Friday, November 4, 2011

Read, Exhort, Teach – 1 Tim 4:13

Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (NKJV )

I looked at eight different translations of the Bible before deciding to quote the NKJV for these verses. I picked this one because it was the closest to a literal translation without using thee and thy. I was disappointed in the big three (NASB, ESV, and NIV) because they all added words so that the instruction was to give attention to the public reading of Scripture.  Perhaps these translators did this because of the word exhortation, which often implies that it is public encouragement. Then looking ahead to verse 16, there is a connection to others hearing. I think adding public and specifying scripture doesn’t clarify what Paul wrote and may even detract what the Holy Spirit wants to say to individuals who are not pastors.

Most people don’t have an opportunity to read the Bible aloud to other people. My wife and I read aloud to each other every day, but this isn’t public. If I were to read this as being attentive to the public reading of Scripture, then I could easily say it doesn’t apply. However, by going back to a more literal translation, I see that I need to be reading and this could very well be my own private reading as well as public. What do I need to read?
I agree that reading Scripture is one thing that I can’t neglect. However, I don’t think that I should read Scripture to the exclusion of other books. I firmly believe that I should be able to get the most out of reading the Bible by comparing the Bible to itself. However, there are times when I need to read another person’s insight to help me out. I also need to read to find out what others are teaching. This is still in context with previous verses, which were cautioning about silly myths and other things.

Normally, I think of exhortation as a public function as well. However, there is no need to limit it in this way. Much exhortation takes place between two people. Some takes place in written communication (the epistles especially), publically and in private. 

Being curious, I looked up the word in the Greek. Paraklesis, means "a calling to one's side" (para, "beside," kaleo, "to call") (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.) That was a surprise. The word is often translated as comfort, consolation, and entreaty as well as exhort. That reminded me that Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Comforter or Helper in John 14:16. That word is parakletos meaning called to one’s side. This is very similar to paraklesis.
Now Paul’s instruction is taking a much greater view of ministry. Not only am I supposed to be reading to gain insight into God’s Word and His instruction to me, but now I need to use what I’ve read to help others. I can be like the Holy Spirit and come along side another person who is hurting to be a consolation and to comfort him. I can exhort or entreat a sinner to repent and turn his life around.

The NKJV uses the word doctrine. Most other translations use the word teach. The word doctrine stirs up ideas that explanations about God and man are esoteric or difficult to understand. However, the Greek word didaskalia can mean either teaching or what is taught – doctrine. It is the same word used in verse 16. Since the instruction is to read and exhort (both verbs) then it would makes sense that teach is the best translation. In verse 16, the command is to watch yourself (a pronoun) so it makes sense that this would be translated doctrine or the teaching (a noun not an action).

With all that aside, I can now talk about teaching instead of doctrine, which will come in verse 16. I can teach individuals, which would be one way of offering comfort or it could be in small or large groups. This isn’t just a pastoral function as we all teach someone. As parents, we teach our children. As Christians living in a fallen world, we teach others how to live by our lives. Believe me, they do watch and take note, especially when we fail.
Matt 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes  one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least  in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great  in the kingdom of heaven. (ESV) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke these words. He also went on to explain that the commandments didn’t just apply to outward behavior but our inward attitudes. My attitudes are usually evident to others. If I ogle a woman, you can bet there is lust behind it. Jesus said that was the same as adultery. If I relax the Law by doing that and others see me do it, I teach them that it is OK. Read the rest of the Sermon on the Mount and it will become obvious that we are all sinners and in need of a heart change.

Someone may tell me that I’m teaching the Old Testament and the Gospel isn’t about that. The Gospel is about love and forgiveness and this emphasis on doctrine and doing is impossible. I have to agree that Jesus fulfilled the Law because it is impossible for us, but it doesn’t mean that we toss out the principles that are in the Old Testament. In fact, I need to understand them even better so that I know how they apply to me today. I have to live to a higher standard than the O.T. since it dealt with external obedience (even though that wasn’t God’s only intention). In Matt 5:20 Jesus said my righteousness had to be greater than the scribes and Pharisees. I have to be more righteous than these people who were experts in keeping all the external commandments plus hundreds they made up. How can I do that?
The good news (Gospel) is that there isn’t any condemnation for us who are truly Christians (Rom 8:1). But that doesn’t let me off the hook to live any way I want. Rom 8:13-14 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (NIV) Anyone who is ignoring the Bible’s teaching to live godly lives is demonstrating that the sinful nature is still in full control and not subject to the Holy Spirit. That sounds a lot like a person who doesn’t really know Jesus.

We can only be led by the Spirit when we love Jesus. We prove that we love Jesus by obeying His commandments. One of those commandments that is imperative is to believe Jesus and the Father who sent Him (John 5:24). When we believe, the Holy Spirit is given to us to guide us into all truth. John 14:15-17 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. (NASB)
Are you able to read the Scriptures and understand them so that you can comfort, console, or exhort others in times of trials? Are you teaching others to be godly by your life as well as your word? Are you led by the Spirit? If you aren’t doing these things then maybe it’s time for some self examination to determine if you really know Jesus.

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