Gamma 17 – The Pastoral Epistles (Study 12)

Study 12




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.

Be strong is in the present passive imperative tense which means it is a command and to be continuously carried out on a daily basis. Yet it is not our active action. The passive tense means we receive God’s strength and it’s not given based on our merits of faithfulness but by grace.

The ministry of the gospel is based on a daily relying on God’s strength through the Spirit as we wait on Him in prayer and reading His Word and acting on His Word.

Failure to do this means we are acting on our own strength and that is the reason for discouragement and complaints of burning out. Serving in church will always entail criticism and even slander. It takes the strength of God to persevere. The prime example is Paul chained in prison. Yet look at the impact his ministry has had over the 2000 years that has since elapsed. God gives the strength. God transforms.

The ministry of the gospel is a personal one, not one of mass communication. Lives are transformed by both Word and deed. Disciples need to see how faith is modelled in real life. How one confronts certainty and overcomes dangers and temptations up close and personal. So we are to spend time with the few folk around us for them to spend time with others around them and we will see the gospel grow with this geometric progression.

The ones being mentored must have only two qualities i.e faithfulness and ability to teach. The latter is due to the nature of the mission. It involves the gospel and it must be taught carefully and faithfully. The former quality is one of the character of the disciple, that he must be trustworthy to use that which has been passed to him to teach to others and not sit on the message. This strategy worked for Paul and it will work for us.

The three metaphors convey three things common to all three:
1.Single minded devotion to the task
3.Hope of reward

Each of the three metaphors has a different nuance in the kind of hardship the disciple must endure. The soldier has the hardship of depriving himself of the affairs of civilian life which in our case, the pursuit of the many leisurely things and businesses which others are free to give themselves.

The soldier has to ensure that he is not entangled in them in such a way as to detract from his single minded purpose of pleasing his master and in our case Jesus. Every time we are confronted with a new opportunity, we need to ask ourselves does this opportunity which comes across our desk today in any way contribute to our witness for the gospel? Will it lead to temptation that will compromise our witness?

Will it so entangle us into the worries of debt and concerns of the particular business that will distract us from time with family or with our church ministry?

The athlete has the hardship of immense discipline whereby he must suppress his natural bodily desires for rest, leisure, comfort and enjoyment for the greater goal of winning the prize. This takes denial of his own bodily desires and urges for the greater desire to win the prize. This is discipline and no athlete gets anywhere without it. Hence the disciple has to have self control and live according to his conscience no matter what the cost. So often the ministry requires us to do things the hard way. To pray when we would rather sleep. To reach out to a person in need despite the traffic jam and inconvenience. It takes discipline to step out each time and suppress our own natural desire for comfort.

Paul describes this in 1 Cor 9 how his hardship was to be all things to all men in order to win them for Christ. He had rights to be fully paid for his ministry but he denied himself of these rights in order not to burden the church at Corinth nor give them an occasion to accuse him of milking them of funds when he does his ministry. He ministered the gospel free of charge and earned his own keep by tent making.

Lastly the farmer has the hardship of waiting patiently for results and taking into his stride the many set backs from the uncertainty of the weather and natural disasters. Yet he never gives up. He is always looking forward and when disaster like drought or floods strikes, he picks up his shovel and rebuilds and replants again. Here is a picture of endurance.

We should take a passage of Scripture from our daily readings, perhaps once a week to start and meditate on it. This means prayerfully think hard over what it means and how it applies to our daily lives. We begin to look around for the various examples in our lives as we work or the things that we read and see how that piece of Scripture applies in real life and the various situations how this Word fit in and is relevant. Slowly but surely one will gradually see the Word come alive.

Remembering serves a very important function in our lives as it consolidates what we know from our past experiences of who we are. The lessons we have learnt and the things that we value. Remembering in the Old Testament is not merely an intellectual exercise as when Israel was asked to remember the Passover, it was not merely intellectual recall but a call to action. When the Bible expresses so often when Israel sinned and was punished for it twice with exile, after sometime in response to repentance, God then “remembered” His people. This was no intellectual recall as if God forgot about them, but an action God takes to redeem His people and restore them based on the covenant He had made with them. Remembering means recalling the terms of the covenant and acting on behalf of Israel because of God’s prior commitment to them. When we remember Jesus, we remember his death on the cross for us and His resurrection. His death reminds us of the awful consequences of our sins and the depths of our depravity and the enormity of His love. His resurrection reminds us of our hope of eternal life and our future. This remembering inspires us to action. To more enthusiastically share the gospel, to not give up but power on because of the victory that is already in Jesus.

Paul reminds us of why he is in prison. He is there because of the ministry of the gospel, that it is necessary for us to preach it because God has chosen His elect before the foundation of time and God’s will is immutable, it cannot change. It will be carried out as those He has chosen will be saved no matter what is thrown, like Paul. His chains will not stop the gospel from saving these lives. It is therefore a privilege and honour to be tasked with such an important and noble task for the King of Kings.

Often we feel discouraged due to persecution and set backs in ministry or when people reject us and the gospel. Paul show us the need to be like the farmer, in it for the long game, willing to endure setbacks fully confident that in the end, God will bring about His will through us. Hence like Paul, alone and in chains, in the most dire situations, God will use this apparent suffering in prison to spur even more people to take up the ministry because Paul’s willingness to suffer for the gospel is evidence of its authenticity and of the relentless progress of the kingdom.

We are reminded that in Christ we have committed to have Jesus as our Lord. We have died to the idolatry of self and given ourselves over to Him with a new agenda and purpose in life. However tough it gets, we are reminded by this hymn that if we endure to the end, we will reign like kings with Jesus at the full revelation of the kingdom of God. There is a warning too that if we deny God and turn apostate, He will deny us. The last line of the hymn encourages us that there are times when we have less than the perfect faith, when we have failures in our walk with Him because we are still sinful frail creatures. When there are lapses of faith, like David in that early spring morning when he cast his wayward gaze in the direction of a naked woman bathing across the next building, he failed in his faith. When Peter despite all his bravado, recapitulated three times in front of a young girl when he was asked if he knew Jesus. Yet each of these figures repented and Jesus brought them back stronger than before. This is because though we fail, He does not. This brings immense comfort and assurance to us that we can carry on in confidence of His love and grace. We will not shy away from Him in fear when we fail, we shall fall on His feet and cry we need Him and He will restore us. He will not reject us. He will remain faithful.