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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
Hello, and welcome to Home Bible Study©
With the long list of choices at your disposal, the fact that you’ve chosen to be here with us studying the Word of Truth pleases the Creator God and humbles me. I’m grateful to have you in attendance and I pray continuously “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of your calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
I thought you’d like to know beforehand my goal is to finish chapter 12 this week… not that I’m in any rush to finish. I enjoy being in the Word because I know it brings me nearer to the goal of becoming more like God’s Son. But before we get started I’d like to go over a couple items concerning the Body of Christ with you guys.
God’s Church is not just a “called out” assembly, (Ekklesia in the Greek language) it is the Body of Christ: And He (God the Father) put all things in subjection under His (Jesus Christ’s) feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, (Ephesians 1:18-23).
The context of this Bible passage (v20) reveals that before Jesus Christ could be the head of the church two things had to occur first. #1: He had to be raised from the dead.
#2: He had to return to heaven and then be seated at the right hand of the Father Therefore; God’s Church could not have existed before these events took place.
The Church then is the “Body” of which Christ Jesus is the “Head.” In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 our Apostle Paul explains how this “Body” is formed: For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are (what) 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. Note Paul’s emphatic use of the word “one.”
The fact that God’s Church is one “Body” made up of living members shows that it is not simply an organization but a living organism. As the human body is for the manifestation of a person’s personality, the Body of Christ is for the purpose of manifesting the personality of the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth.
In effect, each Believer is God’s ambassador in that they have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4). We represent our Father in heaven; therefore, it is our responsibility to reflect the official position of heaven. You could say: we are in this world, but not of the world (John 17:16; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
In order for us to reflect the official position of heaven and reflect Christ’s image here on earth, each Believer is to achieve Spiritual maturity – the act of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says we do this by growing in our knowledge of Him. Makes sense; you cannot grow to be like someone you do not know. The more we know about the Lord the more we understand, and the more like Him we become.
Paul goes on to say this is an lifelong process: Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus… (Philippians 3:12-14).
When Paul speaks of obtaining “it,” he’s referring to the full knowledge of Christ Jesus. He freely admitted that he hadn’t already obtained it but he presses on toward the goal… Likewise every Believer must continually press on toward the goal of obtaining full knowledge of Christ Jesus. This requires a radical reordering of our priorities, changing over from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God. We accomplish this by obeying His revealed Word (Romans 12:1-2).
The key to change is consistency and perseverance in doing those things we know will bring us closer to God i.e. Bible reading and study, prayer, fellowship, and service and remembering one simple rule, “keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing: we are no longer to be (immature) 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 the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ… (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:14-16. 5:1-2).
Please open your Bible at Romans 12:17
17: Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Some say this is a Bible contradiction.
Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?”
Yes it does in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21. But no, it isn’t. God gave Moses the public law and he gave it to the nation of Israel. They needed a system of laws to administer justice to those who committed evil acts such as murder.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Verse 17 is referring to “private revenge.”
Paul is saying Believers are not to engage in vigilante justice. He delivered this same message to the church in Thessalonica: See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
The Apostle Peter repeats the same command: To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)
You and I don’t need to wonder if someone somewhere is going to take advantage of us or harm us in some way. Once we understand Satan is the god of this world and both the devil and the world despise God’s saints, we can readily assume the target on our back is real.
The Apostle Paul, a man who suffered in many ways for God’s Gospel, communicated to the Believers of his day that they too would suffer and be persecuted in the name of Jesus Christ: Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Be that as it may, Paul commands Believers not to repay evil with evil for this is how the world behaves; and we’re not to conform to the patterns of this world (Romans 8:35, 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:12).
The world is influenced and motivated by a love for ungodly behavior, whereas Believers are influenced and motivated by their love for God the Father (Romans 1:18-32). We’re called to be different than the bewildered and unsaved individuals all about us. We’re to reflect our Father’s position in heaven and Christ’s image here on earth, each and every day, and in every circumstance.
A difficult assignment; Mission Impossible! Ordinarily, but not for someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul comments: I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (Romans 8:14; 2 Corinthians 12:10)
No matter the misfortune, persecution, or temptation confronting us we need not repay evil for evil for Jesus Christ is able to strengthen us and can bring us triumphantly through the “storms” of life: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Respect what is right in the sight of all men. This is how we are supposed to live. Another way of saying this is, “live in such a way that no one can make an honest accusation against you. Live your life in such a way so that if someone is going to accuse you of a wrong they’ll have to tell a lie to do it.” (Matthew 26:57-67)
Believers need to treat everyone fairly and honestly. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.
Christians often mimic the unsaved world’s practices. True story; my wife and I had to replace the A/C at our home recently. We used the local Christian directory to locate businesses in our area to get an estimate. We found three Christian A/C repairmen nearby and scheduled a home visit. We invited them in for a beverage while we talked about the repair and/or replacement and the expense. All three talked the-Christian-talk, but they didn’t walk-the-walk. To say they wanted to over-charge us would be putting it mildly. All three submitted exorbitant estimates for the same work. How did we know this? We had an original estimate to work with from a non-Christian service provider whose estimate was $5000 below theirs on average. We gave him the job.
A true Believer, in Christ Jesus, is a person who is governed by the principles of doing what is right because it’s the right thing to do. The true Believer will go out of their way to avoid even the appearance of “evil,” meaning: a true Believer is accountable to God, themselves, and to others.
The Apostle Paul for instance was careful when it came to managing all the contributions he received that were meant for others: taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (2 Corinthians 8:20-21)
9: He who walks in integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will be found out.
Now for verse 18 and it may make some people shake their heads in amazement. While growing up in the religion of my youth, I was only taught to “turn the other cheek” by the church fathers. They told me this is what Jesus said to do, so this is what I had to do. But is this the absolute Truth? Just because we’re Believers do we have to let people cheat us, mistreat us, or worse? Not so much.
Verse 18 is the Believer’s biblical “loop hole.”
18: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
As Scripture has shown us, we are to do our utmost to preserve the peace. Yet, Paul is saying our best efforts may not always achieve the desired results. I mean honestly, Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and yet His enemies crucified Him.
Paul is instructing these Believers in Rome (and us) to try and live at peace with everyone, but we are not to compromise our biblical beliefs in the process; it’s not “love me do,” or “peace” at any price.
As I’ve said before, Scripture is the best teacher. Please turn with me to Galatians 2.
Here the Apostle Paul opposed the Apostle Peter face to face in Jerusalem to establish the “higher claim” of the Truth of God’s Gospel over the rank and office of Peter. Paul was willing to endure the pain of conflict with Peter and the other members of Jewish counsel in order to defend the Truth of His gospel (Romans 2:16).
The order of this confrontation breaks down like this:
a) Peter’s practice of dining with Gentile Believers.
b) Peter’s separation from these same Gentile Believers once James and the “circumcision” group arrived because they might not view his association with Gentiles (the uncircumcised) in a favorable light.
c) The separation of the other Messianic Believers from the Gentile Believers due to Peter’s influence.
d) Finally, Paul addressing Peter’s hypocrisy and rebuking him (Acts 10; 11).
Often peace gives way to conflict if the Truth is at stake. Believers should never compromise their biblical beliefs for the sake of peace. For example we are not to seek peace with the homosexual community by agreeing with their policies and their lifestyle if it means retreating from God the Father’s position on the subject. Likewise Believers are not to be “carnal” in their thinking on abortion (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). God considers the life of an unborn child as valuable as that of an adult (Exodus 21:22-23).
The Bible clearly states that all human life is created by God for His purpose (Colossians 1:16). When an individual starts “justifying” what’s evil and what’s not evil based on their own understanding, or according to what’s P.C., they dilute the Truth of God such as when they rename adultery an “affair” and homosexuality an “alternative lifestyle.”
You and I will find occasions when peace is not possible. Consider the life of David. He tried to be at peace with King Saul. But Saul would not have peace. He relentlessly hunted David seeking to kill him. However, when David had the opportunity to strike Saul down, he spared his life. David never took his revenge and God has said we’re not to retaliate against our enemies. (1 Samuel 19; 1 Samuel 24)
19: Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
Seeking our own justice is one of the natural human responses to being hurt or injured.
We all have that old Wild West mentality within us, which is “justice done is justice served.” Although it’s essential that justice be done; it is equally vital that justice not be confused with revenge.
Perhaps you come home from a night out with your spouse and find your home’s been burglarized. The place has been trashed, they’ve marked up the walls, and all your valuables are gone. You want to get even! Maybe, you desire to get a bit more than that… There are few things in this world that cause more anxiety, depression, distress, grief, and sorrow than the loss of one's material goods, especially those material goods for which a family has diligently and honestly labored, and which they still need.
But here’s the thing. The Bible says we are to avoid the spirit inside us that says seek revenge; we are not to take matters into our own hands. Put the Glock down, in other words and remember you are Christ’s ambassador here on earth.
If you’ve been mugged, swindled, or worse you do not have to “turn the other cheek” to these crimes. You have the right to exert you legal privileges which are guaranteed under the law. You may seek justice in an orderly manner, when it’s fitting; that is to say we’re not to go running to the court system for every little thing. (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
Paul’s command here means we are not to take revenge out of the hand of God or out of the hands of the law, when it’s necessary and inflict it ourselves (1 Peter 2:13-15). You and I are not the Lone Ranger.
20: “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”
21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
These last two verses make absolutely no sense to an unbelieving world. Why would anyone want to show kindness, in any way, toward a proven enemy or someone you dislike?
The true Believer is aware of the fact that before they were called a child of God they were His enemy. God didn’t wait until mankind “proved themselves to be worthy” of His attention and His affection. Scripture says He sent His Son to die for all while we were yet sinners. We were reconciled to God while were His enemies (Romans 5:6-10).
Without a doubt the greatest opportunity to manifest the grace of God is in granting forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. If you think about it, this is the only instance when it works. Grace can only be realized where sin has occurred. We can only be gracious to those who have harmed us in some way. Grace is not only undeserved, it is the opposite of what is deserved. Justice is served when the perpetrator is punished. Grace is granted when the evildoer is forgiven at the expense of the victim.
When people do wrong, they expect to receive payback from those they have wronged. Getting even is how the world behaves, after all. But when they receive “kindness” and “mercy” instead, this throws them off balance to such a degree that their hardened hearts often soften.
Do not be overcome by evil - or surrender to temptation to return evil for evil so that you may: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity, Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)
Even though this statement from Paul specifically mentions outsiders his words apply to every conversation.
In verses 14, 17, and 21 Paul states “do not return evil for evil;” we are in effect to reflect Christ’s image in our daily lives for He: while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him (the Father) who judges righteously; (1 Peter 2:23)
The foundation of this entire passage (Romans 12:9-21) is the expression of (Agape) love that is not mixed with any measure of hypocrisy. Anyone can choose to live their life in a belligerent, spiteful, revengeful way. It takes a mature child of God to live above the level of this mediocrity and walk in love (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 3:14).
(To be continued)
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