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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.
In our study last week we looked at the full armor of God and why every man, woman, and child in Jesus Christ (or true Believer) is required to put it on. Clearly, this is God’s will for us rather than just good advice. “Putting on the full armor of God” may be likened to “putting on the Lord Christ Jesus” and it too is not a suggestion:
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:12-14).
The word darkness is often used in Scripture to symbolize sin (deeds of darkness) and its negative effects. You’ll also find it is often contrasted with light, as a symbol of forgiveness, the times of the gospel (good news), and the presence of God.
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee (Isaiah 60:1-2).
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (John 1:5).
And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, (why) for their deeds were evil (John 3:19).
(But) Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5 -KJV).
In using the term darkness here, Paul explains our present saved yet imperfect condition in this present evil age (5:15-16) as contrasted with God’s pure Light.
Therefore – in preparation for the Body of Christ’s glorious Rapture, true Believers are to walk (live out their lives) blameless and holy (Ephesians 1:3-4) with eager expectation of this event and pleasing God in every way. Our Apostle Paul writes:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you may walk (how) in a manner worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have full endurance and patience, (Colossians 1:9-11)
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Let us put on (clothe ourselves) with the armor of light - the word "armor" means “instrument of war.” These include the belt, breastplate, helmet, sandals, sword, and shield (Ephesians 6:11-17). It is used in the New Testament to denote those spiritual aids which the Believer in Christ Jesus has at hand to conduct spiritual warfare. God has provided both defensive and offensive instruments so His adopted children can stand firm against their enemies which this book flags as the flesh (Galatians 5:16-21); the world (James 4:4-8); and the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:12).
These six instruments of war represent the true Believer’s inner strength (the belt of truth), the role of righteousness in their life (the breastplate), inner peace (sandals that represent the preparation of the gospel from which they go forth having “the peace of God”), hope (the shield with which they defend the faith for true faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen (Hebrews 11:1), the helmet (meant to protect one’s mind from the impurities of this fallen world), and a two-edged sword (which represents God’s Word spoken boldly to advance the cause of Jesus Christ in the Church Age – Ephesians 2:8-10).
It is called armor of light, because it is not meant to accomplish any deeds of darkness for those in Christ are represented as children of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying (Romans 13:13 - KJV).
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof (Romans 13:14 - KJV).
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 6:18.
The term "put on" in Ephesians 6:11 is a word denoting action; a reoccurring physical activity we are to take up. It is from the Koine Greek word Enduo (en-doo’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1746, and it means: to clothe or be clothed with (in the sense of a garment which one wraps around themselves). So, Paul commands the Ephesians (and us) to put on the full armor of God, which is equal to putting on the Lord Jesus Christ as we would a garment. In effect Paul’s saying we’re to imitate God in all respects (5:1) for He is our armor, that is, He’s more than capable of protecting us from the devil’s schemes, daily temptation, and strengthening us so we can stand firm during trials:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10).
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, but will also provide with the temptation the escape, to be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13 - BSB).
Now let’s look at Ephesians 6:18-20.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times, in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
There’s a lot to talk about here, so I’m uncertain as to how much progress we’re going to make. I don’t believe we’re going to wrap up this passage this week is what I’m saying. I want to explain this passage without leaving anything out for your sake.
Our Apostle Paul is primarily talking about prayer here. I should point out some folks believe this is one more piece of armor. But note he doesn’t say “Put on prayer,” so we should not assume this. However, the truth of the matter is after reading about the six instruments of spiritual warfare, people tend to skip this section of scripture and that shouldn’t happen. Paul definitely continues with the military imagery. I say this because the original manuscripts didn’t have chapter and verse addresses, so verse 6:18 is connected to verse 17 and reads thusly,
“And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit.”
Paul’s saying “take (up) the sword (God’s Word)… praying… at all times.” From this we are to learn prayer is the power that wields the weapon of God’s Word. You get some idea of the power of God’s Word in the book of Revelation. Turn with me to Revelation 19:11-16:
The Second Coming of Christ
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God (John 1). And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, (Jesus Christ isn’t going to strike down His enemies with a physical sword, by this we understand He will use the Word of God to destroy them. After all, God only spoke and the heavens and the earth were made and life was created. Thus, it’s not a stretch to understand by speaking alone He is able to end life as well) and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Let’s look at a passage from John 6:63:
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
So, we understand the Apostle John to mean the Lord Jesus Christ will subdue His enemies with the spoken Word. Let’s look at one more Bible passage in support of this truth. Please turn with me to Hebrews 4:12.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to (what) judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Paul wants these folks in Ephesus (and us) to know prayer is a fundamental discipline of the Believer’s life, combined with a regular Bible study regimen, fellowship with other Believers, and always being a reliable witness in support of the Truth. These are the basic spiritual disciplines every true Believer should be involved in to promote spiritual maturity.
What does support the Truth mean? I’m glad you asked. I’ll illustrate. Just this week someone in my social circle posted this message on my Facebook page:
“Trump is a joke. Jesus never spoke out once against homosexuals, so neither should we. We should accept people for who they are.” Is this a true statement or an exaggeration of truth?
It’s true Jesus Christ did not directly address this immoral activity, but it’s a stretch for someone to say He approved or condoned the activity. The Lord was a sinless Jew and lived by the moral code passed down through Hebrew tradition. Among the many tenets we find this: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; the two of them shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13).
In the New Testament the risen Lord speaks and works through His called apostles. He also worked in and through our Apostle Paul but kept him insulated from the twelve because God was doing something new in preaching the revelation of the mystery to Gentiles and Jews alike. When Paul speaks (writes), the revelation of God is made known to true Believers and the world-at-large for that matter:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (the mindset of those who oppose the Truth). We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete (1 Corinthians 10:3-6).
If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).
Our Apostle Paul said, “Flee from all sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18); “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who (do what) suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them… (Romans 1:18-32).
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you’ll obey My commandments” (John 14:15). So, in response to this individual’s personal view of the LGBT agenda, God has spoken and we obey. True Believer’s don’t “go with the flow” or “follow the crowd” (Matthew 7:13-14) so as not to cause unrest. It’s far better for an individual to be made uncomfortable here on earth rather than suffer terribly for eternity in the Lake of Fire. So, here’s the thing, denying Truth does not alter it or negate it. We are to stand firm in defense of the Word of God.
Returning to the subject of prayer, Paul said, “pray at all times” not only when we find ourselves in harm’s way. But how are we to pray? The answer is in accordance with the Word of God, rightly divided. I add he considers this to be a vital truth. We know this because he mentions “prayer” four times in this passage. He also mentioned the word “all” four times in verse 6:18 saying, all prayer, at all times, with all perseverance, and for all the saints.
The next thing we notice is Paul presents prayer using three different Koine Greek words, Proseuche, Deesis, and Proseuchomai. Koine Greek is a.k.a. Alexandrian dialect. Koine is the Greek word “common.” We find this word in Koinonia; which means “fellowship.” Fellowship is having something in common, such as the Word of Truth. So, Koine Greek was the “common” language of the Mediterranean world in the first century; thanks primarily to Alexander the Great. He spread the Greek language and culture far and wide.
Looking at these words individually, we first have the word prayer Proseuche (pros-yoo-khay), Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek #4335, which denotes the Believer’s privilege to communicate with God: For through Him (Jesus Christ) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father (Ephesians 2:18). Prayer is also an intimate form of worship, in that it is most often done in private and often spoken non-verbally, in the Spirit:
In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there (Mark 1:35).
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (Luke 5:16).
What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Samuel M. Zwemer said, “True prayer is God the Holy Spirit talking to God the Father in the name of God the Son, and the Believer’s heart is the prayer room.”
We could begin a lengthy discussion here as to why the prayer-life of some Believers’ ranges from nonexistent to as needed. But instead of doing that I’m going to mention a few reasons, in no particular order, why people aren’t praying as Paul directs.
Disenchantment: people are troubled by what they deem as unanswered prayer, so they place little value on this activity. Contrary to popular church teaching, God doesn’t answer prayer in three ways, i.e. “Yes,” “No,” and then “Maybe.” People have this idea because they are taught it in church and Sunday school. But the folks teaching this are erroneously leaning on God’s promises to the nation of Israel, His earthly people, and they usually borrow verses from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
There are more than few verses in the four gospels promising answered prayer, “If you believe.” But here’s the thing, the four gospels are Jewish ground. The Lord Jesus Christ is only ministering to His countrymen, i.e. the nation of Israel (Matthew 10:5-7, 14:23, 15:24; John1:1-12; Romans 15:8). If you know God’s Word, then you know the nation of Israel rejected their Messiah and sanctioned His death on the cross.
But then the Lord did something that had never been prophesied or promised. Instead of pouring out His wrath upon the unbelieving world, He reached down in utter grace and saved the man who was leading the rebellion against His Son. He saved His greatest enemy, a man named Saul, who I refer to as “Our Apostle Paul” for he was chosen by the risen Lord to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul called himself “the chief of sinners” or the first person “in line” to be saved by the grace of God (alone) and sent to the Gentiles with a message that had never been revealed before. Below you’ll find Paul explaining his God-given responsibility:
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the stewardship (dispensation) of God’s grace which was given to me for you, that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery…” (Eph. 3:1-3a).
The Lord Jesus Christ had a “mystery;” the word “secret” is a better word. Paul’s saying this new revelation, this “dispensation of the grace of God” apart from the Law was made known only to him. Paul often writes about this special ministry given to him. Said differently, he was not preaching “the gospel of the kingdom” as were the twelve, because the Lord had revealed something new and different to him.
“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace (unmerited salvation) was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light (to reveal what had been hidden in the mind of God since before the foundation of the of the word) what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;” (Ephesians 3:8-9).
The Lord Jesus revealed to Paul “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” The Kingdom blessings were promised and written about all through the Old Testament, but now the Lord revealed a program of blessings that were “unsearchable.” You can search the O.T. Scriptures but you won’t find this information, because it was “hidden in God” until the Lord revealed it to Paul for you and me today (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Now, let’s see what the Lord Jesus told Paul about how prayer works today in the Church Age. Here’s where we find the answer to the problem of unanswered prayer!
We begin with a passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans where Paul begins to explain what the Lord told him about prayer today under grace, and why you aren’t getting everything you pray for:
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we (what) do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:26-28).
For those of us in the dispensation of grace, God never promises He will give us everything we ask for. The life of Paul proves this truth out. He wrote thirteen letters, from Romans to Philemon (He may have written the letter to the Hebrews, but the jury is still out on this subject) and you don’t find a prayer promise like, “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24). Instead, Paul said, “You do not know how to pray.”
God said He’d “work all things together for good” in our lives, but He doesn’t explain how He’s going to do that. He’s promised it, and we receive this promise by faith and believe He is working “all things to our good.” The thing is we often can’t comprehend how God intends to do this, which is why Paul said “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
Since we don’t know how God is going to work all things for our good, we don’t know exactly how to pray. So, think this through. How can God promise us He will answer every prayer, if He tells us up-front “we don’t even know what to pray for?”
Paul’s letters contain many testimonies of his unanswered prayers. He knew how to pray in the dispensation of grace, and didn’t become discouraged when he didn’t receive what he asked for. He believed his Father in heaven had everything under control and was working all things together for his good. One of these testimonies of unanswered prayer is in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to 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.”
We see in verse 7 God allowed Paul to suffer with this “thorn in the flesh,” some physical suffering that came from Satan, but God allowed it to stand for a good purpose in Paul’s life. Even after Paul pleaded for the Lord to remove the problem, we know no explanation for his suffering was offered. When people do pray it is often because they too have a problem they want God to fix. But what did God say? He didn’t say, “Whatever you ask you’ll receive, if you have faith!” That wasn’t it! The Lord told Paul His grace would be enough, sufficient, for him—and His grace means His power working in and through Paul for “My power is made perfect in your weakness.” We always want God to fix our problem; but He wants to show the sufficiency of His grace, and the magnificence of His power working in our lives so that we can “bloom wherever He has planted us!”
Paul’s whole attitude about suffering changed as a result of this prayer experience. Our mental attitude needs to change as well. We need to learn it is not God’s will to take away all our problems, to fix all our weaknesses, to grant our every request. But it is God’s will in all the circumstances of our lives to give us all the grace and strength we’ll need so we can manage hardships and trials properly and bring glory to God.
Ignorance: Paul has already informed us we don’t know how to pray, so this is a “No Duh.” Contrary to popular belief, ignorance does not mean “stupid.” It means uneducated; here it means they’re uneducated about how to pray.
These two thoughts can be combined as one because people “lack knowledge.” Please understand if this is you, you’re in good company because the Lord’s disciples questioned Him about how to pray. They asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The result is one of the most copied prayers of all times; we call it the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:19-15).
But here’s the thing, the Lord didn’t mean for them to recite His prayer verbatim, He gave them the outline for prayer. They were to consider each aspect of the Lord’s outline, meditating on the Sovereignty of God, what He’s done and is presently doing, and our relationship with others. So repeating this prayer “word for word” is little more than scripture memorization. You’re missing the point, in other words. That point is Jesus came preaching the Greatest Commandment, i.e. the need to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength and equally as important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Pride: pride and selfishness build a barrier between an individual and God, “Pride goes before destruction a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). C.S. Lewis called pride “the great sin.” I point out what the Bible describes as a deadly vice is now celebrated as a virtue in our culture. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise…” Ephesians 5:15-16.
If pride is causing you to exalt yourself please know this is not in accordance with God’s Word for it says “Humble yourself and I will exalt you” (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6-8). When you humbly “Put on Christ” you adopt His way of thinking; His attitude and values become yours. The Lord emphasized the need for humility multiple times and was Himself a living example of meekness. So, pray for the God the Holy Spirit to change your hearts and minds. God will never move you to pray for something not sanctioned by His Word.
“Praying in the Spirit” literally means to pray in harmony with God’s Word, rightly divided, or filled with the Spirit (under the Spirit’s control) – Ephesians 5:18. Prayer is communication (conversation) with God ultimately seeking His will and His glory. We’re to take the back-seat and let Him drive in other words.
The best example from scripture I can think of to help you understand this truth is found in Luke 22:42. In this passage we find the Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His arrest, “Saying, Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
If God did not remove this cup from our Lord and after our Apostle Paul’s request was denied, even after three attempts, I believe we are in good company. I have learned to be grateful in all circumstances, I’m still working being “content” but I know God will keep His promises, and “…cause all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
This is as good a place as any to close this week’s Bible lesson. We’ll pick it up from here when next we meet.
(To be continued)
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