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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 back to HBS where we’re presently studying our Apostle Paul’s warning to the Ephesians in 5:15: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men (and women) but as wise…
If you’ll consider this statement from the Bible’s perspective, Paul’s teaching us walking wisely involves first and foremost renewed thinking. Before our salvation we willingly walked hand-in-hand with this darkened world (4:18, 5:16), i.e. in unbelief.
I can’t speak for you, but before my conversion I didn’t think about God or the Bible much, if at all. We covered the Ten Commandments in parochial school and from that I reasoned as long as I’m not out robbing banks, stealing from my neighbor, or killing people purposely I was not a bad person. I added to that thinking all the good things I did and came away feeling pretty good about myself. But here’s the thing, scripture calls this self-righteousness. I was outside of Christ and blind to God’s truths (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). But a radical change in both my heart and my thinking took place at my conversion. I was no longer dead in my trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). God’s grace made me alive together with Christ (2:4-5), raised me up with Him and seated me in the heavenly places (2:6-9). I was also given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), when I was redeemed, which means I can now view things from Jesus Christ’s perspective. Out with the old; in with the new man (Proverbs 1:24-35; Psalm 51:10; Romans 12:1-3; Ephesians 4:11-13).
The fool says in his heart, there is no God (Psalm 14:1). “There is” is italicized which means it was added to scripture by the Bible translators. Remove these two words from the text and you’ll have the writers’ intended meaning. Picture, if you will, an individual shaking his fists at the heavens, and God in particular, yelling, “No God!”
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Wise people think before they act; fools (those who lack spiritual discernment) don’t – and even brag about their foolishness (Proverbs 13:16; Romans 1:32).
In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul contrasts the unbeliever (the natural man) with the Believer. Having the mind of Christ is in stark contrast to the wisdom of man (2:5-6). It involves wisdom from God, which was previously hidden (2:7), and it cannot be understood by those who are “outside of Christ” i.e. without the indwelt Holy Spirit (2:14). When we have the mind of Christ, we are able to discern spiritual matters (2:15).
Paul said all true Believers are given “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16; Isaiah 40:13). No Believer was left out. Besides meaning we are able to view our lives and this world through our Savior’s eyes, we also have His values and desires in mind. We are dependent on God and His Word from this point onward, and the Holy Spirit our power source (2 Corinthians 3:17). We share God’s perspective of compassion and sincere humility (Galatians 6:1-6, 9-10).
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 5:20:
…always giving thanks for all things in the name our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
These two verses explain the result of being filled with the Spirit of God. To be filled with the Spirit means to be under His control with every aspect of our lives in obedience (submission) to Him. It means to walk in dependence on the Holy Spirit. The opposite of this is to carry out the “deeds of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
As we’ve already seen, the first result of being filled with the Spirit is “speaking to one another/ teaching one another” using “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” or God’s revealed truths to accomplish this, which is the second result. The third result is the expression of thanksgiving for all things with a grateful heart, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God.
Paul recently taught these folks about giving thanks in 5:3-4, in contrast to greed, immorality, impurity, and unwholesome talk. He’s mentioning it again here. Why? He knows the human spirit is a complaining spirit.
The Koine Greek word translated “complainer” is Goggusmos (gong-goos-mos’), Noun Masculine, Strong’s Greek #1112; and it literally means: one who is discontented with their lot in life. Complaining or grumbling hinders spiritual growth and is detrimental to the Believer’s joy, peace, and patience which are derived from the Holy Spirit. In addition to being harmful to self, it makes our testimony to the world much more difficult (Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:23). How many people out there are attracted to a chronic complainer? Think about it.
The very first complaint in scripture is found at Genesis 3:8-12. The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.” The man had willingly disobeyed God’s single commandment and now attempts to shift the blame to the woman and to the LORD. From this we learn, among other things, grumbling is now part of the fallen, human nature.
Jumping ahead in this book, quite a bit, we find the new nation of Israel being redeemed from their lives of slavery in Egypt because the LORD God intervened in their lives. And yet, the people complained about this or that throughout their journey.
It was too hot or too cold, there was no water, no meat to eat, and this disappointing list goes on. The LORD had them wander in the desert a total of 40 years and it wasn’t because He thought they needed the exercise. You see, how God’s people respond to adversity and stress in their lives matters to the LORD.
And there in the desert they all grumbled against Moses and Aaron (Exodus 16:2).
The nation of Israel’s grumbling in the wilderness was a persistent problem, it wasn’t an infrequent hindrance. In the book of Exodus we see the LORD God interacting with His chosen people, leading them from one place to another in no particular hurry to reach the “promised land.” There was a reason for this. Clearly, the Israelites were “in training” undergoing a spiritual boot camp during this time, as the LORD led them by means of the pillar of cloud by day and He provided light at night with a pillar of fire. God was attempting to teach these people a number of things. Specifically, He wanted them to know they can trust Him to supply their needs. Their greatest need was to know and understand Him, and submit to His will (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 13-14).
Since this is the second time in this chapter Paul teaches the Ephesians to give thanks to God, obviously, he intends for them sit-up and take notice. His words therefore are more than just good advice; they stand as a warning. Even though this group of Believers was more spiritually mature than the folks in Corinth, Greece, evidently, grumbling was a problem that needed to be dealt with. So, Paul writes hoping to end this sinful habit in their lives because it most definitely is hindering their daily walk. Truth be told, complaining was a chronic problem then and it still hinders the Believer’s walk today.
Here are examples of this teaching taken from Paul’s letters to Believers (the churches):
…nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition (warning), upon which the ends of the ages have come (1 Corinthians 10:10-11).
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Philippians 2:14).
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
This verse shows us the flip-side of complaining it is giving thanks in all circumstances. Why? The person complaining forgets God and all He’s done for them even if it’s only momentarily. Since God controls our circumstances, all our complaints about our circumstances are directed against God Himself. God calls this sin. This is why Paul gives these Believers a “heads up” warning here. Instead of a complaining spirit they are to cultivate and nurture a thankful heart.
We’re going to “Dig Deeper” on the subject of giving thanks from the Lord’s point of view because now we know it’s God’s will for us. My mother came up with the idea of punishing our occasional use of “unkind words” or “swearing” with a teaching tool called the Swear Jar. When we spoke anything unhealthy to one another, she would take a quarter away from our weekly allowance and place it in this jar. There were times I received no allowance because of my momentary lapses of reason… this motivated me to think before I spoke. This system would work for the complainer. Keep a daily track of all the times you find yourself grousing and at day’s end donate $1.00 to the jar for each mark in your log. Two things could result from this: 1) You’d have a fixed savings plan in place, or 2) you’re going to come face-to-face with your habitual sin and learn to check your speech (Ephesians 4:29). The old saying, “It’s best to remain silent and be thought a fool (unable to discern spiritual truths), then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt” applies here. My mother used to say, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Giving thanks is the Koine Greek word Eucharisteo (yoo-khar-is-teh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2168, meaning: to be grateful, to express gratitude.
The Koine Greek word for always is Pantote (pan’-tot-eh), Adverb, re: time, Strong’s Greek #3842, so here it means to say: our thanksgiving is to be continual; uninterrupted.
The phrase, “for all things” shows the extent of our thanksgiving. We’re not only to express thanksgiving to the Lord for our salvation, but also for our circumstances, the ups as well as the downs of life, which have been labeled “mountain-top experiences” and trials and tribulations.
“For all things” here is the same “all things” in Ephesians 1:11, where Paul wrote: “God has predestined us “according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” It is also the same “all things” found in Ephesians 1:22, that says, “God put all things in subjection under His (Christ’s) feet.”
Did God leave anything out? That would be “No.” Once again, all means all. There isn’t a different meaning implied here. But the question “Does this mean we’re to be thankful for auto accidents, earthquakes, job losses, house fires, mudslides, murder, and mayhem?” “Does this include a loved one passing away or when my child is very ill?” “Are we truly to give thanks for all things?”
There are many verses in the Bible that answer this question. I’ve chosen a few that convey this truth in clear language, so there can be no confusion or misunderstanding.
The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voice in praise to the LORD and sang, “He is good; His love endures forever.” (We know the LORD God was pleased with their thanksgiving and praise because) Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud… (2 Chronicles 5:13).
Now thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14 - KJV).
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause (what) thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15, 9-11).
Do not be anxious about anything, but in (what) every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and (what) your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit, singing to God with (what) gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:16-17).
In everything give thanks; for this is (what) God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1Thessalonians 5:18).
"Everything" is Pas (pas) in Koine Greek, Strong’s Greek #3956, and it means: individually; each, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything. It expresses the idea of being connected with everything that occurs in life, no matter what it is.
Everything means everything just like all means all. However, people have been known to say, “This doesn’t make sense. It’s not possible to thank God for everything?" To that I say you’re thinking like the old man and not walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
I’ll take you to one example of this truth in this book because it’s the reliable Word of God. Please turn with me to Genesis 37:2-36. Here we have my favorite O.T. character, Joseph, who from a young age believed the LORD God destined him for greatness. In dreams, the LORD assured Joseph he would assume the role of leadership over his parents and his brothers one day (Genesis 37:5-11). In those days, the eldest son was usually favored, however, here the younger son, Joseph “is the apple of Jacob’s eye.”
From his brothers’ point of view, Joseph’s dreams were manifestations of the unfair privilege that he enjoyed as Jacob’s favorite son (Genesis 37:3-4). This family dispute was brought to its head when Jacob gave Joseph a “coat of many colors” marking his status within the household. This gift put a permanent wedge between Joseph and his brothers.
Now some people say Joseph was a lazy braggart, lording his prominent position in the family over his brothers. They go on to say this is why they rejected him and his dreams and plotted to do away with both. I disagree, entirely. This isn’t interpreting scripture its reading into it and there’s a mighty big difference. There isn’t even a hint of Joseph bragging in the Bible. In fact, the very opposite is the truth. Joseph next to Jesus Christ may just be the greatest example of godly character and integrity in scripture.
But, let’s not lose sight of why we’re here. After initially plotting to murder him and hide the body, his evil brothers settled for selling him into captivity when they saw a caravan of traders bearing goods through Canaan to Egypt. Upon arrival at their destination the traders sold Joseph to Potiphar, “the captain of the guard” who was an officer of Pharaoh in Egypt (Genesis 37:36, 39:1).
Now, you’d think Joseph had hit “rock bottom.” He had been rebuked, rejected, and sold into slavery by the very people he loved, but you’d be wrong in assuming this. More trials lie ahead. The Bible doesn’t say what Joseph’s responsibilities in Potiphar’s house were, but it does say his attitude and efforts were recognized by Potiphar and he was promoted to be his personal steward, i.e. “put in charge of all that he had” (Genesis 39:4).
Time advances and we find Potiphar’s wife is sexually attracted to Joseph, but he refused her advances, demonstrating both his godly character and living up to the responsibility (trust) Potiphar held for him. He we see Joseph was a God fearing man. Joseph reminded her of these things and described the relationship she sought as “wickedness and sin” (Genesis 39:9). By the way, he refused her sinful advances more than once. She was relentless, evidently, so he sought to avoid any contact with her. Then one day she “pounced” on him, but Joseph got away choosing to flee rather than submit to her sexual whims. This, of course, enraged her and she wanted revenge. She lied to Potiphar saying Joseph tried to take advantage of her. This news displeased him: “Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, “This is what your slave did to me,” his anger burned (Genesis 39:19).
Joseph was found and sent to jail. Interestingly, and pertinent to our discussion, the Bible says, “But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer” (Genesis 39:21).
One of the things we take away from this account is the LORD God did not forget about Joseph; He gave him favor; and continued to bless him in the midst of these trials (or tests). By the way, most people fail to pick up on the fact that years have passed by; not merely a few months. Joseph’s dreams came to fruition while in Egypt. After interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, the ruler of Egypt said, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you… I have set you over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:38-41).
I suggest you continue reading this biblical story; however, for the sake of time I’m going to jump to the end. In chapter 45, Joseph is reunited with his estranged brothers. When they were alone with him, “Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold (to the Midianite traders for 20 shekels of silver) into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because (now read carefully) you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life; For the famine has been in the land these two years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, if was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and the lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:5-8).
Clearly, Joseph lived a God-dependent life, evidenced here by his faith and trust in the LORD. He did not permit his momentary trials to get the better of him (2 Corinthians 4:17). To be sincere, his pain and suffering were the keys to his meekness and his greatness, something he is known for to this very day, and because of this the LORD was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2).
I’ve never met a person who did not recently experience one of life’s storms or who was in the midst of some painful, negative, thing. But I’ve met few who understand true Believers are to have an attitude of thanksgiving always because you never know how God is going to use those painful trials to benefit you or someone else you may not know. One of the spiritual principles we learn from this teaching is giving thanks to God in all things is one of the greatest acts of personal worship to God:
Job said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21).
Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name (Psalms 100:4).
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6)
In other words, thank You, God, when you give, and thank You when you take away.
The Spirit-filled Believer’s walk is characterized by their thankfulness, expressed in the name of Christ to the Father. Such thanksgiving not only recognizes the existence of God, but His sovereign involvement in their life.
Therefore, instead of complaining, give thanks and praise to God always, because “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29 - KJV).
(To be continued)
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