Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Missionary Support: A Biblical Mandate (Part 2)

The Biblical Basis for Missionary Support

     Under the old covenant system of Judaism, the tribe of Levi was the only Israelite tribe not to receive a land inheritance. This enabled them to invest the bulk of their time and energies in spiritual service to God and to God’s people (Josh. 13:7–19:48). The tithing system was designed so they would be supported in their work by the rest of the Israelites (Num. 18:20-32; Neh. 10:30-39).1 Although Jesus was neither a priest nor a Levite (Heb. 7:13-14), he and his disciples were supported in their ministry (Luke 8:3). As he sent out his missionary recruits, he affirmed, “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7b; cf. Matt. 10:10b).

     This divine principle continued in the Christian system, as seen in the ministry and teachings of the apostle Paul. As noted in Part 1, Paul received wages from multiple congregations who supported him in his missionary endeavors (2 Cor. 11:7-9; Phil. 2:25-30; 4:10-20). He taught that ministers of the gospel have the God-given right to be financially supported in their work (1 Cor. 9:4-14). He further affirmed that teachers of the word should be supported by those who are taught (Gal. 6:6), and those who labor in teaching God’s word are worthy of their pay (1 Tim. 5:17-18). See also Rom. 12:4-8; 15:24; 1 Tim. 6:17-19.

Responsibilities of Churches

     The only missionary-sending agency in the New Testament is the local church (Acts 11:22; 13:1-3; 15:40). Congregational responsibilities include the following:
·      Choose well-qualified personnel (1 Cor. 16:3-4; 2 Cor. 8:18-22; cf. Acts 6:3-7; 16:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:1-13).
·      Send out workers (Acts 11:22; 13:1-4; 14:26; 15:40; 1 Cor. 16:6; 3 John 5-8).
·      Ensure workers and their families are adequately supported (Phil. 4:14-19; 1 Cor. 9:3-14; cf. 1 Tim. 5:8).
·      Pray for the missionaries and their work (Acts 13:3; Rom. 15:30; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1).
·      Provide emotional support (Acts 28:15; Rom. 1:10-12; 15:32; Heb. 3:13).
·      Evaluate the work of the missionaries (Acts 14:27; 15:4; 21:19; 1 Thess. 5:21).
·      Withhold support from unworthy persons (Rom. 16:17; 2 John 10-11).

Responsibilities of Missionaries

     While local congregations must be faithful in fulfilling divine expectations, individual missionaries also have responsibilities.
·      Take initiative (Acts 8:4-5; 11:19-21; 15:36, 39-41; 18:21; 1 Cor. 16:15-17; 2 Cor. 8:16-17).
·      Be open to the direction of mature Christians (Acts 11:25-26; 13:1; 19:22; 1 Thess. 3:2).
·      Be willing to actively seek support from congregations (Rom. 15:24; 1 Cor. 16:6; 2 Cor. 1:15-16). 
·      Be willing to accept support when offered (Acts 24:23; Phil. 4:15-18; 2 Cor. 11:8-9).
·      When necessary, be willing to be self-supporting (Acts 18:3; 20:34-35; 1 Thess. 2:9).
·      Be conscientious about the use of time and funds (cf. 2 Cor. 8:20-21; Eph. 5:15-16; 1 Thess. 2:8-10).
·      Be answerable to brethren and report to them about the work (Acts 14:27; 15:4; 21:19).

Church cooperation in doing the Lord’s work

     There are at least three areas of the Lord’s work where autonomous churches in the New Testament cooperated in collaborative efforts. First, cooperation in benevolence (Acts 11:27-30; Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:1–9:15). Second, cooperation in evangelism (2 Cor. 11:8-9; Phil. 4:15-16; Rom. 15:24).2 Third, cooperation in edification (Acts 11:20-26; 14:21-22 [cf. 13:1-3]; 15:22-31, 36, 40; Col. 4:16).

There are numerous examples in the New Testament of sending congregations:
·      The Jerusalem church sent Peter and John to Samaria (Acts 8:14).
·      The Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:22).
·      The Antioch church sent Barnabas and Saul to Judea (Acts 11:30).
·      The Antioch church sent Barnabas and Saul to Cyprus and Southern Galatia (Acts 13:1-4; 14:26).
·      The Antioch church sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (Acts 15:2-3).
·      The Jerusalem church sent Judas Barsabas and Silas to Antioch (Acts 15:25-33).
·      The Antioch church sent Paul and Silas to the Mediterranean world (Acts 15:40).
·      The Philippi church sent Epaphroditus to Rome (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:18).
·      The Roman Christians were encouraged to send missionaries (Rom. 10:14-15; cf. 15:24).
·      The Corinth church was encouraged to send Paul (1 Cor. 16:6).

There are numerous examples in the New Testament of contributing congregations: 
·      The Macedonian churches (consisting of at least the brethren in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) supported Paul and his work in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:7-9).
·      The Philippi church supported Paul and his work in Thessalonica and Rome (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:14-19).
·      The Corinth congregation was to assist Paul on his way to Judea (1 Cor. 16:3-6; 2 Cor. 1:16).
·      The saints at Rome were to assist Paul on his way to Spain (Rom. 15:24; cf. 10:12-15).


     Adequately supporting missionaries and their families is not optional for churches committed to faithfully heeding the divine call to make disciples of all nations until the end of the age (Matt. 28:18-20). Professing Christians are either zealous goers, zealous senders, or disobedient.3

--Kevin L. Moore

     1 See also Ex. 1:1-6; Lev. 27:30-34; Num. 1:47-53; 26:62; Deut. 10:9; 14:22-29; 18:1-8; 26:12; 2 Chron. 31:5-6; Neh. 13:5; Malachi 1:1; 3:10.
     2 Paul’s letter to the Romans is addressed to all the “saints” (hagioi) in Rome rather than the “church” (ekklēsia) collectively (1:7), and since greetings are sent to what appears to be multiple house churches (16:5, 14, 15), his request to be assisted in his missionary work by “you” (plural) is directed to all these congregations (15:24).
     3 John Piper and Tom Steller, “Driving Convictions Behind Foreign Missions,” desiringGod (1 Jan. 1996), <Link>.

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Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Missionary Support: A Biblical Mandate (Part 1)

     To reiterate John Piper’s observation, there are only three kinds of responders to the Great Commission: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient.1 Unless one is willing to personally take the gospel beyond his or her immediate environs, the only way to be faithful to the Lord’s mandate is to effectively engage in sending others. 

Sending Missionaries

     Before appealing to the brethren in Rome to assist him on his mission to Spain (Rom. 15:24), Paul writes: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? …” (Rom. 10:14-15a NKJV). Sending missionaries involves more than just pushing them out the door and waving goodbye. Militaries do not send troops into battle without adequate equipment and support. Those fighting the good fight of faith on the front lines of the spiritual warfare are no less deserving. “Who ever goes to war at his own expense?” (1 Cor. 9:7a).

     The English word “missionary” is based on the Latin term mittere, meaning “to send.” A missionary is basically “one who is sent” (with a specific mission to fulfill). The nearest counterpart in the Greek New Testament is the noun apóstolos, often transliterated “apostle.” The verb apostéllō means to “send” (Acts 8:14; 15:27, 33; 26:17), while the noun form apóstolos generically refers to “one who is sent” (Acts 14:4, 14; 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25; 1 Thess. 2:6).2

Supporting Missionaries

     In 1 Corinthians chapter 4 Paul contrasts the comparative ease of the Corinthians with the plight of those described as apóstoloi (vv. 8-12). While rendered “apostles” in most English translations, the expression essentially refers to “sent ones,” contextually inclusive of Apollos (3:4–4:6) and thus in a broader sense applicable to “missionaries.” In v. 11 Paul writes, “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.” As a prelude to what is to be discussed in chapter 9, this serves as a subtle indictment against the Corinth church and all other congregations at the time, considering their divinely-appointed responsibility of providing for the needs of the Lord’s servants.

     Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians is about God-given “rights” (Greek exousía, cf. vv. 4, 5, 6, 12, 18). While emphasis is often placed on Paul’s refusal to elicit financial support from the Corinthian disciples (discussed below), the underlying principle is what God has set in place to ensure that full-time ministers of the gospel have their essential needs met. Paul and his fellow-missionaries have a right [exousía] to eat and drink, i.e., be supported in the Lord’s work (1 Cor. 9:4; cf. vv. 6-14; 4:11; Matt. 10:9-10; 2 Thess. 3:7-10). They also have a right [exousía] to “take along a believing wife” (1 Cor. 9:5). Apparently first-century missionaries did not abandon their spouses in their service to Christ (cf. 7:10-11). Financial support must therefore include sufficient resources to take care of one’s family (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8).4

     The real issue is the right [exousía] of Barnabas and Paul to refrain from [secular] work and be supported by the church (1 Cor. 9:6; cf. 4:12). These directives were written about five years after Paul and Barnabas had had their falling out over John Mark and gone their separate ways (Acts 15:36-41). Obviously the relationship was not permanently damaged and the Corinthians were aware of the partnership. Paul then launches into an extensive argument to establish an irrefutable case for supporting ministers of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:7-15).

     Remuneration for services rendered is a natural part of the secular world, including soldiers, farmers, and shepherds (1 Cor. 9:7). But this is not only a basic human concept; it is divinely enjoined, with scriptural confirmation (vv. 8-10; quote from Deut. 25:4). God is more concerned about people than he is about animals (cf. Matt. 6:26; Luke 12:7, 24), and this biblical principle legitimately applies to the expectation of workers to be compensated for their labors.

     The particular application here concerns the right of spiritual laborers (full-time ministers of the gospel) to be supported by those who benefit from their labors (1 Cor. 9:11-15; cf. Gal. 6:6). The Corinthians (as recipients) should feel obliged to participate in this divine system. Paul and his coworkers have just as much right [exousía] and more to expect financial support from the Corinthians, yet they have denied themselves this right lest the gospel of Christ be hindered (1 Cor. 9:12).5 Even Levitical priests are supported by the offerings of the people (1 Cor. 9:13; cf. Lev. 6:16, 26; 7:6, 31; 22:10; Num. 18:8-10). “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live [get their living] from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14).6

Paul’s Financial Support

     Paul did not exercise his right to be subsidized by the Corinthians while working in their midst, in order to avoid compromising his integrity in the gospel (1 Cor. 9:15).7 Nevertheless, he did accept and even solicit support from others in different circumstances (cf. 2 Cor. 11:7-9; Phil. 2:25-30; 4:10-20), even from the Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:6). In fact, Paul actually felt like he had wronged the brethren at Corinth by not getting them to financially participate in his evangelistic work like other congregations had done (2 Cor. 12:13; cf. 11:8). How, then, was his missionary work financed?

     At times Paul supported himself (Acts 18:3; 20:34; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Thess. 2:9). His customary practice was to refuse financial remuneration from the brethren with whom he labored in order to avoid burdening anyone (2 Cor. 11:9; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8). This also averted potential misconceptions and problems (1 Cor. 9:12, 15, 18), afforded evangelistic opportunities (cf. Acts 17:17), provided for basic needs (Acts 20:34), perhaps supplemented outside support (Phil. 4:16), and most of all served as a good example to young converts (Acts 20:33-35; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 2 Thess. 3:7-8).

     At other times Paul received outside assistance from churches (2 Cor. 11:8-9; Phil. 4:15-16). When he writes to the Corinthians, “I robbed other churches, taking wages [from them] to minister to you” (2 Cor. 11:8), the word suláō (to “rob” or “plunder”) refers to the right of seizing the goods of a merchant for payment (H. K. Moulton, Analytical Greek Lexicon Rev. 381). Presumably Paul first arrived in Corinth with depleted funds, compelling him to work (at least initially) as a tentmaker with Aquila and Priscilla for his livelihood (Acts 18:1-3). The arrival of Silas and Timothy was no doubt accompanied by the financial support from the Macedonian brethren (Acts 18:5).

     The apostle also relied heavily on the hospitality and provision of his fellow-Christians (Acts 9:19; 16:15, 34; 18:1-3; 20:11; 21:4, 7-10, 16-17; 28:13-14; 24:23; Rom. 15:24; 16:23; 1 Cor. 16:6; Gal. 1:18; Philem. 22). While financial assistance is necessary, there are many other ways missionaries can and should be supported.

--Kevin L. Moore

     1 John Piper and Tom Steller, “Driving Convictions Behind Foreign Missions,” desiringGod (1 Jan. 1996), <Link>.
     2 Beyond its generic usage, the term apóstolos is also employed in the more limited sense of one specially chosen and appointed by the Lord as an authoritative representative (Matt. 10:2; Luke 6:13; 1 Cor. 12:28, 29; 2 Cor. 12:12; etc.).
     3 Of the ten occurrences of exousía in 1 Corinthians, six are in chapter 9.
     4 This included the rest of the apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas/Peter (1 Cor. 9:4-5). Peter was married (cf. Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:30; 1 Pet. 5:1), made evangelistic trips (Acts 9:32–11:2; cf. 1 Pet. 5:13), and apparently took his wife with him. This would also have been the case for the other apostles (cf. John 19:26-27; 2 John 1) and the Lord’s brothers (cf. Matt. 13:55), including James (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19).
     5 The “others” who “are partakers of this right [exousía] over you …” (1 Cor. 9:12a) may refer to the countless “instructors” (4:15), including Apollos (3:5-6), and/or the “false apostles” (cf. 2 Cor. 11:1-15) who apparently received support from these brethren.
     6 This could refer to the Lord’s revelation through apostles and prophets (cf. 14:37) and may also be a reference to a well-known collection of “Jesus sayings” (cf. 7:10), later recorded by Luke (Luke 10:7) and then quoted by Paul and regarded as “scripture” (1 Tim. 5:18).
     7 Paul was compelled to proclaim the gospel (1 Cor. 9:16-18), driven by an inner compulsion (cf. Acts 17:16; 18:5; 2 Cor. 5:14; also Jer. 4:19; 20:9). He was so convicted that it was like evangelizing involuntarily, like a slave entrusted with a stewardship (1 Cor. 9:17; cf. 3:5; 4:1-2). He was content to preach free of charge that he might not take advantage of his right/authority [exousía] in the gospel (1 Cor. 9:18).

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Thursday, 13 May 2021

Prayers for All

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-7, ESV).

When Paul says, “First of all, then,” he is transitioning into the main body of the letter concerning various aspects of church organization and conduct (cf. 3:15), no doubt relevant to the doctrinal disruptions about which the letter opens (1:3ff.). This section begins with emphasis on prayer, particularly the content of prayer, with special focus in v. 8 on the ones praying. “It is essential, at the outset, to ensure the noblest approach to public worship.”1

Paul’s entreaty, “I urge” (parakaléō, “I exhort,” NKJV), here stated in general terms, presumably has the same force as the appeal directed to Timothy (1:3a) and extended through Timothy (5:1; 6:2; 2 Tim. 4:2). Communication to God is described with four interrelated expressions: “supplications” (déēsis, cf. 5:5), or “entreaties” (NASB), “petitions” (NIV), “requests” (NET); the more generic “prayers (proseuchē, cf. 5:5); “intercessions(énteuxis, cf. 4:5);2 and thanksgivings” (eucharistía, cf. 4:3, 4). Rather than trying to atomize each of these and make clear distinctions, the grouping together of comparable terms simply covers all the bases and emphasizes how important it is to be praying in every way.

The object of these prayers is “all people,” seeing that God desires the salvation of “all people” (vv. 4, 6), which is “good” and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (v. 3; cf. 1:1). This includes the secular ruling powers (v. 2).3 The term “kings” (plural of basileús) is applicable to both the Roman emperor (1 Pet. 2:13, 17) and local monarchs (Matt. 2:1-9; 10:18; 14:1, 9; 17:25; Acts 12:1; 2 Cor. 11:32), while “all who are in high positions” relates to other governing authorities like the asiarchs in Ephesus (Acts 19:31), the magistrates in Philippi (Acts 16:20-38), the politarchs in Thessalonica (Acts 17:6), the proconsuls in Cyprus and Achaia (Acts 13:7; 18:12), and the legates of Judea (Luke 20:20; Acts 23:24). Many of these Paul had faced in the course of his ministry, including the emperor Nero (Acts 25:12; 27:24). The brief digression between v. 1 and v. 4 that specifically targets civic leaders is explained, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Contextually this is not merely for self-benefitting liberties and comforts but especially for freer evangelistic opportunities (vv. 3-7; cp. 1 Thess. 4:9-12). The fact that God “desires all people to be saved” patently counters the Calvinistic notion of unconditional election, while salvation is inextricably linked to “the knowledge of the truth” (cf. 1:7; 4:3).

Prayers of all kinds for all people are enjoined because “there is one God” (cf. 1:17), as opposed to polytheism, i.e., “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6; cf. 1 Cor. 8:4); and “one mediator between God and men,” the sinner’s only access to the heavenly throne (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom. 5:6-11; Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25–10:22), viz. “the man Christ Jesus.” While “Christ” is essentially a title, equivalent to the OT term mašíaḥ (“messiah,” meaning “anointed [one]”), “Jesus” (meaning “savioris his human name given at birth (Matt. 1:21-25). Between the Lord’s ascension and return he is still regarded as “man” (ánthrōpos, “human,” cf. Acts 17:31). In fact, he is explicitly referred to as “man” no less than thirty-six times in the NT, and as “the son of man” an impressive eighty-two times (almost entirely as a self-description). While the importance of Christ’s deity must never be downplayed,4 his incarnation (taking on human flesh) is also a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith (Matt. 1:16-25; Luke 1:31–2:7; 24:39; John 1:14; Heb. 2:9-18; 4:15; 5:7; 1 John 3:2; 4:2; 2 John 7).

Rather than unwilling victimization, Christ “gave himself” (cf. Mark 10:45; John 10:18; Gal. 1:4; 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 25; Tit. 2:14).5 The Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement is also discounted by the simple truth that he gave himself “for all (cf. John 3:16-17; Rom. 5:18; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 John 2:2; 4:14). The noun “ransom” [antílutron], its only occurrence in the NT, basically means to exchange one thing for another. It is comparable to the less emphatic lútron (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45), as well as the noun apolútrōsis (“redemption”), a release effected by payment (Luke 21:28; Rom. 3:24; 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7, 14; 4:30; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:15; 11:35).6

This truth is the “testimony” [martúrion], declared by the life, teachings, and sacrifice of Christ Jesus and preached by his authorized emissaries like Paul (v. 7), “given at the proper time.” According to God’s eternal plan and centuries of messianic prophecies, when the time was right the Christ fulfilled his purpose (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10). From the completion of his work on earth until his future return is the designated period for propagating this extraordinary and powerful testimony (1 Tim. 6:15; Tit. 1:2-3; cf. Acts 17:26; Gal. 6:9).

For this I [emphatic!] was appointed a preacher [kērux, “herald,” “proclaimer”] and an apostle [apóstolos, cf. 1:1] … a teacher [didáskalosof the Gentiles …” This reminder of Paul’s commission (also 1:1, 11-16; 2 Tim. 1:11; cf. Tit. 1:3) and the parenthetical, “I am telling the truth, I am not lying” (cp. Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:20), were almost certainly not for Timothy’s benefit but for those who might be opposing Timothy’s delegated authority and the doctrine he defended along with his mentor. Paul’s commission to “the Gentiles [ethnōn] (Acts 9:15; 22:21; 26:17; Rom. 1:5; 11:13; Gal. 1:16; 2:9; Eph. 3:1-8; 2 Tim. 4:17) surely did not exclude ethnic Jews (e.g. Acts 9:20; 13:14 ff.; 14:1; Rom. 1:16; etc.) but highlighted the main focus and providential successes of his ministry. The modifying phrase “in faith and truth” could refer to the faithful and honest manner with which Paul’s labors were carried out, or the faith (1:19) and the truth (2:4) he objectively taught, although neither possibility would exclude the other.

Paul was a divinely “appointed … teacher” (of the gospel, 1:11) in contrast to those who had a self-interest-desire to be “teachers of the law” (1:7; cp. Tit. 1:11). The corresponding verbal “teach” [didáskō] is a duty with which Timothy has been entrusted (4:11; 6:2) and directed to delegate to other faithful men (2 Tim. 2:2). While women in the church are to be “teachers of good” [kalodidáskalos] (Tit. 2:3), Paul reminds the ladies at Ephesus of certain qualifying restrictions (vv. 8-15).

--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990): 69.
     2 The NASB rendering “petitions” has some support in extrabiblical sources (see BAGD 268), but the word itself simply conveys the idea of approaching the heavenly throne and meeting with God, thus synonymous with “prayer.”
     3 On the Christian’s responsibility to civil government, see Matt. 22:17-21; Acts 5:29; Rom. 13:1-7; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-17.
     4 See K. L. Moore, “The Deity of Christ,” Moore Perspective (11 Jan. 2017), <Link>.
     5 That he “gave himself” is not necessarily limited to his death on the cross but inclusive of the entirety of his self-sacrifice, i.e., incarnation, earthly life, suffering and death, perpetual oneness with humanity and subordination to the Father (cf. v. 5; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Cor. 15:28; Heb. 2:9-18).
     6 Consider also the noun lútrōsis (Luke 1:68; 2:38; Heb. 9:12), and the verbs lutróō (Luke 24:21; Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:18) and exagorázō (Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5).
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Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Wage the Good Warfare

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:18-20, ESV).

As Paul has been entrusted with his own commission from the Lord (1:1, 11-16), he commits to Timothy, his beloved “child” (or “son” in the faith), a “charge” (noun paraggelía, cf. v. 5), linked to the verbal paraggéllō (to “charge” or “command”), of which Timothy was not only on the receiving end (6:13-14, 20) but also on the giving end (1:3; 4:11; 5:7; 6:17) as Christ’s delegated and authoritative ambassador.

Timothy’s active role in the Lord’s work was somehow initiated by “the prophecies previously made …” Prior to the completion of the NT, prophets were positioned in the local congregations (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; 3:5). As a fairly young Christian, Timothy’s potential in God’s service was recognized by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:1-2; note elders in each church, Acts 14:23). Paul invited the young man to join his mission team (Acts 16:3-5), and Timothy was entrusted with a gift [chárisma] through or by means of [diá] prophecy (1 Tim. 4:14a), implemented through or by means of [diá] the laying on of Paul’s hands (2 Tim. 1:6; cp. Acts 19:6). This was along “with” [metá] (in addition to) the laying on of the eldership’s hands (1 Tim. 4:14b) as a customary endorsement and confirmation appointing Timothy to this ministry (cp. Acts 6:6; 13:2-3; 1 Tim. 5:22).

Using military language (cf. 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:3-4; 4:7),1 the charge is to “wage the good warfare.” Confronting false teachers is an unpleasant but necessary duty of the Christian soldier’s engagement against opposing spiritual forces (cf. Eph. 6:10-12), while “holding [‘having,’ NKJV; ‘keeping,’ NASB] faith and a good conscience,” which, in the context of “love,” is the “aim” of the charge (cf. v. 5). Sadly some, “rejecting” [apōthéō], repudiating or throwing away both faith and a good conscience (cp. v. 6) “have made shipwreck” (a change of metaphor),2 not necessarily “their faith” (ESV) but tēn pístin – “the faith.” By essentially abandoning their own subjective and foundational “faith” (incl. trust, reliance, obedience toward God), the instigators are also subverting the entire system of faith (gospel) itself.3

Now Paul starts naming names and particularly has in mind “Hymenaeus and Alexander.” The name Hymenaeus is mentioned again in 2 Tim. 2:14-18 with Philetus, men who were advancing empty, unprofitable, irreverent teachings, including the assertion that the resurrection [of the dead] (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12-19) had already occurred, which Paul regarded as cancerous, a deviation from the truth, subverting the faith of some.4 The name Alexander recurs in 2 Tim. 4:14-15, a metalworker who had done great harm to Paul and strongly opposed his teaching, thus Timothy is warned to beware of him. A man named Alexander is also included in Luke’s report of the uprising in Ephesus near the end of Paul’s three-year ministry there (Acts 19:33-34), one who attempted to defend the local Jews but was drowned out by the hysteric idolaters. Whether any, all, or none of these references apply to the same persons cannot be confirmed. 

The expression “handed over to Satan” occurs only twice in the NT: here and in 1 Cor. 5:5a. Christians who carelessly return to their former sinful lifestyle have walked into “the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Pet. 2:19-21). Those who are defiantly impenitent are to be turned back over to Satan’s realm (cf. John 8:44, 47; Rom. 1:28), i.e., let them experience the world of Satan in the hopes they will want to return to God. This is a disciplinary measure involving dissociation. The main purpose is “for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5b). The intention is to produce recognition of sin, shame, and godly sorrow leading to repentance, restoration, and salvation (cf. 2 Thess. 3:14; Jas. 5:19-20). Another aim is to keep the church morally pure (1 Cor. 5:6-8).

The expressed intention of Paul’s disciplinary action toward these men is “that they may learn [paideúō, ‘be disciplined’] not to blaspheme,” the verbal form [blasphēméō, cf. 6:1] of the adjectival blásphēmos of which Paul himself had been guilty prior to his conversion (v. 13). The verbal sense means to speak against or use slanderous or abusive speech.Contextually Hymenaeus and Alexander would have been among those espousing deviant doctrines, devoted to myths, endless genealogies, speculations, vain discussion, along with misunderstanding the law they desired to teach (vv. 3-7). In so doing they were ultimately speaking against the sound doctrine of the glorious gospel (inclusive of grace, faith, and love) taught by Paul, Timothy, and other faithful disciples (vv. 4, 5, 10b-11, 14, 19).  

--Kevin L. Moore

     1 As a Roman citizen writing to churches in Roman provinces, military imagery is not uncommon in Paul’s letters (see also 1 Cor. 9:7; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:10-18; 1 Thess. 5:8; Philem. 2), although “fighting” can also be understood as an athletic metaphor (cp. 1 Cor. 9:24-27). Note that waging a good warfare often involves running away from certain impediments while pursuing reinforcements (1 Tim. 6:11-12).
     2 This is imagery with which Paul is particularly familiar (Acts 27:41–28:1; 2 Cor. 11:25).
     3 The articular expression “the faith” typically alludes to the system of faith, the comprehensive message of the gospel (cf. Acts 6:7; 13:7-12; 14:21-22; Rom. 1:5; 16:26; Gal. 1:23; Col. 1:23; Jude 3). The noun pístis is employed in a variety of ways in the NT, including allusions to faithfulness, reliability, solemn promise, proof, pledge, trust, confidence, faith, and the body of faith or doctrine (BAGD 662-64). While context is the primary determining factor in ascertaining the sense, biblical faith cannot be divorced from assurance, conviction, certainty, and associated action (cf. Mark 2:5; Heb. 11:1, 6, 8 [cf. 5:8-9]; Jas. 2:14-26). A mere intellectual belief that is inactively confined to one’s heart is not the kind of “faith” advanced by Paul, as demonstrated by his recurring emphasis on “obedience” (Rom. 1:5; 5:19; 6:16, 17; 15:18; 16:19, 26; 2 Cor. 7:15; 10:5, 6; Philem. 21; cf. Rom. 10:16; Phil. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:8; 3:14).
     4 Preterism (from the Latin praeter, “past”) is the belief that all biblical prophecies have already been fulfilled, including Christ’s return, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-3). Modern-day preterism focuses on the Roman ransacking of Jerusalem in the summer of AD 70, a.k.a. the AD 70 Doctrine. See K. L. Moore, “Preterism: What’s the Big Deal (Part 1),” Moore Perspective (3 June 2020), <Link>.
     5 Jesus was repeatedly accused (falsely) of doing this (Matt. 9:3; 26:65; Mark 2:7; John 10:33-36), and was also on the receiving end (Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29; Luke 12:10a; 22:65; 23:39). Paul had been guilty of this himself and compelled others to do it (Acts 26:11; 1 Tim. 1:13), then was on the receiving end (Acts 13:45; 18:6; 1 Cor. 10:30). See also Mark 3:28, 29; Luke 12:10b; Acts 13:45; 18:6; 19:37; Rom. 2:24; 3:8; 14:6; 1 Cor. 10:30; 1 Tim. 1:20; 6:1; Tit. 2:5; 3:2; Jas. 2:7; 1 Pet. 4:4.

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