Summary: 2nd in a series from 1 Timothy. Without a relationship with the Prince of Peace, we cannot be at peace. But by yielding ourselves to God as peacemakers, He can use us to make a difference in direction, attitude, and goals.
Lessons for a Healthy Church
Living in Peace
Introduction: Last Sunday we learned that there are times we must confront error. But that doesn’t mean we are to be in a constant state of war with the world or with each other! Paul taught, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). However, without a relationship with the Prince of Peace we cannot be at peace, even with ourselves.
Proposition: By yielding ourselves to God as peacemakers, He can use us to make a difference.
1. In the world’s direction (verses 1-7)
Not unlike today, many in the world viewed the early church suspiciously. But they did so for different reasons.
Today there are two extremes in how the church is viewed:
· As a bunch of right-wing whackos that want to force a political and moral agenda (cite some examples)
· Or as an organization with enough wealth and influence that it can protect its own from child abuse and corruption (cite some examples)
In Paul’s day the church was looked upon as having two completely different problems:
· Many considered the church atheistic. Christians did not support the community’s official pagan temples, nor did they worship and make sacrifices to Caesar.
· Christians were also considered subversive. Their refusal to to along with the norms of their culture made them suspects of opposing the government and undermining the foundations of society.
When the church is seen more as a cult or political movement with an agenda, the good news about Jesus will not find a warm reception.
It is much like the Geico insurance commercials presenting people facing various difficulties. Along the way they encounter others who might offer solutions. They soon find out that their "saviors" are completely detached from their problems, and are only concerned about the money they saved on their car insurance!
The world thinks the church is a racket. We’ve got to offer more than the world thinks we can offer.
So what are we to do when people oppose us? PRAY.
· For the needs of non-Christians
· For the world’s leaders
· For the very ones who would persecute us
If the church is to live at peace in the world, we need God’s intervention in the hearts & lives of those who rule the world.
· Peter & John before the Sanhedrin: Acts 4:18-31
· Paul before Governor Festus & King Agrippa: Acts 26:24-29
People of prayer can change the world’s direction. Are we people of prayer? Charles Spurgeon said that in any congregation, the popularity of the preacher is seen by the Sunday morning attendance; the popularity of the church is seen by the Sunday evening attendance, and the popularity of God is seen by the prayer meeting attendance.
2. In people’s attitudes (verses 8-15)
The practice of praying for governors and kings might defuse the worst of the accusations against Christians, but would not destroy all the suspicions in the community. Paul recognized that it is important for Christians to “fit in” to their culture to give them some credibility.
· Men were to pray publicly with their hands upraised. Both Jews & pagans prayed this way; Paul saw no reason for Christians to act differently when they prayed to the true God.
· Paul wanted the men & women to behave & relate in a certain way. The church was accused of destroying the foundations of society: a) they encouraged slaves to defy their masters; b) they encouraged women to abandon their family obligations. (Note: A woman’s obligation in the home was akin to the obligation of a slave. And Christianity taught the revolutionary concept that all people are equal.)
Paul knew these accusations were false, so he reminded Timothy that conforming to the norms of society is completely acceptable as long as it does not cause Christians to forsake the principles & teachings of Jesus.
· What would we consider “modest” dress today? How would our standards relate to those of our ancestors 100 years ago?
· Paul’s instructions about women not speaking in church cannot be seen as an attempt to minimize the role of women. On the contrary, Jesus profoundly expanded it. (Give examples of Jesus lifting women to equal footing with men)
· Women had responsibilities equal to men in the church (see Acts 16:14-15, 18:24-26, Rom 16:1, 1 Cor, 11:5). Why the restrictions here? The women in Ephesus were involved in false teaching (1:3, 4:7). Paul wanted the women to learn, which was something the Jewish community in Ephesus would have deemed inappropriate.
Paul was determined that those outside the church could not make a legitimate accusation against the believers. May we work as fervently to protect the name and message of our Lord Jesus in this 21st century!