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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.
And we’re back… it’s good to have y’all here with me again this week. Right off, I want you know my goal is to complete our study of Ephesians today, so this Bible lesson will be prolonged. Please note I’m not saying we garnered all the knowledge in this letter; that’s simply not possible. The Bible is an infinite treasure; no Bible scholar or theologian has ever exhausted its riches, which brings me to my point. The majority of people turn a deaf ear to God’s invitation of salvation:
Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Matthew 7:13-14). These folks don’t realize how much they need God’s free gift of grace and the Bible. They’re marching to the beat of the wrong drummer!
If you were instructed to stop eating for a month, most of you would ignore this advice, and rightly so. A person can go without food for a time before they become too weak to live. Yet, the majority of Christians are spiritually weak (unable to understand even the rudimentary principles of the faith) because they ignore the spiritual food God has provided in the Bible, and this leads me to my next point: Bible study is not an option it’s a necessity. Believers cannot grow spiritually unless they regularly dine (feed their hearts and minds) on God’s written Word, rightly divided - So I tell you this, and testify to it in the Lord: You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the darkness of their hearts… (Ephesians 4:17-19).
Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). Why? Job said his daily bread is a treasure because it’s a gift from God meant to strengthen and sustain him; however, the words of his (God’s) mouth provide eternal life to those who believe; that’s the chief difference.
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 6:18-24.
I ended last week’s Bible lesson discussing the Great Commission, a ministry the risen Lord gave to His disciples, under the Law. Today we’re going to examine the Body of Christ’s “marching orders,” the risen Lord gave to our Apostle Paul, under God’s Grace (Ephesians 3:1-12).
The Ministry of Reconciliation
Let’s begin by reviewing a statement from our Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:20-22: And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight... (KJV)
Now, let’s turn left in our Bibles to 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 for the Church’s “marching orders.”
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (KJV)
There are a number of things the Creator God desires for His creation and certainly at the top of that list is reconciliation (the ending of conflict or the renewing of fellowship between disputing people or groups). First and foremost, God wants all those He created in His image, all of whom have been separated from Him through sin, to be brought back into fellowship with Him. That separation began in the Garden of Eden when the man and the woman disobeyed God’s expressed command. The penalty for disobedience was death, (Genesis 2:17) spiritual death occurred instantly and physical death would occur eventually. Now the soul and spirit are created to be eternal, only the body (our earthly tent – 2 Corinthians 5:1) will actually experience death, but in both cases death involved eternal separation from God (Matthew 25:41).
Scripture tells us all have sinned, a fact no one can honestly deny, although the vast majority of people do so. I find many people have no concept of sin. Mom and dad taught their children right from wrong, but they are not associating wrongdoings with sin. Let’s be clear, God is aware of our rebellious nature. I say this because the Bible reveals mankind’s sinful condition with absolute clarity:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--” (Romans 5:12);
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The Bible also reveals the consequences of sin:
“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
The penalty for sin is eternal; therefore reconciliation must also be eternal:
“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12 - KJV).
Reconciliation with humanity’s Creator is impossible for individuals to achieve through their own efforts. It can’t be earned and it certainly can’t be purchased. Why? Divine justice demands the sin penalty must be paid and the penalty is infinite—endless. Finite humanity itself cannot bring about reconciliation by satisfying divine justice because the punishment is without end, i.e., “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Regarding salvation, the Bible teaches us “… all things are possible with God.”” (Mark 10:27).
This is where the Lord Jesus Christ enters the picture as God personified. He became the Son of Man (the second Adam): So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). Jesus Christ, the perfect (sinless) Man could (and did) pay the eternal penalty for all mankind the Holy, Righteous Judge demanded:
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith (alone). This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness, at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:23-26).
“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 - KJV).
“But we see Jesus…that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).
As God, He could experience and pay that eternal penalty God the Father demanded. As the Son of Man, He could die physically. All this He did on the cross. Although His complete payment for the sins of humanity is beyond our comprehension, Scripture proves the reality of His atonement is undeniable. Christ’s final words as He hung on the cross are both certain and clear: “It is finished.” God took care of humanity’s sin problem once and for all at the cross of Jesus Christ. Here we find Peter and John speaking boldly about this truth saying, “Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The Koine Greek term used for “finished” is Tetelestai taken from the root word Teleo (tel-eh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #5055, meaning: to bring to an end, complete, fulfill, finish.
Back in Jesus’ day receipts were often introduced by the phrase Tetelestai, usually written. This word was stamped on paid bills and debt certificates in the first century noting their completion or “Payment in full.” Our Apostle Paul used this phraseology in Colossians 2:13-14 to explain what the Lord’s sacrificial death accomplished for us:
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Jesus Christ’s sacrifice once for all has only one requirement in order to bring about reconciliation between God and every human being. His “death, burial, and resurrection according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), that is, the gospel of grace must be believed and received as Jesus Christ’s full payment for one’s sins. Faith (alone) brings about God’s free gift of salvation, and anything added to that is a rejection of Christ’s immeasurable gift that brings about reconciliation and justification and restores what had been lost, fellowship between the individual and their Creator.
As I said, being reconciled to God is first and foremost, but it doesn’t end there, we know this is true because this book says we’re saved to serve the Lord and others. People are not saved to sit in their favorite church pew week-after–week, in essence giving God an hour or so of their precious time believing this constitutes a loving response to God’s gift of grace. It’s a well known church fact 20% of the congregation is involved in serving others in some form or fashion, while the remaining 80% gladly let them.
God’s message regarding our spiritual service is clear:
Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (Why?), for the equipping of the saints (you and me) for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (Colossians 3:23-24).
Thus, we understand every true Believer is to serve the Lord as His ambassador and their ministry is reconciliation with family, friends, Grace Age saints, and those outside of Jesus Christ (the unbelieving). Every ambassador of Jesus Christ carries God’s message in their heart. Simply said, we’re to explain the gospel to everyone with whom God provides the opportunity:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation (faith (alone) in the gospel of grace saves, not walking a church aisle, not trying to be the best person you can possibly be, not giving away money, not praying a certain prayer, not accepting Jesus into your heart or into your life; but only) to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So then, while we have (what) opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Galatians 6:10).
Sharing the gospel of grace should be one of the easiest things for Christians to do but sadly, far too many people are reluctant to do so. This brings me to another aspect of reconciliation I’ve already mentioned. It has to do with reconciling our personal relationships. Reconciliation between individuals is very important to God. We know this because there are numerous examples in Scripture. It also makes sense because how can you as God’s ambassador share the gospel with someone if there is a “mountain” between you, i.e. an unresolved personal conflict?
Esau, for example, certainly had an issue with his twin brother Jacob who practiced deception in stealing his birthright, but if you read on you’ll discover the brothers were reconciled (Genesis 33:4). The Corinthians separated themselves from the young man “who had his father’s wife,” but after he repented he was reconciled to them (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Regarding that situation, Paul wrote:
“Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:6-7).
Paul’s letter to Philemon consists primarily of his exhortation to receive back Onesimus, his slave, who ran away. Paul himself had issues with John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas, which caused them to separate (Acts 15:3–16:10). However, we later learn those issues were resolved because Paul later declared;
“Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to reconciliation among Believers is reluctance, even outright refusal, to forgive an offending individual. People feel they have the right to strap on a grudge and wear it the rest of their lives. This is why the Lord, knowing the heart of man, underscores the necessity of forgiveness throughout the Scriptures:
“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Paul wrote: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:31-32).
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you (Colossians 3:12-13).
This lesson wouldn’t be complete if we did not discuss the chief factors preventing people from obeying God’s command to forgive. A few of these negative factors are: ignorance, pride and selfishness. I believe the first one in line is self explanatory. If someone is ignorant, they don’t know God or His wise counsel, they’re not going to obey His commands.
The next one, pride, follows closely behind ignorance. The sin of pride keeps people from responding to God’s free gift of grace, thereby restoring fellowship with Him, but it also keeps the individual from doing the right thing at the right time. Pride is not only self-destructive it has the power to decimate personal relationships. Most folks are aware Lucifer lost more than just fellowship with the LORD God because of his pride.
But who remembers the decades old feud between the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s? One wrongful act in 1865 gave birth to an unrelenting feud between these two families. The mere mention of these two names today evokes a vision of lawlessness where gun-toting vigilantes bent on defending their kinfolk, ignited bitter grudges that spanned generations. In 1889 eight Hatfield’s and their supporters were sentenced to life in prison, one man was sentenced to death by hanging. There’s no record of this feud ending even though the conflict subsided many years ago and that, my friends, is the very nature of pride. You want what you want now because you want it! That’s not what this book says. This book teaches us to humble ourselves before God:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2).
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you (Colossians 3:12).
“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
Selfishness is fed by pride. It’s an attitude of being concerned with one’s own interests above the interests of others. However, the Bible commands us to do just the opposite:
“nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
Selfishness or empty conceit is often expressed by building oneself up while tearing someone else down. It is one of the works of “the flesh” according to Galatians 5:20:
…idolatry and sorcery, hatred, discord, jealousy, and rage; rivalries (selfish ambition), divisions, factions…
Throughout the Word of God Believers are urged to employ the JOY principle (Jesus, Others, and then You), meaning: deny yourself, put Christ first and then others, thus fulfilling the Law of Christ:
Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written: “The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me” (Romans 15:2-3 BSB).
For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that One has died for all, therefore all have died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – BSB).
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).
“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:16-18).
God just explained His way and anyone who wants to experience peace in their life but has departed from God’s way must first and foremost begin the reconciliation process with Him.
Now, let’s return to our main study at Ephesians 6:20:
… for which I am (what) an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it (the gospel) I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Paul said he is an ambassador in chains— in Koine Greek, this is a title given to the Legate of the Emperor, an ambassador and diplomat of the Roman Empire. But here’s the thing and the biblical irony. The Emperor’s ambassador is not allowed to be imprisoned; they’re not allowed to be harmed in any way. But the irony here is the Lord’s ambassador is in chains; locked away, because he obeyed God!
Even though Paul suffered the loss of his freedom, he did not ask the Ephesians for personal needs. Instead, he asked for prayer to proclaim the gospel boldly. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, it’s perfectly alright to pray for your personal needs. However, Paul wasn’t preoccupied with personal comforts. Here Paul' teaches us our primary focus in prayer should be spiritual concerns. Even though people are aware of this teaching most folks are so consumed with their desire to obtain material things, they give little if any attention to praying for spiritual needs such as the passion to speak boldly about the gospel of grace when the opportunity arises.
All of us should pray regularly for “boldness” because timidity is often the rule of life. When you read through the Book of Acts, one thing becomes perfectly clear. Our Apostle Paul did not lack boldness. In fact, he was put in prison because he boldly proclaimed the gospel to a mob that had attempted to kill him! When you read on you learn he endured much suffering for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 9:15-16), but no matter what trial befell him he could not be stopped (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
So, if Paul spoke boldly to his audience about the gospel, why was he specifically asking for boldness in 6:19-20? When Paul wrote this he was proclaiming the gospel of grace to Caesar and his entire household: “... with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:1-31). We learn here Believers should be praying for evangelists, missionaries, pastors, Bible teachers, and each other to be fearless and uncompromising when it comes to “the whole counsel of God,” rightly divided (Acts 20:27).
Let’s go to Ephesians 6:21-24.
But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
Paul's words here are almost identical with Colossians 4:7-8. Notice he said, "That you also may know"—this "also" refers to letters sent to other recipients (Colossians), which were also delivered by Tychicus. Paul wanted them to know how he was doing; he wanted them to know about his present circumstances, so he sent Tychicus with this letter to bring them up-to-speed, as it were.
The name of Tychicus appears five times in the New Testament (Acts 20:4, Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; and Titus 3:12). Unlike other names which reoccur in Scripture, there is little doubt the individual mentioned in all these passages is indeed Tychicus. He was one of the unrecognized servants of God in the New Testament but he made a big impact for the cause of Christ. Let this sink in… we’re not all Billy Graham’s or our Apostle Paul, but if you’ll bloom where God’s planted you, you can make a difference in this darkened world, pulling people out of the coming fire, literally speaking.
Tychicus traveled widely with Paul. Along with some other men, he accompanied Paul on part of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4). He was one of the men who helped take the collection to the destitute Jews in Jerusalem.
Tychicus' willingness to travel with Paul to Jerusalem shows his servant's heart because it was not an easy journey. Travel in the ancient world was difficult and dangerous. The trip to Jerusalem would be very difficult, and it would take Tychicus away from his family, friends, and church for a long time. Along the way, Paul was repeatedly warned trouble awaited him in Jerusalem. Despite this apparent danger Tychicus remained with Paul.
He also went to the trouble of going to Rome to be with Paul in his first imprisonment. Now Paul is sending him back to Asia with the letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. We learned at the very beginning of this study, the book of Ephesians is a circular letter. Paul’s letters were meant to be circulated to all the churches in Asia.
Tychicus, perhaps one of the first postmen in history, was the Lord’s reliable courier that took it around to all of these churches.
Tychicus also escorted the runaway slave, Onesimus, who had become a Believer, back to his owner, Philemon. He was given the responsibility to intervene before Philemon so that he would welcome Onesimus back as a brother in Christ, rather than punishing him as a run-away slave as the law dictated. Tychicus’ name appears elsewhere in Paul’s writings, but I think you’re getting the idea. He was the Lord’s and Paul’s faithful servant (Ephesians 4:18-21).
I have sent him (Tychicus) to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts (6:22).
"I have sent him to you" - Paul sent Tychicus to the church at Ephesus so that you (the Ephesian saints) may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Here’s God’s ambassador in chains demonstrating his great concern for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). In addition to this, Paul wanted to encourage the Believers in Ephesus. The news Tychicus was bringing to them was meant to bolster both their faith and their morale. We know this because of Paul’s next statement: “That he may comfort your hearts.”
Having heard Paul was in prison, it’s quite likely this knowledge discouraged the faithful; however, our Apostle Paul wanted them to know he wasn’t “down” and he definitely was not “out of the race.”
Let’s go to Ephesians 6:23-24:
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
Here Paul ends with a benediction reflecting the themes of his letter. He opened it with the same emphasis saying, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:2).
The word peace is found throughout this letter. In chapter one we find our peace with God is made because of God’s choosing us from the foundation of the world, His redeeming us to Himself through Jesus Christ and his sealing His promises to us with the Holy Spirit. In 2:14-15 Paul emphasizes that Jesus Christ Himself is our peace, the one that has broken down the walls of pride that separate groups of people, especially the barrier that had existed between Jew and Gentile. In Jesus Christ both are brought together in one body. There is peace and harmony between them and all people. 2:17 indicates this peace that can now exist between all peoples is part of the gospel message. In 4:3 we find there is already a unity that exists in the Body of Christ because there is only one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Paul said we are called to preserve the peace of that unity by walking in a manner worthy of our calling with all humility and gentleness. We are to be patient and forbearing as each person is moved to spiritual maturity in living according to God’s expressed will. And then in 6:15 we find in our standing firm against the devil, one of the aspects of our armor is to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. When our spiritual foundation is secure, having been reconciled, we are at peace with Him. Mere circumstances cannot shake our faith. Regardless of what may come, we can be calm in the midst of the storm because we have peace with God.
Love is another reoccurring theme throughout this book. But notice Paul joins it together with faith. These two traits must walk hand in hand. True love is born out of faith and true faith expresses itself in true love. Back in 1:15 Paul commended the Ephesians because their faith in the Lord Jesus was openly demonstrated in their love for all the saints. 2:8 tells us that it was out of God’s great love that He made a way for man to be saved. Our faith in God is born out of His great love for us, even while we were yet God haters (Romans 5:7-9), resulting in both our trusting of Him and our love for Him. God’s goodness and mercy to us gives us the security needed to be both bold and confident when facing the trials of life (3:12-13).
Most folks render the meaning of peace as the absence of conflict. Paul’s not saying that. He knows all those walking with the Lord will experience conflict with the flesh, Satan, and the world; this is the reality despite what the world believes. He’s saying even though you’re facing trials and tribulations (pressures) in your life, you have peace from God. Where do we get peace? In Christ Jesus!
Next week we begin our verse-by-verse study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. See y’all then and have a Christ-filled week.
(To be continued)
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