Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas in the Epistles - 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 3:14-16 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

How the New Testament communicates Jesus Christ
Throughout the New Testament letters we find portions of scripture that refer back to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  To familiarize the reader with how the New Testament communicates Jesus Christ, it is instructive to consider it as four major divisions:

1. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) = Present Jesus Christ
2. Book of Acts = Preaches about Jesus Christ
3. The Epistles or Letters (21 in all) = Explain Jesus Christ
4. Book of Revelation = Prioritizes the Glory of Jesus Christ

Christmas truth ought to be celebrated every day by Christians
From the brief discussion above we can zero in on one of those passages in the New Testament letters that "explains" to us the significance of Jesus Christ's incarnation: 1 Timothy 3:14-16.  This passage, though only three verses in length, gives us incredible reasons as to why we should make the truth of Jesus Christ's first coming a major part of everyday Christian living.  Note what Paul has to say about the significance of God the Son's incarnation and its practical significance in the lives of God's people:

1. Confidence of Christian living is associated with Christ's first coming 1 Timothy 3:15
2. Christ's supernatural power is available because of His first coming 1 Timothy 3:16a
3. Christian mind is fed by the doctrines of His first coming 1 Timothy 3:16b

Practical, Supernatural and Doctrinal Christianity: The fruit, root and trunk of Christianity
The heart of this blogsite is centered around the premise that the Christian life operates upon three legs: practical living, supernatural living and doctrinal living.  Think of Christian practice as the "fruit" of the Christian life, the supernatural power of Jesus Christ through His word as the "root", and the doctrine of scripture as the "trunk".  Jesus for example tells us that you will know the true believer by the "fruit" or attitudes and actions that flow from their heart. (Matthew 7:21-23)  When Paul writes these three verses, he is concerned with how his readers will "conduct themselves" as the household of faith.  Most of what the Old Testament anticipated looked forward to His first coming.  Likewise New Testament faith draws its life from the accomplishments of Jesus Christ in His first coming.  The fruit of the faith-life is tied into the root of the supernatural truth: Christ's first coming.

The root of Christian faith is the supernatural God-man: Jesus Christ.  Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:16a: "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness....".  A mystery in the New Testament is something previously hidden that requires God's supernatural revelation.  The event of God coming in human flesh via the virgin birth constitutes one of the four central miracles entailing the Person of Jesus Christ.  The other three supernatural events involving Jesus, which make up the foundation of biblical Christianity, are His crucifixion, His resurrection and His ascension.  This supernatural root connects to the fruit of our practical everyday lives by way of a "trunk", namely the doctrine of the Christian faith. 

The doctrine described here by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16b summarizes in "bullet-point" format the major events of Jesus' Christ's journey from his incarnation as God in human flesh, through His earthly life to his ascension.  Without the trunk of doctrine, the link between the supernatural power of Jesus Christ and the practical living of the Christian faith would not be possible. 
Note the Key Doctrines mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16b:

1. The Incarnation = "God was manifest in the flesh"
2. The Virgin Birth = "justified in the Spirit"
3. Deity of Jesus Christ = "seen of angels"
4. Preaching and Missions = "preached unto the Gentiles"
5. Salvation by grace through faith = "believed on in the world"
6. His ascension =  "received up into glory."

All of this stems from what was in Paul's heart as the Holy Spirit guided his pen, namely the significance of Christ's first coming.  We know too that what Paul wrote was most likely an ancient Christian hymn sung by those first generation Christians - which means that the heart of Christmas - the Incarnation, shaped their everyday lives.  Paul wrote what he wrote to urge his readers to focus everyday on what Christ accomplished in His first coming. You and I too need to keep these things in mind.  Everyday needs to be Christmas - the excitement, the wonder and thrill of loving God in human flesh practically, supernaturally and doctrinally. 

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