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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS. I thank you for being here today; Bibles and hearts at the ready, prepared to learn at least one new thing about God (Colossians 1:10).
Introduction to Chapter 4
The first six verses of this chapter answer a few prominent questions as to why the majority of people do not believe the truth, speaking specifically of the gospel when they first hear it, or after they’ve heard it repeated again and again (Matthew 7:13-14). These verses also answer questions about why so many folks who profess to believe the gospel quit walking with the Lord, and why some people whom you’d never think would believe the gospel, do so. These verses remind me of a pastor’s comment. He said, “You’re going to be surprised by the people you see and don’t see in heaven.”
Now that I have more than a few years behind me, in my life-account, if I may borrow that term from “The Unaffordable Care Act,” permit me to suggest an individual needs to have experienced many years of trials (pressure) to fully appreciate the book of 2 Corinthians. They need to have ridden on life’s roller-coaster for many years, experienced the “high’s and the “low’s of life, in order to identify with our Apostle Paul’s experiences. Otherwise they won’t appreciate his heart or his motivation in writing this letter. Most people say the theme of 2 Corinthians is suffering, and I won’t argue with the obvious. However, I will point out Paul said the glory of this chapter is Christ revealed in the gospel – in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of (what) the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (4:1).
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 4:1
Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose (what) heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is (what) veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (4:1-6).
Therefore, since we have this ministry (v1) - when Paul uses the plural pronoun “we” here and throughout this chapter he’s actually referring to himself.
As to this ministry - Paul’s referring to “the ministry of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:8), also called “the ministry of righteousness” (3:9). Paul uses the word (Diakonia) for service several times in this letter (3:7, 8, 9; 4:1; 5:18; 6:3; 8:4; 9:1, 12, 13; 11:8). Paul was saved to serve; as is every true Believer. Saul/Paul was a changed man, at heart. He went from being the chief persecutor of God’s Church to the chief of sinners (i.e. “the first,” or “a pattern” - 1 Timothy 1:15), saved by God’s Grace; the founder of Christianity, the Body of Christ, which prompted him to write this heartfelt statement to the Galatian Church: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
Paul sought and experienced the Spirit’s leading in his daily life. He taught this great spiritual principle in the Believer’s life: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons (and daughters) of God” (Romans 8:14). It is the ministry of the Spirit to take sinners and sanctify them. He sets them apart for God’s unique purpose.
Paul was the steward of God’s Grace (Ephesians 3:1); the conduit for the revealed Truth of God’s word. Paul asserted in 1 Corinthians 2:4: “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (See Galatians 3:3). If you examine the book of 1 Thessalonians carefully, you’ll find the word Spirit occurs five times (1:5, 6; 4:8; 5:19, 23), four of these refer to the Holy Spirit and the other to the human spirit (5:23). What’s significant about this is Spirit-matters are discussed by Paul at the beginning and at the end of this letter. He wants this church (and us) to know they were saved by the power of the Spirit (1:5-6; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
As we received mercy, we do not lose heart - although this was the ministry of the Spirit, it didn’t operate on autopilot, meaning it was Paul’s ministry too. Throughout scripture we see God using flawed people to share hope to a flawed, dying world (1 Corinthians 1:22-29; Hebrews 13:20-21).
Therefore, this phrase has to be understood with this detail in mind and in context with what he wrote in verse 4:16, to which I add, Paul was as human as you or I. By this I mean he felt like “throwing in the towel” several times. I’ve never heard a sermon preached on this topic, but if you look in this book you’ll find several instances of Jesus appearing to Paul to encourage him (Acts 18:9-10, 23:11, 27:24; 2 Timothy 4:17). But in this instance, despite the physical trials and multiple problems with the Corinthian Church, Paul’s confidence was in the merciful God; He knew God was in control of this situation too (2 Corinthians 3:12). Paul didn’t focus on the trials; his focus was on the work at hand. The ministry was too important to lose heart.
but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God – Paul’s saying he preached the gospel with sincerity – just as he received it from the risen Lord (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The Greek word for adulterating is Doloo (pronounced: dol-o’-o), a Verb, Strong’s Greek # 1389 from #1388; meaning: to corrupt. Paul didn’t add anything to the gospel he received from the Lord, and he didn’t take anything away from it. This means he didn’t “water it down” in order to make it palatable, i.e. acceptable to his audience and Paul didn’t mix his message with “human wisdom” or his own personal opinion.
I’ve mentioned this a time or two before but the prosperity gospel, the social gospel movement, and the emergent church movement (they may be known by other names) are three current threats against the church coming from within. Many Believers are being caught up in their “web of lies” and are falling away from the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Whatever label they choose to be known by, please know they are not in agreement with the gospel that saves today, and as our Apostle said: they are to be accursed (Galatians 1:6-8).
But by the manifestation of truth – the term truth refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ, i.e. the New Covenant. The false teachers, which were prevalent throughout the Roman Empire, acted in shameful ways, secret ways, but Paul preached the full truth, publicly (2 Corinthians 13:8). Paul writes: For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain… they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him…(Titus 1:10-16).
commending ourselves to every man’s conscience – here Paul speaks of limiting his freedoms for the sake of others, or considering another’s highest good which fulfills the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Galatians 6:2). We’re not talking about “compromise” but voluntary self-limiting of freedom because of the cultural hang-ups, religious traditions, or personal preferences some people have. Paul was all about spreading the truth of the gospel far and wide; not personal freedoms or hang-ups.
In the sight of God – this phrase is used in a similar way in other Pauline texts and is equivalent to, “as God is my witness” (See Galatians 1:20; 1 Timothy 5:21, 6:13; 2 Timothy 2:14, 4:1). See: 2 Corinthians 1:23, 11:31; and 1 Thessalonians 2:5, 10.
And even if our gospel is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (v3-4).
And even if our gospel is veiled to those who are perishing - Paul calls it his gospel here because it was the life-saving message that he preached to all: Now to Him who is able to establish you according to (what) my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past… (Romans 11:25-27).
The point Paul’s making is this, if the gospel which he preached is veiled to those who are perishing, if it’s is not understood, if its meaning is hidden (veiled); if its glory is not perceived or seen by the listener, this fact could not be the fault of the gospel itself because its message is plainly spoken as it is concise. God has not purposely veiled the gospel’s message; therefore it must be due to other causes.
Do you remember what Paul wrote last week? Let’s return to 2 Corinthians 3:15-16 and take a look at what this book says: “But to this day whenever Moses is read, a (what) veil lies over their (what) heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” When I read this, I understand it to mean someone or something is keeping them from knowing the truth. Does that make sense?
So, who’s holding the veil over people’s hearts and minds (v 4:1)? Our Apostle Paul doesn’t want you guessing who this is he tells you - the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving.
Now, the casual Bible reader may read right on through this verse without taking the time to examine it – to find out what Paul means to say. A careful examination of this book reveals Satan is called the god of this age and the prince of this world (John 12:31, 16:11).
A careful review of present day activities reveals satanic worship is growing rapidly in the U.S.; perhaps this is why one of the T.V. Networks offered a weekly series with the devil as the lead character. It quickly became a hit, by the way. There’s so much more going on. Recently one of the members from a local satanic Temple up in Alaska was allowed to make an opening prayer to Lucifer at a council meeting. Meeting attendees were reminded that they did not have to participate in the opening ritual… how thoughtful.
The TST has 7 chapters in the USA and Europe and claims more than 100,000 members. One of its goals is to imbed Lucifer in the public school systems by establishing afternoon school clubs, these would be called, “After School Satan,” which is TST’s response to a Supreme Court’s ruling allowing evangelical programs to operate in schools. They would be operating right alongside Christian children’s school programs.
Although there are those who worship and adore Satan, he is not now and never will be God’s equal. The name Satan means adversary and by saying he’s the god of this age means to convey the message he is the supreme example of evil. Jesus put this in other terms by saying, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The Apostle John said, “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). Bottom line: if you do not belong to the God of the ages, then you are of Satan – the god of this age. There’s no place else to run to. “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me (Isaiah 44:6).
Remember, the name Satan means adversary, right? At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth, who showed up to divert Him from God’s path? Satan did. At the end of His ministry, who prompted Judas to betray Jesus, thinking if he could kill Him this would thwart God’s eternal plan? Satan did. The devil is a powerful spiritual being whose primary goal is turn Believers away from God. This book says he disguises himself as angel of light or his brand of truth (2 Corinthians 11:14). There is a warning sign in Scripture, which our Apostle Paul put up, that reads: “Do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27). Good advice!
Satan is definitely working his plan each and every day. What plan would that be? He’s ensuring people do not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Satan will do everything within his power to deceive people. He wants everyone in the world to think he is the “all-in-all;” that his way is the best way – but it isn’t folks. You’re literally playing with “fire;” for the devil’s path leads straight to hell and then to the eternal Lake of Fire. Don’t forget, Satan’s a defeated foe. Jesus Christ conquered him at the Cross. One day future his defeat will be recognized fully and the Lord Jesus Christ will be recognized a King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Whose side will you be on? There’s still time to make a decision?
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (v5-6).
I’m not the first one to admit trying to interpret some of Paul’s writings is like listening to only one-half of a telephone conversation, which means sometimes you reach a point where assumptions enter in.
The meaning and reason for verse 5 is not very clear. But if we consider what he wrote in other parts of this letter, as well as his other letters to the churches, here Paul gives the Corinthians a reason for his conduct in the ministry. If you’ll recall, Paul had wrote earlier: For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 2:17, 4:1-2).
The reason for this wasn’t to build a kingdom for Paul; he wasn’t advancing his own interests. Paul was all about advancing the kingdom of God by preaching Jesus Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23).
For God, who said “Light shall shine out of darkness,” (v6a) – Now some people think Paul is referencing the creation event here (Genesis 1:1), but I come at this comment from a different perspective and I’ll tell you why that is. The word Light is capitalized and that always denotes deity. Read the Genesis account in your Bible; the word “light” is not capitalized.
Therefore, Paul is referencing Jesus Christ’s first advent and we read about this in the first chapter of John 1:6-9: There came a man sent from God, whose name was John (the Baptist). He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man (and woman).
Verse 9 should cause people to sit up and do some serious thinking, but the majority just read right on over it without giving it much thought at all. It’s saying no one who has ever been born into this world can say, “I never had a chance to know Jesus.” The true Light enlightens every man (and woman) coming into the world. Put another way, it’s saying, “People are born with the innate knowledge of God.”
Permit me to leave y’all with that thought. We’ll pick it up from here next week.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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