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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
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This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
I want to thank all the faithful followers who have been with us since this Romans study began almost three years ago. If you’re a first-time visitor to Home Bible Study©, then please know I’m especially glad to have you here with us today.
In Romans 14:1 thru 15:3 Paul dealt with the issue of personal convictions and personal liberties concerning doubtful practices i.e. dancing, music, playing cards, tattoos, video games, etc. Accordingly, he instructed the strong Believer to refrain from exercising their freedoms in Christ Jesus when there’s a chance another person may be harmed.
Scripture addresses some of these disputable issues such as drinking wine, eating meat, special days and fasting. But if people hang onto to their “legalistic” beliefs instead of embracing their “freedom” or liberty found in God’s Grace through faith in Jesus Christ, which the Jewish brethren were doing in Paul’s day and some folks are still doing today, then we are not to judge them or look down on them for their weakness. For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking (or fasting), but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (v17).
Yes, fasting is a disputable matter in the church today. People are quick to point out that “fasting” was practiced by the nation of Israel and Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1-11) in the four gospels and the early chapters of Acts. This makes sense since most of the Bible is written to the Jews, under the Dispensation of the Law.
However, if someone is saying you have to “fast” please know your Bible gives no such command. Believers are under the Dispensation of Grace (Romans 6:14) and our Apostle is Paul (Acts 9; Romans 11:13). The only place in Scripture where the idea of Believers fasting is even suggested is Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he writes to husbands and wives: Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to (what) fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. (KJV- 1 Corinthians 7:5)
(The New American Standard Bible has removed the word “fasting” from this verse.)
But even in 1 Corinthians 7:5 fasting is not commanded and no details or instructions about this activity are offered. Fasting is a spiritual discipline which can help those who practice it connect with God the Father for whatever reason. However, Believers are not only already “connected” to God by way of His Son’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, they’re acceptable to God. You can’t get any closer to God than being called “adopted as sons (and daughters) and children of God.
Although fasting is permitted by Scripture, I generally do not recommend it. Fasting may conflict with several medications that need to be taken with food. Then you have certain medical conditions that require people to eat regularly such as diabetes.
If you’re considering a fast, check with your doctor before you begin one. By the way, a fast does not mean you stop drinking water. Healthy humans can survive several days without food but only last a few days without water!
If you want to “connect” with God, try prayer. You already have your heavenly Father’s ear… He’s waiting to hear from you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Please open your Bible to Romans 15:4 where we’ll pick up on our Apostle Paul’s teaching on the subject of personal convictions and personal liberties.
4: For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our (what) instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
There is a page in one of my Bibles that appears right before the book of Matthew which simply says, “The New Testament.” There’s nothing else written on it. It appears to be a “divider” intentionally inserted at this point in the Bible to separate the Old Testament from the New Testament or at least that’s the implication.
My question to you is the O.T. and the N.T. supposed to be kept separate?
This is a relevant question today, since so many Christians aren’t even bothering to read their Bible and others openly express disdain, even contempt, toward the O.T. Scriptures saying, “I’m a New Testament Christian; I have no need of the Old Testament.” “The book of Genesis is nothing but metaphors and symbolism. The Scriptures are outdated; they are completely out-of-step with society today, they are irrelevant, and should be rewritten.”
To illustrate: an article written in the April 3rd edition of the New York Times by Frank Bruni, who is gay, recognizes that Christian beliefs are not necessarily grounded in hatred. He claims the problem is that, “Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken.”
According to Mr. Bruni, who has no understanding of Scripture (and how could he; he’s reading someone else’s love letter), “If we (Believers) hold to the view that homosexuality is a sin, this is our decision; our choice.” He wants us all to shake free from our fossilized faith and accept the LGBT agenda. Bruni thinks Believers can simply dismiss the “Scriptures” as “ancient texts” explaining that “all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures, and eras.”
People have been trying to dismiss the Scriptures and their authority for years; were just more aware of it today because the left-wing media has been picking up on it in support of the LGBT agenda, especially under the current political administration. The Humanists also chime in claiming the Bible is “unreliable” saying it’s filled with contradictions. This is the equivalent of me picking up a physics book and declaring it is filled with “contradictions.” You see I don’t understand physics and probably never will no matter how much time I pore over the book. These Humanists, I dare say, do not know God or His Son; so they have no relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, they lack understanding in spiritual things, since the Holy Spirit guides people in Truth. (John 16:13)
The Truth is the entire Bible is relevant no matter the “age;” whether it’s labeled O.T. or N.T. it’s the same book and
When Paul says, For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, he’s referring to the Old Testament Scriptures; the four gospels, Paul’s letters, and the remainder of the New Testament weren’t written or compiled yet. The gospel of Matthew was written, around 40-45 AD. In 363 AD, the Council of Laodicea stated that only the Old Testament (along with the Apocrypha) and the 27 books of the New Testament were to be read in the churches from that time onward.
Here’s my point: the LORD God had supplied in writing all the information Israel needed and it was readily available; some of it was good and some of it was bad. The idea being that you read it, you study it, and you learn from both the good and the bad. Our Apostle Paul writes: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (2 Timothy 3:16).
5: Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the (what) same mind with one another according to (who) Christ Jesus,
6: so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the previous chapters Paul had been expressing the need for these folks to express their “unique” spiritual gifts in service to one another and to strangers while maintaining their uniqueness. Here he is stressing the need for “spiritual unity” within the Body of Christ, being of the same mind, working together towards the same goal of allowing each other to express their unique character, as we glorify God together with one voice.
We are to accept one another as “family” and “friends” showing them the kindness likened to our Lord who welcomes everyone including a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50), a crowd of 5,000 (Luke 9:10-17) and a crowd numbering 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10); and He dined with those who had obvious “flaws” such as tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34). Jesus Christ instructed His followers in the “nature of hospitality” with these words: “But when you give a reception (banquet), invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteousness.” (Luke 14:13-14)
The Lord Jesus Christ welcomes everyone to His table and invites them to “Come as You Are.” Matthew was called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ and saved as a Tax Collector and a cheat; only God knows the rest of his story (Luke 5:27-32).
How different this is from the practice of Christian hospitality today where people are judged on sight and deemed acceptable or unacceptable at a glance. “Does that person “look” gay to you?” “What’s wrong with her “eyes;” is she high?” “Look at how they’re dressed; they look like an unmade bed.” “If he didn’t spend so much money tattooing his body, he’d have money to put in the collection plate…,” “Can’t they afford soap and water…” etc.
Jesus Christ gave this direct command: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) Superficial judgment is wrong. Passing judgment on someone based solely on appearance or hearsay (gossip) is sinful behavior. Simon the Pharisee passed judgment on a woman based on her appearance and reputation, but he failed to understand that the woman had already been forgiven; thus Simon drew Jesus’ rebuke for his unrighteous judgment of her (Luke 7:36-50).
True Believers are to be discerning (Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). We are to gently confront back-sliding brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus (Galatians 6:1), and we are to speak the Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), as we work together towards the goal of like-mindedness and spiritual unity, in Christ Jesus.
7: Therefore, accept one another (with all our obvious, and no so obvious flaws), just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
Fall is here, which mean Halloween is almost on our doorstep (no pun intended). It’s a fun time for children, teen-agers, and yes, even adults, who don costumes and “masks” of all types, usually associated with one’s personality. What most people fail to realize is that we all wear a wide assortment of “masks” daily whether at home with our loved ones, at work, at play, or with our close friends. In so doing, we tend to forget that our Father in heaven knows us better than we know ourselves, He has seen behind all our masks, and said, “I love you despite your flaws and I want you to be a member of My family.”
We put on masks everyday because we don’t want other people to see us as we truly are.
They serve to protect us in our relationships, and from a not so nice world. They protect us from rejection and ridicule. In truth, masks are a form of misdirection, permitting an individual to move seamlessly into their environment. They are a psychological defense mechanism designed for the sole purpose of easing the task of “survival” in society. People don masks to be accepted, loved, or ignored.
Whether you know it or not, you removed all your masks when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The invitation was for you to “Come as You Are,” sans mask. The more you get to know another person, like your spouse, the more masks you tend to take off until they’re all gone. This is one facet of love; getting more comfortable with one another and mutually deciding that there will be no more “secrets.”
Still, people tend to hang onto that last mask. This one is difficult for the individual to remove because it will reveal who they truly are. I believe “the last mask” hinders more people from coming to Christ than even pride. They don’t want anyone to see their “ugliness” - to know how badly they’re flawed.
Please know that Scripture says: And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:13) Nothing we’ve done is done in secret. It’s all open to the eyes of Jesus Christ to whom we must give an account!
Agape love receives another in the faith like family and shares without condition. Sacrificial love doesn’t “hold anything back,” remembering that Jesus Christ gave His all for all.
Paul reminds us to accept one another (just as they are), just as Christ also accepted us... When a person fails to receive another in the faith without hypocrisy, in a way we are placing ourselves higher than Jesus Christ. This is the height of arrogance and certainly not an act of an individual who is Spirit led: I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself (or herself) than he (or she) ought to think. (Romans 12:3)
8: For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision (i.e. the nation of Israel) on behalf of the truth of the God to confirm the promises given to the fathers (Abraham, Issac, and Jacob).
This verse takes us back to my earlier comment concerning how some Christians “feel” the Old Testament is irrelevant, simply a “metaphor,” or a book composed of fireside stories to scare little children. Verse 8 takes us all the way back 2000 BC and to Genesis chapter 12. This is when the LORD God calls Abram from the land of Ur, and establishes His covenant with him, despite the idolatry and the fact that everyone has forgotten God.
God promised Abram he would be the father of a nation of people, they would possess a specific geographical area of land, and He Himself in the Person of the Son would come and be their Messiah, their King, their Prince of Peace, and Redeemer. We know this to be the Abrahamic Covenant which is still in effect today.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we (Gentiles who – were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world) might receive the adoption as sons (through faith in God’s Gospel message). (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:12)
He (Jesus) came to His own (the nation of Israel), and those who were His own did not receive Him. (John 1:11)
One of the reasons I started teaching the Bible many years ago is because there were so many people teaching and preaching that Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry included Jew and Gentile alike and I decided people needed to hear what the Bible really said about this and about other important topics. So, what does the Bible say about this subject?
When Jesus Christ began His ministry, by sending out the twelve, He gave them this command: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, (believe that I died, was buried, and was resurrected from the dead for your sins? No! What does your Bible say – preach saying) ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (Matthew 10:5-7)
This is in line with God’s Prophetic Program spoken of by the prophets and as outlined in the Old Testament Scriptures and in conjunction with the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob concerning the Abrahamic Covenant.
Here’s another example from Scripture of Jesus being sent ONLY to the “house of Israel.” We have the account of the Syrophoenician Woman in Matthew 15:21-28. A Canaanite woman (and a gentile) who cried out to Jesus for mercy because her daughter was demon possessed. At first, He ignored her (v23). But when she persisted, and Jesus’ disciples complained because she wouldn’t go away, Jesus answered saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
This begs the question, if Jesus Christ had a ministry to both Jew and Gentile during His earthly ministry, as so many people claim, why did He command His apostles to avoid all gentiles when He sent them out to preach about His kingdom? Why did He and His apostles ignore the Canaanite woman and her plea for “mercy “initially?
The answer is simple, once you learn to accurately handle the word of truth (rightly divide them), Jesus Christ wasn’t sent to serve the Gentiles. He was sent by the Father to confirm the promises (the covenants) given to the fathers regarding the Abrahamic Covenant for one. And God is the Great Promise Keeper! If the LORD God had gone to the Gentiles with the Gospel of the Kingdom before keeping His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He would have “broken” His promise to the fathers and would not be God.
Let’s go to verse 9.
9: and for the Gentiles to glorify God (why) for His mercy;
Without taking the time to “dig deeper” into the topic of the Abrahamic Covenant and opting to just skim the surface instead, the LORD God promised Abram that he would the father of a nation of people, they would possess a specific geographical area of land, and He Himself, in the Person of the Son, would come and be their Messiah, their King, and their Redeemer. The very last words of this spoken promise are these: And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. (Genesis 12:3). He chose the nation of Israel to be the people through whom the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would be born because He could.
But God’s purpose for Israel was for them to be a kingdom of priests (go-between). They were to be a distinct people, a nation of missionaries who pointed the lost gentiles to God. At the right time, they would go into the world and teach others about Him. Of course they failed at this but this is Bible prophecy so it will come to pass during the Revelation period when the 144,000 go out into the world preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom once more to those who need to hear some good news. This is the literal meaning of Matthew 28:19.
Scripture says what we all deserve is God’s wrath and His just judgment. What we deserve is the same thing Sodom and Gomorrah received. But what has God done instead for us? He provided the way back to Himself – a means of reconciliation through His Son: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
Why did God do this? He sent His Son to die for the sins of all because of His mercy.
When Christ died on that Roman cross, He took on all the sins of the world and the accompanying wrath of God. Not only did God pour out His wrath on His Son for mankind’s sins, but He also poured out His mercy. Now all you and I have to do to be partakers of God’s mercy and grace is appropriate these by faith in the gospel God gave to Paul; the apostle to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
I don’t claim to understand it fully; I just accept it on faith.
(To be continued)
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