1 Timothy 3: Family

We often hear sayings like “family comes first” or “family is everything”. In this chapter, Paul emphasizes the importance of being a responsible family member. He starts out by reaffirming the importance of several qualities mentioned throughout his letters, such as temper, self-control, hospitality and gentleness through a short list in verses 2-3.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

However, he then stresses in verses 4-6 that the best judge of a character lies in his/her fulfillment of family responsibilities and in leading well. The fact that he writes two verses emphasizing this after only listing short phrases shows that the success of managing a family is of paramount importance: especially for one who wishes to lead others in faith.

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

He also mentions the importance of this in verse 12:

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.

At first glance, these verses may seem irrelevant to you if you’re not married or don’t have kids yet – but I believe that one’s ability to parent and to manage a household can be nurtured years before. One’s success in marriage and raising a family is ultimately a culmination of how strongly rooted he/she is in God’s word and principles (i.e. how well one can manage their own spiritual and emotional life).

Even if one has no desire to lead, I believe that this chapter gives us insight on what God values in us, that: (1) we should strive for quality familial relationships and that (2) our ability to do so is reflection of us as individuals.

 

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1 Timothy 2 – Instructions on Worship

Wow, what a chapter. I think the title “Instructions on worship” does not even cover everything that Paul has to say in 1 Timothy 2.

  1. Give thanks 

One important takeaway point is that God wants everyone to give thanks, to praise, and to acknowledge him, no matter their status or position in life. This encompasses all “kings and those in high positions” to lowly servants. Paul emphasises that there is only one God, and one mediator – Jesus Christ – who enables us to have a direct, loving relationship with God.

2. Pray earnestly and honestly 

In tandem with worshipping God, what matters most is that we pray earnestly and honestly, without anger or dispute (v 8). When we pray, we must keep our attitude in check. We shouldn’t pray just because we are angry at the way things work in the world, or because we want God to help us during our insignificant human disputes. Rather, we should pray about important things – like spreading the gospel, the health of the church, and our personal spiritual relationship with God.

3. Ladies – represent God with your outer image.

To be honest, I struggled with coming to terms with verses 9-12 of this chapter. As a feminist woman in the 21st century, I instantly jumped to negative conclusions when I read that woman are to “dress modestly, with decency and propriety”, and “learn in quietness and full submission.”

I think the point is, if we are too caught up with whether we are wearing clothes that are in style, and with the way we are perceived by others in a materialistic or self-absorbed sense, our attention detracts from glorifying and honouring God to glorifying and honouring ourselves. Again, its an attitudinal issue. According to 1 Peter 3:4:

Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Despite this chapter being comparatively short, it actually covers a great deal of what it means to be a Christian. Its my goal to take heed of these 3 points and to use them in my daily life.

1 Timothy 1: Godly Righteousness

In this letter to Timothy, Paul highlights the work to be done in Ephesus and highlights some important reminders that are important in contextualizing the place of the gospel in society.

1. Godly righteousness and the law

In modern society, we are constantly surrounded by social and political debates. The idea of what is “right” is constantly challenged. While this has stirred up a lot of confusion and frustration amongst believers and non-believers, we must remember that God’s word is unchanging.

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

It is suggested here that the law on Earth is simply a ‘behavioral guideline’, but following the law does not equal righteousness. Beyond the laws of our society, we need to, as believers, be wary of our approach toward the ‘laws’ set by God or in the Bible. We must not fall into a “checklist” mentality where we claim “righteousness” simply by checking off the rules.

We must remember that God is our moral compass and one that is truly righteous must know His heart and mind. As followers of God, we align our desires with His and gain the wisdom for discernment between right and wrong. In face of so many conflicting ideas in the 21st century, we must rely on God in forming a stance and a viewpoint — even if our initial reactions and instincts tell us otherwise.

2 THESSALONIANS 3: IDLENESS

How would you define idleness? My first thoughts go to when my Skype account status becomes “idle”, after not having touched my computer in a while. As a self-professed lazy person, I might even label my life as idle. I fall in to the same pattern of going to uni, coming home and studying, watching the same TV shows, cooking/eating the same food, meeting the same friends…the list goes on.

What exactly is idleness, in the context of being a Christian?

  • Not working at all, doing nothing
  • Being slack in your work (Proverbs 18:9)
  • Pretending that the liberty Christ gave us freed us from our callings and employment in the world.
  • Relying solely on the charity of the church
  • Being a “busybody” (v 11) – possibly meaning “spending your time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). In other words, being a gossip chasing after news.

In this chapter, Paul reminds us to “keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive, and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). In fact, this command has been repeated many times in the New Testament. According to Titus 3:10, “warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” It is hoped that by disassociating a person that is idle, they will snap back in to reality and stop their idleness.

Paul tells us to wisely withdraw from being idle, and from those who are too lazy to work. Those who can work should work, so that they are self-supporting and not burdensome to the church. This is because idleness leads to mischief and it breeds trouble. Those who evade work often spend their time on unworthy and unwholesome pursuits.

The main takeaway points from this chapter are:

  • Ensure that you are not slack in your work. This applies to actual employment as well as spreading the gospel and serving God.
  • Withdraw from those who are idle, so that they may become aware of their ways.
  • Finally, in verse 13, Paul emphasises that “we should never tire of doing good.”

 

2 THESSALONIANS 2

In this chapter, Paul offers an intense and strict reminder of the predicted events of the Rapture. He warns his followers that no vehicle of instruction – no letter or prophecy – should be taken seriously if it claims that the Day of the Lord has come. The heading “the Man of Lawlessness” is indicative of Satan, who will use his deception to draw away those who follow God. This antichrist will see to it that he becomes the object of human worship. He will proclaim himself to be God (verse 4), but we should not be led astray by his appearance or influence.

The secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (1 Thessalonians 2:7)

Satan’s power is already at work, manifested in many different facets in our daily life, at work, university, school, and sometimes even home. We should not let down our guard, but remain vigilant to keep his deception at bay.

Standing firm

The doctrine of salvation establishes that:

(1) God the Father will elect and call us to be Christians.

(2) God the Son will share his glory with his People.

(3) God the Holy Spirit will impart wisdom and sanctifying grace to believers.

This is perfectly summed up by verse 16:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Of course, this is only made possible through partnering with God, as was emphasized in the previous chapter. Pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene when temptation strikes. Constantly remind yourself of his righteousness, faithfulness, and love to keep sin at bay. And ask for his forgiveness when you know you have sinned.

2 Thessalonians 1: Partnering with God

In this chapter, Paul describes the nature of the partnership that we should each have with God and how it can be established. The nature of this partnership really embodies the many different aspects of man’s relationship with God: how he is, at the same, a father, a friend, a lover, a king, a judge and a trusted partner. This passage also touches on the ideas of glory, righteousness, justice and faith.

 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.

He is our protector. When we ally with Him, we can count on Him like a father figure. From verses 6 and 7, we can see that God will fight FOR us. He cares about what we are troubled by and bring upon justice. Not only does He punish them, but he also brings us comfort. This moment of judgement is presented in an image of glory and majesty.

12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

God wants to share his glory with us. Verse 12 clearly demonstrates the reciprocity within the partnership. Man was made to give praise and to give glory to God and, as emphasised throughout the Bible, we are to glorify Him with our lives and our actions. But God doesn’t want to keep the glory to himself – in fact, when we give glory to Him, we receive glory and are honoured in Him.

So how do we partner with Him?

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

 

If we want to partner with the Lord, we have to earn it. Yes, God calls us out of the darkness and yes we are loved unconditionally by Him – we don’t need to earn His love. But partnering with God is something we need to become worthy for. If we want to enjoy God’s glory and honour, we have to be worthy to behold it. That being said, everyone has the chance to earn this calling because we have been saved. 

It all starts within our hearts and minds. We must firmly live in faithfulness so that our minds can be fixated on biblical goodness and righteousness. However, this is made possible only by God’s power; we are unable to persevere and attain this righteousness without help from the Spirit or Christ. His perfect righteousness, therefore, is also given to us when we partner with Him. This is what Paul prays over the people of the church. 

1 Thessalonians 5: Final Instructions

Remember what I mentioned in the previous post, about accountability buddies? Well, this passage emphasizes just that.

  1. Do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Paul reminds us to acknowledge those who work hard among us, those who care for us in the Lord and those who admonish us (1 Thessalonians 5:12). Instead of retaliating when we have been wronged, we are to respond by doing what is good and what is right. What does this mean? It means that when we have been shunned and hurt, we should continue to love and care for that person. This passage is also reminiscent of what is said in Matthew 18:22, where Jesus instructs Peter that we are to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Therefore, we should give people the benefit of the doubt, and be ready and willing to ask the Spirit for help in extending a hand for forgiveness.

2. Rejoice always.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

It can be difficult to praise God when things don’t go the way we want it to. But we are to trust that God has formulated a unique plan for each of us. Remember that he has sought us out as a holy people to do his will, and that he cares for and loves us.

3. Pray continually.

Pray continually, so that our spirit may be renewed and not quenched. We should pray for God’s guidance in keeping our “spirit, body and soul blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This was reinforced in the first part of this chapter, when the metaphor of drunkenness was used. The fact that Paul emphasizes this again in the last verses of this chapter signifies its great importance.