E-Message Bible/Commentary

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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What's the Difference: Epistle or Letter?
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 1:1 "an epistle") To Timothy, my true son in the faith. (I Timothy 1:2 "a letter")

Most people use the word "epistle" and "letter" interchangeably making no distinct difference between the two. Actually, there is a difference.

Both the epistle and the letter follow the format of our present day business letter with a recipient identified, greeting, body, closing and the name of the sender. Even though epistle is synonymous with letter, the epistle is sometimes regarded as more formal, and the letter is more personal. The New Testament has 21 epistles/letters; 13 written by Paul (Romans through Philemon) and the remaining 8 are general epistles/letters (Hebrews through Jude).

The Pauline epistles are public documents written to churches (Romans to the church at Rome, I and II Corinthians to the church at Corinth, Galatians to the church at Galatia, etc.). The Pauline epistles are longer documents. For example, Romans has 16 chapters. The Pauline letters are private documents written to people. The tone is more personal, and the letters are much shorter. For example, Philemon has only one chapter. The other Pauline letters are I and II Timothy and Titus.

Let's review: Epistle = Longer, Public, More Formal, to Churches
Letter = Shorter, Private/Personal, Less Formal, to a Person

Don't worry if you inadvertently call an epistle a letter and a letter an epistle. The main thing is that you read it and take heed to all that's written.

Have a great day and read an epistle. Oh, I mean read a letter! Or is it an epistle that you should read?

Train Up a Child
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. (1 Timothy 1:18)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus was a carpenter? The answer is simple. In Bible times, every father was expected to teach his son a trade. Jesus' earthly father was a carpenter. So it stands to reasons that Jesus would be a carpenter also. Jesus merely followed in Joseph's footsteps. A Jewish proverb says, "He who does not teach his son a trade teaches him to be a thief." Usually a son followed in his father's occupation with the father passing on his skills and trade secrets. The term "father" was not limited to one's biological father. Any mature person outside of the family could be called "father," and teachers called their students "sons."

Paul had no biological children; yet he called Timothy his son because he trained him how to become an effective young pastor. When Paul was approaching death, he passed special instructions on to Timothy because he knew Timothy was equipped to handle the responsibilities. After all, Paul had taught him well. Timothy was Paul's son in the educational sense.

Perhaps there is someone you can teach or train. If you have a skill, pass it on to some young person. Therefore, your legacy will continue long after you cease to be.

Eternal Training
Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul uses the analogy of physical training in his letter to Timothy, a young pastor. Paul urges him to train himself for godliness the same way disciplined athletes train for competitions. Athletes need to overcome physical barriers when they injure themselves. Timothy needed to overcome a personality barrier. Timothy was timid, reserved which probably contributed to his chronic stomach ailment. In spite of his shyness and half-Jewish, half-Gentile ancestry, Paul was convinced Timothy could do the job by going through strategic training. Paul warns Timothy that just as an athlete has to practice and train diligently, he too must train diligently for the perfecting of the ministry. However, there is one main difference. Physical training is of some value in this life only. Godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Know that training for the body is good. Training for the spirit is better because it is eternal training.

"I Can Show You Better Than I Can Tell You"
Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Have you ever heard someone say, "I can show you better than I can tell you"? Well, that's not a bad thing to do. In fact, that's a biblical thing to do.

Paul warned Timothy that he would encounter many hardships because he was a young pastor. There would be times when the older people would not listen to him primarily because of his age. Paul advised Timothy to set an example and show the people in five (5) areas: speech, life, love, faith and purity.

Our speech is what we say. Our life or lifestyle is what we do. These two are external which can be evaluated by others. Faith and purity are internal. Love is in the middle to bridge the gap between the external and the internal examples.

Set an example for others to see the godliness in you. How is your speech? Is it pleasant and void of negative words? How is your lifestyle? Is it one that is pleasing to God? Do you live according to the measure of faith that God has given you? Do you have pure motives for everything you do? Is love at the center?

If you are setting a good example in all five areas, then be comfortable in affirming boldly, "I can show you better than I can tell you."
Pay Close Attention to Your Life
 "Watch your life and doctrine closely" (1Timothy 4:16)
How do you describe your life? What are the significant pieces of your life? What are your recurring dreams, visions and wishes? What themes have been running throughout your life from your early existence until now? What do you think/pray about all day? What brings you joy? What disturbs you? Surely, you must have noticed a definite pattern to your life.

Here are some things you should pay close attention to:

Pay close attention to the words you speak. Listen to what you say. Your speech reveals something about your heart. Is your speech filled with murmuring and grumbling, nagging and complaining or are your words humbling and gentle?

Pay close attention to your actions. Chart how you react to certain things. Is your action pleasing to God, to others or even to yourself?

Pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings. How do you feel about those who have harmed you? Do you forgive and move on? Or are you harboring the root of bitterness? Psychiatrists and psychologists have good reasons to ask, "How do you feel?" because how you feel determines how you will act and react.

Pay close attention to your gifts. How are you using your spiritual gifts? Do they get lost in the shuffle? Are you neglecting your gifts or using and improving  them? Pay close attention to your gifts and stir them up. (2 Timothy 1:6)

If you pay close attention to your life, you will recognize when changes need to be made in your speech, your actions, your thoughts, your feelings and your gifts. Pay close attention to your life and make changes whenever and wherever they are needed.

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