Armed and Dangerous

 

One can only imagine what it would have been like to have the Apostle Paul as a mentor and father figure, not only in the faith, but in life as well.  We can observe and note how this may have been through the letters that he wrote to his young protege Timothy.  His care, encouragement, and desire to impart wisdom is evident, particularly in a well-known passage from 2 Timothy 3.  In the midst of encouraging Timothy to follow and emulate the pattern of his life, Paul encourages him to continue in the faith and to recall his younger days when he was acquainted (literally know or understand) with the sacred writings.  Presumably, this mention of sacred writings leads the Apostle into a brief discourse on the nature of Scripture, which is our passage under consideration in this post.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Two questions immediately jump out at the reader, first is what is defined as Scripture and second, who is the man of God.  The remainder of the passage seems fairly straightforward.  Whatever the Scriptures are defined to be, they are breathed out by God, theopneustos, literally that they are God-breathed or from the mouth of God.  It would not be difficult to see how the parallel concept of Scripture as the Word of God is likewise valid.

Scripture is the generic word, writings, but its contextual use in the New Testament is always a reference to the inscripturated revelation of God.  We find references to Scripture time and again in the gospel accounts of our Lord’s earthly ministry.  Here, as with nearly all of the other uses, it is a reference to the Old Testament or TANAK.  This fact was never in question.  The difficulty comes by way of trying to understand if Scripture can refer to the New Testament.  Without creating a brand new post for that defense, suffice it to say that there is internal evidence that this is indeed the case, particularly when one considers 2 Peter 1:16-21; 3:16; 1 Timothy 5:18 as well as the overwhelming number of references, allusions, and echoes of the Old Testament, not to mention the words of Christ Himself.  It is therefore without question that both Old and New Testament’s collectively may be referred to as Scripture.

We then arrive at four given functions of Scripture.  The Apostle informs Timothy that the Scriptures, which have come from the mouth of God, are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  Strong’s defines profitable as helpful or serviceable, advantageous, each of which help to draw out more clearly the idea that is being conveyed here.  Combining this with our four functions and we see that the Scriptures are a helpful, even more – advantageous, companion for teaching or instruction, which elsewhere Paul has described as communicating doctrine (Titus 1:9).

Likewise, the Scriptures are helpful for both reproof and correction, which sound similar and would seem to be communicating a similar concept.  In reality however, it is likely that the former means the Scriptures are advantageous for correcting doctrinal errors and reproving those who would hold to beliefs that are contrary.  The latter however uses a different word, which the ESV translates as correction, which better communicates the idea of correcting moral behavior.  Together then, we see that the Scriptures are helpful for correcting both doctrinal deficiencies and moral deficiencies of character.

Finally, we arrive at our fourth function of Scripture, that it trains in righteousness.  Elsewhere in Scripture when this word for training is used, it is in the context of discipline and instruction, as with a Father to a son (Eph. 6:4; Heb. 12:5, 12:7, 12:11).  Turning to Strong’s again and we find that it also connotes the idea of cultivation.  In farming, this would include the entire process from plowing the ground to planting the seed and watering all the way to the production of the fruit.  It is easy then to see how the Scriptures would function in this way in the life of a believer, from the rather painful discipline of plowing the hard heart to the joyful producing of spiritual fruit.

All of this brings us to our second question, who is the man of God.  If we relied on some common understandings of this passage, we would be left with a limited application of the man of God referring exclusively to pastors or preachers.  But that’s too technical of a definition and would be a sad outcome leaving the rest of the “lay” population of believers on the outside looking in at this magnificent discourse on the nature and purpose of Scripture.  Along this line of thought, the everyday believer would figuratively hand over the Scriptures to the professional man of God so that they could be used properly for the functions as described.  But though the Scriptures are a sword, they are not the sword in the stone waiting only for the professional Arthur to come along.  The Sword of God fits all hands of believers who by faith wield it in the power of the Spirit, particularly for the functions mentioned here.

The man of God, as the footnote in some Bibles indicate, also means the messenger of God and echoes a common Old Testament reference.  Essentially it is the man (anthropos), belonging to God (possessive) that articulates or communicates the truths of God’s Word, the Scriptures.  This could occur on a street corner, at a dinner table, in a gathering of believers, 1 on 1, 1 on 50, anywhere that a person takes a stand and proclaims the Word of God.  Which brings up a second point.  Anthropos here is not restricted to males only.  It is most often used generically as a reference to mankind.  So, therefore, women need not feel inferior that the power and function of Scriptures are limited to men only.  This promise is for the man or woman of God who communicates the message of God using the Word of God (1 Timothy 2:12 & 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is for another day).

Take heart believers, God has equipped us in this twisted and corrupt generation to proclaim His Word.  Not only has He fulfilled His promise in giving His Holy Spirit, but He has armed us with the Sword of the Lord, His Scriptures, which have proceeded from His very mouth.  These Scriptures complete and equip the man or woman of God for every good work.  We are not adequate for such things on our own, literally we are unarmed.  Thus the power of Scripture to equip, or to furnish us with the means necessary to do the good work that God has set before us.  Be bold and confident in the Lord.

The Check Engine Light of Worship – Part 2

 

In this Series:

Part 1

Recently, we introduced a somewhat familiar passage, at least in how often it’s quoted, from 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.  On a personal level, the motivation for this particular study, from the Apostle’s first letter to the ekklesia at Corinth, stems out of a desire to engage in meaningful discussions on ‘the the sufficiency of God’s Word, Sola Scriptura, and how the authority of God’s Word not only influences how we live, but likewise how we worship.’

In that previous post, we outlined this passage as follows:

  1. A Statement of the Problem (11:17-22)
  2. An Appeal to Christ’s Institution of the Lord’s Supper (11:23-26)
  3. A Rebuke (11:27-32)
  4. An Exhortation (11:33-34)

Having already looked at the Statement of the Problem in 11:17-22, we now turn our attention to an exposition of 11:23-26, with a goal to further unpack the passage by setting the context.  In this passage, the Apostle recounts for us the institution of the Lord’s Supper, as it has become known (from 1 Cor. 11:20).  This event is also recorded for us in Matthew 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-38.  The setting for the Lord’s Supper may also be found in John’s gospel chapters 13-17.

Below is the passage from 1 Corinthians

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Working through this passage, we need to note that the Apostle is communicating to the Corinthians what he had himself received.  It is difficult to determine whether he had received this from the Lord, by means of the apostles who had experienced this supper firsthand, or whether it was communicated directly to Paul from the Lord (Gal. 1:12).  Regardless, it is clear that the source is directly attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ, not from human wisdom or preference, and that the Apostle is laying down the pattern as delivered from the Lord.

With this in mind we come to our first observation and the phrase on the night when he was betrayed.  This oft-overlooked expression is how the Apostle introduces the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  Here we need to ask, is this a throw away phrase?  Is it simply inserted to call our minds to that night?  Or is it significant for reestablishing the pattern?  We’ll dig into this more in a subsequent post when we examine the heart of this institution, but for now we must simply observe that the initiation of the Lord’s Supper was on the night of Christ’s betrayal establishing for us a time context.  

Turning to the Gospel accounts, we are informed of an additional time indicator, namely that the night of Christ’s betrayal was also the night that the Lord and His disciples celebrated Passover.  So, here is the setting: The Lord’s Supper was instituted on the night of our Lord’s betrayal, in which He and His disciples were also celebrating the Old Covenant Feast of Passover.  

Our second observation is the tiny phrase, as often, which is used twice in the passage cited above and only one other time in the entire New Testament (Rev. 11:6).  The first occurrence in our passage,as often as you drink it”, is included in the quotation from our Lord’s institution.  The second usage is in the closing summary from the Apostle, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup….”  Of our brief contextual observations that we’ll make in this post, this seems to be the one that has attracted all of the attention and usually causes the most disagreements.  As often has been used as a license to observe the Lord’s Supper daily, weekly, monthly, even quarterly.  Read into this tiny little phrase, used only 3 times in the New Testament, has been a wide range of Christian liberty.   How can there be such wide discrepancies in the observance of this covenant meal?  Why do some congregations celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week, while others one a month, and still others less frequently?

Which brings us to an important question, what would have been the frequency of observance for the early congregations?  Would they have understood what as often was referring to?  Would they have recognized any inherent pattern from our Lord’s institution of this practice for them to follow?  Or would as often had been left open to interpretation as it is now?

Our final observation, is another time reference, until he comes.  Here we are given a time-frame for the continual observance of it, namely until Christ returns.  When we look at the Gospel accounts of the inception of the Lord’s Supper, this ongoing time reference will be significant again.  The occurrence of this covenant meal, which as we’ve seen was on the night our Lord was betrayed, coincided with the annual Passover observance, and was to be continued until the coming again of Christ.  

As a side note, it’s important to remember that the date for the institution of the Lord’s Supper was either 30 or 33 A.D., depending on when the birth of our Lord is dated.  The Apostle Paul visited Corinth, laboring to establish a community of believers around 51 A.D.  It’s likely that he penned his letter to Corinth while he was in Ephesus, around 55 A.D. (possibly as early as 53 A.D.). If at best we assume that there were believers in Corinth who had been taught the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper, then we arrive at around 20 years for the correction to come at the pen of the Apostle.  If we allow that they learned the observance of the supper originally from Paul, then we arrive at around 4 years, and as little as 2 years, for it to become a distortion worthy of Apostolic rebuke.  May that be a stark warning to us who stand 2 millennia after Christ’s institution of this covenant meal!!

Let’s summarize the questions and conclusions that we have seen in this post concerning the context of the Lord’s Supper inception,

  • When was the Lord’s supper instituted? On the night Jesus was betrayed.  This coincided with His observance of the Passover meal.
  • How frequent was this observance?  As often as you drink it.  Debate surrounds whether this means freedom for frequency or whether as often is connected to the night of the Passover.
  • How long was this commemoration to continue?  Until He comes.  A reference to the second coming of Christ.

In our next post, we will look more closely at the details of the institution of the Lord’s Supper and draw more upon the significance and connection with Passover.     

Kingdom Leaders – Part 1

 

In this Series

Recently we asked the question, “Who are your leaders?” a post in which two critical passages on Kingdom leadership were introduced,  Matthew 20:20-28 and Matthew 23:1-12.  After that post, we looked at how Jesus established a Kingdom Paradigm through which the believer is supposed to view this world and function within a Christian Community.  In this post, we’ll drill down a little more into the first of the two passage cited above and move from its introduction, in the previous posts, to its exposition in order to help us understand the nature of leadership that our Lord Jesus Christ came to establish in His kingdom.

Matthew 20:20-28 – Gentile Leadership

In our previous introduction of Matthew 20, we noted that the context is the prophetic announcement of our Lord’s pending death (Matt. 20:17-20).  It is out of this declaration of Christ’s suffering that the stench of desire for positional authority arises with the request from the mother of James and John that her sons may sit one each at Jesus’ right and left hand  in His kingdom.

The background for this request comes from Matthew 19:28,

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

However, despite their mother’s belief in the fulfillment of this promise, the request reveals some improper motivations and aspirations or at best a failure to understand the timing of the fulfillment.

Jesus’ reply, directed to the brothers, is to test the sincerity of the request (Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?), but then to deny it on the basis that it’s not a position for Him to give, to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  It’s likely that the cup of the Lord here is the cup of suffering that He would soon drink.  What our Lord would endure by drinking the cup of God’s wrath and enduring suffering on the cross, would, with regard to suffering, be expected of those who would follow Him (Matt. 20:23; 16:24-26).

With this principle firmly established, Jesus turns His response towards a rebuke of their desire for positional authority by appealing to the leadership of gentile nations

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.” Matt. 20:25

In the midst of this rebuke, Jesus looks towards the worldly leadership structure of the Gentiles (pagans), emphasizing that they “lord it over” and in doing so He provides a negative example for authority.  This particular phrase, lord it over, is also used in 1 Peter 5:3, specifically in the context of shepherding the flock of God, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”   We must ask, does this refer to the character of the authority or to the authority itself?

The word, translated as lord it over (katakurieuo), used in both passages, means “to bring under ones power; to subject to oneself; subdue; be master of”.  It appears to speak less to the character of the authority and more to the authority itself.  This becomes particularly evident in the context with the second statement, “their great ones exercise authority over them.”  Here there’s little confusion as to whether the character of authority is in view or whether authority itself is in view.   Clearly, the latter is the focus.  With this in mind, the establishment and dissemination of power in the Gentile world is held up as a an example, one not to be followed by Christ’s disciples, “It shall not be so among you.”

This passage, as I’ve been guilty of, is usually interpreted to mean that when in positions of church authority or leadership you are not to lord it over people or be domineering over people, much like a taskmaster.  However, that is not the main point, if it’s even a point at all, as we alluded to above.  Clarity is added by the kingdom paradigm that Jesus provides as an alternative to Gentile authority

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave”  Matthew 20:26b-27

In opposition to the negative example, this statement sets forth a positive example of servant and slave that speaks not so much about the character of the authority, but to the position of authority itself.  The contrast is between master and servant, not between a domineering attitude and a servant-heart attitude.  Additionally, we must note that the word servant used here is the same word that is sometimes translated as deacon.  Literally it says, “whoever desires authority among you, [eimi – must be] your deacon.”  (I’m retaining deacon here for a point we’ll discuss in another post) The contrast could not be more striking.  Instead of being masters, believers are to be servants and slaves.

However, the passage does not end here.  Our Lord is not content to hold up an errant model of leadership and authority nor to simply give a commandment for His disciples to follow.  No, He provides the pattern and example of leadership through His own life as the Suffering Servant, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Literally this says, “even as the Son of Man came not to be deaconed but to deacon, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus provides a negative example, a command, and the positive example for how He has structured authority and leadership in His kingdom and it is precisely the opposite of the world’s pattern.  Genuine leadership always leads by example.

Kingdom leadership as defined by our Lord is not one of ascension to a position of authority, as with the Gentile nations, but one of descension existing among those who are functioning as servants and slaves.

 

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"