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)
Welcome to our informal Home Bible Study.
I rarely open the Bible lesson with announcements; however, this week is an exception.
About a month ago I began to notice a steady decline in attendance. This coincides with the date I started explaining God’s design for marriage (Ephesians 5:18-33). HBS is no different than other Bible study groups and churches in that attendance varies from week to week; a 10% or even a 20% fluctuation is normal. However, we’ve experienced a 70% sustained, decline and this is abnormal. To put this in perspective, imagine a church that counts 100 faithful worshippers each week, but suddenly only 30 people participated in worship services; and that number did not change much. This describes what’s happening here at Home Bible Study.
“What caused all these people to leave so suddenly?”
I think it’s safe to say something in the Bible lesson offended them, so they decided to quit; they walked away. It’s difficult to pinpoint the subject matter that brought about this negative reaction; however, I’ve taught Ephesians before and experienced this same negativity. I believe all these folks left because the Lord’s command to the husband (love) and the wife (submit) offended them. Said differently, biblical truth upset them, so they stopped participating.
Beginning in the book of Genesis, you’ll find people rejecting God and His Truths. So, this is an age-old problem. When Jesus began His ministry to the nation of Israel; it’s rather apparent some people believed Him, while others (the majority) we’re irritated and angered by what He said, even though it was spoken in love.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:5).
"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
The O.T. prophets were put to death by the very people God wanted to help:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets, and stoning those having been sent to her, how often I have wanted to gather your children, the way that a hen gathers her brood under the wings, and you were not willing (Luke 13:34 – BSB).
Except for the Apostle John, every apostle of the Lord was martyred for their faith.
Our Apostle Paul encountered hostility and opposition from Judaism and Paganism every time he entered a town or city preaching the Word (Acts 17:1-15, 21:20-26).
“Why do people reject biblical truth?”
As you can see, there is a long history of people rejecting God’s Truths and reasons vary as to why this is so. Today for instance, many people are offended by biblical truth because it is absolute, exclusive, and not relative. The absolute nature of truth means it does not depend on, nor is it changed, by people’s opinions. For example, if someone says, “There is no God,” that does not affect the existence of God. Truth is also exclusive, meaning that it is “narrow” because it excludes anything contrary to it. Unfortunately, in this darkened world, many people view the narrow nature of truth as “narrow mindedness.” We all recognize the narrowness of truth when it comes to the physical world. People do not put water in their gas tanks, and if the gas stove is turned on, they don’t put their hands in the flame. We train our children to do the right thing (like looking both ways before crossing the street), and not to do what is “wrong” (like running with scissors) so they will live safely in our “narrow minded” world.
Another reason truth is often offensive to those who do not adhere to it is because people are selfish. Humans are fleshly creatures because of their sin nature and they are living in a fallen world. Their flesh and sin nature combine to make them innately selfish and self-centered. That is why people so often give in to temptation and do things they know are not good for them, and it is also why people struggle to do what is “right” all the time. Because people are by nature self-centered, biblical truth can offend them. People want to do things their way, but the exclusive nature of truth means we have to do them “God’s way.” God calls our selfishness and the things we do from a selfish motivation “evil,” and shows it is a reason why people do not RSVP to His salvation invitation; they are offended by the truth they need to be saved.
This negativity prompted me to deviate from our present course of study this week to examine Jesus’ teaching on the four soils. My question to the reader is, “Which soil best describes your reaction to biblical truth?”
Please open your Bible at Matthew 13.
Jesus Teaches in Parables
That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them (the Jews) in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand (Matthew 7:1-13).
Understanding God’s Word is a personal choice. Jesus taught using parables because the Jews wanted to get rid of Him. If He spoke plainly to them, they would have taken His life sooner than they did. Therefore, He taught vitally important spiritual truths by using parables. If their hearts had been right with God (Matthew 15:8), and if they had not been blind (John 9), "they might have understood them." Given the circumstances, Jesus stated these truths in the best possible way, and it was not His fault if they did not understand Him. Life is filled with choices and God created you with the ability to choose freely. Thus, the responsibility for obtaining biblical knowledge is the individual’s; it’s not God’s fault if you can’t or won’t understand.
As I said earlier, our Apostle Paul met opposition on a routine basis, so let’s all turn to Acts 17. Here we have a group of Jews in Berea that listened to what Paul had to say without being offended by his explanation of scripture. These people were “more nobel-minded” then the Jews in Thessalonica. They examined the O.T. Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was plausible.
The Berean Approach to Paul’s Grace Message
Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks (Gentiles) and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people (Acts 17:1-5).
Here we find Paul explaining “what had been written” in times past (Ephesians 2:1-13 – KJV), i.e. the O.T. Scriptures to the Jews in Thessalonica. He showed them Jesus Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. This was in accordance with God’s eternal purpose to sum up all things in Christ Jesus (Psalm 110:1; Ephesians 1:8-10).
We know Paul didn’t teach opinion or personal beliefs because all of his teaching were based on the authority of Scripture (Luke 24:44). This resulted in some people being persuaded and so they believed. However most of the Jews were offended to the point of anger and jealousy. They formed a mob setting the city in an uproar. They vented their anger by attacking Jason’s home, hoping to find Paul and Silas inside.
Skipping down to verse 10, we find the brethren (like-minded Believers) sending Paul and Silas away to Berea because of the violent mob. Upon their arrival they repeated their usual routine of seeking out the Jews in their synagogue. There Paul preached Jesus Christ Crucified for the sins of all without meeting objection and ridicule (2 Corinthians 5:15; John 2:23; Acts 8:25-40; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away (out of harm’s way) by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now (note the difference) these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word (how) with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (in line with the Scriptures). Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men (Acts 17:1-15).
The mental attitude of those Jews in Thessalonica and those folks living in Berea is easily discernible. The Jews in Thessalonica were not noble-minded, (lacking excellent moral character) evidenced by their rejection of Paul and his teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. They didn’t bother to examine the Scriptures to obtain knowledge. Instead, they stubbornly held fast to their religion.
The Berean Jews were more noble-minded. They received the word with great eagerness and examined (studied) the Scriptures daily to see whether these things (Paul brought to their attention) were so.
In the Thessalonica group we see the results of the narrow-minded Jews. The noble-minded group in Berea received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures – the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
Here’s the thing; many narrow-minded people mistakenly assume everything they read in their Bibles ought to line up with how they view the world. If it doesn’t, they stubbornly reject it. The “It’s My Way or the Highway” mentality occurred in Jesus’ day and it is still the prominent attitude of today.
Frank Sinatra’s well-known song, “I Did It My Way,” was shocking for its blatant ungodliness. Of course what Sinatra stated plainly in that song, “I did it my way,” is true of every person who does not submit his or her life to Jesus Christ. Most people just aren’t as open as Sinatra in stating the controlling force of their lives.
In Genesis 27, four people basically sing Sinatra’s theme song. Isaac does things his way by trying to bestow the family blessing on Esau, in opposition to God’s revealed will. Esau tries to take back what he had already sold to his brother Jacob. When he is foiled, he plans to kill his brother. Rebekah deceives her aging husband into giving the blessing to her favorite son, Jacob. And Jacob lies to his father and outsmarts his brother. Rebekah and Jacob could argue that they were only trying to bring about the will of God, since God had told Rebekah that her older son would serve the younger.
But I don’t believe “taking the bull by the horns,” so to speak, is the right thing to do when it runs contrary to what God has said. He doesn’t need our help, but He does require our submission to His revealed truths. I think what you have here are four self-centered people seeking their own advantage. They all did it their way, not God’s way. In the end they all came up empty and paid a high price for their selfishness.
Every person will have as a theme song in life either “I Did It My Way” or “I Did It God’s Way.” You would think the lines would be clearly drawn. Every person outside of Christ would sing, “I Did It My Way;” and every Believer would sing, “I Did It God’s Way.” But I find that many who profess to believe in Christ are really just living for themselves, using religion as a means to self-fulfillment. How many attend church for one hour on Sunday, but by 2 P.M. that very day return to living as they please instead of “turning the power of the Holy Spirit on” in order to please God?
The true Believer’s walk is a matter of responding to God’s revealed truths daily. Although this will take a lifetime to achieve, I question whether the person who is not involved in the process of dying to self daily is truly a child of God.
With all this in mind, it is not uncommon today to hear people talk about their beliefs. But I wonder where these beliefs come from. Certainly there is no shortage of "beliefs" in this world. We all have them and we are all entitled to them. What concerns me, however, is the origin of many people's beliefs. Often, when I hear someone begin a sentence with the words, "I believe", it soon becomes evident the person with the beliefs has no authority higher than himself to base it on. By that I mean to say, if you believe something to be true, by what authority can you say that? Is it true simply because you believe it?
You see, there are many people in our society that hold to some very strange doctrines and, yet, they cannot point to anything beyond themselves to validate their beliefs. People, marriages, and the Body of Christ do not need to suffer from this problem. We have an authority beyond ourselves--an authority that supersedes our experiences, personal preferences, and our beliefs. For when a Christian says “I believe…,” they had better be able to authenticate their claim based on what the Bible says.
I’ll insert a for-instance here. In one of Bible classes, years ago, while discussing God’s relationship to people and their circumstances in life, I had a gentleman respond to one of my questions with this statement, “God helps those who help themselves.” I asked him to show the class this verse in the Bible. After flipping through Proverbs and the Psalms, he said he couldn’t find it. I said, “That’s right. You are having trouble locating this phrase because it’s not in the Bible.”
But here’s the thing, one in eight Americans believe not only does the Bible teach God helps those who help themselves but the Bible actually says it. I did some fact-checking for my class and made them aware this is a very old colloquial phrase taken out of context from “Poor Richard’s Almanac” in 1733. Benjamin Franklin is said to have popularized this motto saying, “…let us harken to good advice, and something may be done for us. “God helps them that help themselves.”
So, Jesus did not say this; however, many people have heard it somewhere and they continue to believe He did. And this is my point; the gentleman in my class believed something to be true, but he could not validate his belief. We all have an authority that supersedes our personal beliefs and/or experiences; however, people aren’t using their Bible they choose to use Google instead...
In the Book of Acts, chapter 17, the apostle Paul and his co-worker, Silas, visited the city of Berea. As was their habit, Paul and Silas made a bee-line to the synagogue and preached about Jesus Christ. And what is apparent by the Bereans’ response is Paul did not preach Christ from an authority he derived from himself. It is quite clear when Paul preached Christ, he appealed to an authority beyond himself to substantiate his claims. When Paul preached the things of Christ, he always used the Scriptures to support his teaching. And we now know how the Bereans responded. Luke described them as "more noble-minded" because "they received the (unadulterated) word with great eagerness"(Acts 17:11).
I’m reminded of what our Apostle Paul said in his opening dialogue to the Believers in Rome: “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel” (a.k.a. the Word) (Romans 1:14-15).
From this passage we learn Believers should be "eager" to preach the Word. And, in Acts 17:11, we learn from the example of the Bereans we must also "receive the Word with great eagerness."
Some of you, and I’m thankful, come here eagerly to read the Word of God, and I pray you are studying these lessons on your own at home. My Bible lessons should not be the last word on any subject; instead y’all should examine the Scriptures to see if what I’ve written is indeed true.
I think it goes without saying, for the Body of Christ to be healthy; its members must be disciplined Scripture examiners until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13-16).
(To be continued)
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