Gamma 17 – The Pastoral Epistles (Study 2)

Study 2




Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.

The main characteristic of most false teachings invariably focuses on the works and efforts of man in order to ingratiate himself to God or gain standing or merit and this false teaching about the Law will be not different. The law is misused in the sense that it become a manner in which people can gain righteousness with God which Paul has already said it a wrong use of the Law. To contrast the gospel, Paul cites his own testimony as he is the example of a person furthest from righteousness because he was so sinful and evil in that he blasphemed against Jesus, condemned him, persecuted His people which is persecuting Jesus and was totally insolent and proud of himself and counted his own evil as merit. You probably could not find someone as far away from righteousness as Paul was at the time.

God did not choose Paul because he was deemed faithful but God “ who has given me strength”. In order words God does not choose a man because he is faithful but He gives the man the strength to be faithful. We are never saved by merit nor chose for our strengths.

Let’s look at the what our conscience is according to Paul when he writes in Romans 2: 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

So our conscience is that barometers in our mind which is the moral compass instilled in every persons consciousness. It is moral in the sense that it is aligned with what God expects and wants in his creatures ie His Law. That is why Paul says it is written in their hearts which is for the Jew the center of their volition.

When we act out against the alignment of our conscience we sin. To keep a good conscience means to live and act in a manner that is aligned with our conscience.

The cornerstone of our war fare is faith and a good conscience which means keep faith and living and acting in alignment of our conscience. What we believe by faith will determine how we act and live. Our faith determines our works our good works.

The meaning of keeping a good conscience is living or acting in a manner which is consistent with our conscience. If we steal or assault someone we are acting out against our conscience which will condemn us. If we exercise love and reach out to help our fellow man we are acting in line with our conscience. If we hold double standards on the one hand claim to be saints that is believers “set apart” to the Lord and yet on the other hand we act in an unrighteous manner then we are not keeping a good conscience.

This is important because the integrity of our faith is determined by our actions which should be in line with our beliefs hence our faith. This is a constant state of spiritual warfare as Satan will endeavour daily to cause us to give in to temptation and act in a manner contrary to our conscience and once we do that then Satan will pivot on to the other side and start condemning the very actions which we had just committed which he had tempted us into.

Hence we are in a loose ..loose situation that is why it is called warfare and we are fighting with our selves because we have an ingrained sinful nature which the devil exploits each time. It is like we have a loose thread in our shirt and the devil is constantly pulling on it to unravel and expose us for the sinners we are and then he condemns us When we sin against our conscience we are left with only two choices to admit the sin or excuse the sin.

A. When we admit the sin

The Holy Spirit will gently expose our sin by pricking our conscience in order for us to take remedial action. The devil on the other hand will pounce on our sin and pointing out our obvious hypocrisy because we claim to be saints or sets apart ones ..holy unto the Lord and yet this is how we behave? There will be recriminations “You are not a true Christian” “You have betrayed the faith”. The trouble with these condemnations it would seem to imply to us that we are solely responsible for maintaining our faith by our own efforts at ethical behaviour. The aim of the devil is to loosen our grip on our faith. To believe that our constant sinning is so bad that you cannot really rely on Jesus to forgive you for the 50th time can you? Salvation depends on you and your effort. The harder we try the harder we fall and more condemnation comes in so that in the end we go into a tail spin and we feel embarrassed and unworthy to even approach God in prayer and our prayers become more formal and distant and our faith is endangered.

B. When we deny our sin.

The fact of our sin is so strongly condemned by the devil ,will on the other hand trigger a defence mechanism which will automatically suppress our conscience. It is too painful for our conscience because we had bought into the severity of the Devil’s condemnation and it would seem that our well being or self esteem is dependant on our keeping up appearances and being the saint or set apart holy one we claim to be. We suppress our conscience because that is the only way we can justify ourselves and keep on sinning and over time we develop double standards when we condemn others for the very sins we commit but we cannot see it because we have suppressed our conscience. In this case the Devil pivots and changes tactics because further condemnation will be counterproductive for his purposes so he backs off and instead soothes your conscience and says it is all good not need to worry about such “minor sins”. The right strategy in spiritual warfare is to keep faith and a good conscience. The right choice is to listen to the gentle prompting of the Spirit who always points us back to the foot of the cross. Yes you have sinned but your spiritual progress is not dependant on your efforts or work but on how tightly you hold on to the finished work of the cross which is the definition of faith because it is trusting in what Jesus has done for us. Our spiritual progress is dependant not on how hard we try but on whether we are truthful…keeping a good conscience we are which means not suppressing our conscience and recasting our sins are minor, or pretending we did not sin but staying true to our conscience and accepting we have sinned but we throw ourselves at the foot of the cross each time and acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy and trust in His grace and mercy.

Justification by faith is the position of Protestants on our understanding on how God saves us. It is a declaration by God that we are justified that is in a right relationship with Him. We are not righteous in the truest sense of the word where we are in our own behaviour or intrinsic nature righteous or totally aligned with the Law or our conscience but we are declared righteous on the basis of what Jesus had done for us on the cross as He lived the kind of life we should have lived totally aligned with the Law and died to pay for our sins. Once we have been justified we then live our lives in response to our totally undeserved justification. We live progressively more holy lives but that kind of living does not bring any merit for us to be declared righteous, that is totally Christ at conversion. Our righteous living post conversion is merely a response by faith to what God had already done for us. We are no justified on the basis of how we live. It is all Jesus.

The Roman Catholic view of justification does not stop at conversion it’s concept of justification extends to how we live after we come to faith. For them our categories of justification and sanctification are lumped into one entity considered as justification . God’s Spirit progressively makes us holy in the sense that we begin to live in accordance to the Law and we become righteous. Our sanctification is included in our justification because we are progressively made righteous. The sacraments of the Lords Supper and Baptism and other sacraments in the Catholic Church needs to be received and contribute to our intrinsic righteousness There are dangers in both positions. The Catholics face the danger of depending on the sacraments or their good works to gain intrinsic righteousness that will merit salvation whilst the Prostestant will come into the temptation to focusing on their justification by faith no will conveniently forget that they are to respond to God’s grace by living righteous lives not gain merit but as a reciprocation to the grace of God.

Paul is saying that Christians who neglect to live righteous lives and continue depending on the work of Christ on the cross will eventually come into a place in their lives that they are in danger of loosing their faith.

There are in Scripture parallel verses on the one hand we are assured of our election by God and His protection of us until we move into eternity as in John 6: 37-40 and 1 Peter 1:3-5.. On the other hand we are also warned in Heb 10:26-27, Col 1:21-23 that we can loose our salvation if we do not persevere with our faith. Both sets of verses tell the truth but from different vantage points. Both truths run in parallel. The assurance passages tell us we will not loose our salvation. The warning passages are a mechanism by which we are warned to persevere in our faith until the last days. It is like hiking a treacherous mountain trial where we are reassured that we will make it to the summit but the existence of warning signs all along the path to the summit are all placed there so that we will pay attention and reach the summit unscathed.

This passage is the best example of divine determinism and human responsibility. There are definite assurances given to Paul that the soldiers and him will be safe although the storm will destroy their ship. There is a purpose that Paul will testify for Jesus to Caesar. On the other hand there is also the warning that the soldiers are not to lower the life boat and abandon the ship in the midst of the storm.

There is divine intention and plan displayed by the prophetic intention for Paul to get to Rome. There is also the warning not to let the soldiers leave the ship before they run aground. The warnings serve as a mechanism by which the people and Paul are all ultimately saved. Was there a danger that if the soldiers life the ship prematurely that they will all not survive the storm? I believe there was a real danger , it was not a hypothetical danger it was a real danger. How can there be a real danger if there has already been a promise of divine intention that Paul and his company will be saved through the storm? There was a real danger and the warning was given as a mechanism by which Paul and his company would be saved. God works our His ultimate divine purpose through human responsibility and their responsibility was to heed Paul’s warning and they did and fulfilled God’s ultimate plan.

What if they had disregarded God’s warning ? They would have all perished there is no doubt. God does not issue empty threats. Yet the warnings do not imply that God will not or cannot achieve His purposes in fact they are the very mechanism through which He fulfills His purposes.

Handing over to the Devil is phrase used to describe ex-communication because the believer is banished from the fellowship of the church and is therefore by default in the territory of the devil who rules the society at large outside the realm of the church. This type of punishment is mainly for redemptive purposes because the purpose stated by Paul was so that learn not to blaspheme or go against God. Hence it is intentioned that once bereft of Christian fellowship both these errant brothers in Christ will feel so alone and anguished by their loss of fellowship that they will feel the pain of loss and alienation from God’s family that they will repent. The reason the church to do this is for the spiritual integrity of the church. Paul mentions the metaphor of the leaven how a little of it leavens the whole loaf and in the OT leaven or yeast is a metaphor for sin. Hence sin from these two will spread and corrupt the entire church whether in Corinth or Ephesus hence it is important that they be excommunicated. Obviously before such drastic steps are taken it is important for others to gently rebuke and speak to these errant believers and pray for them in humility understanding that their role in rebuke is not predicated on their own superiority in holiness but in utter dependance on the grace of God. It is only when repeated efforts have failed then corporate action by the church is required as in Matt 18 : 15-19 when the person is still unrepentant.

For what persisting sins should there be excommunication? There are a whole bunch of sins mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. The list is not exhaustive but the list seems to focus on the more obvious sins that even in the eyes of society these kinds of behaviour will not be accepted. We are not asked to excommunicate everyone who sins or even who sins persistently in so many areas of our lives. We need to balance love and justice and hold each on dear as a brother and sister in Christ.