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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.
We began our in depth study of the epistle of joy,” that is, Philippians last week and I pray y’all have a better understanding of joy theology. Biblical joy is a product of an intimate relationship with God’s only Son, manifested in us by the Holy Spirit. True Believers experience joy when they receive and respond in faith to the Word of God. Therefore our difficulties do not, or should not, define us; our like-minded faith in what God has said and the Lord Jesus Christ dwelling within us can and will.
If Christ is (where) in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of (His) righteousness (Romans 8:10)
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27).
God loves you so much He sent His Son to die for your sin. Knowing this should not only put a permanent smile on your face, you ought to be filled with joy. Instead, what we most often see is people confusing biblical joy with circumstantial happiness. Happiness mimics the ocean tide coming in and going out, which means it’s unstable. Thus we conclude happiness is not a continuous state because it’s based on too many variables. In contrast, biblical joy is an unwavering constant in the Believer’s spirit-filled life. The closer you walk (fellowship) with the Lord the more joy you’ll experience. Our Apostle Paul explains how this is to be done:
“Brothers, join in (observing and) imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have seen in us” (Paul includes Timothy as another example to follow for Timothy followed Paul, as he followed the risen Lord).
In the Bible verse above, Paul narrates his own experience not just to inform this body of Believers of his present condition but to provide a concrete example of what it looks like to live with a Christ-like mindset, the very thing he prays for these saints (1:9-11) and specifically instructs them to adopt (2:5). Paul looked beyond his circumstances and experienced true joy because he looked to the sovereign Lord who is in control of all things which includes his circumstances (1:12-26).
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 (i.e. our old man or our sinful Adamic nature) in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:12-13).
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. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:12-17).
Paul demonstrates a Christ-like mindset in that:
- He “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14), that is, he’s imitating the Lord.
- He is excited about the mission of God and finds joy in the fact that the gospel of grace is being preached far and wide, and those who are in Christ Jesus are growing in faith and knowledge of God’s wise counsel.
- He has joy despite his circumstances; he’s an “over comer” because he sees God working in and through Him.
- He sees no need to compete with or retaliate against those who intend to cause him harm. God’s in control.
- He has a hope that is present for both this life and the life to come.
- He cares greatly for the church and puts the needs of others before his own.
Moving on, we also learned the bond-servants (Doulos) were Paul and Timothy. We also learned the saints Paul spoke of are the true Believers in Philippi and every person, in Christ Jesus thereafter. The bishops and deacons are the spiritual leaders of this assembly. And we looked briefly at God’s grace. This term warrants a bible study of its own, but I pray y’all know if you truly understand grace in this present dispensation, it will help you walk joyfully.
God’s grace is all about what God has done, is presently doing, and has promised to do in the future, according to His kind intention. Most people define grace as unmerited favor. I believe these folks are about half-way to the truth. You see, contrary to some people’s belief, God doesn’t owe us one single thing. In fact, if we received what we deserved it would be the wrath of God and not His grace.
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS, THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE” (Romans 3:11-12).
Permit me to provide an illustration of God’s grace for y’all. While out walking I encounter a homeless person sitting on a park bench, so I kindly invite this individual to join me for lunch at a nearby “burger dump.” He offers a toothless smile and nods his head in agreement and off we go. This is an example of “good works” and/or “unmerited favor,” but it’s far short of God’s grace. However, if after befriending this gentleman he decided to threaten me with bodily harm and robbed me of all my personal possessions, yet despite his hostility I forgive him and my initial offer of lunch stands, well, that’s grace.
I have a go-to Bible passage that explains this illustration so please turn to Romans 5:7-10: For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners (rebellious, God-haters), Christ died for us, Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were (God’s) enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another human being (John 15:13). Here God the Father demonstrated His own (agape) love toward us while we were (yet) His enemies. The enemies of God deserve His wrath. But instead of wrath mankind received His free gift of grace. Our Apostle Paul exemplifies this biblical truth as do all those in Christ Jesus.
Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:3-4.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with (what) joy in my every prayer for you all,
At first glance it may appear as though there is little to discuss in this verse, however, I’m seeing our Apostle Paul epitomizing the principle, “You become what you believe.” He not only believed in prayer, he modeled the Believer’s prayer life for the churches. Today it’s not uncommon to hear people say, “I believe in prayer,” but their prayer is comparable to an ATM card which is placed into a banking machine and in a flash out comes the cash. These folks, especially those who follow the “name it and claim it” religion in like manner pray and they expect returns on the effort. However, as we learned in our Ephesian study, these folks are not rightly dividing the Scriptures. They’re appropriating God’s communication to the nation of Israel under the Prophetic Program as their own. But now God hears and answers our prayers according to the counsel of His will.
…always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the (what) will of God I may succeed in coming to you (Romans 1:10).
…and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to (what) the will of God (Romans 8:27).
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10).
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
We know from Paul’s writings he offered prayers for personal reasons, but we also note his primary concern was “the things of God,” specifically, that the gospel of grace is heard everywhere and on every occasion and God receive the glory and praise (1:11)
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you (1:3a) – there are people in the world who stop to count the flowers and those who count the weeds. You probably know a few of each. But which one are you? Are you so caught up in your difficulties (weeds) you ignore or overlook the blessings (flowers) of God in your life? Are you “thankful” or thankless?
Paul’s life was characterized by a thankful heart. He recognized the heavenly blessings of God and he gave thanks for both the sunshine and the rain in his life. It’s an unmistakable fact rain makes things grow. I’ll illustrate. A man was awake all night with a toothache. He was examined by his dentist and informed not only did he have a cavity there was an oral cancer growing inside his mouth. When the dentist informed him the cancer is treatable and the success rate is extremely high, this man’s shock and dismay turned to thankfulness not only for the good news but also for the toothache that brought him to the dentist. This demonstrates, once again, a “weed” in one’s life can become flower-like if a person has the proper mind-set.
Paul was beyond pleased; he was joyful and thankful for the Philippians’ faith in Christ Jesus and he’s expressing this joy while in chains and facing death. Paul said “every time he remembers these saints” he thanked God for them (1:5). We see the same phrase directed to the church at Colosse (Colossians 1:3-8); and the churches at Rome and Corinth.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world (Romans 1:8).
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, (1 Corinthians 1:4).
The phrase “I thank” is the Koine Greek word Eucharisteo (yoo-khar-is-teh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2168. This phrase is used 39 times in the Bible and it means: to be grateful; actively expressing gratitude; and giving thanks.
Now I want to take a couple of minutes to examine the phrase, “I thank my God.” The Romans as well as the Greeks worshipped many gods in Paul’s day. Paganism in the Bible is a term to describe what ninety percent or more of the people living in the Mediterranean area were doing. Wherever Paul traveled he encountered false idols. One biblical example is Mars the Roman god of war. He was second only to Jupiter in the Roman Pantheon. I visited Rome and the Pantheon in 1976 while serving in the USN; the two hundredth anniversary of our nation. It was truly an unforgettable experience and it fulfilled a life-long dream of mine. While strolling through the Pantheon I was amazed to find so many gods and goddesses enshrined therein, but the Creator God was not in this collection of wannabes.
Paul had a similar experience after arriving in Athens, Greece during his second missionary journey. He noticed these folks were worshipping many false gods and goddesses. He even located an idol dedicated to “the unknown god.”
Paul before the Areopagus (Ar-e-op-a-gus)
(The council that met on Mars Hill)
Now all the Athenians and foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing more than hearing and articulating new ideas. Then Paul stood up before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and examined your objects of worship, I even found an altar with the inscription: To an unknown God. Therefore what you worship as something unknown, I now proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. Nor is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, to inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’ Therefore, being offspring of God, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by man’s skill and imagination. Although God overlooked the ignorance of earlier times, He now commands all men everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:22-31).
Here we see Paul introducing God’s revelation to these men who “spent their time doing nothing more than hearing and articulating (expressing their opinions regarding) new ideas.” What’s notable in this section of Scripture is we do not see Paul ridiculing these people or their beliefs. He merely takes advantage of the opportunity to introduce a “new idea” to them, i.e. his God in a calm, dignified manner. This is a very personal declaration from Paul, and I don’t want you to overlook this fact. Our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is personal as well. Please note Paul does not say “I’m thanking a god,” or even “the god;” he specifically said, “my God;” a term denoting a personal relationship. He’s been Paul’s God ever since that day on the Damascus Road. Paul was the first person saved by grace (alone) in the church age.
Paul said his present “circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel” (1:12). Paul counted the “flowers” in life instead of the “weeds” and found joy in the experience. It’s not as though the weeds weren’t there as well as the flowers, however, he was spiritually mature enough to understand a blessing can be found even in the weeds of life for “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Let’s go to Philippians 1:4:
…always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy – as I said, Paul is the epitome of the principle, “You become what you believe.” He was a “prayer warrior” for the cause of Christ and here he’s saying, “Hey Philippians, I haven’t forgotten you; you’re remembered in every prayer of mine.”
I’m reminded of a passage of Scripture we just studied. Let’s all turn to Ephesians 6.
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, 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… (Ephesians 6:17-19).
Why did Paul pray God would “give him utterance;” i.e. open his mouth to speak?
Paul wrote this and the letter to the Philippians while he was incarcerated and the threat of death hung over him. These are definitely “weeds” in his life and yet Paul’s not complaining about his present circumstances or asking the Father, specifically, that he be released from this predicament. Paul turned this unfortunate circumstance (weed) into a blessing (flower) as he preached the revelation of the mystery to Caesar’s entire household and encouraged the Philippians to imitate his good work to the praise and glory of God. He also wanted them to prosper, so they could give another financial contribution to further the gospel of grace. Not, as he said, because he desired the gift itself, but because he desired fruit that it may abound to their spiritual account, which would ultimately result in an eternal reward (4:15-17).
So we aspire to please Him, whether we are here in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his (or her) due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:9-10 BSB).
(To be continued)
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