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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)
I thank you for your faithfulness in attendance and your attentiveness in studying God’s Word so frequently. I also want to thank y’all for being patient with me while I was away tending to my mother’s needs in Indiana. The situation there has not improved, but my mother’s mood and her spirit were encouraged by my presence.
While in Indiana, I was also able to confirm my concern for my younger brother’s affiliation with the Seventh Day Adventists was valid even though he’s a Believer.
Where’s the harm in that? Let’s read what our Apostle Paul has to say and we’ll go on from there: Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things that all perish as they are used) according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:16-23).
This passage from God’s apostle to every Believer, written in clear language, debunks every one of the principles that are distinctive to Seventh Day Adventism. Adventism is a self-made religion laden with rules and regulations about the Sabbath observance, diet, and other lifestyle issues, based largely on the “visions” of Ellen G. White (1827-1915).
The Seventh Day Adventist like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Church of Scientology is a “cult” religion. They are subtle, and often very clever, but deceitful enough “to lead astray, if possible even the elect.” They teach doctrines that sound familiar to Believers and unbelievers alike, but they also have one thing in common that is recognizable so you’ll know you’re dealing with a “cult” right off. They will teach extra-biblical revelation. Every “cult” has at least one outside source of authority other than the Bible from which they teach and this becomes the lens through which they read and interpret God’s Word. You probably won’t get them to admit this, but it’s the truth. For Mormons, it’s the Book of Mormon. For Jehovah’s Witness, it’s the Watchtower Magazine. For Christian Scientists, it’s a book called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. For the Seventh Day Adventist’s, the key that unlocks the Bible’s true meaning is the voice of their founding prophetess, Helen G. White.
My brother is “all in” re: this church and its teachings. But I know he’s responded to the gospel of grace (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). I know he’s a Believer because we’ve spent hours talking about God, His grace, our Apostle Paul’s unique ministry to the Body of Christ, etc. so I know he is aware of the Truth. If he can be persuaded to join a cult, then the danger is real for anyone who fails to heed Paul’s command to: Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13).
But now my brother, like the foolish Galatian churches, has been bewitched and is seeking justification and perfection by the law (3:1). Paul said they had fallen from grace (5:4b). Paul’s not saying those who “trust Christ” for their salvation and then sin have fallen from grace or lost their salvation. Since his conversion, Paul’s been saying people find their salvation in Christ Jesus through grace, by faith, (alone) and their position as a child of God is eternally secure (Romans 8:38-39). Fallen from grace is not a contradictory statement. Paul means to say the Believer has reverted to legalism or human effort in order to earn God’s favor instead of trusting in what God has said concerning “faith alone in the gospel.” Thus, they have fallen from a present experience of grace. A Believer position in God’s grace is eternally secure; their experience of His grace will fluctuate as they toy with sin.
These Believers also looked to the law now for perfection: Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now finishing in the flesh (Galatians 3:3)? Thus, these folks were not “growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” To grow in grace means to mature as a Believer. This book says we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and we mature and are sanctified by grace alone. God’s grace justifies us, sanctifies us, and eventually glorifies us in heaven. Through God’s sanctifying grace we grow and mature in our ability to live our lives as true Believers. God gives us the will to obey, thus, we become more and more Christ –like. Paul likened this to “running the race to win” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Paul posed this question to the Galatians: “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth (5:7)? The Galatians had been running (their race) well. But once they stopped listening to Paul, turned from the gospel of Jesus Christ, and started listening to the false teachers and their false gospel, they were no longer keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing. They had lost sight of the goal. The Galatians had removed themselves from under the grace principle and put themselves under the Law: if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you (5:2). Paul’s saying to my brother and the Galatians you cannot mix law and grace (Galatians 3:1-5; Colossians 2:14).
If you have your Bible with you, please open it to Galatians 5:5.
5: For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.
Paul directs these next two verses to the Gentile Believers in Christ. Despite what they knew, because they had been taught the truth by Paul, these folks were now trying to earn righteousness. But righteousness can’t be earned we receive it by faith, as a gift of God’s grace. Paul is communicating the truth it is not circumcision that makes them righteous before God, it is their faith in His Word.
The words “are waiting” are from the Koine Greek word Apekdechomai (ap-ek-dekh’-om-ahee), Verb, Strong’s Greek #553. It’s actually made up of three Greek words put together: the word “to receive,” which speaks of a welcoming such as receiving a friend who comes to visit; the word “off,” speaking here of the withdrawal of one’s attention from other objects; and the word “out,” used here in a perfecting sense, meant to intensify the meaning of the word. Adding this all together the word speaks of: “an attitude of intense yearning and eager waiting for the Second Coming of the Lord.”
This Greek word is only used 7 times in the N.T., and every time it references the Second Coming of Jesus Christ: For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly (Apekdechomai) for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:18-19, 21- 23, 25; 1Corinthians 1:7; Hebrews 9:28).
Next, did you notice Paul speaks of a righteousness that is forthcoming, he said: “the hope of righteousness.” What does Paul mean? Do Believers have righteousness or are we waiting for it?
Are We There Yet?
Hope is often used in the New Testament to mean the Second Coming of Christ Jesus and not the Rapture. At this time all true Believers will be completely saved. What does this book say?
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly (Apekdechomai) for it (Romans 8:23-25).
The N.T. describes our salvation this way:
A completed act
A State of being
As a perfect ending
Another way of saying this is: we are saved, have been saved, are being saved, and shall be saved. The future aspect of our salvation or the hope of righteousness entails the Believer’s glorification at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 3:2; Romans 8:23; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:3-4).
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Lord Jesus Christ took our sin and bore its penalty on the cross, and He gives us His righteousness when we trust in Him for our salvation. True Believers have been declared righteous by God for all eternity and neither you nor God will alter your position in Christ Jesus. Justification involves the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to all those who believe the gospel.
Therefore, and once again, our righteousness does not come from human effort, but through the Spirit of God, by faith. An entire church could elect to undergo circumcision hoping to earn God’s favor, but not one person in that group would receive God’s grace as a gift because God was not in that human effort; it was all about them. Faith is and always has been the key or the pathway to righteousness or “right standing with God.” The first biblical example of this doctrine was witnessed with father Abraham: “And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his (what) faith” (Genesis 15-6 - ESV).
6: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
For justifies the importance given faith in verse 5. Paul means to say salvation is the result of one’s faith in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
But faith working through love – means faith that is produced by love. Faith is the Believer’s response to God who loves them, and this divine love that produces faith results in justification.
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything – in Galatians 5:3, Paul wrote: “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. “ Since this is true, what is the first and most important commandment according to the Lord Jesus Christ? “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).
Therefore their very first duty, as law-keepers, is to love the lawgiver, which according to Isaiah 33:22 is the Jehovah God: “For the LORD is our judge, The LORD is our (what) lawgiver… Any real love – the kind of love that transcends our earthly, fallen natures, comes straight from God who loves us unconditionally. By that I mean to say God doesn’t love us because we “keep His commandments perfectly.” He loves us not because of what we are or what we can do for Him; more often than not that’s the definition of human-love. God loves because of who He is (Psalm 139:8; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1, 23-24). Our external efforts account for nothing, unless it reflects genuine internal righteousness. True circumcision is of the heart (Romans 2:28-29). The passage above from Mark and the reference chapter from Romans both speak of a personal relationship. It is the work of the Spirit; not by the letter of the law.
You see, we aren’t capable of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We can’t even love our neighbor as ourselves. The truth is human love waxes and wanes; it comes and goes like the ocean tides. Case in point: greater than 50% of the Christian marriages are in crisis mode; their struggling to keep their marriage vows made before God, their minister, pastor, or priest, and their family and friends. How can we truly say we love God, when we can’t honestly say we love ourselves? Clearly, genuine love comes from God alone: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).
The word used for love here in the Koine Greek word Agape which means a completely selfless, only comes from knowing God’s love yourself, kind of love. The perfect example of this kind of love is Jesus’ substitutionary death for all on the cross. That first line where the Apostle John wrote: Beloved, let us love one another is essentially translated in the Greek as: “Those who have known God’s love, love.” This makes it a verb, meaning it’s a command to love. One more thing, in 1 Corinthians 13:8 Paul wrote: “Love never fails.” Most Believers know Paul wrote it, but do you know God said it and meant it!
Faith is static, but love is an action word. This book says love is obedience to God’s revealed will: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Again, love is active; it’s being faithful to God’s will, but without faith it dies.
7: You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
Paul asks this question with emphasis, “who hindered your spiritual growth,” implying it could have only been done with their consent, meaning they alone are responsible for their lack of spiritual progress. Here Paul introduces the imagery of the true Believer’s race and the fact that the Galatians had been active competitors in it, and at one time doing well. However they had altered course. He acknowledges they had been faithful to Christ and to his teachings; they were running toward the goal. They had the finish line in sight. Then the Judaizers came in and hindered their run by introducing a false gospel.
obeying the truth – Paul’s talking about the Believer’s true way of living, including both their response to the gospel in salvation (Acts 6:7; Romans 2:8, 6:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:8), and their resultant response to “obeying the Word of God” re: the sanctification process. (Paul wrote more about salvation and sanctification being a matter of obedience in Romans 1:5, 6:16-17, 16:26.)
The Galatian churches were hindered by the legalistic influence of the Judaizers in these ways. The unsaved seekers of truth were kept from responding in faith to the gospel of grace, and the true Believers from “living by faith” or from growing in grace (the sanctification process) – 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 3:17-18
Paul used the metaphor of running a race from the Isthmian Games held in Corinth, Greece in 1 Corinthians 9:24: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
Please don’t misunderstand Paul’s meaning here. He doesn’t mean to say only one Believer will win the prize; that’s pressing the imagery too far. Instead, Paul wants every Believer to “run the race” set before them in such a way that they will win the prize at the Bema Seat Judgment. Let’s all turn to Philippians 2:16: holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain (Philippians 2:16).
The phrase “the day of Christ or “the day of the Lord Jesus” is unique to our Apostle Paul. The phrases are found in 1 Corinthians 1:8, 3:13, 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10, 2:16; 2 Timothy 1:18, 4:18). Please don’t confuse “the day of the Lord Jesus” with “the day of the Lord,” which is referred to constantly throughout the Old Testament.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us – our race isn’t a sprint it’s a marathon, and we are called to “stay the course” and remain faithful to the end. Paul used this same imagery at the end of his life saying: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; (2 Timothy 4:7).
Here’s something else to bear in mind, the race is “set before us” we did not select the course; God established it. This race we run for Christ Jesus. We stay the course in spite of the trials and persecutions set before us (Hebrews 12:4-11). As we run our race, we are to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Because He finished His race flawlessly, He then is to be the focus of our lives as we strive to be like Him and He will be there to meet us at the finish line (Romans 2:7).
8: This persuasion (salvation by works) did not come from Him who calls you.
The Galatians were not led by the Holy Spirit into legalism. In truth, the Holy Spirit had called them into freedom. God does not promote legalism. Any doctrine that claims His grace is insufficient to save is false. The Galatians were listening to and heeding another gospel other than what Paul had been preaching. God called you out from under the Law into His unparalleled grace. This message to return to the Law is not from God in other words.
So the Holy Spirit was not persuaded to call these folks into legalism, that’s hogwash. God calls people to salvation is a clear teaching of scripture: But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in truth. And it was for this he called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
In both Galatians 1:6 and 5:8, Paul said God is the One who calls. People don’t care for this message much; they reject the sovereign call of God saying it’s “my choice.” However, this book says the opposite is true: “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).
9: A little leaven (false doctrine) leavens (corrupts) the whole lump (church) of dough.
Our Apostle Paul echoes the Lord’s message to His disciples shortly after He miraculously fed thousands saying: “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). They didn’t understand what He was talking about, thinking He was referring to physical bread. Jesus reminded and reproached them with these words: "How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:11-12).
Leaven is used in the Bible to denote sin (Matthew 16:6, 12; 1 Corinthians 5:6). My mother had another saying meant to imply the same thing: “One rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel.” She also used this old expression, “If you lie down with dogs, you can expect to find fleas on you when you get up.” My mother was warning us children about the risks of mingling with degenerates or those people who lacked proper morals.
10: I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.
I have confidence in you in the Lord – when Paul first heard of the Galatians’ doctrinal and personal “change of direction” from God’s and his grace-oriented gospel (1:6), and because of the seriousness of the matter, he was unsure of their true spiritual condition (4:20). Our Apostle Paul chose to take this problem to God: I have confidence in the Lord, that you will adopt no other view. He did this so that the words he wrote to the Galatian churches would reflect God’s Truths.
Paul then realized his initial impression was the truth: these folks had been saved; they were Believers in Christ Jesus. This meant their current condition was a temporary one created by the fact that they had been deceived by unscrupulous men. Therefore this verse stands as a witness to Paul’s decision to continue to believe the Galatians were simply immature Believers who needed to grow up in the Truth.
But the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is – this verse stands as a warning to those who would promote salvation as a consequence of man’s will rather than God’s grace.
but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes (Matthew 18:6-7)!
Said differently, Jesus is saying, “You’d be better off dead than to lead a Believer to sin (denying the gospel of Jesus Christ is sin).” The lesson here is we need to be careful how we treat one another especially in matters of faith.
11: But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.
Evidently the Judaizers had started a rumor in these churches that Paul had taught and preached the need for circumcision at one time. This tells me they knew something about him and his ministry for he had Timothy (a Jew), who was from the Galatian region, circumcised, but he refused to circumcise Titus (a Gentile) and this became a major controversy in the church (Acts 16). The fact of the matter is the Judaizers were distorting Paul’s message. They were promoting circumcision as a means of justification, but Paul did not.
But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted – in other words, if this is true, then why is Paul coming under attack? If he and the Judaizers were in agreement on this issue, then the whole issue of the cross would have been laid aside, as he said: “Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.” If Paul agreed with their faith in Christ-plus works salvation, their messages would have been in harmony.
But here’s the thing, the cross of Christ was a stumbling block to the Jews in part because they would not accept the idea of a suffering savior, much less a crucified one. But there’s more. It was more offensive because it robbed them of their religious traditions; and the Jews loved their religious traditions (Galatians 2:13-15)! These represented outward signs of Jewishness, which were wrapped up in the Mosaic Law (the Mitzvah); they were the very essence of being a Jew i.e. circumcision.
12: I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.
I don’t think most people actually understand what Paul is saying here. But this statement is directed to those Judaizers who are troubling the Galatians. It’s a shocking statement, but Paul is saying he wishes all those who are teaching circumcision as a means of justification would castrate themselves.
The Koine Greek word for mutilate is Apokopto (ap-ok-op’-to), Verb, Strong’s Greek#609, meaning: cut off; cut away. Mutilate. It means to amputate or castrate. The Judaizers had overemphasized circumcision. They exceeded the requirements of the O.T. in other words. They said “the cutting off of a little flesh” was commendable and pleasing in God’s sight. They taught circumcision contributed to one’s righteousness before God. If this was really true, Paul said why not take it up a notch? If cutting off a little flesh was a good thing, cutting off more flesh is far better. Why not be really pious and castrate yourself?
The problem with this solution is the law said a castrated man could not enter the assembly of the LORD (Deuteronomy 23:1). But, Paul was speaking tongue-in-cheek; he knew no God-fearing Jew would follow this through with this idea.
Paul has made one thing clear: legalism is no little thing. It takes away our liberty and puts us back under bondage. It makes Jesus and His work of no profit to us. It puts us under obligation to the whole law. It violates the work of the Spirit of God. It makes us focus on things that are irrelevant. It keeps us from running the race Jesus set before us.
(To be continued)
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