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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)
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Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 5:16.
2 Corinthians 5
16: Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Therefore (because of what Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection have accomplished for all mankind) from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh – our Apostle Paul has stated quite clearly there is neither Jew or Gentile, because Jesus Christ died for all (v15). Therefore we are to stop categorizing people: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, 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 12:13-14; Romans 12:5). Believers are “complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10); and unbelievers who reject Christ but embrace the world (Satan’s domain) instead are in fact “enemies of God, and have nothing to do with the riches of His grace (James 4:4).
Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer – this book plainly says the Jews were expecting a warrior Messiah, in the likeness of King David, and not a suffering, Servant (Genesis 49:10; Psalm 2:2-5). John the Baptist came speaking this language to the people saying, “His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Luke 3:17). Doesn’t that verse read like someone is coming to “clean house?”
According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a Jewish sect of Jesus’ time called the Essenes actually combined the roles of Messiah as warrior and judge into one, imagining that He would bring a great war between the “Sons of Light” (their pure community) and the “Sons of Darkness;” (the sinful, rebellious Jews and enemy Gentile nations that worshipped other gods).
Then there’s the account of Peter questioning Jesus after His resurrection. The Lord had presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3)? Peter the spokesmen for the group said, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) Which only goes to show their focus was on the kingdom and why not? There were plenty of prophecies in the O.T. concerning it; they just didn’t understand the timing of the event, even at this late date (Acts 1:7-8).
The concept there would be two Messiahs originated with the birth of Jacob’s son Benjamin. His wife, Rachel, died in childbirth but before she died she named the child. But Jacob changed the boy’s name right away and this event caused many Jewish rabbis over the centuries to consider its spiritual significance. Here’s the passage: When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for now you have another son.” It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:17-18)
The Hebrew name Ben-oni meant “son of my sorrow.” She named him this because she was dying. But Jacob decided right then and there to name him Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand;” - a stark contrast, one which the Jewish Rabbis and scribes picked up on and considered at great length. They finally decided these two names meant there would be two Messiahs. One would be a suffering Messiah, the Ben-oni, but then there would be another ruling Messiah, the Benjamin.
There are approximately 365 Messianic prophecies in the Bible. 353 of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ first advent. One of these is Ezekiel 37:24-25 and it actually calls the Messiah the “Son of David.” With Bible passages such as this one and others like it, a person could easily see why the Jews believed there would be two Messiahs. And during the time of Jesus’ first advent, with the boot of Rome firmly planted on the back of Israel’s neck, so to speak, you can understand why they were expecting a Messiah in the likeness of the Son of David, a conquering king, and not a meek, servant of the people riding a donkey into Jerusalem (John 12:14-15; Zechariah 9:9).
But here’s the thing, they missed seeing these two Jewish names personified in the One and only Messiah, Jesus Christ and yet it’s all there in the O.T. When He came the first time, He was the Ben-oni, the suffering servant of the people (Isaiah 53:3-4). But when he returns He will be the ruling Messiah, the Benjamin, the son of my right hand: And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be the one and his name one (Zechariah 14:9).
Now we enter into the Dispensation of God Grace where our Apostle Paul writes: But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law (now who are these folks… the Jews, right? Gentiles had nothing to do with God, the Law, or His covenants), that we (Both Jews and Gentiles now under the Dispensation of God’s Grace) might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters) - Galatians 4:4-5. (See Matthew 10:5-7, 15:21-28; Romans 15:8)
Paul’s saying the substitutionary death and ensuing resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything. I’m saying just as the Jews missed seeing Jesus for who He truly is, many people are not seeing Jesus Christ for who He actually is today. I’d like to add to that they aren’t acknowledging Paul’s apostolic authority either (1 Corinthians 1:1-3). If Paul were still preaching today; he’d begin by defending his apostleship…
I’ve attended more than a few churches that don’t or won’t preach from anywhere else in the Bible but the four gospels or the words of Jesus Christ. There’s nothing wrong with some of that. The entire Bible is useful for our learning, but to park there week after week is to perform a great disservice to those in attendance specifically, and disrespects God’s Church Age Doctrine primarily because Jesus doesn’t mention it in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. It also doesn’t help people understand who the Lord Jesus Christ is today as He relates to the Body of Christ, i.e. His Church. To learn these things we have to go to the writings of Paul.
- In the Dispensation of Grace God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in the heavens and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11 – Berean Literal Bible).
- He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:20-23).
- The Lord Jesus Christ is known as the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). He is the Cornerstone of the building which is His Church. He unifies both Jew and Gentile from all ages into one body built on faith (alone) in Him.
- Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23) and not any other person here on earth no matter how well know or famous they may be.
- Jesus Christ is the Judge (2 Timothy 4:8). The Lord Jesus Christ has been appointed by the Father to judge the world for their sins and to dispense the rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).
- Jesus Christ is known today is as the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15).
There’s so much more, but I think you’re beginning to get the idea. Our Apostle Paul wrote: And having been found in appearance as a man He humbled Himself, having become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). The Lord Jesus Christ willingly accepted the role of the suffering servant for all mankind. He died once for all (Romans 6:10). However, after His resurrection and especially after His ascension we know Him in this way no longer.
Jesus Christ conquered both sin and death at the Cross and as I said, you’re not going to find this information in the four gospels. The twelve weren’t aware He was going up to Jerusalem to die, let alone why, even though Jesus told them this would happen (Luke 18:31-34). The only place you’ll find these things are in Paul’s epistles. This is why you rightly divide the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15). Some of this book is written to gentiles, some of it is written to the nation of Israel, and some of it is written to God’s one Church, i.e. the Body of Christ (1Corinthians 10:32). The entire Bible is known as the Word of Truth, but it’s not all written to you and me directly. The Grace Age began with the calling of our Apostle Paul (Acts 9) and not at Matthew 1:1.
Let’s go to verse 17:
2 Corinthians 5
17: Therefore (because Jesus Christ defeated both sin and death at the Cross) if anyone is in Christ, he (or she) is a new creature (creation is a better word see Galatians 6:15); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
There’s another Bible passage from Paul that expresses the same idea but expands the meaning, so please go to Romans 6:4 in your Bible. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in (what) newness of life.
So we too might walk in newness of life; rescued from Satan’s slave market we are now dead to sin and alive to God. Our Apostle Paul expressed it this way: and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I live in the flesh (how I am to behave 24/7/365) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).
Is your spirit starting to pick up the message? If not, I have one more: and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness and truth (Ephesians 4:23-24).
Righteousness, holiness, and truth these are things associated with God and not the world-at-large where you’ll find the opposite of truth, holiness, and righteousness.
We are no longer to be slaves to sin for he (or she) who had died is freed from sin (Romans 6:7).
For the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (v17). For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons (and daughters) of God (Romans 8:14). Instead of seeking to gratify the flesh or chasing after momentary pleasures and thrills, Believers rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them in all truth (Galatians 5:17). They seek to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10a).
2 Corinthians 5
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us (whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free men and women, and no matter your position in life) to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the (what) word of reconciliation (v18-19).
When a word appears more than once in a verse, a paragraph, or a chapter, God wants us to pay attention to it. The word reconciled/reconciliation appears x4 above so true Believers are to take note. The Greek word for reconciled is Katallasso (pronounced: kat-al-las’-so), Verb, Strong’s Greek # 2644, and it means: to change or exchange- as in currency; to return to favor with; or to receive one into favor. Basically, it means to change or exchange and thereby bring together that which was alienated, meaning rebellious humans who were once far-off, i.e. enemies of God.
Now all these things are from God – It was because God loved the world that He sent His one and only Son to die for it (John 3:16). Salvation is totally from God (John 6:44, 65; 2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Ephesians 1:4, 2:8-9), we need look nowhere else for it, but people must respond in faith to the gospel or God’s invitation to be saved.
Reconciliation is a major theological truth. God exchanged Christ Jesus’ righteousness for mankind’s sins (5:21). The Lord died in our place. The Bible verses 5:16-21 and Romans 5:10-11 are the definitive passages on this theological term. In plain English they are saying reconciled sinners are not just friends, they are known as family with God the Father. Restoration of the relationship damaged in the fall from Grace brought about by Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:15) has been made complete in Christ Jesus.
But there’s more; and gave us the ministry of reconciliation – the Lord Jesus Christ became our reconciliation if you’re a true Believer that is. If that’s the case, we have the responsibility to share the gospel of reconciliation with others. Not only do we share in Jesus’ death but we have a role to play in His ministry as well, and the message that saves is really quite simple. There’s nothing simple about God’s plan to save mankind. I’m not saying that. I’m saying the gospel, itself, is not hard to understand.
God was in Christ – this is the issue that trips many people up. They don’t understand or won’t believe that God the Father was in Christ Jesus of Nazareth, reconciling the world to Himself (Galatians 1:3-4). I’ve met so many people in the church that aren’t aware it was the second member of the Trinity, the Son of God, that created everything in the beginning (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:13-17) and the reason for this is quite simple, the churches aren’t teaching God’s Word, or aren’t teaching it properly. I helped a Baptist pastor see this one Sunday morning a few years ago and he’d been preaching for more than 30 years. I’m not boasting, mind you, I’m merely saying if the leaders of the church aren’t aware of it the people in the pews (who aren’t studying their Bibles at home on their own) definitely aren’t going to be aware of it.
Once people start asking questions about Jesus Christ, eventually the discussion ends up at Calvary, at the Cross, and this is the ideal time to mention the gospel. This is the most important information they will ever hear and this is where our responsibility kicks in. We must be ready when the time comes to step up and speak the truth and that will come right from this book. We must hold Christ Jesus up to the world for He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
In case you haven’t noticed, the unsaved people are not running to your church to be saved or standing in long lines out by the front door. Since this is the situation and the lost need to hear God’s invitation, every Believer needs to speak up when the Holy Spirit opens the door of opportunity.
Not counting their trespasses against them – this comment takes us back to what Paul said in 5:14-15a: For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died… and He died for all. All means all and not just some.
Hold onto that fact, while you flip on over to Romans, chapter 4:25. Not only did Jesus Christ die a death for all; His death paid the penalty for everyone’s sins, past, present, and future. I’m going to go with what this book says at all times and let the Bible commentators continue to argue and dispute Bible verses like this one: He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification (NASB).
This book says the true Believer is justified in Christ Jesus even though we still commit sin (Romans 7). You see, it has nothing to do with our faithfulness, but everything to do with the faithfulness of our Savior – we were saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is His righteousness that covers us; that justifies us. Our Apostle Paul wants us to know: Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).
This is a good time to mention the sins of unbelievers were paid for at the Cross too, all means all. Their sins are not counted against them in this life. This continues until their final breath or their last heartbeat. If they die in unbelief, i.e. without believing the gospel, then they are lost forever. When they see Jesus Christ it will be at the Great White Throne Judgment. They will answer for everything they’ve said and done in the flesh (Galatians 5:16-23) before spending the rest of eternity in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
Lets’ go to verses 20-21:
2 Corinthians 5
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Is Paul speaking of himself when he uses the word “we” in verse 20 or is he referring to every member of the Corinthian church? He’s speaking to those carnal Christians and to us too because we all live in the Grace Age and we all have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Please notice Paul doesn’t say Believers should be ambassadors, he said Believers are ambassadors for Christ.
Webster’s defines the word ambassador as the highest-ranking person who represents his or her own government while living in another country. He or she is sent to do what the sovereign would do if they were present. Sometimes, they merely act as a messenger. They are not empowered to do anything more than to explain the message.
That’s what this book has been saying all along. This earth is not our home; we’re strangers in a foreign land, and our citizenship is in heaven. You’re to set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (John 17:14; Hebrews 13:14; Philippians 3:8-14, 20; Colossians 3:2-3).
But here’s the thing, the Corinthians were terrible ambassador’s for Christ Jesus. Instead of living for Christ, they were living for themselves, lusting after the things of the flesh. They were presenting the wrong image of Jesus Christ to their city and to the world-at-large and this did not please God. The Corinthians were not the spiritual giants they thought they were; they were carnal babes in Christ. In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome he tells them to put on the Lord Jesus Christ daily; this advice works for all of God’s ambassadors: Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife, and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:13-14).
I’ve had people tell me they didn’t know what God’s will for them was even after praying about it. I asked them, “Have you picked up your Bible lately? You’ll find God’s will for you and for your loved ones in there.” We have one right here. God’s will for us is to be His ambassadors. We’re to speak His message of grace and love to those who are perishing (4:3-4).
An ambassador does not speak to please his or her audience, but the Sovereign principal who sent them. They do not speak on their own authority, offering their own opinions, they simply say what the Sovereign has commissioned them to say and explain it if necessary, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We’re to let people know they have already been reconciled to God. Everything that needed to be done was completed at the Cross. It is finished! It’s like God’s Grace is sitting in a huge vault at a local bank, waiting to be dispensed. All a person needs to do is to go there and humbly appropriate it by admitting they are a sinner, believing Jesus died a death meant for them, and His shed blood paid that sin debt. Believe the gospel and be saved that’s not complicated (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
But God’s ambassadors do not add anything to His message and they do not take anything away from it. But they are more than a messenger, they are an official representative of their native land, and the honor and reputation of their homeland lies in their hands. When people hear them speak and observe their activities, they quite naturally assume everyone from that nation behaves in like manner for they have no other example to go by.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him -
In verse 21 Paul gives us a compelling reason as to why people should be reconciled to God. Christ became sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God to Him. Note Paul doesn’t speak of God’s wrath here, instead He said, in a manner of speaking, Jesus stood in “the gap” for all mankind when He laid down His life, willingly, so that all may live, but it’s a choice each individual has to make. There’s no “get out of hell free card.” There’s no such thing as “universal salvation;” the belief that there is no such thing as eternal hell or annihilation; that eventually everyone will end up in heaven (See Universalism).
This book makes it clear unredeemed men and women will not go to heaven. God has reserved another place for the unsaved. Jesus said, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (Matthew 25:43). Are you going to put your trust in the words of man or in what Jesus Christ said? While you dwell on that, consider this, where and how you spend eternity rests in your response.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf - how did Jesus become sin? I’ve already brought this verse to your attention but it will serve us here too: The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:28, 36)!
Here’s how we know Jesus became our sin please turn to Mark 15:34b: “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Psalm 22) God was there in the darkness but for a time He forsook His Son (2 Corinthians 5:21). From the sixth hour to the ninth hour darkness fell over the whole land (Luke 24:44), as the Lord bore the sins of the world on a tree. The darkness revealed a few things: 1) that Jesus was “smitten of God” (Isaiah 53:4). 2) It was God who laid the iniquities of us all, on Jesus (Isaiah 53:6). 3) Jesus was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7).
When our Apostle Paul wrote of this, he said, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (all) – for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE…” (Galatians 3:13).
(To be continued)
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