When the Refuge Is Set In the Midst of the Chaos and Confusion

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written by the apostle Paul unto Titus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses five through sixteen of the first chapter of the epistle. When we come to this particular portion of scripture we find language similar to that which was used in the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto another spiritual son in the faith and work of the ministry. If you turn and direct your attention to the first chapter of the first epistle which Paul wrote unto Timothy you will find him writing unto him of his desire and intention of leaving him Ephesus when he himself would have traveled into Macedonia. Instead of the apostle Paul remaining in the city of Ephesus where he not only experienced a tremendous riot, but also a tremendous revival, the apostle Paul moved on from that place and left Timothy behind. While it might not be explicitly stated in the book of Acts the first epistle which was written unto young Timothy seems to suggest that Timothy was with the apostle during his time in Ephesus. This would actually be quite interesting considering the reality that Timothy accompanied Paul—along with Silas—on his journey into the city of Thessalonica where he witnessed both a great receiving of the word with gladness, but also a tremendous opposition by the Jews to the message of the apostle Paul. You will recall from reading the New Testament book of Acts that while Paul was removed from the city and brought into Berra, Timothy and Silas remained behind in the city. Even when Paul was forced to be removed from Berra because the envy of the Jews had found and made its way into that city as well, Timothy and Silas remained behind in Thessalonica. It wasn’t until the apostle Paul journeyed into the city of Athens that he sent for both Timothy and Silas. These two men were with Paul when he journeyed into the city of Corinth where he not only experienced a tremendous receiving of the word of the gospel, but also a tremendous resistance to the word by the Jews within the city. It was there in the city of Corinth the apostle Paul purposed and determined to no longer preach the gospel unto the Jews, but solely unto the Gentiles.

Here again, while it is not specifically stated within the New Testament book of Acts, we can deduce from the first epistle which was written from Paul unto Timothy that Timothy—and perhaps even Silas was present with the apostle while he was in the city of Ephesus. If this is true then that would mean that Timothy experiences the tremendous events which transpired and took place within that city, which included the tremendous receiving of the word of the gospel, as well as a tremendous revival as men and women brought all their books of sorcerers and witchcraft and burned them within the city. What’s more, is that if it is true that Timothy was present within the city of Ephesus, it would hold true that he experienced the tremendous resistance to the word of the gospel, as well as the riot which nearly consumed and took over the city. This type of response and reaction would not have come as a shock or surprise for young Timothy, for He had already witnessed the events which had transpired in the city of Thessalonica, and may have even heard of the events which spilled over from Thessalonica into the city of berea. BAPTIZED WITH FIRE! BAPTIZED BY CONFKICT! BAPTIZED BY STRUGGLE! There is not a doubt in my mind that young Timothy was almost immediately baptized into conflict and into struggle through what he experienced in the city of Thessalonica. If Timothy was in fact present with the apostle Paul in the city of Ephesus then he would again witness a tremendous resistance and opposition to the gospel and the word of the kingdom. What’s more, is that Timothy might very well have been present with the Ephesian elders when the apostle Paul bid them farewell and delivered unto them parting words knowing he would never see their faces again. This must be carefully understood, for when writing unto young Timothy the first time, the apostle Paul besought and entreated him to remain behind within this city in order that He might continue preaching correct doctrine, and combatting the false doctrine and false teachings which would creep into the church.

With all of this being said, as you come to and read the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Titus, you will find him writing a similar epistle to that which he wrote unto Timothy. Just as certainly as the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy beseeching him to remain behind in Ephesus to teach and preach correct and proper doctrine, and to combat the false teachers and false teachings that would have undoubtedly crept into the church, so also did the apostle Paul beseech Titus to remain in Crete with a similar purpose and mission. It is said that the final epistles which Paul wrote in the New Testament are known as “the Pastoral epistles,” and as such are deemed necessary to provide instruction to men such as Timothy and Titus who each remained behind in specific locations in order that they might effectively and properly lead the churches into which they were planted and stationed. The fifth verse of the first chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto Titus displays and reveals the express intention of the apostle Paul to abide and remain in Crete in order that He might set up and establish elders and bishops within all the cities on the island. The originally purpose for Titus remaining on the island of Crete was to ordain and appoint elders of the church in every city of the island in order that the church might be established in the faith of Jesus Christ. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for the apostle Paul sought that each of the churches among the Gentiles would have proper leadership within and over them in order that they might be strengthened and established in the faith. The apostle Paul was not willing to leave the churches unto themselves, nor to fend for themselves, but set men such as Timothy and Titus among the churches to help establish and strengthen them. Furthermore, we find when reading this particular epistle which was written unto Titus that the intention, the purpose and the desire for Paul making such a request was that all things within the church might be set in order. The apostle Paul was not willing that these churches be left to themselves, nor that chaos and confusion would ensue within and among them in the earth.

The more I read the pastoral epistles, and the more I consider the language that is contained therein concerning the operation and function of the church within the earth, the more I can’t help but be reminded of specific passages within the New Testament which help serve as the foundation for the instruction which Paul provided unto Timothy and Titus. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand that the church is not to be, nor was it ever intended to be a place of chaos and confusion. This is particular and especially true when you consider the events which transpired in the cities of Thessalonica, Corinth and Ephesus. In fact, I am convinced that before we get into the order and structure that is to be found in the church, it is imperative that we recognize and understand the chaos and confusion that is present around and outside the church. If we are going to truly gain a proper and right picture of that which the church should be, we must first understand the chaos and confusion that is present all around it on any given day. If there is one thing the New Testament book of Acts reveals and presents unto us, it’s that it is very real and very possible that chaos and confusion are present outside of and all around the church. Despite the fact that churches might be established within certain cities, that doesn’t negate, nor does it diminish the fact and the reality that chaos, confusion and disorder take place all around the church on a regular and consistent basis. I firmly believe that one cannot properly understand that which is to be found within the church without first understanding and recognizing that which the church is established in the midst of, and that which the church should be a refuge and safe haven from. I would seek to present you and bring you face to face with three different churches and three different cities—each which experienced a tremendous amount of opposition and resistance to the preaching of the word of the gospel. I would first present you with the events that transpired within the city of Thessalonica as it is recorded in the New Testament book of Acts. Consider if you will the account of the apostle Paul—together with Silas and Timothy—in the city of Thessalonica, as it is recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the first verse:

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apolonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach u not you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with e navy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and TImotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and TImotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed” (Acts 17:1-15).

What you read and what you find in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is a powerful description of the chaos and confusion that took place all around the church, and all around the saints of God within the earth. Even though the city of Thessalonica heard the preaching of the word concerning Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God, and even though there were a number of men and women who received the word with all readiness and joy, there arose and broke out a tremendous opposition and resistance toward and against them on all sides because of the envy of the Jews. We must recognize and understand that even though the church might be established in any given city, that does not for one single moment mean that chaos, confusion, rioting, rebellion, disorder, and the like cannot and will not be present all around it. In fact, lest you think for one minute that the church cannot and will not be set right in the middle of chaos, confusion, disorder, rioting and rebellion, I would urge you to look at the tiny nation of Israel when it was set among the nations within and upon the earth. If you study the geographical location of the nation of Israel—not only at its inception and beginning, but also in its rebirth and reestablishment—you will find that Israel was a nation and people that was set in the midst of enemies and adversaries. This tiny nation of Israel was set among constant opposition, constant turmoil, constant strife, constant chaos, and constant confusion. If you examine the geographical location of Israel in the Scripture you will find that it was indeed set among enemies and adversaries round about it. What’s more, is you have to ask what you would expect when upon entering into the land which was promised unto their forefathers and promised on oath was occupied by nations and peoples stronger and mightier than they, which needed to be destroyed and displaced. Throughout its history within the earth Israel has been a nation that has been surrounded on all sides by enemies and adversaries. What’s more, is that Israel has always been surrounded by enemies and adversaries which seek to bring about her destruction and annihilation—a reality which has not changed within and throughout the years. Consider the present reality which Israel faces, for Israel is currently bordered on the north by Lebanon and Hezbollah, on the south by Egypt and Hamas, on the east by Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Iran and ISIS. We dare not miss or lose sight of the significance that it is possible to be established right where the Lord would have you, and yet you are established directly in the midst of your enemies and adversaries. It almost brings a whole new meaning to the words which David the psalmist penned in the twenty-third chapter of the book of Psalms when he wrote the following:

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:1-6).

Please don’t miss what was written and recorded in the fifth verse of this particular chapter, for within it the psalmist David writes concerning the Lord, how He prepares a table before him in the presence of his enemies. In all reality, this was precisely what the Lord did for the nation and people of Israel, for He prepared for them a table—and not just a table, but also a place in the presence of their enemies. When the Lord planted and established the nation and people of Israel, he did indeed prepare a table before them in the presence of their enemies—a table of milk and honey, and a table of the fruit of the vine. When the Lord brought the people of Israel into the land which was to be their own, He did in fact bring them into a place which was prepared for them by Him in the very presence of their enemies. In all reality, this is precisely what many of the churches which we read about in the New Testament book of Acts experienced and faced, for the Lord planted and established churches directly in the midst of—and not only in the midst of, but also in spite of chaos and confusion. I have already presented you with the events which transpired in Thessalonica and Berea, and I would now turn and direct your attention to the events which took place and transpired within the city of Corinth. Consider if you will the words and events which are recorded by the beloved physician Luke in the eighteenth chapter of the book of Acts beginning with the first verse:

“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tent makers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and TImotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. And when Gallic was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallo said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters .And He Dave them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallic cared for none of those things” (Acts 18:1-17).

Please don’t miss or lose sight of the significance and weight of what is found and recorded in this passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find yet another example of chaos, confusion, disorder, unruliness, rebellion, rioting, and insurrection taking place all around the church in the earth. I am not sure if you are beginning to get the picture or not, but the church was never meant to be immune or exempt from conflict, strife, turmoil and chaos. The church was never established in the earth to avoid and be removed from conflict, trials, struggle, warfare, and the like. In fact, we must remember the words which Jesus declared unto His followers, for He declared that in this world we would have many troubles, but to not fear, for He has overcome the world. New Testament authors such as James and Peter urged the saints of God—not only to expect and anticipate trials and tribulation, but also to consider it pure joy when they faced, experienced and endured such realities within their lives. The church was never meant, nor was it intended on being removed and separated from conflict, confusion, and chaos, but was in all reality to be established and set up in the midst of it. Even with that being said, however, it is imperative that we recognize and understand that despite the church being set up and established within the earth in the midst of chaos and confusion all around it, it is to be a place of refuge, a place of safe harbor—a safe haven if you will—for all those who would desire to enter into and be a part of it. The church was never intended on being a place of strife, turmoil, chaos, and confusion, which is why the epistles which were written unto the saints which were at Corinth were so absolutely and incredibly vital and necessary. These particular epistles were written unto this church because while they should have been place of refuge and safe harbor from the chaos and confusion which was manifested all around them on all sides, they found themselves harboring similar elements of the very chaos and confusion. It is a tragic day when men and women come into the house of the Lord to find refuge and shelter from the chaos and confusion and contention that is present all around them within the world, and what they find in the church are manifestations of chaos, confusion, turmoil, strife, conflict, and the like, which is similar to that which is found outside the church. We dare not miss or lose sight of the tremendous significance of this reality, for what we read within the New Testament epistles written unto the Corinthian church was a powerful picture of a church which allowed and permitted to enter into it the very same realities which it should have been a shelter from.

With all this being said, I am convinced that we must also consider the events which transpired and occurred within the city of Ephesus, for Ephesus was another city where chaos and confusion ensued before and around the church which was established within the city. It is important that we first recognize and understand the events which first took place in Ephesus which sort of led up to and paved the way for what we find and read in the latter portion of the nineteenth chapter of the book of Acts. Beginning with the first verse of the nineteenth chapter we find the following words concerning the apostle Paul and his time in Ephesus: “

“And it came to pass, that while Apllos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And then Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve. And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Pau: so that from his body were wrought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:1-12).

As you continue reading in this particular chapter found within the New Testament book of Acts you will find the seven sons of Sceva attempting to misuse and abuse the name of Jesus in order to perform an exorcism of those who were possessed by evil spirits. Of course we read how one of the evil spirits answered them and said unto them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” Luke records how the man with the evil spirit leapt on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. As a direct result of this, fear fell on all those within the city, and the name of the Lord was magnified. Many within thine city believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men. Luke would ultimately write and record how the word of God grew mightily and prevailed within the city. It is when we come to the twenty-first verse of this same chapter that we find the account of the tremendous insurrection, riot and rebellion which took place within the city of Ephesus. Consider if you will the words and account which Luke records in this chapter concerning the tremendous opposition and conflict which took place within the city of Ephesus:

“After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season. And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which mace silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto craftsmen; whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre. And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre. Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part new not wherefore they were come together. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defense unto to the people. But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:21-34).

What we have found, and what we read in chapters seventeen, eighteen and nineteen are not only accounts of the word concerning Jesus the Christ being received with great joy, but also a great opposition and resistance that rose up against the word—both by Jews, as well as by Gentiles alike. When I read the words which are found and contained within these passages of Scripture I can’t help but get the strong and profound sense that the church is most certainly established in the midst of chaos, in the midst of confusion, and in the midst of conflict. There is absolutely no mistaking the tremendous reality that the churches of Corinth, Ephesus and Thessalonica were established in the midst of opposition, chaos and conflict, and that they remained planted directly in the midst of such opposition and conflict. What’s more, is that when you read the New Testament book of Acts, and when you consider it in light of that which we find and read in the epistles of the apostle Paul, you will find that the same chaos and confusion and conflict which ensued outside and all around the churches which were established in the earth experienced similar realities and manifestations. The church which was established in Corinth was perhaps one of the greatest realities of this particular manifestation, for the entire first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto them described in detail that which they had allowed to infiltrate the church. The apostle Paul spent sixteen chapters seeking to correct the thinking, the chaos, the disorder, the disunity, the confusion that was present within the church, and sought to set right that which had gone incredibly wrong and awry within the church. We dare not and must not forget this simple reality, for such a reality will help us understand that which we find and read in the epistles which were written unto Titus and Timothy. In fact, when Paul wrote unto Titus in the first chapter of this epistle, we find him writing how he left him in Crete that he should set in order those things which were wanting, and that he might ordain elders in every city, as he had appointed him to do. The apostle Paul would then go on to describe the nature and character of those men who would be appointed as elders and bishops within the church—much like he did when he wrote his first epistle unto Timothy. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we come to terms with this particular reality, for not only should the churches found within the earth be places of refuge and safe harbor from the chaos and confusion that is present within the world around it, but it is also true that those in leadership within the church are to possess a very special character and nature that distinguishes and sets them apart from other men and women. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle, as well as that which was written unto the Ephesians. I leave you—first with the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation, as well with the words which he wrote unto the Ephesian congregation.

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the food shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the same.ling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

“Though I spake with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinkers no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all thigns, believeth all things, hope that all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may brow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint suppliers, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:12-16).

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