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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
If you’re a regular attendee here at HBS I’m more than pleased to welcome you back and if you’re a first-time visitor I’m especially thankful to have you here.
Our Apostle Paul has compared the human body to the Body of Christ; the body has many members, they form one body, each member is a member of all the others, yet has a separate function (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). Most of us attend our church of choice regularly and to some degree we’re aware of the goings-on there but if we’re honest we’re disconnected and unconcerned with the church down the street, across town, or in our neighboring state for that matter, even though Scripture says we’re all connected.
If a church up the road or an individual from your assembly “messes” up this affects the entire body negatively and the opposite is true. If a church group or an individual does something remarkable this has a positive affect on the whole body. I liken this to an individual sitting down and eating a gallon of chocolate ice cream along with a large bag of Wavy Lays Potato Chips and then washing all that down with a liter bottle of Pepsi Cola. This episode will not have a positive effect on one’s body. However, a proper diet combined with exercise and 7-8 hours sleep per night will. My point is you and I need to manage our bodies properly and so it goes with the Body of Christ; it too must be maintained properly in accordance with God’s instructions.
The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership. That’s why the Bible stresses the importance of qualified church leadership and cites specific standards for evaluating those who would serve the Body of Christ. Failure to adhere to those standards has caused many of the problems that churches throughout the world currently face. That was the problem young Timothy faced in Ephesus, so Paul gave him a detailed explanation of the qualifications for elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
I provided recent church statistics in my lesson last week both to “enlighten” you and to demonstrate that the Body of Christ is in a crisis. Church attendance continues to decline steadily across all age brackets, 75% of young adults from Christian families admit being without a “firm spiritual foundation” and walked away from Jesus Christ, and according to a new report by the Pew Research Center, Americans who identify themselves as Christian has dropped significantly over the past 8 years, in part because one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith-based organization. One of the specific criticisms cited by this generation about Christianity is that is does not offer “deep, thoughtful, or challenging answers to life in a complex culture.”
The single common thread running throughout this church crisis is a glaring lack of Bible teaching in the home and churches have opted not to teach the Scriptures and Church Doctrine to their congregations.
If you’re truly a born again Believer, then there is nothing more important in the entire universe than the Words which come from God. When the Creator God speaks, the universe, the earth, and every living creature upon it should be still; and listen: Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalms 46:10)
Please open your Bible at Romans 12:8a
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.
Picking up where we left off last week, Paul mentions the spiritual gift of giving next and he goes on to say, with liberality or generously.
The literal meaning of the word “giving” taken from this verse means: that of imparting, of sharing our substance (materials or our stuff and not just one’s money) with others. Paul adds in his letter to the church in Corinth that this should be done cheerfully: Each person must do just has he (or she) has purposed in his (or her) heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion (means: pressure or obligation), for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
An objective Bible student must understand that Paul was referring to the distribution of money specifically to the poor Believers outside church walls in the passage above (Romans 15:22-29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9).
In this instance, it was in the context of Gentile churches in the region (for they were one body) taking up a collection to give to the poor Jewish Believers living in Jerusalem for the need was great. They had become destitute having sold all their personal belongings. Believing the Jesus Christ’s return was imminent they pooled all their wealth and lived off it as a community of Believers. When Jesus Christ did not return, as expected, their money ran out and they were left penniless. (Acts 4:32 – 5:11) So, James, Peter, and John asked Paul to remember the poor (Galatians 2).
Truth is Paul wrote more about giving money to the poor than he did on the Doctrine of Justification by faith. However, Believers are not commanded to give. Giving or sharing our substance is voluntary as Paul stated above.
However, many church leaders will command you to tithe. A few years ago a prominent evangelical Baptist preacher, author, teacher, and T.V. celebrity gave a sermon on tithing. In it he said, and I quote: “How dare you come to the house of God without bringing your tithe into His storehouse… don’t you know you’re robbing God?” (Malachi 3:8-10).
He’s not the only pastor or minister who’s “borrowed” this passage. It’s been used multiple times by multiple church leaders, but it’s a half-truth, which is the same as a lie. Satan told the woman in the Garden of Eden a half-truth too when he said, “You surely will not die!” That was a lie. But Satan also said “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” This part was the truth, which made his lie more deceptive. When a person mixes a bit of truth with an untruth, they’ve created a believable lie.
Malachi 3:8-10 is in the Bible, however, an objective Bible student will come to understand that the book of Malachi is written to the nation of Israel and not to gentile Believers. This is understood from reading verse1: The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. (Malachi 1:1)
That portion of his statement which is untruthful exists in what he’s not telling us. Tithing is an Old Testament command to the Jew only and in reality it was their “taxation” system. The Jewish tithe consisted of the Temple Tax, the Land Sabbath Tax, and the Special Profit-Sharing Tax (leaving the corners of their fields unharvested for the poor).
The required taxation for the Jew was around 25% per year. In addition to all this taxation, there was also voluntary giving in the O.T. which included first-fruit giving and freewill offerings. Tithing in the O.T. was required giving! The LORD God commanded the Israelites to tithe on agricultural products and on every tenth animal of their flocks and herds and not once in the O.T. does God command the Jews to give money. (Leviticus 27:30-32)
In addition, the Bible clearly states who was authorized to receive the tithes of the people: (This is the LORD God speaking: “To the sons of Levi, behold I have given (how much) all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, (why) in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting (the sons of Levi didn’t keep it all they gave a tenth of their tithe to the priests who attended the altar (Numbers 18:25-32). The priests didn’t tithe at all).
Nowhere in the New Testament is a Believer commanded to tithe or to give money to God. Paul only instructs us to give in the sense that it is a freewill offering from one’s heart (2 Corinthians 8). The N.T. says Believers are to give in response to “need,” (Acts 11:27-29); and in a “purposeful” manner, (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Now if you want to give 10% or more of your income to your church of choice, you may do so if you choose, but you are under no compulsion to tithe. (Galatians 5:1-7).
Paul mentions he who leads as the next spiritual gift in verse 8 and follows it by saying with diligence. The word leads in the Greek language is translated Proistemi and means: to care for; to preside over; to be a protector or guardian.
Leading in the church is a gift first and foremost and then an office, like that of an elder or a deacon: He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity. (1 Timothy 3:4, 12)
Prophesying, teaching, and exhortation are gifts by the Spirit of God, and giving is a grace given of God to each Believer (2 Corinthians 8:1, 4, 7); but elders and deacons perform the work of management and care in the N.T. church. (Acts 20:17, 28)
According to the N.T., elders are responsible for the primary leadership and oversight of a church group. “Elders lead the church” (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-2), teach and preach the word (1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9), protect the church from false teachers (Acts 20:17, 28-31), exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine (2 Timothy 3:13-17; Titus 1:9).
John Piper, theologian, suggests that elders and pastors are not two different offices they are simply two different words for the same office and this isn’t his opinion it’s supported by Scripture (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-2;); and I agree.
It may surprise you to learn the word “pastor” doesn’t appear in the N.T. at all. The plural form “pastors” is used but once in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:11-12). In the Greek language, the word pastors is translated Poimen (pronounced: poy-mane’) and means – a herdsman, a shepherd.
What we will find in the N.T. is that Paul, after he planted a church in an area, would appoint elders a.s.a.p. These men were selected from the area and never imported from outside the area and the individual(s) had to meet the qualifications. (1 Timothy 3:1-10)
The Bible often uses different “terms” to refer to the same thing such is the case here.
The office of bishop/overseer is the same office of elder in the N.T. It is listed beside the office of deacon (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13) to show us that these two were the main offices by which the ongoing life of the church was to be managed.
The N.T. only refers to the office of pastor once (Ephesians 4:11). It is a “functional” description of the role of elder stressing the care and feeding of the planted church, just as “bishop/overseer” is a functional description of the role of elder stressing the management of the church.
Last but not least Paul names the gift of mercy, with cheerfulness next. The word mercy in the Greek language is Eleeo (pronounced: el-eh-eh’o) and means: to help the afflicted – those suffering mental or physical distress.
The person who has received the gift of mercy desires to make others feel better.
They are optimistic by nature, good spirited and pleasant people to be around. They go around promoting cheer, which is the opposite of despair and sorrow. Sick people get enough of that as it is, what they need is a bright ray of sunshine in their lives and that exemplifies the individual who has been given the gift of mercy.
The person with the gift of mercy also has the characteristic of Christ’s love; this is their primary motivator; the engine that drives them, if you will. They see no benefit in pain, suffering, distress, or sorrow. The people with the gift of mercy desire to see those who are hurting alleviated from their pain. These are the folks you see running into burning buildings, for instance instead of running away from them – as on 9/11. These are the combat medics fighting to save our soldiers and the locals while serving on the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the hot lead is flying.
Characteristics of Someone with the gift of Mercy
Attentive - watchful over those who are in need, or who are experiencing sorrow
Sensitive - aware of the needs of others, even without a word being spoken by them
Fair - desiring impartiality and fairness – in every circumstance
Compassionate – feeling the pain of others as if it were their own
Gentle – soft-spoken, tender-hearted, and caring
Yielding – willing to give ground so that harmony and peace might prevail
Sacrificial – willing to suffer if it will help another person’s condition
Let’s go to verse 9.
9: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor (reject) what is evil; cling (hold tightly) to what is good.
Paul has been teaching this assembly in Rome (and us) about Spiritual gifts (verses 4-8) and now shifts his focus to the more general way of the church. But let’s not lose sight of his primary line of teaching from Romans 12:1-2 which is still unfolding - what it means to have a transformed mind, and what this will look like when we’re not thinking too highly of ourselves than we ought to be, but we are magnifying the Lord Jesus Christ everyday in every way!
Paul wrote similarly in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes: And I show you a still more excellent way, as he begins to teach on “Christian charity” or moral love in 1 Corinthians 13. If we do not have this love, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are meaningless. (Matthew 22:37-40)
The church Paul planted at Corinth wasn’t maturing spiritually; they remained carnalistic – these folks weren’t being transformed by the renewing of their mind. They were hypocrites, impatient, discontented, envious, egotistic, selfish, suspicious, resentful, and they were critical of others. Paul explained to them the difference between their present condition and Christian (charity) love to show them a better way. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
You see if someone doesn’t teach you, from Scripture, the better way, God’s way and not the world’s; how can you make an informed decision. How can you then begin to renew your mind?
We’ll put a bookmark here for now and pick it up from this spot, when next we meet.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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