1 Timothy

Where are all the "3 P" Men?

What is the greatest problem facing men today? In an article in the New Statesman, Edward Smith attempts to answer that question. While many are advocating an aggressive feminism as the root of man’s ills in society, Smith writes, “The real problem males face today is not, of course, a rise of women – it's a shrinking of men.[1]” Men are shrinking. They are shrinking in their morality. They are shrinking in their work ethic. They are shrinking in their spiritual development. They are shrinking into passivity and lured into entertainment and worldly lusts. The world needs better men. And this is not a new problem.

            Since Adam abdicated his role of leader and protector of his wife in the garden, men have struggled to lead well. They ever abuse their God-given role with force and power or abdicate their God-given responsibility into passivity. The first Adam was not a great role model. The loss of God given identity produces disastrous results. John Piper writes,

Confusion over the meaning of manhood and womanhood today is epidemic. The consequence of confusion is not a free and happy harmony among gender-free persons…. The consequence rather is more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more social awkwardness, and more emotional distress and suicide that comes with the loss of God-given identity.[2]

Following in the footsteps of fallen Adam produces deadly result in society and in the church.

             Therefore, God sent a New Adam for the good of the world and the glory of the Father. Jesus Christ is the model of true manhood now. He calls to those men who are shrinking from and shirking their God given role, He calls to them to Himself. He calls them to follow him into true manhood. He calls them like Nehemiah did when the wall needed to be built, “Come let us build the wall…that we may no longer suffer derision.” (Nehemiah 2:17) It is time for men to rise up and build the wall so that the name of Christ will no longer suffer disgrace in the world, but the glory of His name would be manifested in our homes, our churches, our communities and our nation. God is looking for a few good men to rise and help build the church for the glory of God.  

            Paul writes to Timothy to encourage the men to represent their new identity in Christ well. Paul wants “3P” men. Men who are prayerful, pure and peaceful. The church is suffering because men are either not leading in prayer or they are leading in prayer while their lives are not pure or peaceful. We must look at 1 Timothy 2:8 in light of the historical context and the context of the letter. Paul has already addressed false teachers in the church and encourage specific kinds of prayers for all people because God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth that the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all who would trust in Him. And know Paul encourages men to obey the admonition to pray so that they will reflect Christ well and be able to serve as elders in the church. The section immediately following the instructions on men and women will address the leadership in the church.

Prayerful Men

            Paul begins his charge to men simply by directly stating that men are called to pray at all times and in all places, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray.” The reference to every place could refer the many homes that the Ephesians would gather for worship. There could be an extension that believers are called to prayer in all the gatherings throughout the world. Regardless of where, Paul wants men to pray. This is a constant encouragement throughout the Pauline Epistles.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,

Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing,

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers, pray for us.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

2 Corinthians 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

And those are just the exhortations to pray and not the example prayers that are placed throughout his corpus. Very simply men should lead the congregation through their prayers.

            As stated above, there may have been some men in the community who were shrinking from their responsibility to pray. Therefore, Paul encouraged the men to pray. Prayer being important to the Christian life and the life of the church is like bacon being important for a good breakfast; it is essential. So what keeps us from prayer?

Laziness – We do not discipline ourselves for godliness so we do not prioritize that which is most important.

Busyness – We may be very productive and efficient at work or even in ministry, but we do not invite God into our work. This busyness reveals our pride and our lack of dependency on the power and presence of God.

Worldliness– It is hard to pursue the Lord in prayer if our minds and hearts are being drawn away from God into conformity to the world.

Sin – Our hearts find more pleasure in sin than in prayer.

There is a myriad of reasons that keep us from praying, but we must pray. Prayer is the lifeblood of the church. If men are not leading in prayer, then they simply are not leading. Men, rise up and pray.            

Pure Men

            Paul does not only want men to pray, but to pray with pure hearts. “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands.” Paul is not really concerned with men lifting their hands in prayer, but lifting their hearts in prayer. It is about purity over posture. David Platt points out two Psalms that show the importance of purity in our prayers,

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart. (Psalm 24:3-4)

            I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar Lord. (Psalm 26:6)

Purity is essential to prayer. God wants us to come to him in prayer. God wants us to come to him in prayer even when we are in sin, but he wants us first to confess our sin before we bring our requests before him.

            Why should we expect God to answer our prayers if we have been hearts set against him? One of the most challenging verses on prayer for husbands should be 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Do you see the implication? If you are not living in purity towards your wife than why would God want to honor your prayers? A husband’s prayers are hindered when he does not honor his wife.

            There were some in Ephesus who were praying before the Lord when they had sin in their lives. We know that Hymenaeus and Alexander drifted off into false teaching and most likely false living as they swerved from a clean conscience. Paul could have made this admonition specifically because of them, but either way it is a good reminder for all the men in the church. Alvin Reid shares this story in his evangelism textbook,

I have an evangelist friend with a great burden for awakening in our day. Year ago he studied in Edinburg, Scotland. He visited the tiny principality of Wales, which has been visited with mighty revival several times in the modern era. He discovered a lady who had been converted in the Welsh Revival of 1904-05 as a little girl, and who knew Evan Roberts personally. Roberts was a principal human agent in the Welsh Revival. My friend sat in the little cottage of the elderly woman.

“What was the secret of Evan Robert’s power?” he asked. She simply looked into her fireplace, and in her thick Welsh accent, replied, “Mr. Roberts was a very godly man.” “Yes I know that, but tell me more. Why did God use him?” The lady continued to look into the fire, “God used Mr. Roberts because he was a godly man.” She said.

 My friend was frustrated. Pressing further, he said, “Yes I know, but tell me specifics. How did he pray? What did he do?” The elderly lady turned and faced my friend. “Young man,” she said sternly, “The reason God used Mr. Evan Roberts was that he was a very, very godly man.” Finally, he got the point. You can be a gifted as a preacher, an organizer, a leader, but there is no substitute for godliness.[3]

Brothers, God desires us to pray in all places with pure hearts. Let us rise up and be pure hearted men.

Peaceful Men

            Last P of a “3P” man is to the calling to be peaceful. Men are called to pray, with pure hearts, who are at peace with the brethren. “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands, without anger or quarreling.” Anger and arguing has no place among God’s leaders. Men should not be characterized by anger and arguing with one another. “All of us would be wiser if we would resolve never to put people down, except on our prayer lists.” D.A. Carson. Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:24-26,

And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Patient. Gentle. It is not our job to force repentance, but model God’s loving and gracious kindness that may perhaps lead them to repentance.

            There were men in Ephesus who were angry and quarrelling with one another. Unity is not only important for joy and comfort within the church, but it is vital for the witness of the church in the world. Remember Paul just reminded the church that God desires all people to be saved. Anger and arguing in the church impacts the mission of God. Missionary Lesslie Newbigin writes,

The world does not believe, because it does not see the signs of an atonement so profound and complete that all mankind in all its infinite variety and contrariety can find there its lost unity. To say that the Church must be one in order that the world may believe is to summon one another to a return to the source of Christ’s being in Christ himself.[4]

Paul taught the people of the vast implications of a unified church. Paul cared about united in the church and expected godly men to pray while being at peace with one another.

A divided church will give a poor reflection of the oneness of the Triune God. On the other hand, a healthy, unified church displays the wisdom of God making the church, as Newbigin stated, a sign, a foretaste and an instrument of the kingdom of God. Unity is essential to make the gospel attractive to the world as it sees the resurrection power on display in a community. Jamie Dunlop and Mark Dever write in Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes the Church Attractive, “The gospel asserts that unity in Christ is stronger than worldly difference.[5]” The unity of the church is precious, but also very precarious so leaders must take notice of those things which cause division and lead the people to see the corporate responsibility of all members for the unity of the church as a display of the power of the Spirit.[6]  Unity within a specific congregation must be cultivated so that the world can see the beauty and power of the Gospel.

Jesus cares so much about our relationships with our brothers that he says this to those who are about to offer about a gift to God,

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

I have often thought of this verse before communion to analyze my own heart, but it would be helpful to analyze even before we pray. God cares about peace. How pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. Let us rise up and seek peace with the all the brethren.

            We do not have the power in and of ourselves to be prayerful, pure and peaceful men. We need God’s help. Wherever we are at along the process, we must always remember that Jesus Christ came in the world to save sinners. Jesus came as the perfect “3P” man. He was a man of prayer making time to get alone with the Father. He was pure and innocent of all evil. He had a heart that was perfectly set on God. And as the Prince of peace he came to make peace with man through his shed blood on the cross (Col. 1:20). He not only lived at peace, but is our peace.

Jesus Christ did not shrink from his God-given role, but chose to give himself for the sake of others. He died as our ransom and was raised for our hope. Beloved, we must follow Jesus and strive to be like him. Through repentance and faith, we are united with Him. The power that rose Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in us. Jesus was the embodied the “3P” man while we different kind of “3P” men under the power, penalty and price of sin. Thanks be to God that he gives us a new identity in him.

            So what kind of men are we going to be? Are we going to shrink from our responsibilities or are we going rise up and build a community on prayer with pure hearts and peace with another? The world needs godly men. Therefore, I say as for me and my brothers, “Let us rise up and build.”

 

[1] http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/05/real-problem-men-face-today-not-rise-women accessed 2.24.16 I would not recommend reading the entire article as it contains profanity, but the principle he puts forward I believe it correct. The shrinking of men is more important to a man’s demise then the rise of women.

[2] Piper, John (“Vision”) pg. 33 as quoted in Christ -Centered Exposition exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

[3] Alvin Reid, Introduction to Evangelism. Pg. 113.

[4] Lesslie Newbigin, The Light has Come: An Exposition of the 4th Gospel. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 1982 pg. 231

[5] Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop. Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes the Church Attractive. Crossway, Wheaton, 2015. Pg. 156

[6] Ibid (156-161).

Are You a "Modern-Day Jonah"?

 When was the last time you prayed for President Obama? When was the last time you prayed for Secretary of State John Kerry? When was the last time you prayed for Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg? America’s leaders have threatened religious liberties and promoted laws that undermine biblical principles. Our leaders need our prayers. If our leaders need our prayers, why don’t we pray? Do you not pray for our leaders because we do not know we are supposed to? Or because we do not see its value? Or maybe we don’t pray for our leaders because we do not want God to show his mercy and compassion to those we disagree with?

We may be “modern-day Jonahs[1]” who are unwilling to follow God’s Word because we do not like those who God wants us to help. After God brought Nineveh to repentance and relented of the coming disaster, Jonah was exceedingly displeased and very angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah knew that Lord’s desired to extend his compassion, but he did not want Him to extend it to Nineveh. I wonder how many Christians do not pray for President Obama because they don’t want God to extend him mercy.

Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to teach him how the church ought to behave as the household of the living God. After charging Timothy to wage the good warfare he begins to lay our practical instructions for the church to live as his representatives in the world. The first instruction Paul gives is to pray for all people.

The Prayers for the People

            Paul begins, by saying, “First of all.” The first thing that the church must do to wage the good warfare is to pray. 1 Timothy 2:1-2,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

He lists various types of prayers. Supplications indicates a deep spiritual need, prayers are a general term for all request for God, intercessions focus on prayers made for believers and thanksgiving gives a motivation for asking in one’s prayer to God. The goal is not to provide specific kinds of prayers, but to underscore the importance of all kinds of prayer for all kinds of people. Notice who the prayers are offered, “all people.” Prayer shows our trust in God’s power. Prayer is humbling ourselves before God.

            We are to pray for all kinds of people. We are to pray for our families, our friends, and the members of our church. We are to pray for our enemies, our lost neighbors, and those who persecute us. After exhorting us to prayer for all people, we are exhorted to prayer for our national leaders, in their context, “for kings and all who are in high positions.” Do you remember who their leader was? Nero. A Roman emperor who is remembered for his intense persecution of Christians. The 1st Century Christians did not approve of Nero’s practices, but they prayed for him. They prayed for him because God told them too. When Peter and the apostles were charged not to speak of the resurrection of Christ, they responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Beloved, we must obey God. Pray for your leaders: The President, the Supreme Court, Congress, School Principals, the City Council, and all who have influence over others.

            And here is what we are supposed to pray, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” We pray for governments that they allow Christians to freely practice their faith in Christ. Persecution was very intense in the first century. Paul wanted the government to allow believers to live out their faith before the world. He wanted peace for the church so that she could flourish. If the church flourishes, the gospel advances. The free proclamation of the gospel will cause people to hear and believe and receive eternal life.

America has experienced the freedom of proclamation without the threat of harm. Let us not forsake the great privilege that we have and let us pray for our government that we are able to keep it. And let us pray for our brothers and sisters under totalitarian regimes who do not possess the same freedom as we do. AB Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, “was said to wake up in the morning, bow on his knees, clutch a globe, and weep in prayer[2].”

The Pleasure of the Savior

            There is another motivation other than peace. We pray for all people because it pleases Jesus Christ. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) Jesus is pleased when his people live honorable lives before the watching world. Jesus is pleased when his people who are zealous for good works proclaim the excellencies of the gospel. It pleases Jesus because he desires all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. There is salvation in no one else. Jesus delights in salvation.

            First, we want Jesus’ desires to be our desires. We should desire all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We should desire democrats and republicans, sex slaves and slaveholders, Islamic extremists and Syrian refuges, as well our children and neighbors. We should desire all people to be saved because this is the declared will of Jesus. The same language is in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.: Verses like may create a question like, “If salvation is the clear desire of Jesus, and Jesus is sovereign over all, then why are all people not saved?” We know that faith only comes through repentance and faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we know that not everyone believes in Jesus so we know that not everyone is saved. How can we make sense of this?

            Theologians have proposed that there are two wills of Jesus: a decreed and declared will. Moses writes, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29) One pastor explains that, “His decreed will involves what He ordains to take place in the world, while His declared will includes what He commands and makes known in His Word.[3]” We have to hold fast what is clear in Scripture. We know God has said, “Do not murder,” and yet we know that it was His will to murder His Son to pay for our iniquity (Ex,20:13, Isa. 53:10, Acts 2:23).

God’s decreed will can never be thwarted. We see this throughout the Bible and clearly here in Daniel 4:34b-35,

“for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

God does not tell us everything, but we know that nothing can stop his will. He works all things to the counsel of this will. John Piper points out,

God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28)[4].

God does not reveal to us everything, but we know that Jesus desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. And therefore, we should love all people and desire them all to be saved. We are called to obey his revealed will and leave the secret things to God. He will reveal all things in His own time.

The Price of the Mediator

            Whenever one sees salvation, they will also see judgment. God delights in the salvation of people, but salvation comes at a price. It comes at the price of the death of the Son of God. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) This is an amazing verse. First, there is one God. All people everywhere need to honor God for He and He alone is their Creator. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” There is one Sovereign Creator over this world and that is Yahweh Elohim, the Creator and Covenant God of Israel.  Second, there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. God is holy and righteous. He stands opposing sinners and sin. No one who is unrighteous can stand in his presence. Fear and terror should come to heart of everyone who stands before God, Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

            Thanks be to God that He has made a way for us to come to him. We have been reconciled, ransomed back to God because the righteous came for the unrighteous. Jesus is the perfect and only substitute for the salvation of sinners. Jesus was fully God so he was able to stand as a righteous sacrifice. Jesus was fully man so he was able to stand in the place of sinners as a representative of rebellious humanity.

Theologians call this the hypostatic union which speaks of the two natures of Christ which became orthodox doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Jesus and Jesus alone is uniquely qualified as the mediator between God and man. He was always divine and in his incarnation, he added humanity to nature giving us the “God-man, Christ Jesus.” And notice what this God man did, “he gave himself as a ransom for all.” Jesus gave his life no one took it from him. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18)

            Our Savior paid the ultimate price to buy us back from the grave. He paid the price of blood for Scripture is clear that without the shedding of blood there is not the forgiveness of sin (Heb. 9:22). A ransom is the price paid to buy back a prisoner or a slave. Our mediator gave his life as a ransom for all to buy us back from slavery to sin and death. And He died for all. He died so that now anyone who would turn from their sins and trust in Christ would be forgiven. If that is true, then, why would we not want to herald this message?

The Preacher of the Lost

            The church has a message to proclaim. We are witnesses of the gospel. We share the testimony of what Jesus Christ has done for us. Paul reminds Timothy of why he was willing to endure so much persecution and why he would give himself to those he once despised. “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Timothy 2:7) We follow in Paul’s footsteps. We must herald the gospel of Christ. We must preach.

            We pray that the government will allow us to preach freely. We pray for the power and passion to preach freely so that Jesus would be pleased. And we preach because there is salvation in no one else and no other name under heaven which men can be saved because there is one mediator between God and man. We have been entrusted with the beauty of the gospel. The King of the university has set us apart to be used to call people out of darkness and into his wonderful light. We have the great privilege to point people to the only true and lasting hope in the world.

            So we pray for all people. We pray for our leaders. We pray for the pleasure of our Savior. We pray because we desire all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. If the end goal of our prayers is God’s glory and delight, then why would we not pray, even for our president? Let us not be “modern-day Jonahs”, but let us obey God and beseech him in prayer for all people that His name would be glorified and his salvation would extend to the end of the earth.

 

[1] I received this idea from Jonathan Parnell’s article that can be found here http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/three-reasons-to-pray-for-president-obama accessed 2.17.16

[2] David Platt in Christ-centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1&2 Timothy and Titus page 26

[3] Ibid. 28.

[4] https://www.monergism.com/topics/god%E2%80%99s-attributes/decree-god accessed 2.17.16

Wage the Good Warfare

            On evening of November 13, 2015, Isobel Bowdery went to a concert with her friends for fun, but her evening quickly turned to a nightmare. Isobel harrowing tale of survival was recounted the day after the coordinated Isis in Paris. She writes,

You never think it will happen to you. It was just a friday night at a rock show. the atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling. and then when the men came through the front entrance and began the shooting, we naiively believed it was all part of the show. It wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right infront of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. in an instant. Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless. Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry - not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive. But so many didn't…Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfil.[1]

Isobel first words are stunning, “You never think it will happen to you.” Isobel went to a concert that Friday night as she had done many nights before and her peaceful life was forever changed. She became utterly aware that she was part of a war. Warfare is bloody and brutal. It is an awful reality.

            ISIS is at war with the west. We may not feel the effects of war, but that does not change the reality of war. We have an enemy. America must never forget that we have enemies of our way of life. And like Americans, Christians must never forget that we have enemies of our way of life. Christians are in a war. There are enemies of the cross of Christ. We may not always feel its effects, but there are moments like the ones on November 13th that remind us that we are at war. Paul charges Timothy to fight for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul charges Timothy to fight for the Gospel, I prayer that you will pick up your army and contend for the gospel.

The Reality of the War

            First, let us briefly establish the reality of the war. The Christian life is viewed as a battle. Listen to the Scriptures in reference to the warfare against sin,

1 Peter 2:24, “He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Romans 6:62, “We have been united with him in a death like his. . . .Our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. . . . How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Galatians 2:205:24, “I have been crucified with Christ. . . .Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Colossians 3:3, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Romans 7:4, “You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another…Romans 8:13, “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you kill the deeds of the body, you will live.” Colossians 3:5, “Put to death what is earthly in you.” 1 Corinthians 9: 27, “I pommel my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” * 1 Corinthians 15:31, I die every day!”[2]

The believer battle with sin is clearly pictured as warfare. We are at war with the world, our flesh and the devil to root out and kill sin our life. John Owen writes, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.

The Soldiers in the War

            Paul left Timothy at Ephesus to lead the army against sin. Timothy was charged to lead God’s people, 1 Tim 1:18-19a, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.” Timothy was set apart by the council of the elders to serve as the Elder of the church at Ephesus. He was charged to fight by holding onto faith and a good conscience. First, we wage the good warfare by fighting for sound doctrine. Timothy had to teach the people the true faith. The false teachers in Ephesus were leading people from purity of doctrine. We always will have to fight for true faith. The true faith that Jesus Christ alone saves. Jesus is the only name under heaven which man must be saved. There is no other way. There is one mediator between man and God, and that is the man Christ Jesus. There is no other. We must fight for the exclusivity of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Everyone is welcome at the cross, but everyone must come through the cross to get to God. We come to Jesus by faith. We turn from our sin and turn to Jesus for salvation believing in his death and resurrection.

            Secondly, we fight with a good conscience. We fight to believe and we fight to live out our beliefs. The church had a saying, “Coram Deo.” It means before the face of God. We live our lives fighting for holy lives. We confess sin. We protect what we watch on T.V. We put internet filters on our computers. We invite people into our lives to ask us tough questions. We commit ourselves to a local church. As Peter encourages the church to make their calling and election sure. We fight to believe God’s Word and we also fight to live by God’s Word. We trust God’s Word to live God’s Way for God’s Glory.

            We are all soldiers in the Lord’s army. We have been set apart to wage the good warfare. Like in an Army, we have leaders. Elders and deacons who are on the front lines in the battle of sin, but we all are part of the royal priesthood. We are all called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We all have responsible to fight for the purity of our doctrine and our lives. Jonathan Leeman writes 7 responsibilities of church members in his new book, Don’t Fire Your Church Members: A Case for Congregationalism: Attend Regularly, Help Preserve the Gospel, Help Affirm Gospel Citizens, Attend Members Meetings, Disciple Other Church Members, Share the Gospel with Outsiders, and Follow Your Leaders. These responsibilities help the church wage war against sin and fight for God’s glory. He adds,

The Bible gives final authority and therefore responsibility to the gathered congregation. With authority comes responsibility. By joining a church, you become responsible for what your church teaches and for every single member’s discipleship.

·         You are responsible to act if Pastor Ed begins to teach a false gospel.

·         You are responsible to help ensure Member Candidate Chris adequately understands the gospel.

·         You are responsible for Sister Sue’s discipleship to Christ, and that she’s being cared for and nurtured toward Christlikeness.

·         You are responsible to ensure Member Max is excluded from the fellowship of the church if his life and profession no longer agree.

Who trains you for all this work? Your elders. Add your responsibilities together with theirs and you have Jesus’s discipleship program.[3]

Joining a church is enlisting in the war for sound faith and sound living. Before people join the church people should understand the magnitude of their responsibility,

Friend, by joining this church, you will become jointly responsible for whether or not this congregation continues to faithfully proclaim the gospel. That means you will become jointly responsible both for what this church teaches, as well as whether or not its members’ lives remain faithful. And one day you will stand before God and give an account for how you used this authority. Will you sit back and stay anonymous, doing little more than passively showing up for 75 minutes on Sundays? Or will you jump in with the hard and rewarding work of studying the gospel, building relationships, and making disciples? We need more hands for the harvest, so we hope you’ll join us in that work.[4]

Or put it simply, “Are you ready to join the war for God’s glory? Are you ready to fight?”

The Causalities in the War

            And in every war there will always be causalities. We learn of two individuals who did not fight the good fight, but fell to the evil one. Paul continues, “holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander.” These two men rejected the true faith and gave themselves after the world. Most scholars believe that Hymenaeus and Alexander were elders of the church. The reason that Timothy needed to come to Ephesus was that the leaders drifted from the truth both in their teaching and in their way of life. The leaders in the church. Let that settle in. I believe that Paul mentioned their name as a warning to the people that we all must continue to fight the good fight.

 No one is exempt from the dangers of the war. We all must fight. There have been many leaders in Christ’s church that have fallen in their teaching and in their way of life. Solomon was the wisest king of Israel and ended up bowing before foreign gods. Hymenaeus and Alexander once gave powerful sermons and led prayer revivals only to turn their back on Jesus. 1 Timothy 5:19-20, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Do not underestimate the power of the adversary. And even Timothy was warned. He was charged here to press on into the warfare and again in 1 Tim 4:16, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16). Do not be a causality of the war. There are serious consequences in this war.

The Goal of the War

            Remember the goal of the war is to win. We know that we have already won the war because Jesus Christ has destroyed the works of the devil. He brought us the victory over the grave. He has risen. The goal of this life is enter safely into the next one. We must never presume on His grace, but avail ourselves to take hold of the upward prize of God in Christ Jesus. We forget what is behind and press on towards what is ahead. We do not trust our ability to wage the good warfare, but we trust in the war who has already won the war. We trust in the finished work of Christ.

Beloved, there is always hope. Even these men who rejected the faith could still turn back and be forgiven. Paul ends this chapter by saying, “among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” He gave them over to Satan so that they would learn not to blaspheme. They needed to learn. They were removed from the fellowship so that their false faith and false living would be corrected. It was not a final sentence, but an act of grace so that they would repent. Paul wanted them to receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ.

            Church discipline is not a final judgment, but a warning to avoid the coming greater judgment. Paul gave up Hymenaeus and Alexander as an act of grace. It would have done them no good to continue in a path that only brought them death. Church discipline was for their good. If our goal is to find our happy rest in God on our last day, then we should thank God for the precious gift of discipline. Paul and Timothy’s ministry had the aim of love. They loved these men, but love does not always look the same. Paul loved Hymenaeus and Alexander enough to care more about their eternal happiness than earthly contentment. Thomas Watson writes, “What fools are they who for a drop of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath.” Paul warned these men in love.

            Beloved, we are at war. We must not think, “It could never happen to me.” Let us understand our frailty and learn on the everlasting arms of Jesus Christ. Jesus is mighty to save. No one is ever beyond hope for God has given us eternal hope in His Son. Our job is to hold fast to the hope of Christ as we contend for the faith once and for all delivered to saints. I charge you to wage the good warfare, holding faith and a clear conscience.

 

 

[1] https://www.facebook.com/isobel.bowdery/posts/10153885280769893 accessed 2.10.16

[2] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/make-war-the-pastor-and-his-people-in-the-battle-against-sin accessed 2.10.16

[3] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/your-7-job-responsibilities-as-a-church-member

[4] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/your-7-job-responsibilities-as-a-church-member