The Timothy Declaration 2001, Norway
The main paper for the Timothy conference 28-29 September 2001. [Oslo.]
Background for the Timothy Declaration
Leaders in the Norwegian Lutheran State Church and other Christian organizations in Norway have taken the initiative in what they call the Timothy fellowship. Bishop Odd Bondevik, the General Secretaries Anfin Skaaheim, Egil Grandhagen and others wish to gather young and old to a renewed confidence in God's word and to underline what must be the basis and goal for a true church. The aim is not to deal in church politics but to speak out clearly on what discipleship of Christ involves today, raise support for the Timothy declaration that has been worked out, and to gather Christians to a general meeting in Oslo 28 - 29 September.
'' For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline,'' 2 Tim. 1.7
Christians all over the world celebrated the start of a new millenium with a glad and bold confession of Jesus Christ. In Asia, Africa and Latin-America the church is growing as never before. Many Western churches are also experiencing renewal and growth, but others see God's word forgotten, faith burning dim and members disappearing. But there is no ground for discouragement if we fix our eyes on ''Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,'' Heb. 12.2. We are holding a conference for Christian leaders, which we have chosen to call the 'Timothy Conference', because we know that Timothy, as a young church leader, faced the same challenges we have in our day. At the same time, we are convinced that the message Timothy received and built his ministry on, is just as relevant today as it was in Asia Minor nearly 2000 years ago.
The ones inviting you to this conferance belong to the Lutheran denomination and we are fond of our churches, organizations and local congregations. Our goal is to allow the Holy Scripture to speak to us about our own lives and the life of our church. Therefore, we want to call all who love the Word to renewed Bible study and prayer, so that we can understand our own time and '' take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,'' 2 Cor. 10.5.
As a foundation for the conference we have worked out a basic paper, the Timothy Declaration.
Odd Bondevik, Anfin Skaaheim, Egil Grandhagen, Gunnleik Seierstad, Karl Johan Hallaråker, Kjetil Aano, Kåre Rune Hauge, Ulf Asp, Arnfinn Løyning.
Vigdis Rø Berntsen, Tor Erling Fagermoen, Kari Foss, Ole Mathis Hetta, Aud Karin Kjølvik, Berit Helgøy Kloster, Tore Kopperud, Asbjørn Kvalbein, Alv Magnus, Egil Morland, Kari Olafsrud, Signe Sandsmark, Bjørn Helge Sandvei, Kristen Skjeldal, Olaug Vedvik Torset, Pål Ove Vadset, Gunn-Bjørg Wisløff.
Jesus is Lord
The oldest Christian confession says: Jesus is Lord, and no one can make such a confession except by the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. 12.3. It is natural for us as human beings to look for freedom by taking control of our own lives. But Jesus says, ''If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'' Matt. 16.24. The point of this paper is to say something about what it means to follow Jesus today: ''So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.'' Col. 2. 6-8.
When the apostle Paul wrote from prison to the young leader Timothy and explained to him the Gospel he said, ''Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.'' 2 Tim. 2.8. Even though we still do not understand the full depth of the mystery that he is true God and true man, we confess that ''in him all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form'' Col. 2.9.
A Christian church must be open for all who are struggling with their faith and have not yet arrived. But it must never glorify the many answers given or say that there is no absolute truth. It will confess with joy: ''I know whom I have believed'' 2 Tim. 1.12.
Many people long for the love of Jesus, but the church speaks with many different voices. Disagreement reigns over central truths in the holy Scriptures. None of us can say that we are without blame in this, for we are ourselves marked by the spirit of the age in our own society. We therefore invite all who read this, together with us, to fix their eyes on Jesus. God's word says, ''He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word,'' Heb. 1.3. We have had different paths to faith, but we are giving out this invitation because we have met him and believe he is alive today.
Jesus is the Lord of Scripture
Jesus is the centre of the Bible. During his life on earth Jesus taught his disciples to submit to the revelation given in the Old Testament: ''the Scripture cannot be broken,'' John 10.35. The spiritual confusion we experience today has the same root as that which Jesus encountered when he said,
''Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?'' Mark 12.24.
Jesus spoke with an authority that amazed and offended many: ''Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.'' Matt. 24.35. His words can never be set up in opposition to the teaching of the apostles, for Jesus said, ''He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me,'' Luke 10.16. He promised to send his Holy Spirit to lead the apostles ''into all truth,'' John 16.13.
Therefore, the Christian church holds to the divine inspiration, truth and authority of both the Old and the New Testament. These writings alone, are, in their entirety, God's written word and infallible standard for doctrine and life. That, for example, the Ten Commandments were revealed and written down long before Christ's birth and in a social situation different from ours does not make them less relevant. It is because they are God's commandments and not ours that they are the rules for life at all times. The apostle of love wrote: ''To love God is to obey his commands,'' 1 John 5.3.
Our obeying God's word springs from our obeying Christ. Throughout history the church has been tempted to interpret the Bible in harmony with a culture not built on a Christian foundation. So we must look critically at church practice and our own lives, so this does not happen again in our day. Like the first Christians, we want to hold fast to the apostles' teaching (Acts 2.42), whether it be salvation, the Great Commission or ethical questions (2 Tim. 3.16).
Jesus Christ is the only saviour of the world.
All people know something of God's invisible being, his eternal power and his divinity through his creation. But this knowledge does not save anyone; rather it shows up our human rebellion and ungodliness, as the apostle Paul says, ''Men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened,'' Rom. 1.20,21.
So the Christian church must reject a teaching which says that Christ reveals his salvation through different religions or wise men's thoughts. Such a view dishonours Christ and the Gospel, for Jesus says: ''I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me,'' John 14.6.
Man's greatest problem is not a lack of knowledge or insight, but enmity with God. Neither pious religiosity or good deeds count when we stand before the holy God. The Gospel is good news about God's undeserved grace. ''When we were God's enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,'' Rom. 5.10.
To say that Jesus Christ is the world's Saviour, does not mean that all people are automatically or finally saved. The words express the good news of God's love to a world of sinners. They invite all people to say yes to him as Saviour and Lord. To claim that no one will perish, is to make Jesus' words of salvation meaningless. ''For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,'' John 3.16.
Jesus gave us the great commission
To follow Jesus means to preach his Word and do his deeds. For Jesus says, ''As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world,'' John 17.18. This great commission which Jesus repeated after his resurrection, shows that preaching the Word and deeds of love are never in opposition. To have Jesus as Lord means to follow his call into the world. Local evangelism and missionary work amongst the nations is not a voluntary hobby, but a part of our identity in Christ. In this service we have different gifts and duties, but all belong to the fellowship. To win disciples and build living churches at home is our first duty. But none of this happens by itself. Jesus said, ''Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field,'' Matt. 9.38. If we do this, the Spirit will call new witnesses to children's and youth work, church service, missionary service and giving. The great commission will lead the living Christian church until Jesus comes again. ''Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,'' Luke 24.47 and Matt. 24.14.
Jesus warns against the seduction of riches
We live in prosperity such as no other generation has experienced. But Jesus says, ''You cannot serve both God and Mammon,'' Matt. 6.24 and the apostle Paul says, ''People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction,'' 1 Tim. 6.9. The prophets in the Old Testament had the same message: ''Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy,'' Ezekiel 16.49.
The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing and many people live in extreme poverty and need. Together with the rich, Western world we are tempted to accept injustice in contradiction to what the Bible teaches.The Scriptures say, ''The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it,'' Genesis 2.15. The rich world has let itself be lured into self- worship and ruining the garden. ''The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it,'' Ps. 24.1. Our unrestrained consumerism and destruction of nature is sin against God, sin against the coming generation and sin against the poor who cannot protect themselves against our choices. Following Jesus today means a commitment to a simple lifestyle in order to be able to give more to aid work and evangelism.
Jesus speaks clearly about marriage
To have 'Jesus as Lord ' involves listening to him and obeying his word also in the matter of marriage. When Jesus was asked about divorce he answered by first speaking about marriage. '' 'Haven't you read,' he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female', and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?' '' Matt. 19.4-5. Marriage, therefore, is not only a beautiful custom or private agreement, but God's good ordinance. The Scriptures say: ''You shall not commit adultery,'' Exodus 20.14. ''Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure,'' Hebrews 13.4.
We live in a society where many look on lifelong, monogamous marriage between a man and a woman as just one among many equally valid forms of sexual relationship. All people, especially children, are feeling the results of the break-up of the family. Alternative lifestyles, as, for example, a relationship similar to marriage between people of the same sex, are being defended today on the grounds that they can be faithful and good. But that is not what makes a marriage.
The apostle Paul rejects homosexual practice and puts such behaviour on a par with other sins we must turn from, such as greed, disobeying parents, slander, ruthlessnes and more, Rom. 1 26-31. The apostle puts all this into a greater context: ''They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is for ever praised,'' Rom. 1.25.
Today, many see sexual gratification as entirely necessary for a balanced life. Both hetero- and homosexual people are tempted to choose lifestyles that are in conflict with Scripture. To have Jesus as Lord means that our identity in Christ comes before all other forms of identity we might have, even if this means pain and personal sacrifice. For some of us it means following God's will for our lives as singles, whether by choice or not, as Jesus confirms in Matt. 19.12. For others it means marriage and the struggle to keep our promises. We will not allow our feelings to determine how we interpret the Bible. But we will interpret life and experience in the light of the Bible. Only in Christ do we find also forgiveness and new life when everything goes wrong, 1 Cor. 6. 9-11.
Jesus' death shows us the value of human life
Jesus' death on the cross is the strongest proof that each and every person is loved by God and has eternal worth in his eyes. We are made in God's image and stand under his protection, Gen. 1.26. Therefore, racism and discrimination are in conflict with the Bible's message. It is wrong to speak contemptuously of people or groups with another skin colour, culture or religion. In theory, most agree that all people have the same right to live and develop in peace and freedom. And yet we find violence spreading amongst the young and hurting even defenceless children, the handicapped and the elderly. There are many reasons for this, but we will not avoid pointing out that our society has thrown out the most basic of human rights, the right to live, Exod. 20.13.
In times past, many looked down on single women who were pregnant, whilst the fathers were often annonymous and went free. It was therefore right when Christians followed Jesus by supporting and helping single mothers, rather than condemning them. Jesus said in a similar situation: ''If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,'' John 8.7. But when the 1978 abortion law gave the mother alone the right to decide over her child's life, we abandoned a thousand year long Christian tradition. The Scriptures say, ''For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb ... your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,'' Ps. 139. 13 and 16.
The same arguments that were used to bring in the abortion law, are being used today to bring in a practice called active euthanasia, assisted suicide and so on. The confession 'Jesus is Lord' means every Christian must fight for the life God created to be preserved from conception to a natural death. Silence and indifference to laws detrimental to the human right to life are a denial of Him who is the Lord of life.
Jesus' disciples spread the gospel
Jesus promised us that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail' over the church that confesses him as God's Son and our Lord, Matt. 16.18. Jesus' call to the first disciples was a call to leave and follow. The challenges which met them were many. For some it cost them their lives to follow Jesus in faith and obedience. But thanks to them and many generations of Christians the baton was passed on. Now it is our turn to meet the same challenge which Paul gave to Timothy: ''And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others,'' 2 Tim. 2.2. As the young Timothy received the good deposit and passed the gospel on, so also we want to receive and pass it on, 2 Tim. 1.14.