Posts Tagged 'jealousy'

The Master Multiplier, Part 6

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

I’ve come to the end of another series, and, as they say, I saved the best for last. Throughout this series, we discovered that God is a giver. He’s the greatest giver ever. God gives His people:

• Abundant grace – more grace than enough!
• Life – and He sustains all life
• Victory – over death, hell, and the grave
• Wisdom – in the midst of all of life’s difficulties, God gives us perspective
• Gifts – and the ability to use them in His service

God is simply amazing, and He gives us so much. The final gift I want to look at is the most amazing gift all: He gives us everything for our enjoyment! It doesn’t get better than EVERYTHING, does it?!

Paul wrote this verse to a young pastor. I was a young pastor once, and I can tell you it wasn’t easy. If I was told that God could give me “everything for my enjoyment,” I’d wonder when He was going to get around to it! Barely scraping by in small churches, living paycheck to paycheck is hardly enjoyable! There were lots of things I could have used to make my life more enjoyable that I never got – from God or anybody else, for that matter.

So, what was Paul getting at when he made that statement? Let’s take a look.

Letters to pastors

Paul was a prolific letter-writer. Had be been active in our time, he likely would have been the kind of person who is constantly checking his email, responding to emails, sending out text messages or tweeting all day long. We have only a fraction – a small fraction – of his letters, preserved for us in the Bible. Almost all of the letters we have were written by Paul were written to various churches, with the exception of Philemon, which was written to person, and a small group of letters that have come be known as “the Pastorals.” They were written to pastors, whose names are forever a part of our Bible theology: Timothy and Titus.

Paul’s letters were meant to be read aloud to the congregations they were sent to, and even Philemon, addressed to a man, was to be read out loud to the congregation that met in his home. And even these personal letters written to pastors were obviously copied and circulated since we have them collected in our Bible. Paul probably wrote letters to other pastors and church leaders. We could easily imagine the apostle scribbling out a letter or two to Barnabas and Luke, Mark and Apollos. We don’t have those letters, but we do have these letters written to Timothy and Titus. The Holy Spirit thought enough of what Paul wrote to these men in these letters that He supernaturally preserved them for us. That means that we should take special note of his advice. You may or may not be a pastor or church worker, but his advice and counsel is timeless and of great import for all believers.

The Pastorals were written by Paul late in his career, probably after his first Roman imprisonment, around 61 or 62 AD. Tradition tells us that Paul was martyred in the late 60’s, so we’re reading things that were on the great apostle’s mind near the end of his life. Most scholars think that Paul wrote 1 Timothy, followed by his letter to Titus, and then a second letter to Timothy.

Who was Timothy?

To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2 | TNIV)

That’s how this letter is addressed. Timothy was Paul’s “true son in the faith.” Naturally Timothy wasn’t Paul’s real son. He didn’t have children as far as we know. Timothy was his “son in the faith,” or his “spiritual son,” meaning that Paul was instrumental in leading this young man to the Lord and then disciplining him in the faith.

The first mention of Timothy is all the way back in the book of Acts, a history of the early church:

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:1 – 3 | TNIV)

This chapter tells the story of Paul’s second visit to Derbe and Lystry, and it’s not unreasonable to think that he was directly responsible for leading Timothy’s mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois) to the Lord. If you know your Bible, then you know that it was here in Lystra that Paul faced some bitter opposition and persecution and it was in the home of Eunice that he likely found solace and safety.

Timothy was around 17 years of age when all this happened, so assuming he was led to the Lord during this period, then he would have been in his mid-30’s when Paul wrote his first letter to him. But in the years inbetween, Timothy traveled with Paul and others as they took the Gospel to the known world.

It’s evident that this young man was special to Paul and to his ministry. Timothy was fiercely loyal to Paul and to the work of the ministry and devoted to believers in all churches. Here’s Paul’s appraisal of this young man’s worth:

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. (Philippians 2:19 – 22 | TNIV)

The pastor’s potential problem

We get the impression that all early Christians were poor – unemployed, persecuted, world-weary men and women who had virtually no resources of their own. That’s just not true. There were many converts to Christianity who were had been wealthy, influential people who gave up some or all to follow Christ, but they didn’t stay that way. There were poor and down-trodden Christians to be sure, but there were church members who were middle class, upper middle class, and wealthy people. All kinds of people were reached and transformed by the Gospel. And that’s why Paul wrote this piece of advice to Pastor Timothy:

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

It seems clear that Timothy had some of “those who are rich” in his church. This verse occurs in the midst of a very important issue: How people in the various strata of society ought to live out their faith in the world.

Christian slaves and Christian masters, 6:1, 2

The first two groups of people that made up Timothy’s congregation were slaves and slave owners. Here’s his advice to these two very disparate groups:

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves. These are the things you are to teach and insist on.

Today’s Christian may cringe when they read the words “slave” and “master,” but they shouldn’t impose our 21st century values upon those living in the first century. Those “slaves” back then would be roughly equivalent to today’s employee or perhaps “household help,” and the “master” would be the “employer,” for the sake of making a reasonable application. Timothy was to teach and insist upon proper behavior from both employee and employer. Dr McGee summarizes the duty of the slave like this:

The Christian is to turn in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay.

And if the slave owner – the boss – is a believer who employs fellow believers, he shouldn’t take advantage of them just because they have a common faith. As one scholar put it,

It must have called for an amazing degree of forbearance on the part of both parties to this relationship to make it work.

• False teachers, 6:3 – 5

If you know 1 Timothy, then you know that the young pastor must have been contending with false teaching and false teachers within his own congregation. False teachers are sometimes obvious about it, other times a false teacher may be an otherwise commendable member who has happened to glom onto a bit of false teaching, who then re-teaches it to other members of the church. He’s ignorant; he has no idea that what he’s doing is dangerous.

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions. (1 Timothy 6:3, 4 | TNIV)

Sounds like some people in your church? You know the type: To people like this, everything the church does is wrong – it’s wrong to put up a Christmas tree or sing Christmas carols; Easter is a pagan holiday; Sunday is a pagan day; Christians should only read the KJV; and the list goes on. These people think they know more than you do or more than the pastor does. Paul’s characterization of this type of person is picturesque to say the least: “a pompous ignoramus,” “a swollen headed idiot,” and a “conceited idiot.” The great Martin Luther, whose insults are as legendary as his “reform” theology, said this about such people:

I would not dream of judging or punishing you, except to say that you were born from the behind of the devil, are full of devils, lies, blasphemy, and idolatry; are the instigator of these things, God’s enemy, Antichrist, desolater of Christendom, and steward of Sodom.

And sometimes these false teachers equate monetary gain is a sign of God’s blessing:

who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. (1 Timothy 6:5b | TNIV)

The worst kind of false teacher is the one who makes money off of his bad teaching. And Paul’s advice to Pastor Timothy is classic:

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11 | TNIV)

Now we get a glimmer of a potential problem with Timothy, and it’s the common affliction of most young preachers, and maybe old ones, too. Often times there isn’t a lot of financial reward in preaching the Gospel. If the pastor of a church isn’t careful, he can start to resent the wealthy members of his church because of their wealth. It might be tempting to latch onto the popular preaching of the day – the pop psychology dressed up and baptized as Christian theology that is so popular nowadays – and make a few extra bucks. It’s tempting. And it’s tempting for the average Christian to grab hold of the kind of theology that promises easy blessings and a kind of faith that makes you rich.
Pastors and all true believers need to “flee from all this” and have nothing to do with false teachers and teachings. True faith may not pay rich dividends to those of us who are trying to practice it, but true faith does bring peace and satisfaction and contentment. And that’s why Paul wrote this famous verse that is often misquoted:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10 | TNIV)

Paul’s concern was not for the rich people in Timothy’s church necessarily, although he was told to teach those people to keep things in perspective. The apostle’s main concern was for young pastor Timothy; he’s the one in danger. It’s so easy for all Christians to look at what others have, especially other Chritians, and to become discouraged because they don’t seem to be as prosperous. People in that state of mind are ripe pickings for false teachers and fall pray to all manner of false teachings.  And people like that often accuse those prosperous Christians of sinful practices because, after all, only in doing something wrong or questionable can a person acquire so much  (that’s a sarcastic statement).

And this is why Paul told Timothy – and us – that God gives us everything for our enjoyment. God is the Great Provider; from Him all good things descend. Timothy’s church was in Ephesus, a place full of prosperous people; full of businesses, and he had lots of these people in his church. To those people, and to people like himself, Timothy was to drive home the point that ALL IS OF GOD, both wealth, the ability to acquire it, and the ability to enjoy it.

 

 

 

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, 10

Arguments and Explanations, 3:22—36

Nicodemus, the Pharisee and highly respected religious leader, had come to speak to Jesus in private.  He was full of questions.  He had heard some of Jesus’ teaching and seen some of His miracles, and obviously was greatly impressed.  It seems that deep in his heart of hearts, Nicodemus had been touched by Christ’s ministry and the Holy Spirit began drawing this man into a relationship with God, based not on intellectual ascent and the observance of rules and regulations, but on having personally experienced the life-changing touch of the Son of God.

We don’t know the immediate results of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, but we do know that he remained part of the Sanhedrin, and that the next time we encounter him he is seen taking part in the questioning of Jesus—

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”  (John 7:50—51)

We also learn that eventually he became a follower of Christ’s, though perhaps secretly, and was devoted enough to Christ that he sought to honor Him even in death—

He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.  (John 19:39)

It seemed that the death of Jesus crushed the hopes of the disciples but fired those of Nicodemus.

1.  Transitions, verses 22—24

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.)

These three verses mark an obvious transition of both time and persons.  After the Passover week and His discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus and the first six of His disciples left Jerusalem and journeyed into the Judean countryside.

This whole section is dedicated to an expanded explanation of the curious relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus.  This period of our Lord’s ministry is not recorded or mentioned in the synoptic Gospels.  According to verse 24, we know that it took place sometime before the arrest and imprisonment of John the Baptist; the preaching and baptizing ministry of these two overlapped for a while.  According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus began His ministry in earnest after John’s imprisonment—

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  (Mark 1:14)

Matthew supports Mark’s account (Matthew 4:12—21) and Luke’s record is a bit ambiguous (Luke 3).  Both John the Baptist and Jesus seemed to have engaged in a parallel rural ministry at this time.  The exact location of the Baptist’s ministry, though stated in the text, cannot be pinpointed with any certainty, although the consensus among scholars is that Aenon was probably located south of Bashan where there were many springs.

2.  Jealousy, verses 26, 26

An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

We see human nature on full display in these two verses, and we learn the simple lesson that even devoted followers of God are not immune to the “green eyed monster.”   It seems as though the followers of John the Baptist thought the baptisms of their teacher were superior to those of Jesus, and they were annoyed that more and more people were choosing to be baptized by Jesus rather than by John.   We can learn a lot about people by the way they talk, and judging by the way John’s disciples spoke to him about Jesus, they didn’t grasp anything John had said about Jesus.  We can also learn a lot about what they thought about Jesus:

  • They didn’t even mention Jesus’ name, referring to Him only as “that man.”  As far as they were concerned, John and Jesus were rivals, nothing more.
  • They were not impressed with what John had said about Jesus.
  • They exaggerated the whole incident, using an obvious hyperbole, “everyone is going to him.”  Obviously not “everyone” was going to Jesus; these were immature and childish disciples.

3.  The nobility of John the Baptist, 27—30

To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given from heaven.   You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’   The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.”

John’s answer to these people was powerful and insightful and in four parts.

  • First, all people are subject to a sovereign God.  To everyone God has assigned a place in His eternal plan (verse 27).
  • Second, he made clear his relationship with Christ, reminding them of what he had said earlier, verse 28.
  • Third he used the figure of the bridegroom, bride, and friend of the bridegroom.  Because of who the Bridegroom is, his friend can rejoice and be happy for his friend.  Complete fulfillment in life and fullness of joy can only happen when a person recognizes who Jesus really is.  This analogy also reveals something about John the Baptist:  he was the last of the OT prophets and not part of the Church; notice that he is a “friend” of the Bridegroom, and not the bride (the Church), verse 29.
  • Lastly, the whole relationship between Jesus and John is summed up with verse 30.  It was John’s desire that he fade into the background and that Jesus and His ministry grow.

Verse 30 is also a summation of God’s eternal plan.  Of what use the herald after the King has arrived?  Why would crowds want to surround the forerunner when his task was finished?

4.  John’s commentary, verses 31—36

Like verses 16—21, many scholars agree that verse 31 begins John the disciple’s comments on what John the Baptist had just said.  Lightfoot has called this last handful of verses as an “appendix” to chapter 3.

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The person who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.  The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

This passage declares with no ambiguity four things:

  • Jesus came directly from Heaven and spoke with ultimate authority.  In view of His origin and high calling, whatever Jesus said must be considered the final word on any subject (verse 31).
  • Jesus spoke from what He saw, not from theory.  The testimony of Jesus was accepted by some but not by others.  Clearly even in the very early days of Christ’s ministry, some readily believed while others (like some of John the Baptist’s disciples) did not, verse 32.
  • Those who accepted the claims of Jesus had their eyes opened to the truth of Christ’s words because God revealed it to them, verse 33.
  • God sent Jesus in love and Jesus’ words originated with God the Father.  He is the Living Word (1:14) who provides a full revelation of God (1:18).  Here is marvelous truth about God the Father:
    • When God gives, He gives freely without reservation:  “God gives the Spirit without limit.”
    • God gave the Son in love,
    • The whole mission of saving mankind was made the responsibility of the Son.  No other way to be saved has been give:  “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.”

Something else greatly impressed John the Apostle:  If faith in Christ is the only way to be saved, then to reject Christ is to remain in God’s wrath.  This is the only time God’s wrath is mentioned.  “Wrath” does not refer to a sudden outburst of anger or an expression of temper.  Rather, it is the “settled displeasure of God against sin” (Tenney).  It is God’s reaction to evil; the reaction of righteousness to unrighteousness.

The alternative is clearly stated by the author.  Faith in Christ results in eternal life, which is the present possession of the believer.  The one who “rejects the Son” (“he that does not obey,” RSV, is more accurate) faces the inevitable “wrath of God.”  This language is stark and a little blunt after the way John has just described God’s love to man.  However, it does serve to shine the light on the gravest of all sins:  unbelief, which results in disobedience.

Thankfully, God is not easily provoked to anger and He is not out for revenge on those who are disobedient.  But His holy nature will not tolerate disobedience and He is committed to oppose and judge all disobedience.  God’s mind is made up on this matter and He can never be swayed; His will in regard to unrepentant man is unvarying and unalterable.   The rejection of His Son can only be followed by awful judgment.  At the same time, acceptance of Christ removes the believer from any possibility of judgment presently and in the future.  This is also an unchanging provision of a loving God to sinful man.

Arthur John Gossip was a poor, humble pastor and professor who lived in Scotland.  Though he never pastored a mega church and most people have never heard of him, he wrote a profound paragraph on these verses:

…Christ is never kinder than when his eyes, as he looks at us, are as a flame of fire, and he speaks to us terrible words; when he will make no compromise with us, but demands instant obedience, here and now, on pain of parting with him.  If he had not loved us enough to be severe with us, he would have lost our souls. With awe and humility we need to give God thanks no less really for his wrath than for his mercy.

(c)  2010, WitzEnd


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