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Part of the FBCS 2010 Read Through the Bible Project: Enter the Story. Join the Song.

Foundations of Faithfulness

1 Timothy 3   Isaiah 36-37   Psalm 119:97-120

“Know how one ought to behave in the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). Today’s readings include a section from 1 Timothy that has generated much conversation, conflict, and confusion throughout the history of the church. A detailed analysis of the qualifications for leaders and servants listed there is beyond the scope and purpose of our shared daily reflections. However, as I read all of the day’s texts together one observation emerges: there are significant qualities and commitments missing from these lists, such as faithfulness to God’s Word, prayer, worship, spiritual discipline; even the love of Christ! What are we to make of this?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet” (Psalm 119:105). Whereas the psalmist writes of meditating on God’s law “all day long” (Psalm 119:97) and Hezekiah leads in a time of crisis by going to the house of the Lord, seeking the prophet’s council, and bowing before God in prayer (Isaiah 37), all of this is omitted from the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3.  Are we to conclude that all God requires of servant-leaders is to be respected and respectable? Certainly each of  us know by experience that a person can meet the requirements in 1 Timothy 3 without being a believer! There must be more here!? There is. And the “more” is this: The letter assumes that the foundations of faith are already in place. In other words, the list is not exhaustive. Nor is it intended to be. Above and behind and beneath 1 Timothy 3 lie the spiritual commitments and qualities found in Psalm 119, Isaiah 37, and throughout the scriptures. And why is this important?

“Without a doubt the mystery of our religion is great” (1 Timothy 3:16). By this we are reminded that God is not bound by our rules, as evidenced by Jesus’own ministry. And, lest we forget, apart from him there cannot be found in the story of God a single leader who has been “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). Nor can any be found in Old or New Testament who would meet every quality on these lists. Not even Paul. And herein lies the mystery: By grace, God works through men and women, broken though they – we – be! God, who knows our rising and sitting, our goings and comings, and even our raging against God (Isaiah 37:28), redeems us. And that is the hope of the story! So it is that even a “blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence” (1 Timothy 1:13) can become an apostle, evangelist, and planter of churches to the glory of God. Thanks be to God, there is hope for me! And you. May you know that you are loved — hear it: loved, not black-listed — by God. May you hide in him and hope in his word (Proverbs 119:114). And may you be the spiritual leader God calls you to be. Amen.

“The zeal of the Lord will do this.”
— Isaiah 37:31,32

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