The Household (Pt. 12)

On the second visit by Paul to Derbe, Lystra & Iconium, the Apostle saw the pure faith of Timothy, and since from a child he had known the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament (2 Tim 3:15), and also seeing his Christian character, he wanted Timothy to “accompany him” (Acts 16:1-3). Timothy accepted Paul’s desire, and as preparation to his work in being an evangelist, both to Jew and Gentile, two things were done. In order to promote unity between Gentile Christians (Hellenistic) & Jewish Christians (Hebrews), who would otherwise have caused trouble, which would have weakened Timothy’s position and his work as a gospel preacher. Paul took Timothy and circumcised him and had him “ordained”. Paul wanted this done, on account of the fact that Timothy’s mother was a Jewess. It was therefore quite a different case from that of Titus, where Paul refused to allow circumcision to be performed (Acts 15:2 & Galatians 2:1-8)–Titus being, unlike Timothy, a Gentile by birth. The other act which was performed for Timothy’s benefit, before he set out with Paul, was that he was prayed over and had hands laid upon him by the Eldership from Derbe, Lystra & Iconium. Showing the importance which Paul assigned to this act of ordination, he refers to it in a letter to Timothy written many years afterward: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (1 Tim 4:14). In this ordination Paul himself took part, for he writes, “I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim 1:6). This passage should be viewed in the light of 1 Tim 4:14. It was very likely prophetic voices (through prophecy; compare 1 Tim 1:18, `according to the prophecies which went before in regard to thee’) which suggested the choice of Timothy as assistant of Paul and Silvanus (Silas), and his appointment to this work with prayer and the laying on of hands (compare Acts 13:2 ff) The churches in the neighborhood of Timothy’s home, according to Acts 14:23, had been furnished with an Eldership soon after their founding, which God used.

Both Timothy & Titus were given priorities by the Apostle Paul to find brothers who were qualified to become Elders and Deacons. This points us to the circle of leadership we should be trying to cultivate, teach and pray that it grows from our youth in the congregation. Titus 1:5 & 1st Timothy 6:20 “Guard” what has been entrusted to you! Encourage the youth to preserve what they are taught and the tasks they are appointed to.

From all of Paul’s friends, it is only Timothy & Titus whom he refers to as his own spiritual “sons” (1st Timothy 1:2 & Titus 1:4) and this continues with the congregation as a whole in the context of God’s fatherhood of children with sisters as “daughters” in 2nd Corinthians 6:18. Therefore we know it is not a matter of who physically baptizes a new child of God. But who is it that invests personal time working & teaching the new child of God? They have the right to speak and refer to them as their spiritual children, having the personal touch which God’s Spirit uses to help them be raised to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Why? Because there is only One Father and Teacher in reality, Matthew 23:8-10. Christians with a Jewish heritage, seem to have the same right as Gentile Christians, to refer to Abraham as a spiritual father, Acts 7:2 & Romans 4:12 & James 2:21-25.

So what do we learn from Timothy & Titus to better instill virtues that will help the family be better friends in our congregation? People need to be treated differently, because we have different needs, but that doesn’t mean any single individual is any less important, or less loved, or less valued than the next person even if we are treated differently. We should try to honor one another moreso, than our-self, Romans 12:10, excelling in respecting each other.

The Household (Pt. 11)

Barnabas & Silas were examples of the kind of Christians God want us to see Christ in. They help beautify and strengthen Christ’s family. The Apostles and Elders of the early church needed Leaders who could help them make the message of Christ come alive in the community by working with the church in performing good deeds which physically helped move a spiritual message and Kingdom, See Acts 15:22, “ Then the apostles, the elders, and the whole church decided to choose some of their men to send with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch. These were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, who were leaders among the brothers. The leadership of Barnabas & Silas doesn’t mean they were appointed to a public office in the church, like Apostles, Elders and Evangelists, holding scriptural criteria and qualifying marks of character like them, but it does mean they were recognized by the church as multiplying their talents which God used to put them in a ministry leadership position, “among brothers”. Every congregation of the Lord’s Family needs brothers who will lead in support of evangelism!

Problems can arise, which should be expected, and with love & patience, we will see solutions and blessings, if we follow Christ and prayerfully help grow the fruit of the Spirit. Paul had a problem with Mark, which seems awful in the moment, but later blessed the church as a whole, because Barnabas showed Paul how to treat Mark who was struggling with a problem, which Paul didn’t know how to deal with, see Acts 15:37-40, “Barnabas wanted to take along John, who was called Mark, but Paul did not think it was right to take along the man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and who had not gone with them into the work. The disagreement was so sharp that they parted ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and left after the brothers had entrusted him to the grace of the Lord.” Every congregation will have family problems that they don’t know how to deal with, we simply need love & patience to help us grow in the grace & knowledge of Christ to find the solution, see 2nd Timothy 4:11 & Colossians 4:10

When persecution arises against the church, our Leaders need support. Silas was a supporting leader that suffered alongside the Apostle Paul, See Acts 16:22 & 25 “The crowd joined in the attack against them. Then the magistrates had Paul and Silas stripped of their clothes and ordered them beaten with rods.…around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them”. God uses leaders to keep the church encouraged through persecution. Praise has been used by God during war, with great success for centuries and will continue in us and in our children, King Jehoshaphat saw it in 2nd Chron. 20:1-29, being one of many incidents of praise used in victory against God’s enemies. Joshua saw it, Deborah saw it and David did too, 1st Kings 1:5-53. Today the church sees, feels and experiences personal problems which bring great pain to us. The influence of the Devil in the world does this to us, sin is very real in the world we live in. Without the example and power of praise in the lives of leaders, we will weaken, fall and fail to stand-fast in the good fight of overcoming evil with good. The Christian soldier’s description begins with “TRUTH” and ends with “PRAYER”, Ephesians 6:10-18. Keep praising Him who upholds us, Colossians 3:15-17. Every congregation should have leaders who are skilled in praise & encouragement like Silas & Barnabas, they are needed! Without them, we are in danger, believe it and praise God with them in order to be more than a conqueror, Romans 8:37.

The Household (Pt. 10)

In Acts 18:2 we first read of Aquila & Priscilla in Ephesus because of the Roman’s expulsion of Jews from Rome by the Emperor Claudius, who reigned between AD 41-54, this expulsion is also written of by Roman historians Suetonius (c. AD 69 – c. AD 122) and Cassius Dio, AD 150 – c. 235. Most people generally agree that these references refer to the same incident. The exact date is uncertain. The largest time window for the expulsion of Jews from Rome is from January AD 41 until January AD 53, the reason this is important is because that timeframe fits with the visit of Apollos in Ephesus from Alexandria, where the huge library was still in operation. The fact that formal teaching and growth in Christianity from Rome to Alexandria existed and that they met in Ephesus, means that our faith, within the first few decades was already having multi-cultural effects on the upper echelons of society. The fact that women such as Priscilla was able to teach a formally educated man like Apollos was a credit to her, even if it was in the context of being with her husband Aquila.  In Acts 18:23-27, this event encapsulates evangelism, (especially when it is compared to 1 Tim 2:12): a woman may explain the known facts of the gospel in any context outside the congregation, especially with her husband. But whether she is encouraged or led by the Lord to teach men within a public congregation on the basis of those facts is both outside the scope of Acts 18:26 and its context is incongruous with 1 Tim 2:12. In practice, I would see no problem with women instructing men in several areas of life about basic Bible facts and the like. But when it comes to teaching the Word to men in any way that involves interpretation and/or application within a congregation, this seems to be a violation of the Lords prohibition by Paul in 1 Tim 2:12. Why? Simply put: Because God set an order for his Son’s Church, it is not ours. It is the Church of Christ, and his order is a priority, God then Christ then Man then Woman, 1st Corinthians 11:1-16, this shows God’s concern for what the angels think, learn & see, as well as what we think the world finds disgraceful with emphasis on verse 6-10.

When Apollos came to Corinth in Acts 19:1-3, Paul returned to Ephesus to find that the disciples there only knew about the baptism of John. Which is where Aquila & Priscilla had met Apollos from the previous chapter and he only knew of the baptism of John. Why is this important? Notice the gift of the Holy Spirit during the baptism of Jesus, and the gift of tongues & prophecy after the apostle Paul lays hands on them. Compare this with what happens in Acts 8:9-25 with other Apostles and Simon the sorcerer. We see from both examples that the friends & family of Christ have both a doctrinal and practical need for the Spirit of Christ. Without the Spirit of Christ, these new Christians could not grow in the grace & knowledge of Christ, 2nd Peter 3:18, and neither could they grow the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-25. Furthermore, from our viewpoint, the entire New Testament could not be written without the Holy Spirit so that we can read of how it happened and why!

In 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 & 4:1-6, Paul is adamant that both he and Apollos are on the same page. They are both engaged in building up the church. Both are “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.” Regardless of who learnt about the Holy Spirit first, and regardless of who is more spiritually mature than the other. Regardless of which of them was an Apostle or not. They were both servants and stewards of God’s mysteries. What does that make you and me? Whenever a family member of the church grows beyond the first principles in the grace & knowledge of Christ, we become more than just babes in Christ, we become to a lesser or greater degree Servants and Stewards of the mysteries of God. Therefore keep in mind as we approach the responsibility of teaching, what the Lord’s brother James warns: the stricter judgment is coming, James 3:1-2.

The Household (Pt. 9)

Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43 & Luke 23:50) is best known for his sacrificial act in helping to bury Christ, Mat. 27:57-61. It was forbidden by Jewish tradition to bury within the walls of a city, their ancient cemeteries were outside the city walls, and the Gospels specify that Jesus was buried outside of Jerusalem, near the site of his crucifixion, Golgotha (“the place of skulls”). When Constantine’s representatives arrived in Jerusalem around A.D. 325 to locate the tomb, they were allegedly pointed to a temple built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian some 200 years earlier. They fully realized and accepted that the walls of Jerusalem had moved & expanded to include both Golgotha & the burial site, but not Gethsemane. Historical sources suggest that Hadrian had the temple built over the tomb to assert his dominance of the Roman state religion over Christians. There is only one “new tomb” mentioned in the 27 letters of the New Testament, it was donated by Joseph and given to his new King, in order to establish a new Kingdom, John 19:41. The Kingdom is not physical, (Luke 17:21) it is spiritual and global, which is one reason why God has allowed the physical location of the cross & tomb to be ambiguous and debatable. God doesn’t want us to venerate a place, He craves our heart venerating His Son, the lover of our soul. That is why Joseph’s gift is more personal, than it is public, Luke 23:53.

Nicodemus (John 3:1-10) is best known for his private discussion with Jesus about being born again, Nicodemus was a ruling Pharisee over the Jewish leadership, called “Master Teacher” by Jesus. His membership within or associated with the Sanhedrin prevented public discourse with Jesus, but he grew in his faith of Christ and joined Joseph of Arimathea to help bury him with a huge amount of spices, John 19:37-41. The myrrh & aloes are both considered chief spices (Song of Solomon 4:14)  Myrrh was one of the principal spices in the anointing oil and holy perfume, Ex. 30:23. It is a kind of resin called “stacte”, which is aromatic by incision, or by its own accord, out of the body or branches of the tree so named, which grows in Arabia and Egypt; and since it is a wonderful aroma, was used at funerals. Aloe was used to perfume, and to give a good scent, Prv 7:17, and Christ’s garments are said to smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, Psalm 45:8. Some have thought, that this was a mixture of the juice of myrrh, and of the juice of the aloe plant, and was a liquid into which the body of Christ was put: but this thought is not in agreement with the winding of the body in linen, where they are called spices. The large amount of these spices could be enough for the usual burial of a dozen corpses, about 75 lbs. Several modern Jewish scholars discount the gospel account, referring to it as a ridiculous amount, but it is true to point out the example of King Asa, that “they buried him in his own grave which he had made for himself, in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet aromas, and many kinds of spices” 2nd Chron. 16:14.  To which may be added, that a large amount was probably brought by Nicodemus with servants, helping him by his orders, and it’s likely he came along with them. Just as Joseph is said to take down the body of Jesus from the cross, wind it in linen, and carry it to his grave, and there bury it; this being done with help, by his servants, at his orders, at least assisting in it; and also as Pilate is said to put the title he wrote upon the cross, though it was done by others, at his command. The reason this is so important is because the first eye-witnesses to the empty grave were women going to the tomb to finish the burial process with spices and OINTMENTS, Luke 23:56, the Greek word means liquid myrrh. It would seal the linen wrapped with several pounds of spices, previously used by Joseph & Nicodemus. Their work was enough, their gift was more than enough. Christ was risen, and enough evidence for his deity was manifested for the world to see. Nicodemus reminds the Family of Christ to this day, that God knows your gift, and if it is truly abundant, it is enough. Revelation 14:13 reminds us of what follows us who die in the Lord, having labor exclusively for Jesus Christ. Those kind of family members are friends!