"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Three Pictures Of Faithful Service (2:3-7) INTRODUCTION 1. As Paul sought to encourage Timothy in his work as an evangelist... a. He made allusions to three secular occupations: soldier, athlete, farmer - cf. 2Ti 2:3-7 b. Here we find "Three Pictures Of Faithful Service" 2. The lessons to be gleaned from these "pictures" is not limited to evangelists... a. All who serve the Lord should learn from the soldier, athlete, and farmer b. No matter what our function as members of the body of Christ [With that in mind, let's look closer at the first "picture" in which we are reminded of...] I. THE DEDICATION OF A SOLDIER A. LONGSUFFERING... 1. "...must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" - 2Ti 2:3 2. Soldiers often endure great hardship in their service for their country 3. Should Christians be any less willing to suffer hardship? a. For the gospel of Christ? - cf. 2Ti 1:8 b. For the kingdom of God? - cf. Mt 5:10-12 B. FOCUSED... 1. "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life" - 2Ti 2:4 2. Soldiers must concentrate on the task at hand to survive 3. Christians need to be careful less they be distracted by the world a. Or they will bear no fruit to maturity - cf. Lk 8:14 b. Or they will drown themselves in destruction and perdition - cf. 1Ti 6:9-12 C. DEVOTED... 1. "...that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." - 2Ti 2:4 2. Soldiers desire to please their commanders 3. Should not Christians desire to please their Great Commander? a. Note Paul's attitude concerning himself - 2Co 5:9 b. Note Paul's prayer concerning the Colossians - Col 1:10 [The next time you see a soldier who serves his or her country with honor, ask yourself: "Do I serve my Lord and His kingdom with the same dedication?" Another picture that illustrates faithful service is...] II. THE DISCIPLINE OF AN ATHLETE A. OBEDIENT... 1. "...he competes according to the rules." - 2Ti 2:5 2. Athletes understand the need to abide by the rules if they desire to win 3. Are Christians under any less obligation to abide by the rules? a. Jesus calls upon to observe what He taught - Mt 28:20; cf. Lk 6:46 b. We must doers of the Word, and not hearers only - Jm 1:22; cf. Mt 7:21-27 B. SELF-CONTROLLED... 1. Note another comparison by Paul regarding athletics - 1Co 9: 24-27 2. Athletes know that ultimate victory requires great self-control 3. Should Christians exercise self-control any less? a. We strive for an imperishable crown - 1Co 9:25; cf. 1 Pe 1:4 b. If we are "disqualified", what then? - 1Co 9:27; cf. 2 Co 13:5 [As you watch athletes competing in the different sports, let their example of self-discipline challenge you in your own service to the Lord. Finally, consider a third picture of faithful service...] III. THE DILIGENCE OF A FARMER A. HARDWORKING... 1. "The hardworking farmer..." - 2Ti 2:6 2. Farming is certainly no easy task 3. Should Christians labor any less in the vineyard of the Lord? a. The harvest is plentiful, and laborers are needed - cf. Mt 9:37-38; 20:1 b. The fruit that we gather relates to eternal life (souls are at stake!) - cf. Jn 4:36 B. MOTIVATED... 1. "...first to partake of the crops - 2Ti 2:6 2. It is the hardworking farmers who enjoy the benefit of their labors first 3. Do Christians not have good motivation to labor diligently? a. Their labor is not in vain - 1Co 15:58 b. Their hope is eternal life, and the crown of righteousness - Ro 6:22-23; 2Ti 4:8 CONCLUSION 1. From these "Three Pictures Of Faithful Service", we glean that Christians should be... a. Dedicated like soldiers b. Disciplined like athletes c. Diligent like farmers 2. Are we willing to learn from these three "pictures"...? a. Willing to suffer in our efforts to please the Lord? b. Willing to discipline ourselves to receive an imperishable crown? c. Willing to work diligently that we might benefit from the fruit of our labors? As Paul instructed Timothy: "Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things..." - 2Ti 2:7
On Whom did the Tongues of Fire Rest?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection, He commanded His apostles “not to depart from Jerusalem” until they had received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8). During their wait, they assembled with many of the women and other disciples who had followed the Lord during His earthly ministry. Peter (who emerged as the leader of this early gathering), when assembled with over 120 of the disciples, proposed that a new apostle be picked to take the place of Judas (Acts 1:15-26). The new apostle, chosen by casting lots, was named Matthias, “and was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). All these events are recorded in Acts 1. At the beginning of Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came upon certain people, and appeared as divided tongues of fire on their heads. The question arises: on whom did the Holy Spirit come?
Many have answered that the Holy Spirit came upon all the disciples that were gathered together in Acts 1:15 (about 120). According to this idea, the Holy Spirit came not only upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, but also empowered others with the very same powers given to the apostles. Those who reach such a conclusion, do so because they assume that, in Acts 2:1, the statement, “they were all with one accord in one place,” refers to the 120 disciples. Upon further investigation, however, this conclusion can be seen to be inaccurate. In truth, only the apostles received the miraculous “baptism of the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Pentecost.
It is important to a proper understanding of the Bible to remember that the chapter and verse divisions in our present-day Bibles were not in the original texts, but were added many hundreds of years after the original autographs of the Bible were written. The chapter division between Acts 1:26 and Acts 2 often causes a misunderstanding. Some assume that the events in Acts 2:1-4 must go all the way back to Acts 1:15. If we remove the chapter division, however, this problem is easily resolved. Acts 1:26 and 2:1, without the division, read as follows: “And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”
When these verses are combined, as they are in the original text, it is easy to see that the ones who were “with one accord in one place” were the apostles. The pronoun “they” in Acts 2:1 does not refer to the 120 disciples, but to the immediate antecedent—the apostles. This fact is illustrated further by the fact that, in Acts 2:14, the Bible records that Peter was “standing up with the eleven,” and in 2:37 the text mentions that the audience spoke to “Peter and the rest of the apostles.” Further, in Acts 1:2,4, it was the apostles whom Jesus commanded to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit had come upon them.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit that was accomplished on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was not a phenomenon that came upon hundreds of disciples, but only upon the apostles (see Miller, 2003). They were the only ones who had the tongues of fire on their heads. Many modern-day religious people who claim to work miracles believe that they have been given the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”—like the 120 disciples. An accurate understanding of the Bible, however, shows that the promise of Holy Spirit baptism was given only to the apostles. And, while it is true that the Holy Spirit dwells in every true Christian (1 John 3:24), it is not true that such is accompanied by miraculous powers. Today, the evidence of the Spirit in Christians is not the ability to speak in tongues or work miracles, but the presence in their lives of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 2:22-23).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-day Miracles, Tongue-speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2572.
Of Fish and Tombs
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
Among critics of the Bible there are few stories discussed more often than that of Jonah and the great fish (Jonah 1:17). This account has been ridiculed perhaps as frequently as any in the Bible. It is too difficult, critics allege, to believe that a man could be swallowed by such a fish, and then emerge alive and well three days later. In reality, however, the problem with this account is not the fact that a fish could swallow a man. While in the past it was suggested that no fish had a gullet large enough to allow it to swallow a man, today scientists acknowledge that the sperm whale, which inhabits the Mediterranean Sea, is capable of swallowing an object as large as, or larger than, a man (see Scheffer, 1969, pp. 82-87). The whale shark and other great marine animals can do like wise. Nor is the problem a dispute over whether a man could live for approximately 72 hours inside such an animal. Accounts of that actually happening have been documented (see Rimmer, 1936, pp. 188-189).
Even though fish exist with a gullet large enough to swallow a man, and even though it has been documented that a man can live three days inside such a fish, these matters actually are beside the point. Why so? They are irrelevant because the text acknowledges that God’s miraculous powerswere at work in the life of Jonah. Jonah 1:17 specifically states that God “prepared a great fish” to swallow Jonah. Jonah 2:10 notes that God “spake unto the fish and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” The critics’ ridicule is directed at the account of Jonah because it is miraculous, not because of the size of a fish’s gullet or the life span of a man inside a fish. What we are dealing with here is a clear-cut case of antisupernatural bias.
The real question is this: Is supernaturalism credible? If God exists, then miracles are possible. If there was a creation by God, then supernaturalism is credible, because God could choose to intervene in His creation at any time. If Christ was raised from the dead, then supernaturalism not only is possible, but proven. Ultimately, then, the rejection of supernaturalism is the rejection of Christ. This may mean little to the hardened atheist, or to the religious modernist who attacks the account in Jonah as nothing more than a myth and who long ago gave up any real belief in the deity of Christ. But what should be the Christian’s response?
First, let us note that the account in Jonah is presented as authentic history, detailing the conversion of multitudes of people in a real city—the great Assyrian city of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5). Jonah is discussed as a real prophet in 2 Kings 14:25. The entire record of Jonah was accepted by ancient Jewish historians and commentators—all of whom were much closer geographically and chronologically than modern-day atheists or liberals. Second, the most compelling reason for accepting the record of Jonah is that it was accepted by Christ Himself. Notice that in Luke 11:32 Christ commented on the fact that “the men of Nineveh...repented at the preaching of Jonah.” With respect to the miracle of the great fish, Jesus said: “For as Jonah was three days in the belly of the fish, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Thus, the Lord Himself appropriated Jonah’s miraculous preservation and restoration as a type and prophecy of His own death, burial, and resurrection.
This leaves the Christian with three options. (1) Jesus was mistaken, and simply unaware of His error in regard to Jonah. Jonah really did not spend three days in the belly of a great fish, even though Christ said that he did. (2) Jesus lied about the matter. He knew that the events recorded never took place, but He still employed the account “as if ” it actually had taken place, in order to effect a comparison with His own situation. (3) Jesus told the truth regarding the matter; the events recorded in the book of Jonah really did occur, and as such, were used appropriately by the Lord in reference to His own impending death and the circumstances surrounding it.
Jonah and Jesus stand or fall together. One may not repudiate the account of Jonah, as if it were some kind of unimportant fairy tale, and then advocate the truthfulness of the deity of Christ at the same time. Jesus’ testimony was that the events surrounding Jonah in his day and time were as literal, and as historical, as the events of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection would be in His. The evidence that attends the latter attests to the fact of the former.
Were it not for the antagonism of atheism, and the compromise of religious modernism, the story of Jonah would be accepted at face value, just as Jesus accepted it. Those of us who respect Christ and His testimony will acknowledge, and defend, what Christ acknowledged and defended. To do anything less impugns the deity of our Lord, and that is something we must not take lightly.
Rimmer, Harry (1936), The Harmony of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), pp. 188-189.
Scheffer, Victor B. (1969), The Year of the Whale (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), pp. 82-87.
Objections to God's Plan of Salvation Considered
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
When the topic of salvation is discussed, it is not unusual to hear certain objections to God’s designated plan. At times, such objections result from a misunderstanding of the steps involved in the salvation process, or the reason(s) for those steps. On occasion, however, the objections result from a stubborn refusal to acquiesce to God’s commands regarding what constitutes salvation. I would like to consider three such objections here.
IS SALVATION THE RESULT OF
Is the forgiveness of sins that results from being baptized due to some special power within the water? No. “Baptismal regeneration” is the idea that there is a miraculous power in the water that produces salvation (i.e., regeneration). As Wayne Jackson has noted: “…the notion that baptism is a ‘sacrament’ which has a sort of mysterious, innate power to remove the contamination of sin—independent of personal faith and a volitional submission to God’s plan of redemption”—is plainly at odds with biblical teaching (1997, 32:45). An examination of the Old Testament (which serves as our “tutor” [Galatians 3:24), and which contains things “for our learning” [Romans 15:4]) provides important instruction regarding this principle. When Naaman the leper was told by Elisha to dip seven times in the Jordan River, at first he refused, but eventually obeyed—and was healed. However, there was no meritorious power in the muddy waters of the Jordan. Naaman was healed because He did exactly what God commanded him to do, in exactly the way God commanded him to do it.
This was true of the Israelites’ salvation as well. On one occasion when they sinned, and God began to slay them for their unrighteousness, those who wished to repent and be spared were commanded to look upon a brass serpent on a pole in the midst of the camp (Numbers 21:1-9). There was no meritorious power in the serpent. Rather, the Israelites were saved from destruction because they did exactly what God commanded them to do, in exactly the way God commanded them to do it.
The New Testament presents the same principle. Jesus once encountered a man born blind (John 9). Then Lord spat on the ground, made a spittle/clay potion, and placed it over the man’s eyes. He then instructed the man to “go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:7). Was there medicinal power in Siloam’s waters? No. It was the man’s obedient faith that produced the end-result, not some miraculous power in the water. What would have happened if the man had refused to obey Christ, or had altered the Lord’s command? Suppose the man had reasoned: “If I wash in Siloam, some may think I am trusting in the water to be healed. Others may think that I am attempting to perform some kind of ‘work’ to ‘merit’ regaining my sight. Therefore I simply will ‘have faith in’ Christ, but I will not dip in the pool of Siloam.” Would the man have been healed? Most certainly not! What if Noah, during the construction of the ark, had followed God’s instructions to the letter, except for the fact that he decided to build the ark out of a material other than the gopher wood that God had commanded? Would Noah and his family have been saved? Most certainly not! Noah would have been guilty of violating God’s commandments, since he had not done exactly as God commanded him. Did not Jesus Himself say: “If ye love me, ye will keep My commandments” (John 14:15, emp. added)?
Peter used the case of Noah to discuss the relationship of baptism to salvation. He stated unequivocally that baptism is involved in salvation when he noted that, just as Noah and his family were transported from a polluted environment of corruption into a realm of deliverance, so in baptism we are moved from the polluted environment of defilement into a realm of redemption. It is by baptism that one enters “into Christ” (Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:27), wherein salvation is found (2 Timothy 2:10). In Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:5, Paul described baptism as a “washing of water” or a “washing of regeneration” wherein the sinner is “cleansed” or “saved.” [Baptist theologian A.T. Robertson admitted that both of these passages refer specifically to water baptism (1931, 4:607).] The power of baptism to remove sin lies not in the water, but in the God Who commanded the sinner to be baptized in the first place.
IS BAPTISM A HUMAN WORK?
Is baptism a meritorious human work? No. But is it required for a person to be saved? Yes. How is this possible? The Bible clearly teaches that we are not saved by works (Titus 3:4-7; Ephesians 2:9). Yet the Bible clearly teaches we are saved by works (James 2:14-24). Since inspiration guarantees that the Scriptures never will contradict themselves, it is obvious that two different kinds of works are under consideration in these passages.
The New Testament mentions at least four kinds of works: (1) works of the Law of Moses (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:20); (2) works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21); (3) works of merit (Titus 3:4-7); and (4) works resulting from obedience of faith (James 2:14-24). This last category often is referred to as “works of God.” This phrase does not mean works performed by God; rather, the intent is “works required and approved by God” (Thayer, 1958, p. 248; cf. Jackson, 1997, 32:47). Consider the following example from Jesus’ statements in John 6:27-29:
Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life.... They said therefore unto him, What must we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Within this context, Christ made it clear that there are works which humans must do to receive eternal life. Moreover, the passage affirms that believing itself is a work (“This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”). It therefore follows that if one is saved without any type of works, then he is saved without faith, because faith is a work. Such a conclusion would throw the Bible into hopeless confusion!
In addition, it should be noted that repentance from sin is a divinely appointed work for man to perform prior to his reception of salvation. The people of ancient Nineveh “repented” at Jonah’s preaching (Matthew 12:41), yet the Old Testament record relates that “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way” (Jonah 3:10). Thus, if one can be saved without any kind of works, he can be saved without repentance. Yet Jesus Himself declared that without repentance, one will surely perish (Luke 13:3,5).
But what about baptism? The New Testament specifically excludes baptism from the class of human meritorious works unrelated to redemption. The context of Titus 3:4-7 reveals the following information. (1) We are not saved by works of righteousness that we do by ourselves (i.e., according to any plan or course of action that we devised—see Thayer, p. 526). (2) We are saved by the “washing of regeneration” (i.e., baptism), exactly as 1 Peter 3:21 states. (3) Thus, baptism is excluded from all works of human righteousness that men contrive, but is itself a “work of God” (i.e., required and approved by God) necessary for salvation. When one is raised from the watery grave of baptism, it is according to the “working of God” (Colossians 2:12), and not any man-made plan. No one can suggest (justifiably) that baptism is a meritorious work of human design. When we are baptized, we are completely passive, and thus hardly can have performed any kind of “work.” Instead, we have obeyed God through saving faith. Our “works of God” were belief, repentance, confession, and baptism—all commanded by the Scriptures of one who would receive salvation as the free gift of God (Romans 6:23).
IS THE BAPTISM ASSOCIATED WITH
SALVATION HOLY SPIRIT BAPTISM?
To circumvent the connection between water baptism and salvation, some have suggested that the baptism discussed in passages such as Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and 1 Peter 3:21 is Holy Spirit baptism. But such a position cannot be correct. Christ commanded His followers—after His death and ascension—to go into all the world and “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-20). That same command applies no less to Christians today.
During the early parts of the first century, we know there was more than one baptism in existence (e.g., John’s baptism, Holy Spirit baptism, Christ’s baptism, etc.). But by the time Paul wrote his epistle to the Christians in Ephesus, only one of those baptisms remained. He stated specifically in Ephesians 4:4-5: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Which one baptism remained? One thing we know for certain: Christ never would give His disciples a command that they could not carry out.
The Scriptures, however, teach that Jesus administers baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:15-17). Yet Christians were commanded to baptize those whom they taught, and who believed (John 3:16), repented of their sins (Luke 13:3), and confessed Christ as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32). It is clear, then, that the baptism commanded by Christ was not Holy Spirit baptism. If it were, Christ would be put in the untenable position of having commanded His disciples to do something they could not do—baptize in the Holy Spirit. However, they could baptize in water, which is exactly what they did. And that is exactly what we still are doing today. Baptism in the Holy Spirit no longer is available; only water baptism remains, and is the one true baptism commanded by Christ for salvation (Ephesians 4:4-5; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).
When a person does precisely what the Lord has commanded, he has not “merited” or “earned” salvation. Rather, his obedience is evidence of his faith (James 2:18). Are we saved by God’s grace? Indeed we are (Ephesians 2:8-9). But the fact that we are saved by grace does not negate human responsibility in obeying God’s commands. Every person who wishes to be saved must exhibit the “obedience of faith” commanded within God’s Word (Romans 1:5; 16:26). A part of that obedience is adhering to God’s command to be baptized.
Jackson, Wayne (1997), “The Matter of ‘Baptismal Regeneration,’ ” Christian Courier, 32:45-46, April.
Jackson, Wayne (1997), “The Role of ‘Works’ in the Plan of Salvation,” Christian Courier, 32:47, April.
Robertson, A.T. (1931), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Thayer, J.H. (1958 reprint), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
No Joking Matter
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
I love being a Christian. I love thinking about, talking about, and singing about Christ and His church. I love to laugh and have fun with God’s people. I enjoy cutting up with my colleagues. I love to interact with non-Christians. I enjoy clean jokes (and find myself occasionally telling ones that are not as humorous as I once thought). Christians can kindly tease about our favorite football team’s most recent loss or our most embarrassing moments. Indeed, there is “a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). After all, “A merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).
As enjoyable as it is to joke around and have fun, and as appropriate as it may be to break the ice with an amusing story, Christians must be careful that we don’t make light and joke around about serious, spiritual, eternally important things, especially when such remarks are unnecessarily offensive. Such inappropriate words at inappropriate times can have very unfortunate consequences.
I was 17 years old, playing summer-league baseball in Oklahoma, when I had the opportunity to visit and worship with a church one Sunday morning a few hours from home. I had the privilege that day to be accompanied by two friends who were not members of the Lord’s church. They had graciously come with me because I needed a ride to worship, and they volunteered to drive me and stay with me until the close of the worship service. Only a few minutes after walking into the building, however, the mood was severely darkened when a member of that church greeted us with a joke about some individuals he knew from our hometown who were of a different religion—with the emphasis being on their religion. It just so happened, the two individuals with me that morning were of that same religious persuasion.
Needless to say, my friends were highly offended by such a greeting from someone who called himself a Christian. And, sadly, they did not get over the insensitive “welcome” very quickly. In fact, it seems they have never gotten over it. Nearly 20 years later I ran into one of these men while visiting family back in Oklahoma. One of the first things he said to me was: “So-and-so was just talking the other day about that time you invited us to come to church with you and that guy greeted us by jokingly condemning our religion.”
By no means am I suggesting that Christians should not unashamedly teach the truth, or that we should not defend the faith whenever given the opportunity. Nor am I suggesting that I have always said things the right ways at the right times. (I’ve certainly failed miserably on this account more times than I like to remember.) What I do know is that God has instructed us to teach “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). He has commanded us to defend the faith “with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Paul taught the saints in Colosse: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (4:6). Similarly, the wise man taught: “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool shall swallow him up” (Ecclesiastes 10:12).
We should never be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16); we should never pass up an opportunity to teach the Word of God—but may God help us to do so with “all longsuffering” (2 Timothy 4:2, NKJV), and “with great patience” (NASB). Remember, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
Matthew 18:15-17 and the Role of the Witnesses