Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Following Sound Doctrine - October 2, 2016 - Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) - Text: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Last week we finished reading Paul’s first letter to young pastor Timothy. This week we pick up with his second letter. In much of his first letter Paul instructed Timothy on how to recognize and counteract false teaching. His main answer was simple and straight forward: “know the right teaching.” In this second letter, Paul writes Timothy and his church in Ephesus and encourages them in their struggle against persecution. As always, we are reminded that although God through Paul first wrote these words to Timothy, they are also written to use here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield, 2016.
As with most of Paul’s letters, he begins with words of introduction, “1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 2To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (v. 1-7).
Paul begins with words of grace and even to us today he begins with words of grace. Grace, God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Grace, God’s undeserved love and mercy for us. God’s grace, those gifts God graciously pours out on us His children, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Without God’s grace we would be left to our own devices and we would be eternally lost. Thus, it is God’s grace and His mercy which bring peace, true peace, not simply peace as the world understands peace, that is not simply a moment or two or an hour or two of calm in this chaotic world, but true peace, peace that comes only from the forgiveness of sins, which gives life and salvation, which brings the removal of guilt and despair. How fitting Paul begins with grace because God’s grace is the beginning of our salvation.
Paul adds words of thanks. He gives thanks for Timothy’s faith and for our faith, faith given to us by God. Faith is not something we get for ourselves. Faith is not something we claim for ourselves. Faith has its origin outside of us, it comes from God and is given to us by God. And as we have said before, it is in instrument which means that it must have an object. The only object of saving faith is Jesus Himself. Paul gives thanks for our faith because he knows that of our inborn sinful human nature, our natural inclination is to refuse and reject the gifts God has to give and we do refuse and reject every week and every day as we live life our own way instead of living life God’s way. So, Paul gives thanks that in spite of ourselves God does give us faith and God gives Jesus as the object of our faith.
And Paul adds words of thanks for Timothy’s ordination, the laying on of hands. Not only was Timothy given faith, he was also ordained into the office of Holy Ministry wherein Paul says the Lord has given him a spirit of power and love and self-control.
Paul continues to give words of encouragement, “8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 13Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (v. 8-14).
Paul is writing this letter from prison. He has already been put into prison for his faith and his boldness in proclaiming the Gospel. He is a prisoner because of his faith and he is not ashamed to be so. As a matter of fact, the early apostles and Christians counted themselves worthy to be able to be chosen to suffer for their faith. They believe it was a privilege to suffer for their faith.
Thinking about Paul’s own life, remember, he began, not as a Christian, but as one who was persecuting the Christians. He believed his calling was to put into jail and put to death the Christians because he believed they were a false sect. Yet, after God called Paul to faith, after He put faith in his heart and after He sent Paul out to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul says his conscience is clear. Yes, even though he once persecuted the church, that was before Christ revealed Himself to him. Since he has been given faith, since he has been called by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul knows he is forgiven for his past life and he looks forward to continuing to serve the Lord in any way he can, even in chains.
And so, Paul reminds us of just what God’s grace is all about. God’s grace is given in this that Jesus was persecuted, that Jesus suffered death for us. The reason Jesus came into this world, the reason God intervened in human history is because we could not save ourselves. There was nothing inside of us that was of redeeming value. It all had to come from outside of us and that is why Jesus came, as one who was without sin, being truly God, so that He could take our sins upon Himself and suffer and die, as a human being, for us, in our place. And in so doing He abolished death, that is He abolished eternal spiritual death.
So, Paul reiterates his apostleship, being appointed by God. Paul has a right to proclaim law and Gospel. Paul has a right, even an obligation to share the good news of salvation, because he was called by God, given faith and forgiveness by God and set apart to be an apostle to the gentiles.
Paul’s encouragement, then, is in keeping our doctrine pure. Yes, doctrine is important. Paul calls our doctrine, that is our teaching, “sound words” and “the good deposit.” There are some in our world and even in our own church body that would suggest that people’s lives and souls are more important than concerning ourselves with purity of doctrine. That is not what Paul, by inspiration of God tells us. God, through Paul, warns us of the importance of keeping His doctrine, His teachings pure and steadfast, lest we give up our pure doctrine for the false doctrine and lies of our world, society and culture. And we have seen many churches today compromise their doctrine and go the way of the world and what are they teaching is often what is contrary to the word of God.
And so, Paul encourages proclamation. Yes, we are to keep our doctrine pure, but not simply for the sake of keeping our doctrine pure. As we keep our doctrine pure our natural response will be to want to share that good news with others through our own proclamation, through our words as well as our actions.
What Does This Mean? God’s first call to us is a call to life and that call is at our conception. At our conception God calls us to and gives us life. God’s second call to us is a call to faith. It is God who calls us to faith and it is God who gives us faith. We do not look for or seek God, He looks for us, seeks us, finds us and calls us to faith. The Holy Spirit calls us to faith through the means of God’s word and through Holy Baptism. Through these outward means God calls and gives faith.
Because faith is an instrument, it must have an object. God has given Jesus as the only object of saving faith. Jesus is our Messiah. He is the one who was and is God, born in human flesh in order to live for us, that is in order to do all that we cannot do. Remember, the Gospel is not simply that Jesus died for our sins, but the fulness of the Gospel is the fact that He lived for us doing what we are unable to do. And after living perfectly, after fulfilling all God’s law and prophecies perfectly, He took all our sins upon Himself and all the sins of all people, of all places of all times and He died for us. He paid the price for our sins, eternal spiritual death, for us on the cross. But the cross and the grave had no hold on Him, as on the third day He rose from the dead, for us. Reminding us that we too will rise again.
God’s third call is His call to vocation, that is God calls us to live lives of faith no matter what our work or station. In other words, God calls us to live lives of faith where ever we live and work. For some, God offers a fourth call, God calls some men to serve in the Office of Holy Ministry. These men are set apart by God and called by congregation to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments, to forgive and retain sins, to visit the sick and shut-in. God calls some men to the Office of Holy Ministry, but He calls all Christians to the priesthood of all believers. God calls us as priest to offer our lives as living sacrifices to Him. Indeed, we serve God by serving others in our vocations and that is what gives our vocations and lives value, pointing to Jesus, being loved by Jesus, being given to by Jesus.
God calls us to keep His message pure. God never asks us to be successful. As a matter of fact, the only places Scripture speaks about success is in speaking about military campaigns and the success is not that of the army, but that of God. God does, however, call us to be faithful, until death and He will give us the crown of life. We are to be careful that what we teach is indeed the Word of God, thus we are to be as the Bereans. We are to listen and read carefully and compare everything we read and hear against the Word of God and so rightly keep His word pure.
And God calls us to get His message out. We are not supposed to “keep the faith” per say, but we are to tell others of our Lord and the good gifts and blessings He has to give. And again, God does not necessarily give us success as we might define success, but He simply asks that we remain faithful in keeping His message straight and He will give the fruits of our labor, when and where He pleases.
And so, I would encourage you in your faith this morning. God loves you and He created you to love, thus God gives. God has given you life. God has given you faith. God has given His Son and His life for you, for your forgiveness. God has given you His Word. And God continues to abundantly pour out His blessings on you. May you be encouraged by God and His word to remain faithful, but also to respond in faith by sharing the message of salvation with others. In this way we do give God the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.