Gamma 17 – The Pastoral Epistles (Study 11)

Study 11




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.

Paul’s sense of calling comes through in all of his letters, in his initial introduction. He frequently refers to his calling as an apostle and servant of Jesus. His main calling here is to eternal life, a life lived in Jesus, in union with Jesus. Living as how Jesus lived is the quality of life that we are all called to live. In verse 8 Paul states that God saved us and called us to a holy calling for His own purposes.

Our lives then must be lived in reciprocation to God’s gracious salvation for us, to be set apart to live like Jesus. Godly holy living reflecting Him in every way. That is the primary calling that drives Paul and must drive all of us. The modern understanding completely wipes this away and focuses on what God can do for us to wipe the penalty away and give us a clear path to heaven whilst completely ignoring the rest of the course of our lives on earth in the meantime.

God becomes a means to an end and our end is to live our lives in the way we see fit for our comfort and enjoyment, remaining blind to the purposes of His kingdom in our broken world. Our orientation and purpose in life remain unchanged and such a life cannot yield spiritual purpose for the gospel.

Such an understanding of the gospel will result in nominal Christians who only refer to Him in times of trouble and underline verses in the Bible that suit their own agenda and remain deaf to the kingdom’s needs. The concept of suffering and sacrifice for the kingdom as well as ethics and integrity remain distant concepts to which we pay lip service but when the rubber hits the road, it is only our own interests that remain supreme. We need to be clear of our calling in order to best live as true believers and disciples.

How are Timothy and Paul related in this letter? How can we foster such mentor ..mentee relationships in our church? Why is it difficult to develop such relationships in our church ? What are the factors that are important for you in choosing a mentor or mentee ? Have you ever had an mentor or someone who was a big influence over your life in faith? Please share

Each of us like Timothy have been given a gift for His kingdom how do we metaphorically “fan in to flames” these gifts of God. What are the factors that hinder us from this desire and how can we help each other fan into flames our gifts? How does Paul’s reminder to Timothy of the nature of the Spirit behind the gifts encourage us to use our gifts? Explain what the Spirit of power , love and self control mean to us in practical terms and how can it be misunderstood?

There are 4 features of the gospel that is laid out there.
1. God’s call to holy living and purpose.
2. God’s grace in our rescue.
3. Achieved through Christ Jesus alone.
4. Eternal life.

1. God’s call to holy living and purpose

The issues it addresses are the most important in our lives. Firstly it is meaning and purpose. Unless we have meaning and purpose in our lives, we will never live a meaningful, fulfilling life. We will not be able to cope with the suffering and difficulties of life that come our way. Worst of all, we may live in a manner that contributes negatively to our society.

The most important feature of the gospel is that it is God’s call and command for us to be like Him. That is the vision and that is what the meaning of “holy” set apart means. He has a purpose for every single one of us when He created us and we need to find the sweet spot in life when we live in accordance with that will for us.

Hence the gospel is a radical reorientation of how we should see our lives, to be lived out for our Creator and not hijacked to live any way we feel fit for ourselves and reap the disastrous consequences thereof.

2. God’s grace in our rescue

The second feature of the gospel is that it is wholly by God’s grace. Sin and rebellion have long ago been in our DNA and we were hopelessly lost ever since Adam and Eve sought moral autonomy.

We did not deserve to be saved and yet it is by God’s grace that He reached out to us while we were always facing the other way and we did not listen. The most beautiful feature of the gospel is His grace for the most undeserving creatures. We contributed nothing to our own salvation. We have no moral standing.

We are rescued from the slavery of sin and eternal damnation. We are not rescued to live moral lives as a minimum to escape further retribution only to devote the rest of our lives to our own ambitions and devices. The power of sin is real and eternal punishment in hell is real. The gospel is about life and death which is so often recast in our modern language to focus more on how God ministers to our hurt, loneliness and pain whilst rarely speaking of the awful consequences of eternal punishment and how God saved us from that. Anything that moves us away from this is not the true gospel.

3. Achieved through Christ Jesus alone

The third feature is the primacy of Jesus Christ as He is God’s Son sent to live the kind of life we should have lived and died for us for the penalty of our sin, paying the ransom that redeemed our lives. There is no other way. The gospel way is the way of the cross and the victory of the resurrection in the person of Jesus. If we add moral living or food restrictions or religious rituals to supplement our righteousness in legalism, we essentially detract from the sufficiency of Christ. Salvation is from beginning to end in Jesus Christ.

4. Eternal life

The last feature is God’s calling and salvation brings us eternal life. The quality of life that was originally meant for us. A life lived fully in worship and love of God, growing to be like Him each day and serving Him with all of our hearts. This has been down played because the concept of hell has been relegated to the dustbins. We seldom talk about it or even mention it for fear of a reaction from our peers who regard this as an outdated concept and who will immediately write us off as some crazy unreliable fundamentalist. So the gospel is easily side tracked and recast as the solution for the worlds’ problem of wars or lack of love or loneliness or depression.

The most easily misunderstood aspect is the first one as we often see the gospel as a means by which we can avoid the punishment of our sins and go to heaven to be saved, but our inward disposition, our ambitions and desires still remain firmly entrenched and orientated towards ourselves and our idols. God becomes the means to our own ends instead of being the purpose and meaning of our lives.

There are two metaphors and they are the pattern of “sound words” and the other is a “treasure” or deposit like in a bank to be guarded.

The use of these metaphors indicate that there is a set truth that is immutable that we cannot move away from or alter in any way because the gospel is these pattern of sound words. Add to the pattern or subtract from it and it no longer the gospel. So our responsibility is to maintain its integrity and transmit the exact same pattern of sound words.

The second metaphor tells us of the preciousness of the gospel, how it can be stolen by distortion of sound words. We are cautioned to guard it with all of our resources. We are to guard the gospel because of the constant influx of false teachers who influence the church and lead many astray to eternal damnation because tampering with the gospel will spell disaster when people believe in the wrong truths.

We guard the gospel by studying the Word of God. We need to understand how to read the bible in its context, understand the historical and social backgrounds of the various genres of the bible books and the overall theological intent. We need to read how Jesus our Messiah fits in as we read the Old Testament.

We need to live out the gospel so that the people who hear the gospel can witness its authenticity and power through the lens of our lives. We need to correct those who preach false doctrine and gently pull them back to the bedrock pillars of the gospel. Ultimately it is God who guards the gospel although He does use us as His servants in vv 12 and 14.

There are three main reasons for shame.

The first is the shame of being associated with Jesus because in the eyes of contemporary society, at that time, there was an itinerant Jewish rabbi and rabble rouser who was executed for his troubles in the most humiliating manner on the cross. To say He is your Lord and to promote Him as such would bring such same to the believers.

The second reason for shame is to propose in the gospel that the Saviour of the world is Jesus, the very one who was executed and when we are preaching, we are actually trying to convince others that they will face eternal hell unless they acknowledge and turn away from their sin and embrace the work of Jesus. We face automatic ridicule because we are perceived as having the audacity to accuse our friend of being sinners and they will instantly recoil at the slightest hint that we are better than them as they are sinners. So their reaction is to retaliate and our message would have sounded hollow and seemingly ineffective, tempting us to feel shame as if the message was defective based on the response it got.

When we are sharing some piece of good news that others readily embrace, our stature in the eyes of others immediately is enhanced. When we share something others feel is ridiculous and they reject outright, it causes us to feel shame as if what we shared was actually ridiculous and shameful. Shame is a function in part on how others perceive us. If the majority of the people whom we share the gospel with reject our message, then we will feel the shame as our personal stature and self esteem is fed by the way others look at us. Billy Graham preached to 2.2 billion people in his life time but only 0.1% of them thought the message was coherent and true. The other 99.9% did not think the message was credible enough to believe.

The third reason for shame is our fellow believers. Here the reference is to Paul, the apostle, the one who wrote 13 out of the 27 NT letters we consider Scripture. He is allegedly a common criminal, locked up on death row. Not much of a person to be proud of by any standards of the contemporary world.

The gospel forces us to face the fact that we are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God and will never ever be righteous enough to stand in the light of His unshielded glory. In the sermon of the mount, Jesus told us that the blessed ones are the ones who are poor in spirit, who mourn. In our eyes and the eyes of our society, to be poor in any manner will detract from our default mode of glorying ourselves. Accepting the gospel is acknowledging our spiritual poverty and admitting we are wrong or have been wrong and that itself bring much shame as we are disavowing our own lives. Yet if we do not embrace our sin and take ownership of it and admit it, we can never receive Jesus in our lives to be our righteousness, instead of living our own intrinsic perceived righteousness. Embracing our sin means accepting the shame and living a life of constant repentance and letting Jesus come into our lives more and more each day. It is dying to self and is the key to living for Christ. If we don’t do this, we will not be transformed.

When we bring the gospel to non believers, we are essentially having the audacity of telling them that they are sinners and destined to hell. This fact alone is terribly confronting and they will inevitably reinterpret the presentation as one coming from a morally superior person (i.e. you) condemning them. We are asking them to embrace the shame of their sin and radically re orientate their lives. This will surely lead to retaliation and persecution. That is why the gospel is so confronting. We are then tempted to water down the gospel and not speak so much of the sin and hell because that will be perceived as being judgmental and we are tempted to focus purely on the joy and peace Jesus brings but we fail to realise that unless they see how they have sinned, they will never feel the grace and full impact of God’s love on the cross.

We overcome this shame by our constant dwelling on the Word of God and as we study it and apply it in our lives, we are more and more convinced of its authenticity.

Look at 2 Tim 1:12 But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. How is Paul so convince of the truth of His Saviour? There’s a difference between knowing and being convinced how do we bridge that gap in our own lives and why is that important?