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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
The common consensus is our Apostle Paul’s conversion occurred on the road to Damascus about two years after Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, around 32-34 AD (Acts 9). Near the end of his life Paul spent two years in Rome under house arrest. There he wrote the prison epistles Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. He also preached the gospel to Caesar’s household unhindered until he was released around 61 AD (Acts 28:30-31). The major persecution of Christianity began about 64 AD while Nero was emperor. Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome, as an evil-doer, was around 67-68 AD (2 Timothy 2:8-9). He was martyred by Nero shortly thereafter.
Paul’s final letter to his protégé Timothy was written between the years 67-68 AD.
In this passage of scripture Paul, the Lord’s bond-servant, sums up his life:
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure (from this world) is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;” (2 Timothy 4:6-7).
I instruct my Bible students not to major on the minors. When you’re looking at biblical events this far back in time, exact dates are difficult to establish. So, let’s not focus on the dates, but on the event(s) and the message. What I want y’all to see from this is Paul’s ministry to the churches lasted approximately 30 years, and during that time he suffered greatly for the cause of Christ Jesus: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; (Ephesians 3:1-2).
After Paul’s conversion, the risen Lord told Ananias not to fear Saul of Tarsus because “He had chosen him to bear His name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:13-16).
In defense of his apostolic authority, Paul wrote this message to the Corinthians: But in whatever respect anyone else is bold – I speak in foolishness – I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? – I speak as if insane – I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:21b-28).
In the following scripture passage Paul said true Believers will be persecuted but then goes on to explain how he was able to endure and stand firm for the faith. From this we should understand our life in Christ Jesus will not be a walk down Primrose Lane.
You, however, have observed my teaching, my conduct, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, my persecutions, and the suffering that came upon me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:10-12).
Paul relied on the Lord’s strength to see him through the temptations and trials of life. This continuous conflict is described as spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 and we’re to recognize our true enemies as being the flesh, the world, and Satan. We’re going to have to deal with all three as we strive to walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called. Paul likened the individual’s walk to a race which is to be run in such a way as to take the prize.
I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the (Isthmian) games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified… (9:23-27).
Paul kept the faith; he dedicated his life to the Lord and preached the gospel unadulterated faithfully. He calls each of us to follow in his footsteps not for notoriety or material gain, but to bring honor and glory to God (1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:31; 2 Corinthians 4:13-15; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to my pattern you have in us (Philippians 3:17).
You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 6:13-17.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREAST-PLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take up the HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Last week we learned Paul made sure the Ephesian saints were aware their struggle is not against flesh and blood (each other and those outside of Jesus Christ) but “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
The word “rulers” is from the Koine Greek word Arche, and it has various meanings. The word “powers” is from the Koine Greek word Exousia, which means: power, ability, privilege. We note these words are used of both human and spiritual powers. Then Paul used the term “world forces,” which comes from the Koine Greek word Kosmokator. This word is only used in the N.T. and it means: lord of the world, world ruler. He goes on to say, “against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places;” from this we note he labeled these forces of wickedness as “spiritual,” (not human), and they dwell in “heavenly places.” They are not confined to hell, in other words this comes later; hell was created for Satan and his forces of wickedness (Matthew 25:41).
At this time I remind the group the world-at-large denies the existence of Satan and his demonic forces. Furthermore, some churches teach Paul’s message was meant for the first-century Believers only. These folks are saying our struggle is not against the devil and his demonic horde today we’re up against life’s normal, everyday run-of-the-mill problems. Do not be deceived!
The point I want to make is we must be extremely careful that our understanding of what truth is comes from the Word of God and not from other sources. Unfortunately, what most people believe about Satan and spiritual warfare is derived from these other sources, such as cartoons, fiction, magazines, the movie industry, T.V., and let’s not neglect mentioning erroneous Christians. If you are following myths rather than God’s Word, then you have already been deceived by the master deceiver and your defeat is all but certain.
We must understand Satan and his evil forces are real entities with real power, but we must also understand their power is limited and true Believers need not fear them, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (Job 1; 1 John 4:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). However there’s a fine line to walk between fear and complacency. Those who ignore the fact that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour will find themselves succumbing to temptation and his snares one of which is he doesn’t exist.
Therefore, take up (Put on) the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (6:13).
Paul is known for his usage of rich metaphors in his letters to the churches to help Believers understand his message and we have one of these here. Paul knew people would recognize the imagery of a Roman legionnaire dressed for battle. He became familiar with Roman weaponry while serving the Lord Jesus Christ. His frequent imprisonments would be one example. This is when he had the opportunity to view Roman soldiers wearing their armor up close and personal.
The next thing we should understand is the primary message here is “stand firm.” We know this because he uses the term twice more in this passage (see 6:13-14), so he’s definitely stressing this teaching point to the Ephesians. Then our Apostle Paul describes six pieces of armor. I point out six is also the number of man symbolizing human weakness, the evils of Satan and the manifestation of sin. All of these pieces were considered defensive weapons except for the sword of the Spirit this was to be used both defensively and offensively.
Paul’s telling these folks if they’re going to stand firm they’ll have to “dig in” most of the time to defend the faith the Holy Spirit delivered to them (Acts 16:6-15; Romans 10:17). This is what Paul meant when he said, “Stand firm therefore, HAVING YOUR LOINS GIRDED WITH TRUTH” (6:14). Said differently, “Hold the ground that Christ Jesus has won, defend it; don’t surrender an inch to the enemy!”
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking (what) the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ… (Ephesians 4:14-15).
While standing firm we are wield the sword of the Spirit, offensively, to advance the cause of Jesus Christ. In plain English, “We’re to assist in winning souls for Christ, teaching the ABCs of the faith, sharing the Word of Truth, rightly divided, with those folks God places in our lives” (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:10).
Did you notice Paul divided the armor of God into two sets of three? This number is used 467 times in the Bible. It pictures completeness, though to a lesser degree than the number 7. This number is the first of four spiritually perfect numbers (the others being 7, 10, and 12). The three righteous patriarchs before the Noahic Flood were Abel, Enoch, and Noah. After the deluge, there was the three righteous “fathers of Israel” Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. There are 27 books in the N.T., which is 3x3x3, or completeness to the third power. Jesus prayed three times in Gethsemane before His arrest. He was placed on the cross at the third hour of the day and He died on the ninth hour. There were three hours of darkness that covered the land while Jesus suffered on that cross (from the sixth to the ninth hour). Three is the number of His resurrection for He was dead three complete days and three nights, a total of 72 hours.
Getting back to Paul, he had observed that the Roman soldiers guarding him never removed their belt, breastplate, or their sandals. Here’s why. If the enemy launched a surprise attack the soldier would be caught unawares and improperly dressed for battle. Because he was not prepared for the assault, he would likely become a casualty.
Paul introduces the next set of three with the words, “… in addition to all, taking” implying the shield, sword, and helmet could be placed aside temporarily to be taken up when needed, in the case of a surprise attack, for instance. This battle Armor was a vital part of the soldier’s equipment. This is true today, although the technology is far more advanced. While modern armor is mainly centered on protecting the military and law enforcement from bullets and shrapnel, the armor of Rome was designed to protect soldiers from projectiles such as spears or javelins, arrows, swords, and daggers.
I pray y’all remember from last week’s lesson Believers need not go looking for the armor of God, He has already provided these items. All we need do is be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might and Put on the full armor of God.
The Belt of Truth
Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH THE TRUTH (6:14a).
This was a very important piece of the Roman Soldier's armor. The Roman soldier put around his waist a very wide belt which held a lot of equipment (a police officer wears a similar belt around their waist today). There was a loop, for example, for the different swords. Other loops held ropes and a rations sack. When the legions conquered a city, the soldiers would empty out the ration sack to make room for gold, jewelry, and other loot they picked up. There were loops on the belt for darts. The belt was tied in several places to stay in place, so that no matter how the soldier moved about, fell down, climbed hills, etc., the belt was always in place with weapons at the ready. If the belt were not on straight, then everything would be out of place for the soldier. This would greatly reduce his efficiency in battle and could cost him his life.
Spiritual Warfare Application: the belt was the very first thing the soldier put on, so Paul’s indicating the first thing we’re to put on is the Word of Truth and bind it tightly around our core. The belt of truth gives the true Believer inner strength and the necessary confidence when they confront “the father of lies.” Truth exposes deceit and falsehoods. As I mentioned, the Roman soldier doesn’t remove his belt because in the heat of battle there’s no time to dress for battle. Thus, the Believer must be prepared beforehand. It is imperative that we study the Word of God, acquiring a well-rounded knowledge of the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 2:15). Sadly today when people should be standing firm as teachers of God’s revelations themselves, especially the revelation of the mystery of God’s grace, they need to be taught again the basic principles of the faith (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12).
Are you prepared to defend the gospel of grace against those who preach another gospel, such as the prosperity gospel or those who believe there are many ways to heaven (Relativism - New Age concept)? Are you prepared to defend the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ against those who say He was merely a Jewish rabbi (teacher) and prophet but not the Son of God?
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREAST-PLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS… (6:14b).
The Romans had the ideas for armor design which provided light weight combined with ease of movement and protection from multiple blows. This breastplate was attached to the belt by leather thongs passed through rings on the bottom to keep it solidly attached. It was anchored to the belt, and it was above the belt. Note: the belt had to be put on first, then the breastplate. One key area the soldier's breastplate protected was their heart. While the heart is the one key organ responsible for sending blood through our circulatory system which keeps us alive, our spiritual lives are less effective if our hearts are not right with God.
Spiritual Warfare Application: when you walk in the righteousness of God, it is a weapon of defense against all those slanderous accusations and devious strategies of the devil. The Bible declares the heart of man is prone to be tempted (Matthew 26:41). However, those in Christ Jesus are justified and the righteousness of Jesus Christ was imputed to us (Romans 3:21-26; 5:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21). So we are righteous in God's sight, not because of anything we’ve done, but because of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. Thus, the breastplate of righteousness is a “practical righteousness” which emanates from our new inner man (our new nature) that is said to be “created in righteousness and true holiness: (Ephesians 4:24). This piece of armor has to do with protecting our integrity, our morality, purity of thought and life, and piety while performing that which is right by living a life of good works.
Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us (Titus 2:7-8).
The breastplate of righteousness is a safeguard against the enemy’s attempts to discredit us and our message.
Feet Fitted with Readiness
…and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE (6:15).
Some historians credit footwear as one of the greatest reasons why the Roman Army was so victorious over its enemies. The Roman Soldier was equipped with footwear that had spikes or nails on the soles which provided them a strong enough stance and balance to give them a superior posture in battle on hills and uneven terrain. The other part of their footwear was the greaves which were fitted to their legs and designed to defend them from danger. These were often made of brass (1 Samuel 17:6). Again, these sandals were put on and never removed.
With the preparation of the gospel of Peace – it is difficult to determine Paul’s exact meaning. Paul is providing the imagery of a Roman legionnaire dressed in full armor and true Believers were to resemble him; this we know. An important part of this armor or preparation for battle consisted in the covering and defense of their feet. It was meant to preserve their feet from danger, to facilitate their ability to march in rank and to make their stance firm in battle.
Paul may be saying true Believers are to be prepared beforehand with the principles of the gospel of peace to assist them as they march through enemy territory and to rise to the occasion, making their stance firm in battle. Peace manifests itself in many ways in Paul’s writings. He mentions the “grace and peace from the God the Father,” “peace with God,” “He (Jesus Christ) is our peace,” “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding,” etc. The Bible states quite clearly, if we have “peace with God” we are at war with Satan.
So, this speaks to the heart and mind (the emotional state) of the true Believer in Christ Jesus. Paul pictures the Ephesian saints in the heat of battle, “fighting the good fight of the faith.” Each new day brings with it a new set of circumstances, new dangers, and conflict of various kinds. So, our Apostle Paul exhorts them, “Have your shoes on,” be ready with the gospel of peace, i.e. whatever you are called upon to face, let “the peace of God” which surpasses all understanding… keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:7).
Spiritual Warfare Application: offensively this item will help you to stand with your feet planted firmly on the Word of God and remain there, unmoved by the devil's threats and lies. It will protect you when you walk through the rough places and keep you steady in the heat of a battle.
The Shield of Faith
…in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows (darts) of the evil one (6:16).
Paul’s saying, “in addition to all,” that is, in addition to all the equipment just mentioned, the Believer should add the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (6:17). The first set of three were never meant to be taken off after being put on, however, this set of three could be laid aside, but kept within arm’s reach in case the enemy attacked.
The Romans had a long, rectangular, knees-to-chin shield which protected them from arrows, spears, and lances. They could kneel down behind it and be protected during a flaming arrow barrage for example. It was quite a bit heavier and clumsier then the smaller Greek circular shield; but there was a series of exercises, a manual of arms, designed to give the soldier flexibility and strength in the use of the shield. Groups of soldier who were besieging a town could form close together and hold their shields over their heads to make a huge circle to protect the group from the enemy’s fiery arrows.
Spiritual Warfare Application: in this verse, the Roman shield stands for the faith of the Believer in the promises of God. The value of faith lies not in the person exercising it, but in the person whom the faith is in. Faith is something that all people possess and use every day. Every time you choose to sit down in a chair you are exercising faith in that chair to support your weight. I’ve been known to test a few chairs in my time because of their rickety appearance, but normally I take a seat without giving it much thought. My questions for you are “Do you realize God’s promises to the faithful are yours today, if you truly believe Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sin in full? “If this is true, can you name at least five of these promises (blessings)?” Most Christians cannot.
One writer declared the shield of faith is the quick application of what we believe to be true, as an answer to everything single thing the devil fires at us. We must place our total dependence on God, “who is a present help in time of need” (Psalm 46:1-2).
Paul stated in Romans 10:17 “So faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Knowing the Bible and especially the writings of our Apostle Paul produces greater faith. Remember “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 – BSB)
The Helmet of Salvation
And take up THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (6:17).
The Romans had the best helmet of the ancient world. Many other nations used helmets of cloth wrappings, animal hides or bones, or hooves, etc. The Roman helmet was made of leather covered with strips of brass. This helmet was designed to protect the soldier from various angles of attack. Its primary purpose was to protect the wearers head.
Spiritual Warfare Application: the greatest spiritual battlefield is in our minds. This is the area the devil wants to attack the most. One key area he wants to damage is our assurance of salvation. Paul gives some good advice in Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Our mind is facing a continuous assault from the world, so we must guard what we permit to enter our minds. Satan is very subtle in these areas. He has blinded the world and he will do the same to the unsuspecting or careless Believer. We must be sober (clear) minded in order to be discerning in all situations. This is accomplished by immersing yourself in the word of God and frequent prayer.
The Sword of the Spirit
Paul spoke of one of five different types of Roman swords. This particular one was a two-edged sword with the end turned upward. It inflicted much more damage than the other swords. Not only was it intended to kill, but also it could rip the enemy's insides to shreds. It only needed to penetrate the enemy a depth of two to three inches to mortally wound him. Another advantage to this sword is the soldier did not have to turn his sword around to inflict damage to the enemy. It cut in two directions. This was seen as a very deadly and powerful weapon. Paul describes the word of God as an awesome and powerful weapon of the true Believer.
Spiritual Warfare Application: our sword of the Spirit is the word of God. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He didn’t employ carnal weapons. He quoted His Father's words and spoke them with authority. Consequently, each word spoken was like a sword-blow to Satan's head! God has given us the authority to use His words because we are all called to the ministry of reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). This is the Believer’s ministry today and not the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.
It is said the son of a Roman soldier who kept losing to his sparring partner said, “Father, my sword is too short.” To which the father replied, “Take one step forward son, and it will be right length.” As we go on the offensive against Satan and his many schemes, we too must take a step forward with the word of God to advance the cause of Christ Jesus. This begins with evangelism. Paul said, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). Every Believer bears the responsibility to share Jesus Christ with others. Although churches have developed multiple ways of drawing lost souls into their building, it’s a well known fact the lost do not attend church. The most effective tool at our disposal is the Scriptures. God uses His Word to convict the sinner of their sin which is step one. You have to admit you have a problem, before the healing process can begin.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
God speaks as the Sovereign authority in the universe, and not the devil. He spoke and the world we know came into being from nothing. When we speak God's word according to his will, there is no power in the universe who can withstand it!
(To be continued)
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