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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Matthew 24 & I Timothy 2: Power and salvation in Rome and Artemis

power and salvation

This article is about two different factors which affect the saints in Christ, particularly as these factors are seemingly outside of their control. Two instances for our learning in which these factors appear are Matthew 24 and I Timothy 2. They appear in the two different geographic areas of Jerusalem and Ephesus. These factors are 1) a power, and 2) the salvation of the saints. These scripture passages do not name the power to which the Holy Spirit alludes, but the passages do give instruction for the enlightenment of the saints concerning their salvation as they were affected by those powers. How the Holy Spirit spoke to us through these passages speaks is for our understanding and enlightenment concerning other areas not the least of which includes the teaching and preaching of the gospel of Jesus by the saints who are the royal priesthood of believers.


The purpose for the focus on these passages is that the saints in Christ might gain an understanding and appreciation for the awareness of New Testament speakers and writers of the historical context.


Specifically, it is about how history and context are assumed and acknowledged in some passages of scripture, but they are ignored in other passages.


If you are like me it probably grates on your ears when you hear history and context; especially when the two appear together in the same sentence. It is not that either of these represent a problem. Rather, it is that too often the mere mention of the terms of history and context are given as the default answer and explanation for passages and concepts which we struggle to understand much less teach. Those writers, and speakers such as Jesus, were aware of the power under which they lived, struggled, and in the case of Jesus, would be put to death. Those writers and speakers understood that what was paramount was the salvation, that is, the preservation of the saints, not at all costs, but such as would bring glory to God.


an unnamed power/salvation made certain


God makes no apology for the reality of the world in which the saints reside. Although God was the ultimate mediator between Israel and the world powers which rose to prominence his warnings with respect to those powers was about how God could and would unleash them as his instruments of punishment on Israel should they ever fall away from the commandments of the Lord their God. Jesus instructed and warned the saints at various times about those world powers. The saints were to be wise and aware in their response towards the actions of those powers if they were to preserve and save their lives. God does not always refer to those powers by name as he did in the numerous visions which Daniel received from God. It would be careless for the saints to gloss over or dismiss the relevance of a passage in the first or twenty first century on the basis of a shallow, yes; shallow claim, namely, because a specific power is not named. Just as bad as dismissing a passage is the false notion of a so-called conservative interpretation which purports to just follow the word without taking into consideration the factors of a power and salvation of the saints in the historical context of the scripture.


Matthew 24: the power of Rome in Jerusalem


For example, Jesus never revealed by name the governing power to which he alludes in his prophecy in Matthew 24 in that historical context. Jesus expected that the disciples would look, understand and discern that when that unnamed power brought on the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem it would be in accordance with the judgment which he had foretold in their presence. The disciples had received instruction and insight from Jesus 40 years prior to the destruction of the temple. Generally, we assume and acknowledge the history and the context of Matthew 24. How is it that history and context seem impersonal enough and easier so as to attain a general understanding and acceptance at a discussion level while an unnamed power receives less than a similar understanding and acceptance?


Those disciples who listened and remembered knew what they were to do;  emerged, their salvation made certain because of the words of Jesus. Those who either did not listen, forgot, or dismissed the instruction from the Lord; perished. Those who might have foolishly and arrogantly reassured themselves that “God will save us;” perished. This false reassurance had abounded in Israel in the days leading up to their final captivity; first by Assyria and later by Babylon. Even as all the signs of which the prophets had forewarned them about were being made manifest they mistakenly believed and expected deliverance and salvation from those powers from God.


When Jesus revealed to the disciples who marveled at the enormous and beautiful temple that not one stone would be left unturned they were astonished. This was not history. It was the future. Certainly, the Jews could draw on the scripture and their collective memory of their Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the temple at that time. However, for the most part they could not connect or see a need to draw the connection between those past things in their history with world powers and the future destruction by an unnamed power which Jesus spoke to them. It was prophecy. Jesus opened a window for them to reveal to the disciples in much the same as God had done for Daniel as to what was to happen, not centuries later, but during their lifetime:


Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.


Yet, the prophecy of Jesus bore the certain knowledge that there would be some, not all,  who would not survive the events of those days because they failed to listen, understand and remember. They were unwilling or unable to understand and accept that the power in the prophetic message of Jesus was Rome. Subsequently, they perished.


I Timothy 2: the power of Artemis in Ephesus


A second example is found in the I Timothy 2 passage which involves the ministry of Paul in Asia.


Yahweh was to the Jews in Jerusalem and all Judea what Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and all Asia.


This reality is attested to by Demetrius in Acts 19 whose testimony was preserved for the saints by the Holy Spirit. Yet, Paul, like Jesus, never named that power in Ephesus. The saints  were expected to look, understand and discern what Paul’s instructions meant and how they were to respond to those instructions under the shadow, not of the temple of God in Jerusalem, but of the temple of Artemis; the power in Ephesus. It is quite plausible and likely that some of our brothers and sisters who had come to faith in Jesus had emerged from the cult of Artemis. They knew and had lived under the power of Artemis. In Ephesus, the female dominant cult of Artemis held sway and its hold over women: Artemis was the savior of women in childbirth.


Women in Ephesus and throughout Asia had, like Eve, been deceived by Artemis. They had believed Artemis was their savior. But Paul boldly asserts and affronts that message of Artemis when he declares of our sisters in Christ that:


she will be saved through her childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.


The mistaken assumption by which some teachers and preachers of the word in the body of believers impose the additional qualifier of childbearing to salvation in Jesus borders on appalling and apostasy. Yet, those same teachers and preachers remain as oblivious as those who in Jerusalem who perished. They do not listen, they have forgotten, or they reason that their message of salvation, not just for women, but for men, too, has been made more sure and better secured than what the Holy Spirit who indwells them revealed through his servants, the apostles.


Women in the cult of Artemis were not saved through childbearing anymore than our sisters in Christ are saved through childbearing. Women in the cult of Artemis were saved by Artemis. Women in Christ were saved through childbearing without regard or reliance on Artemis. This is Paul’s confident assertion that the salvation of our sisters was through their continued walk in faith, love and sanctification with sobriety, _ without Artemis. The fact that they bore children without the aid or reliance on Artemis not only silenced the adversary (typically, Satan by name, but in Ephesus his name was Artemis) but it shut up the insults of the adversary that women who departed from Artemis were gossips and busybodies. (I Timothy 5:15)


How is it possible that despite the mention of women’s costly apparel, (perhaps former priestesses in the temple of Artemis) women teaching and women bearing children under the shadow of the temple of Artemis the saints remain adamantly oblivious to power of Artemis whom the Holy Spirit saw fit to introduce to us in Acts 19? Those who wonder blithely why Paul did not mention Artemis by name and therefore feel justified to reject the unnamed power of Artemis in their understanding of I Timothy and Paul’s letters must also wonder and reject the unnamed power of Rome which carried out the destruction of Jerusalem in which those who did not heed the message of Jesus perished.


just like old times


The understanding which some saints claim concerning, for instance, the I Timothy 2 passage is akin to another fatal forgetfulness and misunderstanding by some of our first century brethren. It does not seem likely, given the admonition of Jesus prophecy to the disciples in Matthew 24, that there were some disciples who probably concluded before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple that everything would return back to life as usual; just like old times _ as long as they remained faithful.


They were determined to the end, in their disdain for the power of Rome, to disregard Rome in no less the same manner as the saints disregard Artemis, today. After all, the call by Jesus was for the discerning saints to be faithful, right? Isn’t that enough? Those who escaped death during the destruction of the temple thought they could resume life as a Jew and be neither the wiser nor be filled with the Holy Spirit for what God had just granted them. But, Jesus expected the saints to consider, to discern, to understand and to act accordingly with respect to the power of Rome which would soon come down hard on them.  Those who thought to seek safe refuge in the city, Jesus alerted them, would seal their fate because they failed to heed his words.


There is a staunch explanation which exalts men as leaders which is not even a matter in discussion in I Timothy. It is bad enough to mistakenly equate teaching and preaching with leadership, but it is even worse to glibly ascribe spirituality to a man simply, not even because he is a man, but because he is a leader and must therefore be spiritual. It escapes our notice that if those who were to wait on tables (Acts 6) were to be full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit how much more so those who lead the people of God. It is another mistaken notion to equate spirituality with being full of the Holy Spirit. The explanation purports (faithfully and lovingly, if not biblically, the saints are reassured) to put and keep women in their place because of their gender as ordained by God. The thought behind this rank and file order is derived from Paul’s reference to the Genesis creation account. This egregious explanation pins Eve’s sin in the garden on those sisters in Christ who have been, like their brothers, redeemed and washed by the blood sacrifice of Jesus.


This explanation borders on apostasy, not unlike Israel’s apostasy under the reign of their kings, when the sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of women must be enhanced with childbearing. The view of these teachers and preachers is as mistaken and ignorant as those saints who scrounged for reassurance in the familiar, “God can do anything” even as Rome unleashed her judgment of Jerusalem according to the decree of God. It is a view not unlike that of believing that everything would return to normal after the destruction of the temple; a notion which reverts to the garden to make certain the salvation of women by imposing on them Eve’s sin in the garden and the condition of childbearing. It is a impression about male dominance not unlike the female dominance in the cult of Artemis; just good ol’ boys, just like old times. Yes, Paul clearly and undoubtedly makes a reference to the Genesis creation, but any explanation about that reference which is oblivious to and rejects the unnamed power of Artemis is as flawed as to reject the unnamed power of Rome in the destruction of Jerusalem.


conclusion


The settings of history and context are reflected in the scriptures. It is within these settings in which the Holy Spirit brought out and presented various factors concerning the powers which affected the salvation of the saints in Christ. They, like us, were to understand and be enlightened by these things. The result of the saints who persevered and overcame either the power of Rome in the destruction of the temple or the power of the cult of Artemis, was that the priesthood of believers not only remained faithful, but they continued faithfully in the teaching and preaching of the gospel of Jesus.

This is a call and support for those brothers and sisters in the royal priesthood of believers who are not only not against Jesus but who are with him in the teaching and preaching is to listen, understand and heed the words of Jesus for the salvation of those who know not Jesus as Lord and Savior. Just as Jesus warned about the false messengers in the day of visitation on Rome telling the saints to go there or come here to preserve their lives, beware of messengers who clothe themselves with an assumed spirituality merely because they are men and they happen to lead. peace in Jesus.

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