Gamma 17 – The Pastoral Epistles (Study 10)

Study 10




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.

Bond servant or Doulos is someone who had sold himself into indentured slavery for a period of time to pay off a debt or to work for his passage on a voyage so that he would have the personal resources to pay. He might have been captured in war and became the bond servant of the conquering soldier.

Bond servants could be artisans, physicians, carpenters, cooks and professionals and comprised of a significant proportion of ancient society, at times up to 30-40% of the population. They could pay for their own repatriation by their years of service and for the really destitute, they would rather remain as bondservants because it provides a room and board which they would not have otherwise been able to afford on their own.

The slavery model of the American Deep South is a much much worse scenario where Africans were hunted like animals and captured, crammed into ships under the most inhumane condition to the American continent with great loss of life during the voyage. They were made to work on farms for life and were regarded as sub humans whose only calling in life was to labour for their white masters. Their offspring would be born into slavery as well and any escaping slaves faced the death penalty. If both attended the same church, it would be awkward because the bond servant might have lost respect for the Master. After all, they were both equal under the cross and since the Master was a brother in Christ, the servant would be tempted to slack off his chores and relax simply because brotherhood blurred the distinctions between Master and servant.

The Master on his part would be conflicted on how he should treat his servant because he could not treat him in the same callous and harsh manner as he needed to recognise that his servant was his brother in Christ.

Paul’s advice was for them was to change their perspectives.

For the bondservant
To show respect and not slack off in their work because of the temptation to leverage on their new relationship as brothers in Christ and thus expect special privileges and a lighter work schedule. Their servitude would no longer be fuelled by fear of reprisal or discipline because their Masters were their brothers. Paul instead points out that before, their service might have been fuelled by fear but this time, their service must be fuelled by love and brotherhood instead of fear. Their hard work fuelled by a new love and brotherhood would serve to provide a good witness to the gospel as they would have demonstrated that a Spirit filled life had resulted in even more industrious effort at work because of this new love of Christ. In this way the greater good of the gospel is served rather than any temporary benefit from the insistence of the rights of bond servants leveraging on brotherhood and love.

The masters needed to understand that the service of their Christian bond servants were no longer predicated on fear but on love which resulted in “kind service”, the description of the worker of the bond servants. Not grudging fearful service nor service that the Master was naturally entitled to by virtue of his position but service out of love the in which his bondservants offered because of their new relationship in Christ. Hence their response must be of reciprocal love for the kind service, not over bearing.

Excuses to justify slavery
1. Slaves do not have souls;
2. African slaves -the curse on Ham (Gen 9:25);
3. Scripture does not prohibit slavery;
4. God ordains slavery, like marriage, and problems exist only because of poor administration;
5. Slavery is the stabilizing influences on society;
6. Slavery does not violate the spirit of the gospel.

Biblical argument against slavery • Paul never endorses slavery
• Paul hints at its evil, mentioning it as list of sinners – enslavers (1 Tim 1: 10)
• Masters never told to demand submission
• Eph 6:10 Slave and Masters are equal, both have one Master Jesus
• Gospel has broken down social barriers Gal 3:22 …no more slave and free
• Paul encouraged slaves to gain freedom if possible ( 1 Cor 7:21)

Paul did not come right out to condemn slavery and advocate a rebellion of slaves simply because the institution was too entrenched in society. But he laid the seeds that would result in the overthrow of slavery more than a thousand years later.

Early church also viewed Christ return as too imminent to deal with slavery.

Look at verse 3. It is teaching that is not in line with the gospel or the Word of God, and that results in living an ungodly life. A tree is known by its fruits. Godly truthful teaching results in godly living.

The teachings produce controversy and seem to promote arguments over specific words and concepts. The false teacher is a proud person and in reality does not know any truth even though outwardly he says a lot of clever words but they have no truth.

The teachings promote envy, slander and are designed to induce a kind of paranoia that forces the adherents of these false teachings to stick together in a “us or them mentality”. They only listen to the words of their false teacher and never counter check what he teaches against the bible.

Finally the false teacher is motivated by greed for money. In the end, he will always call for sacrificial giving, not for missions or the gospel but for the maintenance of the false church and its ministries, which in the end wind up in his pocket.

We can look into his lifestyle, his house and the way he spends his money. Private planes, hotels and all the trappings of luxury are justified as proof of God’s blessings. They will teach that if your are faithful, then God is faithful and will bless you and this will include wealth. Their private planes are always to provide a more effective ministry as being so important, they don’t have time to wait around in airports or to line up for their luggage.

One only has to look at Jesus who says foxes have holes, and the Son of Man has no where to lay his head. Prosperity gospel provides the allure that if we are faithful to God, He will bless us with material blessings.

It leverages on our faith which is our commodity the God looks favourably upon and He in turn will give us what we want.

We give Him what He wants, our faith and He gives us what we want, blessings. It has wide appeal because it turns on feeding our egos and desires and self idolatry.

At best, the danger is that life is uncertain and the simplistic one dimensional faith will run aground one day because no matter how much faith one has, disease and disaster will struck any family and then God would have been perceived to have broken the part of the bargain which He never signed up for but gets ultimately blamed for.

At the worse, our apparent blessings of material wealth feeds into our greed and covetousness and distracts from the true meaning of faith which is to discover our beautiful amongst God and worship Him for who He is and not what we can get out of Him.

Our ambition must be to live righteous lives in line with our new nature in the Spirit. The contrast in the passage is living a life motivated entirely by acquiring wealth on the premise that it will bring happiness and contentment.

Godliness with contentment is understanding that we are created with a purpose to be all that God created us to be in order to glorify God. The logic behind this is that first unchecked ambition and greed— love of money where money resides in our hearts and not in our hands, leads to risky endeavours both financially and more importantly to spiritual ruin.

Secondly, one need to realise that at the conclusion of our lives, we can take nothing away with us no matter how rich we have become. Jeff Bezos the CEO of Amazon will leave this world exactly the same way as anyone of us, a decayed shell of our former selves no matter how opulent the casket will be.

Hence it does not make sense to dedicate all our short 70-80 years to accumulate both money and honour amongst men which we cannot take with us.

Material belongings serve a purpose. They sustain us to serve our purpose which is to glorify God. The most ill advised life is lived in service to money and material, the very things that are supposed to serve us now become our masters.

Money is given to us by God. It’s not bad or evil and it is placed in our hands for us to give away or to provide for our sustenance. It is given with a purpose. To have the love of money in our hearts is for it to take control and morph into our Master instead of our slave. Instead for using money for our purposes to glorify God, we instead take money into our hearts and it becomes our Master and our obsession as we never become content. Having money in our hearts is like drinking sea water. It never quite quenches our thirst and always leaves us more thirsty. We take risks, we are distracted, we lose sight of people. Instead of using money to help people we use people to gain money.

They are to focus on things of real value in life, good deeds and use their money to effect change and help others in their lives. They are to recognise that their real reward lies on what they give away or use their money for, and not what they accumulate for themselves.

They are not to rely on this wealth as their source of security or pleasure in this life as it is transient. They are not to build their self esteem on what they own or wear but on God. It is foolish to walk around thinking you are better than everyone else who is not as wealthy as you because the wealth blinds you to things in life that are of true value. The wealth builds us our self esteem and pride, the gospel breaks us down in repentance, understanding what true wealth is.

Look at verse 11 and 12, we are to “flee” from evil and “pursue” and “fight”. What do these three verbs tell us about our spiritual lives? Does this characterize our own lives? This is a time for sharing. If not, how can we encourage each other to live our lives with this kind of urgency?