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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)
And welcome to HBS, an informal gathering of Grace Believers intent on knowing what God said, to whom it was said, and when it was said (in time(s) past, but now, or the ages to come. Please turn in your Bible to Ephesians, chapter 2, and I’ll show you where I found this information:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation (formerly lived) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God… (Ephesians 2:1-19 – KJV).
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 – KJV).
There are three divisions in the Bible that must be distinguished. If you do not recognize these divisions, you’re not going to be an approved workman. These three divisions are “in time(s) past,” “but now,” and “in the ages to come.”
There is one major, unmistakable, characteristic of “time(s) past.” God made a distinction between the circumcision (the nation of Israel), and the uncircumcision (the Gentile nations). There was a wall of partition between Israel and the Gentile nations (Ephesians 2:14). But now God’s dealings with mankind have changed, in this parenthetical, previously unknown age called the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:2). The dividing wall or partition between Israel and the Gentile nations has been broken down (Ephesians 2:13-18). Ages to come (Ephesians 2:5-7) tells us the Age of Grace will not go and on forever. It will come to an end when the Body of Christ is caught up from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air to occupy its heavenly position (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). God’s time clock resumes ticking, which means God’s Prophetic Program with the nation of Israel will pick up where it left off in Acts 7. The nation of Israel and the unbelieving Gentile nations will then enter God’s wrath or the Tribulation Period culminating with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth to defeat His enemies and to begin His millennial reign as God and King.
There’s more to this than what I’ve shown you, but now, you have the basic layout of this book we call the Bible and every true Believer should be experiencing joy. But are they? There are reasons why people are not experiencing biblical joy in their lives. Unbelievers are outside of Jesus Christ so they’re totally unaware of biblical joy. Then you have the people that base their happiness on circumstances; “I’ll be happy when ________________ (fill in the blank). But what typically happens when you attain whatever it is you’ve been chasing after? Things are good for awhile but eventually the passion fades (just like that new car smell) leaving people with the void they were attempting to fill to begin with.
As I explained last week biblical peace is not the absence of conflict. The world has not known peace since the Garden of Eden experience, and it’s not currently experiencing peace because this world as a whole rejects God’s Son and the things of God (John 3:36). Unless you first establish peace with God through faith in the gospel you will never experience the grace of God and the resulting peace of God. Trust me when I say that “void” you recognize, that seemingly “bottomless void” you are unable to fill with earthly things is your lack of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (John 1:9; Romans 1:18-23). You’re not at peace; you’re not experiencing joy because you have not appropriated God’s free gift of grace (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:1-2:
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just so you know whether your Bible uses the word bond-servants or servants both of these words in Koine Greek are translated Doulos (Doo’-los), Noun, Strong’s Greek #1401, meaning: a slave; metaphor for one who gives themselves up to another’s will those whose service is used by the Lord Jesus Christ in advancing His cause among the nations. This term is used 120 times in the N.T. Paul is either recognized as or he refers to himself as a bond-servant 29 times beginning at Acts 16:17. He’s definitely trying to tell us something significant.
I will tell you I think the term servant is a poor translation. Why? A servant is an employee. They can leave service and seek employment elsewhere. The word bond-servant denotes an agreeable slave. A bond-servant chooses to become one willingly. Sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it, however, we find Paul’s meaning in the term Doulos. It conveys the idea of dependency, loyalty, ownership, possession, and subjection. So, Paul’s means to say he serves the Lord enthusiastically and whole heartedly.
On the other hand a slave (servant) did not become one by choice. Generally speaking, these people became slaves because the Romans defeated them in battle. What’s more under Roman law slaves had zero rights. They could not just get up and leave. Runaways (fugitives in the eyes of Rome) faced terrible punishment once they were caught, such as the breaking of their joints to prevent them from running away again. American history reveals those slaves caught running away from their masters were often hobbled to prevent them from seeking freedom.
Slaves and their masters are mentioned often in the Bible. Our Apostle Paul dealt with a brother-in-Christ who was also a runaway slave in his letter to Philemon. If y’all will turn with me to Exodus 21:1-4, we look at the ordinances determined by the LORD God regarding Hebrew slaves and their masters: “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them: “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. “If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. “If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.
The LORD (Jehovah) decreed every seventh year a slave was to be a released (Exodus 21:2l Deuteronomy 15:12). A Hebrew could choose to become a servant after overextending their finances, i.e. they could not satisfy their debts. The law clearly said if you cannot pay your debts, you become a slave until the debt is paid in full. There were no bankruptcy courts, if you could not find a rich aunt or uncle to pay your bills, you became a slave. Hebrews could become slaves of a fellow Hebrew if they committed a crime such as theft and had no way of paying the fine (Exodus 22:1-3), or if they became impoverished and sold themselves and/or their family into slavery. But under the law every fiftieth year (the year of Jubilee), all slaves were to be freed, even those owned by foreigners (Leviticus 25:10, 47-54).
Skip town to verses 5-6. This is where we locate Paul’s meaning of the term bond-servant: “But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.
Paul is saying he freely chose to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and His cause permanently and not until the very first hardship came his way (Romans 12:1).
Paul opens this letter stating he and Timothy are the bond-servants of Jesus Christ. It’s customary in our day to end letters with the name of the sender. But in Paul’s day the senders name was mentioned first, then came the name(s) of the person(s) addressed: to all the saints in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. The greeting or salutation followed: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is the author of this letter; his personality and tender-heart are expressed here. But this letter is the Word of God. I mention this because many people fail to recognize Paul’s writings as God’s Word; a point the Apostle Peter addresses near the end of his life in his second letter saying, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:14-16).
The Scriptures are not a human perspective but rather the Holy Spirit's use of godly men and their language to explain God’s viewpoint to man. The Holy Spirit is working through our Apostle Paul as he writes this letter, which means his other writings are also the Word of God. In this letter Paul reveals his human emotions and his personality, but in producing it he was “moved by the Spirit of God” (under the Spirit’s control) … But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).
The word "interpretation" would be better translated "origin." This passage of Scripture were studying didn't originate from Paul any more than the rest of this book originated from godly men; it’s God ideas and His expressed will “written” down. Paul always preached the “good news” and taught his diverse audiences using the Scriptures or what “had been written.” Why? It was the Word of God.
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men (Acts 17:10-12).
The idea of a person being "moved" is comparable to a stick tossed into a moving stream. It moves along as it’s carried by the current. This book is God's Word and men produced it as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are profitable in many ways, but the entire Bible is not addressed to the Body of Christ. Our church doctrine is found in Paul’s writings - Romans thru Philemon.
Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith, and he was present when this church was planted. The word “son” defines Paul love and respect for Timothy. Please follow me to 1 Corinthians 4:15-17: For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul tells the Corinthians, "I am your father in the faith and I want you to follow my example. Follow me as I follow Christ.” If you played follow-the-leader as a child, then you know it’s much easier to follow the leader if you’re able to hear their instructions and see what they’re doing. It’s in that sense we find Timothy following Paul, who was following the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We find Paul describing Timothy in Philippians 2:19-23: But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. (NKJV)
Normally, Paul’s letters were written by scribes or his companions. We have one example of this in Romans 16:22: I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord. Tertius didn’t write the book of Romans but he did pen it for Paul as it was dictated to him.
Timothy sounds like a terrific guy. Let’s examine this book to see what it reveals about him. He had a Greek father and his mother was a Jewess (Acts 16:1); his home was at Lystra and his grandmother was Lois (2 Timothy 1:5); we know he was raised in a God- fearing home (2 Timothy 3:15). When young Timothy was about 15 years of age Paul and Barnabas visited Lystra during their first missionary journey (Acts 14:6-7), and it is likely this was when he was converted to the faith. When Paul re-visited Lystra six years later “The brothers spoke well of him” (Acts 16:2). During his second visit, Paul invited Timothy to join their group (Acts 16:3); subsequently these two were together at Corinth, Athens, Antioch, Philippi and Rome. When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians he was probably about 65 years old and Timothy was probably 35 years of age, give or take.
Paul wanted the Philippians and the other churches to know should he face execution (be put to death) because of the supposed crime of being obedient to the cause of Christ (1:12-13, 2:17), Timothy was well-suited to receive the baton of faith (2:20). The brethren in Christ would then look to him and his companions for spiritual guidance. This isn’t like the Roman Catholic Church who elects a new pope after the one holding the office dies. It is the handing down of the gospel of grace and its subsequent truths from one generation to the next, mimicking the relay runner passing the baton to the next qualified runner in line.
Now let’s examine Philippians 1:1b: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:
Here Paul identifies the believing Philippians as saints. What this book (the Scriptures) has to say about saints and what some religious organizations teach are diametrically opposed. I was raised in the Roman Catholic religion. I was in that organization for nineteen years, so my knowledge of the Vatican’s definition of saint and the religious method of canonization stems from “being there, have the T-shirt” as they say.
Usually, the process of declaring a deceased individual a saint is only considered decades after their death and after a lengthy review. But here’s the thing, people must always carefully distinguish between church doctrine (a particular church’s beliefs or the teachings of men) and God’s written Word. In other words, we’re to perform a “fact check” by opening this book to see what it says. According to the Scriptures, those who have placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ are saints. The members of the Body of Christ do not become saints after their death and some church official gives them the official “okie-dokie.” They become saints the moment they are converted, i.e. reconciled to God.
There was no Pope, no Vatican, no board of Cardinals, etc. in the first century folks. Paul’s declaration precedes the Roman Catholic experience. It has been said, “Sainthood is not something to be attained” it is a state into which God in grace calls all Believers. If you’ll re-read this verse, you’ll notice our Apostle Paul writes to “all the saints in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” He did not say “to those who have been declared saints.” Point of fact: every Believer in this church was faithfully serving the Lord along with the bishops and deacons and Paul recognized them all as saints.
The term saints in the Koine Greek word Hagios, which simply means “holy” or “set apart.” Here it’s used in the plural form and this is usually the case. Some folks say there’s an exception in 4:21 where Paul writes, “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus.” However, I believe plurality is implied even here because Paul said, “every saint.”
One other thing worth mentioning is the only place where Paul mentions the church leadership (bishops and deacons) in his opening statement is here and for good reason. By addressing every believing person in this assembly Paul was intentionally including Euodias and Syntyche, who were causing tension (stress) among the brethren because they were not “like-minded” (Philippians 4:1-2). Paul was pleased with the ministry of these two women (that’s right, these two were females) so he wanted them to reconcile their differences with this body of Believers for the sake of the gospel. In referencing the bishops and deacons, Paul showed he was in agreement with the spiritual leadership of this assembly that there needed to be unity among the brethren (Ephesians 4:1-6).
We catch a glimpse of the importance of structure in this assembly; organization being the key word. The bishops were the spiritual overseers of this group of Believers, while the deacons attended to the physical needs of the saints. These spiritual leaders were also required to stand firm regarding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience:
Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Timothy 3:8-9).
Please do not overlook the plurality of bishops and deacons. This is a clear indication there were several people overseeing this church. It’s been said “two heads are better than one.” If two like-minded Believers are better than one, then how much better is three or more. What’s more these spiritually minded folks are to be respected for their diligent service:
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15; Galatians 6:1-10).
Let’s go to Philippians 1:2:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All of our Apostle Paul’s letters begin with Grace and peace, not from Paul himself but from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about this for a moment.
The Creator of all that is seen and unseen is communicating His Grace and peace to the Philippians and to every child of God down through the ages. Today God is silent. These last two thousand years or so, God the Father is not responding to His creation’s rejection of Him and His Son in wrath. The great and terrible day of the Lord remains a future event. In that day, He will declare war on this Jesus Christ hating world. But, as Paul points out here and in his other writings, in the Dispensation of God’s Grace, He is declaring Grace and peace to all.
This is the “good news” all true Believers are to share when the opportunity arises. Specifically, that all might be aware of and understand the fellowship of the mystery of God’s grace. Paul wrote: Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (Colossians 4:6).
The fact of the matter is I know people who are too embarrassed to speak about their Savior. They don’t want to “step on anyone’s toes,” plainly said. They’re in effect seeking to be PC, i.e. politically correct a term used to describe language, measures, or policies that are intended to avoid offense to someone who is not like-minded. Bottom line: the truth hurts sometimes, but this doesn’t mean people don’t need to hear it, over and over again if necessary. Enmity with God is to be avoided. Eternity awaits. Whether you experience eternity with a loving God or tormented without end in the Lake of Fire is your choice. God doesn’t send anyone to Hell or the Lake of Fire; they choose to go due to unbelief.
Grace – why does Paul mention the grace of God in his opening remarks? In every dispensation God’s grace is manifested, that is to say, it is evident in every dispensation. An early example of God’s unearned, divine favor is revealed in Genesis 3. The penalty for the man’s disobedience was death, yet he and the woman were clothed in animal skins and allowed to live (for a time) after believing God. So faith in God’s Word and His grace go hand-in-hand. Nowhere in the Bible is this clearer than the Dispensation of Grace where God provides reconciliation and numerous spiritual blessings to the person who puts their faith in Christ’s finished work of the cross.
Paul wrote God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Paul provides a list of these blessings in the opening verses of Ephesians, one of the most magnificent passages in this book. He also emphasized these blessings to the Believer, in Christ, are to the praise of the glory of God’s grace.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, 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 of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 3:1-14).
These blessings in Christ are God’s gifts; a “spiritual package.” When a person believes the gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4), i.e. take God at His Word, they have a new relationship with God through faith (alone) in Christ Jesus (John 14:6). They are no longer experiencing enmity with God; having been reconciled to God they are recognized as His adopted son or daughter. Let that sink in! The true Believer now stands in an unending stream of God’s grace from which every spiritual blessing flows.
(To be continued)
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