Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

Philemon

Study of God’s Word (walk through the Bible) – Philemon

In the letter to Philemon, Paul and Timothy write a brief letter to this Christian brother who lived in Colosse.  It is also addressed to Apphia who was probably the wife of Philemon, and Archippus who was probably his son.  This is different than most of the letters Paul wrote, but makes sense given the topic of the letter which was an appeal to Philemon regarding a runaway slave who has met Jesus and found refuge with Paul.  In the custom of that day, Philemon’s wife Apphia would have been in charge of supervision of the slaves of the household, so the content would concern her as well.

Philemon was a church leader at Colosse as the church must have met in his home.  Paul addressed that group as well through the letter when he writes “and the church in your house”.  Paul begins with a prayer for Philemon and his family.  “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ”.  Paul continually demonstrates the importance and power of prayer.

Paul prayed for Philemon, desiring that the sharing of his faith would become effective as Philemon understood the work God did in him.  God does the work in us and then through us for His Kingdom.  This is the foundation for all effective evangelism: the impact of a life touched and changed by God. God had done every good thing in the life of Philemon. Now, it was a matter of it being acknowledged by both Philemon and those he shared his faith with. When these good things are understood, others come to Jesus.  That is exactly what God wants to see happen in every Christ Follower.  We allow God to work in us and change us, and then allow Him to work through us to impact others.  It is what sharing our faith is all about.  Not what we are or do, but who God is in us and through us.

Paul then intercedes for Onesimus, a slave from Philemon’s house.  He had escaped from his master Philemon and fled to Rome where he met with Paul.  Now after Onesimus has been with Paul and served him well, Paul is sending him back to his master pleading for consideration of who Onesimus had become – a Christ Follower under Paul’s influence.  Paul offers “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account”.  Paul not only intercedes through a request, but is willing to settle the account if there is anything owed.  That’s the power of true intercession.  That’s a picture of true love.

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Titus 3

Study of God’s Word (walk through the Bible) – Titus 3

Titus 3 has Paul coaching him on how to remind Christ Followers he was shepherding to treat each other, and in particular authorities.  The word for remind actually means “keep on reminding” meaning this isn’t a once and done sermon, but something all of us struggle with so we need continual reminders to stay the course.  Paul shares this list of things Titus should remind them about: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people”.

He begins with a topic that many of us chaff at – submission to authority.  Somehow that carries a negative connotation today.  The reality is that submission provides a lot of benefits, the main one being that the authority you submit to becomes responsible for many things.  Whether it is in a marriage, with parents, a government, or whatever authority you consider, remember that being in authority carries a lot of pressure that we should be shielded from as one under submission.  Paul quickly add though, that we should not only be obedient, but “ready for every good work”.  The concept of submission does not make us passive, particularly as Christ Followers.  We can’t just sit back and let those in authority do all the work.  God wants us actively in the game.

His other directives involve how we get along with other people.  All of us are in the people business in some way or other.  We don’t live on an island alone, and we need to interact and play nicely with others.  Paul admits he came from a place that was not aligned with God and His plan.  Then he met Jesus.  “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”.

Salvation is not about you or me, or what we do.  It’s about the Savior and His righteousness.  God pours out His mercy freely on us through Christ.  All we can do is receive it. Here’s the reality of salvation and the road to eternal life.  It goes through Jesus, and that is the only road.  Paul ends by reminding Titus to challenge the people to “let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful”.  He reinforces that we are not saved by our good works, we can’t earn our way to heaven, but we need to be involved in doing good works and bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God!

Titus 2

Titus 2 has Paul giving Titus some direction on how to speak to five different segments of the church.  He makes sure that Titus puts first things first though by saying “teach what accord with sound doctrine”.  It doesn’t matter who you are talking with – speaking God’s truth has to be priority one.  But then he goes on to differentiate between five different types of people:

  1. Older men
  2. Older women
  3. Younger men
  4. Younger women
  5. Slaves

Titus then gives specific direction to each group:

  • Older men – are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
  • Older women – likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine….teach what is good, and so train
  • young women – to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
  • younger men – to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity,  dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
  • Slaves – are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior”

Very specific guidance as to how Titus was to prepare each group to live successfully as a Christ Follower.

Around the word steadfastness for older men, it means a steadfast and active endurance, not a passive waiting.  We are to be in the game and not on the bench. To older women, he warned of a common problem of his day around wine, and gives them something positive to live towards, instead of the negative things of slander and alcohol abuse.  Titus was not to make it his ministry to teach the young women directly but to equip and encourage the older women to teach the young women. And Titus had to be more than a teacher, he also had to be an example. His guidance to others would not be taken seriously if he himself was not walking with the Lord.

Then Paul takes a different tact and instructs Titus about slaves or bondservants.  Titus was to teach bondservants about their specific duties as Christians.  Christians had shocked the larger culture by mixing slaves and masters in the social setting of the church service.  So Titus was to address this potentially charged situation.  And then Paul ends this chapter by telling Titus to “redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works”.  Paul wants Titus to remind Christ Followers that they have been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, and as a result should be zealous to live righteously and focus on doing good works!

Titus 1

In Titus 1, Paul has some strong words for his partner in the ministry, Titus, whom he had left behind in Crete to continue the work after Paul was called away.  They were sharing “the hope of eternal life which God, who never lies, promised”.  We have the opportunity to share that same message today because it is just as valid now as when Paul was preaching it almost 2000 years ago.  Eternal life is God’s gift to mankind, offered as a gift of grace through Christ Jesus our Savior.  But even with such a glorious message, people were messing things up in the church.

After a successful evangelistic campaign on the island of Crete, there were a lot of young Christians to take care of. Paul left Titus behind to build stable churches with mature, qualified pastors for the people. Paul’s answer was to put a leadership structure in place and he charges Titus to make that happen.  “Appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination”.  Paul tells Titus to place these elders in every city on Crete – local leadership is vital to a strong and healthy faith community.

It’s important to note that Paul doesn’t give qualifications related to education or giftedness.  He doesn’t tell Titus to go find the most gifted guys to lead.  He focuses on character and a real relationship with Jesus which supersedes anything we have learned or gifts we might have. The list goes on to say “as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it”.  This is not a rigid list which demands perfection in all areas. It provides both goals to reach for and the general criteria to be used in selection.

Why is it so important to have the right leadership in place?  Because the church was facing “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers…. upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach”.  There were some bad eggs who had the ear of people and Paul wants that shut down and the door closed tightly behind them.  “Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth….They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work”.  Titus had to train the elders he chose to simply “shut up” these problem people.  And he had to be willing to come alongside his leaders to stand with them in shutting down those who did not teach God’s truth.

2 Timothy 4

2 Timothy 4 has Paul exhorting his disciple to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”.  Paul charges Timothy to preach the word – and in the original language that meant to testify or be a witness.  It was a strong command.  Timothy was not required to merely know the word or like the word or approve of the word; he was required to preach the word. And it wasn’t in a way to just tickle peoples ears – strong words like reprove, rebuke, exhort – he was to bring the word to bear on the lives of those in his care.  God’s Word is not just a suggestion for life – it is the way we are to live.  Not a theory or idea – but a guide to living in a way that pleases God.

Back in that day, much like today, many didn’t like what the scriptures said.  “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”.  We really are a gullible bunch. Once we turn from God’s truth, we run to whatever makes us feel good.  When we reject God’s truth, we don’t usually believe in nothing but rather we’ll believe in anything.  Paul wants Timothy to be prepared for the folks who will press him to give them words that make them feel good about themselves no matter how they live.

Paul’s time is quickly coming to an end.  He felt like he was at the train station and his train to heaven was boarding.  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”.  Those are words all of us should aspire to be able to say as we wind down life.  Paul uses the analogy of a race throughout his writings.  We need to live life as a Christ Follower like an athlete where we are training for and running a race to eternity.  It won’t just happen well without some real intentionality, and if we don’t keep the faith we will get pulled off the course and fail to finish well.

Is it worth the hard work to fight and finish?  Paul makes it clear that it absolutely is.  “Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing”.  Remember where Paul came from.  He was a persecutor of Christians and killed many.  Yet as he winds down life on earth we are reminded that Christ’s grace covers any and all sin if we accept his grace and make it our own.  We’ll all stand before God some day and have to give account to a righteous judge.  If all we have to talk about is how we have lived, we will be toast and fail to enter eternity with God.  But if we have prepared by receiving salvation through the shed blood of Christ, we’ll end up with a crown of righteousness as well and spend forever with Paul in God’s presence!

2 Timothy 3

2 Timothy 3 has Paul warning Timothy that people are going to be people.  “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”.  These were the words describing people ‘in the last days’ which sure sounds a lot like where we are living today.  People will be people which means they will be self centered and full of sin, which is why we need God’s grace and a Savior.

So what are we to do with folks who are like this?  “Avoid such people….these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and  disqualified regarding the faith”.  We need to be careful who we hang around.  We are impacted by those whose company we keep.  Paul reminds Timothy of the impact of his life on him: “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings”.  We don’t have to act like the lovers of self Paul described to start this chapter.  We can choose to live like Paul and set an example where people can see Jesus in every area of our life.

But it isn’t easy as Paul warns that “all who desire to  live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.  The world and our very real enemy in Satan himself will seek to derail and destroy our faith and foundation.  We need to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.  We need to hang onto the truth of God’s Word and make sure we are walking in faith as Christ Followers.

The truth comes directly from God through His Holy Scriptures.  “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 competent, equipped for every good work”.  The Word is all we need.  It tells us a truth that means more than our opinions, tells us when we are wrong in our thinking or conduct and tells us how to live rightly before God and men.  It is all we need.  Guzik writes it is a “spiritual work, a spiritual blessing which God works in us as we come to the Bible and let Him speak to us. This goes beyond our intellectual understanding. It is filled with great spiritual power beyond our intellect:

  • The Bible gives us eternal life (1 Peter 1:23).
  • The Bible spiritually cleanses us (Ephesians 5:26).
  • The Bible gives us power against demonic spirits (Ephesians 6:17).
  • The Bible brings spiritual power to heal our bodies (Matthew 8:16).
  • The Bible brings us spiritual strength (Psalm 119:28).
  • The Bible has the power to spiritually build faith in us (Romans 10:17).

2 Timothy 2

2 Timothy 2 begins with Paul reminding Timothy how to make disciples and take the world for Jesus.  The formula is exactly the same as it was some 2000 years ago – “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”.  Making disciples is not magic.  It is about learning what it means to be a Christ Follower, and then finding someone else you can build into that can take it forward and build it into another person.  It may seem slow and inefficient – this idea of raising up disciples one by one – but it actually is built upon the concept of multiplication where one becomes two who become four who become 8 who become 16.  In 40 years, if each person in the chain just found and discipled one person for a year who went and did the same, the entire globe would be Christ Followers.

We can never get there through adding people one at a time, which is unfortunately how the church attempts to reach the planet for Christ today.  Paul’s formula started with himself -> Timothy -> faithful men -> others.  That’s how God designed the plan to reach the world.  So what is the problem?  “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops”.  We get distracted.  We don’t follow the plan and soon we’re back to adding people one at a time rather than multiplying disciples one by one.

If we truly are Christ Followers, Paul tells us we need to live that way.  “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself”. We need to focus on how we live our days in this earth as they matter.  God cares about how we live.  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth”.  We need to know the Word and live the Word with those in our patch.

But things get in the way.  “So flee  youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord  from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant  controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will”.  We have to stay away from the things that derail us on our walk with Jesus.  The enemy is after us and is focused on helping us into the ditch so we fail in our mission to live a life pleasing to God that brings others to Him as disciples.  We have to make right choices and hang around right people if we want any hope of reaching God’s plan for our life!

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