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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday AM
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)
Welcome to HBS.
We examined the “Three Characteristics of Spiritual Infants” last week. To keep things in balance I’m presenting the “Four Characteristics of Spiritual Adults” this week. There’s a purpose for this teaching, of course. These Believers had been given the gift of the Holy Spirit; but they were not relying on His power. Discord and disunity was prevalent in the Ephesian Church because of a lack of spiritual maturity:
So this I say, and affirm together with (who) the Lord that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance (lack of knowledge) that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; (Ephesians 17-18).
The words of Jesus Christ come to mind here, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The Lord’s message is clear. The Holy Spirit brings forth Christlike attitudes and behavior enabling true Believers to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you (insert your name here) have been called (4:1).
The Holy Spirit’s power convicts us, equips us to perform good works in God’s name, guides us, and teaches us, (Ephesians 2:8-10, 4:12-13).
Our Apostle Paul mentions five specific gifts God gave the first century Church (4:11). The spiritual gifts (church offices) of an apostle and prophet have ceased, but the church offices known as evangelists, pastors, and teachers remain to this day. In essence, these church offices have replaced the apostle and the prophet, picking up where they left off, so to speak; minus their supernatural, God-given abilities. The men who have been called to these positions will meet the qualifications Paul outlined in 1Timothy 3 and should be adequately trained to do the Lord’s work. These godly men will rely on the Spirit’s power to lead them so they in turn can be a guide to others.
Permit me to explain what I mean to say by using scripture: Then the Spirit said to Phillip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Phillip ran up and heard him (The Ethiopian Eunuch) reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I unless someone guides me” (Acts 8:25-38).
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to (what) the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Philip the evangelist is first seen when the Christian community was growing after the day of Pentecost, in which he was described by the Apostle Luke (the writer of the book of Acts) to be a disciple among the seven who were full of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. He was selected by the congregation of disciples and appointed by the twelve over the business of the daily distribution of food to all people (Acts 6:13, 5-6). After the appointment of Philip by the apostles, he acted as one of the first seven deacons of the Jerusalem Church.
When persecution arose against the Jerusalem Church, all the disciples were scattered everywhere around Jerusalem during which Philip was said to have went to Samaria and preached Christ to them with signs and miracles (Acts 8:4-6; 11:19). This Philip (the other Phillip in scripture was an apostle called by Jesus Christ) was the only person to have the honor of being called an evangelist in the entire Bible (Acts 21:8). Philip also was the only person in the New Testament to have been supernaturally transported from the city of Samaria in which he conducted the miracle crusade, to a desert road down south halfway between Jerusalem and Gaza in which a eunuch of great authority from Candace the queen of Ethiopians was returning back from Jerusalem after worshiping God (Acts 8:26-27). Philip empowered by the Holy Spirit ran up to his chariot to speak with him (Acts 8:29-30). As Philip explained the gospel (of the kingdom) to him, the Ethiopian eunuch accepted the gospel and was baptized. Then later Philip lived in Caesarea with his family (Acts 21:8) and had four lovely unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy, who also prophesied over Paul the apostle, the future plan of God for him and his ministry (Acts 21:9-14).
FOUR CHARACTERISTICS OF SPIRITUAL ADULTS
ADULTS ARE TRAINED AND DISCERNING
But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
Spiritually mature individuals, because they choose to dine on God’s Word routinely, have the ability to discern truth from error. They are trained to see life through the lens of God’s Word the only source of Truth in this age which is untainted by man or Satan.
A parallel passage to this is 1 John 2:12-14: I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Similar to Paul, the apostle John uses the analogy of physical maturity, from child to adult, to depict spiritual growth. Importantly what distinguishes the three levels of spiritual maturity between the child, young man and the father in John’s first letter is this: the young man and the father differ from the child in that they have overcome the evil one. This teaching is meant to illustrate the spiritually mature Believer can and will discern spiritual truth from error, whereas the spiritual infant does not. In other words, spiritual infants frequently get caught in the web of Satan’s schemes, that is, false doctrine or religion. The spiritually mature on the other hand have come to understand the truth of 1Peter 5:8. Their heads are on a swivel because of these words:
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Satan thrives at sidetracking young Believers into false religious systems that appear to be right but their beliefs are rarely, if ever, grounded in truth. These are counterfeit religious systems following after the pattern of the son of perdition, identified as the counterfeit christ. The Lord Himself gave this ominous warning: “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:4). The fact that many people in the church are unaware of this warning or that they dismiss it outright as of no consequence, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt they are spiritual infants.
The “many” will come in His name, teaching a different message and will deceive many. These false teachers have created a counterfeit Christianity. All these corrupted religious systems are striving to supplant God’s one Church. Perhaps now some of you are beginning to understand why I hardly, if ever, use the term Christian. The word has been hijacked by those who do not “walk in Christlikeness.”
But the spiritual adult can ascertain true saving faith from false religions and cults as Paul stated: As a result, (they) are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).
The child in the faith tends to go with the flow i.e. tossed here and there by waves, which may or may not be doctrinal in nature. This could refer to following others who cause division in the Body of Christ. Furthermore they are doctrinally deceived. Notice Paul said: every wind of doctrine, i.e., they cannot discern correct doctrine that is supported by God’s Word from false teaching. This is because they don’t spend any time in the Word, therefore they lack knowledge of what God has said and did not say (4:13). Basically, all they understand is “Jesus loves me…” It is not uncommon for immature Believers, babes in Christ, to attend a religious institution that teaches salvation is attained in some other fashion than by faith alone – (see the letter to the Galatians). As I pointed out in a recent Bible lesson, a common thread among all false religions is an unbiblical understanding of the person and work of Christ, often combined with extra-biblical revelation of some sort. Most cults, false religions, have their own source of knowledge other than the Bible. These false religions are known to “twist the scriptures,” that is, adding to and taking away truth from scripture; but Peter adds: to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:14-18).
Recent Christian Research supports the truth that spiritual infants lack the ability to discern error from truth. This is due to little if any time spent in God’s Word. I’ve witnessed people attending church service without a Bible and I’ve seen people bring their Bible to church, lay it beside them, and never open it as the church leader speaks. These people do not bother to check God’s Word to see if it is identical with what they are hearing in church. This activity matches the report dated April 25, 2017, by the Barna Group: less than a quarter of those who have read a Bible actually have a systematic plan for reading the Scriptures each day. One-third of American Christians never pick up the Bible at all on their own. About one-half of Americans (53%) have read relatively little of the Bible. One in ten has read none of it, while 13% have read a few verses. 30% admit they have read a few passages or a few Bible stories. The one glaring item missing in this report is the fact that fewer and fewer people are “studying their Bibles.” God didn’t command His people to “read” the Bible, He said they are to “study it” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Churches offer Bible study programs but many choose not to attend. Most people assume reading is akin to studying but I beg to differ. Most people read a novel or a newspaper, but I’ve never met anyone who studied either one. I link this problem to the parent’s failure to teach their children how to study while they were attending school. Without this necessary skill, many children are failing, dropping out, and those who do manage to graduate do so with little knowledge. My step-son graduated the eighth grade with a fourth grade reading level, for example. I’ve seen adults in the workplace who can’t read or speak proper English. This apathetic attitude toward studying to obtain knowledge has spilled over into the churches…
At the risk of hurting people’s feeling, it really goes without saying the majority of Believers in the American churches are spiritual infants despite the fact they own at least one Bible and their church invites them to join a Bible study group. Although these American Believers may be headed for heaven, their choice to remain as spiritual infants means their usage by God here on earth is quite limited if not non-existent.
ADULTS UNIFY THE BODY
Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man (4:13).
In this passage another characteristic of a mature Believer comes to light. Mature Believers are critically sensitive to the unity of the Body of Christ and work to preserve it. Why? They hold preserving unity high on their list of things to do because Jesus Christ died to obtain unity.
that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me (Jn. 17:21).
The unity of the body is extremely important, if God’s work is going to be achieved by all Believers, so they avoid disrupting it. In contrast the spiritually immature as previously seen, are characterized by jealousy, which leads to strife, which leads to disunity.
ADULTS DISPLAY CHRISTLIKENESS AND ARE GROWING
to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (4:13b).
Wherever you spend your time reveals where your heart is. Few gifts are greater. I say this because Jesus Christ stepped out of time and entered our world to spend “time” with His own to reveal God the Father to them. If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:7-9).
Why is time important? No relationship can be obtained or sustained without the commitment of time. Permit me to ask, “Do you believe your spouse would have agreed to marry you without the gift of time?” Your relationship matured because of this gift. Candy and flowers are nice, but your time was the greater gift. Likewise, your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ will mature as you spend time with Him. This is accomplished through Bible study (gaining knowledge), living what you learn (obedience), and through regular intimate prayer (communication). There is no other way to become “like Him.” Ask yourself, how can you imitate someone you don’t know?
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Imitating Jesus Christ is an ongoing process that is aided by the indwelling Holy Spirit. It should be noted we’ll not reach spiritual perfection (Christlike behavior) on this side of glory. This doesn’t mean Believers should stop trying to attain “the goal.” We’re not to give in or give up simply because we have a “bad day” occasionally. Even a member of The Boston Symphony hits a sour note now and again folks. People are going to rub us the wrong way and we’re going to find ourselves in Satan’s web of lies and deceit. But we’re to continue our race (1 Corinthians 9:24).
It follows then we must be gracious and patient with others in agape love (1Corinthians 13) not self righteously thinking we have a lock on God’s Word because at no time in the Church’s history has God’s people acquired the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man. Paul used the word mature (Teleios) in Colossians to explain the unending role and goal of the pastor and teacher in this sanctifying process: We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom (using the whole council of God), so that we may present every man mature in Christ.
The Believer’s continued progress in spiritual maturing is a sign they are approaching adulthood. Moving toward completeness (maturity) is normal for the Believer in Christ. Paul said as much to the Church at Philippi: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will mature it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
It goes without saying those who are maturing are also characterized by humility when they discover they have misinterpreted Scripture.
ADULTS KNOW DOCTRINE AND ARE MATURE THINKERS
Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature (1 Corinthians 14:20).
The context of this passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians has to do with the issue of spiritual gifts, but it’s applicable, in a broader sense, to this week’s subject matter. Specifically, Paul is addressing the carnal, Corinthian Believers (and us, truth be told) with this mild rebuke to be mature in their thinking.
Proverbs 2:6 states this same idea: For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 7:4 state: Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call understanding your intimate friend.
Mature Believers are characterized by their mature thinking. They have the ability to understand the principles of Scripture, reasoning them out, and they apply God’s Truths in their personal lives. What does this mean? The Believer’s actions and their decisions (their walk) will reflect God’s authoritative principles in all matters of faith and practice.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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