Can I Get A Witness?!? Why Gospel-Centered Churches Need Faithful Deacons

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“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”
– Luke 10:1 –

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching . . .
– Acts 2:42a –

For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Timothy 3:13 –

Few things are more encouraging to a preacher than the audible “Amen!” Such a positive response to God’s Word has an electric effect on the pulpit and the pew. Rightly timed, the “Amen!” affirms the Word preached and the preacher of the Word. It says, “Pastor, I am with you and I agree with this truth!” It also says, “Congregation, listen up; for this word is good news!”

There is no mandate in Scripture for the congregational “Amen,” but there is something more profound—maybe even theological—about this twofold witness to God’s Word. Throughout the New Testament, wherever the Word is preached, it is brought by multiple witnesses. For instance, when Jesus sent out his disciples to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, he sent them out “two by two” (Luke 10:1). Jesus’s own ministry included the witness of John the Baptist (John 5:30–46), and when Jesus described the church he established it on the basis of two or three gathered together (Matthew 18:19–20).

In all, there is a pattern in the New Testament that the proclamation of the Gospel is carried by two or more witnesses. Perhaps this is a pragmatic decision to increase the psychological confidence of God’s witnesses, but I suspect it is more a function of legal testimony. Just as the Spirit vindicated Jesus through his resurrection (1 Timothy 3:16), those who bear witness to the justification that comes through faith in the resurrected Christ bear legal testimony to God’s work. Continue reading

Where Do Elders Come From?

churchFrom the beginning of the church, there were designated leaders. And though given various names (e.g., elders, pastors, overseers) they served the same function. As God-given leaders of God’s flock (Acts 20:28) and under-shepherds to the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1–4), these men were called to model the faith before God’s people and to teach the word of God, protecting God’s children from error and bolstering their faith in Christ.

A cursory reading of the New Testament shows how important these men were. In Acts we find elders in Jerusalem (11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6; 21:18) and Ephesus (20:17). When Paul planted churches in Galatia, he appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:23). In correspondence with Titus, he told him to appoint qualified overseers in the churches on Crete (Titus 1:5–9). Similarly, Timothy received instruction on the qualification of overseers (1 Timothy 3:1–7) and instructions for removing unqualified elders (5:17–23).

Even before Paul wrote his Pastoral Epistles, he had called churches to care for those who taught them (Galatians 6:6–9) and to honor those who led them (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13). Similarly, James, Peter, John, and the author of Hebrews all spoke in various ways about the office of the overseer/elder/pastor (see James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1–4; 2 John 1; 3 John 1; Hebrews 13:7, 17). In short, the New Testament says a great deal about this important role, and it does so because the health of the church depends on those who lead them with God’s Word.

Yet, for all that it says about the office, we should ask another important question: Where do elders come from? Thankfully, the New Testament is not silent on this question. Just as it describes how to recognize an elder, it also describes where they come from. And faithful churches (and the elders who lead them), will be aware of how God raises up elders.

Where Do Elders Come From?

Continue reading

The Inseparable Operations of the Trinity in John’s Gospel

james-coleman-741674-unsplash.jpgFew books in the Bible give us more “raw material” about the Trinity than John’s Gospel. While the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, testimony to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is. And in the Fourth Gospel, the works of the Trinity are displayed in their greatest fullness.

Helping us to see the inseparable operations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the ESV Study Bible nicely charts most of the instances of God’s Work. In what follows, notice how every work of God is “shared” by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To say it more carefully, whenever God acts he acts as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Whether it is in creation, salvation, or revelation, each person of the Trinity acts in a way appropriate to their personhood. Yet, such personal properties are never divided from the other members of the Trinity. We can speak variously about the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but we can never speak of them independent from one another, or as if the Father does one thing, the Son another, the Spirit a third.

While personal properties apply in all of God’s actions—e.g., the Father creates as the Father, the Son creates as the Son, and Spirit creates as the Spirit—the triune God always works as one God. This reality helps us to know God in his triune glory and to appreciate how each member works in union with one another. Even more, as we see in John’s Gospel, when the Father sends the Son and Spirit and the Father and Son send the Spirit, we begin to learn who God is through what God has done in redemptive history.

Expanding this vision of God’s triune work in redemption, the ESV Study Bible’s chart will assist greatly.
Continue reading

A Beautiful Household (pt. 1): Men Who Pray, Women Who Work, and The God Who Saves (1 Timothy 2:8–10)

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A Beautiful Household (Part 1): Men Who Pray, Women Who Work, and The God Who Saves

Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” On Sunday we had a good chance to apply that passage, as we saw how 1 Timothy 2:9–15 is profitable for all God’s people.

Unfortunately, Paul’s words about men and women have often been misunderstood, misused, and even denied. Some have used this passage as a proof text to keep women quiet in church. Others have rejected Paul’s words because it smacks of male patriarchy. All in all, this passage IS a difficult one. Yet, we can make sense of it by paying attention to the context of 1 Timothy.

In the flow of Paul’s letter, these verses play an important role of showing how gospel-centered men and women worship God together. In this way, 1 Timothy 2 is not meant to give a place for men to exclude women from learning, speaking, or filling key roles in the church.  It is meant to affirm the goodness of men and women and the complementary ways they serve God together.

On you can listen to this sermon online. You can also read a couple important blogposts about these verses. And below you can find a few response questions with additional resources. Continue reading

Say What, Paul? Six *More* Things That 1 Timothy 2:8–15 Does Not Mean

stain glass 2Yesterday, I listed six things that 1 Timothy 2:8–15 does not mean. Today, I list six more. That post and this one complement Sunday’s message on 1 Timothy 2:8–10 and anticipate the coming message on 1 Timothy 2:11–15.

While any of these posts/sermons can be read or heard on their own, they are intended to be considered together. For if we are to understand what Paul means in these verses, it will take a fair bit of work in the text of Scripture and the history surrounding the church in Ephesus. For that background, I recommend the book Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15.

For now, here are the next six things that 1 Timothy 2:8–15 does not mean. Yesterday, the list focused on 1 Timothy 2:8–10. Today, it focuses on the next four verses (vv. 11–15). If you know the passage, you know these are the more difficult ones ;-) Continue reading

Say What, Paul? Six Things 1 Timothy 2:8–15 Does Not Mean

glass8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

[This is the first of two posts on 1 Timothy 2:8–15. These posts are meant to complement the two sermons I am preaching on this passage at our church.]

A lot has been said, could be said, and needs to be said about 1 Timothy 2:8–15, but many of things said have either been misleading or just plain wrong. This is true for feminists who deny the apostolic witness of Paul, evangelical feminists (egalitarians) who affirm his apostleship but restrict his words to Ephesus, and traditional Christians who have demeaned women by so vociferously proving the point that women cannot teach men in the church, they have effectively denied the vital place of women—and women teaching, see Titus 2:3–5—in the church.

In scholarship, the most thorough explanation of this passage has been the book Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, edited by Thomas Schreiner and Andreas Köstenberger. If you are studying this passage, this is a must-read. I have found much help in it and highly recommend it.

What follows cannot replace a thorough multi-discipline study of the passage. What I do want to do is outline a number of ways we must not read this passage. Without claiming to have a full grasp of everything in 1 Timothy 2:8–15, therefore, here are six things the passage does not mean or imply. Tomorrow, I’ll add another six. Continue reading

Faith: The Greatest Gift (1 Timothy 1:12–20)

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Faith: God’s Greatest Gift (1 Timothy 1:12–20)

On Sunday we saw how Paul shares the story of his salvation and what God’s grace in his life teaches us about the gospel. Amazingly, God’s grace does not come in response to Paul’s repentance and faith. Rather, God’s grace is the source and start of Paul’s faith.

The same is true for you and I. And the more we see the source of our faith as God alone, the more God’s grace will strengthen our faith and empower us to live for Christ.

In this week’s sermon, we take time to consider how God’s grace creates faith and how sharing our faith with one another strengthens the church and glorifies the Eternal King, the Immortal, Invisible, Only God.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are a few other resources.

Response Questions

  1. How familiar are you with Paul’s testimony? What encourages you? Confuses you? Amazes you by the Apostle Paul?
  2. Why do you think inspired Scripture includes five places where his salvation is told (see Acts 9, 22, 26; Galatians 1–2; 1 Timothy 1). What does that teach us about the place of testimonies?
  3. Read Ephesians 2:8–9; Philippians 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:13. Where does faith come from? What does the text say?
  4. Why does it matter that faith is received as a gift, rather than a ‘work’ that merits a reward? How does faith as a gift magnify God’s grace? How does denying faith’s gift deny God’s grace?
  5. Why does joy matter so much for the Christian? (See John 15:11; Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22–23; Philippians 4:4)
  6. If you feel joyless, how can you cultivate joy in the Lord? How does sharing your faith and hearing the testimonies of others cultivate joy?
  7. What comes to mind as you read Paul’s words to Timothy about Hymaenus and Alexander? Why does remaining in the faith matter for salvation? (Hint: it bears witness to the faithfulness and power of God — Romans 8:28–39; Philippians 1:6)
  8. Share your story of salvation, or any other recent series of events where you have seen God at work. Consider: What are ways you can continue to shared/hear these stories?

Additional Resources

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

From Law to Gospel: Seeing the Literary Structure of 1 Timothy 1

bibleIn his chapter “Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles,” Ray Van Neste argues for literary cohesion in 1 Timothy (in Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles, 84–104). While many critical scholars have denied this unity and declared 1 Timothy is a patchwork letter (not written by Paul), Van Neste shows how the letter demonstrates internal cohesion. From a careful reading of the letter, he shows how thematic and linguistic connections unity the first and last chapter (98–104).

Most impressive in his argument is his treatment of 1 Timothy 1 and 6, where he shows multiple ways the letter shows cohesion and structure. For instance, developing a number of “hook words,” Van Neste observes,

  • The use of “teachers of the law” (v. 7), law (v. 8), and lawfully (v. 8) link verses 3–7 with verses 8–11.
  • Pisteuō (“entrusted”) ends verse 11 and serves as the keyword for verses 12–17: “faithful” (v. 12), “unbelief” (v. 13), “faith” (v. 14), “trustworthy” (v. 15), “believe” (v. 16). In each case, the Greek word has pist- as its root.
  • Faith and a good conscience also mark the beginning and end of the chapter (v. 5 and v. 19).

With these various “hook words,” we see how the chapter holds together and unfolds. This strengthens our commitment to Paul’s authorship of 1 Timothy, and it shows us how to read the chapter as a whole. Yet, the unity is more than just linguistic. There also appears to be a literary structure in 1 Timothy 1. Continue reading

The Good News of the Law (1 Timothy 1:8–11)

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Reading the Law Lawfully (1 Timothy 1:8–11)
(Sermon Audio)

This Sunday we considered 1 Timothy 1:8–11 and the good news of God’s law. If there is anything in church history that has puzzled and divided Christians it is the relationship between the law and the gospel. Yet, in this passage we are given a clear understanding of how Paul read the Law of Moses.

With application for today, Sunday’s sermon sought to show how Paul read the Law lawfully and how we should do the same. You can listen to the sermon here. Additional resources can be found below.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor David Continue reading

Via Emmaus Podcast: Reading the Joseph Story with Sam Emadi (Extra Inning Episode 01)

podcastlogoHere’s the latest Via Emmaus Podcast, one where I get in the driver’s seat and ask my friend and biblical scholar Sam Emadi questions about Genesis, Joseph, and Jesus.

Reading the Joseph Story with Sam Emadi (Extra Inning Episode 01)

In this first ‘extra inning’ episode, I interview Dr. Samuel Emadi, Senior Editor of the 9Marks Journal. Sam finished his dissertation on the Joseph story in 2016. He is currently under contract to write a book on Joseph in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. And in this episode, we will learn more about Genesis, Joseph, typology, and how to read the Bible better.

For more on this subject, see

Soli Deo Gloria, ds