ORDER AND ORGANISATION
IN THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH
I Timothy 2:8 – 4:5
Holding up the Flame with a Stable Hand
A. The BLEND and the PERSONNEL –
1) The Pepper and the Salt (it is not a competition) - I Timothy 2:8-15
Notice here two major points. First, there is HISTORICAL ground for the concept of men being in authority in the church, under Christ; but this is not cause either for lording it over the ladies, or being proud. In the beginning, BOTH FELL: here the order of the Fall is important.
Secondly, avoid dead interpretation, unaware of other scriptures and the topic of this one. Women are NOT forbidden to PRAY in Church, since the topic is authority. Of course, if prayer were made a ground of conflict, abused, that would be different; but pure prayer is in order, so that women are seen as praying and ‘prophesying’ in I Corinthians 11:4-5, to the point that the dress is in view. You do not legislate about what is seemly to wear, if the case is merely hypothetical!
However, while prayer is not by any means excluded, the injunction in I Timothy 2 needs to be seen to exclude women in church from presenting the doctrine, that is giving the address to all, since this MUST be given with authority ( I Peter 3:11). Thus outside the church service situation, it would seem apt for women to share in Bible exposition. The point and issue is simply one: authority. The BIBLE is the authority, the LORD is the Master (Matthew 23:8-10), and all elders must be as servants, not lords therefore (I Peter 5:1ff.); but in the administration of authority, the task is given to men.
Equally it must be realised that this does NOTHING to remove the requirement for ALL Christians to be faithful and obedient to CHRIST FIRST. There simply no scope for saying, ‘The elder told me…’ or ‘My husband told me’. As in Army situations with Officers, this is no excuse! Each must act as towards Christ FIRST and obey Him regardless of all (Luke ,33). Thus the topic here is the nature of administration in the Church, not the breach of function by acting as if man were lord, not Christ, or women were not to speak outside the worship service. Moreover, if it is resolved that some lady on some occasion should speak of function, without contention or matters of authority, that would be possible. By the same token, this very fact in the area of authority excludes preaching by ladies. Supervisors, or elders, of which the minister is the teaching variety, cannot be women accordingly (Titus 1:6). Women of course can be deaconesses, of which we see shortly, and this is normal in Presbyterian circles.
When grace and humility are functioning, it is not a question of vying for this or that office, but executing what one is given with wisdom and unction, so that the whole body is uplifted. Unwise is he who refuses the counsel and wisdom of one half of the congregation: that is not the point. It is simply one: authority; and even that is limited by 1) the Lord Himself, the ONLY Lord, and 2) the Bible, against which no word may be used except in rebellion (Titus 1:9, I Cor. 2:9-13). If men depart from the Bible, a woman can appeal over their heads to THE BIBLE and the Lord. In an emergency, all hands on deck, and this could occur in a congregational meeting.
2) Supervisors and Deacons (not shambles, but shining) – I Tim 3:1-13
Similarly, then, the requirements of order and organisation among those who are to serve in supervisory capacities is strict. Elders are to administer the more spiritual aspect, and deacons those more practical in tenor, as in Acts 6.
Naturally, a good man will NOT be likely to be loved by this world, but it is important that his life is not a sink or moral hole into which scorn may be poured by those who would make this an excuse for not listening. Notice too the combination: he must be gentle in disposition, yet alive and ready with vigour and effective power to defend the faith and to help people out of the mythologies and mannerisms of the Age into the light of the truth (cf. Secular Myths and Sacred Truth!). The "able to teach" feature is expanded in Titus 1:9 so that it is not only "holding fast the faithful word s he has been taught", but this with a view to his being able by sound doctrine BOTH to exhort and to CONVICT those who contradict. Paul for his part tells us in II Corinthians 10:5 of his casting down imaginations and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Gentleness and grace in spirit is one thing; ability to wage war with spiritual weapons and telling words on the wolves, exposing the hideous philosophies and assaults of this world, it is another. Thus Christ was filled with GRACE and TRUTH. His treatment of the evils is an EXAMPLE! as you see it in Matthew 23...
Observe also that a supervisor, or pastor, must not be a NOVICE! It is easy for pride, immaturity, lack of training, ignorance to breed disaster if he is! Solid training is essential, and much experience. Pride of place can readily lead one too young in the faith into presumption or even worse, the folly of misleading where he should go rightly.
On the topic of deacons, Paul is given a very strong word. Far is it from being the case that those on the Board of Management, or deacons, should be people with business experience and little testimony! The conditions remind us a little of Stephen (Acts 6), whose faith and grace made such a profound impact in his time, and whose doctrine was so strong that it led to his being stoned in one of the dramatic and beautiful episodes, for all the gory evils, of the early church. Such simplicity, such purity, such faith, such reasonableness was a testimony to Christ indeed. Did he bow to the culture of the times as so many are led to believe that they should ? So far from doing so was he, that the culture clutchers could not rest till he was dead. How far have so many drifted in this from the Biblical standards; and this, note you, was not an elder. He was a deacon, with this one aspect of his spiritual zest as he attended to practical tasks.
B. The MOTIF of the TEAM –
1) 1) holding up His light –
has a task of incalculable value, Churchof Christ
2) but let a body once cease to hold up the light of
and it is like a black hole search-light, holding in what it must put out,
a mere pretence and spiritual plague! – I Tim 3:15, 4:1-5
Notice two things: the evil teaching noted in I Timothy 4 is precisely that of Romanism (or Roman Catholicism as it is often wrongly called – ‘catholic’ means universal, but this, it is of ROME! one city). I Tim 4:1-5 has been well fulfilled as a prophecy! The Church however is to be used as a beacon, like a lighthouse, founded on rock, but itself stable, holding up the light of truth so that all can see – in TIME!
It is not of course anything in itself, for it is its Lord who is the ONLY MASTER and the ONLY TEACHER who can be cited as definitive (Matthew 23:8-10, Luke 6:46), and to God HE ONLY is the ROCK, for if there is one thing the Bible emphasises to the clouds, to the seas, to the stratosphere, to the depths, it is this, that God alone is the author of the faith, its convener, its deviser, its keeper and its Captain. Thus we read (with delight), in Isaiah 44:8 these words:
"Do not fear, nor be afraid:
Have I not told you from that time, and declared it ?
You are My witnesses:
Is there a God besides Me ?
Indeed there is no other Rock;
I know not one."
The same is taught in Psalm 62:1-2 as in II Samuel 22:32, and in Deuteronomy 32. Of spiritual rocks, there is one: GOD HIMSELF does not know of another. If someone exalts himself or someone else to be this, then God does not know him! It is as in Matthew 7:21!
If you choose to fear man who exalts himself to the region and rank of God, therefore, it is your own folly and costly enough is it (Proverbs 1)! But Christ, it is He who as in I Timothy 3:16, Philippians 2, John 8:58, Isaiah 48:16, Micah 5:1-3, Psalm 45, Psalm 2,22 comes the only Saviour, while it is to GOD ALONE that this office relates (Isaiah 43:10-11). It is thus that we read in Revelation 2:8 that Christ is the first and the last, just as in Isaiah 44:6 we find that it is God who has this name as a personal signature. When therefore GOD comes as man, let us rejoice and despise the presumption which leads mere sinners to seek that place.
C. The MYSTERY of GODLINESS
(not shrouded but unclouded in Christ is the impenetrable glory that has revealed itself in the saga of salvation, the wonder of the Saviour who though He was God, became man for this service) - I Tim – cf. Philippians 2
Importantly, the majority text, nearly all the MSS, has it: GOD was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit … This is as in John 14:9, 8:58, Mark 2 where, although ONLY God can forgive sins, Christ proceeds in view of this, to raise a paralysed man, as practical testimony of His authority as GOD to forgive. If then God has been at such pains to make it visible, clear, personal and at such cost, available on straightforward terms, and that freely, how much more should we be straightforward with Him, not playing a double game, but sincere, faithful reliable. Christ is Saviour, and there is ONLY ONE (Isaiah 43:10-11), and it is He (Isaiah 53). With God Himself therefore you deal, in Christ, lacking NOTHING!
GOD was "manifested in the flesh". He who has seen Me has seen the Father, said Christ. Imagine the presumption and pride, the vanity and the viscosity of mind of anyone NOT God saying that, the unrealism, the flightiness, the fanciful gulf between ghostly thought and real life! However NO ONE has EVER come near to Jesus the Christ in realism, His words coming true when all of human wisdom fails, His assessment continually verified, His power never missing. That God should do such a thing is amazing, delightful, comforting and fatherly.
However, when God confronts men, whether at Sinai or at Calvary, it is a sorry spectacle of sinfulness that is to be met. Whether it be pride, or base designs, desires or ruminations, man is not for open inspection by spiritual X-ray, if you will, without grief or sorrow, without humiliation or pretence. Which is it to be ? If with pretence to cover pretension, so be it. In the process, where is man to hide ? In nails at Calvary, for crucifixion removes the unswerving eyes that see, from the physical scene; but not from the spiritual. Is it to be, as in I Timothy 4, with false teaching, even doctrines of demons ? Then this, which may even have the appalling gall to use the name of the crucified and risen Christ for its devilish dabblings, is the deceit, the devious wandering which is used to close the eyes to truth.
But Christ, He did not waver in His own test. He was "justified in the Spirit" at the baptism, when the divine voice announced, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!" (Matthew 3:17). Not a sinner, as John the Baptist realised of Him (Matthew 3:14-15), He was baptised for a very different reason: as a priest extraordinary, it was fitting for Him to be sprinkled as was the custom for those, like Him, about 30, who would take the Levitical office of service. Thus, humbling Himself, He took this mode of setting apart, as they did, being thus accepted by His Father, as needing no sacrifice, Himself holy already (Numbers 8:6-8). As without sin it was IMPOSSIBLE for Him to have the ordinary baptism, hence John's demur (I Peter 2:23ff.). As baptised therefore, it was certainly by sprinkling, this being one of the main methods and incorporated under 'baptism' in Hebrews 9:10 with 9:13ff..
Again was He JUSTIFIED, as in I Timothy 3:16, when the divine voice once more acknowledged Him, in the transfiguration when His true and divine nature was for a short time witnessed (Matthew 17:1-13), the Father declaring - "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" Again, He was justified in the Spirit, the Lord Himself attesting Him, as in John 12:27ff., this time the words being given, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again!" referring to the prayer of Christ "Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour!"
The divine attestation thus then gave public recognition to the approaching substitutionary sacrifice in which Christ bore the sins of all who would come to Him, from the past, in the core and kernel of faith which alighted on Him to come, from the present and for the future for all who would come.
How had the Father already glorified His name in Christ ? In power to heal, in power to preach, in power to rebut the foolish follies of the traditionalists and the innovators, scribes and Pharisees, in power to prevail in prayer, in the beauty of holiness, in the fulfilment of all the many prophecies, in the preparation of the apostles and in many things. How would He glorify it again ? In enabling the sinless Christ to carry off the prize, not coming down from the cross, but bearing even the sense of separation from the Father which sin HAD to bring (Isaiah 59:1-2, cf. Psalm 22 cf. Joyful Jottings 25); and then rising from the dead, imperial, impervious as well as compassionate and pitiful to have endured all these things.
Let us however revert to I Timothy 3:16. Christ was "seen by angels", as at the birth (Luke 1), "preached among the Gentiles" as by Peter at Pentecost, by Paul in Europe and Asia, "believed on in the world", as by multiplied thousands at and after Pentecost, through Paul and his associates, and by the missioning of many (cf. Acts 12). Indeed, He was "received up to glory", as shown in Acts 1, and starting with the glorious rebuff to the faithless betrayers, when He rose physically from the dead (Luke 24, Romans 1:4), the visible Lord of the victorious church, dauntless because He was immortal, though immersed in this world for His compassionate purpose, swallowing up death in victory, once and for all. Its power was sin; He bore it for those who received Him in His gifts (Romans 8:32).
This "mystery of godliness" or exposed wonder from the very sanctuary of the holiness of God, redolent with His beauty, fragrant for faith with His practicality, like a sheer cliff by the oceans, showing the height and the depth to which He willingly went to save the souls lost in the sea below: it has all the grandeur of loveliness, the sanctity of service, the purity of purpose which is that of a love so distinct and definitive, that without it neither man nor human love has meaning, except as shadows of reality, cut from the mould but lacking its dynamic and its grace. Great as human love can be, without this love of God, it is already lacking its source and floating like souls shipwrecked, needing the rescue that they might live.
This love has provided GOD HIMSELF as the Saviour, GOD AS MAN as the service, that man CRUCIFIED as the payment for sin, CHRIST RESURRECTED as the testimony to truth, which none could ever, do ever or will ever be able to refute, from the days of the inane pretence that sleeping soldiers reported that His body was stolen (marvel of sleep awareness!), to the present (cf. SMR Ch. 6, The Magnificence of the Messiah *1). God said it would be; it was and nothing man or sin could contrive, conceive or create could prevent it. The follies to come as the Age matures to its end, like some cancerous victim, are then sketched in I Timothy 4 as later in II Timothy 3; but the truth remains and blessed is he, is she who believes, for there will be an accomplishment of the things spoken, as with Mary, as with Peter, as with Paul, as with Isaiah and all the prophets and as with Christ, who DID EXACTLY what He said He would do, always does and always will.
For you see, HE is the WORD of God. Never imagine that His divine restraint with man in His own image is any lack of power: the presence of love has its own ways, and the operations of power have theirs. It is this which the world has seen for millenia; and when judgment comes, according to truth, it will have cause enough to mourn on two counts: firstly that it neglected the opportunities so gloriously provided, and secondly that the power of God is no less real than His love, and love being scorned, justice holds sway for those who inherit it as their foolish option. Reader, one will pray that you may avoid such an end, for its very truth is like a lash.