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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 Home Bible Study. I thank you for not only being here today but for your interest in learning more about the truth.
The Bible reveals just before Pilate gave in to the pressure of the unruly crowd that had assembled outside and ordered the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, he asked one of the most tragic questions ever recorded in the Bible; “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him” (John 18:37-38).
Note Pilate does not ask, “What is the truth” this would indicate he was interested in knowing the truth. He merely said, “What is truth?” It was a rhetorical question, a cynical response to what the Lord had just revealed to him. So, what did Pilate miss? The same thing most of this world is missing. The Truth was standing right in front of him! Pilate, like most people, was looking for some ultimate answer to a question beyond which there are no further questions. But here’s the thing, that truth can only come from God and it involves mankind’s eternal destiny; that’s what Jesus is saying.
Josh McDowell on his radio program one day said he speaks on many college campuses and he has found cynicism there as it relates to whether anyone can ever truly know anything to be “absolutely true.” This leads us to a very important principle, one that is just as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago for Pilate. Whenever one loses faith in the fact there is “absolute truth,” there is only one standard by which that person’s actions can be measured: Political Correctness. Political Correctness is not truth. It is man’s version of what they deem to be acceptable truth.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the absolute Truth: the Apostle John wrote: For the law was given to Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6); this is something every man, woman, and child must deal with either in this life or the next!
But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God, by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things (4-10).
*There was insufficient time to explain these verses satisfactorily last week because the Bible lesson went beyond the expected time limit. Rather than rush through this section just to get er’ done, I decided to stop and return to it this week. This way, not only does God’s Word receive the proper attention and respect it deserves, so do you.
Please open your Bible to 2 Corinthians 6:4-10.
Paul endured; even in the worst circumstances and God was glorified by the fact that no matter what he went through he did not give up. The word endurance means: to stay under the pressure. We all feel pressure, the desire to give in a little bit here, to give up there, because we deem some things not even worth trying. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you can’t bear the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” Well, Paul lived in the kitchen, so to speak - because he never quit and Believer’s should not quit so easily either just because the going gets a little rough. The term, “hang in there” certainly applies here and expresses Paul’s meaning. Just hang in there, don’t give in, and don’t quit; endure the pressure and God will see you through your circumstances to victory: in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses… (v4).
Afflictions are those day-in and day-out, run-of-the-mill type problems we all face. These are the things that can irritate you; that can ruin your day without really trying. In fact, you may feel afflicted right now. Are you under some pressure? Is something irritating you and you’re finding it difficult to make it go away? Perhaps you just received a bill that you can’t pay. Maybe your doctor just gave you the results of the tests you recently had completed and you need surgery. You may have been laid-off from work or lost you job altogether. Perhaps you woke up this morning and your car wouldn’t start. Perhaps all of your children are home from school this week with the flu. These afflictions just come one right after another and you have to deal with them.
Then Paul mentions hardships. I thought afflictions and hardships were the same thing and I was wrong, folks, which just goes to prove what I’ve been teaching all along; you’re never too old to learn something new from this book. The Greek word for hardship is Anagke (pronounced: an-ang-kay’), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #318, meaning: necessity, imposed either by circumstances, or by law of duty; calamity. They are closely related to afflictions but hardships are things you cannot help; they are things you cannot escape from. For example, a little over a year ago I was forced to move my 92 y.o. mother into a nursing home. She’d been independent all her life, but because of circumstances beyond her control, and the families’, she couldn’t live this way any longer. She almost died twice living on her own, so to keep her alive and well it became a necessity to have a medical staff involved in her care 24/7/365. This created a hardship for her and for us – believe me.
Another example would be my brother-in-law. My older sister informed me her husband was diagnosed with bilateral lung cancer, liver cancer, cancer of the lymph nodes, and he has an inoperable brain tumor. The doctors gave him 2 weeks to six months to live. I received a phone call from her just the other day informing me Bob died while she was with him. He didn’t make it two weeks… It goes without saying my sister is distraught and heartbroken. These are hardships; they cannot be helped, we cannot escape them; and we have responsibilities to fulfill concerning them. However we do so as Believers with a spirit of optimism, as did our Apostle Paul knowing this attitude glorifies our heavenly Father: For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen (2 Corinthians 4:16-17a).
Next in line, Paul spoke of being in distresses this is akin to being in “narrow places.” The idea carries the notion of being “boxed in” feeling “pressed” from all sides, seeing no way out. This reminds me of General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn or as the Lakota Sioux Indians referred to it, the Battle of the Greasy Grass. A biblical example of this could very well be Paul’s statement to the church in Corinth: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves…” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Elsewhere in wrote of fighting with beasts at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32). Paul actually thought he was going to die, yet he did not quit.
I’m thinking, that’s plenty, but Paul continues, saying, in beatings, later in this letter at 11:23-27 he explains that up to this time he had already been beaten five times with 39 stripes. Count those up. They add up to 195 painful stripes across his back. But that didn’t stop Paul and neither did his near death experience at Lystra (Acts 14:8-20). Paul speaks of this event in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 saying, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago (during his first missionary journey) (whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up to the third heaven… This book does not say Paul was stoned to death, but I find it hard to believe the Jews who performed the deed would have left Paul without checking to see he was really dead before dragging his body out of the city where they left him for dead. But Paul got right up and walked right back into the city where they stoned him… and spent the night there. That’s a man “on fire” for the Lord, folks.
Then he spoke of imprisonments and according to Clement of Rome (Philippians 4:3) Paul was imprisoned on seven different occasions. Our Bible only gives us three of these accounts, in Philippi, in Caesarea, and in Rome. However, jail time didn’t keep Paul from doing the Lord’s work. He managed to convert the household of Caesar while imprisoned in Rome (Philippians 4:22), demonstrating God can use us wherever we’re planted.
Even in tumults - Paul is saying he was threatened by many an uproar or riot, i.e. mobs. Let’s go back to the time shortly after Paul’s conversion. He was proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God… Jesus is the Christ.” The Jews were confused, since this same man was well known as the chief persecutor of Jesus Believers. But now he’s a problem so: When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him… (Acts 9:20-25). (See Acts 13:50-14:3, 14:4-7, 14:19-20, 16:22-23, 17:1-11 etc.). Paul faced similar situations often, but he never gave up.
Then there were certain commitments Paul had undertaken by choice he called them, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger. Our Apostle Paul worked as a tentmaker and Acts 18:1-3 is the go-to chapter for highlighting this fact. But Paul and his co-workers labored for the Lord as well: To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we (what) toil, working with our own hands... (1 Corinthians 4:11-12a).
In sleeplessness - Paul was under all this pressure and persecution. There was also the added responsibility of all these churches. He spent a lot of time on the road traveling too, which meant he experienced many watchful nights in order to protect the people with him. Thieves wanted their stuff mainly but the Jewish opposition wanted to kill Paul. I don’t know if you have ever been put in a position where you had to “fight sleep” to say awake because people’s lives depended on it. If you’ve served in the military, there’s a good chance you understand what Paul meant by in sleeplessness as he laid there ever vigilant on those chilly, drawn out, watchful nights.
The last thing Paul mentions in this grouping is hunger (2 Corinthians 11:27). While we may go without eating by choice, when Paul said he went hungry he means to say he had no choice in the matter; he would have preferred to have eaten something. There could be a number of reasons why Paul went without food. Knowing people preferred you dead rather than alive; this threat could have kept him away from food sources on many occasions. As I said earlier, he spent a good deal of time traveling this too probably prevented him from eating regularly.
In all his letters I find no sense of him complaining about his circumstances; there’s not even a hint he may be willing to give it all up because the pressure was too great. And that, my friends in Christ Jesus, is what is God-honoring about all these experiences. I don’t want you to miss this. It wasn’t that he went through these circumstances or stayed under the pressure, i.e. endured. It was the Christ-like character he consistently displayed while in them and coming through them that showed him to be approved before God.
This thought serves to take us into his next grouping: in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God… Paul goes from speaking about the circumstances in which he served the Lord to speaking about how he coped while in the midst of these circumstances. He begins with in purity, meaning, even though some of the Corinthians were slinging mud at him, none would stick. Both morally and physically his life was above criticism.
In knowledge – Paul communicated the true knowledge of God, rightly divided, as opposed to the Greeks who believed in and taught philosophy and science as the truth and the Jewish opposition who continued to teach obedience to the Law undermining Paul’s work as the Lord’s apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:6-10).
In patience –Paul could be referring to being patient with people I say this because a Bible verse certainly comes to mind: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant (1 Corinthians 13:4). But in another sense he could be speaking about being patient in the circumstances he found himself in because Paul did not quit: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; (2 Timothy 4:7).
In kindness – this speaks of Paul’s gentleness of spirit, his even temperament; no matter how badly other people were treating him, Paul took the high-road, so to speak, and not the low-road. Paul chose the Lord’s path of gentleness: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! (2 Corinthians 10:1; Ephesians 4:32).
In the Holy Spirit – Paul’s referring to his personal behavior in the spirit, which was produced by the Holy Spirit: I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1).
…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
…to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16; See Galatians 5:22-23).
In genuine love – consider this, what possible good could any minister do unless he loves people sincerely for Paul writes: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good (Romans 12:9). The type of love Paul is speaking of is agape love and not the world’s definition of love. (See 1 Corinthians 13).
In the word of truth – the truth Paul is speaking of is the gospel. He spoke it plainly so people could understand God’s message, he didn’t water it down, in order to make it palatable to his audiences; he didn’t add to it and he didn’t take anything away from it – Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures – this is the gospel that saves today (2 Corinthians 13:8).
By the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left – to be honest, the Bible doesn’t say what Paul meant by this, but Paul often uses people and things from everyday life to serve as metaphors when he teaches. One example is the Roman soldier and if you’ll turn to Ephesians 6:10-18, you’ll find Paul writing about the full armor of God (v13). The Roman soldier was not only the best equipped solider on the battle field he was the best trained. He entered battle with defensive and offensive weapons. His shield served as a defensive weapon (v16), and this would be in his left hand. The Roman sword, known as the Gladius, was a short, stabbing blade, less than 24” in length. Its design was lethal. If used with enough force in close quarters and directed at vulnerable parts of the body, say the abdomen or chest region, one strike was usually fatal. The Gladius was a right-handed weapon.
Paul and his co-workers did not use military weapons to overcome their circumstances. They fought the good fight wearing the full armor of God such as taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. When they were prepared to go on the offense, in their right hand they wielded the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (v17b).
By glory and dishonor - Paul made sure he and his fellow laborers for the Lord lived a Christ-like life so when people started to throw accusations their way none would stick. This helped their cause tremendously: giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited (v6:3). Here Paul is saying no matter what the world’s opinion of them or their ministry may be they gave no offence. They weren’t honored by everyone, everywhere and they were seldom treated respectfully outside the churches Paul planted. The long and the short of Paul’s statement is this, people are going to gossip that’s what unregenerate people do, but the only thing that matters is that his life and his life’s work pleases God: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
By evil report and good report – an evil report involves the distortion of the truth. Paul’s saying their motives were questioned and their names were slandered. They were called deceivers, imposters, and various other names by the false teachers and by the people they were ministering to, but in all this, as in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance (v4a). Paul did not return evil for evil, instead he consistently bore these insults because it gave him opportunity to express a Christ-like life (1 Cor 13).
Regarded as deceivers and yet true – Scripture isn’t clear as to the meaning of this phrase either, but I direct your attention back to my introductory message about Jesus Christ being the absolute Truth. Paul was called by the risen, glorified Lord Jesus Christ to be His apostle to the Gentiles; to speak the gospel of the grace of God to all. Did the majority of people accept him and his message? That would be no. The majority of people will accept you, if you get down in the muck and mire of this world right along with them (Romans 1:28-32), but should you begin to tell them Jesus died for their sins… well, now you’ve created a problem for them. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his (or her) deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:20)
They aren’t rejecting you when you speak the gospel; they’re rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. This has been going on for centuries: But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people (John7:10-12).
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from (what) the truth (of God’s Word) and will turn aside to myths (the teachings of men and women) - 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
We’re still living in the age of ignorance. Although the Bible remains a best-seller year after year, it remains the most un-read book of all time. God wants to communicate with mankind, but the human race, for the most part, isn’t interested.
As unknown yet always rejoicing – the KJV translates this phrase thusly, “As unknown, and yet well known,” the word yet was added by the translators (it’s in italics) which means it’s not in the original text, therefore it’s not needed. It could be read “As unknown and well-known.” Our Apostle Paul was not like many of the flamboyant, well paid professional speakers of his day. He’s certainly not comparable to the showy ministers of today and yesteryear, i.e. he wasn’t chasing after fame, fortune, glory, or power. I’m reminded of the T.V. evangelists who recently came under senate investigation because the possibility exists they are using their ministry for financial gain, since their incomes appear to be excessive; each one earning millions of dollars annually and their lifestyles reflect that of a millionaires.
It wasn’t Paul’s fancy wardrobe that made him well-known or his expensive jewelry; it was the truth he was preaching, both far and near, to all peoples, despite his rather unpleasant circumstances: Let a man so account of us, as of the minister of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself: but he that judgeth me is the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:1-4).
As dying yet behold, we live – Paul’s opposition thought he was finished on many occasions, i.e. they believed the circumstances he went through would “do him in.” But they were wrong here’s what Paul wrote: For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11). Paul knew these hardships, persecutions, and trials were being permitted by God. They were training him for the days ahead; for even more fruitful service. I’m reminded I have to prune my fruit trees and flowering shrubs to encourage growth and that’s exactly what God was doing to Paul. I have to admit the shrubs and trees don’t look their best after a good pruning, but it sure pays off later on when I see lots of fruit hanging on the tree and my shrubs are bursting with colorful blooms. Of course, no one likes being chastened I believe we’re all in agreement with that. But this book says: FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON (and daughter) WHOM HE RECEIVES” (Hebrews 12:6). Where did I get the idea Paul was being disciplined? From this book; read the next line…
As punished yet not put to death (v9). As I’ve said many times before, Paul was not perfect – he was no saint in that respect. He made mistakes just like you and I, but he became a better man; a more fruitful servant of the Lord as time went on.
As sorrowful yet always rejoicing – here Paul is saying: “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you (2 Corinthians 2:4). Paul expressed an internal joy and peace the world could not understand expressing: Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction (2 Corinthians 7:4).
As poor yet making many rich – Paul is contrasting the physical with the spiritual here. We know Paul was not wealthy he labored as the Lord’s called apostle with his hands. He certainly was not a first century version of Robin Hood in the sense that he made many rich. What he means to say is he taught many people about the riches of Christ Jesus: To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ… (Ephesians 3:8); But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:7).
As having nothing yet possessing all things – Many Believers struggle to earn a living; they literally live from one paycheck to the next. They have very little by the world’s standards yet according to our heavenly Father Believers are heirs of all things through Christ Jesus: …and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17, 32; 1 Cor 3:21-23). There are many reasons to give Lord thanks and praise each day, Amen.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the movie Annie but it serves as the ideal illustration for what God has done for the Believer in Christ Jesus. When Annie moves from the orphanage to Daddy Warbuck’s lavish mansion it’s a startling change for her. She leaves behind a spiteful, alcoholic caretaker and enters a relationship with a loving, caring father. She goes from having zero possessions to having a fortune at her disposal. This is similar to what being a co-heir with Christ means, “We share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” Considering our former state, we were slaves to sin, and dead to God, but now God has adopted us into His family making us rich in Christ, based on the righteousness of Christ (Romans 8:15-17; Ephesians 2:13).
(To be continued)
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