the weblog of Alan Knox


Study to show thyself approved unto God?

Posted by on Aug 12, 2013 in scripture | 15 comments

During this time of year, many people’s thoughts are turning back to school and education, from preschool and elementary school all the way up to college and university… even seminary.

And, many Christians’ thoughts turn to 2 Timothy 2:15 – you know, that verse in which Paul tells his co-worker Timothy to get a good Christian education… right?

This is the verse that I’m talking about (in the KJV translation):

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.(2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)

In fact many schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, and educational programs have adopted this verse as their motto because of the clear command to “study” along with the promise that those who study are “approved unto God” and do not need to be “ashamed” and now know how to “rightly divide the word of truth.”

But, is that really what Paul told Timothy? If so, then we need to understand how to study. But, if that’s not what Paul told Timothy, then we need to understand what he actually said, because it may help us in our own walk with the Lord.

By the way, here is the verse in context in the KJV and two other translations:

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker… (2 Timothy 2:14-17a KJV)

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:14-17a ESV)

Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:14-17a NASB)

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:14-17a NIV)

So, if the ESV, NASB, and NIV translators are correct, then Paul does not actually tell Timothy to “study” in 2 Timothy 2:15. But, what does Paul intend by that exhortation?

For the next several days, I’m going to be examining this passage and trying to understand what Paul intended by this command to Timothy and how it applies to us today.

For now… what do you think Paul meant by 2 Timothy 2:15? Do you think it has anything to do with “study” in the modern sense of the term?


Series on 2 Timothy 2:15

  1. Study to show thyself approved unto God?
  2. Did Paul tell Timothy to “study” in 2 Timothy 2:15?
  3. In 2 Timothy 2:15, what does Paul mean by “word of truth”?
  4. What did Paul mean by “rightly dividing the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15?
  5. 2 Timothy 2:15 – Putting it all together

Scripture… As We Live It #270

Posted by on Jul 28, 2013 in as we live it, scripture | 1 comment

This is the 270th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”

If possible, so far as it depends on you others are peaceable to you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18 re-mix)

(Please read the first post for an explanation of this series.)

But, Paul, why are the Jews rejecting the gospel?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2013 in scripture | 10 comments

We have had a great time discussing and learning from Romans over the last few months. We just finished studying through chapter 10. In Romans 9-10, Paul seems to be answering the question, “But why are the Jews rejecting the gospel?”

Obviously, all Jews did not reject the gospel – Paul was a Jew, for instance. But, many Jews not only rejected the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, they actively worked against this message.

So, why were the Jews (in general) rejecting the gospel?

In Romans 9-10, Paul offers at least three answers to this question:

1) God chooses who to save. (Romans 9:6-29)

2) The Jews do not trust (have faith in) Jesus Christ. (Romans 9:30-10:13)

3) The Roman Christians (and other Christians) are not proclaiming the gospel to them. (Romans 10:14-17)

I find it very interesting that Paul places the “responsibility” of the Jews’ salvation in God’s hands, the Jews’ own hands, and his readers’ hands. They are all responsible – in different ways, and it’s not helpful or complete to remove the responsibility from any of the three.

Also, it’s not helpful to see these three “answers” (or responsible parties) as working separately. Obviously, it all goes together: God choosing – People having faith – Believers proclaiming the gospel… they all go together.

I think this is a great pattern to remember when we’re thinking about salvation for anyone – either a large group of people (a “people group” for instance) or even for an individual.

So, I thought I would include you (my readers) in our discussion. Obviously – and unfortunately – you were not part of the actual discussion – either last week or the many weeks studying Romans leading up to this discussion. But, still, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

First, do you agree that Paul is giving these three answers to the question, “Why do the Jews generally reject the gospel?”

Second, do you agree that it’s beneficial to keep these three “answers” (or responsible parties) in mind when considering salvation today (either for large groups or individuals)?

Finally, do you think there are problems with focusing only on one or two of Paul’s “answers”? If so, what problems could arise from that?

Scripture… As We Live It #269

Posted by on Jul 21, 2013 in as we live it, scripture | 1 comment

This is the 269th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”

And how are they to preach unless they are sent are educated, ordained, and hired by a church? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15 re-mix)

(Please read the first post for an explanation of this series.)

Scripture… As We Live It #268

Posted by on Jul 7, 2013 in as we live it, scripture | 8 comments

This is the 268th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”

In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God would never say that I am proud of my work, even if I did it for God. (Romans 15:17 re-mix)

(Please read the first post for an explanation of this series.)

Replay: How to be an example to others

Posted by on Jul 6, 2013 in discipleship, scripture | 7 comments

Four years ago, I wrote a post called “How to be an example to others.” In many ways, this is still a challenge for me. If I were to change anything in the post below, it would be this: We should not seek to be an example; our life is already an example to those around us. Instead, the question we should ask ourselves is this: “How can we live as a positive example of a follower of Jesus Christ?” I still think that Paul’s “example” to the Thessalonians is a good place to start.


How to be an example to others

In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul reminds the Christians in Thessalonika about the time that he spent with them. Paul probably only spent a few weeks with the Thessalonian believers. However, it seems that he made the most of that time.

This is what Paul says:

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed- God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved- so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last! But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you- I, Paul, again and again- but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2 ESV)

What can we learn from Paul’s example:

1: Continue making disciples in spite of difficulties.

2: Seek to please God, not people.

3: Do not try to persuade people by your rhetoric or your method of teaching or your arguments.

4: Do not make demands on people, even if you think you may have the right.

5: Gently care for people.

6: Share your life with people, not just your words.

7: Work hard serving people and serving with people.

8: Continually encourage people to walk with Christ.

9: Give God all the glory when people grow in maturity.

I don’t know about you, but I think I still have a long way to go before I am following Paul’s example. While I can see where my life and discipleship has matured in some of these areas over the last few years, I can also see where I have much more need for growth.

Primarily, I think the first item is one of the toughest for me. Paul suffered greatly at Philippi – he was imprisoned. Yet, he continued to make disciples. He did not let the difficulties distract him from his purpose.

I tend to be distracted much more easily. If something goes wrong or if life gets difficult, I tend to withdraw and forget or ignore the fact that I am supposed to be making disciples. Sometimes, I let my circumstances dictate my level of obedience. I can learn from Paul here. I can learn to trust God and follow the Spirit in spite of my cicumstances, allowing him to strengthen me.

What about you? Have you seen growth as a disciple-maker in your life? In what area or areas do you still need to grow?

For freedom Christ has set us free

Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 in discipleship, scripture, service | 27 comments

Yes, it’s Independence Day in the United States of America. But, I’m not writing about our political independence from Great Britain. Instead, like many Christians, I’m writing about our freedom in Christ.

But, my take on this freedom we have in Christ may be a little different. You see, according to Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, Jesus has set us free from our slavery to sin and the law so that we now have the freedom to make ourselves slaves to one another.

That’s right… we are now free for ourselves; we are now free to become slaves.

There are two key verses in the last chapter of Galatians:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:14 ESV)

Between these two verses, Paul explains that those who are in Christ are no longer slaves to the law and sin. Christ has freed them. And, just as they trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation, he exhorts them to continue to live by “faith working through love” – not through any kind of law-keeping. Paul is concerned that someone is telling the Galatian believers that they must continue to keep the law to remain in God’s good graces, and he reminds them that this teaching does not come from him.

But, on each side of verses 2-13, there seems to be contradictory statement.

First, in Galatians 5:1, Paul tells his readers that since they are free in Christ, they should never again submit to a yoke of slavery. Then, just a few sentences later in Galatians 5:14, he tells them to use their freedom to serve one another through love. Interestingly, the verb “serve” in Galatians 5:14 is the verb form of the noun slave (which Paul condemned in Galatians 5:1).

So, which is it Paul? Do we never submit to a yoke of slavery? Or do we make ourselves slaves to others? The answer is, “Yes.”

When Paul wrote, “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” context tells us that he was talking specifically about the law and the false hope that is found in trying to keep the law in order to be right with God. He goes on to say that the real hope of righteousness in found in the Holy Spirit by faith. (Galatians 5:5)

However, while we are free – and should never again make ourselves slaves to the law or sin – we are not freed for ourselves or to fulfill our own desires. We are free to make ourselves slaves of other people. And, again, the context tells us exactly what Paul means by “serve one another” (i.e., make ourselves slaves of one another):

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14 ESV)

When we serve one another, we are demonstrating God’s love to one another, and thus keeping the Great Commandment (as Jesus might say) or fulfilling the Royal Law (as James might say).

So, yes, yes, yes, we are free indeed… For freedom Christ has set us free. What kind of freedom is it? Freedom to make ourselves slaves to others so that we can demonstrate that we love others more than we love ourselves… which is the best demonstration of our love for God. (For a parallel to this freedom and slavery analogy, see Romans 6:15-23.)

Do elders manage or care for the church?

Posted by on Jul 1, 2013 in elders, scripture | 35 comments

When Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, he either left a letter with him or sent a letter to him in order to help his young apostolic coworker. (1 Timothy) In part of that letter, Paul wrote to help his friend understand who should be recognized (or appointed) as elders among the church. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

In this section, Paul describes what kind of person should be an elder. There are many different descriptions within this short passage. But, for this post, I want to focus on one sentence (in two verses):

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:4-5 ESV)

This passage is often presented as an indication that elders are “managers” over the church. However, the verbs used indicate something different.

To begin with, there are two important verbs used in this passage: “manage” (in vs. 4 & 5) and “care for” (in vs. 5).

First, the verb translated “manage” comes from the Greek verb προΐστημι (prohistemi). This verb has a wide range of meanings, including “be over,” “superintend,” and “managed” and also “aid,” “care for,” and “give attention to.” So, as the ESV translates it above, this verb can definitely mean “manage.”

In the passage above, the verb προΐστημι (prohistemi – “manage”) demonstrates the relationship between the elders and their families, especially their children. Again, in that context, “manage” would work.

Next, the verb translated “care for” comes from the Greek verb ἐπιμελέομαι (epimeleomai). Unlike the verb above, this verb has a much more narrow range of meaning: “to take care of a person or thing.” This verb cannot mean “manage.”

The verb ἐπιμελέομαι (epimeleomai – “take care of”) is only used in one other passage in the New Testament – in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan:

He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” (Luke 10:34-35 ESV)

It’s clear from the context above what “take care of” means. It means “to render aid” or “offer support”… it does not mean “manage.”

Now, remember, Paul is making a comparison. He’s comparing a person’s relationship to their family and suggesting that the familiar relationship will be an indication of their relationship with the church. Paul describes the familial relationship with a verb that could mean either “manage” or “care for.” But, he describes the church relationship with a verb that could only mean “care for.”

Regardless of what Paul is saying about the elders’ relationship with their family, he is definitely not saying that the elders are to “manage” the church. Instead, he is saying that elders are to “care for” the church, much like the “good samaritan” took care of the wounded traveler.

By the way, there is another Greek verb that falls within the same semantic domain (meaning) as the verb “care for” (ἐπιμελέομαιepimeleomai). Which verb is that? The verb that is usually translated “shepherd,” which is also often used to describe elders.

[I wrote a similar post about 3 1/2 years ago called “Manage his own household?” However, the Greek fonts became corrupted during a database upgrade, so I decided to rewrite the post here.]

Scripture… As We Live It #267

Posted by on Jun 30, 2013 in as we live it, scripture | 2 comments

This is the 267th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”

There is therefore now no condemnation acceptance for those who are in Christ Jesus who do not believe and act in a manner that we approve. (Romans 8:1 re-mix)

(Please read the first post for an explanation of this series.)

Replay: Reciprocity and Mutuality among the Church

Posted by on Jun 29, 2013 in community, scripture | Comments Off on Replay: Reciprocity and Mutuality among the Church

Four years ago, I wrote a post called “Reciprocity.” In the post, I looked at the meaning and importance of “reciprocal pronouns” in Scripture. Then, I consider some of the reciprocal/mutual instructions that we find in Scripture. Some of those instructions are easily recognized and accepted as mutual by the church today. However, others are not usually seen as being mutual – even though they use the same kind of mutual pronoun in Scripture. I wonder what would happen if these we not only recognized, but lived as mutual/reciprocal instructions.



According to Princeton’s wordnet, “reciprocity” means “a relation of mutual dependence or action or influence.” Similarly, a “reciprocal pronoun” is “a pronoun or pronominal phrase (as ‘each other’) that expresses a mutual action or relationship between the individuals indicated in the plural.”

Did you know that reciprocal pronouns are common in the New Testament? They are. They are usually translated “one another” or “each other” or even “each one”. Reciprocal pronouns are very important for us to understand how we should relate to one another. Many times, this relationship is obvious and easy to understand.

For example, in 1 John 4:7, John writes that we should “love one another.” (ESV) Most believers recognize that our relationship with one another should be expressed with mutual love. If person A loves person B, but person B does not love person A, we recognize that they are not loving one another.

Similarly, in 1 Peter 5:14, Peter writes that we should “greet (or welcome) one another.” (ESV) Again, it is easy to recognize that if one believer greets someone, but the greeting or welcome is not returned, then they are not greeting one another.

In James 5:9, James writes, “Do not grumble against one another.” (ESV) Grumbling probably means complaining. So, believers should not complain about one another. So, if one sister refuses to complain, but another sister does complain, then the two are not following James’ command. They are grumbling against one another.

We find Paul using reciprocal pronouns often. For example, in Galatians 5:13, he tells us, “Through love serve one another.” (ESV) This is also a command that recognize as a reciprocal command. If a brother is serving someone, but that brother refuses to serve, then the two are not serving one another.

But, there are other reciprocal instructions that are difficult to understand. In fact, in some circles, the reciprocity is removed from these commands.

Consider Paul’s statement in Colossians 3:16. He says that when the word of Christ dwells in us richly, we will demonstrate that by “teaching and admonishing one another.” (ESV) How reciprocal are we with this instruction? If one person teaches, but another person does not teach, do we recognize that they are not teaching one another? What if one person is admonishing but another is not admonishing? Do we allow this instruction to only apply to some believers but not to other believers?

Paul makes a similar statement in Romans 15:14, where he says that he is convinced that the Romans are “able to instruct (admonish) one another.” (ESV) Does the reciprocity in this statement apply only to the Romans? Did they have something that believers today do not have? Or, could God still expect all believers to teach/instruct/admonish reciprocally?

Another interesting reciprocal statement is found in Romans 14:19. Again speaking to the believers in Rome, Paul says, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (the edification of one another).” (ESV) The reciprocal pronoun is harder to see in the ESV translation “mutual upbuilding.” But apparently Paul that it was important that all of the believers in Rome reciprocally pursue those things that led to peace and edification. Is this still something that we all pursue reciprocally.

Peter writes some of these difficult reciprocal commands also. In 1 Peter 4:10, he writes, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (ESV) Do we recognize the importance – the necessity even – of all believers exercising their spiritual gifts in a manner that can serve other believers? Do we sees this as every believer’s responsibility?

There are many other “difficult” reciprocal commands. A couple would include “submit to one another” (Ephesians 5:21), “humble yourselves before one another” (1 Peter 5:5), or “count one another as more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). These, and many, many other commands in Scripture, are reciprocal commands. That means that the commands are give to a plural group to be carried out as “a mutual action”.

Why do you think its easy for us to recognize “love one another” and “serve one another” as mutual requirements, while we tend to not recognize “teach one another” or “edify one another” as mutual requirements?