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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 to you all and welcome to HBS.
I spoke about the truth in last week’s introduction to the lesson for a couple of reasons. #1: Besides being pertinent to each lesson always, the truth is our only weapon against Satan and without it we are unable to resist evil and His schemes (Ephesians 6:10-18).
#2: Far too many people today have this cynical question poised on their lips, “What is truth?” College campuses are adding to that number each year by producing graduates in great numbers who reject the idea that there is absolute truth. This means Political Correctness and Relativism are the new standards by which they measure a person’s actions and what is right or wrong. The written word is no longer user-friendly. The Bible and our Constitution are just two examples of this. These folks believe both of these to be passé, i.e. moldy documents that need replacing, since they don’t reflect the current mood of society.
Let’s be clear, these people are saying they reject the absolutes of both law and God’s Grace. It may interest you to know Jesus Christ compared His own generation to children sitting in a market place who call out to the other children, and say, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn (Matthew 11:15-17). But here’s the thing, for the first time in human history the whole world is speaking the same language and absolute truth has gone the way of the dinosaur. Statistics are revealing; they show 3 out of 4 Americans say there is no such thing as absolute truth. I sincerely doubt that America was ever a true, Christian nation, but it showed promise. Recent statistics show 3 out of 4 people aren’t following Jesus Christ?
Clearly, the world-stage is being prepared for the arrival of the anti-christ and God’s end-time program. One of the signs of this is Christians turning away from the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4). So, let’s be certain we are all firmly rooted in God’s truth and growing up in all aspects into Christlikeness: “…but speaking the truth (how) in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Ephesians 4:15-16).
In verse 13 of this same chapter Paul mentions the goal for the building up of the Body of Christ is to attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man (and woman). He’s saying each member of the Body of Christ is an “agent of truth,” and the aim of the building is unified knowledge, i.e. a unified understanding of God’s truth - rightly divided. Then in verse 14 Paul shows great concern for us all as we grow into corporate Christlikeness by saying as a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of (false) doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
Paul’s saying the true Believer is to walk after the Lord Jesus Christ only; they’re to grow to maturity in the Lord. To do so we are to be steadfast in truth; we’re not to be led away from it by deceitful men or the world around us.
Our Apostle Paul spoke the truth (simplified) in love, and his message was gospel-oriented. Every Believer is an ambassador for Christ, as though God were making an appeal (to the unsaved world) through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 6:11.
2 Corinthians 6
11: Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide.
Paul begins with this affectionate address, “O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide,” in reference to what he has previously stated. Here we see Paul practicing what he preached in Ephesians 4:15, speaking the truth in love. He genuinely loved the Corinthian saints as he did all those he served (v11). Paul spoke openly and clearly to them. A loving parent would do no less, in comparison.
You are not restrained by us – the Greek word for restrained is Stenochoreo (pronounced: sten-okh-o-reh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #4729, meaning: to be in a narrow, cramped place. Literally, it refers to someone or something being crowded together into a narrow place. The Corinthians played the “I’m the victim” card with Paul quite a few times. Paul responded to their immature behavior out of necessity but in doing so he was always loving and reasonable (1 Corinthians 4:19-21).
This serves to demonstrate, once again, that Paul didn’t simply tolerate Believers he loved them all, even the spiritually immature saints at Corinth. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for (who) all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28; Philippians 1:8).
Of course many of the Corinthians did not view themselves as spiritually immature, they thought of themselves as winners before the race of their Christian lives was even over. If you were here for our study of 1 Corinthians then you’re already aware many of the Corinthians forgot some of Paul’s teachings and misapplied others and as a result a number of significant conflicts and problems arose within the church at Corinth. Many of the saints there had come to believe they had received the ultimate blessings of God. This inaccurate assumption led to four observable problems: strained relationships within the church, sexual misconduct, abuses in worship, and a rejection of Paul’s apostolic authority.
Therefore, it wasn’t that Paul didn’t spend enough time with them, or that he didn’t love them, (both of these touchy subjects were addressed in his letters - 1 Cor 16:1-9; 2 Corinthians 1:13, 2:1-4) it was their own selfish interests and their love for the things the world offered that restrained them. This is why Paul said, “but you are restrained in your own affections.”
Let’s go to verse 13.
Now in a like exchange – I speak as to (spiritually immature) children – open wide (your hearts) to us also. In other words, I speak the truth only; prepare your hearts and minds to receive it. Paul writes to them as their loving father: I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:14-15).
2 Corinthians 6
14: Do not be bound (yoked) together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Paul uses a farming metaphor here taken from Deuteronomy 22:10 that teaches Believers are not to be “unequally yoked.” It’s another way of saying we’re not to pair-up with “another of a different kind.” Let’s think this through. If Paul is warning the Believers NOT to be bound together with unbelievers then what was going on in Corinth? They were forming inappropriate, intimate, interpersonal relationships with unbelievers; these people were the “another of a different kind.” Think about the activities going on around the clock in the two-port city of Corinth, Greece, with 1,000 prostitutes plying their trade in the evenings and the picture begins to come into focus, does it not.
An unequal yoke is anything that unites a Believer with an unbeliever in a common purpose; whatever that common interest or purpose may be. This verse has been proof-texted in relation to Believers marrying unbelievers; however, the text doesn’t appear to be dealing with this particular issue. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t included in Paul’s command. Paul’s saying true Believers must restrict their close, personal relationships to fellow Believers and some of these are restricted even more so, i.e. to the marriage covenant.
Believers are to keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing. Our faith in Jesus Christ and His truths help us fight the influence of the fallen culture which surrounds us and bombards us relentlessly with one sole purpose and is that is to deceive us. For our Apostle Paul writes: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame (1 Corinthians 15:33-34; Romans 12:1-2).
What fellowship has light with darkness – this comment naturally follows for here Paul is speaking of righteous living. Let’s be practical. I say this because Paul obviously is. Light has no fellowship with darkness, absolutely none. Permit me to illustrate: if you walk into a dark room at home and flip on the light switch what happens to the darkness? It disappears immediately, if not sooner, right? The light causes the darkness to disperse because there is no fellowship between the two.
A few weeks ago we looked at the first chapter of John, the apostle, where he writes: There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man (and woman). He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him (John 1:9-11). Why not?
From mankind’s perspective, everything was functioning as per normal in Judea until Jesus Christ arrived and the same could be said for the folks living in Corinth until Paul appeared. Both the Lord and Paul shined the Light of God’s Truths on these people’s activities but more importantly the true Light exposed the darkness in their hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). This not only angered people it shamed them. Flip on over to John, chapter 3; drop down to verse 19: And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men (and women) loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light, so that his (or her) works may not be exposed; (John 3:19-20- Berean Literal Bible).
Our Apostle Paul has this to say: The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 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 13:12-14; Ephesians 4:17-20, 5:8-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8).
In 2 Corinthians 4:6, our Apostle Paul wrote: 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, 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 4:6-7). The implication is Believers are enlightened by the knowledge of the glory of God, in Christ Jesus, and they are to walk in this Light.
Let’s move on to verse 15 where Paul asks the question: Choose whom you will follow Christ or Satan?
2 Corinthians 6
15: Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
Or what harmony has Christ with Belial – the Corinthians were too liberal in the sense that they thought it was acceptable to coexist with lawlessness and righteousness. I see this bumper-sticker on a car every now and again asking drivers on the road to do the same thing. However, Paul chastised the Corinthians for their arrogance in permitting sexual immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles or in plain English “winking at sin” in their church (1 Corinthians 5:1-7); for accepting darkness along with Light, and for admitting Belial along with Christ into their assembly.
There’s disagreement as to the meaning of the word Belial. Some people say it means worthlessness or wickedness while some others say Paul specifically uses it here as a name for Satan. F.Y.I. this is the only place in the New Testament where this word appears, however it’s used a few times in the O.T. (Deuteronomy 13:13, 15:9; Psalms 41:8, 101:3; Proverbs 6:12; Judges 19:22, 20:13; 1 Samuel 1:16, 2:12).
Let’s work out the wrinkles… If we adhere to the rule of First Mention in scripture, the word Belial appears first in Deuteronomy 13:13 and it means worthless: some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom you have not known)… But sometimes it means wicked it depends on the passage and the text.
According to the Bible Dictionary, Paul uses the word Belial as a name for Satan: “the personification of all that is evil.” Look up the word evil and you’ll discover it means wicked; among other things. Both evil and wicked describe and define Satan. Jesus said, “Satan was a murderer from the beginning… and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Jesus Christ encounters evil incarnate at the start of His earthly ministry. Please turn to Matthew chapter 4; I want to show you something.
This is the account of Jesus going off into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted of the devil… I suggest y’all read the entire account; we’re going to begin at verse 10 after Jesus’ 3rd temptation: Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND (do what) SERVE HIM ONLY.’”
Note Jesus didn’t entertain Satan’s temptations and He certainly didn’t give in to them. He used the written Word to fight off Satan’s attacks and in doing so He let Satan know in no uncertain terms that there is only One, true God and we SERVE HIM ONLY. Jesus clearly made a choice, setting an example for all those who follow Him. Paul wants the Corinthians to know they too have to make a choice as to who is going to be their One and only leader, Christ or Satan (Belial), because no harmony exists between the two.
This brings another Bible verse to mind. Please turn to the book of Joshua, chapter 25:15: “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
I know these verses are taken from the O.T. but as we all know, this entire book is for our learning. These verses are dealing with the subject of idolatry, for one, and Paul’s going to cover that topic in just a bit. But here Joshua clearly tells the LORD’s people they have a choice to make, choose this day whom you will serve the LORD or other gods, i.e. Belial, worthlessness/wickedness (Genesis 10:6-12, 11:1-9). I mention this because the Tower of Babel was the beginning of organized, false religion on a global scale and Satan is the mastermind behind it. His plan is simple; it’s all about deception. He gets people to believe in anything but the One, True God: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).
When you push God aside either temporarily or out of your life altogether you create a vacuum and that void is filled with something else. Unfortunately for the majority of people past and present they have chosen to fill it with worthless/wicked things of (Belial), i.e. Satan for he is the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. He has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to the point where they see themselves as winners but they are not. That’s because another name for the activities linked to Satan is worthless. Nothing Satan offers has any true, lasting value, like smoke in a strong wind it’s gone in an instant. Compare that to the eternal riches the Believer has in Christ Jesus and you can see why Paul said Christ and Belial are not in harmony.
As I just said, Christ or Belial boils down to idolatry and Paul speaks of this in verse 16:
2 Corinthians 6
16: Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we (our physical human bodies) are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
This question asked by Paul has to do with the Believer’s devotion. Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? There is no agreement. Think about this. The One, true God is living and eternal. An idol is made by human hands and there is no life in it (Isaiah 44:9-28).
The temple of God by definition is a holy place, a sanctuary where God is worshiped and should be protected from anything that would defile it. Here Paul is saying each Believer is the temple of God. He’s said this once before, but clearly it needed to be repeated (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Just as it would be wrong to erect a statue of an idol in God’s temple and openly worship it there, it is equally wrong for a true Believer to partner with the world or mingle with unbelievers joining them in their sinful activities: Do not present the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and present the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13). For we (our physical human bodies) are the temple of the living God.
To drive his point home Paul borrows three quotes from the O.T.; Exodus 29:45, Isaiah 52:11, and 2 Samuel 7:14. Let’s go to verses 17-18: “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you (Isaiah 52:11). And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty” (2 Samuel 7:14).
Therefore… this one word encompasses everything Paul has discussed up to this point for this purpose, “You Corinthians are to come out of this unbelieving world and be separate, says the Lord.” These words were applied to the Jews who were in Babylon. The LORD God is calling them to leave their place of exile, to come out from among the idolaters and fornicators of that pagan city and return to their own land. Babylon in the Scriptures represents whatever is proud, wicked, and generally opposed to God. Paul, therefore, applies these words with some force to illustrate the Believer’s responsibility to separate themselves from the darkness of this Christ-rejecting world.
(To be continued)
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