Posts Tagged ‘Timothy’


The old chestnut of a saying about some spiritual-religious types- they are so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good. This is the state of the city of Colossae. Or I should say the gatherings that Epaphras, a resident of the city and student of Paul were finding themselves in. Now, there is debate on whether or not Colossians is or is not a Pauline epistle (it is in the don’t know, but does it matter category) in which if Pauline is from the 50’s CE while he was wiling his time away in a Roman jail, if not it is from the late first to late second century CE. Some note that the ambivalence of authorship can be due to the fact that Timothy was a co-author with Paul:

 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers[a] in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

-Epistle of Colossians 1:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Writing to the gathering to remind them of who they are. It was a device in greetings to outline who was writing, but also to point out the true character of the person being written today. Sadly, today we short hand it to any honourarium or designation before the person’s name (i.e. Dr., Lt.). Yet Paul was showing where their lives intersected in a positive way, and tangible.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.[b] He is a faithful minister of Christ on your[c] behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks[d] to the Father, who has qualified you[e] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

-Epistle of Colossians 1:3-14 (English Standard Version)

The heresy, as scholars, theologians and preachers phrase it is never explicitly cited by the writer. As we move through the letter he encourages, exhorts and corrects, but never truly outlines what is happening. Now the root of heresy is a choice. A firm, black and white choice. In which, as an ideology-identity develops there is a right or wrong side to be on. The writer is pointing out that the people were lost in the darkness, and found the light. He is using strong language to the saints about wisdom that is learned through application of knowledge to the life journey.

It was in my New Testament Introduction course I believe at Alberta Bible College where we touched on what the heresy could be. I have short termed it to a glib saying, but truly it is the one seeking the short cut to success, inner-peace, to wholeness. Not looking for wholeness where one needs to find it, and do the soul work. But doing it through exterior praise, learning, and exerting of power. It is right and whole, because I say so type of mentality. Slipping back into the shadows.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation[g] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

-Epistle of Colossians 1:15-23 (English Standard Version)

Reconciliation. Paul uses what he has learned, the knowledge of his fundamentalist religion, the Hebrew Testament, and his debating skills to shape an allegorical understanding of the ancient story. He shapes this allegory, this cosmic opera of creation and rebirth into the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. As the cosmos said n-uh to his death, so Paul reminds those in Colossae. It is not to worry about heaven tonight, for today and tomorrow we are called to be in the light.

The light can be a scary place, as it is a body where each of us has a different role. May not be the role we envisioned for ourselves, but a role where we find meaning and resonance. Paul lays it out, as head inquisitor, one with political power, a young dynamo of the religious sect of Judaism and a Roman Citizen, the last thing he wanted was for the Holy Mystery to appear before him, and blind him so that he could see.

To change his comfortable human trajectory.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

-Epistle of Colossians 1:24-29 (English Standard Version)

Life is life.

Life has ups and downs.

Life has joys and suckiness.

Life is filled with hope and sorrow.

Life has a time for everything under the sun, and in the cosmos.

What season are you being called into?

What changes if you follow the path?

 

 


Ah 62 CE or thereabouts as (Saint) Paul (formerly Saul) of Tarsus was in prison following his voyage to Rome. Yes, we have hit an undisputed authentic letter of Paul, his shortest epistle, and one of the top 4 shortest in the Christian Testament (2 & 3 John and Jude coming before). Paul had some aid in a co-authorship some believe with his disciple Timothy. It was a short letter to the city of Colosse (note Epislte of Colossians). It was for the whole community, but specifically written to the wealthy church leader (possibly bishop) there, Philemon. We know Philemon was wealthy, as the letter deals with forgiveness and reconciliation with a slave, Onesimus, who had left Philemon’s home, and his role to serve Paul in prison.

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

-Epistle of Philemon 1-3 (English Standard Version)

First off let’s tackle the elephant in the room with this tweet thread (as it would probably come to Colosse today). Slavery is wrong. The church used passages and writings such as Philemon to prop up the slave industry for far too long. We still see the remnants of it today with language used around sweat shops; no raises in minimum wage; fights against living wages; and those that would defend sex trafficking (or sex trade for those who have not freely chosen it). Paul was a man of his time period when slavery was apart of the socio-economics of the day. He is not writing to endorse the practice, for other writings of his boldly spoke out against slavery (there is no slave, no free). Do not use these words to endorse caste system for that is not the purpose.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.[a] For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you

-Epistle of Philemon 4-7 (ESV)

It is within these words that Paul truly lays out the worth of every human life, every image bearer. Contrary to current and ancient belief on the matter:

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,[b] whose father I became in my imprisonment.11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant[c] but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

-Epistle of Philemon 8-22 (ESV)

Level up to justice and equality. In Paul’s fashion calling out an outdated practice for one that calls themselves into leadership. It is not about the labels, the hierarchy. It is a flat plain of belonging. Forgiving the affronts of society, which is what Philemon had to struggle with for Onesimus left to do the good work of caring for another. In other words, Philemon had to let go of ego and his prestige to welcome Onesimus back. Not only welcome him back though, but become a living example of forgiveness, and the next step reconciliation. In our world, it is apt to remember forgiveness does not mean condoning actions- what Paul is showing here is actions were good and Philemon is being held back by societal construct of vengeance on property- the truth was spoken, much like truth and reconciliation.

As with some actions in our society of violence, reconciliation can be a personal matter to your own being, not letting the pain control you anymore, or the abuser. In some situations it can be an agreed upon moving forward, as we have seen in South Africa, where truth was spoken, and is taught of the horrors of the past, but the society has agreed to move forward with a new beginning.

The fresh start of the Roman prison system. If you survived your time, upon release no record followed you. That is what Paul is communicating to Philemon by saying see Onesimus as he would Paul. Destroying any caste system that Philemon would attempt to fall back on, for the new path.

What caste system belief is holding back the whole you?

 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you,24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

-Epistle of Philemon 23-25 (ESV)

Acknowledging others within the movement. Thanking those you work with for what has been accomplished. Simple leadership secrets that build a person up.

Onesimus was heading back to his owner…would a new reality await?

What new reality awaits you?

 


I have been running a poll to decide where to venture next…into pseudo-Pauline epistles of leadership in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus known colloquially as the Pastoral Epistles. Or into the Petrine line of thought within 1& 2 Peter. These types of reflection are a bit of a comfort zone for me, as I have spent literally decades studying, teaching and preaching from the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament. Yet in this time of renewal, it is also about re-asserting a daily practice. I haven’t fully decided which of them I will open up with but thought I would share broad strokes upon where I would be going.

Image result for st. titusThe Pastoral Epistles were written to young leaders coming into their own in Ephesus (Timothy) and Crete (Titus) respectively. They are seen as having been written at least 8 years after the Acts of the Apostles chapter 28, some will say 1 Timothy was written during Paul’s first imprisonment circa 61 CE but the written dates could come as late as near the end of the First Century. Both Titus and Timothy had journeyed with Paul at different times in his ministry. The Image result for st. timothyauthorship of the epistles comes into dispute because the church appears more highly structured than during Paul’s era, but also there appears to be texts of misogyny which do not fit Paul’s overall writings and teachings post-conversion. Yet it needs to be remembered that using a venerated teacher’s name as a pseudonym was not an act of dishonesty, but rather esteem and honour. It is the writer showing a continuation of lineage within the wisdom tradition.

While the Petrine epistles of 1 & 2 Peter appear to have more authenticity of the author Peter (Simon-Peter, the one whom Jesus of Nazareth gave the keys of the kingdom to in Gospel of Matthew 16:19).  The Gospel of Matthew with this declaration dates from 85-90 CE; and 1 Peter is believed to have been penned by Peter around 60-64 CE as he was martyred under Image result for st. peterEmperor Nero by being crucified upside down in 64 CE.  It is believed that Peter was part of the persecution visited upon the church after Nero burned down most of Rome, hence this letter came from Rome where Peter was serving as Bishop at Image result for st. judethe time. Second Peter has a more gnosticish flare to it, and a heavy leaning on the Epistle of Jude.

Pauline and Petrine Christianity diverged on certain topics, before Constantine’s unification movement in 325 CE. As Peter (or more accurately, his scribe) puts quill to parchment, he leans on the mysticism and prophecy of the Hebrew Bible. Pseudo-Paul (and Paul) will lean on the mystery of Christ. As Peter served as the Bishop of Rome, and noted in the Gospel of Matthew, that the keys to the kingdom were given to him by Jesus of Nazareth, it is how the concept of Apostolic Succession grew within the Vatican. Since as well, the Empire overlaid itself upon the Christianities to make Christendom, it became important for both seats of power to exist in one location. As the Roman Empire collapsed, the church empire would thrive still…yet monastics, mystics and Reformers would keep bringing out the beauty of the mosaic that is the Body of Christ.

As I have written about before, the early movement, like today’s, was not a unified indoctrinated stance. It was a mosaic of beautiful Christianities. We have recently journeyed through James’ Christianity, now these present some Pauline traits, and Petrine. We are in the season of Advent, something new is awaiting to be born into the darkness, a new light into the world. The journey to the new light, takes us through old shadows, and new insights as we pilgrimage to the Creche.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking into the wisdom words of these letters. Either in Apostle’s Shuffle or Pastorally Yours…

What letters are coming to your mailbox…

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

-1 Peter 1:1-2 (English Standard Version)

 Simeon[a] Peter, a servant[b] and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

-2 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1:1-2 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:1-2 (ESV)

Paul, a servant[a] of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began[b] and at the proper time manifested in his word[c] through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

-Titus 1:1-4 (ESV)


St Luke the Physician

St Luke the Physician (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

Quite the catchy title eh? It is a biblical account by the Physician Luke in Acts 16, just on  the heals of the Jerusalem council that stipulated new converts to The Way did not need to adhere to the Mosaic Law or Covenants (ala circumcision).

Then we hit this passage in Acts:

Acts 16

New International Version (NIV)

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

16 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Now to the untrained eye it looks as it Paul totally just went against the message he was to give to the new church members. Yet there is a deeper question to be asked here. Timothy’s mother was Jewish, his father was not. This was a patriarchal society where non-Jews really had no truck with Jewish custom, in fact the circumcision was a sign against the Emperor because it placed allegiance to an authority higher.  So Timothy was uncircumcised.  But did Paul just arbitrarily force Timothy to be circumcised to come on this trip, or perhaps within the new found family freedom in Christ, with a household of believers, Timothy saw a way to embrace his heritage and requested such act?

This is the deeper questions we must ask about the living texts. Why? Simple, otherwise we may miss something simply because of the way the historian or writer recorded it. Timothy was getting the opportunity to experience the heritage of half his family (the Matrilenial line) that he had never had the opportunity to experience growing up possibly. As such, then it would make sense he would want full inclusion.

So is the text as simple, black and white we are doing this because it is what the culture I am going to wants done (as a recent sermon proposed it in church)? No. It can very much be read as a story of a young man finally free from the oppressive practices of his society and being able to make a choice of his own volition of what would be his path to God.