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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)
Welcome to HBS.
For the past two weeks we’ve been studying Satan simply because many people deny his existence. He has these folks believing him to be nothing more than a “principle of evil;” a disciplinary tool used by the Jewish fathers of old to frighten their children into behaving. Today our society believes this “principle of evil” is comparable to a virus or a disease, an intangible unseen thing that floats around in our atmosphere attacking mankind. And then there are folks who ignore him altogether, including Christians. Do you not know the existence of Satan cannot be determined by the opinions of men? The only source of truth about the devil is the Bible; that is why he tries to discredit God’s Word. His attacks on Believers are designed to make them ineffective servants of God. So, make no mistake Satan is not some imaginary principle, He is a real being and he’s every true Believer’s adversary: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking someone whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8 - KJV).
Naturalists have observed a lion roars when he’s hungry. They also say this is when he is the most dangerous. Perhaps this tidbit helps some of you understand why the Apostle Peter warns people to be vigilant. Note how he describes the devil. Peter said, “he walketh,” he roareth,” and the Apostle John later wrote, “He is to be chained” (Revelation 20:1-3). Ask yourself, would these men of God have written these words of warning to Believers, if Satan were only a “principle of evil.” The short answer is “No.” They’re telling us the devil is as real as real gets!
In the Grace Age our Apostle Paul identifies Satan as “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and “the god of this world (i.e. age)” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The latter doesn’t mean Satan is the God of the earth for that designation belongs to the Creator God: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). “The god of this world (or present evil age – 5:16) means Satan is the god of the world systems, i.e. business, politics, religion, and every facet of society. If you question this truth, try to name one world system that is not corrupted by evil (wickedness)!
“The prince of the power of the air “means Satan is the ruler of the powers of darkness of the spirit world (Ephesians 6:11-12) and his position is so exalted Michael the Archangel may not speak against him (Jude 9). He is so powerful mankind hasn’t a chance against him without divine assistance, and this is why we’re all here. To answer the question: “What does this book have to say about our chief enemy and his schemes?”
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 6:10-12.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle (we wrestle – KJV) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Here we have our Apostle Paul’s final command on how to walk worthy in this section of scripture. He begins with the word “Finally,” but it doesn’t mean we’ve reached the end of Paul’s letter. It conveys the meaning “here’s the final item you need to tend to, in addition to those things I’ve already mentioned.” What still has to be done? Believers are to “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.”
There’s a similar message to Joshua in 1:6-7 I want y’all to see: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people (the Israelites) possession of the (promised) land (flowing with milk and honey) which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”
Through Moses, the LORD God promised His chosen people they would inherit a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). This was the Promised Land and it would belong to the nation of Israel always, God said so. But here’s the thing, there were enemies living in the land, some of whom were giants (See Goliath). Thus the reason for the LORD’s admonition “be strong and very courageous.” The LORD had promised He would go before His people as a “mighty Man of war” to do battle on their behalf:
“The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is His name (Exodus 15:3).
These words are actually part of a song or poem, raised by Moses and the whole nation of Israel after the LORD God spared them from the wrath of Pharaoh and his army by destroying them in the Red Sea.
I mentioned last week most Christians either overplay spiritual warfare or they don’t give it a second thought, thereby playing right into the devil’s hand. Believers are to be sober minded, vigilant 24/7/365, otherwise even the elect can be led astray.
Jesus Christ is informing those who have “ears to hear” how it will be in the last days:
“For there shall arise false Christ’s, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matthew 24:24 - KJV).
It isn’t likely a true Believer will set themselves up as Christ Jesus, or as a false prophet, but it is possible for a true Believer to be temporarily deceived and this is because there is so much around us that is designed to lead us astray. But if you’re a true Believer, led by the Holy Spirit, holding fast to what the Bible has revealed, you won’t be deceived for very long.
Why? Counterfeits are easy to spot if you’ve studied the real thing! Rookie treasury agents are trained to recognize counterfeit money by studying genuine U.S. currency. They spend so much time poring over real money, when they come across the “funny money” the deception is rather obvious. Thus, if you’re a diligent Bible student intent on obtaining knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, you too will recognize a “wannabe” or a false statement, even if you’ve been momentarily deceived.
Therefore every Believer needs to familiarize themselves with the writings of our Apostle Paul (he is God’s called Apostle to the Gentiles – Romans 1:1) such as the heavenly blessings they have received at conversion and their eternally secure position in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1, 2). In addition they should recognize the spiritual significance of each blessing because the battle has shifted from the earth to the heavenly realm, as Paul explains in 6:12:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness (where) in the heavenly places.
At the present, the heavenly realm (the first and second heaven) is occupied by Satan and his fallen angelic host, and he has no intention of relinquishing any of his authority or territory without a fight!
Since Satan’s rebellion in eternity past, he has sought to thwart the plans and purpose of God. It begins for us in Genesis chapter 3 when the serpent deceived the woman, this caused the man to decide to eat the forbidden fruit for sin and death entered the world through the man not the woman (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21). In order to prevent the seed of the promised Redeemer from entering the world, he influenced Cain to kill his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-17). Cain’s descendants perished in the world-wide flood. The genealogy of Adam goes through his son Seth to Noah (Genesis 5:3-32; Luke 3:23-38). Then in the days of Noah he corrupted the entire human race (Genesis 6:1-2). When the LORD God turned His attention from the Gentiles (the entire human race) to Abraham (the father of the Jewish nation – Genesis 12), this placed a target on his back and then the Israelites in turn, causing them to disobey and rebel against the LORD God repeatedly. Some of you may be aware Satan tried to do away with the baby Jesus. When King Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of the Jews, heard of Jesus’ birth from the Magi, he ordered the death of every infant two years old and younger (Matthew 2:16).
Now that Israel has been set aside in unbelief (but not forgotten as some people believe – Acts 7) God has turned His attention to the Body of Christ (the church) and all true Believers are targeted by the devil, especially if you’re leading in the cause of Christ. Believe me when I say Satan intends to silence you and the message of the Cross.
This is why Paul said, “Be strong in the Lord,” or “Strengthen yourselves in the Lord.” The first thing y’all should realize is we’re no match for Satan. He is a powerful spiritual being and we must not try to take him on alone. Satan knows God is our power-base. Therefore it stands to reason Satan’s goal is to get between you and God and the world is filled with stuff to accomplish this.
Satan was defeated and his stranglehold on humanity was broken at the Cross of Christ Jesus. But the devil doesn’t want people to be aware of this:
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:30-32).
Let’s study Ephesians 6:10b next.
… and in the strength of His might – first, this is the Lord’s battle, not ours. The next thing is we are merely willing soldiers in Christ Jesus’ army and we obey all orders from Headquarters without question (2 Chronicles 20:12-15; John 14:15, 21-24; 2 John 1:6).
The Apostle James wrote: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), meaning we all should keep as much distance from the devil and his schemes as humanly possible. Paul exhorts us “… do not give the devil a foothold” in your life (Ephesians 4:27). Although our Apostle Paul is tying this command to his previous statement, ‘BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger… (4:26), in essence he’s saying, “Do not yield to the suggestions and temptations of your adversary.” The old adage, “Give the devil an inch and he’ll take a mile” has meaning. We put distance between Satan and ourselves by recognizing the snares he has laid in our path and saying, “No” to temptation.
If you’re frequently revisiting sinful practices, playing in the devil’s sandbox, you are first and foremost not displaying Christ-like character. From the world’s standpoint this makes you a hypocrite, because you’re trying to wear two faces simultaneously, one a Christian and the other the devil’s playmate. Secondly, Satan is achieving his goal in making you an ineffective ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
“…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one;” (Matthew 6:13).
No temptation has seized you, except what is common to man. And God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able (to resist; just say no), but will also provide with the temptation the escape, to be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
…if all this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9).
“Idle hands (and minds) are the devil’s workshop” (Proverbs 16:27-29). Here’s an example from scripture which most folks are aware of: King David, “the man after God’s own heart,” opted to stay at home instead of leading his men in battle. In a moment of idleness, i.e. “weakness” he spied Bathsheba taking a bath from his rooftop and the rest is unfortunate history. I say unfortunate because this event and those that followed could have been, should have been, avoided. If David had tended to the LORD’s business instead of engaging in monkey business, he would not have had to deal with the effects of his sin (Numbers 32:23; 2 Samuel 11).
So Paul challenges all true Believers to be strong in the Lord because we’re up against a formidable adversary. Please don’t misunderstand. His power is limited; he can’t read our minds and he can’t be everywhere at once, for instance. In the book of Job we find Satan seeking permission from the LORD to harass Job (Job 1). But the devil knows us better than we know ourselves and by that I mean to say “He knows our weaknesses and floods our life with them.” And he doesn’t work alone. He has his forces of this darkness to help him do his dirty work.
Perhaps you’ve seen an episode on Animal Planet (or the like) where they show a lion on the prowl and him attacking his prey. This is usually the animal found daydreaming or lagging behind the main pack due to illness or a physical restraint? The film shows the lion pouncing on his prey, dragging it down, and devouring it. Satan operates in this fashion. His primary goal is to drag you and as many others as he can down. He is crafty; he waits and watches for the best time to attack us, usually when we’re alone because this is when we’re most vulnerable and prone to weakness. So, we must never take Satan on in our own strength because we are powerless to defeat him; we’ll simply suffer one setback after another. The only way the Believer can endure the devils attacks is to “put on the full armor of God and standing firm relying solely in the strength of His might (6:10-11).
So my question for the group is this, “Why would Believers doubt God’s is Omnipotent (all powerful) after all He’s done for us?” Paul began this letter with a list of God’s blessings we all received at our conversion:
God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we would be holy and blameless before Him (1:4)
He predestined us to adoption as sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (1:5)
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us (1:7-8)
He made known to us the mystery of His will (1:9)
we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will (1:11)
having also believed (the gospel, a.k.a. good news), you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption (1:14)
But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (2:4-6).
God is on His throne and in control. Knowing this why do people believe God lacks the power to get them through the trials and tribulations they’re facing along with those unseen difficulties just over the horizon? The greatest display of God’s power was demonstrated in raising His Son from the grave on the third day?
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. He displayed this power in the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:18-20; Psalm 110:1; John 10:11, 17-18; Acts 2:24, 27, 13:33, 37).
If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31).
Being strong in the Lord and in the power of His might without a doubt is preliminary to the preparation for spiritual warfare. It will do you no good to put your armor on and enter the fight if you have no source of strength. Imagine a knight of the realm putting on all that heavy armor and attempting to go into battle with a serious case of the flu. What do you think will happen? The armor is of no use to him because he lacks the strength to lift his shield and parry his enemy’s sword thrust. He will become a casualty of the battle and of no use to his liege quite quickly because he’s unable to stand firm.
Thus, the preliminary step in preparation for battle is to be strong and in spiritual warfare that strength cannot be found in us. If you think our knight was in trouble trying to fight while suffering from the flu, trying to fight against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (6:12) in your own power is considerably worse.
An example of this principle occurred in Ephesus in Acts 19:13. There were seven sons who were Jewish exorcists and they went from place to place attempting to cast out evil spirits. They would try to get the demons to leave an individual by invoking the name of Christ as an incantation saying, “I bind you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Verses 15-16 record the evil spirit’s response, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued and overpowered them all, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. This is the result of going into spiritual warfare without being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
To be strong in the Lord literally means: to be strong or courageous in His cause. Our Apostle Paul suffered greatly “for this cause” (Acts 9:15-16). One example of this is he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (the prison letters) during his first Roman imprisonment. What was the cause? Paul preached the revelation of the mystery to Gentiles and the Jews:
…if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you (Gentiles); that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery (secret), as I wrote before in brief (Ephesians 3:1-12).
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; (Romans 16:25-26; 2 Corinthians 4:5-18).
…giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry (the cause) will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report… (2 Corinthians 6:3-10).
Like ocean waves beating against the shoreline, persecution, trials, tribulations, and the ensuing suffering come in unrelenting waves. Case in point, no apostle of Jesus Christ suffered more than our Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11:22-28) and yet he “fought the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). He didn’t surrender to his hardships, in other words. He stayed the course for the cause for which he had been called, i.e. the stewardship of the mystery of grace, giving God the glory.
Our Apostle Paul didn’t have a moral flaw to attack, so here’s an example of the devil’s all out attack on his person and the reason for it:
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul’s thorn in the flesh came by way of a messenger of Satan with a dual purpose. Whatever this malady may have been it tormented him day and night and it kept him from being conceited or as Paul said, “to keep me from exalting myself.”
Who among us has not experienced persecution, trials and tribulations, things that torment us mentally and physically in this life? But who, when they felt cornered and the weight of the world was upon their shoulders realized God is not only with us He is for us (Romans 8:30-32, 37-39).
Look at what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given to us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
And then to the saints in Philippi: “I can do all things through Him (Jesus Christ) who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
The battle isn’t ours; it belongs to the Lord and we draw our strength for spiritual warfare from Him.
The next thing Paul said we’re to do is Put on the full armor of God. Why - “so that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
True Believers must “put on the full armor of God.” Some may be asking “Where do I find this armor? It’s important to understand God has already provided us this armor; all we need do is put it on. I find it remarkable many people look to worldly armor for protection. Permit me to explain: the theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878) correctly warned “men have always been disposed to trust [the arms] which they provide for themselves or which have been prescribed by others. Seclusion from the world (i.e. flight rather than conflict), ascetic and ritual observances, invocation of saints and angels, and especially, celibacy, voluntary poverty, and monastic obedience...” This is the armor of false religion, and not the armor of God.
The purpose for this spiritual armor is so we may be able to “stand firm” against the “schemes” of the devil. The Koine Greek word for “stand firm” is Steko (stay’-ko), Verb, Strong’s Greek #4739, meaning: to stand firm, to persevere. Paul borrowed a military term to convey the meaning Believers are to hold their ground, i.e. hold their present position.
The word “schemes” is the Koine Greek word Methodeia (meth-od-i’-ah), Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek # 3180, meaning: a method; scheming, craftiness, deceit. We get our English word method from this term. Paul’s saying the great deceiver, the devil, has many methods which he uses to attack people. Paul’s saying “stand firm; hold your position against these attacks.”
We will discuss this further in the upcoming Bible lesson, but for now I want us to focus solely on the devil, his demonic horde, and his well organized schemes for it is these we’re to stand firm against. Why, because one of Satan’s schemes is distraction. He wants the Church not only to be divided against itself, he wants them thinking people are the real problem. Warren Wiersbe brings this matter into the light by saying, “We are wasting our time fighting people when we ought to be fighting the devil who seeks to control people and make them oppose the work of God.”
The devil wants our focus off of the spiritual battle and onto the problems we’re facing. He wants us to believe people are the problem, when in fact Satan is behind the disorder. We know this because Paul clarifies it in 6:12, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” People are not the problem. Sin and the devil are the problem and if we lose that focus we end up fighting one another which is a complete waste of time and energy.
We need the full complement of the armor of God because the devil is scheming – methodical – in trying to exploit our weaknesses. He’s looking for weaknesses in our armor so he can attack us. We also need it because Satan has a well organized horde of demonic followers. We also learn this from v12 Paul said our struggle is “…against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.“
The KJV uses the word “we wrestle” instead of the word “struggle.” This is a good description of our struggle because the language used here is that of hand-to-hand combat; the most brutal type of fighting there is. Today we launch cruise missiles at our enemies from far way never seeing their face. The type of fighting Paul explains is front line action; trench warfare.
Revelation 12:4 indicates a third of the angels rebelled along with Satan and they were defeated. Paul has divided these demonic forces into ranks. We need to know this is a vast army, and it is well organized. Here Paul describes these forces of wickedness as:
Rulers or principalities (Ephesians 3:10); Powers (Ephesians 3:10); World-forces of this darkness (Ephesians 1:21); and Spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:2).
Some people in the church have tried to specify the abilities and duties of each of these ranks. However, the Bible doesn’t go there and neither will I. We understand we’re not wrestling with flesh and blood, an allusion to the ancient Isthmian Games of Greece. It was named after the Isthmus of Corinth where they were held. One of the fan-favorites was wrestling (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). Here it refers to the struggle or combat which the true Believer must maintain.
We also know a demon referred to as the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” withstood the angel sent to answer Daniel’s prayer for 21 days until the Archangel Michael, called on one of “the chief princes” to help (Daniel 10:13). This tells us God’s angles and Satan’s demons are both ranked, but here’s the thing, the ranking and ability of any demon is unimportant to us, what is important is the devil’s demonic ranks attack us from the second and first heaven so, we need to stand firm 24/7/365.
(To be continued)
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