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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 and thank you for choosing to study your Bible with us. From the get-go one of my goals was to get people interested in what God said and to whom it was written and we’re seeing this take place here at HBS – praise God!
One of the first things I stopped doing as an immature Believer was letting someone tell me what the Bible says. Not only is this confusing the end result may be less than desirable. In other words, your salvation (where you will spend eternity) may be at stake. So, don’t rely on me or your religion to tell you what’s true and what isn’t. The better program is you becoming intimately acquainted with the Word of God, for only then will you be able to identify “false teaching” when you hear or read it (2 Corinthians 11:13). Do not be deceived:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17-18).
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6).
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Galatians 6:6-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 2:16).
Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).
In last week’s Bible lesson we learned “God gives grace to and exalts the humble:”
Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly (Proverbs 3:34).
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom (Proverbs 11:2).
Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility (Proverbs 18:12).
A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit (Proverbs 29:23).
Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off (Psalm 138:6).
For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation (Psalm 149:4).
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:12).
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:3).
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits (Romans 12:16).
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (Ephesians 4:1-2).
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; (Colossians 3:12).
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Our Apostle Paul recently taught the Philippian saints the Lord Jesus Christ epitomized humility as the Son of Man; and in Philippians 2:2-8 urges them to “Imitate Christ” because it is the will of God the Father (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 11:1).
Please open your Bible at Philippians 2:12-13.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling - in the Dispensation of Grace (the Church Age) people do not work for their salvation. In his letter to the Believers in Rome, Paul wrote: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). If you reimburse someone or work for a gift, it is no longer a gift; it becomes something due you because you earned it. Paul used the word “wages” to express this meaning.
A gift by definition is freely given. Since this is true, Paul must be referring to something else, but what? I offer an illustration because I think it will help you understand this oft misinterpreted scripture verse. When the USA moved from a conscripted military to an all volunteer force, they utilized various marketing strategies (radio and television ads) to attract men and women to enlist in one of the branches of the military. I remember one of the slogans the US Army came up with and used for quite some time it went like this, “Be All You Can Be in the US Army.” This was not only a catchy slogan it rhymed. This jingle implies the individual that strives to do their very best while applying their diverse abilities, skills, and talents, in support of the US Army’s goal of defending this great nation will be recognized and awarded.
With this in mind, let’s review Paul’s previous remarks concerning the exaltation of Jesus Christ by the Father: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (2:9-11).
Ask yourself a question. Has this happened yet? Has every person bowed a knee to Jesus Christ and declared Him their Lord to the glory of God the Father? The answer is “No.” It’s generally understood no unsaved individual recognizes Jesus Christ as their Savior let alone their Lord. So, Paul’s statement in 2:9-11 depicts an event that will take place one day future. What event is that? The answer is linked to Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:2-5: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things (interests), but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Paul’s writing to the Believers in Philippi, so it stands to reason the biblical event we’re in search of involves the Body of Christ, a.k.a. the Church. So, this future church event deals with the Believer’s conduct (behavior), and I can only think of one such event and that’s the Judgment Seat of Christ.
When Paul wrote, “Wherefore, my beloved (2:12a)” he could have easily said “For this reason, my beloved.” We now know the reason. Sometime after the Rapture of the Church every true Believer will give an account of all they’ve done in their body, whether good or bad before the Lord (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Tying this to my illustration, it’s understood these Philippians had Paul’s heart, so he expressed his sincere desire that these folks not miss out on an opportunity to do their very best for the Lord in seeking each other’s “highest good” or as he put it “the things (interests) of others” thus fulfilling the Law of Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10; Galatians 6:2).
Paul’s telling the ambitious, self-seeking people not to think too highly of themselves. He challenged them to not miss an opportunity to use their God-given abilities, skills, and talents in service to those who have a need and not half-heartedly, but as though they were serving the Lord Himself. At the Judgment Seat of Christ their sincere love for one another will be recognized and awarded:
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal (at the same time) - 1 Corinthians 12:5-7.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:1-3).
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).
Let’s go to verse 2:12b.
… as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence… - Paul appreciated the Philippians response to his apostleship and his grace message. But he didn’t want them to be on their very best behavior only when he was with them. The true test of one’s spiritual maturity is manifested when we are alone without supervision. This is when accountability comes into play. The Philippians (and all of us) are accountable to God and to one another at all times. So Paul’s saying “Be on your best behavior always and not only when I’m with you.”
There’s an old saying that applies here it goes like this, “You can dress them up, but you can’t take them anywhere.” This adage is referring to wayward children. A parent that receives a compliment from a family member, friend, or neighbor about their children’s behavior while in their presence is certainly pleasurable. Most stunned parents would ask, “Are you sure they were my children?” Parents do their best in teaching what’s right and what’s wrong to their offspring, wondering if they will ever see evidence of this good work. When parents receive positive feedback from those outside the family, they realize their efforts were not in vain. Paul desired to see spiritual growth in these Believers. He not only wanted them to know the truth, he insisted they walk consistently in it, whether he was with them or absent.
Let’s move on to 2:12c:
… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling – the phrase “work out your salvation” in the Greek language means: to work fully, to accomplish or to finish. It’s worth mentioning the only source of divine truth in this present evil age is the Bible. But while studying God’s Word always remember the biblical principle “CONTEXT IS KING.” Permit me to insert a for instance. When Paul said in Romans 9:3, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” is he saying he could actually expect God to trade his eternal inheritance for the souls of lost Jews? Of course not! However, once upon a time, I have heard this interpretation taught. When reading this we understand Paul was showing us the depth of love he had for his lost countrymen (1 Corinthians 1:23). Taking into consideration all of Paul writings and the context of Romans 10:1, it shows Paul is stating his heart’s desire and his unwavering love for his kinsmen and not a literal exchange of his eternal inheritance.
Therefore, when we consider the word salvation in the Bible, we understand it is a general term and must be defined by the context surrounding it. This is the only way to properly determine if physical (Acts 27:1-31) or spiritual (Ephesians 1:3-7) deliverance is the theme. Many times Paul’s speaks of salvation (deliverance) in the spiritual sense, and that’s what we have here.
It’s also good to know salvation in Paul’s writings are presented in three tenses past (Ephesians 2:8; 2 Timothy 1:8-9), present (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:5), and future (Romans 5:9-10; Hebrews 9:28). Said differently, our salvation refers to “we have been saved,” “we are being saved,” and someday future “we shall be saved fully” from the wrath to come. Thus, our salvation (deliverance) won’t be complete until the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, awaiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:18-23).
By the by, sanctification also occurs in scripture in past (1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:19; Acts 20:32), present (Romans 6:22; 2 Corinthians 7:1), and future tense (Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). In other words, “we have been sanctified,” “we are being sanctified,” and some one day future “we will be fully sanctified.” The sanctification process begins when we become a “new creature” (Paul doesn’t use the expression “born again”) and concludes when we are welcomed home in heaven.
Paul’s challenge to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” was directed primarily at the entire church at Philippi, but it can be applied on an individual basis as well. Please note Paul said “work out” and not “work for” your own salvation. Many people miss this. Salvation is a work of God. This strong declaration means every aspect of man’s salvation is from God and is entirely dependent on God. Our Apostle Paul confirmed this truth saying “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). That is to say, salvation is God determined, God purchased, God applied, and God secured, over and out.
From start to finish, salvation is of the Lord. He redeemed (purchased back) fallen man from their sins by grace through faith apart from works; therefore, Paul is speaking about the Philippians’ sanctification in the present tense of their salvation and the term “work out” clearly indicates Paul’s desire for this entire assembly of Believers “to carry out their sanctification fully” or “to completeness.” It’s been said and rightly so “Every Believer is a work-in-progress.” This describes the Philippian church to a “T.” So, Paul challenged these folks to stop arguing and complaining with each other so they could effectively carry out the work of the ministry to which they had all been called (Philippians 2:14). Why? Read on.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will (desire) and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). With the word “For” Paul introduces two reasons why these Believers are to work out their own salvation. Although many people today teach the transcendence of God, they reject His immanence. That is to say they deny He is actively involved in our daily lives in any form or fashion. But, this passage of scripture and the one in Ephesians 4:6 clearly teaches God the Father has a plan and a purpose for each member of the Body of Christ. He is “in us” and “through us” both to desire and to His will.
We touched on this subject recently but here we are again. Let’s look at Moses in the O.T. When he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction” with his countrymen, the LORD removed him from Egypt and sent him to the back side of the desert for forty years. During that time, the LORD God “worked in” his heart to purge him of the ungodly ways of Egypt and to separate him for His purpose. God then “worked through” Moses, sending him back to Egypt as the deliverer, the lawgiver, and prophet.
Likewise, God was working in the Philippian assembly to energize them, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, so their ministry would be characterized by grace instead of strife. Some time ago I mentioned these folks knew they were saved by God’s grace, but they were not extending grace to one another; so Philippians 2:13 emphasizes dependence on God’s power, not theirs, in accomplishing His good pleasure.
(To be continued)
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