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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
I want to keep the momentum going and not lose sight of the reflections concerning Paul’s teachings which were brought forward last week. I’m referring to the brief review of Paul’s gospel at the latter portion of the lesson specifically, the only gospel that has the power to save, and the importance of expressing God’s good news clearly and simply. A pure presentation of the gospel is not only more influential, it also gets the individual off to a balanced start. They begin their new life in Christ Jesus with a firm assurance and a true appreciation of their salvation.
Paul stated that he preached the gospel by manifestation of truth (that is he did not corrupt the doctrine; he retained its purity in the same form that he received it from Jesus Christ; and this is how his audience received God’s Word from him) commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:2b).
Our Apostle Paul was a brilliant communicator. He was schooled in Biblical law, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; He was an intelligent man, yet, he didn’t flaunt his intellect or his station. As you read the accounts of his encounters with powerful government leaders and with people he met during his travels, which are recorded for us in the book of Acts, you’ll discover that he kept his gospel presentation simple. Paul always put the gospel in a nutshell but it was complete:
But while we we’re yet sinners, God sent His Son to die for us, in spite of our rebellion. Christ died for all; He was buried, and He rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures
(Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:15).
I wanted to lay this foundation before we proceed with this lesson because far too many people shy away from talking about Jesus Christ and believe they’re incapable of telling others about God’s free gift of grace – they pull the “Moses card” when the opportunity presents itself: Who am I that I should go…; What if they don’t believe me?
I pray this lesson will demonstrate, true faith in one’s heart will always produce “confession” in the mouth. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: But if I say, I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. (Jeremiah 20:9)
Please go to Romans 10:8 and please keep in mind Paul is primarily speaking to his brethren in chapters 9-11.
8: But what does it (the Scripture) say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART” – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
In verse 8 Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 and God’s message to His people is abundantly clear: “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult (mysterious) for you, nor is it out of (your) reach…
This Bible passage speaks on the subject of Israel’s spiritual condition at that time. Due to their willful disobedience (idolatry); they were no longer God’s people (Lo-ammi). The LORD God removed them from the land and banished them to the far country. If after this they would turn their “hearts” to the LORD and obey Him in that distant land, He would then accept them with conditions for faith and obedience go hand in hand.
Moses told the Israelites: “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART” – he’s referring to the written words of the Law which the people knew. They could repeat them in their sleep. It was simple and straightforward, but the difficulty is in the human heart (as it is with us) and that is subjecting ourselves to God’s Word and His Lordship. Evidence of this exists throughout the Old Testament where you find them repeatedly asking for a sign from heaven.
The underlying principle found here and the one Paul has been hammering home for quite some time is it is all over with the Law as a condition of maintaining a relationship with the LORD God. The Israelites were constantly following the trends and religious practices of the gentiles which led them to idolatry thus proving fulfilling the Law is impossible. They knew it and so did the LORD. God’s testimony in these passages is quite simple; if they would turn to Him in spirit and in faith they would prosper and live. Therefore, it’s faith and not devotion to the Law.
“See I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;
Every Israelite coveted life, desired to practice good behavior or be socially acceptable, and if at all possible avoid misery and death. Moses said I have shown you the way to accomplish these things. Love the LORD God, obey Him in all things, and all will go well with you. If you choose this path you will have life. (Deuteronomy 30:1-30).
Now flash forward, and in answer to all these “sign askings” from the nation of Israel came the living Word: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and (what) truth. (John 1:14)
Jesus Christ fulfilled many messianic prophecies in the Jewish Scriptures. The total number is around 300 according to some Bible scholars. For instance the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was foretold in Psalms 22:16-18 approximately 1,000 years before His birth. My point in bringing this up is the Israelites were schooled in the Scriptures. They not only knew about these messianic prophecies; they memorized them. But when the fullness of time came: He (Jesus Christ) came to His own, and those who were His own (the nation of Israel) did not receive Him. (Galatians 4:4; John 1:11; Romans 15:8)
During Jesus’ ministry to His people He performed signs, miracles, and wonders because the nation of Israel asked for them: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (John 4:48) and to prove who He was. They requested these supernatural events because they wanted confirmation of the truth of God. There’s nothing wrong with this program. The LORD God initiated this practice with His people. However, there comes a time when enough miracles have been performed (John 21:25) – the Truth has been proved! Now it’s time to exercise FAITH and not in keeping the Law but in the One who was sent by the Father. (John 5:30-47).
Paul aptly argues in verses 5-8 that Jesus Christ was the perfect commandment keeper.
Now in verse 8 he says that this word of Christ, the gospel, is in your mouth and in your heart. In so many words, Paul preaches Jesus Christ is the object of their faith.
The word of faith then set forth by the LORD God in Deuteronomy 30, as being the hope of Israel, was the very same message the apostle Paul announced, which is now the hope of Israel, that if any one confessed, with his mouth, the Lord Jesus Christ, and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, they would be saved. A true assertion borne out by the Old Testament affirmation: “Behold I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be (ashamed) disturbed (Isaiah 28:16).
Where is this word of faith? Paul says it’s close; very close. It’s not high on a mountain top, it’s not buried at the bottom of the sea, and it’s not to be found at the end of a series of Herculean feats so as to be out of a person’s reach. Paul explains what he means by this in the next verse.
9: that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as (or to be your) Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (It is assumed that the whole gospel has been preached to the recipient of this message for this is what is meant by the word of faith - see 1 Corinthians 15:3-10. An incomplete gospel message will not do).
What does one’s heart do with Jesus Christ? It believes.
What does one’s mouth do with Christ Jesus? It confesses.
That’s what hearts and mouths are for, says Paul. Hearts believe and mouths confess what the heart believes, that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
The Gentiles listened to Paul’s gospel, believed, and were being saved: Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first (Israel); since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. "For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.' "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:46-47)
But as Paul has pointed out the nation of Israel was perishing because they could not or would not accept Jesus Christ and rejected the message of the cross. Many had heard Paul’s gospel but here’s the problem – they were not fully persuaded that Jesus was really the Messiah and they were not willing to “confess” Him as their personal Lord before men.
Why is this? When ministering to His brethren, Jesus required those who believed on Him to confess Him before men and many of them did believe. But the Pharisees threatened them so they were not willing to “confess” Him before others: Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (Matthew 10:32; John 12:42-43)
Another issue was getting some of the Israelites to believe that God raised Him from the dead. This group could believe certain things about Him such as: He fulfilled messianic prophecies in His birth, His life, His ministry, and in His death; but there remained this giant leap of faith concerning His resurrection from the dead. This was asking far too much of them.
The Church of God begins with the resurrection. For if Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead; if the dead in Christ Jesus are not going to be raised, we have no faith and no hope (1 Corinthians 15:14). Paul’s response to this concern is all those confessing faith in Christ’s Lordship, and believing in their heart that God raised Him from the dead would be saved! It comes down to faith or believing. It’s about trusting with one’s heart instead of one’s head and no one wants to miss spending eternity with their Savior by a mere 12 inches…that’s the distance from one’s brain to their heart.
Paul explains the workings of this in verse 10.
10: for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he (or she) confesses, resulting in salvation (Matthew 10:32).
11: For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” (Isaiah 29:16)
Paul’s explanation as to what has happened in such a case is, that with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth their heart being so overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on the individual’s behalf, is prompted to confess the faith welling up within their heart, resulting in salvation – here salvation is connected to confessing.
A person is not saved by public confession, let’s be straight on that.
An individual is saved by God’s grace through faith (alone) – (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I’ve been associated with churches that required new members to come before the pastor and elders of the church and recite a public “confession” of Jesus Christ before becoming a full-fledged member. They cite these Bible passages as the reason for their doctrine.
I don’t believe this is what Paul meant by this verse. Confessing Jesus Christ with one’s mouth is not something that a person in this dispensation of grace does to be saved; it is something a saved person does – we are proud of our Savior and we want people to know Him!
Again, in these verses Paul is addressing the concerns of his brethren, the nation of Israel. People tend to overlook this. As a nation, the Israelites had rejected Jesus Christ (as their Messiah). At this particular time in history, for one of them to accept Jesus Christ and confess Him as their Messiah would most likely result in their persecution and their death. Should an Israelite confess Christ Jesus, knowing that persecution and death would soon be knocking at their door, was an indication of true salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit. We’ve seen evidence of “inward” or silent faith recorded for us in Matthew 10:32. Outward professions of one’s faith were quite rare because a person’s life was at stake. This is how it was in the early church.
The phrase “you will be saved,” is not intended to reveal a condition for salvation by public confession, but rather a definite fact that no one facing death would confess Christ as Messiah, unless indeed he/she was saved.
This truth is further supported by verse 10, where we read, “for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” The Greek translation can be rendered in view of an acknowledgment by confession in the attitude of thanksgiving.
Romans 10:9-10 is not establishing public confession as a condition for salvation. But it is asserting that when an Israelite embraced Christ and subsequently confessed Him as Lord, knowing that persecution was sure to follow, there was no doubt that individual was saved. For us today, the passage is equally true. Those who are true Believers will confess Christ as Lord because He has already instilled faith in their hearts. As with baptism and all good works, public confession is not the means of salvation; it is merely evidence of salvation.
(To be continued)
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