Perspectives In Titus: Holding Fast To Trustworthy Doctrine

Titus 1 v 9As we move along in our study of Paul’s letter to Titus, we find that Titus 1:9 really needs to be treated in its own blog post. Please don’t misunderstand me as saying that it stands in isolation from its context. Rather, there’s simply too much in it to discuss it in the same essay with verses 5-8, and verse 10 begins a new paragraph.

As always, let’s look at verse 9 in context, just to remind ourselves of Paul’s flow of thought.

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ~~Titus 1:5-9 (ESV)

Paul has been instructing Titus on the qualifications of an elder, and has just outlined the type of character a man must have in order to assume this office. Now he changes gears, ever so slightly, to a prospective elder’s ability to handle God’s Word.

An elder, Paul insists, must hold firm to God’s Word, not compromising it to accommodate the ideas of others. He needs an undivided loyalty to Christ and His teaching (see Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13). Even though Paul here is talking about much more than the tension between God and money, the principle of single hearted devotion still applies. Barnes elaborates on this concept by commenting:

This means that he is to hold this fast, in opposition to one who would wrest it away, and in opposition to all false teachers, and to all systems of false philosophy. He must be a man who is firm in his belief of the doctrines of the Christian faith, and a man who can be relied on to maintain and defend those doctrines in all circumstances.

So an elder must hold firm to Scripture. This exhortation brings us to the nature of Scripture, which makes it worthy of holding firmly. Paul calls God’s Word trustworthy. Elders, and Christians in general, can absolutely rely on it!

I want you to notice the phrase, “the trustworthy word as taught.” Vincent’s Word Studies  tells us that this phrase, “as taught” literally means “according to the teaching” and therefore communicates the idea of agreement with the teaching of the apostles. Embellishments to it, such as those Paul alludes to in verse 14, dilute it, turning people away from its pure principles.

An elder must hold firm to God’s Word  for the purpose of teaching his people sound doctrine. He doesn’t teach vague ideas or worldly wisdom, but the clear teachings of Scripture. He avoids seeker-sensitive models that incorporate popular ideas of the   world into the Gospel.

He also must hold firm to God’s Word  in order to rebuke those who contradict it. In context, Paul apparently means false teachers. We’ll see the application of this clause next Monday as we look at the group of false teachers who disrupted the church in Crete.

Elders aren’t the only Christians who need to hold firm to God’s Word, however. You and I also bear a responsibility to cling tenaciously to the sound doctrine of the Bible, teaching it to our children and to other women. For that reason Titus 1:9 applies to each of us. We can join our elders in holding firmly to the trustworthy Word of God, confident that it will never fail.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: March 12 — March 18

Flower mask samplerMichelle Lesley often receives questions from the ladies who read her blog. Responding to a frequently asked question, she writes The Mailbag: Should Christians drink alcohol? She keeps her response, as always, thoroughly grounded in the Word of God.

Speaking of Michelle, be sure to listen in as she discusses The New Apostolic Reformation with Andy Olsen on Echo Zoe Radio. She explains what the movement is and how its teachings are worming their way into even sound churches.

In his post, How Jesus Called Out False Teachers and Deadly Doctrine, Tim Challies reminds us that our Lord never sacrifices truth in the name of love.

Those of you who read the Monday Bible Studies on this blog know I sometimes include word studies. Hey, I’m a writer — I like words! But most of you also know I firmly believe in interpreting the Bible in context. For that reason, George H. Guthrie’s piece, How Word Studies Go Bad: A (Slightly Funny) Example both amuses and teaches us to be careful when we do word studies.

Guthrie’s article inspired Peter Krol of Knowable Word to write Bible Word Studies Gone Bad to help us determine when it’s advantageous to study an individual word in a Scripture passage.

Take time to read The “Vaguely Christian But Still Cool” Starter Pack that Rebekah Womble has on her Wise In His Eyes  blog. Her words are clever as well as sobering.

Tom, who blogs at ExCatholic4Christ, gives us Creeds, Confessions, and lists of beliefs to make us think a bit. I disagree with him about the Nicene Creed as to its level of sophistication, but over all I believe he makes some valuable points.

In Losing my salvation, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time reveals something that she and John MacArthur have in common. Actually, you and I share this trait with them, whether we admit it or not.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Gospel: Pure And Simple

3D Cross Mother of PearlProfessing Christians use the word “gospel” all the time, but sometimes we get so caught up in tangential matters that we forget the Gospel itself. I’ve been guilty of this type of spiritual amnesia many times.  As I’ve confessed before, for example, my involvement in so-called Christian psychology led me to consider the possibility that anyone who espoused the principles of pop-psychology (whether they confessed Jesus Christ openly or not) might be saved. Obviously, at that point in time, I’d forgotten the Gospel.

In recent years, the Lord has graciously used a variety of Christian preachers, teachers and bloggers to help me appreciate the importance of preaching the Gospel to myself. Doing so reminds me that, apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I’m a vile sinner deserving of nothing but eternity in hell.

Simply put, the Gospel proclaims that Jesus Christ died as the substitute for all who believe in Him, bearing the wrath of God that our sins incur. He was buried, and tree days later God raised Him from the dead as evidence that He accepted His sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we respond to this grace by repenting of sin and believing in Him.

Now, the Gospel definitely has ramifications. True believers can’t remain in sinful lifestyles, for instance, because we understand what our sin cost the Lord. Titus 2:11-14 makes it clear that the Lord saved us with the purpose of making us holy.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

Throughout this blog, I write about various aspects of walking in holiness as redeemed women. And that’s definitely fitting. But all week, I’ve felt convicted that I needed to remind my readers (and  myself) of the basic Gospel. If we allow anything to obscure the fundamental truth that Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf and for His glory, we risk embracing a false gospel that, left unchecked will inevitability bring us to damnation.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

How Much Do Numbers Really Count?

Little ChurchIf you must know, I check my blog stats way too frequently. I get giddy when I see lots of visitors, and my heart sinks when the views plummet. I struggle over whether or not to work harder at promoting The Outspoken TULIP, sometimes thinking I should focus more on sensational topics instead of Bible Studies and church history. Thankfully, the Lord always convicts me of my self-serving attitude, reminding me that my goal must be to blog for His honor rather than mine. He’ll make sure the right people read it.

My little bouts with vanity remind me of churches that measure themselves by the number of warm bodies that fill their seats (and consequently their offering plates) on Sunday mornings. Such churches turn to marketing methods and more palatable presentations of “Christianity” in order to attract young families with earning potential. Though leaders in such churches convince themselves and their congregations that they desire to advance God’s kingdom, I know from first-hand involvement in two such churches that they primarily seek to expand their organizations.

Numerical growth can be a blessing. Acts 2:41, for example, certainly celebrates the fact that 4000 people came to salvation in response to Peter’s Pentecost sermon. The church that John and I belong to certainly prays for revival in New England, longing to see many people return to the faith of the godly men and women who first came to Plymouth Rock. So please understand that I do see great value in a church’s numerical increase.

Quantity, however, must always assume a second place to quality, especially in relation to church growth. Rick Warren’s supporters defend his marketing techniques on the premise that “he brings so many people” into churches. Yet many people who purportedly “get saved” through his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, come through a grossly watered-down presentation that barely resembles the Biblical Gospel (page 58):

 “Right now, God is inviting you to live for his glory by fulfilling the purposes he made you for . . . all you need to do is receive and believe…. Will you accept God’s offer?” Again, he offers a sample prayer, “I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity, “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.”

That’s woefully inadequate, but much more attractive than the posts I’ve recently written about the Gospel. He fails to explain why his audience needs salvation, or even how Jesus accomplished salvation. Basically, Warren reduces the Lord to a life-improving commodity. That way, more people will, he believes, come into our churches.

But we must desire something much more eternal than full membership rolls and overflowing offering plates. We must desire that men and women come to a real knowledge of Christ. And the Lord said very candidly that only a minority of people would truly experience regeneration.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~~Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

Yes, we by all means ought to pray for more people to fill our churches. But we must pray even more for true conversions, even if doing so means half-empty pews and smaller offerings. Numbers, as exciting and affirming as they are, simply don’t reflect surrendered hearts that focus on glorifying Jesus.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

How On Earth Could Yoga Violate The First Commandment?

LotusBlogging about yoga, and so-called Christian yoga in particular, intimidates me. So many people (including one close friend of mine) feel that I really don’t understand the ability to practice yoga’s physical exercises without getting involved in the spiritual aspects like meditation. As a result, I pressure myself to write blog posts absolutely dripping with documentation. I assume that that practice gives me credibility.

It should.

But it rarely does.

I’ve learned that most evangelicals who engage in yoga simply aren’t interested in having anyone challenge them on this matter. They may not express open hostility toward me (some have, admittedly), but they certainly don’t take my point of view seriously enough to read the articles I present to them. One friend did read them and thankfully withdrew from her yoga class, but most give me a metaphorical pat on the head in silent acknowledgment that I don’t understand the subject as well as they do.

In response to their obvious condescension, I’ve collected several online articles explaining the various reasons that Christians should stay away from yoga. In anticipation of this essay, I looked at a few of them, hoping for a few quotes that would help make my case that yoga violates the First Commandment.

And God spoke all these words, saying,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me. ~~Exodus 20:1-3 (ESV)

Did you know that every yoga pose represents worship to a Hindu deity? I must document this claim, even though all my research repeatedly verifies it as fact. Marcia Montenegro of Christian Answers for the New Age writes:

The Yoga most practiced by Christians is Hatha Yoga. The poses themselves are often depictions of Hindu deities, and the hand positions mimic the hand positions seen on the statues of Hindu gods. These hand positions are called mudras and are thought to help manipulate and channel prana, a supposed divine force or breath of the universe.(Source)

This quote, added to similar quotes from a variety of Christian and Hindu articles I’ve read about yoga over the past 11 years, affirms that yoga can’t be separated from its Hindu origins.

In opposition to those who try to separate the physical aspect of yoga from its Hindu foundation, the Hindu Wisdom website states otherwise:

Yoga is an integral part of the Hindu religion. There is a saying: “There is no Yoga without Hinduism and no Hinduism without Yoga.” The country of origin of Yoga is undoubtedly India, where for many hundreds of years it has been a part of man’s activities directed towards higher spiritual achievements. The Yoga Philosophy is peculiar to the Hindus, and no trace of it is found in any other nation, ancient or modern. It was the fruit of the highest intellectual and spiritual development. The history of Yoga is long and ancient. The earliest Vedic texts, the Brahmanas, bear witness to the existence of ascetic practices (tapas) and the vedic Samhitas contain some references, to ascetics, namely the Munis or Kesins and the Vratyas.

Now, I may be no more than an aging housewife with only a Bachelors degree in English Literature, but I beg you to consider the possibility that I’ve actually done my homework on whether or not Christians should practice yoga. Before you dismiss my concerns, do some research of your own. And ask yourself if practicing a form of Hindu worship allows you to obey the First Commandment.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Why Study Peter Waldo?

ancient-church-01In thinking about this Tuesday series on the Protestant Reformation, I realize that simply recounting the history probably wastes time. The Internet contains a plethora of articles and videos by people much more knowledgeable about church history than I, which means you can easily click or tap your way to understanding the key players and highlights.

I’m not convinced you would. As I’ve remarked on several occasions, most 21st Century Americans tend to avoid history, claiming that it’s boring and irrelevant. Okay, sometimes it certainly feels that way. But if you take the time to study church history, you’ll find that it’s fascinating as well as helpful in discerning problems confronting the present-day Church.

My job isn’t to spoon feed you  history. Rather, it’s to get you so excited about the Reformation that you’ll investigate it for yourselves. When I mention, for instance, Peter Waldo, I want you to see his Biblical challenges to Roman Catholic teachings as inspirational. How can this 12th Century Frenchman encourage us to stand for sound doctrine amid the aberrational teachings of our own day?

We know that, as a result of studying the Bible, Peter Waldo came to believe in justification by faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Consequently, he rejected the doctrines of Purgatory and Transubstantiation.  As you can imagine,  the church hierarchy wasn’t exactly pleased.

Waldo suffered excommunication in 1184 for his views. At that point in time, excommunication presupposed a person’s damnation as well as virtually cutting him off from the rest of society. Clearly, he paid an enormously high price for his commitment to Scripture.

Why didn’t Waldo keep his dissenting views to himself? Here, we can only speculate, I guess. But let me suggest the obvious possibility that Waldo genuinely believed that the Roman Catholic Church had deviated from the truth of God’s Word. As he saw it, fidelity to Scripture. was more important than placating the church, but he was willing to take personal risks in order to honor Christ.

Ladies, are we as willing to stand against popular teachings that go against Scripture, even if we forfeit the approval of our friends and churches? That’s a serious question, and one that I hope the study of the Reformers will help us work through. I believe that the example of people like Peter Waldo can encourage us to stand on the Word of God, even as our own churches pressure us to compromise.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Perspectives In Titus: How To Be Above Reproach

Lady's BibleAs I hope you’ll remember from last Monday’s Bible Study on Titus, ladies, the apostle Paul left Titus in Crete with the task of appointing elders in every town. Paul instructed that these be men who were above reproach. Today we will take a more detailed look at how elders could actually be above reproach.

But before we examine Titus 1:7-8, let’s read these verses in their immediate context.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ~~Titus (ESV)

You can see from this passage that Paul repeats his injunction for overseers to be above reproach, as if to emphasize the importance of this characteristic. Overseers, or elders, must be above reproach, we see in verse 7, because they are God’s stewards. A steward  cares for and manages someone else’s property or affairs. Therefore, they need reputations that make accusations against them difficult to believe.

How are elders to cultivate such reputations? Interestingly, Paul introduces this practical discussion by enumerating ways that an elder should not behave.

To begin with, an elder mustn’t be arrogant (some translations say self-willed). The sense conveys an arrogance that presumes  on the office. In appointing elders, Titus should avoid men who would rule as autocrats.

Going along with that thought, Paul continues by instructing that an elder must not be quick-tempered. Amid the inevitable frustrations of ministry, anger could expose an attitude of self-will. He needs the ability to bridle his temper.

A steward of God’s Church must not be a drunkard. Believers Bible Commentary points out that First Century Mediterranean culture used wine as a common beverage (probably like we use coffee). So Paul’s point here really focuses, not on abstinence, but on self-control.

Along with sobriety in terms of wine, an elder mustn’t be violent. This refers specifically to physical violence .

Lastly in this list of negatives , an elder must not be greedy.  Paul doesn’t want these men exploiting the Gospel as a way to make money. Many false teachers did (and still do) use religion as a means of personal profit. That motive is unacceptable.

In contrast  to these negative qualities, in verse 8 Paul lists characteristics  that actually do befit an elder.

Firstly, an elder must be hospitable. In first Century Mediterranean culture,  hospitality had a special importance,  and Christians  needed to open their homes to strangers. Elders  had the responsibility  to set an  example  of such hospitality.

Next,  Paul says that an elder must be a lover of good. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown  tell us that the Greek  implies  that they are a lover of all that is good, whereas  Barnes expands this notion with the idea that an elder should love people of good character regardless of their outward  appearance  or circumstances.

Following  this quality, an elder  should be sober, which carries  the idea of being  sensible enough to make sound judgments.

Additionally,  an elder must be upright, or just. By this we mean that he is able to deal fairly and honestly  with others, particularly as a steward of God’s Church.

An elder must also be holy. One might consider this as an obvious point, but Paul has reason for including it.This idea points to an attitude of devotion  towards the Lord. Therefore, a steward of God’s Church must maintain a deep and robust relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally,  Paul directs that an elder  must be disciplined, or able to control his passions as well as his outward  behavior. Perhaps this point sums up  these two verses.

Before we conclude that verses 7 and 8 apply exclusively to elders, please remember that elders serve as examples to the rest of us. God calls all Christians to live obedient lives in accord with Scripture and by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. Our elders merely demonstrate how we can live above reproach.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Let Me Hide Myself In Thee

In and of myself, nothing can commend me to God. He is eternally and perfectly holy, unstained by sin and completely pure. As much as I love Him, I have no ability to live up to His righteous standards. I long to live in that degree of holiness, I assure you, but I have no resources to do so in my own power.

Praise the Lord, Jesus Christ not only bore my sin on the cross, but He exchanged them for His righteousness! He graciously hides me from God’s wrath, promising me eternal life because of His death and resurrection. I hide myself in Him, confident that He will hold me in His righteousness.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: March 5 — March 11

Lollipop SamplerElizabeth Prata, blogging in The End Time, echoes my sentiments in her article, A note of encouragement: Don’t be discouraged about the Internet. With so much animosity on social media these days, her perspective refreshes me.

If you haven’t been reading Leslie A.’s fascinating series on developing discernment in Growing 4 Life,  please start. This week she writes Learn to Discern: What Is Your Paradigm? What a helpful and insightful blog post!

Oh yes, in my 46 years as a Christian I’ve watched plenty of my friends turn away from Christ. Some of these defections hurt worse than others. So I appreciate Jordan Standridge’s 4 Thoughts About People who Walk Away from the Lord in The Cripplegate this week.

In Not Your Mom’s Prosperity Gospel, Rebekah Womble of Wise In His Eyes discusses ways that evangelicals try exploitative tactics in attempts to manipulate the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t try these at home.

Tim Challies’ piece, Stop Calling Everything Hate, uses good common sense. Although that type of sense grows less common by the day, evidently.

An assignment in her Moral Theology class prompted Kim Shay to write Ethical Adventures for Out of the Ordinary. Writing about the evils of abortion isn’t as simple as she thought it would be.

Challenging the stereotypes of Calvinism,  Steve Altroggie of The Blazing Center writes 5 Reasons I’m A Calvinist. Notice how he roots each reason firmly in Scripture.

Praise God for Michelle Lesley writing Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient to remind us that we no longer need personal revelations from God. I wish such essays were unnecessary, but I appreciate people like Michelle who boldly stand for the sufficiency of Scripture.

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin