Friday, March 30, 2018

Titus, Should Women Be Subject to Their Husbands?

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The 12th Hebrew letter, lamed, pictures a shepherd’s staff or an ox goad. As a verb “lamad” means teach, learn, point, prick or goad. You’d expect to see the word “teach” show up a lot in this little book that links to this Hebrew letter and, in fact, it does by a rate of about 10 times more (per 1000 words) than any other book. Tell me that’s not amazing.

What does Paul’s letter to Titus tell us? Read chapter 2 for a list of what should be taught. Here’s my summary:

1.         Teach older men temperance, to be respectable, to be self-controlled and to be sound in faith, love and endurance.
2.         Teach older women to be reverent, not to be slanderers, not to be addicted to alcohol and to be teachers of what is good.
3.         Older women are to train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home and to be subject to their husbands.
4.         Young men are to be encouraged to be self-controlled and to do what is good, to show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.
But wait, there’s more. Slaves are to be taught, too. Here it would be helpful to substitute employees for slaves (some would argue they are the same thing nowadays).
5.         Slaves/employees are to be subject to their masters/bosses in everything, to please them, not to talk back, not to steal from them and to show trustworthiness.
Think about these things from a boss’s perspective. How pleased would he be to have such an employee?

The end of chapter 2 tells us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.

Read Chapter 3 for more – we are to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good. We are to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate and to show true humility toward all men. Some synonyms for humility are humbleness, modesty and meekness.

Can you see how well our Hebrew letter, lamed, relates? Throughout this epistle I envision Paul holding a staff and teaching, exhorting, explaining, and pointing with it. There is plenty to learn in this short book; take some time now and study it.

Friday, March 23, 2018

2nd Timothy, How to Be a True Servant of Christ

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2nd Timothy was written by St. Paul shortly before he was martyred. This letter to his beloved friend has to do with the personal walk and testimony of a true servant of Christ. 

Let’s see how Paul encourages Timothy in the opening verses of the second chapter:

1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

He tells him to “be strong” and the implication here from the Greek is to be strong in mind. He encourages him to teach others to be teachers. There is a huge difference between teaching your subject matter and teaching someone else how to teach your subject matter. I spent over thirty years teaching and the experience of having a student-teacher to train was incredibly difficult yet enriching and like Paul says, you need that future teacher to be reliable.

3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

The soldier analogy is perfect because, unfortunately, every generation can relate to the comparisons. Paul likens Christians to soldiers so we must be at war. Against what? Against the world. Look again at verse 4. The commanding officer is Christ. Do you want to please Him? Start by not getting entangled in worldly things.

Paul likes to use athletic analogies. Some of the qualities he is inferring are effort, setting a goal, being self-sacrificing and following rules. The athlete parallel and the farmer comparison are forever current. The soldier and the athlete are in it for the victory and the crown. What does the farmer get? Ah, yes, the first fruits. First fruits are the blessings.

 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

The time will come when people will not put up with correct doctrine. And that time seems to be right now as many reject portions of the Bible as being old-fashioned, narrow minded or misinterpreted. Look what verses 3 and 4 say they will do: they will surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear. They will turn from the truth and accept myths. Myths? You mean like horoscopes, witchcraft, paranormal stuff, extra-terrestrials, vampires, Scientology, drugs, global warming, yoga meditation and myriad superstitions? Yup. I like the phrase “itching ears.” What does that mean to you?

In verse 6 the Greek phrase that is translated “being poured out like a drink offering” is an allusion to an Old Testament sacrifice mentioned 32 times in Numbers 15. What do you think Paul means?

Paul finishes by keeping his soldier, athlete and farmer images in order: I have fought the good fight (soldier), I have finished the race (athlete), I have kept the faith (farmer). 

Friday, March 16, 2018

1st Timothy, part 3, Linking the Hebrew Letter Yod

Hebrew letter "yod"

We’ve been showing the links between the 22 Hebrew letters and the corresponding 66 books in the Bible. See CROSSING THE SCRIPTURES for the complete study. We’re on the tenth letter, yod, whose symbol is the hand. The alphabetic verses for the letter yod (KJV) show this clearly:

Psalm 119:73 Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.Proverbs 31:19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.Lamentations 1:10 The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things:Lamentations 4:10 The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children

The symbol of the hand naturally represents power, might, ability, and authority because with it we handle, control, possess, and manipulate (from the Latin manus = hand) everything in our world. In fact, yod is translated as power twelve times in the KJV and when God gave dominion over all creatures to Noah and his sons, he said "into your hand are they delivered." A ruling king has the land under the "power of his hand" and God freed the Jews from their Egyptian bondage "with great power, and with a mighty hand" (Exodus 32:11).

We saw several instances of “hand” in our other two yod books, 2nd Samuel and Jonah. Now look at 1st Timothy 2:8: 4:14; and 5:22:

 8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

I don’t know about you, but this stuff gives me chills. How awesome is the Word of God! 

Friday, March 9, 2018

1st Timothy, part 2, Does Your Church Have Bishops or Deacons?

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Now on to bishops and deacons. Chapter 3: 1-7:

 1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

This translation uses “overseer,” some say “bishop.” The original Greek word is “episkope” which implies overseeing, observing, examining the state of affairs of something. If your church has bishops here is where you can see the criteria you should hold them to.

 8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
 11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
 12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Deacons can be men or women. Verse 11 indicates that women are included as candidates for this office (Phoebe is called a deacon in Romans 16:1). The high standards for both bishops and deacons are strict. The difference in these 2 offices seems to be that overseer (bishop, elder) should be able to teach (vs.2). Both offices have a hand in the affairs of the church.

Friday, March 2, 2018

1st Timothy, part 1, Choking on Women’s Lib/Feminism

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Our third yod book is 1st Timothy, a letter written by St. Paul to Timothy to instruct him on how to deal with the growing problem of false teachers in Ephesus. There are only six chapters; in chapter 1 legalism and unsound doctrine are rebuked; chapter 2 deals with prayer and worship; chapter 3 gives the qualifications of elders and deacons; chapter 4 has instructions to Timothy; chapters 5 and 6 are full of advice for the work of the good minister of Jesus Christ.

Read chapter one. Paul tells us in chapter 1 that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers, rebels, the ungodly, murderers, adulterers, perverts (literally sodomites – think about it, it may make you uncomfortable because it is not “politically correct” to call gay people perverts, but you cannot argue with God), perjurers, slave traders and liars. Oh, and the unholy and irreligious. I think he covered all the sinners and if he didn’t he added “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” Now if you think Paul sounds a bit arrogant, he goes on to say that he was once a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man, but that he acted in ignorance and unbelief. He claims that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom he is the worst. So he’s not arrogant, but rather quite self-aware.

Here’s chapter 2: 8-12:

 8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Okay, ladies and gents, let’s examine these verses carefully. Right away in verse 8 there is a reference to our 10th Hebrew letter that matches up to this book and means hand. We are to lift up “holy hands;” Young’s Literal translation says “kind hands.” Is this just for the men? No, because verse 9 actually starts in the original Greek with a word that means “in the same way” or “in like manner.” So, women should lift up their hands, too, plus dress modestly and, to give it a modern interpretation, they should not look like they are vying for a cover shot on a magazine about Hollywood glamour. Nope, instead they should adorn themselves with good deeds – do something to make God proud. (Extra info: three 1st century writers, the poet Juvenal, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, and Philo a Jewish Hellenistic philosopher, all wrote about the women of their time who dressed extravagantly. From prostitutes to the wife of Caligula, they describe the jewelry, clothing and makeup of these pagan women. Paul probably wanted to caution Christian women to avoid being mistaken for one of them and compromising their witness. Wearing jewelry, makeup and nice clothes is not prohibited anywhere in the Bible.)

All right, verse 11 brings out the women’s libber in the majority of Americans. How do we deal with Paul’s statement that a woman should learn in quietness and full submission? Well, first of all this is really pretty liberal in that he’s saying that women should learn, up until then women didn’t get much education, if any. Learning in quietness means just that. Full submission (or subjection, as some translators have used) does not mean that Christian women are not free and equal to their husbands – they are – but Paul is worried about the danger that a wife might usurp the husband’s authority; that would not please the Lord because He has placed the man as head over the woman in the marital relationship. So ladies, don’t get your feathers ruffled over these verses, there is a perfect order here and Paul is not relegating women to second class status any more than the letter g is less important than the letter f just because it comes behind it in the order of the alphabet.

The problem with verse 12 is that the word “woman” is actually “wife” in the Greek and the word “teach” in this instance means “to teach continuously.” Paul is saying that if the husband is present then the wife should not undermine his position in public; she should never encroach upon his role. When you understand the original intent of the language then you can avoid misunderstandings.