Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (1) Not Bishops

I have been reading the scriptural letters to Timothy and Titus again. They are often referred to as the Pastoral Epistles, as they deal with pastoral issues. In the following post, I record some of the things that struck me as I read.

Many modern commentators claim that the pastoral epistles were not written by Paul. They give them a late date, assuming they were written towards the end of the first century, much later than Paul’s other letters.

I disagree with this view.

The main reason that the commentators give a late date is that the letters to Timothy and Titus seem to give instructions about appointing “bishops” (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9). They assume that these letters could not be written by Paul, because bishops did not come into existence until later in the history of the church when his ministry was complete.

Unfortunately, this common understanding of the letters is wrong. The pastoral epistles are not instructions about appointing “bishops”. The greek word translated as bishop is “episkopos”. The English word “bishop” is a transliteration of the word episkopos, but this practice is misleading, as it makes it sound like an administrative or management position. The actual meaning of “episkopos” is “overseer”. "Skopos" means "watcher" and "epi" means "around", so "episkopos" describes “watching over or around”. Overseeing is not managing, directing and controlling, but watching over believers to ensure that they remain safe.

Episkopos is just another name for an elder. All elders "watch over" or "oversee" the disciples that God has placed under them. An elder/overseer is a person in a church who has oversight over less mature Christians. Even mature followers of Jesus need to be in a relationship with an elder. The word "oversight" describes the nature of this relationship well, because the elder watches over them, but does not control them.

In the New Testament, overseer is not a different role, but just another word that explains the nature of eldership. In Titus 1:6,7, the words "elder" and "overseer" are used interchangeably in teaching about the task of elders. The letter does not describe two different ministries.

Paul made this clear in his teaching to the church in Ephesus.

From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church... Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:17,28).
Paul explains to the elders that the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (episkopos) of a flock. Paul challenged them to guard their flock. They do this by watching over them to see that they continue to grow and do not come to harm. Mature Christians do not need to be closely discipled; they just need someone to watch over them, who will only act if they come under severe attack or things go wrong. Jesus bought us with his blood, so no one should be allowed to slip away.

Peter also challenged elders to exercise "oversight" (verb) in their role as elders by shepherding God’s flock. They do this by serving and setting an example, not by ruling and bossing.

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (episkopos) — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Pet 1:1-3).
The use of the word overseer tells about the nature of the elder’s role. They mostly just watch over their people without doing anything.

Our enemy is prowling around, looking for someone to snare, so all Christians need an elder watching over them. Every Christian will be submitted to an elder, but it must not be "heavy-handed" control. Submission is really just willingness by a believer to allow a more mature Christian to speak into their life, by being teachable and willing to accept correction.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Passive Resistance

Passive resistance to evil government is a good idea, more consistent with Paul’s teaching to the Romans than the compulsory submission which is so popular with Christians. However, individualistic passive resistance will likely fail, because individuals will be quickly picked off by the state and their families punished. The cost will be huge. People should not take it up unless they are prepared to pay the cost.

Passive resistance by a strong community that lives tight together and supports each other spiritually and physically, like Paul described in Romans 12 (not just meeting once a week) can be an effective vehicle for passive resistance. It can replace the government support that is lost for people living in its vicinity who are being ground down by state power.

See Defence and War.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


One of the most unfairly-treated characters in the New Testament is a companion of Paul called Demas. Preachers use him as an example of a person in a blessed situation who fell away from the gospel because they loved the things of the world too much. However, that is only one possible interpretation of the one verse where he is mentioned.

When Paul was alone and under pressure, he wrote to Timothy and asked him to come to him, along with Mark. Here is what he wrote about Demas.

Demas forsook me, having loved the present age, and went on to Thessalonica, Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke only is with me (1 Tim 4:10-11).
It is plausible that Demas fell from grace because he loved the world and escaped to Thessalonica for a sinful life. But it is just as plausible that Demas loved the people of Thessalonica who were trapped in the worldly Roman culture and went to them to preach the gospel. This is the sort of thing that a person who had hung out with Paul would do. If there was an opportunity for the gospel in Thessalonica, Paul would have encouraged Demas to go.

Paul lumps Demas together with Crescens and Titus in one sentence, without any explanation, as those who have gone out to share the gospel. I doubt that he would not have done that if Demas had deserted the faith.

The Greek word translated “forsake” is egkataleipo. It can mean deserted, but it can simply means departed. I think that we should give Demas the benefit of the doubt, and not be too quick to condemn him.

Paul would have supported Demas, because was always looking for opportunities for the advance of the gospel. Paul wanted Timothy and Mark to come, not because he wanted them to care for him, but because there were opportunities for sharing the gospel that they could take up (2 Tim 4:11).

Monday, November 14, 2022


Many Christians are stirred up about globalism, but I am not always sure what they mean by the term. Globalisation is mostly an economic phenomenon, brought about by container shipping and advanced communications, such as the internet and cellphones. These technologies allow goods to be shipped cheaply all over the world. Countries and people no longer need to be self-sufficient, but can buy what they need from the cheapest producer.

Globalisation has made most people in the world better off through access to cheap consumer goods. Workers in Asia benefited. Blue-collar workers in the west lost out, because they lost the protections that kept them in a privileged place. Most people in the world like this freedom and the material benefits that it brings, so the only thing that will break this down would be wars on a really big scale.

Many Christians see globalisation as a political phenomenon. They fear the emergence of a world government that controls the entire world. Fortunately, the time for this idea seems to have been and gone. Fifty years ago, there was a groundswell of national governments surrendering some of their authority to international organisations. That trend peaked with the establishment of the European Union. Most other attempts in the same direction never got off the ground. That trend towards globalisation of political power is now well past, as national politicians have refused to give up their power and people decided they did not want their lives controlled by distant, faceless bureaucrats.

In the coming years, we are more likely to see a collapse of international organisations. Britain has already left the EU, and others like Greece and Italy will most likely follow. Most other groups of nations are also fracturing. We are not going to see one-world government in the foreseeable future, so Christians make themselves look foolish if they keep talking about it.

Ironically, the one grouping of nations/states that has held together is the United States of America, but even it is feeling the pressure of intensifying division, which might fracture it apart.

President Joe Biden does not believe in one-world government. He believes in American power. He will only support international organisations, like NATO, IMF, World Bank and the UN, if they can be used as vehicles to push American power on the world. These attempts will probably fail, because Europe and China are too strong to be dominated by American power.

What Joe Biden is doing is undermining economic globalism by imposing sanctions to enforce US power. This is dividing the world into two trading blocs, which will make most people worse off.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Righteousness in Romans

I have completed my analysis of righteousness in Romans.
The full series can be read here.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Righteousness in Romans (12) Righteousness (diakaiosune)

Paul uses the noun "dikaiosune", which means "righteousness", in three main ways in his letter to the Romans. In the first part of the letter (1-3), he refers to the "righteousness of God". In chapter 4, he explains how God considered Abraham's faith to be "righteousness". In chapter 6, he explains that we are now "servants of righteousness".

1. Righteousness of God
Only God is righteous. Paul explains that the gospel is revealing his righteousness to the world (Rom 1:17; 3:21). He proved his righteousness by passing over sins that had been previously committed (Rom 3:26). God is the only being who has righteousness at the heart of his character.

2. Abraham and Righteousness
Paul makes his greatest use of the word "righteousness" when writing about Abraham, so we need to understand what he meant. His core message was, Faith was assessed to Abraham into righteousness (Rom 4:9). Most English translations say "for righteousness," whereas the Greek text uses the preposition "eis", which means "into" (also Rom 4:3,5 22).

The preposition "for" makes it seem like faith is swapped "for righteousness", but it was not a swap of one for another. Rather it was a change in God's assessment of Abraham. The different preposition was used to indicate that God had re-classified him from 'unrighteousness "into righteousness".

3. Serving Righteousness In Romans 6, Paul explains the changed position of those who trust in Jesus. Prior to the coming of Jesus, powerful cosmos controllers called Sin and Death ruled the world. Prior to trusting in Jesus, the Christians were slaves to Sin (unrighteousness) and Death. Paul explained that people are the servants/slaves of anyone they commit to obeying, whether Sin or Righteousness

You are slaves of the one you obey (Rom 6:16).
This was Adam's problem. He chose to submit to the tempter in the Garden of Eden. When he obeyed Satan, he became a slave of Satan. The spiritual powers of evil gained dominion over everything that had been given to Adam and Eve. A child of a slave is born as a slave, so all the descendants of Adam and Eve are born into the same slavery to the spiritual powers of evil. In Romans 6, Paul spells the problem out clearly, along with the solution.


  • We were enslaved to Sin (Rom 6:6).
  • Death had dominion over us (Rom 6:9).
  • Sin reigned in your mortal body (Rom 6:12).
  • You obeyed Sin's lusts (Rom 6:12).
  • You were weapons of unrighteousness to Sin (Rom 6:13).
  • Sin had dominion over you (Rom 6:14).
  • You were slaves to Sin (Rom 6:17).
  • You were slaves to impurity (Rom 6:19).
  • You were slaves of sin (Rom 6:20).
  • The wages of Sin is Death (Rom 6:23).


  • You have been freed from sin (Rom 6:7).
  • Reckon ourselves dead to Sin (Rom 6:11).
  • You were liberated from Sin (Rom 6:18).
  • You became slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:18)
  • You have been liberated from Sin (Rom 6:22).
The problem is that we are dominated and controlled by the spiritual powers of evil. Jesus' death on the cross destroyed their power and set us free. Paul says that we have been liberated to be slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:18). Of course, we do not become slaves of a concept like righteousness. In this context, righteousness is just a name of God. Paul uses the word "righteousness" to refer to God. We choose to be slaves/servants of God.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Righteousness in Romans (11) Abraham

Abraham was not a righteous man. He never became righteous. Throughout his life, he lied about his wife to avoid the threats of powerful kings. This got him into trouble on a couple of occasions. Most Jewish teachers believed that God had called Abraham because he was a righteous man. Paul explained that was not true. Abraham was not righteous. He could not be righteous because only God is truly righteous. However, election does not require righteousness.

Abraham did not need to be righteous for God to choose him to be the father of his chosen nation. Calling does not require righteousness because election does not depend on character (Rom 9:11) but on the will of God. God promised that Abraham and his descendants would be the heir of the world (Rom 4:13). Abraham responded to God's calling by faithfully obeying his leading.

We first hear of Abraham when God came to him and told him to leave Haran and move to a country that God would show him. God told him that he would become a great nation and that he would bring blessing to the nations of the world.

So Abram went, as Yahweh had spoken to him (Rom 12:4).
Abraham trusted God and moved to Canaan, a massively risky journey into the unknown. God responded to Abraham's trust and faithfulness by declaring him to be right with him. Abraham was put right by trusting in God. Once Abram was in Canaan, God spoke to him again and promised that he would father a great nation. When Abram pointed out that he was childless, God told him to look at the stars in the sky and attempt to count them. He said his offspring would be as many as the stars. Genesis records that Abram trusted God.
Abram believed Yahweh, and he classified him as righteous (Gen 15:6).
God responded by solemnising a formal covenant with Abram (Gen 15:18). The main risk to Abraham's destiny came from the spiritual powers of evil. It seems that when he was in Haran, they deemed him to be insignificant, so they ignored him. Even when he first arrived in Canaan, they did not understand his role, so they left him to his own devices. However, once his household and wealth grew, they realised something was up and tried to attack him.

God had declared Abraham to be right with him, so it was difficult for them to get at him. They attacked Lot as a means to get at Abraham. They deceived him into having a son with his wife's servant Hagar. They got him into trouble with Abimelech and sent a famine to destroy him, but God protected them from all these troubles. The birth of Isaac was proof that his situation had been rectified, as it allowed Abraham to fulfil his calling.

God thought about Abraham as if he was righteous. The spiritual powers of evil were unable to destroy him because God was able to rescue him and his family from their power.

Faithfulness was all that God required of Abraham. He did not need anything more. He didn't need a sacrifice. God did not need Abraham to fully obey him. Hid did not need Jesus' death. All that he needed was faith. That was enough to put him right with God.

Abraham probably did not care that much about righteousness. He just wanted to survive his adventure into a new land. He wanted to keep his family safe from his dangerous neighbours. However, without Abraham knowing it, God’s decision to consider him righteous was hugely important, because it prevented the spiritual powers of evil from attacking him. Once God declared that he was righteous, they could no longer use his sins to hold power over him. The declaration that Abraham was righteous in God’s eyes was a huge defeat for the spiritual powers of evil, because they lost their authority over him, as it was based on his being a sinner. God's decision destroyed their power over Abraham.

The same is true for us. God did not declare us righteous so we would feel good. He did it so that the spiritual powers of evil would lose their rights over us. Because God has declared that those who are called by Jesus are righteous, they have lost their right to attack us.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Righteousness in Romans (10) Put Right by Faith

The basic meaning of 'dikaio" is to be "put right" or to be "rectified." Paul's message to the Romans is that those who trust in Jesus are "put right" by faith.

All are freely put right by His grace through the ransom that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24).
By dying on the cross, Jesus paid the ransom that set us free from the domination of the spiritual powers of evil. That put us right. It rectified our situation.
We consider (logizomai) that a person is put right by faith apart from the works of the Torah (Rom 3:28).
Jesus did for people who trust in him what the Torah was not intended to do. It was never intended to be a complete solution to the problem of sin.
Since we have been put right through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1).
Because Jesus' death rectified our situation, our guilt and shame no longer force us to draw away from God.
Having been declared right now in his blood, we shall be rescued through him from the spirit of Wrath (Rom 5:9).
By shedding his blood on the cross, Jesus rescued us from the control of the spirit called Wrath and his mates.
Those whom He called, he also put right (Rom 8:30).
Jesus called us, so he put our situation right in every way.

Paul wrote a similar message to the Galatian Christians because Jews were trying to get them to comply with the ethnic markers of the law by eating separately.

We have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be put right by faith in the Messiah and not by the works of the law because, by the works of the law, no one will be put right (Gal 2:16).
This was God's plan all along.
Scripture foresaw that God would put right the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you" (Gal 3:8).
The purpose of the law was to provide protection until the Messiah came.
The law was our guardian/escort until Christ came that we might be put right by trusting (Gal 3:24).

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Righteousness in Romans (9) Just or Right

Paul explains that Abraham's righteousness came through faith. He explains that people who trust in Jesus are put right through faith. The Greek verb is "dikaio". This is a tricky word to translate into English because the equivalent adjective (dikaios) can be translated with two disconnected words: "just" or "right". The related English nouns are "justice" and "righteousness".

"Justify" is the English verb related to the English adjective "just". The problem is that there is no English verb equivalent to the adjective "right". The consequence is that the Greek verb "dikaio" is often translated as "justify" because it is the only English word available. This gives a judicial flavour to Romans that probably should not be there.

The forensic/judicial model of righteousness does not work because it functions the wrong way around. I am accused of committing sin. I do not need to be acquitted. I do not need God to declare that I am "Not guilty". That would only work if I was innocent, but I am not. Other people know that I am not. Even the spiritual powers of evil know that I am not innocent. What I need is for God to say that it does not matter. I need things to be put right so the spiritual powers of evil cannot attack me.

My acquittal would not be justice. On the other hand, if a person is accused of things that they did not do, they need an honest judge who will investigate fairly to prove their innocence and acquit them. If a judge says, "not guilty" to an innocent person, that would be true. Unfortunately, this is not the case for any human except Jesus. Our problem is the opposite. We are guilty. If we were acquitted, it would be dishonest. We need a solution that deals with our guilt, not one that proves our innocence.

The court theme only occurs in Romans 2 when Paul disagrees with the Jewish Judger. He declares that he is storing up wrath for himself on the day of the final, "just" judgment of God (Rom 2:5,16). The sins of those who sin under the law will be judged by the law (Rom 2:12). Paul used justice words when challenging him because he is talking about the final judgment. In this context, "dikaio" does mean justify (Rom 2:13). Elsewhere, it usually means to "be put right".

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Righteousness in Romans (8) Credit/Impute

When discussing Abraham and righteousness, Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6 several times.

Abraham trusted God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Rom 4:3 NIV).
The word translated as "credited" in the NIV and many other English translations is "logizomai. It word is the verb equivalent to the noun "logos", which means "word" or "thought". John's gospel refers to Jesus as the "Logos". According to my dictionary, "logizomai" has a broad range of meanings. In a banking/accounting context, it can mean "credit, account, calculate" but there is no reason to assume a banking context in Romans. The more standard meaning is "think, evaluate, look upon as, consider, class, classify,". It refers to how we think about things. In Paul's love chapter, he uses this word when he says, "love thinks no evil" (1 Cor 13:5).

In Romans 4, Paul uses "logizomai" to refer to how God thought about Abraham. Because he trusted him, God thought of Abraham as righteous. This does not mean he suddenly became righteous, because he was not, and he continued to be unrighteous. God was the one who changed. He changed from seeing Abraham as fickle to perceiving him to be righteous.

In Genesis, Yahweh is the subject of the verb.

Yahweh classified him as righteous (Gen 15:6).
The Hebrew equivalent word means "weave" or "plait", so metaphorically it refers to "thinking about" or "classifying". God is the one who takes the action. He thinks of Abraham as righteous. He classifies him as belonging to the group of people who are righteous. Abraham did not change. It was God's perception and evaluation of him that had changed. The English word "credit" used in many English translations is confusing, as it makes it seem like something was taken from someone else's bank account and put into Abraham's account. It sounds like Abraham now has some credit, but that was not true. Abraham was still a sinner, and his account was still empty.

Likewise, the word "count" used in many English translations is confusing. This word makes it sound like faith and righteousness are mathematical equivalents, ie faith = righteousness. This is not true. The person of faith is not given some righteousness equivalent to their faith. Rather God looks upon the person of faith and changes his assessment of them. He shifts them into the "righteous" category. This is not a bringing forward of the final judgment as some commentators suggest. Rather it describes God's assessment of the person now.

Older translations used the word "impute". Apart from statistics, where the record of a representative respondent to a survey is assigned to a non-respondent to avoid non-response bias, this word has become obsolete in modern usage. The problem with using it in a New Testament context is that it makes righteousness seem to be something that is taken from someone else (possibly Jesus) and given to Abraham, or the person of faith. This is misleading, although it was used in this way by several of the Reformers to describe how salvation worked. The word "logizomai" is never used in the New Testament to describe something being taken from someone and given to another.

The righteousness that Abraham gets is not passed to him from someone else. Rather, it describes how God assesses him. Righteousness is not a banner or substance that can be transferred from one person to another. It is a status that a suitable assessor can give to a person. God is the only person in the universe who is truly righteous, so he is the only one who can assess a human to be righteous. He is the only one who understands every person's true character, so he is the only one who knows enough to judge that a person is righteous.

In my dictionary, the basic meaning of "logizomai" is "think, consider, look upon, classify, class". When God looked at Abraham or thought about him, he considered him to be righteous. He classed him with other righteous people. Paul said that Abraham was classified as righteous. This did not change his character. It did not mean that he had not sinned. Rather, God changed the way that he thought about Abraham.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Righteousness in Romans (7) Our Big Problem

What I really wanted and needed most is for the spiritual powers of evil to be unable to take my sins into account to justify attacking me. I wanted God to deliver me from the control of the spiritual powers of evil so that they cannot use my sins to hold me down. That is the big problem that I needed rectified (it is my bear trap). I needed things to be put right so that the spiritual powers of evil cannot use my sins against me.

Jesus resolved this big problem for us.

All are put right (dikaio) freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24).
Jesus gave redemption to us as a gift. When Adam and Eve obeyed Satan's words and submitted to him, they placed themselves under his authority. He made them slaves so all their descendants would be born under his control. Before a slave can be freed, a redemption fee has to be paid to the slave owner.

Jesus paid that redemption fee to the spiritual powers of evil when he died on the cross. Once this fee was paid, they lost their control over us. We are set free to serve Jesus, so the spiritual powers of evil cannot use our sins against us in an attempt to hold us against our will. That is the big rectification that we all needed.

Slaves need to be redeemed, not justified.