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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: September 1, 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 where the Light of truth is always on.
I thank y’all for you patience and for your faithful attendance.
“If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus ” (3:11-12).
Our Apostle Paul was a new creature, in Christ Jesus, and had dedicated his life in service to the risen Lord, yet freely admits he had not attained to fully walking in the newness of life, as much as he desired to do (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This is an astounding statement coming from God’s called apostle (Romans 1:1-6). Not long after his conversion we find Paul “filled with the Spirit” and preaching “Jesus is the Christ” to his countrymen in the Jewish synagogue in Damascus. He received his special revelation from the risen Lord directly (Galatians 1:12). He had been caught up to the third heaven “and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4) etc. So, if Paul believed he had a long way to go to attain unto the resurrection of the dead, what does this say about our walk with the Lord? Food for thought (See Ephesians 4).
Then Paul adds this statement “either were already perfect” (3:12a). Here Paul used the term “perfect,” and in Colossians 1:12 he said we are complete in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:12), however, neither Paul nor we will reach perfection on this side of glory. However, this should be the goal of every Believer, in Christ Jesus.
So, this is what Paul meant when he said, “but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Last week I pointed out the term “apprehend” conveys the idea of seizing someone or something. A police officer seizes the crime suspect for instance. Paul desired to seize everything the Lord had for him to accomplish in this life, not to make a name for himself, but to bring honor and glory to God. He sought to live up to every expectation the risen, glorified Lord had for him, as long as there was breath in his body. He intended to fulfill his God-given responsibility as the apostle to the gentiles to make Christ Jesus known according to “the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:1-3). In other words, the searchable riches of Christ were committed to the nation of Israel (Luke 24:25-27), but to Paul was committed the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).
Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
********Please open your Bible at Philippians 3:13-14.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are better, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul lets the Philippians know he has not yet attained his objective mentioned in 3:10-11. That goal is to know Christ Jesus and all that is included in this knowledge, i.e. experiencing the power of His resurrection, sharing in His sufferings, and being made conformable to His death.
Although Paul admitted to not having attained these goals, as yet, he obviously understood the importance of forgetting those things that were behind and pressed on toward the mark (or the prize - See 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 4:7). Said, differently, Paul didn’t dwell on those past successes or the failures. Why? I’m glad you asked. Permit me to illustrate: most cars or trucks I’m aware of have a rear-view mirror up front. This is a useful driving tool. By occasionally viewing the traffic behind us we can maneuver safely toward our destination. So, we look back in order to move forward. But what would happen if you focused solely on what’s going on in your rear-view mirror? Is it possible to move forward if you’re overly focused on the traffic behind you? I’m thinking not so much, and if you are, I prefer not to be behind you in that lane.
So, “Forgetting those things which are behind” (in the past) means to remove them from your mind’s eye, instead of revisiting them or possibly parking on them, such as when Paul wrongly persecuted and wasted “the church of God” (ekklesia; a called-out assembly).
For ye have heard of my conversation (behavior) in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the (religious) traditions of my fathers (Galatians 1:13-14).
Paul exercised wisdom when he chose not to dwell on those things “behind him” (see 3:5-6). He understood to do so would hinder his enthusiasm and his labor for the Lord would suffer. Plainly said, our Apostle Paul did not want to run his race in vain:
Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain (Philippians 2:16).
So, Paul didn’t live in the past. He didn’t permit those things to “puff him up,” or weigh him down, which they are prone to do. Paul garnered wisdom from yesteryear and put it to good use, but he did not allow those things to alter his present course. We know this because of his statement in 3:14: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
The word “press” means to urge or strain in motion; to urge forward with force.
The word “mark” means any object used as a guide, or to which the mind may be directed, which in this instance is “the prize of the high calling (or his vocation as it pertains to being entrusted with the Word) of God in Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 7:20).
In his letters to the grace churches, Paul described the true Believer’s life as “as “a stand,” “a walk, and “a race.” They are not the same thing. Many Believers have taken “a stand” for Christ Jesus. They are truly saved, having believed Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16), and some of these folks actually experience, in some measure, the joy and assurance of salvation. However, their daily “walk” (or their behavior) causes people around them to stumble. Their ineffective walk actually hinders the gospel of grace:
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way (Romans 14:13).
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: (1 Corinthians 10:31-32).
Other folks in turn have learned “to walk” as saved Believers, living consistent, godly lives, but they don’t put enough effort into it so that it might be said of them they are “running” their individual races. This is usually because they are ignorant of Paul’s exhortation to “run your race so as to win the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24), or they simply don’t view their new life in Christ as a race.
By God’s grace we’re required to “stand,” to “walk,” and “run” our individual races so as to bring honor and glory to God. We comply with these commands of God because of His free gift of grace and because of everything the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Christ Jesus’s righteousness is imputed to everyone who believes the gospel of grace, and He lives in the saved individual (Romans 8:10-20). Paul told the Believers in Ephesus “we have been accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6), and in Colossians 2:9-10 said, “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him.”
Some people preach and teach the necessity of adding good works to God’s free gift of grace. In doing so, these folks are saying “you are not complete in Him; work for it.” Since God sees the Believer in Christ Jesus as “complete” let us take our “stand” for the Truth.
But let us also “stand” for the faith. In I Corinthians 16:13 our apostle goes a step farther in saying: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” It is good to know God accepts us “in the Beloved” and to take our “stand” in Christ, but it is also good to know why we’re to be “established in the faith,” to have “the full assurance of understanding.” By “the faith,” of course, is meant the gospel of grace, the various related church doctrines, and the commands of the Lord in this dispensation, as revealed to Paul (1 Corinthians 14:37). This information is only found in Romans thru Philemon or Paul’s epistles.
In addition, you must bear in mind when Paul speaks of “the faith” he refers, not to the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1), of Christ on earth (Matthew 10:5-7), or Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38), but to “the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (Galatians 3:23) - the “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5), which he calls elsewhere “my gospel” (Rom. 16:25), and “the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me” (2 Timothy 1:13). It is the message of the Lord’s finished work of the cross, “which had been kept hidden in the mind of God since the foundations of the earth,” until the mystery (secret) was revealed to Saul of Tarsus (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26). Satan and the world-at-large vehemently oppose Paul’s gospel of grace. But all Believers are to stand for “the one faith.”
We are to “stand” fast in the fight as well. Paul remarks on this in Philippians 1:27:
“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
Believe this, wherever you “stand” for “the faith” you can expect a fight. Satan will see to that. So many of God’s people fail to realize this. In fact, in the news recently I read where one of the Pope’s cardinals recently said, “Satan doesn’t exist, he’s just a symbol.” One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is getting the world to believe he does not exist, and people like this Catholic cardinal are not only assisting him in this lie, they deny the truth of God. Be advised Satan is not only real he’s your greatest adversary, if you are a child of God. If not, Satan has you right where he wants you!
People generally accept God’s love and grace, but cringe and draw back when called upon “to stand fast,” as the spiritual battle unfolds around them. They do not seem to realize or accept the fact God has committed to us His most precious treasure; the most glorious message ever proclaimed on earth, that is, Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), in which each Believer is called to “stand fast.” Every Believer is obligated to guard and defend the gospel of grace. Case in point our Apostle Paul confronted the Believers in Galatia because they were turning away from his gospel to “another gospel,” which included keeping the Law of Moses. In plain language he wrote: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you that that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-10; 2 Corinthians 11:14).
Then, Paul had this message for the church at Corinth:
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).
“This treasure” Paul referred to is the light of the gospel of grace and God’s Church Age truths. As children of Light, we are to stand firm in the midst of the fight, not surrendering an inch of spiritual ground to those who would distort or pervert the gospel of grace and the Grace Age Doctrines (Galatians 2:1-10; Ephesians 5:8).
Satan’s infiltration of the churches have caused some people to adulterate, and deny the power of the gospel of grace (Romans 1:15-16), and there isn’t so much as a whimper from those in the pews. In choosing to remain silent re: this vital matter reveals they prefer peace over conflict or ignorance over knowledge. My friends Satan isn’t interested in your peace or anyone else’s. We know this because our Apostle Paul encouraged every true Believer to “put on the full armor of God” each day in preparation for the fight:
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to (do what) stand” (See Ephesians 6:10-18).
To the Philippians Paul wrote:
“And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident 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: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:14-18).
We’re not to be “timid” when it comes to defending the gospel that saves today. Young Timothy, Paul’s protégé, was an anxious/nervous individual and suffered stomach ailments because of it. Paul addressed this concern in 2 Timothy 1:8:
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.”
In 1 Timothy 6:12 Paul exhorted Timothy to “Fight the good fight of (the) faith” and in
2 Timothy 2:3 Paul told him to “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” We are all soldiers for Christ as this church hymn from yesteryear clearly indicates:
Am I a solider of the Cross
Am I a soldier of the Cross –
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
In the name, the precious name,
Of Him who died for me,
Through grace I’ll win the promised crown,
Whate’er my cross may be.
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Since I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Surely in this “present evil age” we must not withdraw from the fight of faith, but instead stand our ground, shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight, as it were, for the faith having “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Believer’s life in Christ is not just a “stand” it is also a “walk.” The epistles of Paul
have much to say about the Believer’s walk, or how they conduct themselves as a “new creature, in Christ.” Are you aware it’s possible to identify an individual’s father by their walk? It’s a well-known fact young boys desire to imitate their fathers, i.e. their characteristics and mannerisms. For instance, when I was very young, I put on my father’s shoes and flip-flopped around the house in them pretending to smoke a cigarette. I learned many things from my father not all of them good. I learned my first curse words from him. I didn’t use them in the house but when I was out and about I pulled a “curse card” and used it whenever I could. The other boys were awestruck by it and it made me feel older than I was. I also acquired the habit of smoking cigarettes from my dad – same reason.
So, in a sense, Paul’s telling all Believers to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and walk (live their lives) so that the people they encounter each day will see Jesus Christ in them. So, in plain language, we walk as adopted children of God and not as children of darkness (Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5):
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof (Romans 13-13-14).
I think the reason why we do this is obvious, but I have no problem citing why this is so. Our stand for the truth will mean little if our conduct is not in harmony with our testimony. Walking differently in Ephesians 2:1-2 the apostle reminds us that we were once “dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked...” But in Romans 6:4 he said we have been raised to “walk in newness of life.” So, there should be a radical change in our conduct and the way we think after our conversion.
It is true that we are not saved by good works, no matter how many you perform, but it is equally true that we have been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:10).
Then in his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). This includes walking “by faith,” in love - “not after the flesh.”
Then in Colossians 1:10 Paul said, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
We have been accepted, in Him, given a position, in Him, and blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, in Him. Surely it should be our constant prayer and desire to walk worthy of Him (Ephesians 4:1, 5:15-17; Colossians 1:9, 4:5, 12).
Running Your Race
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
If you run for exercise, then you’re already aware running takes more energy than walking especially if you’re running a race. In the Bible passage above the writer of Hebrews is referring to a marathon race and not a 100 yd dash, so Paul trained his body, accordingly:
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (rejected, useless, of no value).
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
In the Bible passage below Paul encourages the Philippians to be “blameless and harmless,” that is, above reproach because they are saved sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18):
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life (the gospel of grace); that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain (Philippians 2:13-16).
Paul wanted every Believer to understand this new life in Christ is more than a stand and a walk it is also a race. May we include in each one of our prayers the desire to cover as much spiritual ground, to accomplish as much as humanly possible, in the little time that we have and give God the glory:
“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;” (Ephesians 5:15-18).
Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, who was more than just a Man, we surely have no better example to follow than the Apostle Paul himself (1 Corinthians 11:1). Speaking of “attaining to the resurrection of the dead,” i.e. knowing the power of His resurrection Paul said: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting these things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, “I press toward the mark (strain toward the goal) for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
This advice is important to all those who are positioned in Christ. When a contestant in a race is foolish enough to look back or even to allow his or her mind to drift away from the goal, this distraction causes their speed to be reduced because they are no longer pressing toward the mark. What’s more, they may stumble and trip over their own feet because they have taken their focus off of the goal.
So, this is all about keeping one’s eye on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Believer must have the goal alone in mind as he or she runs their race. If they dwell on past mistakes they become discouraged. If they look back at their successes, this may “puff them up.” Both are bad for you. So, Paul encourages all those in Christ Jesus to be single-minded. He said we’re to do “this one thing…,” “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…” they are to press toward (strain) the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ.”
Though our individual races are life-long, we must run the race set before us with patience, all the while, looking unto the Lord Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
I would be short-changing you, so to speak, if I did not mention “the prize.” In straining for the goal, of course, we do so for the prize:
“I strain toward the goal, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14).
I don’t believe the “high calling” refers to the Rapture event but to Paul being called into the heavenlies and apprehending (taking hold of) all the spiritual blessings therein.
In this we are to follow Paul’s example, for in verse 3:17 he wrote, “Brethren be followers together of me.” Think about this. Experiencing the resurrection life of Christ and our position with Him in the heavenlies— is this not a prize worth running for; straining toward? I pray you answered “yes.” So then, let’s put everything we have into it. Let us be single-minded, forgetting things behind, putting every other consideration aside, so as to win the race not just be participants or also-rans. Let us live consistent, disciplined lives. Let us “lay aside every weight”— everything that might retard our progress all to the glory of God.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (I Cor. 9:24,25).
Now it’s a biblical fact in the Believer’s race more than one person may receive the prize, but Paul’s point is, “So run” as if only one were to receive the prize: “that ye may obtain.”
Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy while imprisoned in Rome again, and he knew he would not escape death this time around, prompting him to write these encouraging remarks to his son in the faith, Timothy: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing (at the Rapture of God’s Church).”
As long as we remain, in the flesh, we shall always have to say, as even Paul did: “I have not yet attained unto the resurrection of the dead,” but the return of our Lord and Savior draws ever nearer, and if we run with patience the race that is set before us we shall not only reach the goal, but will receive a crown of righteousness, His rich reward to all those who have showed, by the very fact that they entered the race, that they eagerly wait for His glorious appearing.
(To be continued)
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