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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: September 25,2019
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome to HBS.
I am currently fifteen days out from open-heart surgery. Please continue to pray for my speedy recovery, including my left hand which is about 70% numb now. Remember every member of the Body of Christ in your prayers because if one member of the body suffers we all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Please note, I don’t type one-handed very well, but with the Lord’s assistance my goal is to finish chapter 3 today after we refresh our memories:
“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample (a pattern to imitate).” (Philippians 3:15-17)
Misunderstanding what the Bible is saying is a common problem with Christians because of their failure to rightly divide it and because the grace teachings of our Apostle Paul are not respected. For instance, over the years I noticed people will assign a meaning to a word in a Bible passage according to their familiarity with it. The word “church” is a prime example. Church is commonly defined as a building used for public worship. Breaking that down even further, many people refer to their church as a particular organization such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist church, the Southern Baptist Church, etc. The word church is used both in the O.T. and the N.T. but be mindful of the context in which it is used. The word church comes from the Koine Greek word ekklesia (or ecclesia), and it means a called-out assembly. Wherever it is used in the Bible it refers to people not a structure. In his address to the Sanhedrin, Stephen called the people of Israel “the assembly (ekklesia) in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38), the Apostle Luke referred to it as an unruly mob (Acts 19:30-41), and Paul not Peter, James, or John introduces it as the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22, 5:25, 32).
Getting back to verse 3:15, we have a similar issue with the word “perfect.” It does not mean Believers do and say everything perfectly. As it’s used here (See 3:12-14), perfect means walking spiritually mature. The more mature one becomes, after being made complete, in Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:10), the more their minds are being renewed day-by-day (Romans 12:1-2) and this will translate to their individual walk, run, and race. I Thessalonians 2:13 says, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
God works in us by His Word, and changes our will and desires as we mature and apply it. Our attitude, mind, priorities, worldview, and understanding of life are transformed by the Word of God. Through it we learn to see the world through His eyes and feel with His heart. As God works in us by His Word, His “will” becomes ours, and we will seek to do things of “His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). “And to will and do of God’s good pleasure” is about seeking one another’s highest good or putting the needs of others first, in love, as did Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8).
“Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample (a pattern to imitate).”
Previously Paul had said, “ we put no confidence in the flesh” (3:1-7). It doesn’t matter who we think we are in the flesh. What matters is who we are in Christ Jesus, as members of the Body of Christ. This is the mindset we ought to have (3:13-14). Most Christians attend church services religiously, but they are not spending time in the Word, growing in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, renewing their minds, and maturing in the faith. In brief, they’re not seeking the things of God. They are content in their complacency, which reminds me of that frog in the pot of water which is heating up... They are busy seeking earthly things such as that promotion at work or a raise, a new car, a bigger home, and financial security/success; these things and others like them mark their worldly walk, run, and race. Paul is telling the Philippians (and us) the main focus of our lives should be Jesus Christ. We’re not to be complacent in our walk. We’re to set our eyes upon the Author and Perfecter of our faith and approach those “good works” God has set before us with determination and zeal.
Paul used three words in above Bible passage to help all Believers walk in the right direction, so as not to lose their way. First, the word “rule” in Koine Greek means a standard, which in this case has the idea of a standard of faith and practice. Next, “followers together denotes a co-imitator. Thirdly, the term “ensample” means a type or pattern to imitate. When put all together we learn Paul is God’s ordained pattern who received from the glorified, risen Lord, the standard of faith and practice for today for the BOC , which is embodied in the teachings of grace. Therefore, we are to be imitators of Paul, his teachings, and his conduct or the manner in which he lived his life, remembering to give all the glory and honor to God.
********Please open your Bible at Philippians 3:18-21.
“(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
“(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
Right off the first thing I noticed is the Bible translators made this a parenthetical statement. Why? Paul is digressing, momentarily, to contrast two very different mindsets. As a result, there are those who desire to have the “mind of Christ,’ and others who desire to “mind earthly things.” Since Paul has already addressed those who were mature and immature Believers in Christ in the previous context, we may safely presume he is speaking about Jewish Christians who did not recognize Paul’s gospel of grace or his ministry to the gentiles in 3:18-19. Paul clearly referred to these folks as the many and labeled them “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Just so we’re clear these were not people who hated God, they were the Jewish false teachers who believed Jesus is the Messiah (or Christ), but vehemently opposed Paul and his doctrines. They taught salvation is achieved only by observing the Mosaic Law which included the religious rite of circumcision. In view of the fact the salvation of God is through the cross of Christ, those who add anything else to that are clearly identified by Paul as “enemies of the cross of Christ.”
These men appeared to have a form of godliness, but they denied the efficacy of Christ Jesus’ shed blood, insisting there are other paths to salvation. Paul’s response to that notion was “from such turn away” (Galatians 1:6-10). Little has changed over the centuries. Many people, even Christians who claim to know the Lord, believing He died for their sin, add to that works of the flesh such as water baptism, confessing their sins to a church member, joining the “right church,” tithing regularly, obeying the Ten Commandments, walking the church aisle, etc. In doing so, they rob God of His glory and pervert Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16, 11:28). So, here’s the thing if you add anything to Christ’s finished work of the cross, you subtract everything from Him. The cross plus anything else equals nothing.
The word “For” in 3:18 provides the first reason the Philippians should imitate Paul’s life. Many professing Christians are busy pursuing the things of the world instead of the things of God. But their conduct ought to be as “citizens of heaven” (3:20) and Christ’s “ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20). During Paul’s visits to Europe he had frequently warned the Philippians about those men who were nothing more than deceivers. It is apparent the problem in this assembly had greatly intensified for Paul was inclined to write, “I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping.” Paul called these folks “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Although they appeared to be very religious, in reality, they were arrogant, self-seeking, sensual, ungodly men who, like Cain, were destitute of faith.
What You Place Your Faith in for Your Salvation Matters to God
Here we have, once again, the age-old opposing arguments regarding salvation. Some say you are only saved by performing works, or God chooses whom He will save you have no voice in the matter, and so on. These beliefs and others have been around since the first century and the confusion continues on in the 21st century church. Why is that? Reasons vary. To be sure charlatans are found everywhere even in the church. Some preach salvation by works for financial gain, while others seek notoriety and the praise of men. But there are “many” false teachers yet today who recognize Jesus’ Christ’s divinity, but refuse to recognize Paul’s apostolic authority, and “the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:1-7), which means this great truth of God remains a mystery to a great many churched people today.
There’s nothing like a life experience, so I’ll share this with y’all. Over the years I’ve had dealings with several church leaders in various denominations while teaching Sunday school, coordinating a Sunday school program for grades 1-5, and as a children’s leader in BSF International. All of these men professed to “preach the Word,” but I was hearing messages that did not line up with the Scriptures, rightly divided. I recall being asked to include the phrase “Ask Jesus to come into your heart” in my lesson plan. This became a popular saying during the WWJD era. I admit to using that cute phrase one evening as the children sat around the log fire at summer camp because myself and other men were instructed to do so by the pastor in charge. Afterwards, I found one of my charges, an 8-year-old, sitting on his bunk and crying. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “I don’t want Jesus living in my heart!” The lad was genuinely upset having understood my message to be a reality. I cared about those God had entrusted to me, so I opened up my Bible and read a few verses to him and he eventually calmed down. There’s an important lesson to be learned here. One must be careful about what they preach or teach as truth and one must be careful about what they believe for their salvation.
This is a good example of following Paul’s example or manner of life, for God wants everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth. We should imitate the same burden our apostle had for all those who are literally dangling over the lake of fire by a very thin thread, or by something they heard somewhere from someone regarding their responsibility in God’s salvation plan. God’s Son did it all for all and we’re not to add one single thing to that glorious sacrifice.
Due to the fact that these unregenerate false teachers defiantly continued in their rebellion, Paul leveled four indictments against them:
“Whose end is destruction” or perdition! Notice Paul addresses the end of those who are enemies of the Cross. Their eternal end will be “destruction,” which is defined by Strong as “ruin and loss of spiritual well-being.” Thayer adds, “The destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell.” The Apostle Peter used this same term when he pronounced the following scathing condemnation of the false teachers of his day: “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). The road to destruction of these enemies of the Cross passes through the present torment of Hades where they await their summons to appear before the Great White Throne Judgment, which will ultimately determine the degree of their eternal punishment in the eternal lake of fire (Matthew 10:15; 11:22-24; 23:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Revelation 20:11-15).
We should note that a gracious provision of salvation was made for them, they had heard the gospel, they were warned when they rejected it, and the apostle wept over them, praying they would turn from their rebellion. So when these false teachers find themselves in eternal torment they will have no one to blame but themselves. As we saw earlier, we are able to determine whether or not Believers are following Paul’s apostleship and message by observing their walk, run, and race. While only the Lord knows for certain those who are His own, the conduct of the unbeliever will often expose that he or she is walking in the vanity of their mind (Ephesians 4:17).
With this in mind, the apostle goes on to say regarding these false teachers: “Whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (3:19). These evildoers were given over to a life of self-indulgence and fleshly appetites. Their philosophy was, “let’s eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” In contrast, the Believer’s hope and glory is found in the Cross of Christ. Furthermore, they had no desire whatsoever “to set their affections on things above,” but were preoccupied with earthly things such as fame and fortune.
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Once again, the nation of Israel had no concept of dying and going to heaven. You’ll not find that message anywhere in the O.T. or in the promises Jehovah made to His chosen people. Israel looked for their Messiah to rule and reign in a literal earthly kingdom (Zechariah 14:3-11). Therefore, having described the final destiny of those who were enemies of the Cross, Paul now turns to our hope as members of the Body of Christ. As we know, Philippi was a colony of Rome. This meant those who were born there were Roman citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities that went along with it. So when Paul states to these grace age Believers: “For our conversation (or citizenship) is in heaven,” the Philippians could easily relate to what Paul was saying. Essentially Believers in Christ are a colony of heavenly citizens here on earth whose homeland is in heaven:
And you hath he quickened (made alive), 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 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 together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together (where) 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 (Ephesians 2:1-7).
Heaven is not only a place it the eternal destination of every true Believer, in Christ! This book says it is a very real, tangible realm that is teeming with activity (I Kings 8:30 2 Corinthians 5:8-9). Of course astronomers and scientists insist the sun is the center of our solar system, but according to God’s Word the earth is always the primary focal point of God’s creation. Everything in creation is in relation to the earth; therefore, the heavens surround it.
As we move out from the face of the earth we have the first heaven, commonly called our atmosphere or sky where we see the beautiful cloud formations, birds in flight and so on. The second heaven would be the moon, the planets, and the stars. The third heaven is the abode of God. The fact that Jesus passed through the heavens gives evidence there is more than one heaven (Hebrews 4:14). When Jesus Christ stepped across the stars, He came down from heaven to the earth to redeem us back to God (John 3:13). Paul, on the other hand, was caught up to the third heaven to receive a special revelation concerning the mystery (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). So then, our home and citizenship is in the third heaven, the abode of God, where we look for the glorious appearing of our Savior who will catch up His church, that is, the Body of Christ into glory. The return of Christ to which Paul refers is the pretribulational Rapture of the Church. One of the reasons our hope is called a blessed hope is because the Lord Himself is going to return for His Church, at which time we will see Him face to face in all His glory. We are to be presently looking for the Savior who, when the trumpet sounds, will soon return in the clouds, i.e. the first heaven. The term look in Philippians 3:20 conveys the idea to “expect eagerly.” There are no signs, times, or seasons preceding the event; it could take place at any moment (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
“Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself”.
Another dimension of our blessed hope is we will receive our glorified resurrected body when the trump sounds. These old bodies of humiliation that are subject to illness, disease and death will be gloriously transformed and fashioned like unto Christ’s resurrected body. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the guarantee of our future resurrection. What was true of Christ’s resurrected body, will be true of ours as well (See Luke 24:36-45). The resurrection from the dead spoken of here in Philippians is not to be confused with the first resurrection recorded in the prophetic Scriptures. The resurrection Paul makes reference to in Corinthians, Philippians and Thessalonians is a secret resurrection which is only taught in his epistles. The apostle clearly says, “Behold, I show you a mystery (a secret) ...for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
Since Christ will only bring with Him those who have believed Paul’s terms of salvation there is little question that the secret resurrection pertains exclusively to the members of the Body of Christ (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
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