Showing posts with label I Timothy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label I Timothy. Show all posts

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Structure of 1st Timothy 1:3-11

Paul begins his first letter to Timothy by exhorting him to "charge" certain persons not to teach the Law "differently." Indeed, the different uses (abuses) of Law found among these teachers that are contrary to health-giving doctrine amount to bad management of God's house, and therefore may be worthy of discipline. They may need to be treated mercifully too. This is evident from the larger context (1:3-20) wherein Paul mentions his discipline of Hymenaeus and Alexander a few verses later (vv. 19-20), who consciously rejected apostolic teaching; but Paul also mentions a contrasting example of the Lord's mercy toward his own ignorant and unfaithful use of the Law toward Christians (vv. 12-15).

According to Paul, the goal or aim (τέλος) of Timothy's "charge" to these "teachers-of-the-Law" is love which flows out of a clean heart, good conscience, and unhypocritical faith. Paul and Timothy both know that God's Law is attractive if it's used lawfully, for God did not lay it down for those who are just, law-abiding, and obedient. (What discipline could possibly be laid down for those who using the Law lawfully?) Even in the secular use of law, it is not laid down for law-abiding citizens; how much more then is it laid down for citizens of God's kingdom who abide by the law? The law is not laid down for law-keepers, but for those who are unjust, law-breaking, and disobedient: those who strike their fathers and mothers (Exod. 21:15; Deut. 21:18-21), murderers (Exod. 21:12), the sexually immoral (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:13-30), homosexuals (Lev. 20:13), kidnappers (Exod. 21:16), liars (Exod. 23:1; Lev. 6:1-7), perjurers (Exod. 23:2-3; Deut. 19:16-19), and the like. The examples which Paul uses are unmistakably clear in at least one way: such behavior within the house of God--among God's covenant people--is in need of a serious charge to repent if discipline is to be mitigated. 

This opening charge of Paul to Timothy is arranged chiastically, making it a little easier to notice the conceptual and linguistic parallels:

A) As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge (παραγγείλῃς) certain persons not to teach any different doctrine (ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω), nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than management of the house of God that is by faith (θεοῦ τὴν ἐν πίστει)

     B) The aim of our charge (παραγγελίας) is love out of a clean heart and a good conscience and a unhypocritical faith. 

          C) Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers-of-the-Law (νομοδιδάσκαλοι), without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

     B') Now we know (Οἴδαμεν) that the law is attractive, if one uses it lawfully, 

A') knowing (εἰδὼς) this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever different use is contrary to health-giving doctrine (εἰ τι ἕτερον διδασκαλίᾳ), in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted (θεοῦ ὃ ἐγώ ἐπιστεύθην). 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Law is not for the Righteous, but for the Unrighteous

My friend Jeff Wencel has offered an intriguing analysis of I Timothy 1:8-11 over on his blog. I read his comments with two thumbs up all the way to the end, but a comment he made in passing against "theonomistic types" of interpretation caused me to re-read his post. I was intrigued about why he thought his take on the subject differed so noticeably from "theonomistic types" of exegesis, so I commented on his Facebook page about this. He requested that I share my thoughts on my blog so we could interact publicly in the good old fashioned public iron sharpening sort of way. Below is a stab at my first response to Jeff's comments. The main comments of Jeff's that I am responding to (below) are found on our Facebook thread:'s clear at the very least from the text that a lawful use of the law is not one in which it is used for the righteous. That's what the text says. Theonomists or otherwise can try to make it say something else, but the text says what it says. "The law is good, IF one uses it lawfully." What does a lawful use of the law look like? Paul tells us: a lawful use of the law is to understand that it is not laid down for the righteous.
In his blog post, Jeff wrote this too: 
Those who live in line with the sound doctrine, the righteous, don't need the law. It's not laid down for them. Isn't this what the text is saying?

Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is that you notice Paul's point in stating that "the Law" is not one in which it is used for the righteous (emphasis is mine), but yet you think that necessarily disqualifies or runs counter to theonomic exegesis. I don't think that terminology does, at least not necessarily; certainly not according to the surrounding context of discipline. What you interpret "for the righteous" to mean and what a theonomist interprets that to mean may differ in how broadly it can be applied socially, but because I appreciated your thoughts on the passage I'm going to try and offer a theonomic exegesis that doesn't disqualify or run counter to what you think it means, i.e. that those who live in line with sound doctrine don't need the law. 

What a theonomist would question is what you mean by "needing the law" (as stated in your blog post). In a bold attempt to speak on behalf of most theonomists today, I don't believe they would equate the "lawful use of the Law" with "needing the law." They might associate the two, but it's more likely that they would equate the unlawful use of the Law with needing the Law; that is, needing the Law as a just standard to restrain "the lawless and disobedient, the ungodly and sinners" (I Tim. 1:9).

The second thing that came to my mind was your insertion of the concept: "a lawful use of the law is to understand that it is not laid down for the righteous." Your interpretation of that statement seems to be question begging. Paul does not say that the lawful use of "the Law" looks like understanding a thing. Rather, it seems that by understanding Paul's derivative list of Law-illustrations, that would have helped Timothy identify what unlawful uses of "the Law" look like. It looks like those unholy and profane, those who strike their father and mother, murderers, fornicators, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers (I Tim. 1:9-10). The illustrations listed by Paul are of those who are "unjust" and not using the law "lawfully." They all fall under moral condemnation as laid down in the Law itself, and are subject to civil and/or ecclesiastical penalties under the "the Law." This is extremely obvious for those who are familiar with the Torah and it's first century abuse by Jewish authorities.

Perhaps breaking down the sentence even further will help clarify where a theonomist is coming from (it helps me, at least): "Now we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully …in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted." 

The "knowing/understanding" that "the Law is not laid down for the just, etc…" seems to imply that some people--like Timothy--recognize and value the just character of God's Law, and therefore can lead by a righteous example among others, not falling under the sanctions of God. Those who use the law lawfully, unlike murderers, kidnappers, homosexuals, etc…, are those who use the Law in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which Paul was entrusted.

As you mentioned in passing in your blog post, the context is about men teaching divergent doctrine. Timothy is receiving instructions of this sort from Paul because, according to the previous verse, "certain persons" have "swerved" from stewardship in the Word of God by using "the Law" unlawfully, "promoting speculations," "devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies," having "wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions." I may be reaching a bit in saying this, but the references to genealogies, myths, and teachers of "the Law" sounds a lot like certain Jewish "teachers." If that is correct, they were using the Law unlawfully, and therefore were worthy of God's sanctions. Timothy, of course, could only impose sanctions which were lawful within ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 

Since Paul has the topic of just-treatment ("just use of the Law") in mind in the entire first chapter, he may want Timothy to recognize that his own treatment and response toward the law-abusers must be lawful. Not only does Paul argue as though his own sinful actions toward God and other Christian Jews deserved justice according to the Law, he highlights that God showed mercy according to the Law "because [he] acted ignorantly in unbelief" (I Tim. 1:13). The "certain persons" (i.e. Jewish teachers) described earlier in this same chapter need to be evaluated by Timothy in a similar light. Do they deserve justice or mercy according to God's Law? The Law teaches the holy character of God through both, and Timothy needs to use the law lawfully in his manner of discipline. 

This idea of "lawful use of the Law" continues to linger on in the background of chapter one. Paul exhorts Timothy to wage "good warfare." To a theonomist, that seems like an odd statement without Paul assuming God's Law as the standard for New Covenant ethics. Notice the adjective "good" with regard to the warfare Paul exhorts him to wage. It's not just "warfare" in the abstract, as though all means of warfare were always good and lawful. Timothy is to wage good warfare, which may, at some point in time, necessitate ecclesiastical discipline, like it did with Paul (i.e. handing Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan so they would learn not to blaspheme; I Tim. 1:18-20). But it also may need to be applied in the civil realm too. That would be a broader application of how all of this ties in with Christian sanctification and discipline, and that would also be outside Timothy's jurisdiction as an officer of the Church. 

Does this help clarify things at all Jeff?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

William Tyndale: "He is the satisfaction for our sins" (I John 2:2)

Commenting on I John 2:2, William Tyndale (Tyndall) writes: 

And he is the satisfaction for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for all the world’s. (1 John 2:2)

   That I call satisfaction, the Greek calleth Ilasmos, and the Hebrew Copar: and it is first taken for the suaging of wounds, sores, and swellings, and the taking away of pain and smart of them; and thence is borrowed for the pacifying and suaging of wrath and anger, and for an amends-making, a contenting, satisfaction, a ransom, and making at one, as it is to see abundantly in the bible. So that Christ is a full contenting, satisfaction and ransom for our sins: and not for ours only, which are apostles and disciples of Christ while he was yet here; or for ours which are Jews, or Israelites, and the seed of Abraham; or for ours that now believe at this present time, but for all men’s sins, both for their sins which went before and believed the promises to come, and for ours which have seen them fulfilled, and also for all them which shall afterward believe unto the world’s end, of whatsoever nation or degree they be. For Paul commandeth, 1 Tim. 2 “to pray for all men and all degrees,” saying that to be “acceptable unto our Saviour God, which will have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth;” that is, some of all nations and all degrees, and not the Jews only. “For,” saith he, “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, which gave himself a redemption” and full satisfaction “for all men.” David also said in the eighteenth Psalm: “Their sound is gone throughout all the earth, so that the benefit stretched on all men.”
   Let this therefore be an undoubted article of thy faith: not of a history faith, as thou believest a gest of Alexander, or of the old Romans, but of a lively faith and belief, to put thy trust and confidence in, and to buy and sell thereon, as we say; and to have thy sins taken away, and thy soul saved thereby, if thou hold it fast; and to continue ever in sin, and to have thy soul damned, if thou let it slip; that our Jesus, our Saviour, that saveth his people from their sins, and our Christ, that is our king over all sin, death and hell, anointed with fulness of all grace and with the Spirit of God, to distribute unto all men, hath, according unto the epistle to the Hebrews and all the scripture, in the days of his mortal flesh, with fasting, praying, suffering, and crying to God mightily for us, and with shedding his blood, made full satisfaction both a pœna et a culpa1 (with our holy father’s leave) for all the sins of the world; both of theirs that went before, and of theirs that come after in the faith; whether it be original sin or actual: and not only the sins committed with consent to evil in time of ignorance, before the knowledge of the truth, but also the sins done of frailty after we have forsaken evil and consented to the laws of God in our hearts, promising to follow Christ and walk in the light of his doctrine.
   He saveth his people from their sins, Matth. 1, and that he only: so that there is no other name to be saved by. Acts 4. And “unto him bear all the prophets record, that all that believe in him shall receive remission of their sins in his name.” Acts 10. And by him only we have an entering in unto the Father, and unto all grace. Eph. 2 and 3 and Rom. 5. And as many as come before him are thieves and murderers, John 10; that is, whosoever preacheth any other forgiveness of sin than through faith in his name, the same slayeth the soul.
   This to be true, not only of original but also of actual [sin], and as well of that we commit after our profession as before, mayest thou evidently see by the ensamples of the scripture. Christ forgave the woman taken in adultery, John 8 and another whom he healed, John 5. And he forgave publicans and open sinners, and put none to do penance, as they call it, for to make satisfaction for the sin which he forgave through repentance and faith; but enjoined them the life of penance, the profession of their baptism, to tame the flesh in keeping the commandments, and that they should sin no more. And those sinners were for the most part Jews, and had their original sin forgiven them before through faith in the testament of God. Christ forgave his apostles their actual sins after their profession, which they committed in denying him, and put none to do penance for satisfaction. Peter (Acts 2) absolveth the Jews, through repentance and faith, from their actual sins, which they did in consenting unto Christ’s death; and enjoined them no penance to make satisfaction. Paul also had his actual sins forgiven him freely, through repentance and faith, without mention of satisfaction. Acts 9. So that, according unto this present text of John, if it chance us to sin of frailty, let us not despair; for we have an advocate and intercessor, a true attorney with the Father, Jesus Christ, righteous towards God and man, and [he] is the reconciling and satisfaction for our sins.
   For Christ’s works are perfect; so that he hath obtained us all mercy, and hath set us in the full state of grace and favour of God, and hath made us as well beloved as the angels of heaven, though we be yet weak: as the young children, though they can do no good at all, are yet as tenderly beloved as the old. And God, for Christ’s sake, hath promised that whatsoever evil we shall do, yet if we turn and repent, he will never more think on our sins.2

1.  Latin for "from guilt and punishment"
2.  Tyndale, W. (1849). Expositions and Notes on Sundry Portions of the Holy Scriptures, Together with the Practice of Prelates. (H. Walter, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 153–156). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Instructions to the Twelve (A and A')

In an earlier post I presented the literary structure of Matthew chapter ten as follows:

A)  Instructions to the twelve apostles  (10:5-15)
   B)  Persecution and family division  (10:16-23)
      C)  Enemies of the Master’s household  (10:24-25)
         D1)  Consolation of the twelve: "Do not fear them..." (10:26-27)
            D2)  "Do not fear those who... but Fear Him who can..." (10:28-30)
         D3)  Consolation of the twelve: "Do not fear, therefore..." (10:31-33)
      C’)  Enemies of the Master’s household  (10:34-36)
   B’)  Persecution and family division  (10:37-39)
A’)  Reception of the twelve apostles  (10:40-42)

In a post before that, I pointed out that Matthew chapter ten is also chock-full of references that Christians often abuse without knowing it. Part of what contributes to the abuse of the text's meaning is that 21st century Christians presume that Matthew recorded these words (and Jesus spoke these words) to them today. They mistakenly project themselves into the story of Matthew chapter ten as though they were standing in the same room as Jesus and his twelve apostles, receiving the same instructions first hand. 

Instead, what 21st century Christians should be doing first is interpreting this entire chapter in its own historical context, a context which limits these instructions to the twelve apostles of Jesus (Matt. 10:1-4). The second thing Christians today should do is pay close attention to the literary structure which Matthew provides. There are good reasons why Jesus ends this discourse with statements about receiving a prophet's reward and losing that reward (A', verses 40-42). Those were not doctrinal clues to help Christians unlock the secret Biblical-code of God's eternal will and ultimately lose their own assurance of salvation. Nor was Jesus giving miscellaneous collections of "eternal truths" to help Calvinists and Arminians sort out their soteriological differences. Those were simply closing thoughts that completed the opening instructions of this discourse (A, verses 5-15). And so, let's now turn to the historical context of sections A and A' to see what this does and does not mean and how section A' completes the message of A

Jesus begins with instructions to his Twelve, telling them to go "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (10:6), proclaiming that "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" and finding out "who is worthy" of the Kingdom as they go from town to town, from one Israelite household to another. This opening section (A) even includes a statement which has become a popular Christian slogan: "If anyone will not listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet." Unfortunately this statement is taken completely out of its original historical context. What Jesus actually said was, "if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town." It is embarrassing to find zealous Christians today who abuse this statement as though those were instructions to us -- as though Jesus were saying, "If unbelievers don't like you preaching to them the truth, and they become hostile towards you, shake the dust off your feet and move on to another town to preach the truth." But that is not the way in which this passage is to be understood in its historical context. In fact, if Christians today are going to be consistent in their approach to the instructions given in this chapter, i.e. presuming that Jesus was giving Christians today these specific instructions, they should also limit these instructions to Israelites only (10:6); they should also heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons (v. 8), carry no gold, silver, copper, staff, bag, sandals, or two tunics along with them (vv. 9-10). If we believe that Matthew recorded these instructions as though Jesus was instructing us today, the consistent, principled approach would be to heed all of Jesus' instructions within the chapter, instead of arbitrarily selecting which ever ones are convenient for the time being. 

But this brings up a couple obvious questions: Did Matthew record these instructions as though Jesus was instructing us today? And why don't Christians today prefer to interpret all of these verses in a manner analogous to our generation? 

Well, I suppose some do. Franciscans and other ascetic traditions do, unfortunately, apply these verses in contemporary settings. But that's because they too have misunderstood these instructions of chapter ten as though they were eternal truths spoken to us. For example, certain ascetic traditions follow after Saint Francis of Assisi, who took Jesus' instructions literally as pertaining to him and the Christians ministry which followed him. St. Francis taught that Christ and the twelve apostles renounced all property and material possessions of their own, singly and jointly. He also lived by the same example which he imagined was true of Jesus and his apostles, avoiding all opportunities to ask for money or to live at the expense of others. As a result, he scrounged around for crusts of bread and discarded vegetables from trash-bins, and he worked as a day laborer, insisting on being paid in bread, vegetables, and water, rather than in money, because -- as Jesus said -- "the laborer deserves his food" (v. 10). Sadly, St. Francis overlooked the fact that the Apostle Paul quotes this statement of Jesus; but instead of interpreting it as though Jesus endorsed complete, self-abasing poverty, Paul interpreted it as though Christian pastors should receive financial support for their labor in the Word and the Church (cf. Luke 10:7 & I Tim. 5:18).1 Christians venerate St. Francis because of his faithfulness to God's Word, when in fact, he misunderstood the historical context of Matthew chapter ten completely.

Jesus was not instructing us in Matthew chapter ten any more than he was instructing St. Francis. Jesus was instructing his twelve apostles, and only his twelve apostles. The only meaningful extension of these instructions would have been for other Israelites who received this message of Jesus' apostles in faith, and followed them as they traveled throughout Israel in the first century. Matthew even gives us an overt clue as to why these instructions were for Jesus' apostles, and why Jesus' apostles were to heed these instructions as they went preaching door to door. After Jesus tells them to shake the dust from their feet, he pronounces a judgment upon those towns and their people who  would reject the gospel of his Kingdom having already come. Jesus says, "Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town." Now all we need to ask is, "what town?" What town did Jesus mean when he said "that town"?

Was Jesus talking about any town of any generation? Was he talking about the town of Waukesha, Wisconsin in the year 2013? Did he have a specific town in mind, singled out for judgment? No, he didn't. He was talking generally about whatever town rejected his apostles -- whatever towns in which the lost sheep of the house of Israel dwelled in that generation. This message of an entire town having to face God on the Day of Judgment would have given first century Jews the impression that soon-coming judgment was approaching them, causing them to face their Maker and give an account before Him much sooner than later. Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because of it's great lawlessness and idolatry (Gen. 13:13; 18:20; 19; Deut. 29:23). This is why any mention of Sodom and Gomorrah among Jews became a proverbial expression of warning of God's wrath upon any idolatrous nation (Isa. 1:9; 13:19; Jer. 22:14; 50:40; Amos 4:11). Sodom and Gomorrah faced a swift judgment from God in the days of Abraham, and after their destruction, they too await the final Day of Judgment for their idolatry just like the town of Israel in Jesus' day. And so, one logical inference from this promise of judgment that awaits both Sodom, Gomorrah, and those towns of Israel in the first century is that God would be coming quickly to physically demolish those towns in judgment just as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, this promise of facing a worse judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah would have been viewed by first century Jews as a warning of sudden and swifter judgment upon those towns than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah. 

This is why Jesus can confidently tell his twelve apostles that "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me" (v. 40). When an Israelite heard that the Kingdom of Heaven was in their midst as promised, which also meant that the last days of the Old Covenant were coming to a close as promised, the people had one of two choices to make: they would either side with Jesus as their promised Messiah and King and heed the message of his apostles, or reject Jesus and his apostles and hope in some other savior at some later time. But here we learn that those who would receive this message of the apostles, would also receive Jesus. And those who received Jesus, received the Father who sent (apostled) him. And by receiving the Father, they receive the covenant blessings promised by the Father. By receiving the words of the Father's prophets in faith, they receive exactly what the prophet pronounces to them, namely life and miraculous provisions to sustain them through the coming judgment pronounced upon the land and it's idolaters. By receiving a just man into their home, they receive the rewards of a just man. Consequently, by rejecting a just man or a prophet who comes in the name of the Lord, they will receive justice for rejecting Jesus, and the Father who sent him. They will receive the reward of swifter and more severe judgment due to them for their idolatry. 

The responsibility given to these twelve apostles in this commission was no light matter. They had to be prepared for God's wrath which was promised to pour out upon the land of Israel for her spiritual harlotry and idolatry. Remember, Jesus is the one who describes the state of Israel in the first century as being worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, and worthy of a worse punishment and a worse sentence on the Day of Judgment. But whoever would receive one of Jesus' disciples, supporting them and giving them a cup of cold water after hearing that message (v. 42), by no means lost their reward because they believed God's Word to them in faith; and by sacrificing their livelihood for the sake of Jesus and the Word of God, they would receive the blessing of their heavenly Father and Judge, instead of his wrath and condemnation.

1.  The ESV translation of Matt. 10:8 is actually misleading because the words "without paying" and "without pay" are not actually in the text itself. Only the verb δωρεάν is used, and it simply means to hand out something as a gift (i.e. "give freely"). The ESV translates it this way: "You received without paying; give without pay," which implies that ministers of the gospel should not receive money as the means of supporting their ministry. The NASB, NIV, NLT, and The Voice translate this verse more accurately: "Freely you received, freely give" (NASB); "Freely you have received; freely give" (NIV); "Give as freely as you have received" (NLT); "You received these gifts freely, so you should give them to others freely" (The Voice). The Apostle Paul's interpretation of this statement by Jesus is appropriate because Jesus was not teaching his disciples to reject all forms of compensation for their services. Jesus was teaching his disciples not to solicit their services as though they would only help if paid for their services. Instead, Jesus tells his disciples to serve their fellow brethren freely, doing so out of love for those who  show that they too love Jesus. Paul's point in quoting Jesus ("the laborer deserves his hire"; from Luke 10:7, which is Luke's version of Jesus' statement in Matthew 10:8) is that Christians have a moral responsibility to support ministers of the gospel financially if that is how they make their living. This is how you show them "double honor" (Paul says): by caring for their needs as they care for yours. In Matt. 10:8, Jesus is teaching this very principle, not to solicit their services (rejecting those who won't pay them and accepting only those who do), but rather to expect godly people to value their services and provide food and other provisions for them, as necessary, as they serve and minister the gospel.