18th Oct, 2018 Day 291
We see in Scripture that God displays love and divine jealousy for his people (Deuteronomy 4:23-24). He is a God who is jealous for the honour of his name and the affections of his people. The picture we have here is akin to that of a husband who gets angry when another competes for his wife’s affection, or her affection veers away after other lovers. In his love and mercy God battles against any threats that may draw his beloved, the church, away from him.
God hasn’t changed in being passionately jealous about any stolen affection from his bride or misplaced honour due to his name. I believe that Paul’s instructions about the marks of servant hearted spiritual leaders (elders or overseers) of the church and that of deacons (those who serve under elders) should be viewed through this lens. The church at Ephesus was under siege by false teachers who were seducing believers with lies and pulling them further from God’s truth. We are to be watchful of the beliefs and desires we hold – do they reflect an affection and honour for God and his ways?
We see God’s heart for the church through Paul’s instructions – his bride, the church, must be guided and guarded by faithful men who would battle for her and support her to direct her affections to her beloved, Jesus. This was God’s plan for the church at Ephesus and the church at large, then and now.
Timothy’s task, along with the church, was to appoint such men called into this crucial leadership role, and he and the church were given the standards of character and conduct that mark overseers. It’s clear from these that there is no spiritual and secular divide, instead their personal and domestic lives are as important as their church life. The overseer should be pure in conduct, self-disciplined, balanced in outlook and free from prevalent sins that entangle many in society. Recent converts are exempt from this leadership role, due to the pitfalls accompanying it that they are ill prepared to handle. The overseer must also have a good reputation outside the church; otherwise he may fall into Satan’s trap and lose credibility and trust from outsiders. We are to be thankful for and honouring of the faithful and godly elders that we’ve been granted; we’re also to hold onto these Scriptural truths in appointing any prospective elders.
The Greek word diakonos, which we get the word deacon from, can be typically translated to mean either servant or minister. We’re not given details of their roles in this letter, but it appears that they served the church on behalf of the overseers ( Acts 6:1-7). Paul provides similar moral and spiritual markers for deacons as those given for elders, in addition to a mandated period of probation to ensure purity of conduct. As with elders, we’re to honour the service of deacons in the church and keep in mind these requirements in appointing future deacons.
Paul highlights his letter as being one of apostolic guidance for the ordering of the church. It is a divine mandate with the purpose of guiding and guarding the hearts and minds of God’s people for God’s glory alone. Paul uses three expressions to describe the church:
- God’s household – we are God’s family and have his presence with us.
- The church of the living God – we have the dignity of belonging to the one true God as opposed to the lifeless idols that so many worship.
- The pillar and buttress of the truth – we hold and stand on truth and are entrusted to display this to the world.
At the end of the chapter, Paul provides a summary of the gospel truth, in what is understood by scholars to be part of an ancient Christian hymn. This takes us through Christ’s mission from Bethlehem to heaven. We as the church are to stand on and proclaim this most important truth which gives access to spiritual life in God to all who believe.