Wednesday, 30 August 2017

An Instructive Comparison of Timothy and Titus

Both Timothy and Titus were trusted companions of the apostle Paul, each of whom he regarded as a true “son” or “child” [téknon] in the faith (1 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4). While indicative of a close relationship, this may also suggest Paul’s role in having led them to Christ. Circumcision is a key issue when both Timothy and Titus are first introduced in the biblical record (Acts 16:3; Gal. 2:1-3). They labored as Paul’s coworkers (Rom. 16:21; 2 Cor. 8:23), and he had enough confidence in them to be his personal delegates (1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Cor. 12:18). Both served as capable evangelists in areas where false teachers had to be confronted and the local church needed to be more firmly established and organized (1 Tim. 1:2-3; Tit. 1:4-5). Preserved in our New Testament is inspired correspondence from the apostle Paul addressed to each of these men.

Despite these similarities, however, there are significant differences between Timothy and Titus.1
·      Timothy plays a major role in the historical narrative of Acts (Acts 16:1–20:4ff.), while Titus is not named at all. It has been suggested that perhaps Luke (the author of Acts) and Titus were brothers, which, for modesty’s sake, would explain why neither name appears in the document.
·      Timothy was half-Jew/half-Greek (Acts 16:1); Titus was full-blooded Greek (Gal. 2:3).
·      Paul determined that Timothy ought to be circumcised (Acts 16:3), though adamantly opposed to Titus being circumcised (Gal. 2:3). Since Timothy was half-Jewish, this was culturally expedient, thereby enhancing his effectiveness in advancing the gospel among fellow ethnic Jews (cf. 1 Cor. 7:19; 9:19-23). Titus, on the other hand, was a Gentile, whose concession to this Jewish rite would have compromised the Christian faith and set a dangerous precedent (Gal. 2:3-5).
·      Timothy appears to have been somewhat timid, sickly, and subject to disregard. The Corinthians were instructed, “if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear … let no one despise him” (1 Cor. 16:10-11);2 Timothy himself was admonished, “Let no one despise your youth …” (1 Tim. 4:12); “use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23); “being mindful of your tears .... For God has not given us a spirit of fear [timidity] ... Therefore do not be ashamed …” (2 Tim. 1:4, 7-8). Titus, on the other hand, was apparently just the opposite. The Corinthians were told, “he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him” (2 Cor. 7:15); “being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord” (2 Cor. 8:17; cf. 12:18).
·      Timothy, it seems, needed elaborate commendations from Paul (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-11; Phil. 2:19-24; 1 Thess. 3:2), probably to help bolster his confidence and promote acceptance and respect. Titus, however, did not need such hefty commendations (cf. 2 Cor. 7:15; 8:17; 12:18).
·      There is no clear record that Timothy and Titus were ever together in the same place at the same time, although Macedonia while 2 Corinthians was being drafted is a possibility (see below).
·      Timothy is named as co-sender of more Pauline letters than any of the apostle’s other coworkers (2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Philem. 1), while Titus is the explicit co-sender of none. The only writings in the Pauline corpus wherein Timothy is not named are the letters to the Galatians, the Ephesians, and Titus, two of which mention Titus by name. The only Pauline document to record the names of both Timothy and Titus is 2 Corinthians. Paul's mention of “all the brothers with me” in Gal. 1:2 could have included one or the other or both.
·      In the New Testament canon, two letters are addressed to Timothy, and only one to Titus.
·      Timothy was commissioned to help build up a local church on the mainland of Asia Minor (1 Tim. 1:2-3; 2 Tim. 4:5), while Titus worked with multiple churches on the island of Crete (Tit. 1:4-5).
·      According to tradition, both Timothy and Titus died at an advanced age, although Timothy reportedly suffered a violent death as a martyr, whereas Titus died of natural causes.

The point of these comparisons is to illustrate the fact that no two people in the Lord’s kingdom are exactly the same, yet all have the potential of great usefulness in the Lord's service. Whether one is timid and vulnerable, like Timothy, or bold and commanding, like Titus, God can and will accomplish incredible things through anyone who steps out in faith as his faithful servant.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 The name Títos (Titus) is of Latin derivation and was a common praenomen among the ancient Romans. The name Timótheos (Timothy) is a Greek name with a Jewish connotation, meaning “of value to God.”
     2 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the NKJV.

Related Posts: TitusTimothy Part 1, Part 2,  Part 3

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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Elymas Bar-Jesus vs. Sergius Paulus

     The events recorded in Acts 13 occurred approximately eleven years after Paul’s conversion. Although he felt compelled to share his faith immediately after his baptism (Acts 9:20), he needed to go through a period of training, maturity, and preparation before he was ready to be a full-time missionary. In addition to his formal education, much of his learning came from the proverbial school of experience and hard knocks (Acts 9:16-29; 22:18), with a period of service in his home environment before being thrust out into ministry further a field (Acts 9:30; 11:25-26; Gal. 1:21).
     Initially Barnabas was the leading figure in their partnership (Acts 9:27; 11:25-26, 30; 12:25; 13:1-2, 7). When Barnabas and Saul were sent out from Syrian Antioch as the first Christian missionaries, they initially traveled westward to the island of Cyprus – Barnabas’ homeland (Acts 4:36; 13:4). In the city of Paphos, on the southwest coast of the island, there were a number of firsts.
·      According to the biblical record, this was the furthest west Saul had ever been. Prior to this, he had spent his entire life east and northeast of the Mediterranean Sea. This would be the first of several more excursions westward, ultimately reaching as far as Rome, with plans to go even further to Spain (Acts 28:16; Rom. 15:24, 28).
·      This is the first time Saul is called Paul (Acts 13:9), and from this point onward he is referred to as Paul exclusively in the New Testament.
·      Up to this point Barnabas has consistently been named first of the two partners, but hereafter Paul’s name is listed first (Acts 13:13, 46, 50; 14:20; 15:2, 22, 35).1
·      This is the first recorded miracle of Paul (Acts 13:9-11).
·      This is the first and only miracle in the NT performed by an apostle that produced apparent harm to someone.
·      Not long after these events, John Mark quit the mission team and returned home to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).

Elymas Bar-Jesus (Acts 13:6-10)

     In Paphos the missionaries encountered a Jewish man described as mágos (v. 6b), translated “a sorcerer” or “a magician.” This is the same Greek word used in plural form in Matt. 2:1, 7, 16 for the “magi” or “wise men” who traveled from the East to see baby Jesus. In a pagan environment like Paphos, perceived wisdom and sorcery were not clearly distinguished. The man is also called “a false prophet” (v. 6c), whom Paul accuses of being “full of all deceit and all craftiness” (v. 10a).2 Jesus had warned of devious false prophets (Matt. 7:15), and later John affirms that “many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1b).    
     The man wore the name Bariēsous (“Bar-Jesus”). The prefix bar is the Aramaic term for “son,” and Iēsous is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yeshua (“Joshua”), a common name among the Jews at the time. For Paul, however, the name “Jesus” had special significance, and instead of using it in reference to this deceitful antagonist, the apostle seems to make a play on words by addressing him as “son of the devil” (v. 10b).
     The imposter is also designated “Elymas” (v. 8), the etymology of which is uncertain. If this were a Jewish name, the prefix el means “God.” Irrespective of the name’s full connotation (“God’s power,” “God’s wisdom,” “God rejects”??),3 this man was obviously not God’s true representative. In the words of Jesus, “he who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:47).
     Elymas is further described as an “enemy of all righteousness,” because he was trying to diastréphō [pervert, corrupt, oppose, distort] “the straight ways of the Lord” (v. 10c). The “righteousness of God” is revealed through the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17), so that in Christ “we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is the message Elymas opposed. He was therefore acting contrary to the ancient proverb, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil” (Prov. 4:25-27, NKJV).

Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12)

     Elymas Bar-Jesus was “with” (as a guest of or advisor to?) the city’s proconsul Sergius Paulus (v. 7a).4 “Sergius” was his given name, and “Paulus” is the Latin form of “Paul,” a surname shared with one of the Christian missionaries. Sergius Paulus is described as an “intelligent” [sunetós] man, descriptive of a person of “understanding,” one who is “wise.” This is evidenced by the fact that he “sought to hear the word of God” (v. 7b). The term for “seek” here is epizētéō, an intensified form of zētéō, meaning to desire, seek, or search earnestly. A wise person will eagerly seek after the word of God.

The Critical Turning Point (Acts 13:11-12)

     Because of his opposition to the gospel, Elymas is struck blind for a time (v. 11). Before we accuse Paul of malice or vindictiveness, remember that all of his recorded miracles after this first one were beneficial to both the recipients and onlookers. About eleven years earlier, the apostle himself had been struck blind, providing opportunity and motivation to reflect on his own stubborn opposition to the straight ways of the Lord. The result was an eager reception of the gospel three days later (Acts 9:8-18). Perhaps this was Paul’s attempt to lead an enemy of righteousness to the truth.
     “Then having seen what had occurred, the proconsul believed …” (v. 12a). Another positive effect of this miracle was to confirm the truthfulness of what Paul and Barnabas were teaching. But it was not the miracle itself that engendered the proconsul’s faith; “being astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (v. 12b). The word rendered “astonished” is ekplēssō, referring to one who is “astonished,” “astounded,” “amazed,” and even “thunderstruck.” The blinding of Elymas did not captivate Sergius Paulus as much as the power of God’s word.

Lessons to Learn

1. Elymas Bar-Jesus wore the name of Jesus while resisting the teachings of Jesus; he is thus called “the son of the devil.” It is not enough to simply wear Christ’s name or address him as Lord (Matt. 7:21). If one professes to be a Christian but is not faithful to the Lord’s teachings, he/she is not legitimately “of Christ” and is by default “of the devil” (cf. Matt. 7:22-23; 12:30; John 8:44).
2. Elymas Bar-Jesus was a Jew and therefore had every opportunity to know the way of God. He should have been “a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness” (Rom. 2:19) but instead was himself blinded, “seeking someone to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:11). If I have squandered the opportunities the Lord has graciously given me, there is no excuse for my spiritual blindness.
3. Elymas Bar-Jesus, described as mágos, was regarded as a “wise man” in pagan society, yet he foolishly rejected the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-29; 2:14). “For now do I seek men’s approval or God’s?” (Gal. 1:10a).
4. Sergius Paulus was indeed the “intelligent” one because he “sought to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:7). A wise person eagerly seeks divine instruction; consequently, finding the truth is assured (Matt. 7:7; John 8:31-32; Acts 17:27).
5. Paul was formerly a violent opponent of the Christian faith whose conversion was prompted by a period of blindness. His first recorded miracle, therefore, may have been an attempt to give Elymas Bar-Jesus the same opportunity. Paul would later write, “… we glory in afflictions, knowing that the affliction produces … hope” (Rom. 5:3-4).
6. Although miraculous signs were necessary in the early stages of the Christian movement to confirm the divine message in the absence of the complete NT (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:3-4), the power to save has always been afforded by the word of God (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12). It was sufficient for Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:12), and it is sufficient for us today.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Exceptions are Acts 14:14; 15:12, 25; therefore the significant and respected role of Barnabas is not discounted.
     2 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     3 In Hebrew el means “God,” and the verb ma’as means to “reject” or “despise,” so the name “Elymas” could convey the sense of “God rejects” or “God despises,” or possibly “one who rejects or despises God.” Some have suggested that the name is derived from the Arabic ‘alīm (“learned” or “wise”), used to translate magos, or perhaps an Aramaic term for “powerful.”
    4 Provinces regarded as peaceful and loyal to Rome were classified as senatorial provinces, under the senate’s control and locally overseen by a proconsul. Those whose commitment was weak or questionable were classified as imperial provinces, controlled directly by the emperor and governed by military prefects or procurators.

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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Paul’s Apostleship

     At what point Paul was officially recognized as an apostle of Jesus Christ is uncertain. He is not so designated in the book of Acts except in the generic sense of the term. The verb ἀποστέλλω (“I am sending”) is used of his commission to the gentiles (Acts 26:17); accordingly both he and Barnabas are described as ἀπόστολοι (Acts 14:4, 14), lit. “sent ones” (cf. 13:2-3). Paul did possess the ability to perform “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12), but his first recorded miracle was about eleven years after his conversion (Acts 13:11).1 Moreover, a distinction seems to be made in the book of Acts between Paul and “the apostles” (Acts 9:27; 15:2, 4, 22; 16:4).
     In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, probably the earliest of the extant Pauline writings, Paul is mentioned by name only, and the term ἀπόστολοι is applied generically to the three missionary co-authors (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:6). In all subsequent correspondence, except Philippians and Philemon,2 references to Paul's apostolic commission and authority are added. It has been suggested that something must have happened after the apostle’s earliest correspondence that changed his confident silence into embellished expressions of his apostleship, perhaps the conflict in Antioch (Gal. 2:14-21) prompting a defense of his apostolic authority against questions raised by his opponents (J. Murphy O’Connor, Letter-Writer 45-48; cf. Paul: A Critical Life 25-26). However, there is no evidence that the incident alluded to in Gal. 2:11 ff. instigated antagonism toward Paul, and according to the chronology followed here (see K. L. Moore, Critical Introduction 36-46), the Antioch conflict occurred before the composition of the Thessalonian epistles. Nevertheless, the opposition that eventually harassed the apostle probably did not catch up to him until after the letters were sent to Thessalonica (as indicated in Galatians and the Corinthian correspondence).
     Paul is the only apostle described as “called” (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1),3 perhaps a subtle allusion to his unique situation (cf. Acts 1:21-25; 9:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:8-10; 2 Cor. 11:5). Paul’s self-designation as a “called apostle” sets him apart from the other apostles. In referring to “the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:5) or to other apostles contemporaneous with him (2 Cor. 12:11; Phil. 2:25; Rom. 16:7) or to the apostles active before him (Gal. 1:17), he does not use the term κλητός (“called”). “The apostles who were known to Paul were ‘sent out,’ either by Christ or by a church, to perform a specific function. Paul holds a unique position in that he was ‘called’ by the risen Christ” (C. Dorsey, “Paul’s Use of πόστολος” 193-200). Paul’s special apostolic position was related to the purpose of his calling, seeing that he was the first person specifically called by the risen Lord to be an apostle to the gentiles (J. A. Kirk, “Apostleship” 263).
     While the word ἀπόστολος (“apostle”) [vb. ἀποστέλλω = to “send out or away”] can be used generically with reference to anyone who is sent as a delegate or messenger (2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25; 1 Thess. 2:6), Paul’s frequent use of the term as applied to himself almost certainly carries the special sense of God’s authoritative representative.4 In letters designed to teach and reprove Christian communities, the apostolic appellation makes a fitting introduction (Bailey and Vander Broek, Literary Forms 23-24). Paul is a self-described apostle “of Jesus Christ,” but not a self-appointed apostle; it is “by the will of God” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Ananias laid his hands on young Saul for the express purpose of healing his blindness (Acts 9:12, 17-18a). Another reason Ananias was sent to Saul was to enable him to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17), which occurred in a non-miraculous manner at his baptism (Acts 9:18b; cf. 2:38; 5:32). The exact point in time that Paul received the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit is not disclosed in scripture; his first recorded miracle was performed about eleven years later (Acts 13:11).
     2 These are more personal letters in settings wherein a reminder of Paul’s apostleship was unnecessary (cf. G. Fee, Philippians 61-63).
     3 “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle …” (Rom. 1:1). “Paul, called an apostle …” or “Paul, a called apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (1 Cor. 1:1). Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     4 Rom. 1:1; 11:13; 1 Cor. 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; 11:5; 12:11-12; Gal. 1:1, 17; Eph. 1:1; 2:20; 3:5; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:1, 11; Tit. 1:1. On the word ἀπόστολος and its various uses, see BAGD 99-100; D. Müller, NIDNTT 126-35, with C. Brown’s addendum 135-37; K. H. Rengstorf, TDNT 1:407-45; J. A. Kirk, “Apostleship since Rengstorf” 249-64; also J. D. G. Dunn, Theology of Galatians 10-11.

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