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Established November 2008
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 always like to begin by acknowledging you and your participation in this Bible study. Thank you for being here today with an open Bible and an open mind.
Besides teaching the Bible I want to assist those who want to learn how to study their Bible, and this is why I introduce basic Bible Study tools at the start of these lessons from time to time. Most recently I talked about selecting a good study Bible because it is the most important study tool. Today I want to talk briefly about a law concerning Bible understanding that you need to be aware of. It’s called the “law of first mention.”
This principle states when interpreting Scripture the place of first mention or occurrence of a subject in Scripture establishes an unchangeable pattern with that subject and once established it remains unchanged in the mind of God throughout Scripture.
Here’s an example: in Romans 11:17 our apostle Paul speaks metaphorically about a “green olive tree” which represents both Israel and Judah. The LORD God “planted” them in Canaan, but when the time came for them to bear fruit its branches were worthless so the LORD God pruned them from the Tree of His Kingdom.
Following the law of first mention usually means you’ll need to go to Genesis (the book of beginnings) to locate the subject at hand and sure enough this is where we find the word “olive-leaf:” And the dove came to him at eventide; and behold, in her beak was an olive-leaf plucked off; and Noah knew that the waters had become low on the earth. (Genesis 8:11 – The Darby Bible) This was a sign from the LORD GOD that His punishment of man had been accomplished and the floodwater's were receding.
The Olive Tree is mentioned in the 1st Old Testament parable, that of Jotham, and is named among the blessings of the “good land:” And the olive-tree said to them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to wave over the tree? (Judges 9:9 – The Darby Bible)
The two witnesses mentioned in Revelation (the book of endings) are spoken of as “two olive trees:” These are the two olive trees and the two lamps which stand before the Lord of the earth; (Revelation 11:4 - The Darby Bible)
In this example the Olive Tree is referred to as an emblem (or symbol) of prosperity, beauty, and religious privilege: Jehovah had called thy name, A green olive-tree, fair, of goodly fruit with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and its branches are broken. (Jeremiah 11:16 – The Darby Bible) (See Psalms 52:8; Hosea 14:6)
I pray this tool helps you with you Bible study but I also pray it helps you to understand the symbolism behind Paul’s usage of the olive tree at Romans 11:17. The olive tree, wild by nature, is the shoot or cutting of the good olive-tree which, left ungrafted, grows up to be a “wild olive.” (Romans 11:24)
In verse 17, Paul refers to the practice of grafting shoots of the wild olive into a “good” olive which has become unfruitful. By doing so, the sap of the good olive, by pervading the branch which is grafted in, makes it a “goodly” branch - bearing good olives. The Gentiles, once a wild olive, but now grafted in, yield fruit, but only through the sap of the tree into which they have been grafted. This process is contrary to nature (v24).
Please go to Romans 11:19 where we’ll begin today’s lesson.
19: You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
20: Quite right, they were broken off for their (the Jews) unbelief, but you (Gentiles) stand by your faith (alone). Do not be conceited, but fear (God);
21: for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either.
The Israelites (the natural branches) were cut off because of their unbelief. But, as Paul says in v20, you Gentiles stand by your faith. Paul then warns the Gentiles not to become conceited toward the Jew, instead fear God. You see, arrogance is the opposite of fear and contrary to the will of God because arrogant people have no need of God: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).
In verse 21 Paul explains why they should fear God: for if God did not spare the natural branches (the Jews), He will not spare you (the Gentiles) either.
Scripture reveals the nation of Israel lost their unique position with God due to unbelief. Paul is warning the Gentiles, in the Dispensation of Grace, this can happen to you. If you follow Israel’s path, if you choose to forget God’s grace and your sinfulness; if you walk in “self-importance, pride, and arrogance, then God will not spare you.
22a: Behold then the kindness and severity of (the holy and Righteous) God; to those who fell (Israel), severity,
Sometimes a small word such as “if” can carry an important message. It certainly does here. “If” the natural branches (Israel) had truly feared the LORD GOD, had they continued in His kindness, had they not become conceited, then they would not have experienced being cut off from the Tree of God’s Kingdom. In other words, the Israelites could have had their King and the Kingdom here on earth, per the Abrahamic Covenant. This is why Jesus was sent: For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers.
Now we know this didn’t happen but the fact that it didn’t happen doesn’t contradict the promises of God. The Messiah came to His own as promised, therefore, the King and the Kingdom was a viable option. (Romans 15:8; Genesis 12, 15).
22b: …but to you (Gentiles), God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
Here Paul is saying don’t be conceited if it happened to the nation of Israel it can happen to you Gentiles in the Dispensation of Grace. If you do not continue in His (God’s) kindness, if you become “arrogant” and do not fear God you can be cut off (from God’s grace) too.
Jesus Christ’s Divine blood was poured out onto Calvary for all, (both the Jew and the Gentile) appeasing God’s wrath. His sacrificial death for our sins reconciled every sinner to God the Father: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a (what) gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins (of mankind) previously committed; (Romans 3:23-25, 5:10)
God is pouring out His Divine Grace onto the human race through the gospel message of the cross. In Christ Jesus: we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us. (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 1:7-8; 1 Timothy 1:14).
Scripture refers to God’s grace as a gift because it’s given to Believers although they don’t deserve it. If it could be earned or worked for then it wouldn’t be grace anymore: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; (Ephesians 2:8).
Keeping in mind Paul’s warning, let’s seriously consider what the Gentiles have done with God’s grace to date. The majority has rejected God, His grace, and His Truths outright and because of this there has been an ensuing steady, if not rapid, moral decline world-wide. When I taught Romans chapter 2, I made this comment: the further man sinks into depravity the further man is distanced from the Creator God.
I went on to outline 3 things our Apostle Paul said occurred when men and women have completely turned their backs on God: they are aware the things they are doing are wrong, they elect to do them anyway, and they give hearty approval to those who willfully join them. (Romans 1:32)
Over my lifetime I’ve witnessed America’s moral decline and I’ve experienced America’s turning away from God as well; it is more than just noticeable it’s alarming. For instance I remember my mother telling me about the problem the Motion Picture Association had with the movie “Gone with the Wind” and all because of one “bad” word. The word causing all the ruckus was “damn.” However, the director paid the $5,000 fine, the movie was released, and the rest is history. Some people chose not to view the movie. They said this “bad” word made it immoral. That was 1930.
In 2013 director Martin Scorsese released a film called, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” This movie has set a new Guinness World Records title for most swearing in a single film. The same f-word expletive is used 506 times – averaging 2.81 times per minute. But that’s not all. The heavy use of profanity, drug usage, and sexually explicit scenes has caused distribution problems in many foreign countries – but not in America. Here it grossed millions and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
In 2 Chronicles 33:1-25 we find a king named Hezekiah, a God-fearing king, who brought about reformation among the Israelites. His son, Manasseh, however, was an evil ruler. He had watched his father walk with God and live according to Scripture. Yet he chose to ignore the LORD God. (Psalms 119:105).
Manasseh worshipped false gods, even to the point of sacrificing his sons by fire in order to praise Molech. He practiced much evil including witchcraft and sorcery. He led Israel astray, thereby provoking the LORD God to anger. This king and his people paid a high price for his rebellion.
This Bible account serves to illustrate God’s intolerance of a nation’s disregard toward Him. Now, please consider the United States of America. Have we, too, as a nation not pushed God aside? Hasn’t America turned away from the one true God and embraced multiple idols. These idols may or may not be of wood or stone, but we have certainly created idols of money, sports, ability, beauty, fame, fortune, science, philosophy, and reputation to name but a few.
America was founded on Biblical principles with the intent to guarantee the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom to worship is a constitutionally protected right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. But over time we have seen the Supreme Court of the Unites States “whittle” away at these rights by ruling the Ten Commandments could not be displayed in court buildings or on government property unless it is in an historical context…, we have witnessed the name of Jesus Christ being removed from public speaking, prayer, and other aspects of public life. Most recently a United States Navy Chaplain was ordered not to “Pray in the name of Jesus Christ” by his superior officer – April 22, 2015. On June 19, 2000 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled School Sponsored Prayer is unconstitutional.
This country, once a “Nation under God,” has turned into a country that tolerates an alarming number of mounting sins i.e. abortion, teen-age sex, underage drinking, and drug abuse, etc. and belittles or ignores absolute truth.
For the past 2,000 years the human race has been experiencing God’ tender heart i.e. His grace, love, and His mercy. But one should not misinterpret God’s kindness as weakness. There’s a flip-side to God’s love and Scripture proves this Truth out again and again - God is holy, righteousness, and good; but He’s capable of wrath. The word “wrath” appears 189 times in Scripture and is used more often than the word “grace.”
This Biblical fact is speaking to the Gentiles who have no fear of God, who are arrogant and self-centered, and have spurned God’s kindness. To the Gentiles who say, if there is a God, He would never send anyone to hell. I respond, if God wasn’t capable of “wrath,” ask yourself this question, would there be a need for His grace?
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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