In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells Timothy what to look for in church leaders. I don’t know that Paul’s checklist is so much a checklist as much as it is a reminder that character matters. And character matters … a lot.
I find it interesting how Bible teachers and commentators read their Bibles. Many modern Bible teachers look at Paul’s qualifications and immediately jump to the bit about elders and deacons not being divorced. (1 Timothy 3:2, 12) Or that’s what we think it says.
Paul’s actual wording is “a man of one woman” or “a husband of one wife”. Yes, Paul could mean that elders and a deacons cannot be divorced. But that isn’t what he said. Paul could have used the word “divorce” in his discription, but he didn’t. Instead he worded this qualification in a way that includes polygamy, divorce, and the general way the man looks at women. The way Paul worded it covers it all!
On a parenthetical note, let me say that whether or not Paul was talking about divorce, I don’t think he had our American “no-fault divorce” in mind. I don’t want to get into it here, but “divorce” in the Bible and “divorce” in late Twentieth/Early Twenty-First Century America are not the same. And we can easily run into problems when we impose a modern concept onto the Biblical context.
I also find it interesting how Bible translators do their jobs. Specifically, why do they translate some words one way at one time and translate those same words a different way at another time. My two somewhat-related interests intersect in Paul’s prescription to Timothy when it comes to the service of men and women in the church.
We get the word misogyny and gynochology from the Greek word for woman. This Greek word can be translated as woman or wife, depending on how the word is used. You can’t just say that a Greek word always means one English word in all circumstances. Context dictates how to properly bring the word from Greek into English. Sometimes, the word means woman. Other times, the word means wife. Similarly, the Greek word translated as man can also be translated as husband, depending on the context.
The reason you can’t force a one-to-one correspondence of Greek-to-English words is you run into interpretation issues when the author speaks generically and you translate it specifically or vice-versa. For example, look at Paul’s prohibition of women teaching men in church in yesterday’s reading (1 Timothy 2:12). Is Paul’s concern with women (in general) or wives (specifically) teaching men (in general) or husbands (specifically)? I think by translating the word contextually clears up most of the “problem” passages like the one I’m referring to.
Getting back to Paul’s requirement of male church leaders being a “man of one woman”… Paul was concerned that male leaders should have a single focus on one woman. Church leaders shouldn’t be distracted with multiple wives. And neither should they have “roaming eyes”. They shouldn’t be distracted by other women; they should have eyes for only their own woman.
There’s an application for all of us when it comes to having a single-focus on God when it comes to a growing relationship with Him. This is reinforced with Jesus’ comments when He was questioned on the “Greatest Commandment”. (Matthew 22:36–40)
A few weeks ago, I commented on a parallel passage that Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18ff. Today’s Bible reading records Paul’s comments on letting God’s Word rule in our hearts. The results are the same in the two passages, so I would argue that being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) is the same as letting God’s Word rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:16).
Being filled with the Spirit and letting God’s Word rule in us overflows into our relationships with our spouse, in our family life, and in our work life. If you are a growing believer with a dynamic walk with God, your other relationships will be changed.
Oftentimes when we come to passages like Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, preachers will focus only on the relationship between a husband and wife. Paul addresses other relationships that are affected by a walk with God as well! And all of these affected relationships can be summarized by, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people,” (Colossians 3:23, CSB)
Lest we get bogged down with the “s” word (“submission”), it’s simply a military term that means to line up in order. Take a look at a military unit. You see a group of soldiers of somewhat similar size and physical strength with somewhat similar intelligence. So on some levels, every soldier is equal.
But military rank has nothing to do with size. Military rank has nothing to do with physical strength. Military rank has nothing to do with intelligence. And in a good military unit, every member salutes his/her commanding officer, all the way up the chain of command. And yet, no commanding officer worth his/her salt will ignore or otherwise mistreat a subordinate. For one thing, the subordinate soldier may have an important piece of intel that the senior officer needs to know in order to lead the unit.
Admittedly, this illustration breaks down a bit when it comes to the marriage/family units (no one is a “commanding officer” and no one is a “subordinate”), yet the principle is the same: each of us has a different “position” in our relationships with each other, and under Christ as Head of the Church.
Let me say this as firmly as I can: The Christian life is not about changing our behavior. It’s about changing our relationships, beginning with our relationship with God and that overflows into our family and work relationships. None of us is any “better” than another. But all of us have a role to play.
Finally, note that in all of Paul’s instructions of submission (in this passage and elsewhere), Paul never tells anyone to make anyone else submit. In other words, Paul never tells a husband to make his wife submits to him. Paul never tells an employer to make his/her employees submit to him/her. The instruction is always given to submit oneself.
That’s the key takeaway from Colossians 3:23.
This is my dad, Phil Beaman. He has been a great example of what a good dad should be. I am a better man, a better husband, and a better dad because of his influence.
His encouragement has meant a great deal to me through the years. Almost daily I receive an email commenting on that day’s devotional that I’ve posted here. Sometimes it’s to ask for clarification on what I said. Sometimes it’s to suggest a change to how I said something. And all of his comments are welcome.
I recently had a chance to spend some extended time with my dad. It was the most time we’ve spent together in decades. It was unexpected and it wasn’t under the circumstances that either of us would have chosen, but it was time well-spent. And we grew closer through it.
If your dad is still living, pick up the phone — or better yet, if you’re able to, go visit him — and let him know how much you love and appreciate him. You may not have many more opportunities.
On this Father’s Day, thank God for your father and for other men who have played a fatherly role in your life. Pray for the men in your life who strive to be good husbands and dads to their kids. And pray for the men who have wanted to be dads, but for one reason or another weren’t given that opportunity, or haven’t been able to yet.
Today’s Bible reading is Acts 25. Paul is brought before Festus in Caesarea. Dr. Luke mentions that Festus was posturing, wanting to do the Jews a favor by sending Paul back to stand trial in Jerusalem. (Acts 25:9) Paul, being a Roman Citizen, appealed to Caesar, so Festus sent Paul up the chain of command.
When King Agrippa arrives in Caesarea, Festus tells the King about Paul and his situation with his Jewish accusers. Agrippa is interested in hearing Paul make his case, perhaps because of Festus’ mentioning that Paul was claiming that Jesus had come back to life. (Acts 25:19) I wonder if Agrippa is curious, given Jesus’ encounters with his father, Agrippa I, and his grandfather, Herod the Great.
As Festus finishes his address to Agrippa, you almost get the feeling that Festus is posturing with the King. Just reading Dr. Luke’s account, you get the feeling that Festus is posing; he wants both the Jews and the King to think something of him that isn’t necessarily true.
Lots of us are insecure, especially those who have been promoted above their ability. I don’t know that this is the case with Festus, but it sure appears that way. He tells Agrippa, “It seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.” Does he not know the law? Does he not know the protocol of sending a prisoner up the chain of command?
John Eldridge in his book, Wild at Heart*, talks about how men are often “posers”. In other words, we try to make ourselves appear to have more money or more influence than we actually do. Why? Because we’re insecure. The problem becomes more complicated because we’re afraid of what might happen if they find out who we really are. If you think about it, the cosmetics industry makes a killing enabling us in our insecurities.
Who are you? How do you pose? What are you afraid of? How can people in your church or small group of friends help you to overcome your fears and help you to be authentic?
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