Soldier. Athlete. Farmer. Workman. Servant.
These are the five sorts of people Paul calls Timothy to become like (2:3, 5, 6, 15, 24). Why? What do these roles have in common? What is Paul trying to say?
Paul tells us some of his point. Soldiers are called to suffer for a higher calling (2:3). Athletes have a strict code of conduct by which they must compete (2:5). At harvest time, farmers get paid back for their hard work (2:6). Workmen “carve out” straight paths from the wilderness (2:15). Servants do the will of their master and do not compromise his interests (2:23-24). But even more basic than that is this: all of these five have work to do. They are fundamentally laborers, and can’t get off track lest they shirk their responsibilities.
In particular there are a handful of things Paul tells his “worker” Timothy to avoid:
- Stir away from “civilian activities,” that is purely frivolous pursuits that do not advance the kingdom (2:4)
- Avoid quarrels and disputes that don’t accomplish anything (2:14, 23)
- Flee from anything that would leave one ashamed and dishonored (2:15, 21)
- Resist the urge to run one’s mouth in pointless gossip (2:16)
- Run away from the wicked gratification of youthful passions (2:19, 22)
There is simply too much to do. There is no time to get off track. Get back to work.
What did you notice in this chapter?
Categories: 2 Timothy
Tags: 2 Timothy, arguments, Bible, desires, diligence, dispute, gossip, passions, Paul, reading, responsibility, shame, Timothy, work, worker
It is really easy to turn the way of Christ into a series of rules about external behavior. That is not to say that the way of Christ is only internal — one does need to give attention to how one acts in this world — but there is something missing from a person’s Christianity if it entirely revolves around laws that dictate what a person does and does not do with their bodies.
We learn today that this was certainly happening in Ephesus:
They [the false teachers] will forbid marriage, and teach people to abstain from foods which God intended to be received with thanksgiving by people who believe and know the truth. (4:3)
Sometimes we do the same, especially when talking to younger Christians. We make it seem like the task of following Jesus is all about not getting drunk, not smoking weed, and not sleeping around. Then as people get older we talk about staying away from pornography, not speeding, and not missing church. Of course, I am not suggesting that any of these are wholesome or appropriate; I simply beg us to remember there is more to the way of Christ than external rules, and limiting Christianity to external rules is action akin to the false teachers of Ephesus.
Like Paul was calling the Ephesian church to (1:5-7), like he was calling Timothy to (4:12), the way of Christ is all about “faith, love, and holiness” — all of which have external manifestations but all of which start as attitudes and desires of the heart first and foremost. According to Paul today, to forget this is the beginning of false teaching.
What do you think?
Categories: 1 Timothy
Tags: 1 Timothy, attitudes, behaviors, Bible, Christianity, desires, Ephesus, error, external, faith, false teachers, false teaching, heart, holiness, internal, Law, love, reading, rules
There was a real question in Paul’s mind about the degree to which a Christian could follow the cultural norm. That by itself is a point some Christians in this world need to bear in mind. If we think we can be an everyday Christian and an everyday American or Canadian or Filipino or Saudi Arabian, we are kidding ourselves. Nonetheless, there were still many details to work out about this point, and the Corinthians were slowly sorting through the details with Paul’s help.
Paul gives a foundational principle for ethics in this chapter, though:
So, then, whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything to God’s glory. (10:31)
As a Christian sorts out how to live everyday life, there is a guiding principle that is more important that was is lawful (c.f., 10:23), more important that what is right or wrong, more important that what one has the right to do, more important that even our own preferences and desires. Before asking what we want to do, we need to ask whether something brings glory to God. Does this make God look good? Does this draw people closer to God or further away?
The Corinthians needed to bear that in mind as they determined what kinds of food to eat, and when and where to eat it. They need to remember this when they lived in community with each other and influenced the behavior of their brothers and sisters. They needed to remember this as they decided how to interact socially in church and how to view the worth and acceptance of others. Does this bring glory to God?
What would be different if we today used this same guiding principle?
Categories: 1 Corinthians
Tags: 1 Corinthians, behavior, Bible, cultural, desires, enculturation, ethics, fitting in, glory, God, holiness, honor, preferences, reading, rights, standing out