From the Gospel to Good Works: A Church’s How-To Manual for Elders (1 Timothy 5:17–25)

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From the Gospel to Good Works: A Church’s How-To Manual for Elders (1 Timothy 5:17–25)

What are you supposed to do in church? What are elders supposed to do in church?
And how do elders and members work together in the church?

On Sunday I answered these questions with six “how-to’s” from 1 Timothy 5:17–25. In this section to Timothy about elders, Paul gives inspired counsel for providing for how to honor elders, protect elders, rebuke (sinning) elders, and appoint elders—to name a few things Paul says.

You can hear the whole sermon online. Response questions and additional resources about elders and churches are below. Continue reading

Wise Mercy Means Supporting Tabitha, Correcting Delilah, and Encouraging Mary (1 Timothy 5:9–16)

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Wise Mercy Means Supporting Tabitha, Correcting Delilah, and Encouraging Mary (1 Timothy 5:9–16)

Why does Paul spend so much time on widows? In a letter with 113 verses, 16 of them (more than 10% of the letter) are dedicated to widows. Does Paul have a special ministry project for these women? Or is there something more central to the gospel here?

On Sunday, I answered those questions and attempted to show why care for these widows was so important to Paul. In particular, we saw how Paul’s discussion about widows is deeply connected to his concern for the gospel in Ephesus. Also, we saw how Paul’s gospel-centeredness teaches us to assess many matters in church and life today.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are a couple important resources to seeing how the letter of 1 Timothy helps us understand these challenging verses.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

Everybody Deacon Now: The Call for All Christians to Serve in the Church

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11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of diakonia, for building up the body of Christ,
— Ephesians 4:11–12 —

For the last few months our church has been considering Paul’s first letter to Timothy and how the instructions for the household of God lead us to order our local church. As Paul unveils the purpose of his letter, “I am writing these things to you so that, . . . you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:14–15).

Immediately before this purpose statement, Paul gives qualifications for elders (vv. 1–7) and deacons (vv. 8–13). And in our church we have focused a great amount of energy thinking about this office of the deacon. In fact, this Sunday at our member’s meeting we will present an update to the statement of faith and the constitution to bring our church order in greater alignment with Scripture.

That said, there is actually very little written about the “office” of deacon in the New Testament. An argument could even be made that the office of deacon is not called for like that of the overseer/elder/pastor. It is clearly not described in the same detail as the office of elder. There seems to be good reasons for this disparity, namely the need to have a clear and consistent teaching office in the church, even as the office of deacon is more flexible, need-based, and church-specific.

With all that in mind, it is helpful to go back to the Bible and see what it says about deacons (diakonos), deaconing (diakoneō), and the ministry of service (diakonia). When we do, we learn a great deal about what “deaconing” is—and what deaconing isn’t. In particular, we discover this word-group shows up 100 times in the New Testament. Yet, in all of those references, it only refers to the office of deacon 3 or 4 times, depending on how one understands Paul’s description of Phoebe (Rom. 16:1; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12). Most often the word relates to service of all varieties (cf. 1 Cor. 12:5), especially service to relieve the physical needs of others. Continue reading

Our Glorious High Priest: 24 Audio Lessons on Hebrews

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Over the course of 2018–19 I taught through the book of Hebrews at our church on Tuesday Nights. You can find the audio and notes below.

My approach: With an interest in Christ’s priesthood as the fulfillment of the whole Bible, and with a conviction that Hebrews models for us how to interpret the Old Testament, I attempted to show how Jesus is the Son of God and Our Glorious High Priest. At the same time, as the title of my previous series on the priesthood suggests, I believe the book also shows how new covenant believers become a family of priests in the kingdom Christ is bringing.

For those who read the whole book of Hebrews, you will notice that what is said of Christ (sonship, priesthood, and kingship) in Hebrews 1 is applied to all those in Christ in Hebrews 12–13. In short, Hebrews teaches us how God makes his people a family of royal priests. Often this emphasis on union in Christ with respect to the priesthood is not appreciated, but I believe a faithful reading of the book demonstrates how Christ is the great hight priest and how all those in him become new covenant Levites, so to speak.

One last note, I also attempted to show throughout much of the book how the literary structure is seen in chiastic structures. I am sure I haven’t been right in every case and that I’ve missed plenty, but in the notes you can at least see my attempt at putting the book together. If you have time, and especially if you disagree with a literary structure, let me know. I’d love to see how you put the book together.

All in all, few books in the Bible—maybe no book in the Bible—is more resplendent in its glory of Christ and his royal priesthood. Our class delighted in this truth throughout the year and found much personal encouragement in Hebrews. May you do the same. And may these notes help you in that journey.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Our Glorious High Priest: 24 Audio Lessons on Hebrews

Fall 2018

  1. Hebrews Overview [audionotes]
  2. Hebrews 1:1–4 [audionotes ]
  3. Hebrews 1:5–2:4 [audionotes ]
  4. Hebrews 2:5–18 [audionotes]
  5. Hebrews 3:1–6 [audionotes ]
  6. Hebrews 3:7–19 [audionotes]
  7. Hebrews 4:1–13 [audionotes]
  8. Hebrews 4:14–5:10 [audionotes]
  9. Hebrews 5:11–6:12 [audionotes]
  10. Hebrews 6:13–20 [audionotes]
  11. Hebrews 7:1–10 [audionotes] – Guest Teacher (Jonathan Matías)
  12. Hebrews 7:11-28 [audio]

Spring 2019

  1. Hebrews 8:1-13 [audionotes]
  2. Hebrews 8:7–13 [audionotes]
  3. Hebrews 9:1–10 [audio, notes]
  4. Hebrews 9:11–22 [audio, notes]
  5. Hebrews 9:23–28 [audio, notes]
  6. Hebrews 10:1–18 [audionotes]
  7. Hebrews 10:19–25 [audionotes]
  8. Hebrews 10:26–39 [audionotes]
  9. Hebrews 11:1–40 [audio, notes]
  10. Hebrews 12:1–17 [audionotes]
  11. Hebrews 12:18–29 [audio] – Guest Teacher (Ron Comoglio)
  12. Hebrews 13:1–21 [audionotes]

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

A Beautiful Household (pt. 2): Brothers Who Lead, Sisters Who Labor, and a Heavenly Father Who Knows Best 

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A Beautiful Household (pt. 2): Brothers Who Lead, Sisters Who Labor, and a Heavenly Father Who Knows Best (Sermon Audio)

Who do you say you are? And what importance does your family play in defining your answer?

On Sunday we completed part 2 of a message looking at the household of God in 1 Timothy 2:8–15. We also considered just how much our culture’s individualism works against our understanding of the Bible, especially this passage.

Throughout Scripture, God’s work of salvation is always aimed at creating a people, not just saving individuals. Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword and to separate people from their families in order to make them part of his family. His words in Matthew 10:34–39 are unsettling, but they are also saving. He concludes, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

If we take Jesus seriously, he calls us to radically redefine our lives by his words and his family. In this sermon, I applied this concept of being adopted into Christ’s family to understand the challenging words of 1 Timothy 2:11–15. You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below. 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

Jesus and ‘Those Who Are With Him’: 1 Samuel, Mark 2, and Two Kinds of Typology

tanner-mardis-612668-unsplash (1).jpgIn his illuminating study Jesus the PriestNicholas Perrin argues for a priestly reading of Mark 2:23–28, the passage where  “those who were with [Jesus]” (repeated twice in vv. 25 and 26) ate grain on Sabbath. In his commentary, Perrin argues for a deep typology between 1 Samuel and Mark’s Gospel.

That Mark intends a general comparison between David and Jesus is supported by at least a handful of typological comparisons, occurring, for example, in Mark’s account of the latter’s last week in Jerusalem which resembles the Jerusalem-based consolidation of kingship under the former. As he enters the Holy City in the style of Solomon (11.1—8), Jesus is hailed as the Son of David (11.9-10), only later to be identified with David (12.10 us 118.22—23)). Later still he is crucified as a Davidic ‘King of the Jews’ (15.26) Finally, in his expiring moments he utters his last prayer in words drawn from a Davidic psalm (15.34 (Ps. 22.1)). Through his shameful death on Roman cross, Mark insists, Jesus has become Israel’s king on the pattern of David.

Yet the Jesus-David analogy also extends to Mark’s sequencing of events as a comparison of their respective careers makes clear. One recalls that in 1 Samuel, David is anointed as king of Israel (1 Samuel 16), thrust into combat with Israel’s arch-enemy (Goliath) (1 Samuel 17) and shortly thereafter put to flight by the reigning pretender Saul (1 Samuel 18-20), with an excursion to Nob (1 Samuel 21) marking one of the first stops in his itinerant exile. The early action of the Gospel is parallel in its broad strokes.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is anointed the Davidic-messianic king (Mark 1.9-11), thrust into combat with Israel’s true arch-enemy (the Satan) (1.12—13) and shortly thereafter embroiled in a series of conflicts complete with its own Nob-like experience (2.23-28). Such structural similarities between the Gospel and the Davidic narrative are not unrelated to more far-reaching thematic comparisons. If David was anointed king but denied any immediate right to reign, so it was with Jesus. If David’s band was time and time again forced to go on the run, Jesus and his followers were no less a band on the run. Finally, if David’s exile eventually paved the way for the throne, the same goes for Jesus — even if in a curious, paradoxical way. Whatever scriptures and traditions shaped Mark’s Christology of suffer, the contribution of the Davidic narrative can hardly be denied.

Once Mark’s appropriation of the cycle from 1-2 Samuel is brought to bear on our interpretation of his grainfield incident, Jesus’ appeal to David (vv. 25-26) quickly comes into view as an effort to frame the controversy a recapitulation of a distinctively Davidic conflict. Mark 2.23-28’s position within a set of post-baptism conflicts stories, in grand analogy to David’s experience, points to nothing less. No sooner is David anointed king of Israel than he is ironically persecuted: no sooner is Jesus anointed king of Israel through baptism than he is, with equal irony, persecuted. Meanwhile, if the analogy between the two anointed-but-beleaguered kings effectively links the conflict dialogues of Mark to the travails of David, then Jesus’ self-comparison with David at Nob within the episode of 2:23-28 is the weld which seals that link. This is no arbitrary exercise in typology. By embedding Jesus’ sufferings within the context of David’s suffering, Mark hopes to justify the controverted quality of Jesus’ messiahship. (Jesus the Priest, 196-97)

Because of my passion for priesthood and typology, I love the way Perrin reads this passage. But more technically, I appreciate the way he shows how Mark wrote his Gospel on the basis of previous Scripture. I believe we can see this kind of typology all over the Gospels, and this is a great example. At the same time, Perrin’s observation about typology help us think more carefully about typology and how the inspired authors wrote Scripture. Continue reading

Let Scripture Interpret Scripture

bibleIn our recent podcast on Genesis and Matthew, we considered how various aspects of the ancient Near East inform our understanding of Genesis. Indeed, there are many reasons to compare the Old Testament to the ancient Near East (and the New Testament to Second Temple Judaism). In both testaments, the historical background give us insight into the Scriptures.

That said, there is more insight that comes from comparing Scripture to Scripture, by reading the Old Testament with the light of the new, by reading the New Testament with the background of the Old Testament, and reading both testaments as mutually-interpreting books of God’s inspired word.

In fact, on that very point New Testament scholar Grant Macaskill makes this wise observation:

New Testament scholars are usually very good at examining the context and backgrounds provided by Graeco-Roman and Jewish literature, but we are generally less successful at examining that provided by other New Testament writings and bringing these to bear on our exegesis. There is a vast amount of literature that reads Paul in the light of Qumran; there is rather less that reads Paul in the light of Peter.

The objection, of course, is that we run the risk of conflating the distinctive theology of each and doing so without sensitivity to the timelines on which they are located. But these texts are the products of a movement with a certain cohesion, generated within a compact period of time. It is, then, necessary to the historical task for us to consider how they may relate to one another and to reflect upon the ways in which even their diversity may emerge from a basic unity of thought. (Grant Macaskill, Union with Christ in the New Testament2)

I am not a New Testament scholar, but I believe his point applies to us all. The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, and so we should give equal—even greater!—attention to the rest of the Bible when interpreting Scripture. Sure, let’s read extra-biblical texts that inform Scripture, but even more lets immerse ourselves in the Bible, so that our interpretations are saturated with the Bible and not just the latest academic fad or archaeological discovery.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds