Home Bible Study©
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 want to welcome the faithful Believers back to HBS.
If you’re relatively new or if this is your first visit to our casual Bible study, please know we have been studying Galatians, verse-by-verse, for quite a while and we’re in no hurry. The plan is to accumulate as much information as possible from God’s Word and “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” so that we can we can mature as Believers. The only way this can be accomplished is by studying the Bible regularly and letting God’s Word “dwell in us richly” (Colossians 3:16; 2 Peter 3:18).
We closed the lesson last week with a couple of thought provoking statements from our Apostle Paul, but this command from Galatians 5:10 stands out: I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view. When Paul first heard of the Galatians’ doctrinal and personal “change of direction” from God’s and his grace-oriented gospel (1:6), Paul questioned their true spiritual condition (4:20). So, considering Paul’s character and his calling as God’s Apostle to the Gentiles, there never was any doubt as to what Paul would do:
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1).
“Therefore I exult in Christ Jesus in my service to God (Romans 9:6).
As God’s bond-servant to both the Jew and the Gentile, he took this dilemma to the Lord. He wanted the words he wrote to the Galatians to be God’s Truths and not his own personal thoughts. The Galatians had been saved; they were Believers in Christ Jesus, an unalterable position, indeed. He realized they had been deceived by unprincipled men, which meant their current condition was in all probability a temporary one. Therefore Paul concluded and believed the Galatians were immature Believers who needed to grow in grace and come to the knowledge of the truth.
Bible Study Tools
Hermeneutics (hur-m uh-noo-tiks) may be a new word for some of you but it’s a word every Bible student needs to become familiar with. It is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the text of the Bible.
2 Timothy 2:15 is a command from God to true Believers to be involved in hermeneutics: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling (rightly dividing) the word of truth. The purpose of biblical hermeneutics is to help Believers know how to properly interpret, understand, and apply the Bible.
One of the principles of hermeneutics is “context is king.” Said differently, the Bible is to be interpreted literally. We are to understand the Bible in its normal or plain meaning, unless the passage is obviously intended to be symbolic or if figures of speech are used. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. For example, when the Bible said Jesus fed 5,000 people (Mark 8:19), the law of hermeneutics says we should understand 5,000 people were fed literally. We are not to second-guess or read into what the Bible means to say.
A second critical law of hermeneutics is that Bible passages must be interpreted historically, and grammatically. Meaning, we must seek to understand the culture, background, and situation that prompted the text.
A third law of hermeneutics is Scripture is always the best interpreter of Scripture. For this reason we always compare Scripture with Scripture when trying to determine the meaning of a passage. When our Apostle Paul taught the people in Thessalonica, he reasoned with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving by references “that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead…” (Acts 17:2-3) Writing from the book of Hebrews, Paul quotes one scripture after another to prove the Law was a shadow of “the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1-18).
Yes, I’ve attached Paul’s name as author to the book of Hebrews. Many people are unaware the King James Bible assumes Pauline authorship. There are many parallels between Hebrews and Paul’s writing. If you’re a diligent student of Paul’s work, it’s not that difficult to see these examples. I don’t tend to tarry on this subject, but I will bring in one example for you:
Hebrews 1:3 - “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all thing by his powerful word.
Colossians 1:15-17 – The Son is the image of the invisible God… For in Him all things were created… and in Him all things hold together.
The reason why Paul did not assign his name to this work is rather obvious.
Getting back on track, there’s more to hermeneutics than what I’ve shown you here, but this information should help get you started off in the right direction.
Please open your Bible to Galatians 5:13.
It’s been awhile since I offered any Bible Study Tools to the group and this one can be applied every time you open your Bible, so why not start using it today. I appreciate the fact that you’re following along with these lessons, but please don’t read them and accept them, as if they were the “all-in-all.” Look up the Bible verses and references I’ve placed throughout the lesson for you and familiarize yourself with them. Get in the habit of studying these lessons with your Bible open; check my work to see if this is truly what God said.
I pointed out sometime back that chapter 5 began a new section in this letter. Chapters 1 & 2 are primarily written in defense of Paul’s apostleship and his apostolic authority. Chapters 3 & 4 were written to prove the priority and superiority of God’s grace over the Law. Paul did this by developing the priority and superiority of the Abrahamic Covenant over the Mosaic Covenant. Paul showed the Law cannot produce righteousness, while chapters 5 & 6 show how righteousness is produced by grace (alone) through the Holy Spirit.
Not so very long ago Paul made this statement: It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).
The Lord Jesus Christ has set every true Believe free from the slavery of sin, free from slavery to the Law. Why? It was for freedom that He set us free. Therefore we are to stand firm, not in our holiness or our righteousness, but against reverting to legalism. Paul commands every true Believer to stand firm in their God-given freedom because he realized the danger of backsliding, i.e. subjecting themselves to the yoke of slavery to the Law was an ever present threat (1 Peter 5:8).
13: For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
For you were called to freedom, brethren – this is just another way saying “it was for freedom that Christ set you free.” I take the time to point out Paul only writes to Believers. He uses the word brethren here which denotes Believers and is a clear indicator of this truth. It goes without saying unbelievers will hear his message or God’s Truths being read in the churches at some point in time. Not everyone sitting in the church today is a Believer and the same can be said for the church audiences in the first century. Skeptics wandered in out of the cold or the rain or for the “free meal” in remembrance of the Last Supper and they eventually heard Paul’s gospel.
To understand where Paul is going with verse 13 we have to go back to verse 3:3.
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit (of God), are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Basically Paul said to the Galatians “You’ve reached the point in your life where you understand you can’t make yourselves righteous – you cannot accomplish your own salvation through religious rituals and doing good works.” Meaning, you died to that belief and you placed your trust (faith) in Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross for your salvation.
In essence He said you begun by the Spirit (of God) for the Spirit calls men to God (John 6:44). Many people believe they seek God and are saved but this is just one of the many “untruths” you won’t find the Bible saying. Men and women are by nature God-haters and go through life arrogantly proving they do not need God. Simply put, if God did not draw men and women to Himself, they would never make a move toward Him: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) God enlightens the mind and opens the heart of every sinner and influences it towards Himself (Psalm 19:1-4; Acts 16:14; Romans 1:20; Ephesians 1:18).
But here’s the thing, because of the false teaching of the Judaizers the Galatian Believers were becoming convinced they could make themselves more righteous; they could perfect or complete their salvation (i.e. sanctification) under their own power through religious rituals and by human effort. So, Paul said in 3:3, since this began as a work of the Holy Spirit, and rightfully so, what makes you think you can finish it in your flesh?
That’s the essence of Paul’s message in verse 13: For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Verses 1-12 dealt with the perversion of legalism, verse 13 begins a new stage in Paul’s argument. Galatians 5:13-15 deal with the perversion of antinomianism. Antinomianism is from two Greek words, anti, meaning “against,” and “nomos,” meaning “law.” So it means “against the law.” It is the belief that there are no moral laws God expects Believers to obey. It takes a biblical teaching to a place God never intended it to go! The biblical teaching is Believers are not required to observe the Old Testament Law as a means of salvation (See the book of Galatians). When Jesus died on the cross for all, He fulfilled the Law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15). The unbiblical conclusion/belief is there is no moral law God expects Believers to obey and you should not go there! Paul said: Only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh - Paul’s saying we must not use our freedom as a license for indulging the sinful passions of fallen human nature (Romans 14:1, 15:13).
Opportunity is a military term for a military assault-staging area (Romans 6:1-14). Several English Bibles translate flesh with the phrase “lower nature.” This is in agreement with Paul’s use of the word “flesh” in this context. It’s the natural tendency of mankind which has been distorted, inward, toward self ever since the fall, recorded in Genesis 3 (See Romans 8:1-11).
Self, the flesh, or what humans accomplish always leads to a legalistic attitude and pride, which is ultimately anti-God. A legalist can never truly love like Jesus loves because whatever appears to be an act of love is actually just a selfish attempt to gain God’s attention or their attempt to make points with God. So, no matter what a legalist does at the end of the day they wind up using people for personal gain –They’re saying, “Hey God, look at me; see what I’m doing?” That’s how a legalist loves.
“But through love serve one another.” In the original Koine Greek language, Paul is even more specific saying, “Through the love serve one another.” What love is that? Paul contrasts the legalist viewpoint with the love of Christ Jesus. Flip on over to the book of Philippians at chapter 2:3-8 where Paul writes: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for you own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…
That passage says what it means and means what it says. I pray you see the difference between the legalistic viewpoint and God’s. But if not, permit me to draw your attention to another interesting word found in the text serve. In Koine Greek the word is Douleuo (dool-yoo’o), Verb, Strong’s Greek # 1398, meaning: to be a slave, to serve, or to do service. Bearing in mind this is all about God’s grace, and people are not rivals, i.e. we’re not in competition with each other; we’re not trying to work our way into God’s spiritual favor, each one of us vying for a power position in God’s family (Mark 10:35-45). But rather than having myself in focus all the time, instead I fix my eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of my faith. This means I don’t have to compete with other Believers for my spiritual position in Christ; it’s assured, and I’m free to love as Christ loves. If Believers love, as Christ loves, serving one another comes quite naturally.
Paul has stated these Galatians should not be slaves to legalism but here he asserts they must be slaves to one another in love (John 13:34-35; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3-4). For when there is an absence of true love there is no desire to serve.
Food For Thought
One of the ways we gauge our spiritual growth or we know we’re growing in our faith is by our willingness to serve those in need around us, both in the church and outside the walls of the church, without expecting to receive recompense, i.e. something in return, and that includes a hearty “thank you” (Mark 10:45; Romans 12:1-2).
14: For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL (what) LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Leviticus 19:18).
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word – Paul expressed this same truth in Romans 13:8: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Matthew 19:19).
The Pharisees believed and taught Paul’s message of grace would lead to lawlessness or careless living. Actually, the opposite is true and I pointed this out some time back. It’s legalism that leads to lawlessness, because it caters to man’s deepest, darkest desires. It feeds their flesh. When people are led by the Spirit of God, they are not lawless; they fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). In other words, they become what God has always wanted them to be – like His Son.
Many Christians do not understand. It’s not about what you do or don’t do; it’s about love. As Believers, God calls us to serve one another in love. But, again, what does this book say? “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35; Romans 14:1-15).
The JOY acronym comes to mind: Jesus, others, and then you. If more people would follow this principle, there would a lot less strife and a lot less money spent on marriage counseling, medications, and divorces in this country. God’s saying it’s not about you. It’s about “who are you serving?” Who are you loving?
Let’s take a stroll through your home. I’m going to speak to the husbands primarily because they are the spiritual leaders of the household. This is the main problem in America today. Husbands are absent or gone missing altogether in the home. Instead of being the spiritual leader so the household functions smoothly and efficiently, are you more interested in what’s on television than what’s going on in your household? Don’t you know you have the responsibility to follow Christ, the Head of the Church, i.e. you are to imitate Christ in your home (Matthew 20:25-28; Colossians 3:18-19). That being said as you go about your day how are you imitating Christ in order to benefit yourself, your spouse, your children, and those you meet in the course of the day? Are you thinking of ways you can spend time blessing your wife, honoring her, by lightening her workload? As for your children, what kind of an example are you setting for them? Do you spend quality time with your children or are you an absent father? Do you make promises you never intend to keep? It’s never too late to change and become the Spirit led servant God needs you to be in your home and the workplace.
Paul wants the Galatians to know our neighbor is anyone who has a need that we have the ability to meet. While up in Indiana, Phil, the good friend I was staying with saw his neighbor’s lawn across the road needed to be mowed. He knew they did not have a working lawnmower and he knew they were short on funds. So he rode his riding mower across the country road and mowed their property for them for free. This fulfilled the Law of Christ and God’s call to love one another. This is exactly what Paul meant. See Jesus’ Parable about the Good Samaritan, if you’re wondering who your neighbor is (Luke 10:25-37).
15: But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
The fact of the matter is the Galatians were already “at” each other, because the legalists had come in and convinced them they had to compete with one another and compare themselves… And y’all thought the “Rat Race” was a new invention. Well the “rivalry” was well underway in Galatia. This is because the law, once again, doesn’t deal with the heart of a person, but only with human performance. It’s a loveless life. Legalists are only concerned with themselves and getting ahead no matter what it costs other people. Imagine how this looks to those outside the church, looking in. All they see is conflict, hypocrisy, and pride; love is absent. Who wants to be a part of that?
(To be continued)
© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved