October 26, 2014

Scripture and Commentary, October 27-November 1

Monday 

Morning - Ps.89:1-19, I Kings21:11-22, James 4:13-5:11
 Evening - Ps 92, Job 28:12, Mt. 16:13

Commentary, James 4:13-5:11

Continuing in the subject of the difference between "doers of the word" and "hearers only," James 4:13-17 shows that hearers only are primarily concerned about money and the comforts and pleasures it can buy.  They are worldly rather than Godly.  James is not talking here about the openly profane, or about those who use questionable tactics in business.  He is talking about people who profess Christ, but whose faith does not move them toward God and Godliness.  These people claim to be Christians, but go through life with little care or thought for God.  Though such people may be very moral, James says their actions are evil (4:16).  In this uncertain world, goods, and even their lives can be taken away from them at any moment (4:14), therefore they should be more concerned about knowing God and seeking Him in all of life, including their business ventures (4:15).  They know this, yet do not practice it, thus, they sin (4:17).

In 5:1-6, James turns to the perils of wealth and the evil into which it has led many people. The point of verses 1-3 is that wealth is easily lost.  Verses 4-6 show what evil men do to obtain and keep wealth. 7-11 call Christians, and those who have been "hearers only" to turn their attention to the Lord, waiting for the promises of God as the farmer waits for the rains and the harvest (5:7-8).  He gives the Old Testament prophets as examples of patient faith, who endured rejection and persecution from their own people, just as Jewish Christians were experiencing in James' time (5:10).  He calls Job to their minds as an example of one who, though suffering grief and poverty, remained faithful to God, thus, possessing the greater wealth of God's love and mercy (5:11).  The point, of course, is that the Jews who were suffering persecution and loss for the sake of Christ also possess wealth that cannot perish, and even death can't steal, through the tender mercy of the Lord.


Tuesday

Morning - Ps. 90, 1 Kings 22:1-12, James 5:12-20
Evening - Ps. 104, Job 38:1-18, Mt. 17:1-13

Commentary, James 5:12-20

James ends his epistle with several important exhortations.  Swearing, in verse 12 does not refer to "cussing," though cussing is an obviously evil thing.  It refers to attempting to make an oath more valid by swearing in the name of God, Heaven, angels, or holy things which we have no power to bind by our promises. Such "vain and rash swearing is forbidden by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle" (see also the Articles of Religion XXXIX).  Accordingly we Anglicans ask people in baptism and confirmation to promise, rather than swear, and, rather than asking them to attempt to obligate God or anyone else, we simply ask them to respond with "I will, by God's help."  This answer is yea or nay.  "By God's help" is not an oath in the name of God, but a prayerful confession that the help of God is necessary to enable us to keep our obligation.

Verse 13, though short, gives important directions for much of what happens to us in life.  We are often afflicted.  At such times let us seek God in prayer.  When we are merry, let us sing Psalms to God in our joy.  Thus, in joy or sorrow, we come to God.  Often, even Christians, facing sorrow seek relief in things other than God.  Rather than prayer, and seeking to know the Biblical way to deal with our troubles, we think a vacation or a new toy will cheer us up.  But perhaps the Biblical answer may be to persevere and honour God even in our sorrows.  Likewise, in joy, people often forget about God instead of remembering and thanking Him.

Verses14-16 do not guarantee physical healing every time we get sick.  They do remind us that the prayers of our friends, and, especially, our ministers, are as important in the treatment of illness as the medications and advice of physicians.  We are to call for the minister of the church with as much urgency as we call for the physician.  His prayers, which avail much (5:16), are an important part of the means of our cure.  Our own prayers are also important, and chief among them is the prayer of confession.  This means we are not simply praying that God will heal us so we can go back to business as usual.  We are asking that life in the future will be more Godly.  We are asking not only to be delivered from suffering, but also, even, especially, that we may serve God more fully in the future.

Verses 17 and 18 continue to urge the sick, and all of us, to pray by reminding us that God answers prayer.  If God answered Elijah's prayer to withhold the rain for three years, we may believe He will answer the prayers of those who call upon Him today.

Verses 19 and 20 show that our responsibility for Christian compassion and love requires us to learn and grow from one another.  This includes the sermons, liturgies, and Bible studies of the Church, and also our daily discourse with one another.  Our conversation should be edifying to our hearers, building them up in the faith.  We should also be open to the wisdom of others, who may be able to see things we have overlooked.  This does not mean we are to become busy bodies, looking for faults in others and imposing our advice on them.  Remember James' earlier warning to be swift to hear and slow to speak.  It means that our actions and conversation should be helpful to others by pointing them toward Christ, His Word, and His Church.  If God in His grace uses you to help turn someone from error or sin, rejoice, for God has saved a soul from death and forgiven a multitude of sins.

Wednesday

Morning - Ps. 94, 1 Kings 22:13-28, 1 Timothy 1:1-11
Evening - Ps. 113, 114, Job 38:19-30, Mt. 17:14

Commentary, 1 Timothy 1:1-11

This morning's reading begins the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy.  As Paul wrote this letter he was in Macedonia, having been released from house arrest in Rome.  Timothy was in Ephesus overseeing the Church in that city and the surrounding area, especially the ministers, some of whom had begun to teach things contrary to the Gospel (1:3-4, 7).  Their attempts to teach the law, whether by intention or merely ignorance, had led some of the ministers into error.  So Timothy's task is to charge them to teach no other doctrine but the Gospel (1:3 & 4).  The "commandment" of verse 5 is not the Old Testament law.  It is the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers.  The end (goal) of this charge is love from a pure heart and good conscience.  This means it is real Christian charity, not phony or of mixed motives. A good conscience means to be able to say or do something without their consciences convicting them. The Christian minister should be able to say, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, that he loves God and His Church. Not just "The Church" but his own congregation and every member of it.  The same is true of every member of the congregation.  All should be able to say they love each other. A minister who loves his church will preach the truth to them.  He will lead them into the means of grace and the life of Godliness. A congregation that loves its minister will gladly receive his ministry and will ensure that they are present for his sermons and other ministries (1 Thess. 5:12 & 13). If someone is unable to say he is doing this, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, it is his duty to change his attitude and and actions.  
The Ephesian ministers attempting to teach the Old Testament law do not understand what they are saying.  Their teaching does not lead people to Christ; it binds them with burdens.  So Paul gives some instruction about the law.  Obviously Timothy already knows this, and Paul probably put it in the letter so the ministers could see it and know that the things Timothy was saying were from Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment (authority and decree) of God (1:1).  The point of these verses is that the law of God was not given for theologians to debate and discuss how far a person can walk on the Sabbath.  It was given to direct people into the way of God and to show us the things we ought to be doing.  In this sense, it is for the disobedient and ungodly (1:9 & 10).  It is for those who are doing anything that is contrary to sound doctrine in accordance with the Gospel, which was committed to Paul by God (1:11).   To such people the law is a warning that they are not living according to the will of God.  Thus the law gives sinners (all have sinned, Rom. 3:23) an opportunity to repent and seek God's forgiveness in Christ.  The point of the law is to lead us to Christ.

Thursday

Morning - Ps. 100, 110, 1 Kings 22:29-40, 1 Timothy 1:12-20
Evening - Ps. 116, Job 38:31-38, Mt. 18:1-14

Commentary, 1 Timothy 1:12-20

In 1 Timothy 1:5-11 Paul refutes the use of the law as a source of futile speculation.  It is not given so men can spin it into fables and genealogies as some of the Jews did (1:3 & 4).  It is given to show God's standard of righteousness, and how far we have departed from it.  In short, it is given to lead us to Christ.  Paul's own life is an example of this.  He rejoices that he has been called to the service of the Gospel (1:12), but recalls that he was previously a blasphemer of God and a persecutor of His Church (1:13).  It was the grace of God in Christ that forgave His sins and called him into Christ's service (1:14), for Christ came into the world to save sinners (1:15).  For Paul to call himself chief of sinners is to recognise that he had departed far from the standard of God in the law.  But because he learned of his sin, he was moved to repent and seek God.  God had a dual purpose for Paul when He saved him. First, through Paul's conversion the world would see the longsuffering (patient love) of God (1:15).  Second, Paul's conversion was to be a pattern, or, example, to all who believe in Christ to everlasting life (1:16).  Future believers, including Timothy, those to whom he ministers, and us, can see in Paul's conversion the pattern by which God calls others to faith in Christ.   Paul's example ends in a doxology (1:17), thanking and praising God who has saved him and the Church through Christ.

Finished with his example, Paul continues to delineate Timothy's task in Ephesus (1:18-19).  We remember that Paul is committing to Timothy the task of charging the ministers in Ephesus to preach the Gospel of Christ instead of their own views and speculations (1:3-4).  Thus, Paul says in verse 18, "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy."  "Prophecies" (1:18) are not things foretold about Timothy.  They the revelation of God taught to Timothy through Paul and others, and to which Timothy has devoted his life.  It is the Apostolic teaching, which is really Christ's teaching, by which Timothy is to "war a good warfare."  It is the Gospel of Christ, which will cast down Satan, free the spiritual captives, and deliver them safely into Heaven.  Timothy is to remember and teach the prophecies about Christ.

He is to teach in "good conscience" (1:19).  This means he is to first believe the Gospel, then teach it.  He cannot teach what he does not believe without being a phony and a liar.  Some have turned away from the Gospel, and suffered shipwreck on the rocks and storms of false teachings.  Hymenaeus and Alexander stand out in Paul's mind, and they have been excommunicated, which is to be turned over to Satan as unbelievers until they show signs of repentance and true faith.

Friday

Morning - Ps. 119:145-160, 2 Kings 1:1-17, 1 Tim. 2:1-10
Evening - Ps. 119:161-176, Job 39:19, Mt. 18:15

Commentary, 1Timothy 2:1-10

Though chapter 2 begins a new section, it is still part of Paul's instruction to Timothy about the commandment he is to give to the people and clergy of Ephesus.  Instead of false teachings (1:3) and fruitless speculation about the law (1:4), Timothy is to charge them to devote themselves to prayer and Godliness.  The prayers of verses 1 and 2 follow the ancient liturgies, and Paul probably had them in mind as he wrote these verses.  Note the similarity between verse 2 and the Liturgy of St. Mark as quoted in the Pulpit Commentary;
"Preserve our king in peace, in virtue, and righteousness... incline him to peace towards us and towards thy Holy Name, that in the serenity of his reign we too may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and honesty."
Rather than their own speculations, the ministers are to remind the people of the Gospel, of the only Mediator between God and man, "who gave himself a ransom for all" (2:3-6).  It is to proclaim this Gospel that Paul was ordained a preacher and Apostle (2:7).  The implication is that if Paul was ordained to preach the Gospel, then the clergy of Ephesus, ordained by Paul and Timothy, were ordained to preach that same Gospel.
Verse 8 refers to the public prayers in the churches of Ephesus.  "Everywhere," means, in all the congregations. "Lifting up holy hands" was the common position for prayer.  Meeting in the homes of the church members, which often had only a few stools or chairs, the Christians stood for hymns, Scripture reading, and sermons, and knelt for prayer.  Rather than folding their hands in front of them, they held them at their sides, waist or shoulder high and palms up during prayer.  They did not wave their hands or sway their bodies.
Verses 9 and 10 complete today's reading with instructions to the women to dress modestly.  This, of course, includes the need to dress in ways that cover, rather than in ways intended to allure.  But it also means to dress in ways that do not call attention to the cost and beauty of the apparel.  "Modesty" in this sense is used the way we use it when we say, "modest means."  The apparel should be adequate and comfortable, not shabby or poor.  The intent of the woman is not to have people admire her, but to worship God.
Saturday

Morning - Ps. 120, 122, 123, 2 Kings 2:1-15, 1 Timothy 3:1-13
Evening - Ps. 144, Job 42:1-9, Mt. 19:1-15

Commentary, 1 Timothy 3:1-13

The Church belongs to God.  He established it for His own purposes, and He has given pointed and direct instructions regarding its nature and function.  The Church is His body, His kingdom, and His people.  In this regard it is the fulfillment of Old Testament promises, such as the one in Isaiah 60:3, "The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."  New Testament books elucidate the fulfillment of this promise in passages like Galatians 6 and Ephesians 2 and 3.  Galatians 6:16 teaches that all who walk according to faith in Christ are "the Israel of God."  Ephesians 2 and 3 teach that Jewish and Gentile Christians are "fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel."

God also gave the Church its doctrines, worship, and organisational structure.  They are found in the New Testament, which records and explains the life and teaching of Christ which He gave to the Apostles, and which He commissioned them to teach to the world (Mt. 28:19-20).  The Apostles taught others, and ordained them to teach others also (1 Tim. 4:6-16, 2 Tim. 2:2, 4:1-2).  This morning's reading in 1 Timothy addresses those called to offices of leadership in the Church.  Specifically it refers to those called to be bishops and deacons.

The bishop is the overseer of the churches in a particular area.  It is his task to ensure that the ministers teach the truth in accordance with what they have been taught by the Apostles. He is also responsible for ordaining properly called and equiped men into the ministry, and for seeing that the local churches receive the pure Gospel of Christ and remain free of the false teachers that constantly attempt to infiltrate the Church.  The abundance of false doctrines and false teachers made it very important for for the early Church to be able to distinguish between the true and false ministers.  One of the "tests" they used was called Apostolic Succession, meaning a bishop should be able to trace his line of ordination and teaching back to the Apostles.  During the life time of the Apostles this was quite easy, for the Apostles visited the churches and appointed and ordained the ministers in them.  As the Apostles began to die out, ministers ensured that they were taught and ordained by men who had been taught and ordained by the Apostles.  Careful records were kept.  Thus we know Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, was taught by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, and Polycarp was taught by the Apostle John.  A similar process helped determine which of the many books circulating through the early Church were to be included in the Bible.  Those included had to be of Apostolic authorship, such as the Gospel of John, or written at the direction of an Apostle, such as the Gospel of Mark.  So it was very important that the clergy in Ephesus could say they were taught and ordained by Paul, or by Timothy, or by a bishop taught and ordained by them.  It was not a status symbol; it was a matter of keeping and teaching the Apostolic Faith.

Charged, by the Apostle Paul with the task of of teaching and ordaining clergy in the churches in and around Ephesus, Timothy was well aquainted with the qualities and qualifications required of ministers.  Paul put them in this letter to be read to the churches, so all would know that Timothy was not inventing them, but was doing all in accordance with the directive of the Apostle.

The requirements are clear and unambiguous.  The bishop is to be of good moral character (3:1-3), a Godly leader in his own home (3: 2, and 4), mature in the faith (3:6), and known for these attributes in the community (3:7).  As the primary pastor of the church in his area, he will continually lead the clergy and congregations into the things of God, therefore he must be apt to teach (3:2).


The requirements for deacons are no less stringent.  Deacons assist bishops and priests in the services of the Church and in the care of the poor.  They may also be called upon to preach and evangelise as Phillip was in Acts 8.  Their practice and knowledge of the faith must be in keeping with importance of this ministry.