1 John’s Purpose Statement [conclusion]

I’ve been arguing that the purpose of the book of 1 John is not to give tests by which believers may be assured of their genuine salvation, but rather that the readers may enjoy intimate fellowship with God just as John does (as well as the other apostles), thus completing the apostles’ joy in the fellowship they have with the readers in the common salvation they share (cf. 1 John 1:3)…

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The Flow of Ephesians

I recently finished preaching through the book of Ephesians. I’ll share some more of my observations from this incredible book in the future; for now, I thought I would just share a short synopsis of the overall flow and message of the book.

In chapters 1–3, Paul explains that God plans to reconcile and consummate all things in and through Jesus Christ, who is Lord over all (1:10). He expounds that part of how God is accomplishing that consummation is through the church walking in good works that bring honor to Christ (2:10) and demonstrate the character of Christ, thus putting the wisdom of God on display to both heaven and earth (3:10).

Then, in chapters 4–6, Paul begins to articulate what some of those good works are which we were created for, and how our lives are to reflect—to image—the character of God. So his overarching exhortation for chapters 4–6 is that we walk (live) in a manner worthy of the calling to which we’ve been called—a calling out of the old, lost humanity in Adam into a new, redeemed humanity whose head is Christ. As we walk in the imitation of Christ, Paul says that we are to walk in unity (4:1–16), walk in holiness (4:17–32), walk in love (5:1–6), walk in light (5:7–14), walk in wisdom and in the Spirit (5:15–6:9), and stand in the strength of Lord (6:10–20).

Paul then closes with a farewell expression of love and prayer (6:21–24). In the context of the grand message of Ephesians, this love for one another, demonstrated so often by our prayers for one another, is a key component in our properly displaying the character of Christ, thus fulfilling our calling to walk in a manner that glorifies God, which, as Paul has framed it in Ephesians, is the role we are to play in God’s great plan for history to reconcile all things in and through Jesus Christ, who, by his death and resurrection, has won the victory over Satan, sin, and death, and has been declared Lord of all!

1 Timothy [Context]

The story goes that, as he was preparing for one of his Antarctic expeditions, the famous explorer, Earnest Shackleton, put an ad in the London newspaper that read something like this: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

Warren Wiersbe, commenting on Shackleton’s ad, said this, “If Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: ‘Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.’”

I think that we are now facing the question, of whether or not we are really willing to accept this kind of challenge… to invest our lives in the service and community and growth of the church. And the 1st century church in Ephesus faced a very similar challenge, only 30 years after the earthly life of Christ.

Let me just give you a little bit of context for the book of 1 Timothy. Timothy was from Lystra, a city in the Roman province of Galatia, (part of modern-day Turkey). Paul led Timothy to Christ (1:2,18; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) during his ministry in Lystra on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6–23). When he revisited Lystra on his second missionary journey, Paul chose Timothy to accompany him (Acts 16:1–3), because, although Timothy was very young (probably in his late teens or early twenties at that time), he had a reputation for godliness, as we see in Acts 16.

Timothy would become Paul’s disciple, friend, and co-laborer for the rest of Paul’s life, ministering with him in Berea (Acts 17:14), Athens (Acts 17:15), Corinth (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor. 1:19), and Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). Paul frequently mentions Timothy in his letters to other churches (you see that in Romans, 2 Cor, Philippians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Thess, and Philemon), and Paul often sent Timothy to churches as his representative, as we see in 1 Corinthians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians — and that’s the role we find Timothy in at the church in Ephesus, when Paul writes this letter.

1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, and Titus are referred to as the Pastoral epistles, and so it is often assumed that Timothy and Titus were regular pastors of their respective local churches; but technically, they were really left in Ephesus and Crete as Paul’s personal representatives, in order to temporarily oversee and aid in the work of the churches there.

Since Timothy’s theology was solid—(he had been traveling with and learning from Paul for almost 15 years now)—Paul doesn’t seem to have a need to give Timothy extensive doctrinal instruction. Rather, this letter is pastoral because Paul is giving practical instruction to Timothy regarding how Timothy (who is in many ways functioning like a pastor) can shepherd the church in Ephesus in several important, but easily neglected, practical matters of church life.

About 10 years before the writing of this letter, Paul and Timothy met with the elders of the Ephesian church, and Paul warned them (at the end of Acts 20) that “savage wolves” would enter the church, wreaking havoc and luring away disciples (Acts 20:28-30).

Fast-forward 10 years and, after being released from his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:30), Paul revisited several of the cities in which he had ministered, including Ephesus. When Paul and Timothy came to Ephesus, they saw that Paul’s predictions had not been exaggerated, and false teaching was staring the church at Ephesus square in the face. Therefore, Paul left Timothy behind to deal with problems that had arisen in the Ephesian church, and Paul went on to Macedonia. And it’s from Macedonia that he wrote Timothy this letter to help him carry out his task in the church. We’ll get into the first chapter in the next post.

The First Great Commission

MATTHEW 10:1-31:

I recently was studying Matthew 10:1-31, and found the context/background information interesting, and thought I would share it. It’s the account of the first time Christ commissioned the 12 disciples to go out and preach the Gospel.

Matthew 10 should not be confused with the “Great Commission.” This account is of an earlier commissioning of the 12 for a short-term mission. There is some discussion as to how far along in Christ’s ministry this takes place, it seems to be well into His Galilean ministry, but at least in the first half of His 3 ½ year ministry.

The account in Matthew 10 is recorded in two parallel passages – Mark 6:7-11, and Luke 9:1-5, but Matthew 10 gives the fullest account.

Matthew 10 is the first time Matthew refers to the “12” disciples as such. It is implied that they were already a group prior to this, but this is the first explicit reference to them as a distinct group.

It’s also the only time Matthew uses the term “Apostle.” We often think about the fact that apostle means “sent one” or “sent out ones,” and leave it at that; but really, it’s more than that – it’s more weighty than that… an apostle is someone who represents someone else to the degree of having their authority… like an ambassador, what the apostle says or does, is to be accepted as though the one whom they represent (in this case, Jesus) was himself saying it.

PRECEEDING CONTEXT:

Just prior to this commission, Jesus has been traveling around Galilee (9:1), preaching the “gospel of the Kingdom” (9:35) in every town. This was the same message John the Baptist preached, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

WORKERS ARE FEW:

What’s going on right before Matthew 10 is that Jesus was basically modeling the ministry His apostles were going to continue – He was teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news, healing every disease and sickness.

But then He says to His disciples that the harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. So this leads into chapter 10, where He actually commissions and sends them as those much-needed workers.

ONLY TO ISRAEL:

In chapter 10 verse 6, we read that the disciples were not to go to any Gentile or Samaritan towns, but only to preach to the house of Israel. That is, not that Jesus ever rejected gentiles or Samaritans – we see Him accepting them graciously as well – but the Kingdom of God was being offered to Israel, it was to belong to Israel, and it wasn’t until the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, that the message was then explicitly carried on to Gentiles as Gentiles (with no need to convert to Judaism) as well.

SHORT TERM MISSION:

It’s important to remember that the immediate context is that Jesus is giving instructions for a short-term evangelistic mission. This is important because it helps us understand a couple things Jesus says to His disciples, such as instructing them to only go to Jewish towns, and the things he tells them to take/not take.

The need to travel light (no extra shirt/shoes/money etc.) is a function of this short-term aspect and the urgency of the immediate mission. Later, we do see Jesus directing the disciples to buy swords, make sure they have enough money, take a pack, etc. (Luke 22:35-37).

The other thing that’s really interesting is verse 14, where Jesus says that if anyone doesn’t accept the message, to leave that town, and shake off the dust from your feet. The Jews considered themselves defiled by the dust of a heathen country. So, to shake the dust of any city of Israel off of one’s clothing or feet was an emblematical action, signifying a renunciation of any further connection with them, and placing them on a level with the cities of the heathen nations. Jesus is saying, “if they don’t accept the message, just move on.” The Jews should have known enough Scripture to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah, so if they reject the apostles’ message, it’s not because they don’t understand something well enough, it’s because they are knowingly rejecting Jesus as their Messiah. That’s why Jesus says in verse 15 that it will be worse for them than Sodom and Gomorrah – it’s because of that level of revelation to which they have been exposed that makes them even more accountable.

The more truth you are aware of, the more accountable you are for your response to that truth.

While Jesus is giving instructions for the immediate short-term mission, there are also some instructions regarding what it will be like to be a disciple of Christ in general, even after Jesus is gone – after the resurrection – which would apply to us today as well. I encourage you to study this passage further, and pursue a deeper level of discipleship!