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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
Greetings to all; and welcome to HBS. I’m bolstered by your attendance and your participation in this Bible study, and I want to encourage you to keep up the good work you’ve started; echoing the sentiments of our Apostle Paul who “encouraged” Believers in Christ Jesus to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
In Romans 12:4-8 we have our Apostle Paul’s first mention of the Doctrine of the Body of Christ, a Church Doctrine which he alone introduces because he was the one chosen by the risen Lord Jesus Christ to be “minister of the church.” (Colossians 1:24-25).
In simpler language Paul is comparing the human body to the Body of Christ:
The human body has many members – arms, legs, eyes, ears, feet, toes, etc.
These members are united; they form one body.
Each member is a member of all of the others.
All the members do not have the same (function) work to do.
Paul wrote similarly to the Corinthians: For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks (Gentiles), whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
The faith-based community of Believers is often referred to as a “family” and indeed we are spoken of as being the family of God. However, the illustration Paul uses here is even more intimate – being members of the same body. Paul speaks of each member belonging to each other. Consequently every child of God influences every other child of God either directly or indirectly. So, if you’re messing up that affects me negatively and everyone else in the body. And if you’re living the life of a Spiritual Believer, healthy in every respect, that benefits me and every other Believer in the body.
Paul instructs each member of the body to exercise their particular gift (do their part) for the benefit of those inside the walls of the church (the body) and for those outside the walls of the church (the unsaved). He writes: …we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Sadly, much of the history of institutionalized Christianity is simply a history of an audience intent on watching a few players do the work. The Christian community has mainly been asleep through the centuries; which is evidence that our adversary, Satan, has been active causing dissension and disunity within the Body of Christ contrary to our Savior’s assertion for love and unity amongst the saints.
Please open your Bible at Romans 12:6
6: Since we have (what) gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
In verse 6, Paul is saying it’s God’s will that their spiritual gifts be varied in regard to ministry. We find this same theme in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects (activities), but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 4-7)
Another Bible passage came to mind, so if you’ll please turn to 1 Peter 4:10 we’ll look at that one too: As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ,
Every Believer has received at least one spiritual gift, (possibly more than one), and it’s their responsibility to use it to the best of their ability in service to God.
In regards to prophesying in the New Testament (v6), this has nothing to do with predicting the future, as some believe. Let’s be sensible. When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, there was no New Testament. The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) hadn’t even been written yet. So then, ask yourself a question. How was the Word of God being spread? Answer: gifted men spoke God’s Word. That’s what prophesying means. Scripture says this was a significant gift for this time period, again because nothing had been written collectively: Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)
The spiritual gift of prophesying was especially significant because nothing was more important than preaching God’s Gospel, Jesus Christ crucified, to the world. (1 Corinthians 2:2; 15:1-4; 2 Timothy 4:2)
Let’s go to verse 7.
7: if service, in his (or her) serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
Paul mentions two ministries in verse 7, service and teaching. We’ll examine the ministry of service first and do this by reviewing biblical examples. The Book of Acts at chapter 6 indicates there are two types of service: first to physical needs, “the daily serving of food (to widows),” and second to spiritual needs, “we (the apostles) will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry (preaching) of the word.” (Acts 6:1-6)
When God created man, He joined the physical and the spiritual together in Adam, so they must remain together. Consequently, when considering the act of service both the physical and the spiritual aspects are intimately connected and intertwined. In other words, you cannot help someone physically (serve them a meal, rescue them from a burning home), without also helping them spiritually (emotionally, mentally); their connected.
When you address someone’s physical need, provide them a warm coat in winter, a hot meal, or a safe haven for the night, you’re also helping them spiritually. #1: You’re sharing Christ’s love with them obediently fulfilling the greatest commandment, and #2: you’re improving their emotional and mental state, even if it’s just for a brief period of time – the world isn’t as ugly as it once seemed. During this act, the Holy Spirit may present an opportunity for you to present God’s Gospel to the individual(s). You’ll know if the “pathway” is open for this. The Spirit will lead you.
Now some churches and organizations invite indigent people in for a free hot meal and a roof over their head on a cold night, if they listen to all the reasons why they need Christ’s righteousness first before their physical needs are taken care of. These folks are essentially saying the spiritual need is simply a means to an end; and I disagree with this philosophy. Manipulating people is never a good idea and when you choose to do it in the name of Jesus Christ it cheapen God’s Gospel.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the best example of service and there were “no strings attached:” just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)
The ministry of teaching speaks to my heart, so I’m going to spend a bit of time on it. This is the other spiritual gift Paul mentioned in verse 6 and it means to “Explain the Scriptures” and not to interpret the Scriptures; or offer one’s own opinion of them (2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:13). The meaning of Scripture is determined by the author; it is discovered by its readers. Instead of superimposing a meaning on some biblical text, an objective reader seeks to discover the author’s intended meaning, keeping in mind that the Bible must remain in harmony throughout.
The meaning expressed in each biblical text is single, definite, and fixed by the author. In other words, a Bible verse has one meaning and only one meaning. Opinions are just that; opinions and nothing more they do not alter the meaning of the original text. You may do with them as you wish.
In Acts chapter 8 we have the account of the Ethiopian court official, sitting in his chariot, reading from the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit told Phillip to go there to help him which he did. We’ll pick it up from there at verse 30: Phillip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides (explains it to) me?” And he invited Phillip to come up and sit with him. (Note: the Ethiopian did not ask for Phillip’s opinion of the biblical text. He asked that Phillip guide him).
The need for sound Bible teaching has never been greater in this country and around the globe but it is woefully lacking. In fact, this problem has reached crisis level.
Researcher George Gallop reports: “Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it.” And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”
How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most people could imagine.
According to one poll:
96% of Americans responded saying they believe there is a God, however, less than half of those Americans believe God. There’s a mighty big difference between believing in God and believing what God has said people.
Less than half the people polled could name the four gospels
Less than half the people polled could name 3 of the 12 apostles.
60% of Americans couldn’t name 5 of the Ten Commandments
82% of the people polled in America believe the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse – it isn’t.
One Barna Group poll revealed that 12% of Americans believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high-school seniors revealed that over 50% of them thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. These same students believed that Billy Graham taught the Sermon on the Mount.
When a pollster asked the lesbian celebrity Rosie O’Donnell if she thought she would go to heaven when she died. Her response, so typical of America today, said; “God must know I’m trying to be good.”
How can we expect this generation to understand where God’s coming from on the issue of human sexuality when it believes that Sodom and Gomorrah was a married couple? Is there any wonder America is willing to compromise on the social issues of same-sex marriage and homosexuality?
It gets worse. If someone believes that “God helps those who help themselves,” they’ll find salvation by faith (alone) to be a foreign concept; and Satan couldn’t be more pleased…
Who’s Responsible for This Crisis?
On one hand there are far too many churches that marginalize biblical understanding. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and their attention. The move to a small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for “fellowship,” but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study. Most of the group’s time is actually spent on fellowship or “the meet & greet” rather than on actual Bible study – been there; done that.
On the other hand, according to a Barna Group Poll, church attendance continues to decline across all age brackets for various reasons and the poll came with this warning: American Christians have become complacent about their faith. This translates to: even if the church offered a Bible study for all age groups, hosted by a proficient teacher, few, if any, people would show up or participate.
I’ve been teaching the Bible for many years, so I know this to be true. I remember standing in front of an almost empty classroom on Monday evenings many times and the other men serving with me can share similar stories. I guess Monday night Football was more important than what God has to say… but isn’t that so American.
Statistics show Americans spend between 35-40 hours per week in front of the T.V. watching mindless drivel for the most part, but you’re not going to separate them from this activity. The Simpsons rule! But according to a recent church poll, when 1,500 Christians were surveyed 87% said they found it difficult to find time on a regular “disciplined” basis to pray and read Scripture… really?
Look around you; great harm is being done to the Body of Christ and to our nation. Case in point: one church poll revealed 75% of the children of Christian families are breaking their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and embracing the world and all its sinful ways after they leave home. Broken Christian marriages and zero faith in long-term relationships are certainly part of the problem with the Millennials. However, the main reason they cited in the poll for leaving the faith behind is a lack of Bible teaching at home by their parents!
Hello! This is a wake-up call. It’s up to this generation of Believers to step up and reverse this course. Recovery must start at “home.” Parents and fathers especially must lead their children in the study of God’s Word. This vital task mustn’t be left up to the local congregation. It’s important for the children to see their parents as God-fearing individuals and fellow students of God’s Word. Scripture says parents are to set the example and it commands fathers to explain the Scriptures to their children: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4)
The Body of Christ cannot flourish if it continues to “drift” in the same sluggish direction she has embraced all these years. The Church will not thrive unless gifted men teach the Word of Truth to an enthusiastic audience.
Let’s move on to verse 8.
8: or he who exhorts (encourage), in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Exhortation in the Greek language is Parakletos (pronounced: par-ak’-lay-tos). It’s the same word used for the Holy Spirit in the N.T. – “Para” means to the side of and “klesis” means to call. It means to call to one’s side; to aide, one called alongside another, to encourage or admonish one to choose a particular pattern of life or to perform a particular act in life.
The teacher aims for your head while the exhorter aims for your heart.
I liken the encourager in the Body of Christ to the cheerleader on a sports team. But they are much more than that in actuality because their efforts are also geared towards calming and comforting members of the body. My example from Scripture of an exhorter is our Apostle Paul for he says, rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation or affliction, be persistent in prayer (Romans 12:12).
And in Philippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul, speaking for the Lord Jesus Christ, commands each Believer to: encourage one another and build up one another (1Thessalonians 5:11).
However, instead of being encouragers in the church and elsewhere, building others up, most often the opposite is true, people can be discouragers, tearing people down.
Of course there’s a reason for this; as I’ve said before old Adam (our sinful nature) still exists within all of us even though we’re saved individuals and it doesn’t take too much provocation or temptation to awaken him.
We tend to focus on a person’s weaknesses and faults instead of their strengths
We criticize others instead of complimenting them on their good qualities
We prefer to gossip and spread rumors instead of disengaging from this activity
Everyone in the Body of Christ needs to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded us to be encouragers in the home, at work, at play, and at church. Encouragement goes straight to the receiving individual’s “heart.” In fact, the word itself comes from a combination of the prefix “en,” which means – to put into; and the Latin root “cor,” which means heart.
When you choose to encourage someone, it could change the course of their life.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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