EFAC Australia

Bible exposition

2 TIMOTHY 1:9-14

The letter of 2 Timothy, regarded by many as the last of Paul’s letters, functions as a farewell letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, engaged at that time in leading the church of Ephesus.

It is a realistic letter about the challenges of ministry, and at times the realism might seem to convey sometime more like pessimism. However, as I have read this letter several times over the last season of ministry I have been struck by Paul’s optimism – an optimism that is striking considering his own location (prison), his expectation about his own death (imminent), and his consciousness of the threats (inevitable and plentiful).

The source of Paul’s ministry optimism can be found, I believe, in six verses in the middle of 2 Timothy 1. In verses 9-10 we see the first source of Paul’s optimism – the significance of the gospel within all of history and eternity. The saving grace of God predates the history of the universe, as it is given before the beginning of time (verse 9). The saving grace of God then appears within human time and history through the life and ministry of Christ Jesus (verse 10). And that saving grace then connects believers to an eternal future as death is destroyed and immortality brought to light. The grace that existed in Christ before history, enters history, and transforms history into eternity. What greater cause of optimism could a gospel herald and teacher have than to know this history of the gospel! It means that suffering for the gospel leads not to shame but to humble confidence (verse 12).

The second source of Paul’s optimism is his knowledge of God as the one who will guard the gospel. The phrase in verse 12 requires a little work to unpack – “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” The day that Paul has in mind is clearly the day of judgment and Christ’s appearing (see 1:18 and 4:8), so what is it that Paul has entrusted, and God is able to guard? Suggestions are many, but the key to understanding is to notice that Paul uses the same two words (‘guard’ and ‘entrusted’) in verse 14, where that which is to be guarded is the gospel itself. Paul entrusts the heralding and teaching of the gospel for the next generation to Timothy (verse 14), but he has already entrusted that transmission of gospel proclamation to God, and God is able to guard it. Even as he exhorts Timothy to “guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you” Paul is optimistic because he knows that God is the one who will himself guard that gospel until the day of Christ’s return.

To the elders among you 1 Peter 5:1-14

Scott is Youth Minister at St Lawrence’s, Dalkeith, WA

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

Although Peter is speaking to the elders, or leaders of the suffering churches, what he says is important for every believer. Perhaps you’re on a staff team, or involved in volunteer youth leadership, serving in the music team, kids church, Bible study or any other church ministry? If so, how should you lead? What do we expect from our leaders and how can we pray for them and encourage them?

IvanHeadRomans 8 is a powerful affirmation of the way in which God is on our side. The Rev’d Dr Ivan Head seeks to make plain some of its depths. Rev Head was a member of the Sydney Diocesan Doctrine Commission for about ten years. He is a parishioner of St Jude’s Bowral NSW.

Romans chapter 8 from beginning to end affirms that God is for us—from our beginning to our end. I use the phrase God’s ‘for-us-ness’. William Tyndale, the Bible scholar and a primary translator of the Bible into English as it then was, coined the phrase ‘at-one-ment’ (atonement) to better translate Paul’s Greek language into an English New Testament (1526). His translations made a significant, creative change to the English language, both then and now.

In Romans 8, we discover that God is for us, and for us irrevocably. Paul exclaims that ‘It is God who justifies’ (8:33b). God puts right, and God is for us (8:3b), acting fully on our behalf, as one who would be our Father. Human salvation in Christ emerges, unshakeably, from deep within God’s time, from where God has anticipated and foreseen our core need that is now addressed and met in Christ (8:29-30). This provision consists not only of the death of Jesus as ‘God’s Son in the likeness of sinful man’ (8:3b) but most importantly by means of an unbreakable relationship established between the believer and the Spirit of Christ (by the Spirit of Christ) which Spirit indwells at the centre of the human person (8:11). Metaphors for closeness (inter-personal, spatial, and built), only take us so far at this point. For instance, if the Spirit of Christ dwells within us it may be more accurate to speak of an intrapersonal relationship.

Twice in verse 11 Paul refers to indwelling, to place double stress on this remarkable claim. Indwelling follows the raising of Jesus from the dead by the same Spirit of God, which is a pre-condition for the new relationship, and the new mind-set in the believer. It is remarkable to consider that the agent of the resurrection dwells within each human person awakened to faith.

At the beginning of this chapter (8:1-2), Paul tells us that God has provided for us in Christ. We read that God has removed us from the zone of negativity and penalty: ‘There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death.’ At the end of the chapter (8:38-39), Paul exclaims: ‘I am convinced that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ This inseparability is remarkable and demonstrates the for-us-ness I refer to. Having said that the Spirit of Christ dwells in the believer,

Paul writes what may be considered one of the most profound statements in the whole of the New Testament. At 8:16 he writes: ‘The Spirit himself co-witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God’. John Wesley said that this testimony of the Spirit was immediate and direct. This aligns with the modern philosopher Alvin Plantinga where he asserts that ‘we are right to take belief in God as basic’. Belief in God can properly be the move the mind makes prior to all other moves—neither inferred nor deduced but given; and this is neither a prejudice nor a refusal to think.

Romans 8 is saturated with the word Spirit. The Spirit is both the agent of Christ’s resurrection and the agent and matrix of Christ’s unbreakable relationship with the human person. Paul uses the word Spirit more than twenty times in this chapter. A very specific renewal of the human person is outlined. The renewal exchanges one human mind-set for another (8:5- 9). One mind-set is purely human and closed in on its own resources. It may even be hostile to the very idea that there is a God. The new mind-set is informed by the Spirit of Christ which begins to co-form us. The indwelling Spirit literally informs us (8:29). The person in Christ is said to be conformed to, or co-formed to the image of God’s Son. Paul uses the word symmorphy which could pass untranslated into English, as has the word synergy.

Paul believes that men and women in Christ share a new destination that is achieved by God’s seamless intervention through Christ and the Spirit. This destination is not a goal or set of achievements in the modern sense of a better future made by human endeavour alone, a kind of utopia created by adopting self-help points, programs, or political policies. This destination involves an end to death itself. He makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 15:26 where death is ‘the last enemy to be destroyed’. This challenges our imagination. For Paul, raising Jesus from the dead cannot stay confined to raising Jesus from the dead. This act is inherently an act of for-us-ness.

That death is said to be destroyed is profound. For us now, it is a reality at the limit. Death sits on our life-horizon. It is not something we have mastered or can master even with our best thoughts. We ponder it from this side of our own death, and daily we move closer to it. We know that the destination Paul hopes for and trusts in is not yet seen (8:25): ‘But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’ Paul is hoping for a renewed human existence in a glorified creation where death is no more.

I offer three translations from the Greek text for Romans 8:17, where this claim is made.

King James: ‘And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.’
RSV: ‘and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him, in order that we also may be glorified with him.’
NIV: ‘Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.’

We can also translate this verse by picking up one element of the NIV in its use of ‘co’ in co-heir. Thus: ‘And if children of God, we are also heirs, heirs of God, and co-heirs of Christ if indeed we co-suffer that we may be co-glorified.’ I am using the prefix co- in the translations to stress the closeness of the Spirit which is sent to indwell (8:11) the human person. We must be careful not to self-isolate at this point. The Spirit minutely achieves our salvation from within us. However transcendent and mysterious, the closeness of the Spirit is real and as much internal to the human person as transcendent. Closeness and internality do not blend the identities of Christ and the believer, but neither does it leave the identity of the believer alone.

Paul wrote (Galatians 2:20): ‘I have been crucified with Christ, so it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.’ The Greek verb has the same co- prefix (sunestauromai) which could be translated ‘co-crucified’ as much as crucified with. Using co- really focuses on the closeness that Paul says holds between Jesus Christ, the Spirit, and the believer. There is an inclusion that claims to be real. Paul stresses that closeness again in the challenging passage at Colossians 1:24 where he says ‘Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, which is the church.’ Romans 8 invites a longer study of the working out of the Spirit’s indwelling.

Paul’s trajectory across Romans 8 heads to the moment when ‘the children of God will be revealed.’ Believers will be revealed in a resurrection glory already seen in Jesus. The resurrection of all the dead is as important to Paul as the one-off resurrection of Jesus. This can be difficult for the modern Christian to realise but Paul says explicitly at 1 Cor 15:16: ‘For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.’ For Paul, neither makes sense without the other, however much the resurrection of Jesus is the core of all his content. At 1 Cor 15:17 Paul says: ‘And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain (empty, futile), and you are still in your sins.’

The NIV (picking up a specific phrase from the Septuagint Greek Bible) says that God’s own Son dies in the flesh ‘as a sin offering’ (8:3). From the moment of resurrection and our receipt of the resurrecting Spirit, God establishes a new, unbreakable relational bond with us. The Spirit makes us children of God and siblings of Jesus. Paul says that as a result, each person in Christ becomes ‘more than victorious’ (8:37). At 8:32 he asks: ‘will he not give us all things with him?’ This statement is focused entirely on an unbreakable personal relationship with God that holds throughout all the circumstances of life. Paul notes these extreme highs and lows in the last two verses of chapter 8 which once again stresses the unbreakable relationship with God. ‘For I am sure that not death, not life, not angels, not principalities not things present not things to come, not powers not height not depth not anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

The inseparability in the Spirit of Christ and the believer may be the main point of Romans 8. In all these ‘nots’, those things that cannot break the bond of God’s love in Christ, we also hear God’s unequivocal ‘Yes’ as Paul said at 2 Cor 1:20: ‘All the promises of God are Yes in him’.

Pandemics are full of pain, extraordinary change, and major readjustments through every aspect of society. For the church there is no simple playbook to take off the shelf and implement that will fix all our problems and keep us sharing and growing in Christ. Even though the church has been through pandemics before, we’ve never had the current scientific and technological tools available to us that enable extraordinary connection and change the landscape of what church community could and should be. Each local church seems to have walked a unique path and there are no simple answers. Instead there is a variety of advice that abounds, a constant need to change strategy, and endless expectations. At worst it devolves into crippling comparisons.

Anyone tired of decision making, sifting through information, and communicating through change management? There is a great promise at the start of Proverbs that is a balm for a confused and weary pastor’s soul. It declares that these proverbs are:

“for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behaviour,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
(or ‘inexperienced’ as in CSB)
knowledge and discretion to the young” (1:2-4)

The Key Text on Human Sexuality


If we should be shaping our thinking and living by the teaching of Scripture, we should give Scripture our particular and careful attention. In this extract from a longer presentation Stephen Daly attends to Genesis 2, the key text that bears on the current debates about God’s will for our sexual behaviour. Steven is Rector of Leederville in WA.


I’m assuming we know the story well. In fact, the better we know the story of Adam and Eve, perhaps the less we understand how shocking this story would have been in the ancient world. Shocking in the sense that it contains a number of shocks or surprises—points in the narrative where events take a turn that would have either been unexpected or indeed where the opposite may have been expected. One shock is that the Adam (his name means ‘Earthling’) will serve and preserve the Garden. We were expecting that the Adam would have been created to serve and preserve the gods. But no! God will look after the Adam as the Adam looks after the Creation and not the other way around.

Another shock is the method Yahweh God chooses for answering a problem, a problem that he himself has spotted, that problem being that is is—quite emphatically—not good for the Adam to be alone. Given that no suitable helper was found for the Adam amongst all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the wild animals, the surgical intervention that follows comes as a complete surprise. Why? What we’re expecting is for Yahweh God to stoop to his knees and begin again with the modelling clay, just as he did with the Adam in the first place (2:7) and also every other breathing, animate organism (2:19). The creation of the woman—who we will come to know as Eve—is an utterly unique and distinctive creation event. The causing of the Adam to fall into a deep sleep, the removal of part of his side, the closing up of his side, the making of the part into a whole, a woman, the bringing the woman to the now awake man—not something we’ve ever seen before in the biblical narrative nor will ever see again. Why? Because this methodology is commentary on things we’ve already been told. You see, firstly, we already know that the woman will be for the Adam a ‘suitable helper’. This phrase, literally, ‘like-opposite helper’ is in no way demeaning, for Yahweh God himself is the helper of Israel. But the sense of it is this: the helper will be a complementary partner, matching and suitable, not identical— indeed radically different in way that is complementary and complimentary. They’ll be radically different, maybe even opposites, but in ways that makes each other look good. The methodology displays an opposite truth: that the woman is just the same as the man, ultimately of one being, of one substance, of one kind. Someone—as the Adam will recognize perfectly in just a moment—someone just like me.

Secondly, the bizarre methodology of creation that we find in Genesis 2 makes emphatic and unmistakable something that we were told in Genesis chapter 1. God made from nothing, from uniformity, from disorder and chaos, a bipolar cosmos: light and darkness, heavens and the earth, dry ground and seas, night and day, water creatures and birds of the air—polarity everywhere. The crowning achievement of the six-day creation story is the creation of humankind. Humankind is created in order to rule, to have dominion and to subdue, continuing the work of bringing order from disorder, of creating and maintaining boundaries, of bringing diversity and complexity and beauty out of chaos. The crowning polarity in a bipolar universe is the last polarity created—humanity made male and female, and both male and female created in the image and likeness of God. In the Bible, the language of image has to do with representation. Humanity has been created to be imagebearers, created in order to represent God, like God.

Both chapters present the creation of sexuality as of supreme importance. In Genesis 1 the crowning glory of this bipolar cosmos is the creation of gendered, sexual humankind, male and female, representing God. In Genesis 2 the special glory of this relational universe is the creation of gendered, sexual humankind, man and woman, serving and preserving. Both stories have the same ending, the creation of sexuality. The making of humanity with male and female gender is extremely important to the mission of humanity, as they faithfully represent Yahweh, Lord of Hosts, Almighty God, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, and work with him and for him in the Garden.

A third shock—out of many—and indeed it’s a scandal—are the words the Adam says in response to seeing Eve for the first time, for he does not say what we expect him to say. Genesis 2:23, ‘the Adam said, “This time it’s bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh. This one I call ‘Woman’ because from Man this one was taken”.’ What he doesn’t sing and dance about is how beautiful she is. He doesn’t celebrate her sexual attractiveness even though she is brand new and completely naked and those of us who have given it any thought— which is at least some of us—have assumed that she was the most beautiful woman ever created. And given the values of the Ancient Near East, this omission is astonishing. But nevertheless, her beauty is left to our imaginations; nothing is ever said about it directly. And there is no celebration of romantic love. Rather, what the Adam does see is twofold: this one is family; and in the making of woman you also have the making of man.

I’ll explain that second statement first: In the making of woman you also have the making of man. The original human was always referred to as being male, but the Adam represents humanity; man as opposed to the other animals. To be a Son of Adam is to be a human being. Now we get the Hebrew words eesh (man opposed to woman or husband) and eeshah (woman opposed to man or wife). And now to the first statement: this one is family. The Hebrew phrase ‘bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’ is a common Hebrew saying, meaning, ‘of my own family.’ The equivalent English expression is ‘my own flesh and blood’ which is actually how the Hebrew euphemism is routinely translated. We belong together by the closest and most unbreakable of ties is the meaning of both figures of speech. The man is celebrating the fact that he recognises her instantly as family. They belong together intrinsically. God split the Adam in order that there might be a reconciliation and recombination, a coming back together again that is creative. The reconciliation will create family.

The scene ends with one last shock, verse 24: ‘Thus so a Man (or husband) leaves his father and mother and clings to his Woman (or wife), and they will be one flesh.’ For the ancient reader, the shock of this verse would be very considerable, for what he or she would have been expecting was: ‘Thus so a woman (or wife) leaves her father and mother and clings to her Man (or husband). And they will become one flesh.’ In most traditional cultures—and certainly in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East—when a young woman marries, is expected to join her husband’s family. Upon marriage, the young woman has joined her husband’s father’s household, and she is usually a long way down the honour ladder (lots of people get to tell her what to do). Even though this was the universal, Ancient Near Eastern pattern, the Bible asserts that it is wrong. No, the man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife so as to create a new family. God’s design for marriage was countercultural when it was first revealed and it has been offending people ever since. All cultures and societies have had a problem with it, in one way or another, as they find that either it fails values to value what they value in marriage (such as patriarchy or fertility) of that it values things that they dislike (such as faithfulness).

We already know what the words ‘one flesh’ mean—it means one family. But in a secondary, and yet undeniable way, the phrase ‘they will become one flesh’ refers to sexual intercourse, for that is also how the Bible uses the phrase—see Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6, for example. Sexual intercourse will be a private, intimate, relational and physical picture of a public, legal and social truth—these two people are one flesh, that is, one new family. Sexual intercourse creates a new family, whether or not children are the result of that sexual activity. Sex before marriage—a familiar and meaningful phrase in our culture—becomes something of a contradiction in terms, biblically speaking. And indeed, the Bible condemns fornication (consensual or not) and adultery because both acts are theologically unreal—these acts ignore the bond and boundaries established by the act itself—and therefore are acts of faithlessness.

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of Genesis 2:24 in biblical revelation. This verse is the cornerstone when trying to understand what the Bible thinks about sex and marriage. Paul refers to Genesis 2:24 directly in 1 Corinthians 6, which is the only place Paul discusses sexual sin in any detail, that is to say, explains why sexual sin is sexual sin. In that passage, Paul could have used any number of arguments to cut the ground from his opposition, who were arguing for the acceptability of having sex with temple prostitutes. He doesn’t use a moral or ethical argument. He could have; but he doesn’t. His text is not The Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule, but rather Genesis 2:24. And his argument is a spiritual one and it is this: You cannot have sexual intercourse with a prostitute because you are already having spiritual intercourse with Jesus. You are one with him in Spirit. The step that’s missing is the one that is assumed: sexual intercourse includes spiritual intercourse. What God has brought together let humankind not separate.

Paul also refers to Genesis 2:24 directly in Ephesians chapter 5, telling us something already that we know: That the real and substantive importance of marriage is that it represents something important about God and marriage will find its fulfilment in the marriage of the Lamb: Marriage has a spiritual meaning, a prophetic aspect—telling the world about God’s saving work on behalf of humanity through the person Jesus of Nazareth. Thus the point of sexuality is marriage and the point of marriage is to represent God and representing God is the mission and purpose of (the point of) humanity.