Author Archives: ashleydfarmer

About ashleydfarmer

I love learning and teaching. I occasionally get ridiculously excited over small things and hopefully have learned to describe them well enough for others to get just as excited as I do (hence this blog). I believe God's word is truth and brings understanding and joy to the one who hears and accepts it. My passion is for Him first, my family second, and the ministry He's given me third (whatever that looks like). I also happen to love tennis :) but I suppose that's for a different blog...

Colossians: Pray and Keep on Praying

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Colossians 1:3-14

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[a] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[b] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[c] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[d] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I did not write the lesson on this section in Colossians, but I would love to share some thoughts concerning this passage. I would encourage you to read through the passage above and record your own observations (noting key words, admonitions, tone of voice, connectives, and so on).

The first thing I noticed this time around is Paul’s very friendly and encouraging tone toward the Colossians. It reads quite differently from his letter to the Galatians for example. He also introduces us to a new name, Epaphras. New names immediately pique my interest and result in me following a rabbit trail that takes me hours to get back to my original path. In order not to take you on too many rabbit trails, I’ll simply choose a few ideas from the passage I found interesting (trust me when I say this is very hard to do for me. I’d like to pick apart every. single. verse.).

If we look at this section of the letter very broadly, we would note his common habit of giving thanks and praying for the recipients. It is a beautiful way to start a letter. I find that Paul teaches me about being thankful and how to pray for others simply by the way he writes his letters.

As I mentioned he’s very encouraging toward the Colossian believers, noting their faith and their love (v. 4, 7) which is a result of the hope (v. 5) they have in Christ {hmm…where have I seen those three qualities together before??}. He also comments on the gospel bearing fruit and increasing among them since the day they heard it and understood it (v. 5-6). I find the idea of an inanimate object being able to bear fruit very fascinating. The good news (gospel) which Epaphras spoke to the Colossians continues to produce good things among them.

I would like to look closely at the idea of faith. Webster’s 1828 defines it as “a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared and because He has declared them.” Another way to put it is an “affectionate, practical confidence in the testimony of God” or a “firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations of His word.”

Perhaps it is best to point out that the power of faith depends not on the person who has the faith but on the One in whom the faith is placed. Christ is the object of our faith. Our faith has power because it is on Him, and He does not fail. C.F.D. Moule wrote this:

Regardless, the issue is not just the presence of faith, but a faith that resides in Christ. It gives the thought of reliance going forth to Christ, and reposing on Christ, so as to sink as it were into Him, and find fixture in Him; as the anchor sinks to the floor of the sea, and then into it, that it may be held in it.

To recap, Paul gave thanks for their faith and love because of hope (and this hope does not disappoint because it is also in the person of Christ who has secured glory/heaven for us). One of the ladies I teach with said this, “The validity of faith is not the fervency with which you believe, but the degree to which the object of your faith is true.”

It is in verse 9 when he switches to praying for these people he’s never even met. He asked that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. I couldn’t tell you how this happens, I only know that if he asks for it, it must be something that can happen to any believer. We can know God’s will for our lives. Isn’t that such a comforting thought? I also happen to love that he prays this for them as a father would pray for his own children to know God fully.

Hopefully you had a chance to read my post detailing the background of Colossians. You see, there was a threat of false teaching in Colossae, and those opponents were promising spiritual fullness with things that were not Christ. Paul tells the believers that true spiritual fullness can only be found in Christ alone. Just look at these verses in the letter about fullness or being filled:

1:19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell

1:25 …to make the word of God fully known

2:2 …all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

2:9 For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

2:10 and you have been filled in Him…

4:12 …stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

Christ is sufficient. (more on this later!)

Now on to verses 10-11. Paul had spoken of the gospel which was bearing fruit in the lives of the Colossians and now in verse 10 he tells them to walk in a worthy manner, being pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work…. One of my favorite teachings of Jesus (and which Paul continues) is this idea of the Vine and branches. We abide in the Vine (which is Christ), and He produces fruit in us (fruit of the Spirit for example). I realize this can be a touchy subject since too many people believe they must work really hard to be “good” and accepted by God (or whoever it is they believe they need to work for). I would clarify that it’s not so much that we work for God but that God works in us. {I feel a blog post bubbling to the surface so I had better stop at that.}

In verse 11 Paul tells them their strength comes from God. The words for strengthened and power come from the same word in our English language for dynamiteDunamei means “to make strong, strengthen” and carries the idea of making something strong that is inherently weak. Paul says this power helps us to endure and have patience with joy. Again, this is his prayer for the Colossians and gives me such encouragement knowing this can happen for me as well.

Paul wraps up this section in verses 12-14: we give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in His inheritance, He has delivered us from darkness and transferred us to His Son’s kingdom, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Now those verses are truly packed with some dynamite!

What I learned from this passage is that the words used for delivered and transferred give the idea of military conquest. In Biblical times it was common to take a people who had been defeated, uproot them from their culture and environment, and re-root them somewhere else. That is exactly what God did for us! He broke the bonds of our past life (out of darkness) to assimilate us into a new life with Him (His kingdom of light – see also 1 Pet 2:9). It’s His grace to us, because we don’t deserve a single thing He did in those verses. We have been qualified, delivered, transferred, and redeemed.

Colossae: Introducing Christ

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book-of-col-cover

Introducing Colossae.

Introducing Christ.

It seems appropriate to begin our study by starting with the background – to look at context, culture, and what was happening in the world.

We learned from Titus that right doctrine rightly applied produces right living. As we make our way through Colossians, we will encounter echoes of this same truth, but from a different angle. Knowledge of God is important. No it’s vital. Your view of God, your understanding of who God is, ultimately is the only thing that matters. Because what you know of Him shapes what you believe and then how you feel and finally how you act.

Fortunately God does not leave us in the dark concerning who He is! He, the eternal Creator, makes Himself known to us, the limited, finite created ones. He reveals Himself to us through His creation, but most presently and intimately through HIS SON.

Ahh, here’s where our letter speaks most loudly! Colossians is said to have a profoundly high view of Christ. Perhaps this is exactly the kind of letter we need to read today. Let us settle in and get reacquainted with Christ, the supreme and sufficient Savior!

Colossians 1:1-2 says,

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Please meet my new friends, the Colossians. Even though Paul is the first character mentioned, then Timothy, I’m actually going to discuss the Colossians first.

Colossae

You may be wondering what is so special about Colossae. To tell you the truth, nothing. It was said to be the least important church of the New Testament. In fact Lightfoot writes, “without doubt Colossae was the least important church to which any epistle of St. Paul is addressed.” (Word Comm p. 2) But don’t you just love that Paul wrote to them anyway? The church is still the Church no matter how small. Let us begin with a geography lesson!

Colossae was a city in Phrygia, a Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey). It is located about 100 miles east of Ephesus. Here are two maps to show you where it is:

Here is another view of Colossae:

Bird’s Eye View of Colossae

It was a thriving city in the 5th century B.C. (think Esther and the Persian King Xerxes) but had declined by the time Paul was on the scene because the major trade roads that once carved through Colossae began to bypass the town for the neighboring cities like Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Trade Route

Trade Route that ran between Laodicea and Hierapolis

Another view of the trade route by Hierapolis

It is believed that Colossae was initially made wealthy due to the textile industry, and the city was known for its wool and black and red dyes which came from the nearby chalk deposits (Strabo in Word; MacArthur).

The tri-cities were nestled in the Lycus River Valley, named after the Lycus River which ran through the towns. J.B. Lightfoot writes about the Lycus River and the impressive formations that formed as a result of the river:

Ancient monuments are buried; fertile land is overlaid; river beds choked up and streams diverted; fantastic grottoes and cascades and archways of stone are formed, by this strange, capricious power, at once destructive and creative, working silently throughout the ages. Fatal to vegetation, these encrustations spread like a stony shroud over the ground. Gleaming like glaciers on the hillside, they attract the eye of the traveller at a distance of twenty miles, and form a singularly striking feature in scenery of more than common beauty and impressiveness. (in Barclay NDSB)

Unfortunately we know only a tiny amount about the ancient city of Colossae due to the fact that it has never been excavated. Here are some images of the land as it stands currently.

Colossae view from the mound

Mount Cadmos

Colossian theater

Colossian theater (notice the “seats”)

Sometime after 61 A.D., a massive earthquake destroyed the tri-city area (according to Eusebius it was 64 A.D. and Tacitus claims it was 61 A.D.).

  • Eusebius is said to have chronicled an earthquake destroying Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis (Chron. Olymp. 210.4) in the 10th year of Nero [AD 64]. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible: “That this city [Colossae] perished by an earthquake, a short time after the date of this epistle, we have the testimony of Eusebius…”
  • Tacitus records the quake in the 7th year of Nero (Nero was Emperor of Rome from AD 54-68, putting the earthquake around AD 61—Annals 14.27. Tacitus recorded that Laodicea was also destroyed in the quake, but was later rebuilt apparently without Roman assistance. Note that Jesus wrote to Laodicea, but Colossae was not mentioned among the letters of Revelation. By this time (AD 96), Colossae in large part no longer existed.  (http://religiouslyincorrect.com/Articles/TriCityAreaEarthquake.shtml)

An interesting fact concerning Colosse is that the Lycus River brought cold water to the city. Here is a view of the Lycus River:

A well-documented fact of Colossian history was that the Lycus river, beginning at Colossae, disappeared underground for about 1/2 mile. In the area where the underground course was believed to run is now a ~30′ deep canyon. It is believed this canyon was formed by collapsing of earth caused by the AD 60 earthquake [102]. This may help explain the existence of cold springs in the area; for if the Lycus flowed several hundred yards beneath the surface, it would have emerged cold. And although the 60 AD earthquake may have rendered the underground Lycus course extinct, it’s clear that underground water activity was not uncommon.

What is most interesting about this Colossian fact can only be realized if you see a map of the area and understand a little bit about the neighboring towns of Hierapolis and Laodicea.

The rivers naturally ran toward the sea which was off to the west. This means that the Lycus River at Colossae ran to Laodicea. Hierapolis, their neighbor to the north, remains famous even today for it’s hot springs.

Hierapolis hot spring

These hot springs would run south to Laodicea where they would mix with the cold water from the Lycus River. This helps explain Jesus’ “neither cold nor hot” remarks about Laodicea, which was sandwiched approximately between its two sister cities (Rev 3:16). Interestingly, the cold water of Colossae was extremely beneficial as a refreshing drink or to help soothe a fever. Likewise the hot water of Hierapolis was used to help relieve sore muscle aches as it had healing properties at such high temperatures. This is why Jesus wanted Laodicea to be either hot (therapeutic benefits) or cold (refreshing benefits) but not lukewarm.

Audience

The majority of the people at Colossae were most likely Gentiles. However Josephus describes a movement from Babylon of about 2,000 Jewish families into the area of Colossae during the days of Antiochus the Great (223-187 B.C. – 1st century B.C.; Ant. XII 6.4).

The letter was most likely written to Gentile Christians rather than Jewish believers, and this is evidenced in four ways:

  1. How the author addresses the Jewish legalism that plagued the church (1:12, 21, 24, 27; 2:11-13; 3:5-7);
  2. The scarce allusions to the OT;
  3. A list of Gentile-specific vices; and
  4. A near lack of references to the issue of reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles in the congregation (noting 3:11, 4:11).

The congregation was said to be full of new believers (but honestly, most churches were new if you think about it!), and we might assume that they either were experiencing some uncertainty in their faith due to outside pressures OR were needing more instruction in the truth of the gospel in order to buffer the outside pressure. In other words, they either needed correction or encouragement (or perhaps both). We must not be quick to assume that they had gone astray though because Paul’s tone does not seem to be harsh (as in Galatians for example).

Rome

I mentioned that Colossae was in the region known as Phrygia, a Roman province. Here is a map showing the entirety of the Roman Empire.

With the exception of the orange and yellow, this is how widespread the empire was during Paul’s time. It stretched from England to India. And just to give you an idea of Rome’s dominance, they ruled over this area (give or take a few regions) for 1500 years! To give you an idea of how incredible this is, our country is a little over 240 years old.

The reason Rome is important to our study is that we can know some defining characteristics of the culture in Colossae and the surrounding regions. We will be talking about the Persians sometime in the near future, and like the Persians, the Romans had a lust for power. They had conquest ingrained in their bones. However, unlike the Persians, they did not rule with an iron fist per se. They allowed more freedom under the law, and this resulted in a fairly long lasting sense of peace throughout the empire.

The Romans had a definite philosophy on what made a country great. Naturally they would espouse their views as the “best” way of living. They essentially believed the Roman way was “the way.” Interestingly, there were several factors that made the spread of the gospel much easier during the Roman rule.

  1. Political unity produced economic and political stability as well as encouraging trade between cities and regions.
  2. Military and trade routes meant easy access to large numbers of people.
  3. Greek was the universal language and made communication easier between regions.
  4. The mixing of cultures allowed for easier cross-cultural evangelism.

However, as great as Rome was, there was also a blending of religions. It was very easy to hold 1) syncretistic beliefs during this time because the Romans had so many gods (just like the Greeks) and did not hold to a monotheistic framework. What was one more god going to hurt? I’ll just add Jesus to my repertoire. They were polytheistic and inclusive.

Just imagine what the culture was like for the Colossians. Grab a little of that faith, a little of this one, sprinkle some of that one, and viola, I think I’ve figured out the best concoction to be fully spiritual.

In addition to this, 2) Rome was seen as the great light that had come to be the great salvation. “A lot of people had put their hope in Rome’s ability to take care of them.” (Matt Chandler)

Author and Date

The letter specifically says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus…and Timothy our brother…” It would make sense then that the author is Paul, right? Scholars note that just because the letter begins with Paul’s name does not necessarily indicate true authorship. There is evidence that people in the first century wrote letters using Paul’s name to lend credence to their words. I personally think that Paul wrote the letter, HOWEVER some scholars have questioned the Pauline authorship of Colossians. Yet a greater amount of evidence points to Paul as the author.

Let me give you some reasons for both arguments:

Those who question a Pauline authorship believe that the writer’s vocabulary/style and theology are different from that of Paul’s. Let’s talk about style first (from Berkhof):

  1. The style is said to be different from that of the apostle. They believe that some of the word choices are not typical of Paul and that the construction of the letter carries a certain heaviness that feels different from a genuine Pauline letter.
    1. To answer this objection, it is not uncommon for a person’s vocabulary to change over time, especially when dealing with the specific circumstances at Colossae. In addition his choice of “new” words (not used in other letters) is not proof that he did not write the letter. He also uses different words in the letter to the Romans, but no one questions the authenticity of that letter! The difference in his vocabulary is more likely due to his subject matter.
  2. It is believed that the Christology (theology) of this letter is un-Pauline and conflicts with the representation of Paul in his other writings.
    1. To address this objection: There is no reason to believe that Paul could not have more fully developed his view of Christ (Christology). Nothing in his Christology actually conflicts with other Pauline passages on this matter (Rom 8:19-22; 1 Cor 8:6; 2 Cor 4:4; Phil 2:5-11).

Interestingly, “there is no historical evidence that the Pauline authorship of Colossians was ever suspect in the early church” (bible.org). Louis Berkhof also explains that there is “no good reasons to doubt the Pauline authorship of this Epistle. {Marcion and the school of Valentinus recognized it as genuine. And the great witnesses of the end of the second century, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertulilian repeatedly quote it by name}.” He then lists several early church fathers who attest to Paul’s authorship of Colossians. (http://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp/link/http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Elou_berkhof%5Elou_berkhof.INT_%20026.pdf/at/Introduction%20to%20the%20New%20Testament)

Douglas Moo notes “there are simply too many specific personal claims woven throughout the letter” for this to have been written by anyone other than Paul. (Pillar)

In other words, when the beginning sentence claims it was written by “Paul, an apostle…” the people believed it was from Paul!

The other twist in this plot is that Timothy is also mentioned as if he were a co-author. Douglas Moo writes,

Timothy, enlisted among Paul’s co-workers at the beginning of the second missionary journey (Acts 16:1–3), became the most important of Paul’s ministry associates. Brother, therefore, is probably intended to suggest Timothy’s close association with Paul in ministry. What role does Timothy play in the composition of this letter? Schweizer and Dunn, among others, suggest that Timothy may have been the actual writer of the letter, with Paul perhaps reading and “signing off” on what Timothy had written. But this may give Timothy more credit than he deserves…. To be sure, Timothy’s inclusion in the prescripts of these other letters can readily be explained in terms of his involvement with those churches. (Pillar NTC)

I agree that we don’t need to make too much of this extra author because we honestly can’t know if he wrote any of the letter. He is mentioned in the greeting in three other letters – Philippians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. It’s possible that he was present with Paul and showed the same concern for this little church. I just love that it shows that cycle of missions at work – he’s like Paul’s apprentice.

This letter was written from prison so unfortunately the dating of this letter is also uncertain. To spare you all the details, Paul was either in Ephesus (100 miles away) or Rome (1,200 miles away). An Ephesian imprisonment would mean an earlier date around 52-55 A.D. and a Roman imprisonment would be later around 60-62 A.D. (Moo, Pillar)

There are equally good reasons for both dates. I would say that we can put the date of the letter before 60 A.D. for certain because of that earthquake (remember, it happened sometime after 61 A.D.). “Paul did not refer to this catastrophic event; thus, scholars believe Paul had either not yet heard the news, or that his letters to Colossians and Philemon predated the quake.” (TriCityAreaEarthquake)

And also because if it were much later, then Paul couldn’t have written it (because he was said to be in Rome after 60 A.D. and according to tradition, died in Rome). This line of thinking leans toward an Ephesian imprisonment but does not entirely rule out the Roman imprisonment.

There are four Prison Epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Most people group Colossians with Philemon because the greetings in each letter are sent from practically the same people (Phile 23; Col 1:7; 4:12-19). In fact the two letters have eight of the nine names in common. Philemon 12 tells us that Tychicus (who is mentioned in Col 4:7) had Onesimus as his companion on the journey to the Lycus Valley.

Interestingly, though Paul is the author of this letter, there is no evidence that he was ever in Colossae. Paul passed through the region of Phrygia twice, once at the start of his second journey and again at the beginning of his third journey (Acts 16:6, 18:23). However he did not even come close to the city of Colossae the first time, and if he did the second time, he certainly did not found the church there (since he says in Col 2:1 that they had never seen his face before).

It is most likely that his preaching in Ephesus (between 52-55 AD) allowed for others, namely Epaphras, to take the message to the city of Colossae (1:7; 4:12; Acts 19). Many believe that Epaphras was converted at Ephesus under Paul’s teaching and then was trained and prepared to go plant a church in his hometown of Colossae. (https://bible.org/seriespage/background-colossians)

Reason for Letter

As in every letter, it is best to look at the overall picture before plunging into the details. This is why I believe in reading the letter in its entirety when you first begin a bible study of any New Testament letter. One of the first questions I like to ask is: why was this letter written?

It seems that every letter Paul wrote was meant to correct some sort of error and also to offer encouragement for the believers to press on in their circumstances. The letter to the Colossians is no different. Paul addresses a threat of false teaching which sought to “undermine the person and work of Christ and the sufficiency of the salvation believers have in Him.” (bible.org bkgd)

You see how he speaks to the false teaching by expounding on sound teaching (theology) in Col 1 and 2, giving them the resources they would need to fend off these opponents.

He then offers his encouragement to the believers who might have been unsure of their salvation and their Savior. Paul also congratulates them at the beginning of chapter two for their “good order and the firmness of [their] faith.” (2:5)

The letter to the Colossians is best known for its major emphasis on Christology, or the summing up of all things in Christ. Many have questioned whether this high view even jives with the other books of the NT. Can they possibly be wondering if Paul declares too high of view of Christ? I just don’t see how this is a problem!

Perhaps this illustration about me and my sister will help me make my point more clear.

I have a sister who is over three years younger than me. She is taller, has darker, curlier hair, and darker skin. She has the most amazing dark eyes with the darkest eye lashes which everyone always envies about her! She is beautiful and funny and talented. One of my favorite things that everyone asks is, are you two twins? Ha! Yes, I’ll take that compliment. We look similar though I’ve just explained to you how different we are.

My mother, sister, and me

But as different as we are in appearance, we are worlds apart in our interests and preferences. She is a musician, I couldn’t tell you the difference between G and A. She went through a “goth” period with the dark, colorful hair and nails, I have never even dyed my hair (highlights yes..). She loves horror flicks and Halloween, I get scared watching Jurassic Park (The raptor scene!!! it’s terrifying people!).

If someone were to write a letter to her about how to handle a troubling situation, it would sound very different from how a letter to me might sound. The message will ultimately be the same, but you’ll find very distinct emphases because not only are we different people but what would be troubling to her might be different from what would trouble me. Yet at the end of the day, my sister and I aren’t so different. I still need Jesus just like she needs Jesus.

Louis Berkhof writes “the Christology of this letter is in perfect harmony with that of previous Epistles, but there is a difference of emphasis.” Paul emphasizes the significant impact Christ makes not only on the Church but on the whole Cosmos or creation. “All things were created by Him and find the purpose of their existence in Him.” Word Commentary notes that the specific conditions at Colossae necessitated the need for this high view. I would go further to say that WE ALL need this high view of Christ.

Many have said that the letter to the Colossians is the twin letter of Ephesians. Berkhof notes that of the 155 verses in Ephesians, 78 find parallels in Colossians. As you read in the intro, Ephesians focuses on ecclesiology (study of the church) whereas Colossians focuses on Christology.

So now you may ask, what exactly was the Colossian heresy? What was the threat of false teaching? Who was it that was threatening this congregation?

All great questions! This issue is the topic of MUCH debate beginning in the 19th century (interestingly, there was no debate about it before this time). The writers of the Word Commentary note 44 different suggestions among 19th-20th century NT scholars. Just to relieve your angst, I will not be going over all 44 views. Just 20. Aww! I’m teasing…

My personal preference when dealing with unclear passages or issues in a passage is to take a look at how Scripture, and to be more specific, how Paul handles the truth in the letter in order to combat any external pressures. It also just so happens that knowing a little about the culture and history can inform our view as well. I will not go into great detail concerning the WHO because we will deal with the opponents as the passage progresses.

So how does Paul handle these opponents? Well he warns the Colossians to be on their guard (2:8) because these opponents would try to ensnare them “by philosophy and empty deceit” (2:8). But he also mentions “human traditions” that are set up against Christ (2:8). Finally there seems to be a Jewish edge to these opponents which you will find in 2:16-19.

In other words, the Colossians were dealing with a combination of philosophy and Jewish tradition. Arnold argues, “The Colossian ‘philosophy’ … represents a combination of Phrygian folk belief, local folk Judaism, and Christianity. The local folk belief has some distinctive Phrygian qualities, but it also has much in common with what we could also describe as magic or ritual power.”65 (Moo, Pillar)

{Remember the tolerance or inclusive nature of the Romans.}

This means that the opponents were not wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing, lurking in and among the church members, but rather were most likely outsiders pressing in on the Colossian church. To be clear, they were still wolves, but not those who had infiltrated the church as we saw in Titus.

In his letter, Paul also uses slogans or catch words of the opponents but turns them on their heads by using different definitions to more accurately reflect the truth. For example he uses the phrase “all the fullness” (2:9), which was likely a catchword used by the opponents (based on studies of word usage in the NT and early Greek writings). Moo notes, “Paul’s use of this ‘fullness’ suggests that the false teachers were claiming to offer a “fullness” of spiritual experience that could not be found through Christ alone.52” (Pillar) So as to highjack and therefore baptize the slogan, Paul applies this title to Jesus and not to whatever “fullness” the opponents were focusing on.

A major criticism Paul makes about the opponents was that they were puffed up with pride (v. 18 “their unspiritual minds puff them up with idle notions”). Apparently they were bragging about their ability to find ultimate spiritual “fulfillment” by means of their own spiritual program of visions and asceticism as well as observance of several Jewish traditions. (Moo, Pillar) Moo writes, “Paul … implies that the main deficiency … the false teachers found in Christ was his inability to provide ultimate spiritual ‘fulfillment.’” (Pillar)

This spiritual program they followed caused them to separate themselves from finding the true source of spiritual power which is Christ alone.

The essence of false teaching was that it was “not according to Christ” (2:8), or to use another phrase from Paul, they were trying to set up anything against Christ. {Christ + _______}

Thus the reason for our title, Christ – sufficient and supreme. Paul teaches the Colossians that they can find all they need in Him. Though the opponents would not teach according to Christ, he would continue to teach “according to Christ.” (I’m keeping this short and precise because you will get into this more as we dive into the particulars.)

Key Themes

Finally to give you some themes or key words to watch for:

  • Wisdom/knowledge/mystery (Christ is where it is found and He makes it available to all His people, not to an elite only)
  • Slavery v. Freedom (Christ has overthrown the powers; victory in Jesus!)
  • Old self v. new self (The Greek word for “old” does not refer to something old in years but to something that is worn out and useless. The old self died with Christ, and the life we now enjoy is a new, divinely given life that is the life of Christ Himself (Gal 2:20). (MacArthur))
  • Already, not-yet (we already have salvation but heaven is not yet) (Paul’s [often discusses] what God has “already” done in Christ [which] is balanced and kept in tension with what has “not yet” happened. Yet Colossians replaces the temporal scheme of “already” and “not yet” with the spatial scheme of “below” and “above” (3:1–4) and teaches a “realized” eschatology. We are already resurrected in Christ. We are already free in Christ. Douglas Moo Pillar Comm)

Final thoughts – Introducing Christ, the only one you need

As we ponder the bigger picture of this letter, I’d like us to consider God’s heart for His people. What kind of God hand picks the most zealous Jewish man to lead His missionary movement? A movement that will largely reach the Gentiles? Think about who Paul was before Christ interrupted his religious tirade against the followers of Christ. He called himself the Hebrew of Hebrews in Phil 3:4-6:

though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

If there was anyone who would be considered godly (to have spiritual fullness), it was Paul. One thing that I’ve read over and over again is that the Jews did not proselytize. They did not go out and make disciples of other nations. But Christ chose Saul, later to be known as Paul, to lead His church, becoming the apostle to the Gentiles!

And think about how incredibly suited or qualified he was to be able to preach to the Jews. He knew the Law backwards and front (Napoleon Dynamite reference! BAM!). He was able, from his vast training in the Hebrew culture and Scripture, to explain to the Gentiles (and Jews) how Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Scriptures.

He was also able to see that, as great as the Law was, it could not do what Christ did. (Rom 8:3 “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.”) How perfect then was it for God to choose Paul who would be able to refute any opponents to the gospel of Christ!

Think about how difficult it must have been for the Colossian believers to come to faith in Christ only to be told that they needed something else, in fact that they needed to become Jewish and/or mystical in their practices. That they needed some extra knowledge that only this philosophy would give them. Or worse, that they couldn’t possibly be God’s chosen people because they were not Jews. How could God choose Gentiles? (said with utter disdain/contempt)

Surely these opponents would have shaken them enough to cause them to question their salvation and their Savior. Are we really qualified to share in the “inheritance of the saints in light” (1:12)? Do we really have forgiveness of our sins (1:14; 2:13-14)? Are we really “holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (1:22)? Could these philosophies and human traditions really help us to attain to the Godward life? (1:22-23, 2:8) Can we really have “full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery” (2:2)? How can we, being dead in our sins, be made alive (2:13)?

More importantly, how did the opponents cause them to doubt Christ? Was He really God (1:15, 19; 2:9)? Is He really as important as we’ve been told (1:15-20)? Could Christ really cancel the record of debt against me (2:14)? Or would the law do this (2:8, 17, 23)? Was Christ’s death also for me, a Gentile (2:11-15; 3:11)? Is Christ really supreme? Is He really sufficient?

There is truly nothing new under the sun. Paul and the Colossians had to deal with opponents to the gospel, and we are no different today. What philosophies do we buy into which claim to have the answer to all our spiritual woes? What tried and true traditions are we told to follow in order to be truly godly?

So you’ve tried praying, and you aren’t getting the answers you hoped for… have you tried ______? You don’t like the direction your marriage is heading in…have you tried ______? You are unsure how to handle those unruly children…have you tried ______?

Is Christ not enough?

Scared about the future of the nation? Worried about your job? Anxious about family relationships? Struggling with sin?

Is Christ not enough?

Let Paul paint you a picture of your Savior. The Messiah. The Head of the Church. The risen One! The One who is our Peace. Our Hope of Glory. Our Victory over sin and death! The King on His throne. Christ, who is our Life.

Christ, not enough?!

No, Christ sufficient and supreme!

The only One you need.

Isaiah 1: The Consuming Fire

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I remember the first time I learned about God as the all-consuming fire. It was when I first heard about Moses (the un-cut version – not the nicey-nice children’s version). Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy groundIt was such a strange and foreign image to my mind – God being a fire. But I was young and have since learned more about this consuming fire.

The next time I remember reading about fire in the Bible was when I read about the Hebrews in Babylon. They would not bow down, so they were thrown into the fire. But then there was a fourth person in the fire! And when the three men came out (yes, they walked right through the blazing inferno), not even a hair was singed on their bodies. Okay, make a mental note: not only is God an all-consuming fire, but He can rescue His faithful followers out of a fire. (You have no idea how much I want to continue talking about this amazing story…but I digress.)

In college my Old Testament professor drove home the image of fire as a metaphor for judgment. For some reason this concept has stuck with me more than all the others. It seems like fire is sprinkled all throughout the Bible: God as the pillar of fire. Elijah at Mount Carmel. Endless sacrifices. The refiner’s fire. The tongues of flame at Pentecost. The fiery pit of hell (and those are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head). Aside from these examples, the largest majority of references to fire actually pertain to judgment (whether from God or man). Frankly, I see why fire is used as a metaphor for judgment. The imagery is frightening. I can’t think of a worse way to die either – to be burned alive in a fiery blaze.

It’s with all these pictures in mind that I read through the first chapter of Isaiah. First my eye caught the words “Sodom” and “Gomorrah” (v. 9-10), and I recalled Genesis 19:24:

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. (ESV)

Terrifying reminder number one. Surely the Judahites’ ears perked up a little when they heard Isaiah speak the name of those two condemned cities. And then in Isaiah 1:10 he calls them “you leaders of ‘Sodom'” and “people of ‘Gomorrah.'” I’m sorry, did he just refer to us as the leaders of the worst cities ever? Why yes, I think he did.

He goes on to describe their self-centered approach to worship, calling it sinful and false (v. 13).  Now those are fightin’ words, Isaiah. We’re just doing what’s in the Law. We’re following our religion. And how’s that working out for you? God says He wants none of your sacrifices, He’s sick of your offerings, He gets no pleasure from your animal sacrifices, wishes you’d stop bringing your meaningless gifts, is disgusted by your incense offerings, hates your celebrations and festivals, believes all of this is a burden to Him and He cannot stand them (v. 11-14). He even refuses to look when they lift up their hands in prayer because their hands are covered with the blood of the innocent (v. 15). If we’re being honest, maybe Sodom and Gomorrah is a fitting description for them after all.

Following this laundry list of all the things appalling to God, Isaiah (God) tells them “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of My sight. Give up your evil ways.” (v. 16, NLT)

Anytime someone says “get out of my sight,” it’s usually uttered with absolute contempt or disdain. And usually, the person isn’t joking around. It’s a serious matter and requires an immediate response. I suppose you could call it an ultimatum. Do X or else Y will happen to you. Isaiah goes on to tell them what they should do (v. 17) and in verse 18 we read a familiar passage:

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as  white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool. (ESV)

But we often miss v. 19-20, “If you will only obey Me…But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword…” (oh boy, another judgment metaphor). He tells them, I don’t care for all your “religious”, lack-luster, disingenuous worship. I want your obedience. I want to take away your sins, and I want to make you holy. In v.24-26 Isaiah tells the people that God will use judgment or discipline to make this happen. He would even bring renewal through the appointment of godly leaders. Again in v. 27-28 He reminds them to repent (wash yourselves, be clean, give up your evil ways!) and if they don’t, they’ll be destroyed, consumed. And we finally arrive at the image of fire in v. 31:

The strongest among you will disappear like straw;
    their evil deeds will be the spark that sets it on fire.
They and their evil works will burn up together,
    and no one will be able to put out the fire. (NLT)

Their own sins will set them on fire, and no one will be able to put it out. It’s one thing to have a blazing fire that can be contained. It’s a completely other thing to have a devouring fire that can’t be extinguished. That’s complete destruction. That’s an all-consuming fire. And that‘s how God describes Himself on several occasions (Deut 4:24, 9:3, Is 30:27, 33:14, Lam 2:3, Heb 12:29). What do I even make of this?

The passage in Deuteronomy tells us that God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. He refers to Himself as a jealous God several times as well (Ex 20:4-5, Deut 5:9, 6:15, Ez 38:19 and it goes on and on), and it’s almost always coupled with anger (as burning or kindled or smoking – in other words, like a fire). Perhaps we have a hard time with this fiery, jealous anger, because when we respond with jealous anger, it’s sinful. I believe we could have moments of divine jealousy, but I think those are rare. But God does not sin. His jealousy is completely legitimate and founded. His jealousy is the Lover’s jealousy written in Song of Solomon 8:6:

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.

When the Bible speaks of God’s jealousy, it is usually a jealousy for His holy reputation and for those things and people who belong to Him – 1) God is jealous for His name, 2) He is jealous for Jerusalem/Zion, and 3) He is jealous for us (Ez 39:25, Zech 1:14, James 4:5). First, He is unwilling to share His glory (Is 42:8, 48:11). Interestingly God’s glory is known as the shekinah glory, and when He manifests His glory on earth, it appears as a brilliant light that blazes like a fire (Ex 30:44-45; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Ez 1:28; Matt 17:1-8). It is something that no man can behold in its fullness and still live to tell about it (Ex 33:20). Secondly, God is jealous for the place where He has said He would make His name, eyes, and heart dwell (1 Kings 9:3, 11:36; 2 Kings 21:7). This again is connected to His reputation. And finally, like the jealous lover, God is not willing to share His people (who also bear His name) with anyone or anything (Ez 36:22-32). He will defend the holiness of His name wherever He has made His name to dwell. We are caught up in a love that is as fierce as a fire.

This jealousy, though it is a burning desire for His glory, somehow manages to be great news for us. Actually it is our only hope. In the Ezekiel 36 passage, God declares:

23I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)

His motivation is for “the holiness of [His] great name,” but we benefit from this jealousy as He makes us holy and gives us His Spirit who makes it possible for us to obey Him. The all-consuming fire came down to earth, but He didn’t devour and destroy. He came to save (John 3:16-17; 1 Tim 1:15). John 1:1-5, 14 tells us of the light that came down:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)

This is the greatest news! This is the gospel. The people spoken of in Isaiah whose own sin had set them on fire have a God who is greater than their sin. They have a God who is greater than the Law which they were trying so hard to follow (Rom 8:1-4). Come, though your sins are as scarlet, I will make them as snow. Come, I will cleanse you, giving you a new heart and putting My Spirit in youCome, I have set My name on you as seal, and I am the jealous Lover. You are Mine.

Isaiah 1: When It’s All About Me (But Really…It’s Not)

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My husband and another man at our church took our Sunday School class through lessons on the prophets last year. It was (mostly) chronological which I found extremely helpful in placing their prophecies at the correct times in history. Knowing the context opens up our understanding of  the text. For example I learned that Isaiah’s prophetic ministry ran from 739 BC – 681 BC and through four kings (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah). In addition to this, I know that in 722 BC King Shalmanesar V of Assyria attacked Israel and dispersed them into various regions in his kingdom, while also importing other cultures into the northern kingdom (Israel). He mostly speaks to Judah, but still addresses Israel in his prophecies. Interestingly Isaiah was a well educated aristocrat and had access to the king and the royal court. Having this knowledge makes me more aware of certain nuances in the text and provides more meaning behind some of his message.

Now when I read the Bible for my own personal benefit (as in, I’m not reading it to teach to someone else), I like to research the background and then take a long, slow stroll through the text. Sometimes I’ll double back and walk the same path several more times just to make sure I didn’t read it too quickly or miss something. I will underline in different colors (with my new Bible because it is an illustrated Bible), and each color has a purpose (teal for mankind, purple for God, blue for commands, and so on). I will also circle words that are repetitive (Holy One of Israel, Lord of Hosts, a series of I’s and you’s), and I watch for patterns of thought that might meander throughout the entire chapter (burden, sin, evil, fire). I even write main themes for verses and draw pictures if I have a really vivid image in my mind after reading the text (fire). This is how I search the Scriptures. This is how I observe and sift through the details. I’ve been reading Isaiah 1 for a week now if that gives you a clue (and I’m not sure I’m done reading it yet).

Last week, I wrote about the expectant heart when searching the Scriptures. It is approaching the Word with a certain expectation that the Holy Spirit will speak through it and being unwilling to turn back until you have gained a fresh insight. It is bold, and it might border on foolish, but it’s what I do. Sometimes the insights are tiny, and sometimes they are enormous. I’ll take what I can get. Beggars can’t be choosers.

This week as I’ve read through Isaiah 1, I’ve listened for the heart of God for the people of Judah. I’ve listened for Isaiah’s heart as he prophecies to God’s wayward people. And I can’t lie – I heard something for my own heart. No, I don’t mean God audibly spoke to me out of the pages of my new, beautiful, teal Bible. I mean the Spirit provided me with a spiritual perspective that spans the ages. It’s utterly amazing to me that God can use a message written specifically for one group of people at one specific point in history and also speak it into the hearts of His people throughout all time. His Word has life and breath, and it breathes into my life today. Thanks be to God for His Word.

However this Word can break my heart with its raw emotion and dramatic (sometimes gut-wrenching) word pictures. At least that’s where I found myself this week. (taken from ESV)

My people don’t recognize my care for them. (v. 3)

They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him. (v. 4)

Then I got to verses 10-15:

10 Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.”
    Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
11 “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
    the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
    and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
    I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
    They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
    Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
    for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.

There’s an awful lot of you‘s and your‘s in those verses. It actually disgusted me (and apparently it disgusted God too). How do we get so turned around, thinking that even worship is about us? Of all the things that should always and only be about God, worship is at the top of the list. And yet, Isaiah writes that God is repulsed by the sacrifices, the ceremonies, the gifts, offerings, celebrations, special days, meetings, festivals, and prayers. What makes you think I want this? Well, didn’t you tell us in Your law to do these things? You’ve missed the point of the Law then… 

When have I missed the true intent of God’s commands? When have I made even worship about me? When have I done something for God that was more like a burden than a blessing? That wasn’t actually for Him at all? Stop bringing Me your meaningless giftsI want no more of your fake worship

Yikes. That’s bad news. That’s a heart check right there.

Lord, forgive me when I make my life all about me, myself, and I. Reorient my perspective so that my focus is on You. Help me to learn from these moments so that I don’t also find myself in exile (like Israel and eventually Judah).

 

Having an Expectant Heart

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During my college days, I remember reading through the book of Isaiah, and I’m fairly certain that few lines were left unmarked. I have very fond memories of reading through this prophet of old, and so it was with great excitement and anticipation that I decided to read through it again. It has been that long (2004) since I last read through it, so it feels like I’m catching up with an old friend. Life has a way of going on even if you’re not entirely ready for it to move on, and my time in the book of Isaiah during college is one of those times I wish I could bottle up and re-open when I wanted to rekindle the joy of those moments.

Isn’t it all too easy to wish for the exhilarating times in God’s Word where it feels like your spiritual mind is opened up to behold the wondrous truths you had never thought of or known before? We get stuck thinking that these mountaintop moments are the only way we can approach the reading of God’s Word. Well, I get stuck in this thinking anyway. Can I tell you a secret? I was a little nervous about reading Isaiah again, because I didn’t want to “ruin” my favorite memories from my time in it during college. But then I got over it because God reminded me that His Word is living and active. When we get in the Word, the Word gets in us. The Living God actively reveals Himself to His beloved as they faithfully search for Him in His Word. He uses the Holy Spirit to reveal the truths of God as we need those truths. This is why I can read Isaiah thirteen years later and see it with fresh eyes.

Now what to do with that insatiable thirst for the mountaintop moment? I’m convinced that my motives aren’t entirely selfish (of course). I really really want more of God. I don’t want to settle for good when I can have great. This is why I beg and plead and stubbornly wait and feverishly search for that special word or message that’s just waiting to be found. I’m not searching for a high, I’m searching for the One who is higher than I (Ps 61:2). It’s the sentiment from Christy Nockels song “Waiting Here for You”:

If faith can move the mountains
Let the mountains move
We come with expectation
Waiting here for you, I’m waiting here for you
You’re the Lord of all creation
And still you know my heart
The Author of Salvation
You’ve loved us from the start
Waiting here for You
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it’s You we adore
Singing Alleluia
You are everything You’ve promised
Your faithfulness is true
And we’re desperate for Your presence
All we need is You
Waiting here for You
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it’s You we adore
Singing Alleluia
Singing Alleluia
Alleluia, singing alleluia, alleluia
Waiting here for You
It’s that child-like expectancy at Christmas. It’s that thirsty desperation that grips our parched throats. Only in this case, it’s our parched hearts that can only be quenched with the Living Water that is our God.  And I believe He really wants to fill us up.
But then what if He doesn’t? I have to remind myself that His filling may not look like I want it to look. I’m going to write a post about something I learned (or rather was convicted about) that wasn’t pleasant but oh did it fill my soul! It was a message that I sat and waited for and pondered over and read and re-read and underlined and circled and colored. I’m confident that I would not have received this message if I hadn’t been stubborn and refused to give up waiting. However, it should be noted that I am not waiting around in order to make the text say whatever I want it to say. I’m not stubbornly raising my fist to God and telling Him what I think He ought to say to me. I’m not begging for a message I want to hear or that might make me feel comfortable or happy. Far from it! It’s also not a rejection of a truth that’s hard to hear in order to wait longer for a “nicer” truth to come along.
What it really boils down to is patiently seeking to know God, even if it means I learn some ugly truths about myself. Fortunately it can also mean learning life-changing, perspective-shifting truths that enliven my heart and soul. I trust that He’s going to speak – the real question is, will I be humbly submitted in order to listen (hear)?
Perhaps I’ll never give up on this pursuit of the great. Maybe God sees me as a fool sometimes and maybe I’m wrong about this (maybe it’s not really great). I trust that as I’m getting in the Word, the Word will get to me.

Titus: Final Words for the Church

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Titus 3:9-15 –  But (R)avoid foolish (S)controversies, (T)genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for (U)they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, (V)after warning him once and then twice, (W)have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or (X)Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me (Y)at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and (Z)Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn (AA)to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not (AB)be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. (AC)Grace be with you all.

{If you’d rather skip the reading, you can find the video here: http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/ajfpe7o}

Don’t you just LOVE the richness of Scripture? The depths of God which no one can possibly know entirely? Myhope is that you have fallen in love with the doctrine of God, not for the sake of knowledge or pride in knowing, but because in it you have found the heart of God and it causes you to fall in love with Him all over again. We love because He first loved us.

And don’t you also love the picture we read of God pouring out the Spirit richly on us? It was foretold long ago by Isaiah and Joel (Is 32:15 “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high…”; Is 44:3 “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring…”; Joel 2:28-29 “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…your sons and daughters…old men…young men…servants…”). For it is in the giving of the Spirit through the Son that it is even made possible for us to live holy lives. We respond to the Truth of God (doctrine) by obeying Him (godly living).

We’ve come to the closing at last, and I wonder if your heart is as heavy as mine. Must I say good-bye to Titus? To the Cretans who have wormed their way into my heart? We have one final session with our friends.

First I want to point out that this closing reveals the evidence of mission activity in Crete and the surrounding nations. “There is an assumption in this letter that the life and mission of the new churches on Crete is shared with Christian communities elsewhere. We see how Paul utilizes trained workers from all over to share in the building up of the churches as they send and receive the new workers. Titus played a significant role in the establishment of the churches (Titus 1:5), but he is soon to move on to other work and someone else will take up the task on Crete (Titus 3:12). From the beginning, these new mission churches were to be productive (v. 14) in the wider Christian community and its task in the world.” (Wieland, “Grace manifest: missional church in the letter to Titus” in The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice).

This is also evidence of God pouring out those He has equipped in order to strengthen the church and spread the light to the world at large. With this in mind, let us begin…

Counterproductive Lives

To be counterproductive means to defeat one’s purpose or to hinder or act against that which you aim to accomplish. In the previous verses we learned that the people were to be devoted to good works (to Jesus) because THOSE things were excellent and profitable, and then Paul says in verse 9:

9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

  • AVOID

Perhaps if Paul were speaking in today’s language, he would tell us, “Avoid it like the plague!” Turn yourself around and get away from it! Shun it. Pretend it’s vomit on the floor and give it a wide berth. In fact this word (periistemi – per-ee-is’-tay-mee) is in the middle voice, and carries the idea of “going around something in order to avoid it.” (Exeg. Comm. https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)  So yes, stay away!

Interestingly this verb is a present imperative of command calling for a continual attitude that seeks to avoid such useless discussions. (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263). Paul’s command is for them to avoid the foolish (literally moronic from the Greek word moros) controversies, the fights about what God’s Word says. Since we’ve already gone over what Paul meant by “foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law” let me summarize with this quote:

The second part of the passage warns against useless discussions. The Greek philosophers spent their time on their fine-spun problems. The Jewish Rabbis spent their time building up imaginary and deifying genealogies for the characters of the Old Testament. The Jewish scribes spent endless hours discussing what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and what was and was not unclean. It has been said that there is a danger that a man may think himself religious because he discusses religious questions. There is a kind of discussion group which argues simply for the sake of arguing.” (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

As Steven Cole writes, “Truth must be obeyed, not philosophized.” (bible.org “dealing with factious people”) Avoid these things…

In lesson 3 we talked about how Paul was concerned about the believers being led astray by the false teachers, but that he is also concerned about the unity of the church. The NIV says in 1 Tim 1:4b “…Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.

Talk about being counterproductive to the advancement of God’s kingdom! AVOID foolish controversies and fights about the law. Why? Because these fights are:

  • Unprofitable, worthless

Paul seems to be going for an emphatic statement here because these two words are very similar in meaning. At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, to be unprofitable means that it has no profit for you or others. If you look up the word “unprofitable” it can also mean “useless” (which makes sense because something that brings you no profit is useless or worthless to you)!

Remember Titus 1:10 spoke of “empty talkers” who were like “windbags” and we likened that to idol worship because idols are “empty wind”? They were worthless…

The word worthless is the Greek word

  1. Mataios (mat’-ay-os) and meant being of no use, idle, empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, lacking truth (Lexicon)
  2. Some of its uses include a person’s worship that is worthless (James 1:26), useless fasting (extra biblical), foolish thoughts (1 Cor 3:20), futile desire, directed toward worthless things (extra biblical), empty (1 Cor 15:17), futile way of living (1 Pet 1:18), and idols (Acts 14:15, Esther 4:17, Jer 2:5, 8:19; 3 Macc 6:11).

You see the connection between the two words! Unprofitable or useless and worthless (even with the connection to idols).

Paul writes in 2 Tim 2:14-16 “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words;(X) it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.(Y) 16 Avoid godless chatter,(Z) because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”

Paul tells Titus to avoid controversies and fights about the law because they’re worthless. In 2 Tim 2 he says it’s “of no value.” And we learned that those who were unfit were not able to stand the test, or not approved. This is why in 2 Tim 2, Paul follows up his point with “Do your best to present yourself to God as one APPROVED…[one] who correctly handles the Word…”

1 Tim 6:4-5 is also helpful in its description of those who choose to stir up fights about the Law: “They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words(H) that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth

I guess any one of us could look back on a time when we were not so proud of ourselves in an argument. Perhaps we kept pressing on into the fight, wanting so badly to be right, but only stirring up more and more trouble as we stubbornly refused to give up. This is UNHEALTHY and ROBS people of the Truth. Thus the reason Paul tells them to AVOID these things. They do not profit, are of no value, they are worthless and do not advance the gospel but rather rob people of the truth! Avoid them.

Counterfeit Lives 

Something that is counterfeit means it is an imitation of something valuable or important with the intent to deceive. A counterfeit person is a fraud. A fake. The one who stirs up division is living a counterfeit life of the gospel of Christ.

Paul continues in verse 10-11

 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

  • Stirs up division

To stir up division is the word:

  1. Airetikos (hair-ret-ih-kos) meaning “to cause division, to be factious, a division-maker” (Greek Lexicon)
  2. Only used here in Titus.
  3. Word origin: Started out to mean “to “choose, or to prefer…to take for oneself.” …It had the idea of someone who makes a resolute choice. It then started to mean someone whose choice is obstinate and against the truth. It is used here to mean one who had chosen an idea, … a teaching, a doctrine, a viewpoint, a perspective, a course of behavior that was not acceptable to the church…or the Word of God. …Literally, one who chooses for himself…He will not submit to the Word…or to the leadership.” (MacArthur)
  4. Eventually this word came to mean Heretic!

Don’t be a heretic! Those who would try to cause division. There are so many, even among us, who are divisive or factious (one who chooses for himself). Not thinking of others. You can recognize them as those who want to “start a conversation” about some hot topic (HELLO! “foolish controversy” or “quarrel about the [Word]”!!!). These people have an “unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels” (HELLO! They’re just looking to pick a fight with whoever falls for the bait). It’s the same thing we addressed when we learned about the false teachers and deceivers.

They might mask their true motives by trying to get you “on their side” as if they were fighting for some noble cause. They’ll try to get you to believe that the godly thing to do is to “fight” for some issue – for some issue that typically tends to be controversial. But what does it actually accomplish? Almost every time, it’s just going to produce friction. As Paul says, it’s unprofitable and worthless.

To better understand what it meant to “stir up division” sometimes it is best to think about what it would look like in the complete opposite term. Reading from Phil 2:2-4 Paul writes: “ (D)complete my joy by being (E)of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from (F)selfish ambition or (G)conceit, but in (H)humility count others more significant than yourselvesLet each of you(I)look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Not just choosing for yourself. Notice the phrase “of the same mind”, indicating unity and not division. Also note the charge to do nothing out of selfish motives but to walk in humility by treating others as more important than yourself. Paul tells them to look out for others’ interests. Why? You’re much less likely to try to press for your rights and to fight just to prove you are right when you are looking to another person’s interests. It’s asking yourself, “how can I show preference to this person rather than seeking to gain something for myself?” “how can I benefit them rather than advancing myself?”

The person who avoids foolish controversies and quarrels about the law, who chooses unity over division, is the one who aligns himself with Christ. Phil 2:5-8 “(J)Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] (K)who, though he was in (L)the form of God, did not count equality with God (M)a thing to be grasped, but (N)emptied himself, by taking the form of a (O)servant,[b] (P)being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by (Q)becoming obedient to the point of death, (R)even death on a cross.”

Having the mind of Christ who did not choose for Himself but submitted to the will of the Father. Not being divisive.

  • Warning!! 

Now he goes on to address how to handle the “heretic” or divisive person. Notice he doesn’t tell Titus to talk theology with the divisive person. No he says: Warn them once and then twice. Paul likely got his teaching from Jesus which is what you read in your personal study in Matthew 18:15-18 (v. 17 “If he refuses to listen to them, (O)tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, (P)let him be to you as [o]a Gentile and [p]a tax collector.”). This word warn (nouthesia) is the same idea as the rebuke we talked about earlier. It is aimed at bringing spiritual understanding and conviction, not just verbal disapproval. It’s a restorative action. Warn.

Paul has strong words for the church to avoid a person who chooses not to heed correction. He tells them “have nothing more to do with him.” He should be to you “as a Gentile and tax collector” OR an OUTSIDER (to quote Jesus). Though that seems harsh, wait until you hear how Paul handled a few other individuals. 1 Cor 5:5 tells us that Paul would “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh…” (this man being the one who continued in a disgraceful and public sin). Paul also speaks of handing over two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, to Satan to “be taught not to blaspheme” in 1 Tim 1:20.

I can just hear Paul telling Titus, “listen, that person, if he doesn’t listen to you the second time, don’t try to go back to him again. He’ll simply end up being a heavy stone tied around your waist. You don’t need to use up all your energy on the person who doesn’t want to be a healthy member. Let him go and entrust him to God (or perhaps Satan!).”

Maybe you need to hear this today. You can have nothing more to do with the one who stirs up division. That doesn’t mean you can’t still pray for that person. It simply means, you aren’t responsible for what that person does. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself if you’ve already done all that is biblically necessary for correction. Let. It. Go.

As MacArthur says, “the last word on false teachers, shun. The last word on factious people, reject.

Paul says the person who stirs up division and doesn’t listen to correction is:

  • Warped and Sinful

I think of those deceivers back in Titus 1:15 – both their mind and their conscience are defiled. Warped is the word:

  1. Ekstrepho meaning “to turn or twist out; to turn inside out; pervert, corrupt.” Also “to cause to turn aside from what is considered true or morally proper” (Lexicon)
  2. This word was used in medical literature and was translated as “dislocated” (MacArthur) [twisted/distorted]
  3. Only used here in Titus.
  4. This is different from the word we learned about repentance which is also a turning. This turning in Titus is a negative turning! It’s a turning that leads a person away from holiness, away from God.

Let me read to you one commentary on this word: “First, such a person is ‘twisted.’ ‘Twisted’ is the perfect passive of ekstrepho. The perfect tense points to a condition that has been reached with results that continue. It stresses the present state of affairs. In the passive as here, ‘to be perverted,’ points to an unmentioned agent or cause, but something has had a negative impact on the person’s life. The translation of the NET Bible, ‘by sinning,’ suggests that the cause of the perversion is a continual life of sinning, whatever that might be. But since the text literally says ‘and is sinning,’ the sinning could just as well be the product of the perversion, especially when the root problem is a mind that has been twisted by false doctrine which is futile to change one’s life and this is ultimately the issue here. Regardless, the character (‘perverted,’ a state that has been reached) and the conduct (‘is sinning,’ a process that continues) point us to the reasons for rejecting such a person.” (Exegetical Commentary on Titus at https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

To further drive home that point on the continual life of sin: this word for sinful (harmartano) is used in 37 passages, one (illustrates) of which is 1 Tim 5:20 “20 Those who continue in sin(A)rebuke in the presence of all, (B)so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.

Here is a dislocated distorted twisted perverted inside-out individual.” MacArthur

In our Titus passage, Paul tells Titus, after you’ve rebuked the divisive man and he still doesn’t listen, choosing that continual life of sin, have nothing more to do with him. He’s warped and sinful, but he is also:

  • Selfcondemned

This word is only used in Titus. The ESV translates this as “self-condemned” but “the NET Bible [says] ‘and is conscious of it himself,’ [which] seems to understand… that the twisted person is aware of his true spiritual state. In other words, he knows that in his persistent refusal to abandon his heretical views he is wrong and stands condemned by his own better judgment. However, the Greek term, autokatakritos, ‘self-condemnation,’ may also be understood to mean that the twisted teachers are condemned by their own behavior (as Paul writes in Titus 1:16 ‘They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable disobedient, unfit for any good work.’). (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

By self-condemned, Paul may mean that when such false teachers attack godly church leaders, they expose themselves for what they really are.” (Steven Cole)

Paul also speaks of a person who condemns himself in Romans 2:1-3 Therefore you have (A)no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For (B)in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

The one who stirs up division by promoting foolish controversies is self-condemned. He has condemned himself in continuing in his warped and sinful behavior. His stubborn heart has refused to see the One who rightly judges and it is God who in the end will judge this one who has stored up wrath for himself by saying “I don’t need God.” (chosen for himself)

We’ve talked about the counterproductive life, the counterfeit life, now let us investigate the…

Authentic Lives   

Authentic means “having a genuine original or authority, in opposition to that which is false, fictitious, or counterfeit; being what it purports to be; genuine; true.” (Webster’s 1828)

Paul then switches gears for his final greetings:

12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 

These men are the ones serving in the trenches and living out the authentic Christian life. These are the ones who are being poured out (like water; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast Ps 22:14) in service to God.

You can learn about Tychicus in 2 Tim 4:9-13 and Apollos, the Alexandrian Jew (mentioned in Acts 18 and 1 Cor 3). We don’t know anything more about Artemas, but we can make a few guesses about Zenas, “the lawyer”. He may have been an expert in Jewish law, or, as his pagan name might suggest, a Roman lawyer. Apparently it was common for lawyers to visit Crete in Roman times because of the famous Law Code of Gortyn dated from 450 B.C. (Wieland, quoting W.A. Lock in Crete and Titus)

Here is a picture of Gortyn and the location of the Law Code. It’s that building on the left:

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Here are two pictures of the Law Code written on the walls:

law-of-gortyn2 law-of-gortyn

As for why this section is important, I want you to consider the mission efforts of this team. Paul laid the groundwork for these other workers and then delegated missionaries to go into these areas to continue building on the foundation he laid. Titus, Apollos, and Zenas would be leaving, but Paul made sure that a new pair—Artemas and Tychicus—would remain for the growing community of believers at Crete. It was a sort of “changing of the guard.” Paul requests that Titus join him for the winter in Nicopolis.

See map:

nikopolis-map

One resource said that “Nicopolis was a busy port town on the western coast of Greece. It was actually known for its harsh winters; many travelers from all parts would have been forced to spend the winter there, so that Paul could continue ministry despite the impossibility of travel…” (Quoting Philip Towner in his commentary on Titus https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

Apparently Titus makes it to Nicopolis because Paul writes about him in his second letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4:10) which was written after Titus. “Eusebius [father of church history] reflects the tradition that Titus returned to Crete and served as a bishop there until his old age (HE 3.4.6).” (NIGTC Pastoral Epistles by George Knight).

As we reflect on our time with Titus, I wonder about some of the personal moments Titus had in Crete. After he received Paul’s letter, how much time did he have before he had to go to Paul? Did he feel like he could leave Crete, knowing he’d done all he’d been called to do? Would it have been hard for him to leave? What kinds of heartfelt good-byes must he have had with the Christian community? What about the warm welcomes as he greeted the new workers? Did he tell them to take good care of “Mean Ol’ Charlie” and make sure that they keep their eye on “That Sly Fox Ben”? Did he have a special place in his heart for “Sweet Grandma Bea” and for that young, promising leader “Stalwart Mark”?

Did he look back on his time in Crete and know he’d spent his time wisely? Teach us to number our days, Lord, that we may gain a heart of wisdom! (Ps 90:12) Help us to see the value of using our gifts wherever God plants us.

Finally Paul ends with his closing remarks:

14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Last week we discussed the spiritual versus physical and how that relates to good works (devotion). Paul uses the phrase “good work(s)” five times in Titus! Paul wants to make extra sure that they heard him the first time, so he reminds them to be devoted to good works. The reason? So as not to be unfruitful. Authentic lives are evidenced by fruit.

How do we devote ourselves to good works without those works becoming our goal and perhaps an idol? The simple answer is that our devotion is ultimately to God and it is out of our devotion to Him that we do these good works which He Himself has prepared for us in advance.

But let me give you some perspective on the image of being poured out as it relates to good works and our devotion to God. It all starts in the garden..

POURED OUT 

Perfect world. Perfect intimacy between God and man. Eve is deceived. Sin enters. Death enters. God’s perfect justice and holiness responds. Man remains fallen under the first Adam.

But God…

God sought after man. God promised oaths, He initiated covenants. He set up the sacrificial system in order to allow for the atonement of sins. Blood would be poured out as an offering to God. Yet man remained fallen and would go astray time and again. Therefore God would pour out His wrath (Jer 7:20; Ez 7:8; Zeph 3:8) in judgment and in an effort to bring His people back to Him.

But God…

God would stay true to His word. He would show grace and mercy. And when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman to undo the damage done by the deceived woman, born under the law in order to live it out perfectly and to break us free from the curse of the law (Gal 4:4). He who is the exact representation of the Father (Heb 1:3) walked among us to show us who God is and how God loves. There would be those who would pour out oil so as to anoint the One who is Grace (Matt 26:12).

But God…

God the Son would reveal His heart as the Servant King by pouring water into a basin and washing the feet of His own disciples who would become His servants in the kingdom (John 13:5).

But God…

Before He would be glorified as King, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross where God was pleased to crush Him (Phil 2:8; Is 53:10). “He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for [them]” (Is 53:12).

But God…

The Father poured out His wrath on the Son and the wrath of God was satisfied. He looked on Him and pardoned me (Rom 5:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 1:7).

But God…

Triumphed over death and sin and by His great power He raised Jesus from the grave (1 Cor 15:55-57; Col 2:12). The last Adam made redemption possible for all of fallen man (1 Cor 15:22, 45). Because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, He ascended to the Father as a fragrant aroma where He sits at the right hand of God (Heb 10:10; Eph 5:2; Rom 8:34).

But God…

Did not leave us without a Helper and God poured out His Spirit richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:6) and set His Spirit as a seal over us as a promise of our inheritance that is being kept for us until we take possession of it (Eph 1:11-14). And it is by His Spirit that God washes and renews us and produces good fruit/works as we abide in the Vine (Titus 3:5; John 15:4-5).

But God…

Being rich in mercy and love pours His love and the attributes of His Son into our hearts and we are able to cry Abba, Father (Rom 5:5; Rom 8:29; Gal 4:6)! And we, God’s servants, pour ourselves out as an offering to God in humble gratefulness and devotion to the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Rom 12:1; Phil 2:17).

This is why we do good works. We must bear fruit (in every good work) because this proves the authenticity of our faith. And this is no longer impossible as we walk by the Spirit.

In this letter to Titus, Paul is coming to his close. He wants to drive home the most pressing point: to be devoted to good works. To be fruitful. Not living like those who would cause divisions, whose false doctrine resulted in fruitless living. Avoid the counterproductive, counterfeit life.

With the sending of Artemas and Tychicus, and the exit of Zenas, Apollos, and Titus, we see the beautiful cycle of missions at work. We see God pouring out His servants as offerings to the glory of God! Paul calls on Titus to wrap up his ministry in Crete so that he can join Paul on the next leg of ministry. But the gospel will continue to have its effect in Crete. And those Cretans will learn to devote themselves to good works, grounded in the sound teaching of the Word.

CLOSING – Recap

Looking back over the last 9 lessons, we heard and read one message loud and clear: Right doctrine rightly applied produces right living.

Lesson One: We fell in love with Titus, Paul’s true child in the faith, who would minister to some of the most difficult of people. We learned the significance of the term bondservant as the apostle Paul laid out his mission, motivation, and method of ministry.

Lesson Two: We listened in as Paul gave Titus instructions for Crete – to put things in order by appointing elders who would live upright lives (above reproach), holding fast to sound doctrine. We learned that character matters.

Lesson Three: We discovered that there are those who would be deceptive wolves seeking to destroy the flock but who lived defiled lives, making them unfit for good works. We must watch their motivation, messes, message, master, and methods.

Lesson Four: Along with Titus, we learned that sound doctrine is the framework of core Biblical truths, and that Paul called him to teach it and teach what it looks like lived out.

Lesson Five: We saw what Paul meant by adorning the doctrine of God – to live holy, self-controlled lives in such a way that attracts others to Christ.

Lesson Six: We leaned in as the sisterhood, seeing how the status of women came to viewed in reverent terms, as priestesses who were called to teach what was good and train our sisters in holy living.

Lesson Seven: We discovered the One who is Grace, bringing salvation and redemption for His Bride, His own possession. And we await this One who is coming again, not as the One humbled on the cross but as the One coming for the crown, honored as the King.

Lesson Eight: Paul reminded us what we were and now who we ARE because of Jesus Christ our Savior, the only One worthy of our full devotion.

This Lesson (Nine): We were urged to avoid being divisive and the divisive person but instead to be devoted to good works. We also saw the beautiful cycle of missions at work as we say good-bye to Titus and the people of Crete.

Now we must ask ourselves…so what? We’ve come to the end and we’re sad that it’s over, but we look with great anticipation to what is to come. We too can be beautiful offerings poured out to God as we seek to be used by the Father and to walk in those good works that He’s prepared for us.

WE are the Church, this is the Sisterhood. The One that reaches into the difficult and even daunting places. That reaches the most unlikely people. This kind of church nurtures authentic Christian lives.

May we be a community of women who are devoted to God, dedicated to the truth of Scripture, and passionate about the spiritual health of our brothers & sisters in Christ.

Poured out as beautiful offerings to the praise of God the Father.

Titus: Physical vs. Spiritual

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Titus 3:3-8 – For (F)we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.But when (G)the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, (H)not because of works done by us in righteousness, but (I)according to his own mercy, by (J)the washing of regeneration and (K)renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he (L)poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that (M)being justified by his grace we might become (N)heirs (O)according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is (P)trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful (Q)to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Paul offers a nice contrast again, following on the heels of the last section of Scripture. In the last lesson, we learned that he wanted the believers to be submissive to authorities and to be ready for good works, displaying their faith in the crooked Cretan world. In this passage he reminds them that they (including himself) too were once depraved and enslaved to their passions. Perhaps this was his way of encouraging them so that they could see their new identity and not despair or be discouraged about their former life or habits. 2 Cor 5:17 tells us that we are a new creation. We were slaves to sin, now we belong to Christ. In Eph 2:1-3 Paul also writes about the believer’s former life. We used to be “children of wrath,” and we were dead in our sins. We lived out the passions of our flesh and carried out the desires of our body. It’s just not a pretty sight, folks. But there’s always good news right around the corner.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…” There’s that appeared word again (epiphaneo). God’s goodness and love broke through as the light of dawn. And when our Savior appeared, He saved us. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

To be certain that no one forgets what their role in salvation is, Paul writes that God saved us not because of works that we do, but He saved us in His mercy. This echoes his teaching in Eph 2:8-9 – it is by grace we have been saved through faith (not of ourselves). As if this weren’t great news already, God also uses the Holy Spirit to regenerate and renew us. Regeneration is basically new birth (after all, we were dead in sins and we needed to be made alive again). This Spirit has been poured out on us richly through Christ. I don’t know about you, but the image of the Spirit being poured out sounds abundant, and then he adds the word richly, which just accentuates the lavish abundance even further! The good news just got even better.

As we keep reading, it might feel like we’ve just won the lottery (actually it’s even better than that). First Paul speaks of being justified by His grace. To be justified meant to be pardoned or cleared from guilt; to absolve or acquit from guilt and merited punishment, and to accept as righteous on account of the merits of the Savior or by the application of Christ’s atonement to the offender (Webster’s 1828). What it boils down to is that we get something we didn’t deserve. We get Christ’s righteousness in exchange for our dead, sinful lives. It’s extravagant grace. And it makes no sense.

So God declares us righteous and then raises us as His heirs. Again, this makes no sense! We become children of the King. This is the hope we have, that He has promised us an inheritance of eternal life (See also 1 John 2:25, Heb 6:17-18, 1 Cor 1:22, Eph 4:30, Eph 1:11-14).

He closes with the call to good works again. He presents quite the case for why we should be devoted to good works. It only makes sense given the gravity of all Christ has done for us! They will know we belong to Him by our fruit (good works). The works are simply the evidence of our faith. It reveals our devotion to Him. And these things are excellent (because they bring glory to God) and profitable (because they bring others to God). May we be careful to devote ourselves to good works.

Titus: Who is Grace?

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Titus 2:11-3:2 –  11 For (T)the grace of God (U)has appeared, bringing salvation (V)for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and (W)worldly passions, and (X)to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in (Y)the present age, 13 (Z)waiting for our blessed (AA)hope, the (AB)appearing of the glory of our great (AC)God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 (AD)who gave himself for us to (AE)redeem us from all lawlessness and (AF)to purify for himself (AG)a people for his own possession who are (AH)zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and (AI)rebuke with all authority. (AJ)Let no one disregard you. Remind them (A)to be submissive to rulers and authorities, (B)to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, (C)to speak evil of no one, (D)to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and (E)to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Grace Came

 I love the beginning of verse 11 – “for the grace of God has appeared….” Paul says this right after telling the bondservants to “adorn the doctrine of God.” You can follow his train of thought as he masterfully explains that we should live our lives in such a way that reflects our Savior for it was by God’s grace that we are saved! “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). The grace of God has appeared, and that grace is Christ. When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son.

Isn’t it just beautiful? I learned that the word appeared is the Greek word epiphaneo meaning clearly known, fully visible. It is a picture of the rising sun as it bursts forth at dawn. Christ is the Light that shines in the darkness! The word grace in the Greek is charis and means the unmerited, merciful, kindness and favor of God. This grace that came was self-motivated (had no other motive but itself), ever-acting (never ending action), stooping (from the Hebrew word for grace, chen, meaning to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior), and pardoning (brings forgiveness).

Grace is Here

Grace came, and it is here to train us. It trains us to put away/deny and to put on/pursue. We are to put away/deny 1) ungodliness (anything contrary to the knowledge, fear, and love of God. and 2) worldly passions (fleshly desires and lusts). We are to put on/pursue 1) self-controlled lives (our inward, bridled strength), 2) upright lives (outward display of our inward character), and 3) godly lives (upward focus).

Grace is Coming Back

As we live out our self-controlled, upright, godly lives, we await a blessed hope! We have the assurance that Christ will return for us. It is an expectant, trusting wait. He came first for the cross in humility, and at His second coming He will come for the crown as the honored King!

The Work of Grace

By God’s grace, He sent His Son who gave Himself for us to redeem us and purify us. This is the work of grace – redemption and sanctification. He redeemed us and purified us for His own possession. We have been set apart for the King. We are reserved for God. We are His possession. We belong to God.

Reminders

Paul finishes this section with some reminders for Titus. He instructs him to teach about submission to authority, and in this case, to rulers. To avoid fights, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people. It’s as if he wants the believers to stand out as different from those around them. After all, they are the redeemed who have been set apart for the service of the King. And this King will be coming again! So in the meantime, let them reflect their Savior.

Titus: Woman to Woman

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Titus 2:3-5 – (C)Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, (D)not slanderers (E)or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, (F)pure, (G)working at home, kind, and (H)submissive to their own husbands, (I)that the word of God may not be reviled.

We all have favorite passages in the Bible. Many times we have memorized certain verses or sections in Scripture because those verses inspire, convict, encourage, or challenge us. This is definitely important for us to do, however, I wonder how many of us have forgotten the context surrounding those favorite verses. The verses for this week may fall under that category for many women.

You may have heard about the “Titus 2 woman” – she’s the twin sister of the “Proverbs 31 woman.” Chances are, before this study, most of us had no idea what the other verses in this letter even had to say. We will see how the Titus 2 woman fits into the greater picture of Paul’s message to Titus and the Cretans.

What is the greater picture? It’s simply this: The reality of the gospel is best seen in the transformed lives of His people. This is why Paul writes to Titus and the Cretans, giving the believers practical instructions for the living the Christian life. Perhaps the Cretans wanted to know if the Word of God had credibility. How would the followers of Christ live in the depraved culture of Crete? This was their chance as believers to illustrate with their very lives the power of God to change their hearts.

Women of God, adorn yourselves with the priceless jewels of sound doctrine and holy living so that you may glorify God in all you do, wherever you are.

Below is my lecture on this passage: {or you can skip the reading and watch the video here: http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/1aa2211)

One of our greatest challenges as we seek to understand the Scriptures is to 1st admit our own biases (because of faith tradition, experiences, our culture, etc.) and 2nd to make certain that we let God’s Word inform our views rather than letting our views inform how we read the Word. So when we read the Scripture, are we going to believe what it says and allow the Spirit to interrupt our views in order to more accurately align us to the Truth? Or are we going to say, this teaching is too hard and I’m not going to believe in this out-dated, old-fashioned, entirely too conservative view?

God give us wisdom to discern the meaning of your Word. Give us hearts that are humble and submitted to You. May we never seek to be culturally appropriate (PC), discarding biblical accuracy.

This letter to Titus is evidence that Paul saw no mission too difficult for the person of Jesus Christ. He wanted the gospel to spread to the older men and youth, to the older and younger women, and also to the slaves. He knew that the gospel had made a difference in his life, and he knew that it would impact and change forever the lives of those terrible Cretans!

Paul’s “missionary and pastoral concerns are clear. As new churches are established their credibility will depend upon the authenticity of the lives of those who claim to have been transformed by the grace of God (Titus 3:3-7). It is crucial that those recognized as leaders in those churches both exemplify such living for the Christian community and maintain the integrity of the church’s witness in the wider society.” (Wieland in “Grace manifest”).

The concern for character is equally important for the lives of the congregants which is why we have the instructions to all men and women. “None of these groups is urged to remove itself from their social environment. Instead, each is to live within it but in a new way, governed by the realities of grace and salvation into which they have entered.” (Wieland in “Grace manifest”)

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 

Paul uses that word likewise, connecting his instructions for women to those of the men (v. 2). Before we go over the specific words in this verse, let’s get things out into the open, by addressing the issue of women teaching in the church. In 1 Tim. 2:12 Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach nor have authority over a man” but here in Titus 2:3, Paul expects the “older women” to teach the younger women. We already begin to see that this was not a matter of whether women should teach but rather WHO a woman should teach (Kostenberger p. 98).

The prohibition which Paul speaks of is that women should not serve “in church positions that would place them in authority over men, whether by teaching (in a church context) or by ruling over them in an authoritative church position.” (Kostenberger p. 135) Kostenberger goes on to say that that teaching publicly and in positions of authority over men is what’s prohibited not “informal mutual instruction that occurs among all members of the body.” (p. 167)

The reason for the prohibition? Paul “appeals to the created order, the good and perfect world God made, to justify the ban on women teaching men.” He writes that since man is created first, God has given him authority over woman and that this authority was not a result of sin or the fall (p. 177).

We will address this issue more as it relates to our passage, but let’s look at what Paul meant by:

Reverent 

Paul tells these women to be reverent and connects this with not being slanderers or drunkards.

  1. Greek word is hieroprepes (higher-op-re-pace’)
  2. Greek lexicon – meant “reverent, venerable”.
  3. The first part of this word hieros is translated as temple (translated this way *71 of 73 times)
  4. “The more specialized meaning priestlike, resulting from the use of the word in describing the conduct of a priest.”
  5. This word is only used in this verse.

As I mentioned above, the Greek text depicts the role of the older women in “priestly terms” which is highly unusual. (Wieland 344)

When speaking of priests, the Bible uses these phrases:

  1. “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6)
  2. “you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them that they may serve Me as priests” (Ex 28:41)
  3. “the priest shall burn all of it on the altar” (Lev. 1:9) “the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar” (Lev 1:11) SLIDE
  4. “you shall be called the priests of the LORD; they shall speak of you as ministers of our God…” Is 61:6
  5. 1 Peter 2:5, 9 says, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

In our verses for today, Paul may be “hinting at an analogy to service performed by women in the temples, indicating that the behavior of Christian women in their households could have the character of service offered to God.” (Wieland, 344)

In other words, the kind of character building that takes place within the home is just as important as the service that happens in the temples. Let’s face it, who in here has ever felt like what you do in the home is not highly valued or appreciated? That it doesn’t seem as important as what someone else does as a minister or missionary?

You can see what a high calling it is then for Paul to encourage these women to be reverent, like priests, whose purpose was to serve God and intercede on behalf of His people. Their work in the home could be seen as service to God, not drudgery.

Slanderers 

Paul also writes to the wives in 1 Tim 3:11 “wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.

Other translations translate this word as “gossips”, but I actually prefer the word slanderer because it gives us a much more poignant image.

  1. The word in the Greek is diabolos (interlinear) and meant “prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely; metaphorically applied to a person who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him”
  2. Greek lexicon – meant “pertaining to the engagement in slander, to be slanderous”
  3. Now you understand the word “diabolos”. In fact, this word diabolos is used 35 times and 32 of those times this word is translated as “devil”. The other 3 times it is translated as “malicious gossip” or “slanderer” (like here in Titus and 1 Tim)!
  4. The devil is called our adversary, the accuser, the one who slanders.
  5. Webster’s 1828 defines slander as “a false tale or report maliciously uttered and tending to injure the reputation of another by lessening her in the esteem of her fellow citizens, defamation; to disgrace; reproach; disreputation; ill name.”

We tend to distance ourselves fairly well from the act of gossip. We know it’s a sin, and we don’t want to be considered a malicious gossip. Yet I wonder how many times we have said something to friend about another person that has left our friend with a lesser view of that individual. Ouch. That’s slander. That’s acting in line with the evil one, our adversary, the one who accuses and slanders. We are called to a higher standard, and we must rise to that height.

Slaves to wine 

This phrase kind of cracks me up. It’s seems to be a nicer way to refer to being drunk. And you know what wine can do to your tongue. It can make it loose and prone to gossip/slander. Maybe this is why Paul pairs these two vices together. Again they were to be “sober-minded” both literally and figuratively.

I don’t believe this phrase needs much explaining. Perhaps these women were tempted to drown their troubles with “much wine.” At least, that was what they were accustomed to before meeting Christ. Paul is instructing them that their behavior now is to be reverent, like a priest, not irreverent like a drunk.

Teaching what is good 

Instead the women were to spend their time teaching what is good. Paul writes to the Philippians, (4:8) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (LOVE WHAT IS GOOD) These are the good things. Anything that’s true, honorable, pure, lovely and so on.

As a younger woman, I want you who are older (whether that means one year or 50) to know how valuable you are to the Body of Christ. Never for one minute believe that you have nothing to offer. You have been given the task to teach what is good.

That can look like teaching skills or teaching character. It can be informal or formal. That can look like spending time with a younger woman and sharing your story of how you have walked with Christ over the years. That can mean you open your eyes to discern where younger women may need encouragement or instruction, even correction. It means being a mentor and building intentional relationships with other women.

It means your work here is not complete, and we won’t let you off the hook because we desperately need you.

And to the younger women I say, we need these mature women in our lives! When you feel alone and like life is completely overwhelming because of the juggling act you do of managing the home, working, and raising your children, please know that you weren’t meant to struggle alone. Life was meant to be lived in community.

So don’t sit at home silently struggling because there are so many women who would be eager to walk beside you to encourage and teach you what is good. Besides, they want you to know that they struggle too, and I’m certain they would tell you that those struggles help them realize their need for God.

Just to be clear, I believe every woman has something to offer, whether young or old (er). The point is that we are the sisterhood! We need to be cheering one another on to love and good deeds. We must love one another genuinely and put that love to work by helping and caring for each other.

Now Paul goes on to write specific ways women can teach what is good. He says:

4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,

Here is kingdom work. Here is a priestly task. In this verse contains the simplest command with the most challenging application. This is the area in which the younger generation needs the MOST help.

Before I get into the meaning and application of the words, I do want to be sensitive to those who may not have husbands or children. These are instructions for how to love both husband and children, but you are not forgotten.

Train 

  1. The Greek word (interlinear) is sophronizo meaning “to admonish, to exhort earnestly”
  2. Greek lexicon – meant “to instruct in prudence or behavior that is becoming and shows good judgment; to encourage, advise, urge”
  3. Only used here in Titus
  4. It is in the present tense with continual action

Other translations may use the word “encourage”, but I like the word train because of the implication that this takes place as a continual and intentional teaching. Training up the next generation. However I love that within the training, encouragement also takes place. To encourage means “to give courage to; to give or increase confidence of success; to embolden; to animate; to inspirit” (Webster’s 1828).

Sometimes all a woman needs is for someone to stir the fire inside. To embolden her. To animate her. To GIVE her courage. Too many times we walk around with bleary, tired eyes and equally tired souls, desperate for someone to tell us, “chin up, this life is hard, but your job as a mom and wife is honorable and is worth fighting for. You’re doing a great job. Don’t give up.”

Perhaps you can encourage this woman by showing her what God says about the importance of her role in her children’s lives. That though she may feel overlooked and underappreciated, she has the affection and attention of her heavenly Father who sees all the work she does and tells her it’s never in vain. Maybe she simply needs to know that when she’s feeling worn out and empty, her God sees and hears and knows how to fill her back up so she can continue pouring Him out to those around her.

Love their husbands 

It was very common for marriages to be arranged during this. So that may explain why Paul instructed the older women to teach the younger to love their husbands. I don’t think that necessarily meant that they were doing a poor job of loving their husbands. It’s more likely that they simply didn’t know them prior to the marriage arrangement (so perhaps weren’t “in love” as we say these days). Regardless of this cultural nuance, Jesus teaches that we should love one another. The love must start in the home, and the teaching must be from the Word.

We all know it feels easier to love others, but not quite as easy to love our husbands and children. What I mean is that we aren’t always as nice to our family as we are to our friends and acquaintances. Perhaps this is Paul’s reminder for them all to take a good hard look at those who are closest to them and to give them the kind of love that they so eagerly give to others.

To the older women, I would say: teach the younger women what it means to love. You have experience under your belt, and the wisdom to know how to apply it. We need women who are willing to say, “here’s why it’s important to love your husband first” and then explain how to do it. Even the act of talking about your love for your husband is enough to encourage a younger woman to love her hubby.

Tell us about the kind things you do for your husband. Tell us what you did when you weren’t feeling the love but made the choice to love anyway. Speak about your husbands in ways that show you respect him so that this models for us how to respect our husbands. Tell us what it means to submit, and show us that it’s really not a dirty word.

Love their children 

As for children in the Greco-Roman era, they were not viewed the same way we view children today. Children were valued as they contributed to the larger society as a whole. A second difference is that children weren’t always raised by their parents. They often used nurses and educators to help train their children. Thirdly, most children grew up in poverty because there was no middle class – only very poor or very rich. And fourth, children in this time were often exposed to extremely violent and socially disruptive experiences. For example they were not sheltered from public executions or torture, and they were often beat as a way to produce self-control and other virtues in the child.

These children did not have what we would call a “happy childhood”. They weren’t given the chance to “just be a kid.” They were expected to work their chores, learn their parents’ trade, and learn moral lessons for the development of their character. And again the goal was for them to be productive members of society first and foremost.

Again I’m not saying that these parents didn’t love their children. On the contrary, they loved them so much that they provided ways to help them advance in their culture. Yet again Paul writes for the women to love their children. The call to love was paramount for Christ’s followers, and it had to start first in the heart and then in the home.

Older women, encourage us to love our kids. To remind us that the time goes by quickly and that we need to cherish the moments rather than wish them away because we’re tired. Show us what you did to love on your kids. Urge us not to waste our time doing too much housework or on too much media or on too much of our selfish past times.

Help us to see the value of quality time with those little ones. Teach us about what you do to balance all the roles you have. Perhaps all we need is to know that we’re not alone when we say we feel inadequate as moms and teach us that God has made us adequate as His servants in all areas He’s given us.

Younger women, let’s have a heart of humility when receiving this instruction. Let’s stay away from comparing our lives to another sister’s life. (I’m better than her. She’s better than me…) Let’s also avoid falling into the guilt pit.

I can tell you this, your adversary, the one who slanders will whisper (or shout) general, accusatory statements (I’m a terrible mother, I’m a bad housewife). He heaps on GUILT with the goal to steal, kill and destroy you.

But your God, the one who transforms and corrects will whisper (or shout) specific, convicting or encouraging statements (I called you to love and gentleness in your speech. What you said today to your son was harsh. You need to go apologize and try that again.) God brings CONVICTION with the goal of your SANCTIFICATION.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet 4:8

Finally Paul says he wants them to teach the women:

5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Self-controlled, pure, kind   

This is a list very similar to the one Paul gave the older men. A list of virtues. Self-controlled, pure, kind. It should not be surprising that some of these are the fruit of the Spirit.[The reality of the gospel] is seen in transformed attitudes and behaviors here and now.” (Wieland, “Grace”)

I remember in my high school years thinking that I needed to try to be self-controlled, pure, kind. And if I wasn’t any of those things, that I needed to try harder. I had gotten it all wrong. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that produces this fruit in our lives.

It’s also about being disciplined, it’s about self-denial. It’s about choosing a life of holiness and saying no to what is impure. It’s about choosing kindness instead of responding harshly.

Remember the reputation of the Cretans? They were anything but self-controlled, pure or kind. Paul urges the women to live the Spirit-filled life. Their lives are to look different from their culture because God’s Word changes them from the inside out. {contrasted also with the false teachers’ lack of self control}

Working at home 

I wonder how many of you bristle when you hear this phrase simply because you are reading it from the lens of our culture which happens to lean heavily toward feminism and women’s rights. Perhaps some of you honestly thought I was going to tell you that this passage teaches that all women should be stay at home moms. It doesn’t. But there is something to be said of those gnawing feelings in our gut when we encounter a passage like this one that makes us feel a tad uncomfortable.

I had a professor in my Life of Christ class who taught us about the parable of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30). In his encounter with Jesus, this young man had asked Jesus what he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him, after discussing the teachings in the Law, that he needed to sell all he had and give it to the poor. You may recall that the man went away sad because he was very rich. After reading the passage, my professor looked up from his podium and said, “if you say to yourself, I’m so glad Jesus didn’t tell me to sell all of my possessions, then perhaps this parable is meant precisely for you.”

I cannot say what you should do, but perhaps God has spoken to you on this subject. Don’t go away sad, like the rich young ruler, but rather hear the words and consider how you can be obedient to His calling, whatever that looks like.

It seems like the appropriate time to address (very briefly) the Biblical teaching of womanhood. I think it is wise to acknowledge that submission to God’s authority (and therefore Scripture’s authority) is counter-cultural. Our culture views the Biblical teaching on men and women as out-dated and even offensive. But our culture should not be our standard. Our culture should not inform our view of men’s and women’s roles. Only God has that authority, and we must allow His Word to penetrate through that lens of culture.

God has created man to have certain roles and women to have other, complimentary roles. While we don’t have time to go into those roles today, Kostenberger explains that “A difference in role or function in no way implies that women are inferior to men. Even the Son submits to the Father (1 Cor. 15:28), and yet He is equal to the Father in essence, dignity, and personhood. It is a modern, democratic, Western notion that diverse functions suggest distinctions in worth between men and women. Paul believed that men and women were equal in personhood, dignity, and value but also taught that women had distinct roles from men.” (Kostenberger, 177)

Women were given the role to be workers at home. That is undisputed. What is disputed is how that looks lived out in everyday life. We will delve into the application of this now.

Paul also writes about the need for young widows to work at home in 1 Tim 5:11-16. He counsels the widows to marry, have children, and “to manage their homes and give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” (v. 14) The reason he said this was that in this case, the young widows had gotten into the habit of “being idle and going from house to house” and had become “busybodies who talk nonsense.” (v. 13)

You can see how this kind of habit would result in a word of correction for these women. Perhaps they were neglecting what needed to be done at home in order to socialize and even gossip. Thus Paul tells them to manage their homes. Not to forget or neglect it.

Now I told you this passage isn’t saying that all women should be stay-at-home-moms. So what does it say? Well, the ESV translates it as “working at home”

NASB says, “workers at home”.

NIV translates it as “to be busy at home”.

NRSV translates it “good managers of the household.”

NLT says, “to work in their homes”.

NIRV writes “take good care of their homes”.

The Message simply says, “keep a good house”.

Living Bible says, “spending their time in their own homes.”

Amplified Bible translates it “makers of a home [where God is honored]”.

So there’s a mixture of management, good housekeeping, and creating a home where God can be honored. We’ve read every major translation, and already it is clear that this passage is VERY UNCLEAR about the meaning of “working at home”!

  1. The Greek word for “workers at home” is oikouros (oy-koo-ros) from the words oikos (house) and ouros (a guard) (interlinear)
  2. It meant “staying at home, domestic” (Lexicon)
  3. Only used in this verse

Once again it’s anyone’s guess as to what Paul was really telling them. I like the idea of being a “guardian” of my home. Yet we can’t really understand this phrase apart from our own preconceived notions of gender roles. When in doubt about a passage such as this one, it is best to consider the whole counsel of God. Where else in Scripture can I gain understanding for this particular verse?

Immediately my thoughts go to Proverbs 31. For some women, this is a bad word! I mean, who could possibly have done ALLLLL of those things? You read these verses this week, perhaps with fresh eyes to see that the Proverbs woman worked both in and out of her home. It wasn’t the case that she was stuck at home, kind of like a prisoner, as some people who have us view the idea of being “workers at home.”

In the home she:

  1. Sought materials to work with her hands (v. 13)
  2. Rises to provide food for her family (v. 15)
  3. Makes clothing and blankets for her family (v. 21, 22)
  4. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (v. 27)

Outside of the home she:

  1. She buys a field and plants a vineyard (v. 16)
  2. She makes a profit from her merchandise (v. 18)
  3. She helps the poor and needy (v. 20)
  4. She makes garments and sashes to sell at the market (v. 24)

She sounds like Superwoman, quite honestly, but this compilation of all the things a virtuous woman does reveals to us that a woman can “look well to the ways of her household” while still working outside of her home.

Other examples of women in the Bible are Abigail (Nabal in 1 Sam 25), the women who supported Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8), Mary/Martha (Luke 10), Lydia (seller of purple goods Acts 16), and Paul lists multiple women who were “fellow workers” with him (Romans 16, Phil 4).

If you are not certain what to do (to work only at home or to work outside of the home), or if you’re not sure whether this passage means for women to keep a clean home, to manage finances or the household, to raise your children, or whatever – Let’s first consider the true intent of this principle. Cultural fads will change, philosophies will go in and out of style, but the true intent of what it means to be “workers at home” will not change.

To be workers at home at its core means the home is where our primary focus should be (secondary next to your relationship to God obviously). The home is primary, so you can ask yourself, am I giving my best energy and attention to my home and if not how should I adjust my time or attention that would redirect my focus where it should be?

Rest assured you can work outside the home and still have your home as your primary focus. Likewise you can stay at home and be focused on everything but your home (children/husband).

Once again though, what would obedience look like for you in this area? How is the Spirit using this passage to convict or encourage your heart today? I’m going to move on now because this term relates very closely to the next phrase.

Submissive to your husband 

  1. To submit (Greek lexicon) hupotasso – meant “to subject oneself, be subjected or subordinated, obey; of submission involving recognition of an ordered structure, with appropriate respect shown to the correct entity (toward a husband)”
  2. Comes from two Greek words hupo (under) and tasso (to arrange/put in place). Tasso refers to an authority structure presently existing that is put in place by God. Also speaking of a person put into a specific position, to put someone over or in charge of someone or something.
  3. This word is “A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.

This word is so FULL of meaning that it’s hard to know where to begin! I want to start, however, with the part of the definition that defines Who puts someone into authority. It is God who places people into authority. Think of the steward whom the creditor left in charge. The money he was given did not belong to the steward, but he was still responsible for what he did with that money.

Or for a modern day example, we can say that God has given us children and we are in authority over them though we are still only His stewards (because they still belong to Him at the end of the day). The parent-child structure is one that exists because it was placed there by God. The word hupotasso carries a sense of responsibility for the individuals under our care and not the negative connotation of oppression or misuse of power by an overlord.

What I love about this last definition is that it is a voluntary attitude that has as its goal the relief of a burden. I also liked that it is a cooperative action and does not give the impression that you are butting heads or fighting against one another.

Charles Spurgeon wrote this to the wife in his congregation: “Don’t you try to be the head; but you be the neck, then you can turn the head whichever way you like.”  🙂 !! (in autobiography)

Now I know this too is a hot topic and perhaps this term makes you cringe so much that you can’t see straight to listen any further. Remember the Biblical teaching is that man was created first and therefore was given authority by God over a woman (Kostenberger, 174). I would think now is the appropriate time to show you the cross reference for this term.

It is found in Genesis 3:16: 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for {against} your husband, and he shall rule over you.

When I read this verse, my first reaction was, how in the world does this relate to submission? Then I remembered what I had learned long ago about the curse. Some scholars believe when it says “your desire shall be for your husband” that it is referring to the desire to be in control over your husband (to usurp the natural order). This is why you have a footnote in your bible that says the word “for” can be translated as “against”. “Your desire shall be against your husband.” God follows up this statement with “he shall rule over you.”

Now if part of the woman’s curse is the desire to have power over her husband, you can see why so many women bristle at the thought of submission. The natural order is for the man to rule over the woman and the woman, after the fall, says, “uhhh no thanks, I’ve got this.”

But if we think of submission in the context of a loving, Christ-centered relationship in which your goal is to cooperate and help carry a burden, the idea of submitting isn’t so bad. If we know this is the “ordered structure” that God put into place, we can trust that there’s a reason for it. However I understand that not every woman has a loving, Christ-centered relationship with her husband. Some men truly are like the harsh overlords who want to rule over their wives with iron fists. This is also their struggle after the fall.

Now going back to working at home combined with the idea of submission (cooperation, relieving a burden). A Biblical view of this would be:

God has given each woman the gift of womanhood. You aren’t meant to be like a man. You were created as a woman. It’s GOOD that you were created this way. You can celebrate your femininity and not see it as a thing to be rid of or free from. Nor do you need to try to grasp the role God gave to man.

I liken this teaching on men’s and women’s roles to that of the roles God gives to His church. God has given each member spiritual gifts in order to serve His body. Paul is very clear that all members are important and serve a special purpose. Just because someone is given a certain role does not mean that their role is more valuable than your role. Role or function in no way implies inferiority or superiority of the members.

Likewise we should not be jealous of someone’s gifting, seeking to take on that role we haven’t been given. We can be content that the Gift-Giver has generously given us the task we are meant to live out.

Men can be men. Women can be women. And it’s beautiful.

God designed a woman to care for the home in a way that takes the pressure off of the man (relieving a burden). It’s being a steward or a good manager, assuming responsibility for that part of your lives together. You’re working in cooperation with that husband of yours and in the meantime creating an environment that is nurturing and God-honoring.

I realize there are women who do not ever marry, and to them I would say, you’re still managing a home! And to the single mom, I salute you. You’re doing so many extra jobs while still creating a loving/safe home for your kids. To manage a home is a special calling for us, one that many women don’t feel very qualified or even good at doing.

It’s no wonder Paul tells the older women to train the younger ones to be workers at home. Yes, please, do tell. 🙂

Word of God not be reviled 

Wieland writes, “The behavior of the younger women in their households is to be such ‘that the word of God may not be discredited’…. Though the world they inhabit may be characterized by [evil and selfishness] (Titus 3:3) members of the emerging Christian communities…” were to live above reproach.

To wrap up this section, Paul notes that the whole purpose – the very reason – for the older women teaching the younger women was that the Word of God would not be reviled. NIV uses the word malign, RSV says discredit. NASB says dishonored. NLT uses the phrase bring shame. Once again let’s look at the Greek and discover the other places where this word is used:

  1. Greek word blasphemeo (blas-fay-meh’-o) in Lexicon meant “to demean through speech; an especially sensitive matter in an honor-shame oriented society; to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates, maligns.”
  2. If you go to the word of origin (blasphemos) and break up this word you get blap’-to (to hurt, harm, injure) and pheme (fay’-may) (meaning fame, report)

This word is used in a number of passages in which the religious leaders accused Jesus of speaking blasphemy, mostly in relation to His claims of deity (Matt 9:3, 26:65, Mk 2:7, Jn 10:36). It is also the word used when people insulted Jesus on the cross (Matt 27:39, Mk 15:29, Lk 23:39). The main verse that relates to our Titus passage are found in Romans 2:24, “You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

It’s as if Paul has need to address the very same problems in every town where he preached the gospel. These Jews in Rome, who claimed to know God and His Law, did not DO God’s law. You might say they didn’t practice what they preached. And this is why the Gentiles who didn’t follow God’s Law were speaking blasphemy/shame/reviling/maligning God’s name. It’s the age old question, “why would I follow your God if you act like every other person in the world?”

The real question is, what difference does the Word of God make in your life? And the real answer is, it should make your life dramatically different from the world. The real reason? Because this Word comes from the Father, it is God-breathed, and His Spirit changes us from the inside out so that we resemble God and not the world.

So you want to make sure the Word of God is not blasphemed. Okay. Live. It. Out. How? You’ve got to be in it to know what it says. And you must be submitting to the Spirit who uses the Word to transform our lives. No longer following the flesh but walking by the Spirit. Finally, women teach, train, encourage one other with the Word of God.

The idea of women mentoring women is a thing of beauty. We saw how Jesus elevated the status of women in our first “interrupted” series. Now as we read Paul’s letter to Titus, we are beginning to see how the status of women came to be viewed in reverent terms. The older women are like the priests who served in the temple and they are now called to train the younger women as their priestly apprentices, serving God.

May we be a community of women who are devoted to God, dedicated to the truth of Scripture, and passionate about the spiritual health of our sisters in Christ.

How does this process start? With God’s Word. His Word pricks our hearts and emboldens us to live it out! Many of you may feel a quickening in your spirit even today telling you that you can be a mentor to a sister.

Be reverent. Okay, what’s one way that I can do that?

Love your husband. Okay, what’s one way I can love my husband today?

Love your children. Okay, how can I tangibly show my kids love today?

Be kind. Okay, what kind thing can I do today?

It’s not rocket science. It’s daily making the choice to be reverent. To love your husband, your children. To be kind. Even when your flesh is screaming just the opposite response. It’s not putting the confidence in the flesh. It’s putting the confidence in the Spirit, submitting to His leading, and following in obedience when that still-small voice says, “here’s the way, walk in it…”

Let’s take a good hard look at this passage and decide to believe what it says. To take God at His word when He says that He will use His Word, through the Spirit, to transform our lives. Older women, are you teaching/talking/conversing the younger women? Younger women, are you listening to those who can give you wise guidance? Ladies, we are the sisterhood. Let us care for one another.

Titus: Adorning the Doctrine of God

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Titus 2:2, 6, 9-10 – Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, (B)sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Likewise, urge (J)the younger men to be self-controlled. (P)Bondservants[b] are to be submissive to their own masters (Q)in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, (R)but showing all good faith, (S)so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

I was actually relieved that I didn’t have to teach this lesson due to the fact that I didn’t feel at all qualified to speak on this subject. In all reality, I didn’t feel qualified to teach any of this. But true to His nature, the Spirit speaks and reveals, teaching me as I teach others. Here’s what I learned about adorning the doctrine of God.

Older Men

I have decided long ago that I would never label who was an “older” man or “older” woman. From what I gather, men over 60 were considered “older men” on the island of Crete. I’m not sure how they determined this, but at least I didn’t come up with this number!

Paul exhorts the older men with six commands –

  • be sober-minded (calm, even, level-headed, reserved, temperate in the use of alcohol, free of selfish excess, mental alertness, vigilance)
  • be dignified (proper, reverent, respectful and respectable, honorable, above reproach, worthy of respect, noble, faithful)
  • be self-controlled (able to curb desire/impulses, disciplined, composed, sober-minded, prudent, sensible; emphasis on the application of the mind)
  • be sound in faith (steadfast in truth/Word, free from error, unwavering trust in God, pertaining to your relationship with God, under the influence of the Spirit, guided by truth)
  • be sound in love (firm love/affection, gentle, pertaining to love for God and others)
  • be sound in steadfastness (perseverance, endurance, hold firm in trials, dedicated/faithful, connected with trials/persecutions)

Sometimes it’s just as helpful to think about what these qualities do NOT look like –

  • sober-minded is NOT anxious/worried, high-stress, easily subverted by adversity, turbulent, lacking self-control, in bondage to sin
  • dignified is NOT unrefined, undignified/unbecoming, an embarrassment socially or in character
  • self-controlled is NOT out of control in mind/body, never able to say “no”, living only for pleasure, a “train wreck”
  • sound in faith is NOT unsure, doubting, questioning truth, walking in error, “tossed about”
  • sound in love is NOT harsh, unloving, hateful
  • sound in steadfastness is NOT giving up easily, buckling under affliction or pressure

I’m always curious about why Paul chooses certain qualities over others when giving a command to certain people. In this case, he chose these qualities just for older men. Why? As far as I can tell, these men are the role models in the society and must be an example of good character. Perhaps he lists these qualities to challenge the men who have trouble in these areas (being tempted to lose control or to be harsh rather than loving). Maybe their culture was one that had those kinds of temptations more so than other places. We cannot know for certain, but what we can know is that he wanted them to exhibit these qualities.

Younger Men

As for the younger men, Paul only gives Titus one command for them: urge them to be self-controlled. There it is again! Self-control. The image I was taught about the discipline of self-control is that of a race horse. The race horse has great strength, but it is bridled strength. It has the ability in its strength to run fast, but it remains submissive to its Master. Self-control, then, is not to be thought of weak but rather as bridled strength.

The believers at Crete were to look and act differently than their culture. I cannot help but think of the contrast between what the male believers should act like and what the false teachers acted like. Paul calls out the false teachers over and over again for their inability to curb their sinful appetites (problem of self-control). The people of Crete in general had a problem with self-control (liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons). Paul reminded them they all needed the Spirit’s work in their lives.

Bondservants

Most translations use the word bondservant in this passage, but this word is not one we use or have a concept of today. Other translations use the word slave. We definitely have a strong, negative connotation for that word in our culture. So what do we make of this section and this word in Scripture? It was helpful for me to see that Paul (Romans 1:1), James (James 1:1), Jude (Jude 1), Timothy (Phil 1:1), Peter (2 Pet 1:1), and John (Rev 1:1) all referred to themselves as a bondservant or slave of Christ. Other sources talk of the bondservant as being one who makes the choice to willingly submit to and stay with their master. Still others believe that the term slave is more appropriate, because it carries the idea of one who is not his own, one who belongs to someone else.

There are mixed views on slavery during the Roman times because slaves were treated differently depending on the master. Some masters were good and treated their slaves well, but just as there were horrendous slave masters in our country, many masters in Rome were harsh and unjust. Some sources said that roughly half of the people in the Roman Empire were slaves. Paul makes no commentary on the issue of slavery – whether it is right or wrong. Rather, he addresses the attitude and actions of those who found themselves in the situation of slavery (he expounds on this in 1 Cor 7:20-24 and 1 Pet 2:18). He also speaks to the slave master, Philemon, to be gracious to his runaway slave, Onesimus, when he returns to him. The issue was how these slaves would represent Christ who had made them slaves to God, freeing them from their enslavement to sin. It was about submission and obedience – both in action and in attitude. 

Paul writes that he wants the slaves to adorn the doctrine of God by being submissive and not being argumentative and so on. The word adorn is the Greek word kosmeo, where we get our word cosmetics. It meant to arrange jewels to best display their beauty. It was to make something attractive or to give credit to the object in view. The fact that Paul even mentions slaves in this letter showed everyone they had value and that their lives mattered. What is more, the way they lived their lives mattered greatly. They were to be “well-pleasing”, they should not argue or steal, they should submit. Above all, they should do these things even when their master was out of sight because as believers they had a Master who saw everything they did. Their good behavior was an adornment to display the beauty of the doctrines of God. Perhaps their good behavior would attract others to Christ.

Bridging Contexts

Whether you are an older man, younger man, or slave, your behavior should reflect the Master. This is true for the women as well. Right living matters. It matters for every person! Am I making Christ look attractive by the way I live? Would others be drawn to Christ by how I live? Does my life give credit or glory to my Master?