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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)
Greetings; and welcome to HBS.
Since our Apostle Paul tells us in verse 1 what chapter six is about, I think we can skip the lengthy introduction. God offers His gift of grace and salvation freely to all (Ephesians 2:8). Paul urges the Corinthians (and the unsaved people today) not to ignore God’s grace or its benefits (2 Corinthians 5:20; 6:1). To simply hear the gospel and not act upon it would be like learning of a cure for your terminal illness and do nothing about it or to receive the grace of God in vain.
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 6:1.
The Ministry Commended
2 Corinthians 6
1: And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain – There are a couple of things worth mentioning here. Each Believer is actually working together with Him. Paul writes something similar in 1 Corinthians 3:9a: For we are God’s fellow workers. I don’t know if anyone has made you aware of this fact before, but there it is. Paul’s saying Believers are co-laborers with God in His ministry. Think about that each time you head out the door in the morning on your way to work or whatever. It certainly adds something significant to the phrase, “God be with you” -doesn’t it?”
This brings us to Paul’s point which is people are not to receive the grace of God in vain. What does this mean? Permit me to start by saying Paul wrote most of his letters to the churches, to Believers, but there were unbelievers in their midst just as there are unsaved people sitting in our churches today. You see, these letters were actually read in those churches to those congregations and Believers and unbelievers alike heard the same message. Not only was Paul aware of this, he meant for this to happen.
When you read verse 5:20 and 6:1 you ought to pick up a sense of urgency in these passages because that’s the emotion Paul is expressing to his audience. Why? Paul expected the Lord to return at any time and he expected to be alive when this occurred (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17). Now he wasn’t aware of the hour or the day for only God knows when the fullness of the Gentiles will be completed (Romans 11:25), this is why he preached the gospel to the unsaved with a sense of urgency: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
I think it’s obvious he wasn’t speaking to Believers, but to show you the difference
please follow me in your Bible to Colossians 1:22-23. Here Paul says Believers have been reconciled to God; he’s not pleading for them to be reconciled, as in verse 5:20: yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – if indeed you continue in faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
There’s a big difference folks and faith is the key. Faith is the conduit by which God’s grace and mercy flows to an individual and this has always has been the case dating back to the Garden of Eden experience. Hebrews 11:6 is one of the two absolutes I point out frequently in Scripture: And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he (or she) who comes to God must (do what) believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Verses 5:20 and Colossians 1:22-23 underline this truth.
Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death paid the sin debt for all. Therefore, the word all includes an unbeliever’s sins as well. However, the unbeliever has not been reconciled to God – not yet. It’s quite possible they’ve heard the good news about Jesus Christ dying for their sins, but they’ve either ignored God’s invitation or scorned the message, which means they’ve received the grace of God in vain. Faith in the gospel is the requirement to be saved and to be reconciled to God (5:20). It isn’t automatic or universal as some people believe and teach.
Do the Unsaved Die in Their Sins?
Some people believe in Limited Atonement and some believe in Unlimited Atonement. Atonement means: the making of reparation for a sin or a mistake. Those who hold to the Doctrine of Limited Atonement teach Jesus Christ died only for Believers. The Doctrine of Unlimited Atonement states Christ Jesus died for the sins of all, whether or not they would ever believe in Him. When you apply this to Jesus Christ’s finished work of the Cross, atonement concerns the reconciliation of God with mankind, as accomplished through the suffering and death of His Son. Paul highlighted this truth with this statement: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for (who) us (Romans 5:8-10).
But here’s the thing, people can’t come to an agreement; imagine that… This subject has been debated by theologians, and others, for centuries with no less than 9 separate positions on the atonement of Christ. Most people wind up in one of the two categories above and this is where the debate concerning Jesus Christ’s atonement is centered. However, if one studies this book, rightly divided, it supplies the answer to the answer to the lead-in question.
We’ve looked at a few Bible verses that express God’s will in this matter such as: For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for (how many) all, therefore all died; and He died for all, (2 Corinthians 5:14-15a; 20-21). I don’t care how hard you try; you’ll never convince me the word all really means some. Then in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Paul gives God’s one Church its marching orders, as opposed to the so called great commission of Matthew 28:16-20: Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the (what) world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Here our Apostle Paul compares “us” Believers with “them” (unbelievers). He declared God reconciled “us” to Himself through Christ and had given “us” the ministry of reconciliation (the preaching of the gospel). Paul then stated, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting “their” trespasses against “them.”
The word “world” can only mean the entire human race to Himself. Jesus Christ has removed the barrier of sin and death for all. To us, to Believers, God has committed this good news, the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus Christ has died, was buried, and rose from the dead for the sins of all mankind. This is the gospel that saves today. (See 1 Timothy 2:3-8, 4:10; Titus 2:11-15; Hebrews 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:18-20).
There are only two camps in this world; one is either a Believer in Christ Jesus or an unbeliever – there is no middle ground or “fence-sitting.” Satan owns the fence you’re sitting on, ergo he owns you. The Apostle John points this out for us: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the (what) whole world (which contains Believers and unbelievers alike) - 1 John 2:1-2. Skip on over to 1 John 4:14, here we read: We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the World (and not just some but those who come to believe the gospel and those who do not, i.e. the unbelievers).
It couldn’t be any clearer. There is but one difference between a Believer and an unbeliever and that would be faith in the gospel. Believers appropriate Christ’s salvation on their behalf while unbelievers do not. Nevertheless, despite a person’s refusal to accept God’s free gift of grace, Jesus remains the Savior of all, and that biblical truth is indisputable. You can argue the point from sunup to sundown and it doesn’t change what God said.
Unless an unbeliever professes their steadfast faith in the gospel before they die, their soul goes to be in hell and not heaven; not because they died in their sins but because they died in unbelief, i.e. sans faith. At the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) the unsaved people will be temporarily released from hell while the legal issue of their permanent placement is decided by the righteous Judge Jesus Christ (John 5:22). They will first be judged according to their works in the flesh, but as we know no one is justified according to their works (Romans 3:20), so they have a problem. The Judge will then look for their name in the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5, 20:12-14) because if it is found there they’re qualified for release because they have eternal life. But they do not, so they are permanently placed in the Lake of Fire, separated from the Judge and God for all of eternity. How long is eternity, as long as God exists; and God has existed forever!
Getting back to verse 1b, you’ll get no argument from me as to a great many Believers receiving the grace of God in vain, i.e. choosing not to serve in some capacity within the Body of Christ. There are far too many Christians sitting in their church seats week after week, letting others carry the work-load. Statistics show 20% of the congregation serve while 80% gladly let them. But this isn’t what Paul is saying here.
Verse 2 actually harkens back to the subject of reconciliation of the unsaved (5:20) and to verse 1b.
2: for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now (not tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year; this) is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION” –
The thing Paul is trying to impress upon the people who have not been reconciled to God is you don’t own your next breath or your next heartbeat. Just because you woke up and saw the sunrise don’t be thinking this somehow guarantees you’ll be around to see the sunset. God is in control and you’re not. I can cite examples from my own personal experiences; and I’m sure you can as well. I know people in my immediate family and those I worked with every day; one day they were alive, energetic, enjoying life, the next day they were gone. One individual in particular left work one Friday afternoon, intending to take his wife out on a date that night, and while driving home suffered a massive heart attack at a stop light. He died instantly.
There’s nothing wrong with personal experiences, but I prefer to let this book do the talking, as it were, so if you would, let’s all turn to the book of Acts, chapter 24:24-25. Here Paul is talking to Felix, an unbeliever, about spiritual matters: But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find (what) time I will summon you.”
If you read on you’ll see Felix put Paul off because he had other interests, money being one of these. Although Felix summoned Paul several times he was never saved or received reconciliation from God. People’s hearts and minds haven’t changed much at all over the centuries; something always comes up that appears to be more important than attending to the gospel or their most urgent need of salvation. But we’re not to give up or give in; people still need to hear God’s truth. We just need to remember this – keep it between the lines or God’s parameters. Like Paul, we don’t want to do or say anything to cause offense to the ministry.
3: giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry (of righteousness and reconciliation) will not be discredited – Paul himself and his ministry were both being unjustly dishonored by the Corinthians. So what Paul means to say here is so that our ministry may not be rightly blamed he was determined, both in his personal life and in his ministry, not to permit anything to become an hindrance to his gospel (1 Corinthians 9:12, 19-23). The Greek word for hindrance is Egkope’ (pronounced: eng-kop-ay’), Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek #1464, meaning: an impediment, an interruption, i.e. to become a road block or an obstruction to progress.
Now who would want to throw up a road block before God’s gospel and why? If you’ve been following this study, we already know the answer to these questions. Please turn to 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. As to who, that would be Satan. He hates the true Believer because God loves them and whatever is loved by God is sure to be targeted by the devil – that answers the question, why.
You know I’m fond of saying, “What does this book say,” and for good reason; there’s so many misconceptions about God and His Word being passed around out there I want to help y’all zero in on the truth. Here’s one; the devil is not to be underestimated he’s a powerful enemy with goals: Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 – Berean Literal Bible).
Satan intends to do everything he can to block your attempt to live the Christ-like life. He definitely doesn’t want you speaking the gospel to others, so he’ll do all he can to interrupt that process too. Based on what I’m seeing today, I’d say he’s doing better than just o.k. Satan is successful because Christians aren’t aware of the devil’s schemes: our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:11-12; 2 Corinthians 2:11, 4:3-4, 11:13-14).
The average churchgoer isn’t receiving the proper instructions about their adversary or how to stand firm against him from their church leaders, so they’re unaware of these truths. People are waking up every day and heading on out into Satan’s world, basically defenseless against his schemes, and we wonder why the world is in such a mess… No one is immune to his deceitful ways. How many times have you picked up the newspaper and read or turned on the T.V. and seen a church leader hindering God’s ministry of righteousness and the gospel because they were arrested for embezzling church funds or they were caught in a sex scandal? If it occurs once, it occurs too often – that’s what Paul is saying. Rather than risk hindering the gospel, literally dragging our Lord and His Cross through the mud, Paul writes: Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God; just as I also please all men (and women) in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:32-33; 1 Thessalonians 5:22).
Paul ensured no offense remained in his life and none appeared in his ministry that would cause someone to stumble. He became all things to all people (within limits) so that by all means he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Let’s go to verses 4-10:
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.
I haven’t mentioned this in quite a while but since Paul brought it up, it’s always a good idea for Believers to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. In everything Paul said and did, whether for the ministry, or in his private life, he considered himself the Lord’s servant. The Greek word for this is Doulos (pronounced: doo’-los), Noun, Masculine, Strong’s Greek # 1401, meaning: a male slave; bondslave - namely, of Believers who willingly live under Christ’s authority as His devoted followers.
In Galatians 6:17b Paul said: “…for I bear on my body the brand-marks (scars) of Jesus. The Greek word for brand-mark or scar is Stigma (pronounced: stig’-mah), Noun, Neuter, Strong’s Greek #4742, meaning: a brand mark burned into the skin; “holy scars” that go with serving Jesus Christ, figuratively speaking. These brand-marks or Stigmas marked Paul as a bondslave to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul had said, but in everything (he wanted to) commend ourselves as servants of God. He spoke of his personal circumstances re: his service for Christ prior to verse 6 and how he dealt with those. But in the next two verses Paul explains how he copes in the midst of these pressures. He begins with: in much endurance and if you stop to think about it, this is the key to persevering in the midst of any trial or in running the race (1 Corinthians 9:24). Patience, fortitude, stamina, however, you choose to label it, without endurance the “white flag” of surrender is quickly waved before our enemy; is it not? But Paul waved no such flag… in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger… he persevered.
There isn’t sufficient time to adequately manage the remaining material, so let’s place our bookmark here. We’ll pick it up from this spot next week, until then please be kind to one another and be busy in the Word. Have a great week.
(To be continued)
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