending. It is mystery that keeps you giving. It is mystery that keeps you fearful about ever questioning, or simply understanding, the purposes behind the religion. I am convinced that The Roman Catholic Church is a Pagan religion, primarily for that fact. The leadership of Catholicism does not divulge the purposes for its decrees, nor is it compelled to. They cannot tell you why they do what they do. They cannot tell you where they can find Jesus’ words concerning the Mass, Indulgences, or the Rosary. They cannot demonstrate, exegetically, how Peter was the “Papa” and head of the church. They cannot explain how ex Cathedra can be supported in light of Scripture. Thus, like the life of the church itself, it is all a mystery. And that is the way they like it. Furthermore, this is the foundational component to its “unity.” The reality is that the Catholic church is a shell, a crust. The so-called unity found there, that they say Protestants don’t have because we have so many denominations as if proof of our erroneous doctrines, is only external unity because most Catholics cannot explain Jesus Christ or what He has accomplished. So, in order to keep order, they enshroud the Church with mystery and thereby maintain their idea of unity. It is not unity. It is utter chaos. The Apostle Paul taught that the means of unity is the knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:11-13). Those who do not believe, and thus teach against, what the Scriptures teach about Jesus Christ cannot remain in fellowship with God’s people (Romans 16:17-18). When a church says the same things about Christ, the kingdom, and all that Christ taught, it is unified. That demands extensive knowledge of those things, the very thing Rome despises.

I want to address a few typical considerations that I have heard over the years from Catholics concerning the differences between them and us, those who are termed “Protestants.” Martin Luther and his actions drove a wedge between us that needed to be driven. I praise God for his conscience that led him to stand alone that day in the face of the anger and tyranny of the leadership of the Catholic Church. What a man. But, just what were the teachings that made up that wedge? What was it that compelled this scholarly monk to renounce The Roman Catholic Church in such stark terms? I believe it comes down to a few teachings (although, admittedly, volumes could be, and have been, written):

  1. THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF JESUS CHRIST.
  2. THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
  3. THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN.

The Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Rome cannot understand the kingdom of Jesus Christ. If we can know a tree by its fruit, then we can surely see this in Rome. Rome seeks to introduce the kingdom to the world by means of subduing people to the Mother Church. Or, to say it another way, Rome wants everyone to “come home.” That is not the announcement of the kingdom. We, those truly born from above, may have to enter eternity by means of a sword. Jesus said,

Matthew 10:34–36

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35  “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

36  and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Jesus never gave the illusion that somehow the world would be subdued by His church. He never indicated that the church is the vehicle by which the world is made peaceful. That was not His goal in coming to this earth. By His own words He came to this earth to divide the earth. Jesus purposefully initialized the animosity that would arise between family members because some would believe in Him and some would not. What is the good news in that? It is this: when division does happen, a person can be in the family of the One who will ultimately rule. Compared to the alternative, which is to be judged by Him, it is good news. To be reconciled to Jesus Christ, the Judge (John 5:25-27) is the announcement that true Christians have and Rome does not. The gospel that Jesus Christ preached is the announcement of the kingdom. Indeed, it is often referred to as “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Luke 16:16). It is the announcement that Jesus Christ has received a kingdom and He is inviting the world into it (see Matthew 22:1-14). That is not to say that everyone will, or can, enter into it. Jesus Himself said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The gospel demands the call to the world to repent from its sins (Matthew 4:17; Acts 17:30-31). The world, which loves darkness (John 3:19), is the recipient of this announcement and is obligated to obey (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8). The heart of the gospel, and the provision for men to enter into Christ’s kingdom is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This provision, and this alone, is what “merits” man’s entrance into the kingdom. Catholic theology teaches that our works also merit our entrance (Council of Trent, Session VI, Justification, Canons 4, 7, 32). They condemned those who teach that the requirement for entrance into the kingdom was met by Jesus Christ alone, without cooperation from manas heretical (Ibid, Canon 12). In doing so, they condemned Christ Himself because Jesus taught, in context, that man cannot even know how to justify himself nor accomplish it, even by the cooperation of Christ (John 3:1-8). If a man could birth himself physically, then sure, he could cooperate with Jesus Christ for good works that produce eternal life and more of it. But, no man ever cooperated in his physical birth, and no man can cooperate in his spiritual one either.

The Authority of the Scriptures.

The written Word of God has the same authority as the spoken Word of God from His throne (which is not in Rome, by the way). That is to say, God has spoken through His prophets and they recorded what was to be recorded into books and letters and those have been preserved and collected into a mini-library called the Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews wrote that God spoke in many portions and in many ways to His prophets, and ultimately in His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1). This speaking of the Father is what we are after. His speaking was recorded by “men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The office of prophet is no longer in the church (1 Corinthians 13:8). Thus, for the Pope to speak a new form of doctrine or liturgy, and to ascribe the same level of authority upon it as Scripture is simply not possible. Thus, in the same vein of Deuteronomy 13:1ff. that person who says that they now speak on behalf of God as if God Himself is speaking in him, or recognizing his own words as His, then that person is to be rejected. God has closed the canon. Surely, if there was ongoing revelation through a prophet, of which the Pope would have to be labeled, then we have the right to test all that he writes and says against the Word of God (all 66 books-see 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; cf. Deuteronomy 13:1ff.). However, Catholicism admits that, in a very real sense, the canon is not closed. By that I mean that they believe that they have unbroken succession of traditions from the Apostles down to this very day (Trent, session IV, ‘Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures’). Not only do they accept the Apocrypha, which has been proven non-canonical internally, but they list them as authoritative and binding. So, the authority of Scripture, which is unique to the Scriptures alone, is now shared with spoken tradition and the Apocrypha (as well as the early church fathers, as they call them). Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote,

2 Timothy 3:16–17

16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

17  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

What is validated as Scripture, not by council but by the Scriptures themselves, is Scripture. Human tradition and extra-canonical writings cannot, and should never be, placed upon the same level as the written Word of God.

The Depravity of Man

Finally, Rome does not believe in the teaching of Scripture regarding the depravity of man. If they did, they would not anathematize those who teach the mercy of God (Justification, Canons 4, 9, 12). Rome says,

It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace; so that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in His sight (Ibid, Chapter 5, emphasis mine).

Although the Council of Trent affirms what seems to be a sound understanding of human depravity, by definition of other doctrines, namely sanctification, they deny it. That is, as Paul said, the righteousness that makes one holy is only by faith in Jesus Christ, worked out in us by God who generates obedience in us by His power alone, not with our cooperation (Philippians 3:7-11; 2:12-13; See Romans 1:5 & 16:26). God certainly works in us for righteousness, not to aid our flesh, but to live out the regeneration which comes by His Holy Spirit through His Word by faith (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The depravity of man is not that his innocence is lost by Adam. It is that he hates God, is His enemy and despises righteousness with his whole heart (John 3:19-20; cf. Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 8:6-8). This is why millions run to the Catholic churches, as well as a multitude of other cults, because of their refusal to submit to the righteousness of God which is by faith (Romans 10:1-4). They build their own set of righteousness, all by the imitation of the righteousness of God, which is in the Scripture, and they do what they think Scripture says (John 5:39-40), but they do it by means of their own depravity. The righteousness to which they attain is not from heaven, but earth, and is therefore condemning, not meritorious.

The most righteous act imaginable is to believe God. The Bible teaches that this act is not possible, either by man, nor in a mixture of his will and God’s (John 1:12-13), nor in any other fashion. The faith that must be in man as proof of eternal life (John 3:15) must be given to man, as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), and is not earned. If it were earned, the death of Jesus Christ would not have been necessary. Besides, the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant, which has come to the Gentiles, is only by faith, and not by the fruit of faith which is righteous behavior (Galatians 3; esp. vv. 8-9). Catholic doctrine demands that the sinner must cooperate with God in the regeneration that is required to enter the Kingdom of Christ. However, if that were the case, then the Apostle Paul was wrong when he taught that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor the perishable the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). That is why the Lord taught that a man must die in order to follow Him (Matthew 10:37-39) and then must be born from above, from God (John 3:3-8; cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27). What could possibly make a Catholic think that he could assist God in this endeavor? God does not remodel a sinner-the sinner must die and be reborn. He must be a “new creation” in order to be acceptable to God and enter God’s kingdom (see Matthew 5:48).

For any person who believes Catholic doctrine, and has believed in the teaching of the Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, of centuries past or today, read and re-read what I have written. I am not asking you to become a Protestant. I, as a pastor of Christ’s flock, am instructing you to submit to Jesus Christ by means of repentance from erroneous doctrine and dead works and believing in what He actually did teach-you must be born from God, not man, in order to enter His kingdom.

“Have Tongues Ceased?” And Other Curious Questions Easily Answered

 

Yesterday, I was reading a string of comments on a post in Facebook concerning whether tongues and miracles etc.. have ceased from the days of the apostles. The statements that I saw one gentleman making were summed up in this thought, “There is not a single verse in the New Testament that shows that tongues (and thus by implication and extension other revelatory and sign gifts) have been taken away.” The argument goes that since there is no single passage that demonstrates this, then it is clear that they have not stopped. 

As I read that post and the comments, I wanted to immediately write back (even though I was not part of the discussion) and correct that statement. However, I had my own responsibilities to tend to. But this morning I am making time to explain that there is a singular passage that definitively teaches the “cessation” of tongues. Further, it teaches why and when. Further still, it teaches the cessation of other revelatory gifts and giftedness and it does so in a capable manner.

My goal in this post is to stifle that kind of statement above from being heard any longer and cause these kinds of statements to become subject to the teaching of the Word of God on the matter (2 Corinthians 10:5).

1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians occurs between chapters twelve and fourteen. This obvious statement is critical to its interpretation, although many commentators disagree as to its function. However, if you simply follow the text, it will tell you. First Corinthians 12:1 indicates that one of the many questions that the folks in Corinth had was concerning the use of “spiritual gifts.” Literally, Paul writes “τῶν πνευματικῶν,” “in reference to the spirituals.” The idea of giftedness primarily comes from the endowment that occurs when a person becomes a believer. Ephesians 4:11-16, a companion passage to 1 Corinthians 12-14, teaches that when Jesus Christ ascended He then sent the Holy Spirit, as promised, and the Holy Spirit then endowed men with “gifts.” These endowments are listed in that passage as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers. Not only are these the categories of giftedness, but they are sequential, or chronological in scope. We know this because earlier in the same letter, Paul taught that the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, they are at the ground-level of the building (Ephesians 2:19-22). The apostles, chosen by Christ Himself, are the first in the order of things in the church. They were closest in proximity to Jesus Christ and His teaching. Next in line are the prophets. These were folks who were given direct revelation from the Spirit on the spot. This endowment was in order to teach something that would guide the church in some fashion locally. Agabus is one such example. In Acts 11:27-30, He and a number of other prophets from Judea came into the church at Antioch to warn them of the coming drought. Luke records that they said this by the Spirit and it happened in the reign of Claudius (cf. Acts 18:2). So, that information was necessary for the churches, in Judea and Antioch, to prepare for the drought for all the saints. That is prophecy in the New Testament (NT) sense. It is commensurate with the Old Testament (OT) use as well.

In line, then, with the groundwork of apostles are the prophets. By the way, this very work included the men who wrote the NT also. All the writers of the NT were prophets in that they were given direct revelation, “prophecy,” by God to be recorded into Scripture. This is important.

After the prophets come the evangelists and teaching pastors. I will leave those here since the offices of apostle and prophet most concern us in 1 Corinthians 13. The positions overlapped in time, but were sequential in order of being given. In other words, you don’t see NT prophets before you see the apostles.

Paul is writing to the confused and crazed church in Corinth. This dear group of saints were the joy and distress of Paul at that same time. The problem came in when false apostles began to infiltrate the church and introduce error and accusation against Paul. These were false apostles, agents of Satan, who preached a counterfeit gospel, one which the Corinthians were bearing with beautifully (see 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 12-15). With their false claim to apostleship came a new gospel. And, as Satan does, they introduced a false spiritual giftedness as well. We can see this in the entire argument. There is clearly the true giftedness and the false. That is the backdrop of this section of Paul’s letter.

The Context:

Paul starts chapter 12 with a reminder that they used to be ignorant pagans following every wind of doctrine (v.1). This appears as a condemnation for the way in which they are putting up with the false apostles in their midst. These men apparently were publicly saying, or teaching, that Jesus is actually accursed instead of teaching that Jesus is Lord (v.3). And with this demonic doctrine came a demonic use of gifts, which undoubtedly included a false giftedness originating from Satan just as their gospel also originated from Satan. Therefore, Paul’s teaching in this section (chapter 12-14) is really a correction against the false teachers who had infiltrated the church and brought in speculations that were contrary to sound doctrine and they were imprisoning the saints with their rhetoric, display of so-called spiritual giftedness, and self-proclaimed apostleship. And true to the use of signs and wonders, Paul himself showed by them that he was a true apostle and not a fake like them (2 Corinthians 12:12-13). Paul’s sarcasm and facetious speaking in these letters are evident and necessary as he is attempting to reason with this confused bunch.

With that as backdrop, we can move forward in the letter. Paul now is forced to write concerning spiritual gifts (χαρισμάτων-“gifts/endowments”) which the church possessed. These evidences of grace of God are meant to further sanctification. They are not meant to be used for personal reasons, nor for self-aggrandizement. They are not, as the imposters were teaching, meant to contradict sound doctrine, the doctrine of the apostles and true prophets. Thus, Paul, after explaining the multifaceted work of the Holy Spirit in the church in this manner, explains that the church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18) and as such must function as a body functions-in unity and usefulness. The fact is, God Himself appointed in the church these gifted men and giftedness as He desired (v. 28). God, as in salvation, is responsible for the giving of the gifts (and their removal). Not everyone in the church, whether during the time of the Corinthians or on a larger scale as time went on in the church, has the gifts and giftedness that others had early on. Not everyone will speak in unlearned languages, heal, perform miracles, or have divine revelation. Only those to whom God Himself has given them.

But notice the priority that Paul introduces in 1 Corinthians 12:28. He gives order to the positions of apostle, prophet, and teacher. That is, he introduces them with the ordinals “first, second, third.” That is, these positions of responsibility are prioritized over the following giftedness of miracles, healings, helps, administrations, and tongues. Thus, the first three are in a class all their own in importance. They are the greater gifts. That is what Paul is calling them to. Paul instructs them to give their interests to those who are apostles, prophets, and teachers more than they give to the other manifestations of the Spirit of God. Paul is pointing them back to those through whom come the Word of God. Each of those three positions are predominantly teaching positions, and by that leadership positions (Hebrews 13:7). He is lowering the position of miracles etc.. to a lesser status in the face of the teaching and leadership of the apostles, prophets, and teachers. This is why he urges these people to desire most that some might prophesy. Apostleship cannot be desired because there cannot be apostles added to the original twelve, excluding Judas, and Paul (Acts 1:21-22). But prophets are to be listened to, as God gives them to the churches. Also, teachers are to be listened to as God gives them to the church as well.

The Point

And here is the main point: the function of all of these gifts is to edify. The church is to be built up, sanctified, made holy and useful to God (John 17:17). Thus, the work of these men is to edify the church such that, as Ephesians 4:11-12 states, they might continue to edify one another. In the face of the abuses of the gifts of God, or the proper use of the gifts of Satan, edification will always be lacking. Mutual edification is Paul’s point in these chapters (see 1 Corinthians 14:4-5, 17, 26).

The gifts of the Spirit are given for mutual edification. In order for the church to collectively be made holy and useful, which is what edification is, it must exercise its gifts toward one another. That is the “way” of 1 Corinthians 12. But, Paul says, there is a more excellent “way” to edify one another-love. First Corinthians 12:31 indicates that the Corinthians should prioritize their interests toward the hearing of the Word of God from the Apostles, Prophets, and teachers, instead of fascination with miracles and tongues (so-called). That is because, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the teaching of the Word of God equips the saints for ministry in the church which is edification. However, all of that must be done in the context of love:

Ephesians 4:16

16  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

The way to edify the church is for the church to hear the Word of God (John 17:17). However, if you have the Word of God in a context of avarice, greed, and selfishness (as they were doing), you “do not know as you ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3!). Love edifies. Love is the more excellent way to edify the body of Christ, in the context of the teaching of the Word of God. When Paul says, then, that I show you a more excellent way, he is speaking of the more excellent way of edification of the church. It is more excellent than mindless use of potentially Satan-inspired giftedness.

With this in mind, Paul inserts this marvelous chapter on love. Since love is the more excellent way, or context, in which to minister, he will “show” or “demonstrate” to them what that looks like.

By means of overview, I will work through this chapter.

1 Corinthians 13:1–3

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

If I had all the gifts that God has given to the church, including apostleship, and yet did not minister to the church motivated by love for the church, and Christ, I am not really ministering. I am serving myself. In fact, the sounds out of the mouth of a loveless person is obtrusive and noisy. There is no profit for myself, or others, if I do not love. So, what does this “love” look like?

1 Corinthians 13:4–7

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Patience, kindness, humility, wholesomeness, truth, and joy, these are the effects of love in the body. If the body at Corinth would have ministered in this fashion, they would not have rejoiced at the incest nor abused the Lord’s Table. Love edifies the church and keeps is so. Love takes the Word of God and holds it high and rejoices in it, and its effects in us all. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things in the lives of the other saints for their edification (Ephesians 4:17-32). This is the point of the chapter.

Therefore, in light of this, we approach verses 8-13. This is the passage that unequivocally states that revelatory gifts would cease, future to Paul, and past to us.

1 Corinthians 13:8–13

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Love never fails to maintain its lofty position of edifying the body. The word “fails” is the word that means to fall, or be brought down. Love will never fall from its priority or usefulness. It is, as you remember, the hook that the entire Law of Moses hangs on (Matthew 22:40). However, gifts of prophecy, especially tongues, and knowledge will fall in time. Their usefulness will diminish.

Gifts of prophecy “will be done away.” This verb used here is a future passive verb meaning “to be removed, done away with, or render ineffective.” I like how one lexicon defines it: “…from the basic sense cause to be idle or useless, the term always denotes a nonphysical destruction by means of a superior force coming in to replace the force previously in effect, as, e.g. light destroys darkness…” (Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000, 221.) This verb means that something greater than itself will come and remove the gift of prophecy. So, it will, at some point future to Paul, be rendered inoperative and useless. It will fall from use. Incidentally, it is the same verb as that related to “the gift of knowledge” later in the verse. Both the gifts of prophecy and knowledge will be rendered inoperative some time in the future, from Paul’s perspective.

The gift of tongues, as they are called, will also fall. But Paul’s teaching here is a bit more intentional. He wrote, “if there are tongues, they will cease…” Tongues will cease. This is a different verb. The verb here means to “cease, to cause to stop (oneself).” And the way that it is written is conspicuously significant. It is written in the Middle Voice, which in NT Greek means that the subject is doing the action of the verb upon itself. Thus, tongues will cease itself. It will make itself useless, done, stopped, and they will fall. So, the gifts of tongues/languages will cease to exist and be useful to the church. This leads us to ask, or at least it should, “What were tongues for?” Paul explains this in the very next chapter.

 

The Purpose of Tongues

 

1 Corinthians 14:20–22

20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

21  In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.

22  So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.

Mature thinking, a throwback from his argument in chapter 13:8-11, does not prioritize spiritual giftedness, especially the miraculous gifts, but prioritizes the revelation of God. They should be inexperienced in evil, but not in their thinking. Paul then quotes Isaiah 28:11. This passage is at the end of a prophecy that God would send to Israel those who will speak to them. That in itself, is a facetious thought because He had just finished describing the way that the prophets of Israel have been “speaking for God.” They were drunken and staggering when they would give judgments for God (vv. 7-8). They were supposed to teach knowledge, but they stammered with their tongues. He will not give His message to children (vv. 9-10), which is a reference to the infantile behavior of drunken Israel (which is also a comparison of the Corinthian church as well as he compares them to infantile Israel, as they even were drunk at the Lord’s Table in the same manner as Israel was at the altar-1 Corinthians 11:20-22). Therefore, since they speak gibberish while drunk, He will speak in incoherence to them, by means of other languages. These other languages will seem as gibberish to them and they will not have an interpretation (see Isaiah 28:9). Thus, this passage indicates to us the very thing that it goes on to say-tongues are for a sign. And, by extension, so is the gift of interpretation. A sign will be to one edification, and to another damnation. Tongues are languages of the world (Acts 2:5-11). They were known, grammatical, verifiable languages which certain people would speak depending upon their geographic location. God says in Isaiah 28:11 that He was going to give Israel a sign. That sign would be the proclamation of His message in other languages of the world. And He did that at Pentecost.

Paul, then, is explaining the use of languages as a sign against Israel, unbelieving Israel. That is why he says that this gift is for unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). That teaching needs to define and describe every consideration of the gift of tongues. That gift is not meant to edify the church. It is a sign against unbelieving Israel. Remember, Paul habitually entered synagogues and taught Christ. Remember also that predominantly the early church was Jewish. Further remember that since Israel refused to repent in the presence of Christ, Christ turned away from them, temporarily blinding them from His kingdom (Matthew 13:10-17; 21:42-44; cf. Romans 11:25) and turned to the Gentiles. As the church grew in its Gentile makeup, the giftedness of tongues died out. It was no longer useful as the Jews were blinded, partially and temporarily, and the Gentiles/Nations are being discipled. That is why the very gift itself will cause itself to die out-the purpose for its existence will no longer be needed.

 

The Coming of the Perfect

 

Paul continues in verse 9 by saying “for we know in part and we prophesy in part.” He is saying that prophecy and knowledge are only “in part.” In other words, what they would prophesy and speak from knowledge was only from a portion of complete prophecy and knowledge. It was only in part. However, there is coming a time when complete knowledge and prophecy will arrive and at that time partial prophesying and speaking knowledge will be “done away” (same verb as in v. 8). What will be done away? Literally, “that which (is) from a part.” That is, since the prophecy and knowledge of Paul’s day, i.e. the time of the apostles and prophets, was only “partial,” its usefulness for edification is limited. There is just so much more to learn!

However, Paul says, when the “perfect” comes, the partial will be done away with. The perfect and the partial must be the same thing, one of greater degree than the other. The word “perfect” is better translated, “mature,” or “the complete.” In light of Paul’s illustration of a child becoming a man and putting childish (“partial”) things away when he became a man (“mature”), so also is this teaching. The perfect is the mature prophecy and knowledge. It is not a reference to heaven because that is obtuse to this context of revelation of that which edifies. Further, heaven certainly will have its perfections, but the subject of the perfect is the content of prophecy, not a state of being. The perfect is the prophetic word (see 2 Peter 1:19-21). Once the prophetic word comes, by virtue of its coming, it will nullify the need for, and the effect of, that which is “partial.” We understand that the Bible we hold now is the Word of God, God’s prophetic Word.

Notice, in closing, vv. 12-13

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Notice the adverb “now.” That is, in Paul’s own time (“now”), they see in a mirror dimly. But, when the mature prophecy comes (“then”), “face to face.” Isn’t this magnificent! The complete revelation of God’s eternal gospel revealed for us all to see as if we were unhindered in our gaze (look at Ephesians 3:9-11; the church is the steward of this gospel, which is the content of the completed prophetic Word). We see face to face with God’s true, full, complete, prophecy in our day! In our day, we can know fully, even as fully as we are known by those who see us face to face. But, for Paul’s time, until the mature, complete, full, revelation of God comes (which we know to be the Word of God-2 Timothy 3:16-17), they will remain in the edifying power of truth exhibited through “faith, hope, and love…but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the more excellent way to minister the words of Christ to one another, not so-called gifts of the miraculous.

Conclusion

So, Paul has taught us that clearly the usefulness of the revelatory gifts will be removed. They will be rendered useless. For those who are seeking for them, they will not find them. They are chasing the wind. Their use in the church is no more. Their function in the church, which served for a time for a sign for unbelievers (especially unbelieving Jews), and edification for believers (1 Corinthians 14:4-5), has been replaced with the completed, canonized, enscripturated breath of God-the Bible.

Entering the Kingdom: The Nature of the Kingdom

Last post, I introduced this series meant to clear up much confusion concerning the kingdom of God. In case you think this is just some kind of exercise for seminary students or theologians only, consider this:

  1. Your understanding of the kingdom affects every moment of your life.
  2. A proper understanding of the kingdom builds your family the way God designed it to be.
  3. A correct understanding of the kingdom determines whether you will enter it or not.
  4. A correct understanding of the kingdom governs how you evangelize.
  5. A correct understanding of the kingdom establishes how angry you become when someone else challenges your thinking on the matter.
  6. A correct understanding of the kingdom will demonstrate how much you love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  7. Ultimately, understanding the kingdom explains to you the relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is by far the most important factor in any consideration of the Bible.

I also want to make a few initial comments as well. What I write here is the result of months of exegesis and work. I have been teaching, in one way or another, on this subject in our church (Berean Bible Church of Kalispell, Montana) over the last few months and it has produced in us such a clarity of mind on so many other topics for us, that I would consider myself unfaithful if I did not attempt to make the teaching of the Word of God in this area available to more people. I also understand that what I will write here will also challenge the consideration of some concerning their view of the kingdom. Although I am not attempting to sling mud, I am attempting to correct patently incorrect teachings on this subject, as well as other subjects that accompany these things. It is necessary to expose error. Error is defined by any teaching that is not taught in the Bible. This does not mean, however, that we hate those teaching it. I cannot harbor hatred in my heart on account of false teaching. However, to boldly, solidly, confront the error is the duty of every pastor, and saint (Jude 3; cf Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 10:5). And especially, on a topic of this magnitude, we cannot afford to be wrong: both for the glory of God, and the good of God’s people.

When we ask, “What is the kingdom of God?” we also are asking questions like, “Where did it come from? Whose is it? Of what does it consist? Is it open to everyone?” These are questions that arise as a result of simply asking, “What is the kingdom of God?” I will tackle this one question, and as a result, deal with the others as well over the next few posts.

What is the Kingdom of God?

 

The kingdom of God is that kingdom which the Father gave to the Son. It is that simple. It involves the lordship of Jesus Christ, the submission of His subjects, the glory of the Father, and the proclamation of the gospel. The kingdom of God is just that-“of God.” This means that,

“[The kingdom of God] may employ an essential relationship. Thus ἡ βασιλεία θεοῦ is the kingdom which has as its distinguishing attribute its relationship to God.” (H.E. Dana, Julius R. Mantey, A Manuel Grammar of the Greek New Testament, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1927, p.74).

That is to say, the kingdom is defined by God. The nature of God defines this kingdom. A kingdom is pretty simple to understand. It is a locale, condition, or act of ruling. The quality, standards, and kind of ruling are all defined by the nature of God. God Himself rules (Psalm 103:19). However, we must define this further as it relates to Jesus Christ. For now, just understand that as we take the truth of the kingdom of God back to its most basic character it is that kingdom, a condition of ruling authority, which is defined by God. All that God is is expressed in that kingdom. And, the character of rulership is also defined by God. Further, those who enter in is defined by God.

That does not answer all the questions, but it gets us headed in the proper direction.

Above, I said that the kingdom of God is that kingdom which the Father gave to the Son. However, that is a step removed from the very foundation of the kingdom. The kingdom of God, ultimately, is the rule of God, the Father. This rulership is defined by God Himself, the three Persons existing in one God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever. Who God is defines the kingdom. In fact, I believe it to be evident that the kingdom of God itself was the condition of the godhead before creation. It was the rulership of the Father over the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

The Headship of the Father Over The Son

 

Paul makes a very interesting statement in 1 Corinthians 11:3. He wrote, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (see also 1 Corinthians 8:3). Apart from the obvious teaching on the man and the woman, notice the end of the verse. “God is the head of Christ.” Paul wrote earlier in chapter 3 verse 23 that Christ belongs to God in the same way, somehow, that believers belong to Christ. John tells us that Christ understood the Father as His Father and God (John 20:17). The relationship we begin seeing is that of headship of the Father over the Son, and assumedly, the Holy Spirit as well. If God is the head of Christ, then God (the Father) has authority over Christ. Otherwise, what Paul wrote concerning the headship of men over women, and a husband over a wife, does not make sense. By the way, the very authority and character of authority of God over Christ is what should define the character of the headship of a man over a woman and a husband over a wife. The relationship of the Father and the Son is that of Head and submitted One. This is a profound truth. We ultimately see this in Paul’s teaching later in the same letter:

1 Corinthians 15:28

28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

In the end, all things will revert back to the beginning, or rather, before the beginning. The kingdom of God will continue to be that kingdom over which the Father rules, and Christ, the Spirit, and the saints willingly, lovingly, submit so that God (the Father) may be all in all.

Although it is hard to understand, we must attempt to comprehend the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father is the head of the Son, as noted from Paul’s teaching. But, what does that look like? How do we understand this? We are limited in our understanding, but we do see glimpses, and sometimes a brilliance, of this relationship in Christ’s own teaching, and example. Let’s review a couple to start.

Whenever I consider these things, I am always drawn to John 14:31. In this verse, Jesus tells us what His relationship with the Father is like. He said,

John 14:31

31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.

A few things to note here. First, Christ was concerned to some degree that the world might understand the love that Christ has for the Father. We often think about God’s love for the world (John 3:16). However, when have we given much time to the love of the Son to the Father? Here, Jesus said that He loved the Father and that motivated Him to obedience. So that the world might know of His love for His Father was a motivation for the cross. Next, since He loved the Father, He obeyed Him. Not only that, but He obeyed Him exactly. This assumes that the Father gave a command to the Son. What was the command? Well, it certainly included what Jesus endured on the cross. It was the command to die. Further, it was the command to be punished by the Father (Matthew 27:45-46; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:10). The Father commanded the Son to die, as well as to come to earth, be given a body, to minister the way He did, and a million other things that our Lord did when He came to His own (John 1:11; 21:25) and His own people rejected Him.

Jesus tells us that all that He did was as a result of love for the Father. The Father had commanded Him, at some point in the past, and the Son submitted. This was no demeaning submission of a lesser god to a greater god. This was not dictatorship. This was, as we cannot comprehend but is our example, the submission of love. The submission of love. Jesus loved the Father. That did not break the real condition of authority of the Father. Love of Christ for the Father established the authority of the Father. The Father had commanded the Son to come to earth, proclaim the kingdom, be rejected, taste death for many, and be raised from the dead in order to inherit the kingdom, and return it back to the Father. Jesus obeyed because He loves the Father. This is the way it should be between fathers and sons for us as well.

Notice also Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He wrote to them concerning these things. He wrote,

Philippians 2:8

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus Christ was obedient. To whom? Well, who else is there? He was obedient to the One who commanded Him to die, even on a cross. The Father instructed the Son to do all that He did when He was conceived, born, lived, and died. All of this, really, was simply the obedience of the Son to the Father.

The question at this point is, “Why?” Why even do any of this? Was this whole scheme a reaction from the fall of man? Was it established before creation? Why did this even happen?

We will cover that question next time. It is a stunning display of the kingdom of God.

Entering The Kingdom of God

The teaching of the Bible concerning the kingdom of God is far too vast to exhaust in a blog series. However, entering into the kingdom is crucial. It is something every person who has ever lived will face. Although I won’t be delving too far into the nature of the kingdom of God, others have handled that marvelously and I would commend them to you. Dr. Alva J. McClain wrote his work, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 1959; 1974), which is the definitive work on the subject. For a series of lectures dealing with aspects of the kingdom, consult the Faculty Lecture Series from The Master’s Seminary. These works cover this immense teaching wonderfully. To the person who needs to understand God’s kingdom, this is where to go.

However, with all of that, I have concluded that there needs to be a fresh look at aspects of the Kingdom of God that have rarely been discussed. That is not to say that they have never been discussed until I came along. It is to say, rather, that the discussions that often accompany the considerations of the little series that I am beginning oftentimes becomes so muddled that a person either is tired of talking about it, and the last man standing (who is usually the one with the most stamina) wins. Or, people forget what it is they are discussing since the whirlwind of opinions and views on the matter convolute it something fierce.

I want to consider the subject from a broad stroke perspective, and fine tune it a bit to specifics so that there is no question as to the teaching of the Word of God on the matter.

Here are the items I will deal with in this series:

  1. What is the Kingdom of God?
  2. Where did it come from?
  3. What does it look like?
  4. How can it be entered?

The auxiliary items that are needed to understand along with the above are:

  1. Nature of eternal life.
  2. Election.
  3. Salvation.
  4. The “problem” of evil (Theodicy).
  5. The eternal state.

Starting next post, I will explain the kingdom of God from key passages in both Old and New Testaments. I believe that, given the prominence that the Kingdom of God plays in both testaments, and given the fact that the Lord came preaching it (Matthew 4:17; 13; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 9:2; John 3:3, 5; 18:36), as well as Paul and the other apostles so very often (Acts 28:30-31; cf 8:12; Hebrews 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Peter 1:11; Revelation 1:6, 9 etc.), then we must give great attention to it in order to understand it and preach it also (Matthew 24:14).

So, starting next post, we will begin getting a handle on this topic so that God’s glory can, again, be on display in the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23).

Where To Start?

Last post we attempted to open the door to considerations concerning the interpretation of Scripture. It must be understood and believed that the Bible is not vague, unknowable, or empty. That is, God did not write the text of Scripture in such a way that, say, there are 4 potential ways God created the world. There are not 4 potential ways that God created the world. He only created it one way. The only way to know that is through the pages of Scripture. “But,” someone will ask, “…how do we interpret the Scripture so that we will know what it says?” That is, if the answer to this question lies in the interpretation of Scripture, then how do we interpret the Scripture? That is what this blog series is about.

Our basic premise is:

STUDY THE BIBLE THE WAY IT WAS GIVEN

Since that is a bit open-ended, I must review the nature of the origin of the Bible. This is a must because when we understand the origin and transmission of the Bible, we then have grounds for interpretation. Until then, we are left to consider our own method of interpretation and that simply won’t do.

How was the Bible given? That is, how did we get the Bible? For most reading this blog, it is a simple answer. For some, however, it may not be so simple since many churches don’t even deal with the origin of God’s Word (to their shame). A quick review will be helpful.

Peter sums it up for us. He wrote,

2 Peter 1:20–21

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Peter tells us, on the basis of his own experience receiving divinely inspired truth (see Matthew 16:13-17), as well as the testimony of the OT prophets, that no portion of Scripture is understood by a single person’s own interpretation. That is, the written word is not subject to, nor did it originate from, what a man decides. Peter is saying that the Scripture is interpreted (see Mark 4:34) by a method, or practice, of interpretation appropriate to the written Word of God. Biblical interpretation is not the result of one’s own personal study habits. The Scripture is not subject to an individual’s unique understanding of a text, no matter how novel it sounds. Why is this the case? Because men did not originate the Scripture, so men cannot be allowed to interpret the Scripture the way they want. In other words, since the Holy Spirit moved men to write what He wanted (see 1 Corinthians 2:12-13), the Scripture, then, must be handled in a way commensurate to that reality. Peter is calling the churches in Galatia, Cappadocia etc. (see 1 Peter 1:1) to approach the Scripture they had, including his own letter (2 Peter 3:1-2, 14-16), in the same way that it was given to the prophets and apostles. Further, since God the Holy Spirit originated the Scripture and moved men to write it down in history and with actual language, we do not have a text that can change or be altered-it is fixed and propositional. If we feared God, we would never approach the Scripture being willing to assume that there are multiple meanings to a verse.

Thus, the Bible is a unique collection of books. It is the only book in existence that is inspired of God. Therefore, it is unique and holy (Romans 7:12). However, since the Holy Spirit moved men to write it, and men lived in time and history, and God is working out His redemptive plan in the history of the world, then it is read and interpreted in the same manner we would read and interpret any other book. It is literature, after all.

The summary of our discussion is that God is the source of Scripture. Since God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-2), then what He caused to be written is true and accurate. This is inerrancy. The Scripture’s that were written were themselves inerrant in every way. They contained no errors. Further, since we don’t have those originals (“autographs”), the copies of those inerrant originals are to be considered and that has been done to the extent that we can have full confidence that we can locate the inerrant text of Scripture with very high precision in the copies we have.

Now, this lays the groundwork for us. Since God wrote the Bible, the teachings and actual words are God’s (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). Thus, it bears authority and accuracy. That is, what it teaches is true and identical to what is true with God and His kingdom. It also is true in relation to discerning the realities of life in this world as well. However, God Himself did not write the text of Scripture with His own hand. He used the hands of men to do it. These men, from Moses to John the Apostle existed in an historical setting and wrote with a language that was/is verifiable and real. They did not use esoteric, heavenly language. If they did, it would not make sense to us. The languages with which they wrote Scripture were composed in the very same way that all language is composed. Therefore, what was written is subject to the laws of language. In order to interpret the Scripture, a person must understand language. By the way, we all do. We could not communicate in the world if we did not. We use nouns and verbs all the time. However, most people simply don’t consider these things when they talk or read the morning newspaper. Lastly, since the text of Scripture was written in history, and with actual languages of the day, and God has written all that He is going to write (Hebrews 1:1-3), then what we have in the Bible is fixed and unalterable. That is, what a passage meant to Ezekiel when he wrote it means the very same thing to us when we read it.

To sum up, here is what we have:

  1. We understand the Bible is from God. Thus we realize its authority, accuracy, and permanency.
  2. We understand the Bible is written by men. Thus we realize its history, language, and propositional nature.
  3. We understand the Bible is fixed. Thus we realize that it is not properly understood apart from the author’s meaning/intention for writing it (it is not from one’s own interpretation).

Therefore, since the Bible is from God, written by men in history and with actual language, we cannot interpret it any other way.

Here is an example:

Exodus 20:13

You shall not murder.

This is straightforward. From the surrounding verses we understand that God is speaking to Moses and Moses is to relay this to Israel (Exodus 20:1; 21:1). The verse is a command. Don’t do something. The translation of the original Hebrew is good here and it simply says, “Don’t kill.” That is, don’t want to kill something and thereby murder. Moses has given Israel a very straightforward and clear instruction. This would be the way that Israel would understand it as well. It is God’s intention in the meaning of the command.

However, some think that when it comes to prophetic passages there are different rules for interpretation. No there are not. How do I know? I know because no matter how fanciful something appears (Ezekiel 1, for example), it was still written down by Ezekiel in actual language. Therefore, a person cannot assign meaning to something that is arbitrary to the language of that passage.

For example, I was speaking with a man one day who refused to believe that the water flowing under the temple in Ezekiel 47:1 is actual water. It appeared too fanciful to him and since he preconceived that water has nothing to do with heavenly things, then this verse must be speaking of something else (which he assigned, i.e. “one’s own interpretation”). Therefore, he assigned a new meaning to that passage which has nothing to do with any of the context in history or language. Further, many other passages affirm water in the temple (Ps. 46:4; Is. 30:25; 55:1; Jer. 2:13; Joel 3:18; Zech. 13:1; 14:8; esp. Rev. 22:1, 17). Thus, in this example, and there are multitudes of examples, the text took on a meaning that is not evident by the history of the writer or the audience, nor does it accord with the language of the passage. There are things figurative in Scripture (John 10:6; 16:25-29). However, many attribute figurative meanings to those things that they don’t believe, or that do not fit into their theological pre-understanding of a passage, or that seem too far-fetched in their view (like water in the Temple). To reassign a meaning to a passage of Scripture is a sin. It is to call God a liar and us the truth-teller. Remember, God is the author of Scripture.

Remember, Paul commanded Timothy to handle the text accurately.

2 Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

That is, “cut it straight” in relation to the text of Scripture. Timothy, you must handle the text in an accurate way. To reassign meaning to the propositional and completed text of Scripture is to create your own text. Thus, you can only “preach the Word” after you have actually learned that word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). And the only way to learn that word is in the same manner that it was given.  

 

Next time, I will introduce how to do this in some detail. 

What Does The Bible Mean?

 

In an effort to encourage the church, I will be reviewing the basics of sound Bible study. That is, I want to identify the process of concluding that a person knows, for certain, the meaning of a passage in Scripture. To some, this is a difficult task. Many believe it to be impossible. Many conclude that the Bible is basically unknowable. At that point, a person has just crossed over into the realm of the agnostic. They are sure a meaning exists. However, that meaning is unknowable.

I have had a number of recent conversations in which the person with whom I am speaking has asked how do I know what a verse means? How can I be so sure? At that point, I basically answer them from the standpoint that God cannot author confusion. God is not a source of confusion and thus His Word is not confusing. However, I have not really answered the question. I have simply given them something to think about.

To begin, we must rebuild our confidence in Scripture. We must regain our footing if we are going to climb this mountain. So, let’s begin there.

First of all, consider what the Bible actually says about itself:

Psalm 119:160

160 The sum of Your word is truth,

And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

Here, the Psalmist affirms a basic reality about the Bible-it is truth. The Hebrew term means something reliable, trustworthy, or true. The idea is that of the ultimate trustworthiness or reliability. Thus, all that is identified as “Your word” is utterly reliable, trustworthy, and true. The Lord Jesus takes us along the same lines when He prayed:

John 17:17b

17 Your word is truth.

We can fill this in a bit more. The Bible is repeatedly asserting itself as the Word of God. From Genesis to Revelation, the instruction of the Bible is that it, and no other book, is the record of the words which God spoke and wanted recorded for His own purposes.

Throughout Moses’ career as a prophet and the original leader of God’s covenant people, he spoke the Word of God. That is, he repeated to the people whatever God said to him. Further, he was also a teacher. Moses taught the people from the things which God spoke. Involved with this is the fact that he wrote down all that God had said and taught in a collection of books we call the Pentateuch. The first five books of the Bible are considered the Pentateuch, or Torah, and they are the revelation of God and His Word to Moses (see Deuteronomy 31:9, 24). These books of Moses form the foundation upon which the entire Bible would be built.

From this foundation, there are many other builders. Many other men wrote as they were instructed to by God. Job, David, Samuel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Asaph, and many others, wrote and what they wrote was added to the collection of books we call the Bible. This process was initiated by God, the oversight of what was written was by God, and the preservation of that which has been written is also by God. The Apostle Peter helps us to understand something of this process. He wrote,

2 Peter 1:19–21

19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Peter is teaching us that there is nothing in Scripture that is from man alone. Men only wrote what they were instructed to write by the Holy Spirit. This is verified against the other writings of Scripture. The unity and consistency in doctrine and purpose is uncanny. There is no portion of latter Scripture which contradicts earlier revelation and vice-versa. It is a unified whole.

Although, I am not taking a tremendous amount of time to qualify every detail of these statements, they are, nonetheless, the fact of the matter. The Bible is the only collection of God’s words in written form in existence. Therefore, they are trustworthy, true, and reliable. That is, what they say is true. What is asserted and taught in the pages of the text of Scripture is accurate and true. Therefore, we can know for a fact that once we arrive at the understanding of a passage, it is true and reflects the truth that God has communicated to us.

One last item needs to understood as well. The Bible was not written in English. It was not written in French, Latin, or Russian. The Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and certain portions in a kind of Hebrew identified as Aramaic. The New Testament was written entirely in Greek. Why is this significant? This is significant because this becomes the key to a proper interpretation of the Scripture. What I have found is that many who are screaming that we cannot understand the text of Scripture (they do this by what they say and the example they give in handling the Scripture) are those who do not understand these languages. Many who present alternate views on a verse are those least qualified to do that. To be sure, there are many who do know the languages of God’s Word and they also confuse the issue. However, that does not mean that the discipline of language work is useless. It is the key to proper interpretation. I want to give you an example.

Genesis 1:1

1 בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

 

What you see above is Genesis 1:1 in the original text of Hebrew. In English, we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is an accurate translation. We know this because we can answer basic questions about the text: Who is the subject of the verb? What is the main verb? What is the subject doing? To whom is He doing it? When we answer these questions, we have begun the process of rightly interpreting what God had Moses write.

The New Testament was written in Greek, as below. The verse is John 1:1. It reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word (or, the Word was God).”

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

Again, the work of identifying the verbs, subjects of the verb, etc… becomes the only way to accurately, confidently, identify the meaning of the text. The way to do this, in English, will be the heart of this series. If a person is willing, in taking the steps that I will outline, he or she will be able to confidently ascertain the basic meaning of any passage. The question after that is, “Do I believe it?”

I can imagine someone saying, “All that just to understand the Bible?” Well, yes. The Bible is not simply a devotional book of insights. It is a highly complex collection of revelation from God. That does not mean that we cannot understand it in English. It means that many people have given long hours in study and translation work in order to make the Bible readable. Therefore, even a child can pick up the English Bible and read it. However, behind the English (or any other language) translation work, is a mountain of complexity and challenge for even the most able scholar.

At this point, I want to introduce the basic premise of valid Bible study. Here it is:

 

STUDY THE BIBLE THE WAY IT WAS GIVEN. 

 

That is the rule of proper study and interpretation. This means that since the Bible was written by real men, in real history, in real time, from a real God, in real language, then we must do what we can to understand these things in order to interpret the Word of God we possess. I will outline for you how to do this.

Like many things in Christianity, the church needs to recover confidence in the Word of God and the veracity of all that is written in it. If we don’t, we have no basis for our understanding of what we believe and why.

The Pastor’s Home-pt.4

Last time…

we considered the fact that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete, in order to deal with teaching that contradicts sound doctrine. Part of that work is to confront leadership in the church and call them to repentance. That is quite a work for a man to do, but the church is a precious thing and needs to be cared for by godly leadership. If a man in leadership is teaching error, he needs to be removed. However, that will create a gap. So, what are Timothy and Titus to do? They are to appoint new leadership. That is why Paul gave these instructions in these chapters (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 respectively). Both of these men must appoint leadership. The assumption is that this activity is a priority because God has appointed men to lead the sheep and tend the flock of God. If a church has no leadership, or has unqualified leadership, they are not being cared for.

In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, and Titus 1:6, Paul makes sweeping statements that are determinative of whether a man should be a pastor or not. Paul wrote,

1 Timothy 3:4–5

4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity

5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),

And in Titus,

Titus 1:6

6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

These passages instruct us in the necessary qualification of a man to leadership in the household of God, the church (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19). The point of this series is to attempt to bring to light that the condition of a man’s home is a qualification for service in pastoral ministry. This is not negotiable, any more than being able to teach is negotiable. A man’s efforts, heart, abilities, failures, repentance, and overall righteousness through the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5; Philippians 2:12-13) are all on display in the home and those things affect everyone else in the home.

We have seen that Paul says that if a man cannot lead his home, he cannot lead the church. This is because both the church and the home are essentially made of the same categories of people. In the church, there is a Father (Ephesians 4:6) and there are children. Where does the wife and mother fit in? She is one with the father of the children (Ephesians 5:28-33). Men and women who obey Christ are made children of God, and He becomes their Father. The collection of these children all under the care and instruction of God the Father is what Paul refers to as a “household.” Jesus Christ is to have preeminence in that household (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18). Therefore, that body of people, in Christ, is as precious as any household. In fact, given the One who is Head of the household, the church is even more precious. These are great realities and, unfortunately, very little is being written about them (although this was a refreshing reminder of these things).

Now…

we come to the similar phrases found in 1 Timothy and Titus involving the children. As with many passages of Scripture, there are a number of disagreements over what Paul wrote here. The reasons for these disagreements are varied. But the disagreements are not caused by the lack of clarity in the text itself. It does not appear to be vague, nor meant to be. I will work through these things here and delineate some conclusions.

Paul wrote that Timothy (and Titus) are to look for men for leadership who are appropriately raising their children. That much is clear. In fact, in 1 Timothy, the indication is that the condition of the children is the litmus test for the ability of the man to lead his home. In other words, to see if a man can lead his home, look at the fruit of that leadership, the hearts and lives of the children (this is evident by the participles “manages” and “keeping” which would modify the main verb, “to be”). Interestingly, there is nothing explicitly written here about the condition of his wife. The assumption is that she would fall into the category of his household. Everything that the man is head over, wife, children, and resources, are his “household.” However, if you want to see the fruit of that man’s know-how of raising children, and managing his home, look to the quality and condition of his children.

His children should be “under control” (the phrase “with all dignity” refer to the man and his quality of training his children to be under control). The phrase “under control” is the Greek prepositional phrase, ἐν ὑποταγῇ. The preposition “ἐν” is usually translated “in.” That is not possible here because Paul is not insisting that the children be “in control” of the household. The next word “ὑποταγῇ” also has a preposition on the front of it, hupo, which is usually translated, “under” as in spatially, or logically, under something or someone else. It makes sense with this particular word “ὑποταγῇ” because the other half of the word is the word for obedience, or submission. In fact, it would, together, indicate a willing, voluntary submission under the authority of another (Jesus, of course, exemplifies this precious and powerful truth in Luke 2:51). Coupled with the preposition “ἐν,” Paul is driving home this reality. The fact is, a father and mother have authority in the home, with the husband as the head, or leader, of the two. He has the right from God to instruct, and care for, all the others. Children should be in such a condition of heart to choose to submit to that authority.

This kind of humbling is not natural to a child (Proverbs 22:15; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:9-18) and is only produced through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The will of a child despises God’s authority. They welcome the care and benefits of God (Acts 17:25b; cf. Matthew 5:43-45). But, they naturally reject His righteousness. Essentially, the man of God should know how to bring his children to the point of obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This cannot mean to simply control the children externally, without any repentance and submission in the heart. God expects more than that out of His children (Mark 7:6-7). God’s expectation of His children is as much submission and obedience from a pure heart as Jesus Himself has (Matthew 5:48). Otherwise, the New Covenant would be unnecessary since the target of that covenant is the heart and the product of that new heart is obedience to God’s instructions (Ezekiel 36:26-27). If the good news of Jesus Christ is that God’s eternal plan of making sinners into sons (Revelation 21:7) has come to earth, then that should be most evident in the homes of the leaders of God’s church (Romans 8:28-30; cf. Ephesians 3:8-11). Paul reiterates this in Titus as well.

Paul wrote to Titus that an elder should "[have] children who believe.” Again, since Paul taught that the condition of the home determines whether or not a man knows how to lead, it would be basic to assume that Paul expects the children of the elder/pastor to believe in Christ. The adjective “πιστά” describes the children. This description coincides with 1 Timothy 3:4 that the children are obedient and voluntarily submissive to their father. This kind of faithfulness to their father is demonstrated by their behavior. And just as there is a list of behaviors for elders, here is a little list for his children as well. In other words, the behavior of the children (as well as the elders and deacons/deaconesses listed in 1 Timothy 3) demonstrates their hearts.

The question for many is whether or not this demands that the children of the pastor need to be believers. Is it Paul’s intention to instruct Timothy and Titus to only approve men whose children are following Jesus Christ? I believe that Paul is instructing just that. Whether the children are simply faithful or believers, the point is the same. A faithful person is one who adheres to a kind of expectation. That expectation for a Christian is contained in the Scripture. If a man is teaching these instructions of Scripture to his children, the assumption is that the children are faithful to those instructions. To rebel against those instructions demonstrates an unbelieving heart. To obey and submit to those instructions demonstrates a believing heart. James would say that faith in Christ necessarily evidences itself in “works” (James 2:14-26). The works of faith are ultimately evidenced in submission to teaching. If you believe something, you obey it (Romans 6:16-18).

The assumption is that the man’s aptitude in teaching shows itself primarily in his home. This teaching, with wisdom and skill, will accomplish what God intended. Paul told Timothy later in his second letter,

         14      You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
         15      and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. –2 Timothy 3:14-15

According to Paul, the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, as well as the entirety of Scripture (3:16), is able to produce the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Men, do you understand Scripture well enough to train your children in this wisdom (cf. Deuteronomy 4:5-6; Job 32:7–9; Psalm 119:100)? Do you understand the eternal gospel well enough to expose their hearts by the appropriate wielding of the Word of God?

Some would object to this understanding insisting that to expect this is to limit God’s election. That is absurd. First, nothing limits God’s election, whether entire cities (Jonah 3:5-10; cf. Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32), households (cf. Acts 16:31-34; cf. Acts 11:14), or individuals. This argument is a philosophical one, not an exegetical one.

Second, some object because they know of a pastor who was faithful for many years over a church and when a child left home and that child renounced Christ, or lives in such a way that denies Christ (Titus 1:16). The question then is, was the father truly faithful? Remember, an elder needs to be one who manages his household well. Did he really do that? To say that we have no control over or children when they are out of the home is a sad thing to say. Of course, as parents, we don’t have control over them (Genesis 2:24-25). However, do you not expect a child to continue in the things that you taught when you taught them? What were you training them for? Solomon wrote,

            6      Train up a child in the way he should go,
      Even when he is old he will not depart from it.-Proverbs 22:6

 

Some would say that is not a promise. Some would even say this is a warning against allowing the child to continue in “his own way.” However, this is a command (Ephesians 6:4). Solomon is instructing his son to train up his child in the way that he is expected to live when he is old. If you do that, even when he has grey hair, he will not depart from that teaching. The failure, then, is not the children necessarily. It is the training they received. That is the heart of the issue.

I believe that the situation in the leadership of the church is dire. Judging by the number of unqualified and disqualified men in leadership over God’s household, I would say that there needs to be a serious examination in this area. I would also assert that the goal is not a witch-hunt. It is to equip where there apparently isn’t any, or at least very, very little. I hope to at least introduce some teaching from the Word of God along these lines.

The Pastor’s Home – pt.3

We have introduced three basics concerning pastoral leadership. First, our responsibility of leadership is a calling from the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a stewardship which we are required to be faithful with (1 Peter 4:10). As such, we must understand our calling, the treasure which we have, and how to execute our work. Second, we represent the Lord Jesus Christ in our work. Being subject to the Master as a slave, we no longer represent ourselves. We, in all that we do, represent the Lord Jesus Christ. Third, and most pertinent to this series, our homes represent the Lord as well. The Lord is on display in our homes as much as He is in the church. Why? Because God’s man is head of that home. Thus, it should have the same characteristics as the church he leads.

With understanding that, we move on to some specifics. I want to begin by looking at 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Just like the priests (Leviticus 21) and kings (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) of the OT, those in leadership must meet certain qualifications. However, these qualifications are not like a job qualification. They are not to be considered merely as something that a man has to muster up in order to be a pastor. They represent who the man actually is. Also, these qualifications are the result of the sovereign purposes of God for that man. That is, God qualifies the man. He makes a man qualified or not. Just like making a priest qualified for service in the Tabernacle, so also does God ordain for Himself those who would serve Him in the church. And, in doing that, He qualifies them as well. So, Paul says, when you see a man like this, you see a man who has been qualified of God for the pastoral leadership of the church of God.

1 Timothy 3:1-7

As stated before, the heart of the matter really comes into play with the condition of a man’s home. First Timothy 3:1-7 lists a description of the kind of man who, when he exhibits these qualities, demonstrates qualification for leadership of His church. In general, the description of that man is summarized in v. 2, “(He) must be above reproach.” This word is used 3x’s in the pastoral letter. It is used here in 1 Timothy 3:2. But it also used in 5:7 & 6:14. In 5:7, the teaching from Paul is that the widow should repent from “wanton pleasures” and return to her responsibilities in a marriage or helping other widows. In doing this, she will be above reproach. In 6:14, Timothy himself is called to be above reproach in handling the Word of God and the dispensation of his ministry. He needs to handle these things without spot or reproach until Jesus Christ returns. Both of these extra uses have a general idea of keeping away from scandal. They are the idea of maintaining a level of faithfulness to responsibility. Further, the responsibility is given a higher quality depending upon the task at hand. Handling the Word of God requires a greater degree of godliness than does being a widow. Why? Because, the Word of God is just that-God’s Word. That is not to diminish the value and importance of the widow. However, we cannot diminish the worth of the Word either. Thus, a man of God must also be above reproach, to a very great degree, if he is in the position of leading God’s flock (1 Peter 5:1-5). The reason is that the God whom he serves is holy. If a man does not take his position and responsibility as pastor/elder as a holy position, he has not taken God’s holiness seriously.

To begin this section, we need to start with an overview. Next time, we will look directly into the text, specifically vv. 4-5.

Paul, the elder apostle and father in the faith of Timothy, a young man who is called to a very hostile and volatile post. He is the apostolic delegate to the churches in Ephesus. As a result of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus for 2 years and 3 months, many believed and continued to meet together for learning and worship (Acts 19). Within that group had come some who were leaders, rising themselves into places of leadership as Paul and Timothy were absent. Paul sends Timothy back and instructs him to expose these false leaders and remove them. The authors of the New American Commentary on 1 Timothy have a sound summary of the occasion of the letter by Paul. They wrote,

“Paul had likely left Titus in Crete to finish the task of organizing and instructing the churches there. He proceeded with Timothy to Ephesus and found a church in spiritual shambles. Leaving Timothy in Ephesus, he proceeded to Macedonia. There he wrote 1 Timothy back to Timothy to give additional instructions and to emphasize his initial oral statements. As he wrote 1 Timothy, he probably also reflected on the needs of Titus in Crete. He penned this Epistle at approximately the same time with a view to clarifying and adding to earlier oral instructions” (Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, vol. 34, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992, 42).

Thus, a major component in both letters, 1 Timothy and Titus, is the identification of leadership for God’s people. This brings up an important point. Some teach that since it is unreasonable to expect there to be men who meet these qualifications, especially early in a ministry, then we need to simply settle for what we can get. Thus, we should never expect these qualifications to be taken seriously for a church. That is not true. These are expectations from God concerning those who can lead His church. We cannot disregard them. If there are no men available like this, then there is no leadership. Thus, if a man, who is qualified and is preaching, does not see qualified men around him, then he must shift his ministry priorities to training men who, like the spiritually immature disciples who became the apostles under Jesus’ discipleship, are faithful with what they have and are given and then God will make them more faithful and qualified (2 Timothy 2:2).

Timothy, a younger man filled with his own weaknesses and propensities for timidity and second-guessing, was called upon to do something he had seen Paul do a number of times. He must confront the error of those in leadership in Ephesus. The confrontation was not to be physical, but rather theological. It was to expose the error of those in leadership who were binding the people by their own self-righteous standards extrapolated from Scripture. An example of that is seen in 1 Timothy 4:3. We see that these men, who had an interest in Old Testament regulations, were imposing their erroneous thinking upon the people. Their thinking, although based upon a loose understanding of the OT which itself lead to error, contradicted the sound doctrine that Paul and Timothy had entrusted to the men years earlier in Miletus (Acts 20:17-38). The leaders, no doubt men who were on that shoreline that day hearing Paul, drifted off into a twisting of the dietary regulations of the OT and certain ascetic practices based upon, possibly, the Nazarite vow, and began teaching that as from God. Timothy must expose that and free the people from such heretical teaching. Paul exampled this by confronting Hymenaeus and Alexander and throwing them out of the fellowship of the believers (1 Timothy 1:20; cf. 2 Timothy 2:17; 4:14). Those men were removed by Paul himself once they arrived in Ephesus from leaving Titus at Crete. In doing so, Paul said to Timothy, by example, “Now, finish the work.” This included correcting error and appointing new leadership. Thus, we have these qualifications in both 1 Timothy and Titus.

Men (and women) in church leadership who are their own bosses, doing things according to their own traditions, teachings, and whims, are shams. They have not been sent by Christ, the Head of the church. They are sent from their own imaginations. They have taken the leadership over the people of God and have imposed upon them their own teaching. Thus, in doing so, the faith of the people rest in them, and not in Christ since Christ did not send them nor teach them. Timothy’s are men called to retrieve God’s people back from such men and place them back under the headship of Jesus Christ. This is done in gentleness and patient teaching (2 Timothy 2:24-26), but it is done nonetheless.

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