The Apostle Paul built the church in Ephesus over a period of several years. He built the congregation among a sick society, a society in which homosexuality, pedophilia, and ritualized prostitution was the norm. This was the culture that the brethren of Ephesus were being asked to come out of. When it was time for Paul to move on, Timothy became the Pastor of Ephesus. Paul's message to Timothy was one that instructed him how to help the brethren as they existed within such a society. As things shift culturally in our own society - Paul's message to Timothy becomes even more applicable to us. Is it possible that the same message that Paul gave Timothy could be beneficial to us today as we live within an ever darkening culture? What can we learn from Paul's Message to Timothy?
[Ben Light] Brethren in the spring of 50 AD, the apostle Paul departed from the city of Antioch where had been living for the past year and a half and sailed for the city of Ephesus. Accompanying him on that journey was Priscilla and Aquila, whom he ultimately left in Ephesus. And when he arrived in the city, as he often did, he went into the synagogue and he spoke with the Jews of the city and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as we see from the example, so interested were the Jews at what Paul brought to them, that they begged him… begged him to stay and to speak with them further, to remain and to teach them, to essentially pastor them for a time. We see in verse 21 of Acts 18 let's go ahead and turn over there. We'll start in Acts 18 today.
Acts 18:21 Acts 18:21But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
American King James Version×we see that ultimately the apostle Paul declined that invitation. He ultimately declined that invitation. And he had good reason, wasn't you know, malicious in any way. But Acts 18:21 Acts 18:21But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
American King James Version×we're going to spend a little bit of time today in Acts 18, 19 and 20 as we dig into this, but Acts 18:21 Acts 18:21But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
American King James Version×, he says, well, all right, verse 20, "When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, but took leave of them, saying, ‘I must, by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.’ And he sailed from Ephesus." Okay. So the people of Ephesus begged him to stay, to teach them, to work with them, to help them to understand. And at that time he was unable. So this brief visit had been concluded. He returns to Jerusalem for the feast, Priscilla and Aquila remain. They stay. We see that they likely served the believers, those, the kind of fledgling church that had begun there in Ephesus during his absence.
The church in Ephesus, however, had been established. The congregation had begun. And Mr. Miller went there today, talked about some of these early believers that were found and we'll go there here in just a little bit as well. And I think, you know, sometimes it's really easy for us to look at things in Scripture and to assign our own value statements to them in the way that we think. You know, for example, we all have biases. We all have things that we think about in Scripture… in our heads when we read through Scripture. To this day, I consider the stories when I read through Abraham and Sarah, despite the fact that I know to the contrary in my head, the vision I still see are people living in the desert like Bedouins.
And what I see and I don't recognize the full amount of people that were there. You know, in my head, I see, you know, 10 to 15 people in the middle of this vast dusty desert, you know, just living, you know, tent to tent to tent, so to speak. When in reality, Abraham was blessed exceedingly by God. He had immense flocks. He had vast holdings. The guy had a small army, he had a small army and yet in my head, I know all of those things, but yet in my head, I still see a picture that is 15 people out in the middle of the windblown desert. You know, looking around going, why are we here kind of thing. And I think it's easy for us to do that. I think it's easy for us to do that when we read about major civilizations that are outlined in Scripture. You know, you read about the Egyptians, you read about the Assyrians, even the Israelites at their peak. And imagine that those civilizations are maybe a little more backwards or less advanced than they really were.
You know, I want you to consider this as we go forward because of our own kind of preconceived notions sometimes we don't consider. Egyptians built the pyramids. The Assyrians built Nineveh. There was Solomon's temple that had been built, the city of Jerusalem that was built. We don't sometimes recognize just how advanced they really were because I think sometimes we have these preconceived notions and we have these things that we have in our head that maybe don't allow us to consider them for what they were. But I think the same can be said when you consider the churches of Asia Minor. When you start to think about the Church of Ephesus, for example, we know it's Greek in origin by and large. And so we have this picture in our head of what Greek society looks like. You know, we have this picture in our heads of what Greek civilization is like. We see the white ionic columns, right? We see the white marble temples, you know. All this advanced thought and advanced knowledge and all this incredible sophistication of Greek society, right? Because that's what the Greeks were at least so the history books say.
But there was a dark underbelly to Greco-Roman culture at this time and Ephesus and the other churches in Asia Minor would've been right smack dab in the middle of it. They would have been smack dab in the middle of it. Ephesus as a city was located in Asia Minor in what is now modern day Turkey. It was founded in the 10th century AD by as legend holds it, warrior women known as the Amazons. That's the legend at least. It was an ancient… so Wonder Woman built it, I guess is what I'm saying. It was an ancient Greek city and it was under Roman control at the time of Paul's journeys. So when Paul was visiting Ephesus, it was under Roman control.
The city itself was home to one of the seven wonders of the world at that time. You know, there were seven wonders of the world. It was home to one of them, which was the temple of Artemis, or as the Romans called her, Diana. She was the goddess of the hunt, of the moon and nature, and she was also widely considered to be a protector of fertility. As a result of that, worship of Diana included a number of fertility rites and ritual prostitution at the temple. This was social behavior that was normal at the time. This was a society where this was normal, this was accepted. It was how they worshiped the patron deity of their city.
The culture of Ephesus, even at the time of the Romans was steeped in Greek tradition and culture. And because the Romans were, you know, a group of people that by and large kept the parts of the cultures that they liked, you know, it was a situation where a culture of hedonistic expression, homosexuality was open, accepted, pedophilia was open and accepted, idolatry, paganism, sorcery, and other pagan tendencies were simply a way of life. But when we think about Greece, we see wide ionic columns, white marble temples, everybody's wearing a toga and they're thinking about stuff because that's what you do in Greece, right? Except there was also this, there was also this that was going on at that time, and it was within this culture. It was within this world that the Church of Ephesus began. It was this world that the believers of Ephesus had to come out of in order to even begin their walk in this way.
Again, it was a world that we see that they were asked to be in, but not of. Time passed, the church developed, but it'd be another several months to a year before Paul returned to Ephesus on his third missionary journey. And stopping off in Ephesus as Mr. Miller brought out this morning, Paul discovered disciples. He discovered people who would believe, but believers who had an incomplete understanding at that time. Let's go over to Acts 19, we'll flip over there. We'll go ahead and reread it. I think I've got time to finish today in time. Hopefully.
Acts 19 and we'll pick it up in verse 1. Says, "And it happened while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples, he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’" And as Mr. Miller brought out today and mentioned, “They said to him, ‘We've not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’" And so in verse 3, “He says to them, ‘And to what were you baptized?’ So they said, ‘Into John's baptism.’ Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after Him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’ And when they heard this," notice, "when they heard this part, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and they prophesied." In verse 7 “Now the men were about twelve in all." So Paul encounters these believers, encounters these folks that have been baptized into John's baptism and informs them of the parts they were missing, the aspects that they didn't fully understand. And they were baptized in Christ's name and they received the Holy Spirit.
The Church in Ephesus began with very humble beginnings. Few members here standing in opposition to the tidal wave of culture around them and coming out of that culture to begin to put on Jesus Christ and to begin to put on the attitude in the mind of God, which we receive at baptism through the receipt of the Holy Spirit. But during this time, you know, over this time that Paul was there, he stayed for about another three years in Ephesus. During that time, he taught daily, he preached in the God… or preach the gospel in the synagogues and wherever people would listen. But God worked incredible miracles through the apostle Paul at this time. During the time he was there, he worked as a tentmaker and he preached the gospel serving again, that growing church in Ephesus. And during that time, due to God's blessing and due to Paul's efforts, the Church in Ephesus grew.
And again, brethren, they were a small fellowship of believers in the midst of an incredibly darkened culture. This was a culture that again, celebrated idolatry, that worship the goddess Diana, fire prostitution who served other Greek gods. I mean it wasn't just Diana that the Greeks believed in, they serve the other Greek gods in debauchery and dissipation. You know, festival of Bacchus, all these things that happen. This was standard operating procedure in Greek culture at this time. And again because the Romans kept what the Romans liked, these things stayed.
Brethren, this was a culture that openly practiced sorcery, openly practiced it. In fact, Acts 19:19 Acts 19:19Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
American King James Version×you can skim down there we're already in the passage. Acts 19:19 Acts 19:19Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
American King James Version×talks about the number of sorcery books that were brought and thrown into a pile and burned such that they totaled 50,000 pieces of silver. I mean this is not like… this isn't magic tricks. This is legit sorcery. This is actions coming from demonism. This is the kind of thing that is going on, again a culture that practiced, openly practiced, homosexuality and pedophilia. This was not just isolated to Ephesus, was not just isolated to Ephesus. Many of the churches in Asia Minor dealt with many of the same issues because Greek culture was Greek culture. Greek culture was Greek culture. Again, the Romans kept the parts they liked, they kept the drunken debauchery, they kept the hedonistic expressions, and the early believers in the Church were coming out of these things. They were coming out of this culture and putting on something new, becoming something new.
Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
American King James Version×. Here's a letter to the church in Corinth once again, dealing with some of the same issues, okay? Different churches in Asia Minor, but dealing with the same issues or at least many of the same issues. And brethren, you know, while we see this particular message written to the Church in Corinth, it could have been written to any of the churches in Asia Minor. It could have been written to any of them. 1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
American King James Version×gives us an example of what the brethren were having to come out of. 1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
American King James Version×says, ''Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.'' And then verse 11 that's like the twist of the knife a little bit on that, ‘’As… and such, or and such, were some of you.'' He writes to those in Corinth and such of all these things that have been listed before this were some of you, but he says, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Once again, this was the culture that the brethren had to come out of.
This was the world around them. This was the Greco-Roman culture that Paul had admonished them not to be a part of, despite the fact that they had to live within it. And so as happens within the Church of God, pastors come and go, right? Pastors come and go. Each new pastor builds on the strengths of the previous and strives to continue serving the brethren in that area. You know, I have been incredibly blessed to be able to have the opportunity to build on the work that Mr. Richard Duncan started at the beginning of the United Church of God here in the Valley, that Mr. Cafourek built on after Mr. Duncan had retired. And I pray that I can build on that in such a way that it will be beneficial to all of you as time goes on. In the Eugene area. I'm serving on the shoulders of Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Stiver as time goes on and Mr. Cafourek.
But when Paul's time with the Ephesian brethren was done, when he had to move on, he handed over the reins of the church to Timothy. He handed over the reins of the church to Timothy. And so when we look at the apostle Paul's writings to Timothy, we see the writings of a man who desired that Timothy continued to guide the brethren in Ephesus through this culture that was around them, through this culture that they were just surrounded by on all sides. So the admonitions that we see the apostle Paul give Timothy shows us insight into the sorts of things that we can keep in mind being surrounded by the culture in which we are surrounded. Because the message to Ephesus, brethren, is the same basic message to us today. It's the same basic message to us today as we live in this culture that frankly is just disgusting.
I'd like to dig into a few points today. The title of this message is "Paul's Message to Timothy." And so with the time that we have left, what I'd like to do is take a look at some of the lessons that we can learn from these pastoral epistles and really consider the admonitions provided with respect to the culture in which we live. And so what can we learn from this message that Paul gave to Timothy? So the title again is "Paul's Message to Timothy." And I'd like to begin and, kind of, or explore, I should say as we go forward three basic points. Point number one is that we need to maintain and teach sound doctrine. We need to maintain and teach sound doctrine. That's point number one. Point number two is your example is essential, your example is essential. And then point number three, we must stay the course. We must stay the course. So we have to maintain and teach sound doctrine, we have to recognize that our example is essential and we have to stay the course.
And so the first thing we're going to look at is maintaining and teaching sound doctrine. One of the primary warnings, primary warnings as you go through the pastoral epistles, one of the primary warnings that is given is to maintain and teach sound doctrine. Paul recognized the need to ensure that the next generation of believers were given the necessary teachings to live this way of life. And you're aware of this, you live in society around you. As often happens when you're living in a culture that is so contrary to the way of life that you are striving to lead, if you are not vigilant, if you are not absolutely vigilant and on top of it and staying close to God, the world and its cultures will creep in. It will hammer on those walls. It will batter at those walls. It will chip away at those foundations. And if we're not careful, it makes its way in.
Let's turn over to 1 Timothy 1 because I think this is a very important aspect of things as we look at some of these pastoral epistles today. And we're going to be spending quite a bit of time, actually majority of our time today in the book of Timothy, two books of Timothy I should say. 1 Timothy 1, and we're going to pick it up in verse 3. Just the only reason is so we don't read the big intro piece. We know who it's from, we know who it's to. We know that he wished him well. So we'll jump in at verse 3. 1 Timothy 1:3 1 Timothy 1:3As I sought you to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that you might charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
American King James Version×and I want you to notice the very first thing that Paul tells Timothy in his very first epistle to Timothy, at least the one that we have recorded for us.
1 Timothy 1:3 1 Timothy 1:3As I sought you to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that you might charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
American King James Version×says this, "I urged you when I went into Macedonia — remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed," verse 4 "to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,” verse 6, "from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm." Paul started his letter to Timothy. He began it with this admonition.
This was the first thing that he wrote to him after, “Hey Timothy, it's me, Paul, how are you? Oh good, fantastic. By the way, boom. Here's point one.” Paul started this church in Ephesus. Really, I mean, he's now been called to other locations to have to take care of this work and as often happens, you fall, you really love the people that you work with. You know, Paul is thinking about these brethren as he's gone on to be in other places. He's worried about them. He's concerned about them. He wants to ensure that they stick with things. But he has committed this congregation to Timothy's capable hands. And Paul tells Timothy charge, command. Those are strong words, charge, command, some that they teach no other doctrine. And this implies, brethren, an existence of some kind of codified beliefs. This does imply some sort of an existence at that time of a form of codified beliefs. Paul's telling Timothy, essentially, teach what you've been taught. Teach what you've been taught, not going off on your own. You know, telling Timothy, “don't run off and bring in other ideas. Don't bring in things that are going to cause disputes. Instead focus on the things that build up, that build the congregation.” He says, focus on the purpose of the commandment. Reason that the commandments exist. He says love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, from a sincere faith.
And again, he warns that some have strayed and had turned aside to idle talk desiring to be teachers and taking it upon themselves to step into that role. And in doing so, the implication is they've taken others with them. That's the implication at least. Paul's point to Timothy was maintaining and teaching sound, complete or whole doctrine. Doctrine that integrity is one of the primary defenses against a culture that is pushing hard against the gates of the church, shoring up the walls against things that are attempting to chip away at them. Because when you have that in place, it provides a wall Satan cannot get past. You effectively shut him out when you have that shored up. But if that doctrine, if those teachings are compromised, if there's holes that are punched in the walls, so to speak, the strength of those walls weaken significantly, they weaken significantly. And the protection of the faith is also weakened.
You know as I kind of survey the landscape of the church, I kind of look at where we've been and where we are today. This is going to be our fight going forward. This is going to be our fight going forward, preserving sound doctrine and ensuring that we teach sound doctrine. But it's the same fight that Paul fought, it's the same fight that Timothy fought, it's the same fight that Titus fought, and that John fought until his dying days and it was the same fight that the early church fathers fought. We talked about this before. When the curtain closed on the first-century church, there comes this shadow on the early church. There's a lot. We just simply don't know. It goes dark for a while there and then when that curtain comes up, we don't recognize it anymore. We don't recognize it anymore when that curtain rises. Things have changed, by that point in time, significantly, true believers had gone underground at that point. The Church that bears Christ's name was not the same church that it was before.
When the curtain drops on our generation, when the curtain finally drops on our generation when our last breath is done and the curtain drops on the generation that all of us are a part of, when it rises again, will it be the same? Will the true doctrines of God be maintained and be taught. That was Timothy's charge and it's our charge as well. Second point today is your example is essential. Your example is essential. Let's go over to 1 Timothy 4:12 1 Timothy 4:12Let no man despise your youth; but be you an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
American King James Version×once again, keeping everything nice and close so you don't have to flip all over the place. We're staying in a few books today. Make life easy. 1 Timothy 4:12 1 Timothy 4:12Let no man despise your youth; but be you an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
American King James Version×.
As we well know, Timothy was a younger man. And I'm sure he confronted some of the same questions that some of us that are a little bit younger sometimes that are up here in teaching roles, contemplate at times where we sit and we stand in front of a congregation of people that have been doing this longer than we've been alive. And we ask ourselves, “What could I possibly teach them that they don't already know?” Right? And I'm sure Timothy felt much the same way. I really do. I think Timothy probably felt much the same way, but Paul's kind of, you know, encouragement to Timothy here is in verse 12 "Let no one despise your youth." Let no one despise your youth. He says age doesn't matter. He says, "Instead be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity." Verse 13, "Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine." Again, mentioning doctrine a couple of different times in that passage. "Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." Paul admonished Timothy to be an example to the believers in word and in conduct, in love, spirit, faith, and in purity. He said, it doesn't matter how old you are, live this way of life, live it, live it, and people will see that you live it.
So you know, he's admonished to be an example to the believers, but Paul's not also advocating that Timothy simply turn it on when he comes to church and then flip the switch when he leaves the doors. You know, the implication here is that that example is also going to go out to those in the culture around them. You know, that we don't come into services, for example, and get there at the door and put on our church face, you know, do our church thing, turn around and leave and take off our church face again and then go out and live our life. That's not the way that God's intending it here when He tells him be an example to the believers. He's saying, be an example, believer or unbeliever, whether or not it's out in the culture around us or whether or not it's, you know, just for your services. Paul sets the example in Ephesus while he's there. Paul set the example. Acts 20:31 Acts 20:31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
American King James Version×indicates that Paul worked with them for three years time, worked with them for three years time. During that time that he lived there, worked among them, taught among them so much so, so much so that there was a huge, huge uproar.
Let's go ahead and turn over there. It's Acts 19:23 Acts 19:23And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.
American King James Version×. Put a bookmark or something in Timothy we'll be back, I think. Yeah, we'll be back. Acts 19 and we'll pick it up in verse 23 and the point here, again, we're talking about being an example, right? This is the section that we're looking at here. Would Ephesus have gotten upset in the way that they did in Acts 19 if the believers were a bunch of hypocrites? Would they? I don't think so because I think when they saw these individuals and they saw that they were truly changing and becoming different, they were a threat, they were a threat.
Let's look at Acts 19:23 Acts 19:23And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.
American King James Version×and we'll go ahead and pick it up in 21 just to make life a little bit easier. Acts 19:21 Acts 19:21After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.
American King James Version×: "When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he passed through Macedonian and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, 'After I've been there, I must also see Rome.' So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time. And about that time," verse 23, "there arose a great commotion about the Way… a great commotion about the Way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen." So we have a situation here with this guy essentially makes his livelihood by crafting small silver idols and selling them. And there were a bunch of people that did that. There were a whole bunch of people that did that. So Demetrius here, concerned, calls them together. Verse 25 "Calls together the workers of similar occupation and said, ‘Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus," It wasn't just happening here. It was happening all over Asia Minor. "But throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that there are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia," he's getting probably a little bit, you know, overextended here, but "all Asia and the world," he says, "worship." So he's got them good and fired up.
Verse 28, "Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and they cried out, saying, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’” Verse 29, "So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions." So things are getting and spinning rapidly out of control here. Would these guys have been this upset if the people put those idols away when Paul showed up and then Paul leaves and they went ahead and put them back on their shelf? Of course not. These guys recognize that these people were making legitimate changes in their lives. They were not the same people that they were before. They were a threat to the way of life of Ephesus and they were growing and they were building and there were more and more and more of them as time went on.
Ephesus wasn't a small city. Historians estimate that Ephesus had a population of about 225,000 people. I looked it up. Salem 165… 165,000. Eugene, 165,000 literally like a couple hundred off of each other, like Eugene's going to overtake Salem here shortly it looks like from a growth standpoint. We don't even have 225,000 people in this city. Ephesus was bigger than this, bigger than Salem, population wise. This is not a small uproar. This isn't four people going, "Yeah, we're mad and here's some signs." No, this was a riot in a city of 225,000 people. This was a big deal. This was a big deal.
The example of our brethren for so long ago in Ephesus made an impact. And we can argue, you know, maybe this was more of a flashlight in the eyes, so to speak, than the gentle light that we often advocate for. But they were seen, they were noticed. Paul, in discussing this kind of example that we should be, provides a series of qualifications back in 1 Timothy 3. Let's go ahead and turn there. We've been here before. I'm going to go back through it again because I have time. 1 Timothy 3. We see the kind of example that we're expected to be, we're expected to be. And I know we can sometimes read 1 Timothy 3 and we can look at this and say, you know, this is these are the expectations of those that lead congregations, this is the expectations of those that are, you know, deacons, or overseers, or whatever we want to you know, consider it, bishops, if we want to use that terminology. But this was the kind of example that Paul ordered Timothy essentially and Titus to be looking for in those that were leaders in a congregation. But as we've mentioned before, not just those that are leaders. This is the kind of character that all of us should be striving towards. This is the kind of character that we should all be striving towards. So we're all to be kings and priests. That's our ultimate goal, right? And that's a greater office than this.
1 Timothy 3:1 1 Timothy 3:1This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.
American King James Version×says, "This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop,” or an overseer, “he desires a good work. A bishop must then be blameless." Okay? Above reproach is the term there. "The husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence." And then in a parenthetical statement, “(for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."
We look at qualification for deacon just down below it. It's basically the same thing. It's essentially the same thing. But these are the kind of qualifications that should be present in a person who is serving congregations of God in various capacities. People who are faithful, who are above reproach, above accusation, who are temperate, who are self-controlled, hospitable, not a drunk, not violent, not quarrelsome. And again, we see the list go on. And this is for physical offices in this physical life, right? All of us should be striving to put on these characteristics and on these qualifications in our lives. This is the example that we should be setting. The actions, the attitudes that other people should see in us when they interact with us, both in the church and outside of the Church. You know, in our jobs and in the schools and wherever we might be.
As we navigate this kind of ever darkening world and we interact with the people in it, our example allows the light of God to shine in their lives. And we may be again, we may be the first little bit of light that has shined in their whole entire week when we become, you know, interacting with them in whatever capacity we happen to be. But we allow that light of God to reflect from us to the world around us when again, our example is as God desires our example to be. Again, that gentle light in the darkness. If you've ever been in a place that's exceptionally dark, you know, we did one year, we went down, went to the Feast early and we went over to, what's the name of that cave? Is it Lava Cave? Just the name of it, the one that you can climb down in and go way back into the very back of. So anyway, there's a lava cave in Bend, if you've never been there, you can go down in it and go, you go underneath the road and, and it's really cool. It's an old lava tube and you just climb all the way back in there.
And I think we went down with, I think it was Autumn Bellen and her sister and we were taking them, we're babysitting them for the day and Shannon and I took them down before we had kids. And I just walked way, way, way, way back in there. And then you kill the lights. You've never seen darkness like that, you know, unless you've been underground in a cave before, there's no light anywhere. Nothing. You can do this. You can't see your hand in front of your face. So, you know, when in those situations and that little bit of light, you're like, “Oh, I can now see things. It illuminates for me. It's kind of welcoming. It's comforting.” You know, you see the cartoons when it starts to get dark and what's the first thing they do? They got the little match and they're trying to see and then it starts to go out and they're like, “No, no, no!” start another one up. It's just comforting, light is comforting. But we want to be that gentle, soft light to those people that are around us in this culture that don't understand different and think that this is, sadly, that this is it, that this culture is the extent of it. It's a scary place to be.
Third point, lastly, we have to stay the course. We have to stay the course, and it's one of those things that's absolutely essential. And our first point and our last point are pretty similar. They're practically book ended. We as a collective body have to maintain and teach true doctrine. We have to ensure that the faithful teachings of God are passed on from generation to generation. We protect the truth of God by maintaining a vigilance, but also by a willingness to yield ourselves to that which is true, a willingness to yield ourselves to that which is true.
Timothy was instructed by Paul to stay the course. Let's go backward. We're there already. 1 Timothy 4, pretty close. 1 Timothy 4, just over the page and we'll pick it up in verse 1 here as we kind of examine this particular thought. 1 Timothy 4:1 1 Timothy 4:1Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
American King James Version×says, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron." And he goes into some examples here, “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” And we've seen people try to take that example and argue that you know, unclean meats is done away with. Paul's referencing food and meat sacrificed to idols, which was a hot button issue at that time. And Paul references it over and over and over in multiple places.
Regardless, we see a reference to heretical teaching. We do. And he says, "As a result of those heretical teachings, there will be those who abandon the faith and who follow deceiving spirits." And we saw this in the mid-1990s. I was 14 when I had to sit down and decide what I was going to do. Some of you were very young and probably don't remember it. Others of you weren't even born yet, and others of you remember it all too well. Remember it all too well. Some at that time abandoned the Sabbath, others decided not to keep the Holy Days anymore. You know, we've had situations and things that have come up where people have gone as far as denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, that He's not the Son of God and a whole lot more.
These things have cropped up throughout history, over and over and over and over again. And brethren, it's naive of us to believe that it won't happen in our lifetime. It is. If we're not vigilant and if we're not maintaining things, and if we are not shoring up what is there, we run the risk of those attacks getting through. We have to be vigilant. We have to know what it is that we believe and why we believe it. We have to know that. We have to stay vigilant. We have to stay the course. Well, how do we do that? How do we do that?
Let's go ahead and turn to 2 Timothy 2. 2 Timothy 2 and we'll pick it up in verses 14 through 18. 2 Timothy 2 picking up in verse 14 here as Paul's again admonishing Timothy. I should probably say encouraging. Admonishing has such a negative connotation to it. Verse 14, "Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers." You ever come out of a conversation and just went, “I feel worse than when I did going into that conversation. We got nowhere and all we got is mad at each other.” It was to the ruin of the hearers. It got nowhere. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Verse 16, "But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness." Verse 17, "And their message will spread like cancer." Says, "Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection has already past; and they overthrow the faith of some." You know Paul called them out. He named names on this particular letter. That's a wow. "Who have strayed concerning the truth, saying the resurrection has already passed and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless," verse 19, "the solid foundation of God stands… the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows who are His,’ and ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’"
Paul Instructs Timothy to remind the individuals in those congregations to do their best, to present themselves to God as one approved. The worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, who correctly handles, correctly wields, so to speak, the word of truth, the sword of God, you know, the Word of God, who rightly divides it. A person who has their nose in their Bible, who sifts and who sorts, who understands the truth, person who handles it correctly. He instructs them to avoid false doctrine. And not only that, he warns them that that false doctrine can and will spread like gangrene. The word that the New King James uses is cancer like an infection or cancer. These doctrines spread and eventually result in those that depart from the truth or at least divide the Body in the process.
And I think this is kind of important to recognize, it's not always point A to point D, You know, we've mentioned this before, it's not always point A to point D. It's not a situation where, you know, we start out here and then all of a sudden we're here. It's like the frog in boiling water concept, here to here is too far. It's too big of a jump. We look at A to D and we're like, “Oh, no way would I ever end up there! No way would I ever end up there.” But A to B is a short little hop. B to C is a real short little hop. And then pretty soon before you know it, C to D and you're standing at D going, "How did I get here? How did I get here? What happened?” And it was the little compromise, the little jump, the little hop, the little chipping away at this or chipping away at that or changing this and moving that and adjusting this. And then pretty soon, down the road you go.
It's a gradual chipping away. It's a little here, it's a little there. And I'm going to use an example of this and it's an uncomfortable example, but I'm going to use it. One of the more sensitive topics in the Church today is the topic of voting and politics, voting and politics in the Church, okay? And I know they always say the two things you should never talk about are religion and politics so I broke both those rules today. So, sorry. But no, I want to bring this up, not as… I'm not trying to, I just want to use this as an example because this is a place where it has been chipped away as time has gone on. And I want to try to illustrate that. Okay. So the Church does have a position on this. There is a study paper on voting and involvement in politics. I'd like to read you just a couple pieces of this. I'm going to read from the conclusion. There's tons of arguments made throughout. I'm going to read you the conclusion, okay? Or bits and pieces of the conclusion. And I quote from the conclusion of the study paper on voting and involvement in politics. "UCG maintains its traditional teaching that a Christian should avoid voting and participating in political elections and running for public office." Okay. That goes on to say, "Even if one," and there's a little bit in between there, "even if one does not vote, division can still result if one brings their political preferences to church." Okay. They go on to say at the very end because people always wonder about this. "Voting locally is usually seen as an exception." Now, does that mean political election? No, it's talking about school zone or zoning issues and school bonds and things like that as opposed to governor of Oregon or something along those lines. But I know some have argued that governor of Oregon is more of a local election.
And I realize, again, I realize people are in a lot of different places on this. I know we have folks that, you know, well, the Church used to teach very dogmatically okay, very dogmatically that we simply do not vote. They went as far as saying that we don't engage in civic duty or civic activity. We don't do jury duty, we don't vote, we don't serve in the military. And the reason for that is you go back and you look traditionally at, well, why did we teach that? Well, we taught that because our citizenship is in heaven and we recognize just as, you know, an individual who is not a citizen of our country cannot vote in our elections. While it just kind of makes sense, doesn't it?
And so as you look at this particular set, the idea was that we had our citizenship in heaven, that we were sojourners and pilgrims. And brethren, I'm going to admit as a young man, I benefited from the church's dogmatic perspective on this. And what I mean by that is this, 18 years of age, you get that little letter in the mail that says, "Congratulations, you get to sign up for selective service. You get to serve your country." Well, the church taught, we don't serve in the military. And so I wrote my letters, they suggested, I think it was Mr. Stiver at the time, suggested that we write out no… it may… anyway, whoever it may have been, suggested we write out a letter that contains our beliefs, write out five copies of that letter and mail them to yourself and then stick them in a shoe box. Because the idea is that you've now got a date on that stamp that shows that as of that date you held this belief. So that if you ever get called before the draft board, you can take your letter and say “This isn't something I just made up because you sent me a draft notice. This is something I've held since blah, blah, blah.” Whenever it is. So I went and did that. I did that process but I knew too that if I were to have to go stand before a draft board that not only did I have my letter that outlined my personal beliefs, but I had decades of church teaching that said we don't serve in the military. In fact, we go step further than that. We don't even vote. We don't even do jury duty. We stay out of the world's affairs.
And I knew I could stand on that just like the Quakers, I don't know if you knew this, Quakers are like the longest standing pacifist organization in the country and if they get drafted, they go before them and they say I'm a Quaker, and they go “Next. Get this guy out of here. We know he's not going to serve.” Because there's decades and decades and decades of teaching in their church on pacifism that they will not under any circumstances go to war. I benefited personally from the dogmatic teaching of the Church on not voting, not having civic duty, etc. Now, as time has gone on, as time has gone on, as often happens, things change. Over time, a number in the Church have chosen to vote in political elections. There are many who have absolutely no problems serving on a jury. There are a number who are beginning to become okay with things like concealed carry and other issues, that kind of aspects of this. Some are okay with this, but not this. Some are okay with all of it. Some are… I wonder personally, I wonder when my boys get their draft notice, will they have the ability to stand on decades of church teaching? Because as soon as that draft board can say, “But wait a minute, people in your church are perfectly fine with this, they're perfectly fine with that, they're perfectly fine with this, they're perfectly fine with that.” I mean, obviously their own personal feelings on the topic should be enough, but we also know that's not really the way it works, right?
I wonder, I really do as to whether or not this will be an issue. You know, we have politics dominates most of our discussions these days, it seems. I found a really interesting quote this last week I'd like to read to you. It's from C.S. Lewis. It says, "A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food for the mind… if either comes to regard it as the natural food for the mind — if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else — than what has been undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease."
Brethren, I don't have to listen to eight hours of Conservative talk radio to know that society is messed up. I don't. I can look around and see this society is messed up. But when I listen to conservative talk radio with that kind of time, I get angry. I get angry. It makes me mad. It makes me upset. Is that what God wants? No. God wants me to recognize that the world around us is wrecked. We know that. We know that. Am I doing myself any favors getting that wrapped up in the politics of things? Personally, I don't believe that we are. Again, you know, as we look forward and we kind of consider the Church itself and going forward with our own kids, you know we have a lot of kids in this congregation and I truly, truly hope that there is enough teeth in our teachings over the last decade or two that they'll have something to stand on. I really do.
There's a footnote to the story of Ephesus that's worth mentioning. When you examine the history of the Church in Ephesus, you can see rapid growth. You know, you can see incredible increase of believers. You can see this uproar that comes as a result of the believers. You know, you can kind of track the growth so to speak as this congregation gets big and starts to really impact things. Paul worked with the people of Ephesus in the 50s AD. It was when Paul was there. He wrote his epistles to Timothy around 62, early 60s AD. And Paul was executed in 66 roughly, roughly 66 AD. But Paul's, you know, execution wasn't the end of Ephesus’s… Ephesus's story. I'd worn too many plurals on there. I apologize. It wasn't the end of the story.
Let's go over to Revelation 2. When John was shown this vision and told to write it, Ephesus was still a thing, it was still a place. Revelation 2 and we'll go ahead and pick it up in verse 1 here. Revelation 2:1 Revelation 2:1To the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things said he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the middle of the seven golden candlesticks;
American King James Version×says, "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write: ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you've tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you've left your first love.’"
Wait a second. We look at the growth of Ephesus here. Its humble beginnings. You know, as Paul's working with it. The fervor and the uproar that came with Demetrius' rioting here as a result of all of this and now we're saying here in Revelation 2 that they've lost their first love. "Remember therefore from where you've fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.” It says verse 6, "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." John wrote this book in the early 90s AD. 30 to 40 years prior to that, the church grew in leaps and bounds. It grew so fast people were rioting against it. You know, they were on fire for God and then 30 to 40 years later they're being chastised for having lost that first love.
What happened? What happened? I think as you look at Paul's admonishment to Timothy, I think the clue is there, how many different times he refers to the importance of teaching sound doctrine. I think the clue is there. Timothy wasn't the last pastor of Ephesus. In fact, in the late 80s and early 90s the apostle John, as the history seem to indicate along with Christ's mother came to Ephesus where they lived out the rest of their days. In fact, the writings of 1, 2 and 3 John were written while John lived in Ephesus. They were written while he saw the culture of the city, the culture of the Church and when he saw the place where those two cultures interacted. I don't think it's a coincidence that one of the primary themes of the book of 1 John is love. I don't think it's a coincidence. I think that letter is written because of what he saw and I think it's written based on what he experienced and the inspiration that God gave him as a result.
Let's go to 1 John 2 to wrap things up today. 1 John 2. Oops, I won't find 1 John by turning further towards the back in Revelation turns out. 1 John 2, as we read through this and as we look at this, is it possible that John saw the world around those in Ephesus creeping in? Saw the Church in Ephesus being affected by the culture of the time, by idols, by idolatry? It's hard to know for sure, but he was inspired to write 1 John 2 and verse 15 I think it's interesting to consider 1 John 2:15 1 John 2:15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
American King James Version×, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." Maintain and teach sound doctrine. Hold the line. Live this way of life as an example to those around us. Be the salt, be the light, stay the course. Don't let yourself be swayed by false teachers. Brethren, hold to the truth.