Not Apart from Us (Sun. Dec. 18, 2021)

The word of the day is “faith.”  Today’s reading from Hebrews is a memorial of the Old Testament saints who by faith persevered in the hope for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ.  In Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40, we read of the faithful witness of those who endured incredible suffering as they firmly clung to God’s promise, a pledge that is now fulfilled in the birth of the Savior. Heroes and Heroines of Faith In today’s passage, the writer of Hebrews names the ancients: Abel, Enoch, and Noah.  He recalls the patriarchs: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob.  The apostle brings to mind: Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (vs. 11:4-32).  Then he recounts the sufferings…

Living by the Law or Living by Faith (Sat. Dec. 18)

The word of the day is “faith.”  In our reading of Galatians 3:8-12, St. Paul maintains that those whom God counts as righteous do not live by doing works of the Mosaic Law.  But, the apostle declares, “The just will live by faith” (vs. 12). Paul’s argument that it is not works but faith that gives life is two-fold.  First, the apostle notes that before God gave the Law to Moses, the Almighty gave a universal promise to Abraham.  The Almighty pledged that He would bless all the peoples of the world “in Abraham” (vs 8).  Thus, the apostle taught that already before Moses, David, or the prophets, inspired scripture foresaw that the Gentiles would receive the fulfillment of the…

Training in Godliness (Fri. Dec. 17)

The word of the day is “training.”  In our reading of 1 Timothy 4:4-8, 16, St. Paul motivates Timothy to train vigorously in piety and holiness.  He states, “For bodily exercise profits a little but godliness is profitable for all things…” (vs. 8). In our reading, Paul recommends exercise to combat the depravity that his opponents are fostering through their “old wife’s fables” (vs. 7).  The Greek term for “exercise” refers to vigorous training for the Greek games (Strong’s #1128, 62).  But the workouts that Paul promotes are spiritual not physical.  As professional athletes develop their body, so Paul’s understudy should develop his mind and spirit so that he can rebuff the misleading myths and fables of his challengers. Godliness:…

The Well-Ordered Church: Leadership (Thurs. Dec. 16)

The word of the day is “rule.”  In our reading of 1 Timothy 3:1-13, St. Paul continues his directive for good order in the church.  His topics in today’s passage are the qualifications, duties. and conduct of the bishop (episcopos) (vs. 1-7),[1] the priest or elder (presbyter) (vs. 5:17), and  the deacon (diakonos) and his wife (vs. 8-13). When we review the qualifications for each of leaders,, we find that they have one thing in common.  Those who fill these essential roles in the church are to “rule” their households well (vs. 4, vs. 12, 4:17).  The Greek word has the basic sense of “standing before” (Strong’s #2476, 122).  We might say that the term refers to having a “good…

Paul’s Imperatives for Worship (Wed. Dec. 15)

The word of the day is “order.”  In our reading of 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 2:8-15, St. Paul begins his directives about establishing good order in the church  He starts with the subject of public worship.  The apostle writes that men should lift up holy hands without “wrath and doubting” (8).   And women should dress in a way that becomes “godliness and good works” (10). The selection of this reading gives the impression that its focus is on women’s behavior in worship.  However, in this epistle, the apostle speaks of kings and civil authorities, men, bishops, deacons, elders (presbyters), older men, older women, widows, elders, bondservants, and the wealthy.  The duties, qualifications, and care of these social categories comprise the scope…

The Law Cuts Two Ways (Tues. Dec. 14)

The word of the day is “law.”  In our reading of 1 Timothy 1:8-14, Paul corrects the false teachings of those who have an erroneous understanding of the law of God.  The Apostle writes, “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (vs. 8). Paul composes his letter to warn about deceitful teachers who are misleading the faithful.  To counteract this threat, Paul writes to clarify his teaching of the law.  Some seem to have the impression that Paul is against the law and/or that it is no longer valid for believers in Christ.  But here Paul says that the law, that is, the Mosaic Law, is still beneficial.  Thus, The Orthodox Study Bible says…

Leading and Serving with Pure, Genuine, and Faithful Love (Mon. Dec. 13)

The word of the day is “love.” In our reading of 1 Timothy 1:1-7, Paul instructs Timothy, the young Bishop of Ephesus, on the pastoral leadership and care of his flock (OSB “Introduction to 1 Timothy”).  He states the purpose that he wants his teaching to accomplish (Strong’s #5056). Thus he writes “Now the purpose of the commandment [my instruction] is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (OSB vs. 5).  Though directed at church leadership, we can apply this same counsel to our calling of ministry in our own relationships. The Purpose of the Directives Paul begins with the “purpose” of the directives of his letter (vs. 5).  Note what he is concerned about.  He doesn’t mention…

Hidden Now But to Be Revealed When Christ Returns (Sun. Dec. 12)

The word of the day is “appear.”  In today’s reading of Colossians 3:4-11, St. Paul promises that when Christ returns, He will bring the faithful with Him to share His glory.  The Apostle proclaims, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory”  (vs. 4). The root of the Greek original text is “to make apparent.”  Therefore, Christ’s appearance means more than that He “shows up.”  Rather, the term refers to the revelation of what is hidden.  More than that, it is the manifestation of the fundamental character of what is now unseen (Strong’s #5319, 1-20). Our Hidden Life At present, the wickedness of this present age conceals the true nature of Christ. …

Christ Delivered Himself to Deliver Us (Sat. Dec. 11)

The word of the day is “deliver.”  In our reading of Galatians 1:3-10, St. Paul recounts the mercy of Jesus Christ who sacrificed Himself for our sins (vs. 4).  The Apostle writes about Christ, “…who gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father” (vs. 4). The idea of deliverance governs this whole cryptic sentence.  Our English translations obscure the relationship between the two forms of deliverance that  Paul describes in this passage. Reduced to its basic structure, however, Paul teaches that Christ delivered Himself that we might be delivered. “To Deliver” Meaning  “To Hand On” The Orthodox Study Bible reads that Christ “gave Himself…

Idleness and Well-doing (Fri. Dec. 9)

The word of the day is “well-doing.”  In our reading of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18, St. Paul warns against idleness and encourages all members of the congregation in Thessalonica to work for their living.  The apostle commands the loafers in the congregation to “work in quietness and eat their own bread” (vs. 12). Those who are working, he instructs “not to grow weary in well-doing” (vs. 11). In this passage, Paul contrasts an undisciplined with a productive life. When he charges some church members with “walking in a disorderly manner,” “walking” is a metaphor for one’s conduct of life (Strong’s #4043, 199).  The “disorderly” way of life concerns Paul because in Greek, “disorderly” is a military term for being “insubordinate” (Strong’s…