Sunday, October 26, 2014

Timothy & Countering The Culture (part 12)

To this way of thinking, Paul insists that “there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at His appointed time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Therefore, it is faith in Jesus (fides/pistis/loyalty) that makes He and He alone the intermediary between the Creator God and man, rather than the works of the law (those previously mentioned covenant markers that then served to set God’s covenant people apart from all other peoples). 

Just in case there may be a thought that this ongoing disputation between Jew and Gentile is a component of Paul’s address here when he makes mention of “all people,” one can look to what follows the sixth verse, which is “For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle---I am telling the truth; I am not lying---and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.  So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute” (2:7-8).     

Chapter three opens with “This saying is trustworthy: ‘If someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work.’” (3:1)  What is this “office of overseer”?  The Greek word that is translated as “overseer” is “episcopes,” which is transliterated into “episcopate” and therefore “Episcopal,” which is likely to cause a reader to consider the hierarchical church structures and the hierarchically structured church with which we are all quite familiar in our own day. 

Though many that are reading this study may not be a part of a traditional, denominational church, it must be said that even non-traditional and non-denominational churches have authoritarian structures, whether implicit or explicit.  Thus one must be careful to avoid the importation of anachronistic thinking, in which the position of “overseer” in question here in the letter to Timothy becomes equated with the person that oversees a church in the modern sense, whether that be a pastor, a bishop, an area supervisor, or any such similar idea.  This type of relatively rigid church structuring would not be a settled feature or widespread component of the first century church that gathered in private homes as a meal association that saw themselves as the ambassadors and harbingers of the kingdom of the covenant God, and as a renewed humanity defined by their hope of resurrection, with worship of Jesus as the embodiment of the Creator God as the focus of their meal-based assembly. 

A ready awareness that the church assembled around a common meal forces one to understand that this “overseer” was, more than likely, the person that presided over the meal.  This meal presidency, which was a familiar feature of Hellenistic meal practices, would rotate among a number of people.  Ideally, it would rotate amongst the entirety of the assembly, with each member of the body taking their turn to perform the role; but naturally, not everybody would feel comfortable in such a role. 

Understandably then, those that undertook to serve in this capacity would be those that were comfortable presiding over meals, which would generally be those of higher social status and who would be viewed as having more honor.  Understanding this, the last thing that Paul would want is for the socially accepted systems of honor to determine the functioning of the body of the Christ, so certain expectations are set for those that will enter into this role. 

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