[43, 44] An interesting shift of emphasis occurs in the text by the use of the two verbs for “know” in verses 42-43. Verse 42 uses the verb for intuitive knowledge (eídō , knowledge independent of reasoning). Ultimately, only God has perfect intrinsic knowledge that is timeless and underived from external sources. God does not get His knowledge from someone (e.g., a higher god) or something (creation). Neither does God derive knowledge over time by reasoning through syllogisms. He is omniscient, so all His knowledge is immediate and therefore timeless. While all three Persons of the Trinity are defined by omniscience, no creature has such knowledge. Whatever truths we possess are revelations from God. One proposition the triune God has chosen not to reveal is the hour of His Son’s return (v. 36; Mark 13:32).
But here in verse 43, we read, “Know this” (ginōskete, the present imperative of ginōskō , to know by experience or by learning, a verb that contrasts with the root verb eídō in v. 42). Jesus did not command us to determine by experience what is knowable only by revelation. He revealed that godly experience is a continuous state, not an occasional event. “If the master of the house had known in what watch (from phulakē , a three-hour period of the night) the thief would come, he would have watched (egrēgórēsen, the aorist tense of grēgoréō ), and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (a.t.).
This illustrates ungodly concern or assuming the risks of watching intermittently or not at all for the Master’s return and behaving accordingly. Although we believers do not know the time of Christ’s return, we should expect Him at all times and obey consistently. When a man assumes he will live to the age of 103, he plans his life accordingly. But when he knows that death is beyond his control and always imminent, he plans differently. The Lord, however, does not want us to focus on death, the appointed enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). Instead, we should focus on Him who appoints eternal life beyond.
One Greek word behind the phrase “master of the house” is oikodespótēs (3617) literally “housemaster.” How the adjective “good” in “goodman” ever got into the English text is a mystery, for this compound term is a polite, euphemistic translation of a Greek word accurately rendered “despot” (despótēs , absolute master), the emphasis on power, not moral character.
The thief does not announce his coming to rob. Rather than assume he is imminent, the householder counts on a “delay,” as the evil servant does. The enemy here is “the thief (kléptēs  from which we get our English word ‘kleptomaniac,’ one who robs in secret, in contrast with lēstēs , one who robs openly).” The doctrine of imminence, then, points to unbelievers throughout Scripture (Luke 12:39; 1 Thess. 5:2-4; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15). The Lord will pounce on them like a thief. Of course, He owns all things and so, technically, He cannot steal, although He can take things from anyone “like a thief,” that is, unexpectedly.
What does He take? God can take those things the master of the house thinks he owns—his wealth, his physical life, his opportunity to believe, and possibly even a believing spouse or child. All of these may be lost in an instant, since they belong ultimately to the Lord who merely lends for a season. By contrast, God tells believers: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5:4–6).
Our attitude should be that which Paul described in Titus 2:13: “Looking for (from prosdéchomai , to wait with confidence and endurance) that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (from epipháneia , epiphany) of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (see also Jude 21).
Another aspect of our waiting is found in the word apechdéchomai (553), to expect with eagerness, as in Philippians 3:20: “For our conversation (políteuma , place of citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for (apechdéchomai) the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (see also Rom. 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Cor. 1:7; Gal. 5:5; Heb. 9:28).
Another word used to describe our attitude is prosdokáō (4328), to anticipate, to look and hope for, found in Matthew 24:50 where it describes the unfaithful servant who is not expecting (from prosdokáō) his master (cf. Luke 12:46). According to 2 Peter 3:12, believers are “looking for (from prosdokáō; ongoingly looking for) and hasting (from speúdō , continually speeding up) unto the coming (parousía ) of the day of God” (cf. 2 Pet. 3:13).
A third synonym, anaménō (, to wait with anticipation), occurs in 1 Thessalonians 1:10: “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
We should follow the admonition of Jesus Christ: “For this reason, become ready; for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes” (a.t.). “Become” (from gínomai ) tells us that this should be a permanent state of mind for the true believer.
Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009) served as president of AMG International for over 40 years, was the founding editor of Pulpit Helps Magazine (Disciple’s predecessor), and authored dozens of exegetical books.
___________________________________ Living out the Living Word
by Justin Lonas
The Good Fight: Faith and Discipline
1 Timothy 1:18-20
Last month, we looked at Paul’s discourse on the “glorious Gospel of the blessed God” (1:11). In context, this testimony in verses 8-17 is really a “rabbit trail” (an often-recurring characteristic of Paul’s writings) veering off from his main point, but, as with most such side notes, it serves to give depth to the larger argument Paul is making. As chapter one draws to a close, Paul is back “on message”, equipping Timothy to address the false teaching at Ephesus.
“This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight” (1:18). These verses flow almost seamlessly from the earlier part of the chapter, and the “command” entrusted to Timothy here is the same charge given him in 1:3, to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.”
Paul reaffirms his trust in Timothy’s ability to carry out his instructions based on his own relationship with Timothy (“my son”) and the confirmation of Timothy’s ministry by the Spirit’s authority. The “prophecies made concerning” him are referenced in 4:14 and again in 2 Timothy 1:6, and seemingly refer to the recognition by Paul and a group of elders that Timothy was gifted by the Holy Spirit to be a preacher of the Word. Paul is, in essence, reminding Timothy of his call into the ministry and encouraging him to stand firm in his work. The ministry of the Gospel is always given by the Spirit—it is not Paul’s ministry that Timothy inherits, but that of Christ through the Spirit.
What is the “good fight” Paul tells Timothy to fight? He spells it out for us: “keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1:19). Timothy’s challenge is common to all Christians—to keep the faith (right belief in God) and a clean conscience (right behavior). This is contrasted here with what happens when someone turns away from this dual obedience. Paul describes this moral and theological failure as a “shipwreck”. Most translations render this consequence in a personal way (“in regard to their faith”), but the presence of a definite article in the Greek (i.e. “the faith”) and the context of addressing false teaching seems to indicate that Paul meant that those in the Church who reject belief and obedience do damage to the Christian witness as a whole.
Paul then goes on to “name names” of those who are endangering the Church by their sin: “Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander” (1:20a). These two men were likely elders of the Ephesian church who had turned aside from the truth and were teaching false doctrines. Hymenaeus is referenced again in 2 Timothy 2:17 as teaching “that the resurrection has already taken place.” Alexander could be the Jewish businessmen shouted down by the Ephesian mob in Acts 19:33-34, the metalworker who “did [Paul] much harm” (2 Tim. 4:14), or simply another influential citizen by that common name. They were clearly sowing discord and doubt among the church there by their false teachings.
Paul’s description of how he dealt with these two men presents one of the more troubling statements in Scripture, particularly to critics of the faith: “whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme” (1:20b). He uses similar language in reference to a proud practitioner of sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 5:5: “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” In both cases, the persons involved were prominent members or leaders of the local church whose very public disobedience to the Word of God was damaging the witness of the Gospel to the wider community.
The language is undeniably harsh, but it is at the same time redemptive. Many evangelical commentators agree that “turning one over to Satan” is Paul’s metaphor for excommunication—that is, the offending and unrepentant individual is put out of the church fellowship back into the world (Satan’s domain). The purpose for this in both passages seems to be twofold: 1) to remove the blight on the church for the spiritual health of other members and the witness to the community, and 2) to discipline the guilty party by cutting their ties to the church in hope that they will “hit bottom”, repent, and be restored by the work of the Spirit.
At least part of the reason this passage and similar ones in the New Testament generate such rancor is that our society refuses to accept any standard by which people can be judged, and the Church at large has capitulated to that pressure and lost its appetite for biblical church discipline. Paul’s blunt, almost casual language seems especially foreign to us today, but it is indicative of a heart devoted to the cause of Christ at all costs, and willing to hold the Church to the standards of its head.
Perhaps we fear the message of passages like this because we fear being judged by those same standards ourselves; we know the depths of our own sin and do not want to be exposed as hypocrites when we choose to take a stand. The Gospel of Christ reminds us, however, that none of us has any righteousness save that of our Lord Himself given to us by faith in His death and resurrection. It is in His righteousness that we must stand and call out those who, claiming to be in Christ, flout the truth of His Word and lead others astray. This is part and parcel of fighting the good fight and “keeping the faith and a good conscience.”
Paul understood that to shy away from discipline is to shirk part of our responsibilities as Christians (particularly as leaders). Tolerating those who would destroy the faith from the inside out serves only to speed up their efforts, bringing shame to God’s holy name.
Justin Lonas is editor of Disciple Magazine for AMG International in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
___________________________________ Points to Ponder
by David L. Olford
Can I Have a Witness?
Text: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Thought: The risen Christ has been presenting Himself and teaching His disciples for a period of forty days. The “kingdom of God” was a main theme in Jesus’ instruction even as it was before He was crucified. As His apostles are assembled with the risen Jesus, evidently for a last time (1:9), a question is asked concerning the kingdom being restored to Israel “at this time.”
The specific answer to that question is not given, except to say that the answer is not for them to know. That matter is under the Father’s authority. As you read the narrative, this specific question from the apostles (evidently) comes after Jesus has been speaking about the “Promiseof the Father” (1:4). Jesus has been telling them what is to happen in the next few days and that is the focus of His declaration in our text. It proves also to be the focus of the Book of Acts, which recounts the history of the continuation of the ministry of Jesus by His Spirit through His apostles and disciples.
I. The Necessity of the Power to be a Witness
“But you shall receive power….” In the light of the “Promise of the Father” (1:4), these apostles were to receive power in and through the Holy Spirit. This reception of power is to be as specific as John’s baptism, but now it is not a water baptism, but a Spirit baptism. This event and experience was so important that these apostles were commanded not to leave Jerusalem, “but to wait” (1:4).
Acts 2 accounts the initial coming of the Spirit in fulfillment of Jesus’ words and God’s ancient promise found in various Old Testament prophecies. We read of subsequent receptions of the Spirit at strategic points in the spreading of the witness and the Word (8:17; 10:44-48; 19:5-6). Certainly, though, the account in Acts 2 is foundational in our understanding of the empowering of the Spirit, and it receives the fullest explanation in the preaching of Peter (2:14-39). This empowering of the Spirit was obviously next on the Lord’s agenda for His people, and it was critical to what was next in terms of His future ministry through His apostles and disciples (1:1).
Clearly there are various ways that these Scriptures can be applied. And what is revealed in the book of Acts needs to be viewed within the context of biblical revelation as a whole, a study we cannot do here. We certainly need to avoid needless controversy or confusion in our present day application of these historical accounts. There was a foundational uniqueness to the original apostles’ ministry, especially as it had to do with the writing of Scripture itself. At the same time, I believe that we are still within this next stage in salvation history, and the power of the Spirit is essential in continuing the ministry of Jesus (1:1).
We must, first of all, as my father used to say, “Believe the promise” of the Father. The Holy Spirit’s presence and power is a promised blessing and necessity. Do we believe the promises of God? Do we believe this promise specifically? Are we willing “by faith” to seek and depend upon the power of the Spirit for fruitful witness and serving? The initial “waiting” in Jerusalem was not repeated exactly in subsequent history, but prayer and dependence were. The significance and necessity of the Spirit’s empowering and enabling for every facet of Christian witness is clearly to be believed and then lived. Our understanding of this power is not to be dependent upon specific outward manifestations, but rather it is to be essential to our living, speaking and serving as Christians.
When it comes specifically to our witness and the ministry of the Word, my father used to say, “Believe the promise, receive the power, and achieve the purpose.” When we speak of “receiving the power,” we are not speaking specifically of a one-time, unique experience, although some may have never responded in any way to this biblical truth concerning the Spirit of God, and need to do so. We are emphasizing, rather, specific and continual prayer dependence on the Spirit’s power to anoint and enable witness, proclamation, and spiritual service. The Holy Spirit has come to His people, or they are not His people. We do not need to pray for the initial coming of the Spirit of God to His New Covenant people. We would affirm that the true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). But, the Christian must be “filled with the Spirit” to live the Christian life (Eph. 5:18), and those who would speak and serve must be empowered (anointed) by the power of the Spirit, even as Jesus was Himself.
II. The Priority of the Purpose as a Witness
“…and you shall be witnesses to Me….” The receiving of power should not be separated from the purpose that Jesus is declaring. The best way to explain the word “witness” in our text is to read the book of Acts. The whole book accounts and illustrates for us what a witness is, what the plan for witnessing is, and what a witness can expect.
First of all, a witness is a witness to Jesus. Although there should never be a separation of lifestyle from ministry, throughout the book of Acts the witness to Jesus is the message of Jesus Christ declared. The prophecies concerning Jesus, His life and deeds, His death and resurrection, His ascension and exaltation, His return, and the call for repentance and faith (baptism), and the receiving of the promised Spirit are all aspects of this witness. There is variety in presentation, but the witness is a declared “Jesus message”—Jesus as Lord and Christ. The spreading of this Word, even to Rome, is a major theme in Acts. And this Word is the witness to Jesus that was commanded and is empowered by the Spirit’s “coming upon” the apostles (1:4-8).
What were these witnesses to do? What was the plan? They were to take this message about Jesus and declare it “…to the end of the earth.” This witness was to start specifically, historically, missiologically, and theologically in Jerusalem. We read of that in Acts 2-7. Then we read of the witness in Judea and Samaria (8-12). It should be no surprise to us that the latter part of Acts takes us on a number of journeys (13-28), including one that starts in Jerusalem and ends in Rome (21:15-28:31).
This “going with the Gospel” is God’s plan. As Paul states, this Gospel is the “power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Paul himself had his eyes on Spain as he wrote these words to Rome! The purpose is to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere and to everyone.
What are witnesses to expect? The book of Acts is fascinating in its recording of miracle and struggle, power and persecution, and the reception and rejection of the message. These aspects of the story go side by side. I believe this is instructive to us as we seek to be witnesses to Jesus today. Many of these early witnesses became martyrs for the Lord. Witnessing was not only a “matter of life,” it became a “matter of death” for many.
A misunderstanding emerges if we don’t acknowledge both the power of God and the reality of struggle and suffering for the witness. We have a supernatural message, about a supernatural Savior and Lord, to be preached and shared with a supernatural power, and to be received with supernatural assistance. At the same time, we see problems, disagreements, controversy, and a whole lot of opposition, rejection, and serious persecution in the Book of Acts.
What is clear is that God is fulfilling His purpose and plan even in the midst of struggle and suffering. What is clear is that His Spirit is enabling the mission and witness. What is clear, also, is that the message continues to be about Jesus, and that must never change! Whatever the challenges we face, the hand of man cannot thwart the work of God. But, we must be committed to fulfilling His purpose for His people, which involves declaring His Word concerning His Son in the power of His Spirit to the “end of the world.”
Thrust: What’s next in 2012? The Lord is still calling us to “be witnesses” to Himself, depending upon the power of His Spirit, and committed to seeing His message spread to “our Jerusalem,” to “our Judea and Samaria” and to “the end of the earth.”
David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University’s Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.
___________________________________ The Story behind the Song
by Lindsay Terry
Forty Years Before I Arrived
Song: “There’s Just Something about that Name”
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).
Gloria Gaither told me of an experience in South Africa, where the Gaithers had gone in December 2005.
“We were in Johannesburg, producing a homecoming video, and while there, a young lady came up to me and said, ‘I want to tell you something.’ I said, ‘Sure, go right ahead.’ She said, ‘I watched that video where Mark Lowry makes fun of you, telling you that nobody knows that song you wrote. You tell Mark Lowry that I know that song. We know all of your songs in Africa. They have been here for forty years.’
“I myself, who had thought in earlier years that God might be calling me to go to Africa as a missionary, had never gotten there. Did I hear God wrong? It seems as if I heard, ‘You might not have gotten there, but your songs did.’ I did what I knew to do in the best way I knew to do it.
“As Bill and I write songs, the idea comes first. Often after breakfast Bill will take his coffee and go in and begin to fiddle around at the piano. We have a book where we write down ideas for songs. He will have a melody in his mind and then think, ‘This will be a good melody for that idea.’He shows me how the melody goes with the idea, and then it is my job to put the words around it. Usually the lyrics come very quickly.
“After ‘There’s Something about That Name’ was written, I wrote a reading that goes with the song. Before writing it in 1970, a couple of notable events transpired in our lives.
“Prior to the writing of it, our daughter Suzanne had chronic tonsillitis for a long time. We were very frustrated with that problem. Her fever would peak, and I often thought, ‘She is going to go into convulsions with this fever.’I would sit there and watch her and breathe the name of Jesus, and then see the fever break.
“We were sitting beside Bill’s grandmother Hartwell when she was in the dying process. Out of her delirium when she reached down into her subconscious, she kept saying, ‘Jesus, Jesus, oh, He is so precious to me! He is so precious!’
“We thought, ‘What a gift!’When she reached down into the depths of her consciousness, there was Jesus. He went clear to her core. What a comfort!
“The images that are in the reading that goes with the song came from our experiences. The images of the tyrants came from history—horrible men who tried to persecute Christians until they were gone, to wipe them from the face of the earth. We are heading in that direction again.”
Following is the reading that goes with “There’s Something about That Name”:
“Jesus. The mere mention of His name can calm the storm, heal the broken, raise the dead. At the name of Jesus, I’ve seen sin-hardened men melt, derelicts transformed, the light of hope put back in the eyes of a hopeless child.
“At the name of Jesus, hatred and bitterness turn to love and forgiveness; arguments cease. I’ve heard a mother softly breathe His name at the bedside of a child delirious from fever, and I’ve watched as that little body grew quiet and the fevered brow became cool.
“I’ve sat beside a dying saint, her body racked with pain, who in those final fleeting seconds summoned her last ounce of ebbing strength to whisper earth’s sweetest name—”Jesus, Jesus….”
“Emperors have tried to destroy it; philosophers have tried to stamp it out. Tyrants have tried to wash it from the face of the earth with the very blood of those who claimed it. Yet still it stands. And there shall be the final day when every voice that has ever uttered a sound—every voice of Adam’s race—shall rise in one mighty chorus to proclaim the name of Jesus, for in that day ‘every knee shall bow and everytongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!’
“So, you see, it was not mere chance that caused the angel, one night long ago, to say to a virgin maiden, ‘His name shall be called Jesus.’ Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There is something—something about that name.”