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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)
Greetings, one and all, and welcome to HBS.
The Bible has been a best-selling book for many years; however, it remains the most cherished unread book of all time. My parents were gifted a Bible as a wedding present. It was a big one and owned a prominent place in our living room, right smack dab in the center of the coffee table. But I don’t remember one instance of it being read by anyone. The only time it was picked up or moved was when my mother dusted the area. Over the years I came to understand this situation is not abnormal.
When I queried people attending Bible study many of them said the Bible wasn’t read in their home either. One reason for this phenomenon turned up again and again. These folks said they didn’t understand what they were reading so they quit trying. Plan B in many cases was to rely solely on their church leader to tell them what the Scriptures say. I can relate to this. While attending Catholic school, during catechism one morning (religious question and answer period prior to one’s confirmation), the parish pastor said we need not concern ourselves with what’s in the Bible it was his responsibility to make it clear to us. Now, I’m won’t take the time to explain how unhelpful and inaccurate that statement was. Instead, I’ll get right to my point. The chief reason people say the Bible is confusing or difficult to comprehend is because most of the churches in existence today do not “rightly divide the Scriptures.” Secondary to that most of the people sitting in the pews have no idea the command “study” (the Scriptures) is in their Bible (2 Timothy 2:15). I know because I used to be one of these church-goers.
Please know God ordained three classes of people in the world and they are the Gentiles, the Jews, and the Grace Age Church: Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; (1 Corinthians 10:32).
It’s not difficult to determine which one of these three groups the Bible is addressing, and when you recognize the difference, you are on your way to “rightly dividing the Word of truth.”
Here’s the thing, your church leader is not responsible for your lack of biblical knowledge; ultimately, you will be held accountable for what this book says and doesn’t say. What’s more, you don’t have to be a seminary graduate to understand the Scriptures. I had one church leader tell me the opposite, but that’s another story. The fact remains any literate twelve-year old can get truth out of the Bible because it’s written at a sixth grade reading level; this includes the King James Version. In contrast, USA Today is written at a ninth grade reading level. People Magazine and Readers’ Digest are written at an eighth grade reading level. People don’t appear to be shying away from these magazines, in fact, when I find one in a waiting room, they’ve been read so often, the pages are frayed and worn. Compare that to the condition of most Bibles in the home. I seldom see a worn-out Bible nowadays. But when I do I immediately recognize a conscientious student of God’s Word, which brings me to my final point. You see, there’s more going on here than just the Bible’s readability it’s also about obtaining and retaining biblical truth for future generations. Many of the modern Bible translations “water-down” or remove the original Bible text and this often alters the meaning of the passage. Here’s an example from the KJV Bible:
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech (2 Corinthians 3:12).
The same verse taken from the NKJV reads: Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech.
The NIV verse reads: Therefore, since we have a hope, we are very bold.
The Light of Truth dispels uncertainty and the darkness where evil dwells. Please know God desires that all men (women is implied) be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1Timothy 2:3-4).
In our last study, we reviewed the subject of the advancement of biblical truth through adversity. In verse 12, Paul gave the Philippians (and us) a principle he wanted them to understand: “Those circumstances which from a human perspective appear to be obstacles of defeat are by divine providence mere instruments of victory.”
We read about this same mindset while reviewing Joseph’s calamity:
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20).
From this we understand more than a few things. #1 God is Sovereign over all His creation. No matter what happens to us, God said He will work it out for our good. He makes known His plan, purpose, and will to them that love God, to them who are called according to (what) his purpose (Romans 8:28).
That the God our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power… (Ephesians 1:17-19).
True Believers understand this life is not about us it is about God and what He wants.
Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:14-16.
And many of the brethren (Believers) in the Lord, waxing confident (or depending on the Lord) by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
And many of the brethren (Believers) in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (v14).
Another way of saying this is, “And the majority of the brethren, depending on the Lord because of my imprisonment, are more courageous in speaking the word without fear.” The Believers in Rome were energized to share the gospel of grace with the unsaved because of Paul’s right example. Even though in prison and chained to a Roman soldier 24/7/365, he continued to preach the message of the cross:
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for (how many) all, then were all dead (to God): and that he died for all, that they which live should henceforth live unto themselves but unto him which died for them, and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14-16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
These Believers “depending on” on the risen and glorified Lord for enablement were “more bold to speak the word without fear.” Because many people were doing this in and around the city of Rome more people heard God’s good news then if Paul had been unencumbered and able to preach himself. But here’s the thing, although some folks thought highly of Paul, his gospel, and the way he was holding up despite his present circumstances, there were other brethren operating in Rome with ulterior motives. We pick up this truth from Paul’s next statement: Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: (1:15-16).
Here we recognize two groups defined by their attitude and actions. Some brethren were sharing the gospel out of good will or because of their love for the Lord, Paul, and their neighbor. They desired to glorify God and we note this is in accordance with God’s will.
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10).
But some of the brethren (from the household of faith) preached for the wrong reasons. Paul’s saying these egotistical people were jealous of him and his ministry. They actually rejoiced over his suffering and were determined to profit from it, not necessarily for financial gain, but certainly to win people over to their point of view.
Contention here means selfish ambition. Plainly said, these people were all about “self.”
Envy is the emotional feeling of displeasure and disappointment in observing the advantage or prosperity of another. We read about the effects of envy when Joseph’s brethren (his brothers) became envious of him and his position as Jacob’s favored son. Instead of reconciling their differences with their father, they sought vengeance upon Joseph. Some people choose to tag envy as one of the 7 deadly sins, but please understand if you’re an unsaved individual “the wages of (any) sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (by faith alone) - Romans 6:23.
The word strife means bitter conflict or rivalry. Paul does not reveal the basis of this strife, but it’s quite evident some of the brethren were jealous of him. These people took advantage of his imprisonment to diminish his influence and strengthen their cause. In so doing they hoped to add affliction to his bonds. Since Paul was confined and out of their way (he couldn’t confront them in defense of his gospel – 1:17), they hoped when he learned of their insincere activities his chains would become more burdensome.
So then, why were people envious of Paul, knowing full well he was currently in prison and facing a death sentence? Who wants to climb aboard that ride? To appreciate what‘s going on here you must first understand the difference between Paul, the brethren who preached out of good will, and the envious brethren is their motivation.
How do we know this? These two opposing motives are described by Paul in Philippians 15-17. We understand the term “motive” to mean why you and I do the things we do. It’s what impels us to act in one way or another. A motive is any thought which determines a choice or induces an action. When Paul wrote his letter to the Believers at Rome, near the end of his third missionary journey (circa 54-58 AD), it goes without saying he was communicating with an established church. I base this observation on the fact Paul only writes to Believers. I bring this to your attention because it’s definitely helpful knowing the church at Rome existed long before Paul’s arrival and imprisonment circa 61-63 AD.
Consequently, certain people had attained a degree of prominence and respect among the congregation at Philippi. Paul’s arrival on scene can be likened to a celebrity or a dignitary coming to town. The church shifted its focus from its leaders to Paul and this damaged their ego. They weren’t the center of attention any longer and were bothered by Paul’s following, his testimony, and his success. Their feelings were injured along with their pride, which brought about their jealousy and stirred up the strife (conflict) directed towards Paul. Out of pride stems envy and jealousy, so at the root of all sin is pride and pride is the basis for false motivation.
Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 16:5a).
Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:12).
The envious brethren were busy spreading untruths (lying) knowing it would add strife to Paul’s situation.
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing (what) that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
The result: one group is preaching only to serve self and if possible to add to Paul’s suffering (affliction). The other group is sharing the gospel with unbelievers because it is what Paul would do if he were a free man but more importantly it honors and glorifies the Lord our God.
If you’ll take the time to study church history, you’ll learn the problems experienced in the first century may be likened to the problems the church faces today. The operations within the church have changed, but one thing remains the same, that is, people’s motivation. Some are devoted to the ministry of reconciliation in saving lost souls because this pleases God. Then there are those who preach Jesus Christ with the wrong motivation.
This is as good a place as any to insert an illustration. In July 2010, six of the wealthiest T.V. evangelists were investigated by the US Senate for profiting excessively from the gospel, or something akin to it. These people were earning 7-figure annual salaries, they owned a home, or several homes costing millions of dollars; they owned private jets, and several automobiles including stretch limos; they took exotic vacations, which included hotel rooms costing thousands of dollars per night. In contrast many of their brethren lived at or below the poverty line. I just read an article tagging a modern day evangelist for spending $200,000 on a Lamborghini for his wife. But don’t be concerned he said God’s okay with it… I won’t mention names or the church denominations involved that info is readily available on the internet. For now it’s enough to understand their intentions are less than honorable and the ramifications of their false motives may extend to the individual’s eternal state.
As King Solomon said, “There’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Lots of money could be made from the ministry back in Paul’s day and this ulterior motive continues to energize many people in the business of religion today. An example I believe y’all will be familiar with from the Scriptures is the Lord Jesus Christ expelling the money-changers from His Father’s house, i.e. the Jewish Temple:
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12-13).
That being said, our Apostle Paul’s motivation is in the furtherance of the unadulterated gospel. There was no greater joy for Paul than knowing Believers walked in God’s truth: I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your (what) fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; (Philippians 1:3-5).
I want to backup a bit to verse 1:15 to identify the word “preach.” Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
Preach is a verb, and is from the Greek word Kerusso (Kay-roos’-so), Verb, Strong’s Greek # 2784, meaning a herald for a king. The herald of Paul’s day declared the king’s policy, so Kerusso literally means to declare the policy of the king. Today people associate preaching with loud, long-winded speech. I’ve seen more than a few “clock-watchers” while the pastor, priest, or minister talked on and on, but this word has nothing to do with the manner in which something is said. It has to do with declaring policy, specifically, God’s policy for the Body of Christ. Thus when one witnesses he or she is declaring God’s policy of salvation to the lost. We note the word preach is in the present tense, so this is what they were doing at the time of this writing. Plainly said, they were preaching the gospel of grace throughout the capital of the Roman Empire or Paganville, as I refer to it.
Here, once again, we see the providence of God or God intervening in the affairs of His creation to fulfill His will, purpose, and plan.
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of (our will? No read what it says) his own will (Ephesians 1:9-11).
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:15-20).
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep (by the by Paul never refers to Believers as the Lord’s sheep – we are members of His body and He is the Head of the Church), through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 1:20-21).
Paul informs the church: What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost (Spirit) which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (Why?) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
What was the price Paul speaks of here? The Son of God willingly laid down His life for all, i.e. His very last breath and the last drop of His divine blood was shed for all. In addition, He accomplished this while we were His enemies (Romans 5:8). There is no greater gift (John 15:13)!
Let’s move on to verse 1:17.
…But the other (brethren) of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
Here Paul gives the Philippians (and us) the proper motive, which is preaching the Word out of (agape/sacrificial) love for God. In response to God’s grace they desired to honor Him with their service. Paul said they are doing this, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. The phrase “I am set” is the Koine Greek word Keimai (Ki’-mahee), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2749; it’s a military term meaning: to be destined, or on duty.
The word “defence” is Apologia (ap-po-la-ge-a). Our English word apologetics comes from this term. The Apostle Peter speaks of this in 1 Peter 3:25: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…
Our Apostle Paul, metaphorically speaking, is emphasizing the fact he is a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ. As such, he endures the harsh treatment of prison life for “the cause of Christ.” Why? As the steward of God’s mysteries”he is set” or it’s his duty to defend the gospel of grace against any and all who oppose it (See Acts 15).
I trust you know the term “the gospel” means good news. The brethren who were with Paul took God’s good news of love and salvation to the streets of Rome where it needed to be heard and understood. The two go together, you see. It’s more than just believing God’s Word people need to understand what it is they profess to believe. We pursue this goal in order to be effective ambassadors of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Would you want someone to rebuild your carburetor if they did not understand the mechanics and functions of this vital engine part? Probably not, right? The same can be said for witnessing for the Lord. What do you think will happen if you can’t field an individual’s first question concerning God’s gospel in the Age of Grace vs the gospel of the kingdom during the Prophetic Program or the difference between the Law and God’s matchless Grace? Are you able to speak boldly, as did Paul and his brethren, about the faith and the hope that is in you?
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; (1 Timothy 1:1)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:3-7)
Paul declared himself the Lord’s steward. All he had belonged to God and it was his charitable responsibility to dole it out: Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found (or proven) faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
The word steward is Oikonomos (Oy-kon-om’-os), Noun Masculine, Strong’s Greek # 3623, meaning: a household manager or guardian. We note in this passage Paul did not say “be found faithful to God” up to a certain point, that is to say, until “the going gets too rough.” Please understand there was no “quit” in Paul. He ran the race set before him and kept his focus on the finish line: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin with doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7-8).
As the Lord’s faithful steward, Paul shined forth as a beacon to the darkened world. Hardships and trials did not dim that light and could not diminish the revealed revelation of God.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches (insults), in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance (Romans 5:3).
(To be continued)
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