April 3, 2009

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he is writing to a young pastor and a church (Ephesus) that has come under fire of a ton of false teaching.  Timothy, who has been a close companion of Paul’s and who has warred with him for the sake of the Gospel of Grace, has been planted in Ephesus to weed out the morons who are being used by Satan to cause division, confusion, and unrest.

I preached on 1 Timothy 1:1-3 (ESV) last week at Glass City Church, our fledgling church plant here in Toledo, Ohio.  I set out to cover the first major chunk of the letter, vv 1-11, but by the time I got through the 1st half of verse 3, I knew I needed to stop and camp on the word “remain.”  The word there is “prosmeno.”  Upon a casual reading of the verse, it says “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus…”  No biggie, right?  Paul is asking Timothy to stay behind and deal with the problems that were going on.  Oh, but wait!  There’s way more to this upon closer examination!

Paul wasn’t merely asking Timothy to stay in the city, although that in itself may have been a nerve-wracking request, given that Timothy was still young and may not have felt confident in his own abilities to remedy the issues within the Ephesian church.  But Paul was also issuing a caution to his protege in light of his surroundings.

“Prosmeno” (as with many Greek words) is much deeper than our English word “remain.”  It means “to remain with, to continue with one. to hold fast to: the grace of God received in the Gospel. to remain still, tarry, stay.”  And as I was doing sermon prep, I all of a sudden hit a major speed bump that jumped up and shouted “DON’T MISS THIS!”

“To hold fast to the Grace of God received in the Gospel!!!”  Paul knew that Timothy was going to be inundated with all kinds of ‘progressive, emerging’ ideologies that may sound, at surface, more appealing and less convicting than the Truth he knew because of ‘the grace of God received in the Gospel.’  And Paul was warning Timothy to remain- to hold fast, tarry, stay.  Personally, when I read that passage I hear Paul pleading in a loud voice, “PLEASE!  Timothy, it pains me to leave you behind, but I know it is best for you to be there instead of with me.  Nevertheless, DO NOT forget the Gospel of Grace!  Don’t be hypnotized by those false teachers!  Instead reprove them with a strong rebuke, and restore God’s Truth to it’s rightful place in the hearts of the brothers and sisters of the church.”

There are a lot of hypnotists out there these days, aren’t there?  Authors, speakers, gurus- men and women who declare their own truth to be above God’s Truth.  Most of it is easily dismissed because there is no basis for it, rather their words are merely their own musings.  But in the realm of Christendom there is danger because many times false teaching is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

It comes in the form of a low view of Holy Scripture.  It comes in the form of progressive thinking or relative morality.  Church leaders proclaim that we are more evolved than those who wrote the Bible therefore we don’t have to follow what they say.  And it’s getting closer and closer to home.  I just read this week that one mainline denomination has abolished the “fidelity/chastity” clause of their constitution.  In other words, Pastor/Elders of their denomination no longer have to be “faithful in marriage or chaste in single hood.”  The driving force behind the decision was to make it possible for gay and lesbian pastors to be ordained and serve as clergy in their churches.  Anyone ever read Romans 1?

There is also a very popular notion out there that churches no longer need to have a hierarchy/authority structure because we’re “past that point by now.”  Yet, Scripture tells us quite a different story, and even lays out the qualifications for the men who are to be Pastor/Elders in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1.

Yesterday I engaged in an online debate with a guy who tried to tell me that church planting isn’t a Biblical concept, and that there weren’t any church planters in the Bible.  He openly questioned whether church planting was the problem with the American church.  I honestly felt a deep sorrow for him.  If church planting is what’s wrong with the American church, it’s only that there’s not enough of it.  How we have come to such a misunderstanding of Scripture is very disheartening.

2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV) reads “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

I believe we’re living in a time such as that right now.  And Timothy was dealing with such a time back then.  It was still early in church history and already men were figuring out ways to pervert God’s word.  I love how Matt Chandler put it during his talk at the Acts 29 Church Planting Boot Camp in Seattle last month- “There never were any glory days!” In other words, there was never a time in church history that we can look back and say, “Oh, man… that was when we really had it good.  Those were the days!”  No.  Didn’t happen.  We are living for the glory days- that is, when we get to be with Christ.  And that’s why we labor in the Gospel.

So when Paul tells Timothy to “remain” he is driving home the point that he needs to hold fast to the promise that comes with being a regenerated believer in Jesus Christ.  He is pleading with him not to be carried away in the undercurrent of false teaching.  And he’s charging him to stand firm with the authority given to him by God through Christ.


One comment

  1. I’m diggin the new look! and of course the post 🙂

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