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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.

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? 

Titus: Right Doctrine, Right Living

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Titus 2: 1, 7-8

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Show yourself in all respects to be model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men, older women, and younger men. Here are the verses spoken specifically for Titus. Laura gave a talk on this passage, and I again am sharing what I learned from this passage and from her lecture.

Challenge #1: Titus 2:1 (“But as for you…”)

Where may God be calling you to be set apart from the world? But as for you ______. This statement comes on the heels of what Paul said about the false teachers and serves as a major contrast. But as for you, Titus, you are to be set apart from them, teaching sound doctrine. 2 Tim 2:21 says:

…anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

I love the image of the object that has been set apart (holy) and is useful for the Master. It is ready to be used for good works in the hands of the Master.

Challenge #2: (“…teach”)

Are you using opportunities to casually and comfortably talk/dialogue with others about the truth of Christ “along the way”?

The word “teach” is not the word kerusso (which means preach, or is a formal way of teaching) but rather is the word laleo meaning to “speak, converse, disclose your thoughts.” It is an informal teaching, implying that you talk about your faith as you walk along the way, engaging people outside of formal settings. Deut 11:19 tells us:

19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Teaching can be simply sharing life and doesn’t have to be anything formal (although that is good too!).

Challenge #3: (“…what accords with…”)

Is there a truth of God’s Word that you know but are not living out in proper alignment/harmonious fit in your daily life? Do your actions reflect your beliefs?

This phrase was Paul’s way of telling Titus to teach what it looks like to LIVE OUT sound doctrine. It’s not enough to teach sound doctrine, but he must also show what it looks like in everyday life. In fact the word “accord” from the Latin means “at its heart” or the “core”. The idea is that the doctrine and the application of it are intertwined (like a cord) and cannot be separated.

James 1:22 tells us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only…” and in Luke 11:28 Jesus tells the woman, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!

A bold way to put this is that people don’t have to wonder what we believe because they see us living it out.

Challenge #4: (“…sound doctrine.”)

Do you have beliefs that you need to more properly align with the essential doctrine of God’s word?

A lot of people turn their nose up at the word doctrine because it sounds scholarly or uppity. Doctrine is not something to be afraid of because it is simply a framework, a belief system, a structure of teaching of essential or core theological truths of Scripture (there are all sorts of doctrines, but in this case, we’re speaking of the doctrine of Scripture). Primary or core doctrines are those which are non-negotiable. Secondary doctrines vary among believers, and some of those include baptism, end times, organization of the church, role of elders/deacons/pastors, and gifts of the Spirit. It would be wise for anyone to read the essential doctrines of the Christian faith (some of which are Scripture, the Trinity, Satan, fallen man, Jesus Christ, salvation through Christ, eternal security).

In Amos 7:7-8, God speaks of the plumb line (or standard) by which they were to use as they built their walls. Our plumb line is the Word of God and we build from that as our starting point and standard. If our beliefs do not align to this plumb line, we must ask ourselves how to be renewed in our minds (Rom 12:2) so as to be transformed.

Challenge #5: (Titus 2:7 “Show yourself in all respects to be a model…)

Consider your “way” or the path you are on. Is it the one that Jesus would travel? When others see your life, is it one that would point them to the ways of Jesus in all things? Are you setting a pattern for others that is safe to follow?

The word “show” has the connotation of taking the whole apart so that all the pieces are in full view. It is a matter of complete transparency. To be a “model” simply means being a type, an example, or a pattern. The idea is that a person would set a healthy or safe example for others to follow. This person would have a reliable track record of consistent actions and behaviors that would be Christ-honoring. This is the concept of discipleship at its finest.

Paul told the churches to imitate him as he modeled Christ (1 Cor 11:1), with the idea that he would eventually step out of the way for them to imitate Christ (2 Tim 1:13, 1 Cor 4:16-17). In Hebrews 13:7 we are encouraged to “remember your leaders…imitate their faith.”

Proverbs 3:6 says,

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

A Model of…

Integrity: meaning incorruptibility. To teach pure (incorruptible) doctrine and to do it with pure (incorruptible) motives.

Dignity: meaning reverence, respect, majesty, and/or sanctity. To teach in a respectable nor irreverent way. This word carries with it a sense of gravity or weight, meaning to give great respect for that which is worthy of great respect. To keep weighty/serious that which is weighty/serious.

Sound speech: meaning does not deviate from the truth (not even a slight deviation).

So that…

So that an opponent may be put to shame. Opponent can mean enemy, and in this case it is one who has a hostile hatred toward the cross as in Phil 3:18. Christians are a perfect target for the enemy which is why we need to live above reproach, being a model of all these good things. They will have no ammunition to use on those who walk the straight path.

 

Titus: Beware the Deceivers

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Titus 1:10-16

Below you will find the entirety of my talk as well as a link to watch/listen (if you aren’t interested in reading!).

Let’s talk about who these “deceivers” were and what they might have been doing. We are going to watch for 5 characteristics of false teachers:

  1. Their motivation is to promote themselves rather than Christ or the gospel.
  2. They will cause dissension and place stumbling blocks in the way rather than promoting unity and spiritual growth.
  3. Their message is to contradict core Biblical truth.
  4. Their master is their own appetite, not the Lord.
  5. Their methods are to use smooth and flattering speech to deceive the hearts and minds of the naïve.

Titus 1:10 reads:

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.

Paul does some serious trash-talking in these verses. We get a glimpse of the fire in his bones as he unloads on these people. I imagine him here as the redeemed yet angry version of the Saul of Tarsus that everyone feared!

Interestingly, Paul does not even refer to these individuals as teachers, which tells me this could have been anyone! For the purposes of this lesson, I’ll still refer to them as “false teachers” because Paul uses the same or similar language in his other letters when speaking of false teachers. And also because they were teaching” things they ought not to teach (v. 11). However, I do want you to keep your radar up when it comes to being on guard against these deceivers because they could be anyone.

When we read a text in Scripture, we tend to identify with the “good guys”. Do we not? For instance, we feel for the man who was beaten and left to die on the road and we LOVE the good Samaritan. We likely never see ourselves as the religious men who passed by unmoved by the plight of the broken man. Another example is that we see ourselves as one of the disciples but hardly ever identify ourselves as a Pharisee.

Though it might make you uncomfortable, I want us all to consider 2 things: first, in what ways have we been like the deceivers? And two, how should we be on our guard against such people?

To begin, we’ll break down each of those descriptions, first technically (speaking of the words themselves in the Greek language) and then we’ll expand on the meaning of the words.

Insubordinate/rebellious people

In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) – Anupotaxtos meant “pertaining to refusing submission to authority, undisciplined, disobedient, rebellious”

  1. Here in v. 10 used of spoiled children
  2. Also used in 1 Tim 1:9 of flagrant law-breakers.

This one is not difficult to understand. But it does leave some room for imagination. How exactly were these men rebelling or being insubordinate? So were these rebellious men initially a part of the church that Paul started but later had trouble submitting to Titus’ authority? The Greek indicates that they were acting like spoiled children which begs the question, were they used to getting their way and then started acting up when Titus began to organize the church as it was intended to be?

Regardless of the details, Paul’s concern is for the unity of the church. So if you have any who are trying to disrupt it by refusing to follow the authority that is in place, you have a problem that needs to be handled quickly.

Idle or “empty” talkers

  1. In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) – Mataiologos means “an idle talker, windbag
  2. In interlinear bible – meant “one who utters empty senseless things”
  3. You may have heard the word Logos before. “In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God.” John 1:1
  4. This word is only used in Titus 1:10
  5. Similar word (mataiologia) (same root) found in 1 Tim 1:6 “empty, fruitless talk; turn to fruitless discussion”

This description struck me the most as I read this passage. I really love how both the Hebrew and Greek often paint word pictures for us. As you read those words, you imagine what an empty talker is like. It’s rather like an oxymoron. Full of words but the words are empty.

A funny (or rather cute) example of this would be how a one-year-old speaks to his family. I’ll never forget my youngest son rambling on and on as if he were carrying on a complete conversation, but to us, he said absolutely nothing that made sense. His words were empty, senseless.

A more serious example would be the person who talks for five straight minutes but never actually says anything. You have heard the statement, “he’s just full of hot air.”

They are senseless, fruitless windbags. The imagery of a windbag is both sobering and comical. What is the point of catching the wind? What good would a windbag do you?

Just as these deceivers were speaking empty words, Isaiah 41:29 speaks of the emptiness of worshiping idols. He says

Behold, they are all a delusion; /   their works are nothing; /   their metal images are empty wind.

So if idols were delusions which produced nothing, what does that say about those who worshiped them? The false teachers were no better than an idol worshipper. JESUS plus anything equals nothing. Vanity. Emptiness. Windbags.

In contrast I think of a person whose words are filled with meaning. Colossians 4:6 tells us

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

And also Ephesians 4:29,

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

I wonder if we’ve ever considered the source of our words. Those words which are gracious and full of meaning likely originate from the Holy One! Think about what the Scriptures say about God’s words. Isaiah 55:10-11 says,

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Can you picture that?! God’s word goes out and does return to Him void. Talk about words that are FULL of meaning. They accomplish exactly what He sent them out to do. They are never empty, senseless, fruitless. No windbags here.

In contrast, when our words are empty, when they tear down their hearers, consider the source of those words. Perhaps they come from the evil one. This is the case that both Jesus and Paul make on several occasions. We will come back to this briefly later on.

To wrap up this section on empty talkers, I want us all to consider the importance of our words. Jesus speaking to the scribes and Pharisees in Matt 12:36-37 said,

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Will our words be empty? Or will they give life and grace to those who hear? Will they build up or tear down? Will they be a fruit-bearing product of the Vine? Or a windbag that has its source in the deceiver?

That brings me to my next point on the false teachers! They are…

Deceivers

  1. Phrenapates In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) “deceiver, misleader”; also “seducer”
  2. Again this word is only used in Titus 1:10
  3. A similar word phrenapatao is found in Gal 6:3 and meant to “mislead concerning the truth, deceive (oneself).”
  4. Webster’s Dictionary 1828 defines the word deceive this way: “To mislead the mind; to cause to err; to cause to believe what is false, or disbelieve what is true; to impose on; to delude.”

There’s something very sinister about a person who purposefully and knowingly leads someone away from truth and toward destruction. However there’s also something terribly tragic about the person who deceives even himself.

I already began the discussion about the evil one being involved in the words we speak. We all know how the evil one deceived Eve in the garden (Gen 3:4-5; 2 Cor 11:3). Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan deceives the whole world. There are over 40 passages that refer to Satan as a deceiver or to his deceitful work. (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/4123-Satan-as-deceiver)

Jesus had a heated discussion with the Pharisees in John 8 concerning their origins with Abraham and His origin with God the Father. They make several accusations about Him, but He responds with this in v. 44:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a LIAR and the father of lies.

You want to know where the false teachers get their insubordination? Their empty words? Their deception? They got it from their father, the devil, the father of lies.

We read the passage in 2 Cor 11:13-14 which refers to the false teachers as

deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ [who get this from Satan who disguises himself as an angel of light]

Jesus spoke of false prophets as those who would come in sheep’s clothing though they are actually hungry wolves (Matt 7:15).

The Pharisees are rather like those insubordinate, spoiled children Paul speaks of to Titus. Jesus disrupted the way of life they were used to living and that life involved deceiving people and weighing them down with empty and useless words/rules. Perhaps these false teachers in Crete were some of the old faction of Pharisees who just wouldn’t let go of their idols.

On that note, let’s talk about…

The Circumcision party

The term “circumcision party” is mentioned three times in the NT – Acts 11:2 (against Peter), Gal 2:12 (with James), and here in Titus 1:10. This was a legitimate religious faction.

Thinking back to Pentecost, we know that there were Jewish brothers from Crete who were present and had heard the message of the resurrection. But there were also Jews on the island who held to their man-made traditions. These are the “circumcision party” or the Judaizers.

John MacArthur (Bible Handbook) writes,

The younger elder [Titus] was already familiar with Judaizers, false teachers in the church, who among other things insisted that all Christians, Gentile as well as Jew, were bound by the Mosaic law. Titus had accompanied Paul and Barnabas years earlier to the Council of Jerusalem where that heresy was the subject (Acts 15; Gal. 2:1-5). (p. 451)

If you aren’t quite familiar with what happened at this council, let’s turn there to clarify. Acts 15:1, 13, 19 says,

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” [much debate v. 2-12] 13 After they finished speaking, James replied,…

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,…”

After this the council sent Paul and Barnabas as well as Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas to all the Gentile churches with the full details. Later in Gal 2:1-5 we learn that Paul had taken Titus with him on his missionary journey where they were pressured by “false brothers” to have Titus, a Greek man, circumcised.

 For Paul this [circumcision party and their message] was an alarming development because it undercut the core message of the gospel; if salvation could not be attained without embracing Judaism, then the death of Christ was insufficient. (Archeological Bible footnote)

Once again I’ll repeat the equation. JESUS plus ANYTHING equals NOTHING. Thus the reason Paul takes no time to correct these deceivers as they crop up.

Moving on to the next verse, Paul writes,

11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 

You can imagine why Paul tells Titus that they must be silenced! This word is epistomizo and meant to “bridle or stop up the mouth” (interlinear). Not only were they teaching for their own personal gain, but they were teaching things which were not truth and in so doing were upsetting entire families within the church.

The word for upsetting is

  1. Anatrepo and can be translated as “to overthrow, overturn, destroy, and subvert” (interlinear).
  2. The Greek Lexicon says it meant “to jeopardize someone’s inner well-being, upset, ruin”.

This meaning is even more ominous than to simply upset someone. The goal is their destruction or ruin. Paul’s concern, therefore, was for the truth to win out and for the church not to be harmed or divided.

The text does not specify exactly what these false teachers were teaching, but they were teaching things which they “ought not to teach”. We might assume that this is at least part of the reason for Paul writing about certain doctrinal truths to Titus. We can also assume the false teachers had fallen away from these truths.

Not only were these deceivers teaching false doctrine but they were also doing it for some sort of “shameful gain”. {Remember the Cretans had no problem with greed or shameful gain.}

The emphasis is their motivation. They taught from selfish motives. It was not for the benefit of those who hear. Or even because they loved God and wanted others to know about Him.

In stark contrast to these false teachers, Paul is very intentional about pointing out how he preached the gospel to people. In 2 Cor 2:17a he writes,

17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

In 1 Cor 9:18 Paul tells the people that he presented the gospel “free of charge”. In all of his teaching on the Body of Christ, Paul encourages believers to do nothing from selfish ambition but to consider others above ourselves and for us to use our gifts for the edification of the Church, the Body (Phil 2:3; Eph 4; 1 Cor 12:7, 14:3; 1 Thess 5:11).

These guys were bad news! In fact, one of their own people, Epimenides of Crete (according to tradition), said this about the Cretans:

Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons… (v.12b)

Epimenides was a poet and philosopher in the 6th century B.C. who was native to Crete. He was held in high esteem by the Cretans and was credited with several predictions that were in fact later fulfilled. (Arch. Bible footnote).

Cretans were known for their immoral living. Liars. Evil beasts. Lazy gluttons. They are believed to come from the ancient Minoan civilization which undoubtedly involved worship of multiple deities. (from Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology by Ilse Schoep  “The Minoan ‘Palace-Temple’ Reconsidered: A Critical Assessment of the Spatial Concentration of Political, Religious and Economic Power in Bronze Age Crete”)

LIARs

During the Roman times the Cretans likely worshiped the common Greek gods, including Zeus and Hera. (from Wieland, 346) Zeus was known for his ability to deceive and apparently Cretans followed after their idol because they too were known for their ability to

deceive but also [had a] proclivity to be deceived. Josephus tells of Crete’s Jewish community being hoodwinked by a pretender to Herod’s throne.

In fact the nations surrounding Crete began using the Greek term kretizo (“Crete-ise”) because of the island’s reputation for deceit and cunning. (Wieland in “Grace manifest: missional church in the letter to Titus” in The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice).

Dishonesty in public life continued under Roman rule. In fact, Mark Antony attempted to wrest Crete from Rome with a forged document and between the time of 20-70 A.D. no less than five governors were recalled to Rome to face corruption charges. (Wieland, 345-46)

The term “evil beasts” was rather ironic for this people group who enjoyed the reputation of being “free of wild animals.” (Wieland, 347 quoting 1st century Pliny and Plutarch) The irony was that the beastly characteristics were exhibited not by animals but by the people, including their practice of herding the young men into groups like cattle.

Finally the term “lazy gluttons” is rather telling as Paul exposes the false teachers’ motivation for deceiving others was their own appetites. Lazy gluttons engorge themselves on food and have no self-control to reign in their appetite.

Paul continues,

13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 

Rebuke sharply

Paul instructs Titus to rebuke these men SHARPLY. This word is apotomos and meant to be “severe, rigorous.” Even abrupt and curt. The word rebuke is elegcho and meant to “reprehend severely, to chide, admonish, reprove, to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation” with the idea of bringing conviction.

This word for rebuke is the same word used in John 16:8 of the Holy Spirit’s work,

And when he comes, he will convict (elegchō) the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

Paul has in mind that Titus’ rebuke would convince them of their sin in order that they might repent and be sound in the faith.

To be sound in the faith

The word sound carries with it the idea of being well and in good health. Those who are sound in the faith, who speak sound words, sound teaching, sound doctrine will be speaking healthy words. They would be speaking Truth to their hearers because those words will be grounded in the Word of God.

Jesus said this of His words in John 6:63:

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Healthy words are words that speak truth but in love. They are words that encourage and don’t condemn. Healthy words do not ask something of you that would be unhealthy for your spirit or your body. Sound words are healthy words.

We could probably all think of “false teachers” in our culture today who have spoken lies to thousands of people and have committed all kinds of spiritual abuses. They are unhealthy people acting in unhealthy ways and feeding off of already broken lives. A SHARP rebuke is what’s in order for these people. Not soft, marshmallow, indulgent comments of agreement or even apathetic leniency.

Here is another great way to think of this: J. C. Ryle was a champion for the truth in the Church of England during the 19th century. In Warnings to the Churches (p. 110, ch. 5 “Controversy in Religion”), he wrote about how difficult yet necessary controversy in the church is. Then he added,

But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.

After acknowledging that many would view what he writes as exceedingly distasteful, he states (p. 111),

Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with—a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin. (from Steven Cole at bible.org)

The key is being sound in the faith, with both feet firmly planted in the Word of God. You can bet that every false teacher out there has stepped one or both feet out of the Word and into something else. Be on your guard.

Hopefully we have expressed our passion to you for the Word of God in such a way that you also see the necessity for it in your lives. We are not aiming to stuff you with a bunch of knowledge from God’s Word as if you were the next Thanksgiving turkey. What good is knowledge for knowledge’s sake? The knowledge of His Word means a knowledge of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. We believe that the Bible is God’s holy Word and has the power to change our lives, making us look and act more like our Savior.

How can we have Christ without His doctrines? We must LOVE the doctrine of God our Savior! (Spurgeon “Adorning the Gospel”) Sound doctrine rightly applied produces holy living.

Paul continues that he wants Titus to rebuke them so that they would be sound in the faith…

14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

Before discussing myths and commands of men, let’s first address what we should be devoted to. To be sound in the faith requires one to be firmly planted in the truth (Psalm 1:1-3). Jesus told His disciples in John 8:31,

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.

And later in John 17:17 he prayed to the Father,

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Paul tells us in Col. 3:16,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Paul also warns in 2 Tim 2:15,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

These men were doing anything but handling the truth correctly. They were TURNING AWAY from the truth. Now let us look at what Paul meant by…

Jewish myths

Paul also uses the phrase in 1 Tim 1:3-4 saying,

…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. (NIV)

Paul states that the problem with these myths is that they promote controversial speculations and don’t actually advance God’s work at all. I think of that image of EMPTY windbags. Myths and speculations are empty and senseless, of little value.

The footnote in my Arch Bible for this verse 1 Tim 1:4 says:

’Myths’ may refer to mythical stories built upon OT history (‘genealogies’) that later developed into intricate Gnostic philosophical systems.

One of the most popular groups of false teachers in Paul’s day were those who called themselves the Gnostics.

From Arch Bible article “The Gnostics and Their Scriptures”:

From the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge”, Gnosticism was a movement that claimed to provide secret knowledge about God. Its adherents considered the Biblical God, the Creator of the world, to be an inferior god. In Gnostic teaching the material world was innately evil and thus its Creator a lesser deity. The Gnositc Savior, rather than providing atonement for sin, brought the knowledge of humanity’s ‘true’ divine origins, thus freeing people from their ignorance and enslavement to the material world.

You can see how this myth about God would promote all kinds of controversial conversations among the church!

So let me translate this for you in today’s terms. Stay away from the person who wants to argue and debate about the latest hot topic of religion. They’ll give you all sorts of opinions and rants but nothing will be grounded in the Word and the motive will be to either stir you up in anger or tear you down in your beliefs. Most importantly it does nothing to advance the gospel. It’s just a bunch of empty speculation resulting in ZERO fruit/good works.

The Commands of People

Jesus speaks to the problem of following human tradition in Mark 7:6-9, 13 (NIV):

[v. 1-5 disciples eating with unwashed hands and Pharisees question Jesus] He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! [Jesus’ example of their lack of obedience to God’s original intent v. 10-12] 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

The Jewish teachers of the law had added so many “commands” to the actual Law that they became more important than the Law itself. They would often set aside the true intent of the Law just to abide by their own traditions.

Originally their motives were simply to be extra careful to observe all that was written in the book of the Law. Remember when the serpent asked Eve what God had told her about the trees of the garden in Gen 3? She told it that God had said not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden AND not to touch it. We know God didn’t add that extra command, not to touch. But this is an example of what the rabbis did to the Law. They called it building a “fence around the Torah”. They added extra measures to the Law in order to keep themselves and others from disobeying it. If they couldn’t even touch the fruit, then they certainly couldn’t eat it. (Michael Heiss)

Because these men wanted to understand the Scripture and know how it applied to their lives, the rabbi’s came up with a way to interpret the Scripture known as midrash. Midrash is an exegetical process or technique the rabbis used to creatively explain the meaning of the Scripture which made use of certain interpretive tools such as etymology (word origin), wordplay (prophets using puns), catchwords (words that grab your attention), analogy, and so on. They sought knowledge of the Scripture by using logical inferences, combinations of different passages (cross references), and the like.  (Sound familiar? We do this too!) The

“main purpose of Jewish scriptural interpretation was to make Scripture comprehensible and applicable to particular communities.” (p. 99 Joel Green in The World of the New Testament)

However, the rabbinic interpretation was often raised to the same level as Scripture, and you can see how this kind of elevation of the “commands of men” resulted in all sorts of doctrinal issues. You can also imagine the kind of religious atmosphere Paul and Titus were dealing with. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 23:2-4,

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”

Please note that Jesus does not fault these religious leaders for having too much knowledge but rather that all the knowledge never made an impact on their hearts. Those facts didn’t travel from the head to the heart to become actions. Thus they became hypocrites, whose knowledge of the Word made no difference in their lives.

Be wary of the person who completely discards the pursuit of the knowledge of God’s Word. Os Guiness writes in Dining with the Devil,

Today theology is rarely more than marginal in the church-growth movement at the popular level. Discussion of the traditional marks of the church is virtually nonexistent. Instead, methodology is at the center and in control. The result is a methodology only occasionally in search of a theology.” (p. 26)

He continues on to explain that worship and discipleship are often subordinate to evangelism, and all three to that of entertainment which he calls “the Achilles’ heel of evangelicalism.” (p. 27) Guiness further describes the trouble of offering milk and never meat to a growing congregation:

‘all things to all people’ means it is perfectly legitimate to convey the gospel in cartoons to a non-literary generation incapable of rising above MTV and USA Today. But five years later, if the new disciples are truly won to Christ, they will be reading and understanding Paul’s letter to the Romans and not simply the Gospel According to Peanuts.” (p. 28-29)

Keep in mind that one of the spiritual gifts God gives to His Church is knowledge which often goes along with discernment. (1 Cor 12:8) If it were a bad thing, why would He give it for the benefit of His Church? Like any gift, it can be misused or abused, but it is not in and of itself a bad thing.

How can a believer live a holy life apart from knowing what the Holy God prescribes for His children? His Word is meant to be studied for it contains direction for our lives.

Neither let us make knowledge the end point nor forsake the study of God’s Word.

Too many people are afraid of knowledge and claim “we don’t want to fall into legalism.” However, this kind of thinking is just another form of legalism (excessive adherence to law or formula). Rather than adhering to a strict following of the law of God, these people follow a strict law of correct practice (orthopraxy) divorced from orthodoxy (correct belief). It leads to a faith devoid of doctrine which is ultimately ignorant and misinformed.

The Cretan deceivers had strayed from God’s Word and had been following Jewish myths and the commands of men, elevating their knowledge above the Scripture. Not only that, but as Jesus said, they likely required the people to follow these myths and commands as well, though they themselves were unwilling to live what they preached.

Do we ever place burdens on other people that we ourselves do not even require of ourselves? Or taking this a step further, do we project our perfectionism onto another, expecting an impossible standard that we ourselves cannot even attain to?

Now for our last verses: v. 15-16. 

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

DEFILED

  1. Interlinear – miaino (me-ah’-ee-no) meaning “to dye with another colour, to stain; to defile, pollute, sully, contaminate, soil; to defile with sins
  2. Greek lexicon – to cause the purity of something to be violated by immoral behavior; refers to the mind of the faithless in v. 15

Note in Lexicon:

The primary sense ‘to stain’ (as of dye) prepares the way for the transforming sense of causing defilement through socially or cultically unacceptable behavior. It is well to keep in mind…that in the Greco-Roman world [to have a harmonious relationship with the gods and nature, all people were expected to observe certain moral and ritual laws]. Individuals were subordinate to interests of the community and violations of standard moral and ceremonial expectations could jeopardize the delicate balance between an entire populace and its deities.

In other words, you were obligated to maintain moral or ritual purity for the sake of the community so as not to “offend the gods”!

In light of this cultural custom, one way to think of verse 15 is in the context of food laws and ritual purity.

Purity in the NT

Footnote from ESV:

To the pure, all things are pure echoes Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:39-41 (39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.) and Paul’s earlier writing in Rom 14:20 (20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.).”

Another way to think of this verse is in the context of morality and holy living in general.

Both mind and conscience are defiled. A great example of this can be found in John’s gospel. John 18:28 tells us,

Then they [chief priests and Pharisees] led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

Did you catch the irony? They didn’t want to “defile” themselves by going into the Gentile man’s headquarters because they wouldn’t be qualified to eat the Passover according to their man made traditions. Yet they were already defiled by their sin and blind to their crime of handing over Jesus, an innocent man.

Both their mind and conscience were completed stained or tainted by their own appetites and agendas, and they would view their own behavior as pure and religiously motivated and justified as a result of their completely twisted concept of morality.

Profess to know God

Verse 16 tells us the false teachers professed to know God. I want to recall a passage from 1 John 2:3-6 which referred to knowing God:

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandmentsWhoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

The one who knows God will do what He says. The one who keeps God’s Word walks the same way Jesus walked. So how did these men of Crete measure up?

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes about this false knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble (godless chatter NIV) and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Remember what I said about the Gnostic heresy? They claimed to have a “special knowledge” about God. These false teachers professed to KNOW God, perhaps claiming this special knowledge of the Gnostics OR claiming their heritage as Jews meant that they automatically knew God. They professed to know God, but their hearts were far from Him (From Jesus’ words in Mark 7: *Isaiah 29:13 “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…”).

DENY Him by their works

While their words appeared to express a love or knowledge for God, Paul says their works tell another (TRUER) story. Matt 7:15-19

15Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Jesus also addresses the fruit concept in Matt 12:33-37 (the tree is known by its fruit.” v. 33). In both passages He connects words with works/fruit. Those who love Him obey Him and walk like Him because as they ABIDE in the Vine, they begin to look and act more like the Vinedresser who faithfully produces fruit (good works) in the lives of His image-bearers.

James writes at length on the importance of faith and works working together. In fact he makes the bold statement that faith without works is DEAD (James 2:26).

The false teachers said “yes we know God” with their words but in all that they did, Paul says they denied God.

Peter also speaking about false teachers says this: 2 Pet 2:1

But false prophets also arose among the people… who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Similar to Paul’s theme of denying God by living immorally, Jude writes this v. 4,

For certain people have crept in unnoticed … ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

John puts it way more harshly in 1 John 2:22,

Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichristdenying the Father and the Son.

As we think about this term to deny, I want to take you to Isaiah 59:12-15:

12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
    and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
    and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the Lord,
    and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
    conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.

14 Justice is turned back,
    and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
    and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking,
    and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

Isaiah was speaking to the Israelites in that day, but you can see how his words applied very much to those false teachers at Crete, and even to those walking among us today.

I can’t help but think of these sobering (serious?) words from Jesus (paraphrase), “if you acknowledge Me, I’ll acknowledge you before the Father. If you deny Me, I’ll deny you.” Matthew 10:32-33

Without sound doctrine, we are just another deceiver – defiled, detestable, disobedient. Unfit for good works.

Unfit for good works

  1. Greek lexicon – word is adokimos (ad-ok’-ee-mos) and meant “not standing the test, unqualified, worthless
  2. Interlinear bible – “not approved (properly used of metals and coins); unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate”

Let me put it this way : 2 Tim 2:15 tells us we must be diligent to present ourselves as workmen APPROVED to God who accurately handle the Word. And remember what Job said after all of his horrific trials, “when He has tried me, I shall come forth as pure gold“ (Job 23:10).

The refining process for silver involved the metal worker heating the silver to its melting point, skimming off the dross/impurities, and ending his labor once he saw his reflection in the pure silver. When we, like the precious metal, have gone through the affliction, we come forth qualified, approved, as those who have stood the test. They are fit for good works.

To tie this all together, remember God has created us for good works (Eph 2:10) but these works are a privilege and a gift for those who have stood the test and have been approved.

This is exactly opposite of the false teachers. They are unfit. Not approved. Unproved. Did not stand the test. Not ready for good works.

Characteristics of False Teachers 

In closing let me take just a moment to summarize some characteristics of false teachers. (From bible.org Steven J. Cole – https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-107-final-warning-beware-false-teachers-romans-1617-20)

  1. Their motivation is to promote themselves rather than Christ or the gospel.
  2. They will cause dissension and place stumbling blocks in the way rather than promoting unity and spiritual growth.
  3. Their message is to contradict core Biblical truth.
  4. Their master is their own appetite, not the Lord.
  5. Their methods are to use smooth and flattering speech to deceive the hearts and minds of the naïve.

To expound on this last characteristic, I wanted to read to you from Steven Cole’s article on false teachers. He writes:

Arius (d. 336), was a heretic who denied the deity of Christ and was the forerunner of the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses. He gained a huge following. But the courageous Athanasius battled against him. Parker Williamson describes Arius:

‘Here was a bright, energetic, attractive fellow, the kind of citizen whom any Rotary Club would welcome. Singing sea chanties in dockside pubs and teaching Bible stories to the Wednesday night faithful, this was an immensely popular man. His story reminds us that heresy does not bludgeon us into belief. We are seduced.’ (Standing Firm: Reclaiming the Chastain Faith in Times of Controversy [Lenoir, North Carolina: PLC Publications, 1996], p. 31, cited by John Piper, “Watch Out for Those Who Lead You Away from the Truth,” on DesiringGod.org)

So to recognize false teachers, watch their motives, their message, their master, and their methods.

What does this mean for us? Know your Truth people! The Truth sets you free from all the false doctrine the world contains. (John 8:32) This is no war against flesh and blood. Those deceivers/false teachers are not the enemy. The evil one is our enemy. {KATNISS! “Remember who the real enemy is”}

Therefore put on the whole armor of God so you can stand against the devil’s schemes! (Eph 6:11) Fasten the belt of truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, put on the shoes of the gospel, take up the shield of faith, wear the helmet of salvation, and finally keep that sword sharp. Then just pray pray pray. (Eph 6:14-18)

As for what we must do to guard against false teachers, Paul tells us, “Keep your eye on them and turn away from them.” (Rom 16:17) The noun related to the verb “keep your eye on” is used in Ezekiel 3:17 (LXX) to refer to the watchman on the wall. His job was to keep his eye peeled for the enemy and to sound the alarm when he saw them coming so that they could prepare for battle. Since these false teachers often disguise themselves as “servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:15) or as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15), you have to be discerning to spot them.

Paul also says, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” Or, in Jesus words (Matt. 10:16, ESV), “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Our focus should be on being wise in the Scriptures. Knowing the truth will equip you to refute the errors of false teachers.” (From bible.org – https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-107-final-warning-beware-false-teachers-romans-1617-20)

Finally, watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Tim 4:16 (NIV)

titus-bkgd

Click on the picture for the link or see the link below:

http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/c45ad67

Titus: More Than the “Titus 2 Woman” Part 2

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Let’s take a look at Titus 1:5-9:

(O)This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and (P)appoint elders in every town as I directed you— (Q)if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,[d] and his children are believers[e]and not open to the charge of (R)debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer,[f] (S)as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not (T)be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent (U)or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, (V)and disciplined. He must (W)hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in (X)sound[g] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

{Once again, I’m leaving the footnotes and cross references for the curious at heart.}

At first glance this letter to Titus might appear as though it’s just another book about church order, elders, and so on. We get these virtue and vice lists and might be tempted to gloss over them since we assume they may not pertain to us (elders were to be men in this passage, so we women might think it’s not for us). Wrong! Every word is helpful for understanding the Cretan culture, Paul’s ministry model, Titus’ task on the island, order in the church, and so on. It’s the first time Paul lets us in on why sound doctrine is so important for living the holy life. These leaders of the church would set the precedent for how God’s Word would be lived out in every day life. If they were to be teaching sound doctrine and rebuking those against it, then they most certainly needed to be living it out.

The talk that our teacher (Donna) did was broken into two sections: Put into Order and Character Matters.

Put into Order

Elders were to be appointed in every town on the island. Acts 14:23 reveals how the apostles approached the appointing of elders (and it was no small thing!):

23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Prayer. Fasting. Committed to the Lord. You might say it was a sort of ordination into the ministry. It appears to be as serious as how we might handle the election of a pastor for our church.

Paul tells us in verse 5 that Titus was to put into order what was lacking or what remained. This phrase to put into order was actually a medical term that meant to set broken bones or to straighten those which were crooked. Now 2 Timothy 2:2 gives us more insight concerning what these men were to do:

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

They were called to teach the word which had been entrusted to them. We talked about the idea of being “entrusted” with the Word in the previous post. It is a careful guarding.

So if the appointment of elders was such an important task and not to be taken lightly, this tells us that the organization of the church was important to God. I love that He cares for order! But this is not an order for order’s sake. Order indicates that there’s a purpose behind the plan. It’s been well thought out and is intentional. God cares about and is involved in the smallest details and the big picture.

Character Matters

I love the main descriptor for the elders in verse 6 – to be above reproach. Someone who reproaches another is expressing disappointment or disapproval. The elder was to be above reproach. That would mean that even if someone expressed disapproval, that person would be put to shame because the elder would be above the claim made against them. This word does not mean that the elder is sinless (no one can be sinless), but rather that he is “without indictment or accusation; unchargable.” 1 Peter 3:16 tells us we are:

16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Paul then goes on to list (1) domestic character, (2) moral character, and (3) doctrinal character.

1) Husband of one wife. Boy that phrase is loaded with years and years of arguments and interpretation! What did Paul actually mean? If all the scholars were to duke this one out, two arguments stand above them all: the husband should never have been divorced v. the husband should have only one wife (as opposed to many). The Greek phrase literally means one woman man. Regardless of where you fall in your interpretation of this passage, one thing is certain – the elder’s relationship with his wife is paramount. {I tend to believe that being divorced, under certain circumstances, should not disqualify a person from being able to serve as a leader/elder.}

  • Believing children. Wow, Paul! Could we ease up on the controversial topics? Once again this is a touchy subject and can be interpreted in different ways. Are we talking about young children (only in the home, under the father’s care) or also about children who have left the home (no longer under the father’s authority, per se)? We have seen that the parents can do well to raise their children to know the Lord, but those children can later turn from the faith. These are difficult issues that can touch our hearts in very tender ways. Ultimately what we need to remember is that the way a man father’s his children reveals his heart. The idea is that “if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:5)
  • In fact, the next verse calls this man God’s steward (if you take “overseer” to mean “elder”. Please note that these are two different words in the Greek, and some believe this is a separate calling). A steward is someone who manages their Master’s business/property or household. The elders/overseers were to manage God’s household, the Church.

2) Before Paul lists all the things the elders are to be, he tells them what they should NOT be. I find this to be very helpful because it paints a more poignant picture. We can say we are self-controlled in some things, but do we have a quick-temper? The elders were NOT to be arrogant, quick-tempered, a drunkard, violent, or greedy. Let us keep in mind that these are qualifications for elders and not for all people that come through the church doors. If you are a regular church attender and have issues with arrogance or anger, this does not disqualify you from entering into the fellowship with other believers. However, all Christians should avoid these vices for they are unbecoming to the one who wears Christ’s name (but that’s another conversation for another time).

  • To be arrogant meant to “enjoy oneself or take one’s pleasure” and came to mean “self-pleasing, self-willed, obstinate in one’s own opinion.” Prone to anger didn’t mean having angry moments, but rather that the person was a ticking time bomb. To be a drunkard literally meant to “sit alongside wine”. Violent goes without saying. Greedy for gain implies dishonesty or shameful means of gaining wealth.
  • Verse 8 then lists the virtues (what the elders should be): hospitable, lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Hospitable meant to love strangers. That the elders, leaders in the church, were to be hospitable meant that they were to be servants and not beneath the act of caring for strangers. To love what is good is a fascinating qualification to me. This one carries the idea of being peace-loving and pure (not having a poor/negative attitude and not loving what is bad/evil). To be self-controlled meant to have reign over the mind and the body. Upright and holy really go well together. Disciplined meant to exercise self control or mastery over oneself.

3 Finally Paul tells Titus that the elder must hold firm to the trustworthy Word. These men were to teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it.

  • 1 Timothy 4:16 tells us,

16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV)

  • And Colossians 1:28 says,

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

  • We should all hold firm to the Word, being careful to watch our doctrine, for by His Word we are made mature. The elders were to teach and warn the people so that they could present God’s Church to Him, mature or complete. Their task was no easy or small task.

To wrap up the passage, Donna read this from Charles Spurgeon:

It is the fashion, nowadays, to talk much about preaching Christ, but not His doctrines. I neither understand nor wish to understand what that expression can mean. Christ without His doctrine? The great Teacher without His teachings? The Lord without His commands? The Christ without His anointing? Jesus, the only Savior, without His precious blood of Atonement? This is Judas-like, to betray the Son of Man with a kiss, to set up a engraved image in the place of Christ, a stuffed idol from which everything is absent that is vital to the true Christ of God! Dear Friends, we love “the doctrine of God our Savior” with all our hearts! We have received it to the joy of our spirit and in it we find the mainspring of motive which leads us to love our God and to walk in obedience to His precepts.

Do you love Christ? Yes? Then you will also love His doctrine.

Titus: More Than the “Titus 2 Woman”

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I sat down to lunch with my two mentors (and fellow teachers) at my favorite Greek bakery. We came together to discuss what we’d be teaching the women for the Fall semester at our church. I had no idea when I arrived that I would leave with the Book of Titus as our assignment.

I can think of MANY books of the Bible that I would love to study and teach. Titus was not my first choice. I was thinking more along the lines of Hebrews or even one of the prophets (Isaiah). All I really knew about Titus was what I had heard about the Titus 2 Woman and also that Paul addressed matters related to the Church. My view on Titus, to say the least, was narrow.

However, I am always up for a challenge and typically find that I learn the MOST when I am the one who has to do the teaching. Consequently, I could stand to learn a LOT about Titus. In my previous post, I detail the process that happens when we choose a topic or book of the Bible to study. In this post I am going to describe the insights I have learned from my fellow teachers about Titus. I will also publish my lecture notes in a separate post.

The very first thing I learned about Titus is that it is more than the “Titus 2 Woman.” This book is rich in theology and full of application. It is the perfect harmonizing of orthodoxy (correct belief) and orthopraxy (correct practice). You cannot have one without the other. Take out orthodoxy, and you have no foundation for why to live a godly life. Take out orthopraxy, and you have a religion devoid of heart or relationship. One leaves you feeling ignorant and misdirected while the other leaves you feeling puffed up and hypocritical. Our motto for Titus has become: Sound doctrine rightly applied produces sound living.

Let’s take a look at the passage now:

Titus 1:1-9 (ESV – taken from Biblegateway.com)

Paul, a servant[a] of God and (A)an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and(B)their knowledge of the truth, (C)which accords with godliness, (D)in hope of eternal life, which God,(E)who never lies, (F)promised (G)before the ages began[b] and (H)at the proper time manifested in his word[c] (I)through the preaching (J)with which I have been entrusted (K)by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, (L)my true child in (M)a common faith:

(N)Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

{You noticed that I left every cross reference and footnote. I promise I wasn’t being lazy. I left them in case you wanted to check them out for yourself!}

The first four verses are Paul’s greeting. Typically we breeze right past the greetings (and likewise with the final greetings or closing) and yet there is so much in there that can enlighten us concerning the culture, author, audience, purpose of the letter and so on. Laura (our leader who taught this lesson) broke down these verses into five sections: His position, office, mission, motivation, and method.

First, Paul lists his position as a bondservant. This is quite a humble statement to make of oneself due to the nature of this service. A bondservant was a slave who had sold himself voluntarily to a Master. Exodus 21:5-6 describes what a servant would do in order to remain a slave of his master. The master would bore his ear through with an awl, leaving a mark to show he belonged to his master. Paul was indicating that he belonged to God! He was not his own. His Master was the Lord, and he would serve Him out of surrendered humility.

Next Paul gives his office as an apostle which meant “one who is called and sent out as a messenger.” This title indicates authority as well. He was able to call himself an apostle along with the Twelve (disciples/apostles), and this title is one that no one else can claim. Baker’s Dictionary explains the qualifications for apostleship:

…the essential qualification of an apostle is being called and sent by Christ. In the case of Matthias, additional qualifications come to light. In addition to the divine call, the person must have been a disciple of Jesus from John’s baptism to the ascension, and specifically a witness of the resurrection (Ac 1:21-22)…. Paul’s own claim to apostleship is likewise based on the divine call of Christ (Rom 1:1 ; 1 Col 1:1 ; Galatians 1:1Galatians 1:15 ; cf. 2 Col 1:1 ; Eph 1:1 ; Col 1:1 ; 1 Tim 1:1 ; 2 Tim 1:1 ; Titus 1:1). He is an apostle, “not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal 1:1). His encounter with the resurrected Jesus served as the basis for his unique claim to be an “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13)…. The primary function of the apostles was to witness to Christ. The Twelve had intimate knowledge of his life, and a wider group had been witnesses to his resurrection…. Paul viewed apostleship as a gift of the Spirit (1 Co 12:28), which was often accompanied by miraculous signs and mighty works (2 Co 12:12). Such signs and wonders, however, were clearly secondary to the apostolic functions of preaching and teaching. (emphasis mine)

There is a distinction to be made between those who are disciples and the thirteen men who were called apostles. Though the apostles can also be called disciples, not all disciples of Christ can be called apostles.

Thirdly Paul describes his mission to preach the knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness. Knowledge is the apprehension of understanding and this has a target: godliness. It is not a knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It is a knowledge that is proven by your actions.

Fourth Paul’s motivation is his hope of eternal life. The phrase “in hope of” meant “resting on, with a view to.” You might say Paul was at peace with a view of the hope that has been promised by God. He was resting in the promises of God. 🙂 Interestingly this would be directly contrasted with the Cretans experience of their gods (the Greek god, Zeus, in particular). Zeus was known for his ability to deceive. But Paul tells his audience that we have a God who never lies. Because of this, the Cretans could know for certain that the promise they’d been given by God would stand true. We too can trust in this God who is free from falsehood.

Finally we learn about Paul’s method which was to preach (by command of Jesus). He speaks of being “entrusted” with the Word of God, and this has the idea of guarding carefully. Those who teach and preach the Word must correctly handle it (2 Tim 2:15). Guard it! Treat it with respect because it comes from the Ultimate Authority.

{Stay tuned for Titus 1:5-9}

How We Prepare a Bible Study: The Process of LOVING God’s Word

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I want to let you in on a process that happens when writing a bible study (and sometimes even a blog post).

First, you determine your text. In my case I teach with two other ladies, so our women’s minister suggests the direction she wants to go, including some passages that would fit into that category, and then we prayerfully choose where we sense God is leading the bible study. This semester we are studying Titus, and I was not immediately excited like I would have been if we had chosen Hebrews. This is important. I was not as excited as I could have been.

Second, we break down the text according to natural breaks in the text (I know that sentence is ridiculous, but it’s what we do! seriously!). In our case we also divvy out the sections for each of us to teach, and it just so happened to work that each of us would teach three times (making a total of nine lessons for those less math savvy). We also pair a main idea with each section of the text to keep us focused. Because we are studying a smaller book, each section is obviously smaller with only a few verses to elaborate on at times. When this happens, I always think that it will be next to impossible to fill up an entire week of study (after all, you may only have four verses to work with). I am always pleasantly surprised (and somewhat stressed) that I find more than enough to fill up a 45 minute teaching time slot (let it be noted that my last talk was over 7,000 words!).

Third, I go home and POUR over the text. {Notice my picture above? This is an Orthodox Jew copying the Scripture. Do you see how close he is to the paper?! This is how carefully I want to handle the Scriptures.} I read the whole book several times (since it is short, it’s an easier task than if it were a longer book), and then I begin to look at my own sections through a microscope. I look up cross references, the original Greek words, other helpful Scripture references that God brings to mind that might relate to my text. I jump on Ebscohost, and I find articles and books about my passage. If I’m lucky, I’ll even go to the library (Lanier Theological Library here in Houston is a teacher’s heaven) and find commentaries for the book I’m studying. As I’m studying, I’m also praying. In one moment, I’m erasing and in the next I’m rewriting. I’m crying and laughing. I’m staring at the screen blankly, and I’m typing furiously when a deluge of inspiration hits me. I’m nervous about what I’m finding and second guessing myself, and then I’m fully confident and about to explode because I want to share everything I’m learning with SOMEONE. Just anyone!

Then all of the sudden, Titus has become the most exciting book I’ve ever studied. My thoughts are consumed with the ideas from Titus that God has sent bouncing around in my head. Everything that happens every day somehow relates to Titus. All answers lead back to Titus. Everything I read has a tinge of Titus, or some connection to Titus. I’m wearing Titus-colored glasses. And this doesn’t just happen with Titus – oh no, it happens with everything I study. What is more, I want EVERYONE to know what I know, because I want them to be excited just like I’m excited! Because every word that is brought to illumination by the working of the Holy Spirit becomes my water and my food. They become my direct line to my Father who continually desires to reveal more of Himself to you and to me.

THIS is why I hunger and thirst for more of His Word. THIS is why I have a love and passion for teaching what I’ve learned. The knowledge of His Word means a knowledge of who God is and who I am in relation to Him. His Word quickens my heart and spirit for a deeper love for Him. The knowledge of His Word breaks down ignorance and excuse so that when I’m confronted with how to respond to sin or to a person who has hurt me or whatever, I am equipped with the right answer and through His Spirit that can be rightly applied in my life. His Word divides me up, carves away at those things that don’t belong in this child of the King, and it transforms this new creation to conform to the image of His Son.

Don’t be afraid of knowledge. Neither let it be your goal. Knowledge can be the vehicle that drives you straight to the Father.

One final word on the process. I spend all summer prepping for the fall bible study. That means I’m completely stoked about the study, fairly bursting at the seams all summer, and then have to WAIT to talk about it with the bible study group. This is quite possibly the hardest part for me in the bible study process. I don’t ever want the fervor I have felt during the studying process to melt away when I’m giving my talk to the group. I also don’t want it to become too familiar and lose its flavor. I spend hours rehearsing what I’m going to say for each talk. No joke. My husband makes fun of me because of how anal I can be about it! Almost every time God reveals multiple, important points that need to be added or else nudges me to take something out that isn’t going in the right direction. Inevitably I get crazy nervous about sharing my work even though I have diligently prepared for every moment. But in the end, I walk up to the podium to pour myself out like a drink offering, and all the nerves calm down, and God speaks. Somehow I get to be His mouthpiece, and there’s nothing more humbling and yet terrifying at the same time.

At the end of my talk, I’m a zombie. The walking dead. The offering has been licked up by the fire. I have left everything up there with no regrets. And all I want to do is go home and sleep so that I can reset for the next time I get to open up His Word and speak His truth to His Church. And thus the cycle continues…

To Inhabit Our Praise

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Inhabits our praise - glory

My husband has been reading Psalm 22 recently which means I get to hear about what he’s discovered. 🙂 I love it. He has written a lesson about it, and I’ve heard it now three times. I still love it. He relates the Psalm to Matthew 27, but not before thoroughly discussing what it must have meant at the time David wrote it. It’s quite a fascinating study, and one I would recommend for everyone!

My favorite part of the Psalm (at least today) struck me right in the heart as if I had read it for the first time. The verse wasn’t even pertinent to the study at that moment, but it hit me hard nonetheless. Go ahead, read the 22nd Psalm for yourself. Something else might strike you.

But here’s the verse in all it’s glory:

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.

David is clearly feeling forsaken (was it because of his first plight with Saul? or was it because of the Philistines? or perhaps one of his sons was out to get him?), but in verse 3 he writes, “Yet You are holy….” An emphatic statement made by a man who needed to remind himself who God is in the midst of his trials. I would surmise that David wasn’t feeling so certain about many things (whether or not he’d live, who his friends were, his role in Israel) yet he knew this truth about God. It’s a beautiful thing to recall God’s character for the encouragement of our aching, uncertain heart.

But this isn’t even my favorite part!

David tells us that God is “enthroned on the praises of Israel.” Another way to say this would be that God inhabits the praise of His people or that God dwells in the praise of His people.

Can we just pause for a moment and think about what that means??

I love how the Hebrew language is full of imagery at its core. This verse gives us an incredible mental picture of our holy God dwelling inside of our praise.

He dwells in our praise!

When I think of God inhabiting a place, I imagine every inch of that place being completely filled with Him. Think of what Isaiah saw when he had the vision of God in the temple:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:1-5 (emphasis mine)

God was on His throne and the temple wasn’t filled with God, it was filled with only the train of His robe! Imagine the enormity of God! The most bottom piece of His robe is what fills the gigantic (to us) temple! The seraphim tell us that the whole earth is full of His glory (which makes sense why only the bottom of His kingly robe would fit inside of a teensy temple). Notice the reference to God as holy (only this time it is emphasized with the triple repetition). David knew God is holy. Isaiah knew God is holy (interesting fact about Isaiah: he refers to God as “the Holy One of Israel” more than any other prophet). The Holy One filled the temple with a piece of His robe revealing that the place was not only completely filled with Him, but it couldn’t even contain Him.

Now picture the Holy One taking up the space of our praise.

Doesn’t that send chills down your spine? We know God is Immanuel – He is God with us. We know that God made His Son come to dwell among us. We know that when Jesus ascended into heaven, He left His Holy Spirit to dwell in us. This Holy One fills up the space of our lives with Himself. More importantly, He inhabits the praise of His people.

What does this mean for us? If God fills up the space that our praise makes, how much space is full of God in our lives? It’s both sobering and break-taking. Can you envision the Holy One occupying the space in our churches and homes as we lift up our voices to Him in praise? Can you see Him hovering about in those teensy buildings just as He first hovered over the waters during creation? A sense of anticipation and joy as He readies Himself to give life to His creation.

The presence of God is in our midst, and He comes to dwell with us as we pour out our praise to Him. He lives in our praise.

How would this change our lives if we really believed it? If God lives in my praise, wouldn’t I take extra care to pour it out? And if I know He dwells in my praise, wouldn’t I want to speak it liberally so that others could see His presence here on earth?

How does the mood of our homes and churches change when we are intent on speaking His praise? Only His praise? I have a hunch that my words would not fall to the floor as often if I had His praise in mind. There would be less criticism, less angry words, and more love and grace.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.

May His praise ever be on my lips.

Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 3)

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Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it

Something you must know about the prophets is that many times their prophecies are not placed in chronological order. In addition to this, it is highly unlikely that each oracle they preach came one right after the other. You can expect that they would have had both long and short periods of time in between each prophecy.

So we have no idea when this next passage occurs, but we know it happens! Hosea 3:1 says, The Lord said to me,

“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (NIV)

Hosea had made a marriage covenant/vow with Gomer. Gomer had broken her vows and had gone after other lovers, had been an adulteress. Yet God tells His prophet, go get her back! How many times must we forgive, Lord? 70 times 7. How many times must I go back for my unfaithful wife, Lord? Again and again and again.

God is telling Hosea, as many times as she leaves, you go back to get her, because that’s what I would do. Israel had forsaken the covenant with their Husband. They had broken their vows, yet the Lord still loved them.

When one of my sheep wanders from the fold, I leave the 99 to go and get her. Because SHE’S MINE. And I LOVE Her.

Oh and by the way, Hosea, it’s going to cost you, just like it cost me. Hosea 3:2-3

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

Gomer has wandered so far that Hosea now has to purchase her for a price! Remember 30 shekels was the price for a slave! The price he pays is debated but here are the notes I found on the amounts.

My ESV footnote says, “A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams; a homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters; a lethech was about 3 bushels or 110 liters.” The NIV footnote says a homer and a lethek together possibly weighed 430 pounds. A homer was valued at 50 shekels of silver according to Lev 27:16.

Regardless of whether or not this was a low or high price, the point is Hosea had to purchase back his wayward wife, Gomer. She’s been redeemed. Bought back.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary says to redeem meant: 1) To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage. 2) To repurchase what has been sold; to regain possession of a thing alienated, by repaying the value of it to the possessor. 3) To rescue; to recover; to deliver from.

Gomer would hopefully know her worth after being redeemed from her life of sin. We have no idea if she stayed with Hosea because after chapter 3, her name is not mentioned again. But Hosea would send a clear message to his bride – I have purchased you at a great price. You are mine.

He wanted her to be sealed as his bride forever. She would be sealed up, marked as Hosea’s bride, and secured from danger. To seal also has the connotation of being closed, fulfilled, complete.

Do you remember what Gomer’s name meant? COMPLETE.

Did she finally find her worth in God? Could she truly be called complete?

To be sealed meant having your heart imprinted by the One you belong to. Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it.

Jesus secured our redemption. (Eph 1:7-8) He purchased us with His blood. (1 Pet 1:18-19) He redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). And He set His seal over our hearts, the Holy Spirit, as a promise of what is to come! (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13-14)

To Him be the glory forever!

Hosea finishes God’s message in v. 4-5

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

God again reveals the parallel between Hosea’s marriage and God’s marriage to His people because God would do the same to Israel that Hosea had done to Gomer. Just like Gomer who was in “captivity” to her sinful lifestyle and selling her body to her “lovers”, God would send away His people in captivity to a foreign nation.

Verse 4 is simply referring yet again to the exile when they will be without their king, without their way of false worship, and without their false idols. They would leave their promised land and be captives in Assyria. YET the Lord would bring them back. In fact He uses the phrase they shall return and seek the Lord.

The word for return in the Hebrew is Shuwb (shoob) and meant to turn back. Hosea uses this word 21 times throughout his prophecy! He uses it not only of Israel but of the Lord, turning back to Israel or away from His wrath.

In fact in Hosea 14:1-2a, 3a-4 he says,

1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take with you words
and return to the Lord…

Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands…”

I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.

I love the picture God gives us here of what to do. Return or turn back. In other words: Repent! And when you turn back, take with you words. Repentance involves admitting and agreeing with God about your sins and then turning from them.

He wanted His people to admit their sins, be specific about what they’d done. Tell God, we know Assyria can’t save us, those idols can’t save us, only You, God, can save us.

Then God tells them, I will heal your abandonment of me. I will love you voluntarily. I will not execute my fierce anger against you.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be healed from your inclination to wander? This sin in us is a disease that we need to be healed from! It’s a thorn in our flesh. We are in desperate need of treatment to remove the disease, to have the thorn removed. God is going to heal our apostasy, our inclination to sin against Him.

Did God heal Gomer’s unfaithful heart? I don’t know.

Not only will He heal, but He’s also going to love us with an everlasting, unconditional love. His anger will be turned away from us. And it will be placed on His Son. (Rom 5:9 we are saved from God’s wrath through Him!)

I hear the old hymn:

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

Jesus, the holy God, became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (so that our apostasy would be healed) 2 Cor 5:21.

Jesus came in flesh so that sin could be condemned in the flesh (Rom 8:3).

The thorns found their place on Christ as well, piercing His head in the twisted crown.

Praise God He is coming!

Finally, Hosea mentions David again in this last verse of chapter 3. The children of God would return, seek the Lord, and David their king. They would come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness.

Jeremiah 23:5 tells us,

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

That’s my Jesus. He is the Righteous Branch in David’s family tree. Do you see why the people in Jesus’ time would have been so zealous for a king? They had experienced the trial of exile, knowing it had been their turning away from the Lord that had put them there.

They wanted to be a nation that sought the Lord, that feared Him. This is why we see the rise of the Pharisees and all those religious leaders. They truly wanted to know God’s laws so that they never ended up in exile again. But they missed their Messiah. They missed the Righteous Branch.

Even those who knew Jesus and followed Him didn’t understand the kind of King He came to be. He would reign as king and deal wisely. He would execute justice and righteousness in the land. But He did so much more!

He saved them from their spiritual disease, not just their Roman oppressors. He took away their sin problem, not just their political, economic, and social problems! And He brought down the barrier wall, dividing the Jew and Gentile. Thanks be to God, we can be called Children of the Living God.

You must know today that God Loves You and says You are worth His pursuit!

Here are the words from Come Thou Fount:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
mount of God’s redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
hither by Thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
interposed His precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for Thy courts above.

 

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