Gamma 17 – The Pastoral Epistles (Study 3)

Study 3




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.

Supplication is a word that reflects requests stemming from a deep need which is in this case a deep spiritual need not a frivolous desire for wealth or well being. Prayer denotes all kinds of prayers we are to offer to God on behalf of all men.

Intercession is a word used in Hebrews for Christ’s work interceding for us and here it describes our child like intercession asking for the welfare and salvation of all men. Thanksgiving is integral part of prayer as the very ability to come into His presence to even present any request is predicated on His grace and mercy and when we pray we always acknowledge His mercy and grace that has enabled us to be in such an enviable position to pray to the King of Kings.

Paul is using all kinds of descriptions of prayer to indicate the expansiveness of the help that is available to us when we pray to God for all men

We should pray for all men because we are commanded to do so in this letter. God is a God who desires all men come to a saving knowledge of Him and in this regard only prayer and spiritual conviction by the Spirit will enable this reality. God chooses always in history to work with his people. We as puny helpless sinners are given the tremendous privilege of causality as CS Lewis writes. God is a God who works seamlessly through human agency. God can make a pizza appear magically to fill our stomachs but He does not He almost always chooses the human agency of the farmer who grows the wheat, rears the pigs, tends the vegetable, markets the business , the cooks to bring all the ingredients together and cook the pizza. In His purposes to save all men He has chosen to use us in prayer first and foremost.

Ezekiel 22 looks the evil of the nation of Israel and their kings on how they have behaved but their greed evil pale in comparison to the believers who have failed to pray.

Ezekiel 22: 30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. 31 Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.”

God looked for just a man to stand in the breach “before me” Ezekiel writes and this is not some kind of hero crusader prophet He is look for just a man to stand before God in prayer for the nation and there was none and hence the calamity that struck the nation in judgement could not be averted.

God takes human responsibility very very seriously. There is no point in us always lamenting the greed and corruption of our leaders and at the same time take the attitude of prayerlessness in our daily lives. It needs to start in prayer.

A magicians power comes directly from himself and his own will and if he wills it he can pull a rabbit out of his hat every single time, reliably consistently without fail. The person who prays is a person who brings a request towards someone else. Imagine if we were to bring a request to our local MP , the outcome of the request will depend entirely on the whims and fancies of the particular MP. Some might want to influence the MP with bribes or inducements but lets say we are dealing with an honest politician, then the answer to our request will lie entirely on its merits in the eyes of the MP.

We often have a distorted view of what answers to our prayer must look like. If the answer accords with our request then God is blessing us because we got what we want and our confidence in prayer rises exponentially. If we get a different answer then our confidence in prayer and in God takes a nose dive. Logically speaking this is a ridiculous attitude because we are pitting our puny mind and desires over and against that of an Almighty God who sees all of history as a single instant of time. Since God is far wiser than we ever could imagine then there are going to be plenty of times when His answers will not align with our requests. Imagine sitting for an exam paper in something so complex as quantum physics at the PhD level and comparing our answers with an expert in the field , how often do you think you answers will align with his ? It would have been the height of arrogance to even behind to imagine that we could even match 5% of our answers with his. How then can we expect the Almighty Creator’s answers to our prayers to align with our expectations ?Hence this non alignment should not detract from our confidence in prayer.

Very often people feel that their prayers will not be answered and hence they asked to be prayed over by their elder or pastor and the danger in that is because of their reliance is non the leader as if his prayers will elicit a more favorable response from God. They are not prepared for a different answer in prayer and they turn to the leader as if he is the magician who can pull the rabbit out of his hat. The same attitude extends to healing rallies held by certain healers as if healing alone comes from their hands and prayers and not from God or God is used or trotted out like a performing genie by this powerful healer.

We should pray for them to so that peace will reign in our nations and enable the spread of the gospel and for us to lead godly and peaceful lives. Like it or not they are put in place by God to maintain order.

Romans 13: (ESV) 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Hence when Paul wrote this he was referring to that despot Nero but Paul still understood that behind Nero was God’s authority placed there for order in society. Our prayer for political leaders is especially important because of our understanding that it is God who ultimately moves their hearts for His purposes. In Isaiah 10:5 He used the tyrant king of Assyria to punish the sins of Israel. In Daniel the King Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, said to himself:
Is not this great Babylon which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30)
And God took away his reason and made him eat grass like an ox until he learned this lesson (Daniel 4:34, 35):
Proverbs 21:1 says The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will”
(Proverbs 19:21).”Many are the plans of the mind of a man (of a king!), but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established”
Hence our prayers for the kings is our acknowledgement of the dominion , the power and majesty of our God that He does what He wills and no one can stay His hand. No dictator, no president, no chairman in this world is really going to defy God and when we pray we are in partnership with God governing world affairs.

On the other hand our prayerlessness in this area will only betray our lack of faith in our God. That our God is only a village God who can work things out in our own neck of the woods and is impotent in the span of world events. Hence we must lift up our faith and move God’s hands who holds the hearts of kings.

Praying for those in power is not the same as supporting their policies especially if we live in a free and democratic country. The leaders are judged on their character and their policies. Supporting a corrupt politician with policies that benefit the church is playing into the transactional nature of politics of quid pro quo. The church needs to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. The church needs to call out both policies that are ungodly as well as behaviour that is ungodly and not just sweep them under the carpet just because the argument is made that the politician has policies that benefit the church. If the church remains silent when there are obvious corrupt acts just because the policies are beneficial, sooner of later the corruption will be made public and the silence of the church will highlight its own hypocrisy.

The “all men” should be understood as all men without distinction i.e. of social class or race or ethnicity or economic status. God loves the world even though the world has rebelled against Him. He desires no man to be condemned for ever and yet despite Gods love and desire for all men to be saved, in reality there is moral responsibility from the free will of man. Not everyone will want to repent and believe on Jesus. Those who do are the ones that God has chosen before the foundation of the world hence at the same time the bible speaks of men having the free will to make morally responsible decisions there is also the doctrine of predestination where God chooses those who will respond to Him.

There are two processes that go in parallel. Like Joseph who spoke to his brothers. On one hand they sold him into slavery because they hated him and wanted to do evil to him. This is voluntary and done out of their free will for which they were culpable or morally responsible for.

In the back ground there was a parallel process going on where God had planned all along with His sovereign power that He was going to send Joseph into Egypt as a slave so that in the end he would be elevated to the second highest office in the land and thus enabled to save all of Israel and Egypt from a crushing famine. The same action…poor Joseph led in chains into Egypt is simultaneously the volitional evil perpetrated by his brothers and at the same time the manner in which God had planned all along to save both nations. So determinism can co-exist with free will. The reason why we find it difficult to have both these processes reconciled is because of the way. God is presented to us in the bible and in history.

God is presented in the pages of the bible and in His dealings with Israel and ultimately in the person of His Son Jesus as a personal God. Hence God is presented in time. He chooses Abraham, then Isaac and then Jacob and then the 12 tribes and then David and then Jesus comes as the Messiah. The revelation of God is that of a personal God who lives and acts within the sequence of time and history. However in reality God is not only personal He is also transcendent. He is both transcendent and personal at the same time. When we say God is transcendent we mean that He remains outside of time and space. He is the unchangeable perfect constant God. For Him yesterday, today and tomorrow appear as a single dot because God is timeless which is by Genesis 1 starts of with “In the beginning ..God”. When we are dealing with a transcendent God then predestination which is a function of time therefore no longer bears any meaning. It’s like when we miss a football game and have it taped up in our Astro machine. We do not know the outcome of the match but we can play it out and watch it and when we are watching it we relive the experience and feel the excitement. At the same time we can fast forward it , replay it because in some sense we are metaphorically beyond time. This is like God when He is presented in the bible his personal qualities are experienced like when we are replaying the video of the game. We experience God as a sequence in time like there is a beginning middle and end. However it is also true that God is transcendent and remains outside of time where to Him there is no time and when there is no time, then predestination becomes irrelevant and incomprehensible to us because we can only think in concepts limited by time and space because we are creatures.

What we need to do is to accept that God is revealed to us in both personal terms and in transcendent terms that predestination or determinism and moral responsibility from free will does exist because the bible says it does.

The ministry of the church of the nation will necessarily take a broad a span as possible and not leave any ethnic or social group out of the reach of the gospel. We take the gospel, God moves in their hearts.

There is only one way to God and the reason is because of the problem of sin. There is no capable human priest or religious leader who is going to be that mediator. To be a mediator one must be acceptable to both parties. Every human priest can only represent one party the human party and he too is beset with sins hence he cannot mediate or pay for our sins.

Only Jesus represents both parties as He is both man and God. The perfect mediator. He paid the ransom living a perfect life and sacrificing his life for the penalty of our sins. The divisiveness arises as all three faiths claim that their particular ideas about the one God are correct. The federal constitution allows the constitutional right for every religion to be practiced. The free practice of religion involves the right to address and pray and worship their God however way this concept of God is perceived in each religion.

This recent move by Dewan Pustaka and Bahasa represents a gross over reach by certain quarters to impose their religious concepts of God upon the followers of other religions. The Bahasa Malaysia language is the national language used by all and as a language is not the exclusive preview of only one race or religion. Hence it is a serious breach of religious freedoms to impose this limitation upon non Muslims by restricting the terms in which they can use to practice their faith. Capitalisation in any written form is meant as a form of respect hence by forcing non Muslims to use the non capitalised spell of Tuhan would be imposing the religious beliefs of one religion over all others and this is unacceptable . If one religious group ensures that only they have the exclusive use of the word for God and relegates the other religions to use a term for God that is obviously less dignified then they are saying their God is the one true God and denying the right of other religions to their own views of who this One God is.

In the same manner the restricting of the use of Allah to only Muslims is a similar breach of the constitutional protections for all religions. The constitutional idea of the freedom of religion means one religion cannot restrict other religions in their practice.

The impediments are sin , anger and quarreling and it is not only restricted to men and it is only in this historical context that this was obviously an issue in the Ephesian church. Psalm 24 states this most clearly.

Psalm 24: 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

The psalmist specifies the attitude of those who would come before God in prayer and worship. It is integrity and purity of devotion to God. Hence one cannot in all honesty claim to love God and remain in enmity and strife with our brethren. God will not honour such an attitude. This is especially important in corporate prayer because we pray as the church the body of Christ not as individuals. Look at the Lord’s Prayer it starts with Our Father not my father. The corporate nature of His body is important because it is through His death and resurrection that He had redeemed His church. The cross put to death our alienation from each other and we are now bound by the Spirit in each of us. The unity of the church is the show case of the transforming power of His love hence you can see how inappropriate it would be to come before God corporately in prayer whilst inwardly we betray the very unity that was supposed to be won by Jesus on the cross.