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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
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
Some things are good but they’re not pleasant.
I chose this opening statement as a lead-in because I’m certain more than a few people out there read a portion of my Bible lesson last week but then stopped reading it because they were “offended” by it. Others may have read the entire lesson but then “labeled” it harsh or too direct, while some others simply disagreed without taking the time to
“search the Scriptures to see if these things were true.”
Readership is off again this week, so this is how I know some people reacted unfavorably to my Bible session last week. I say “again” because it happens frequently. Ministers, pastors, and priests experience something similar re: church attendance. They’ll work diligently on a sermon or message and deliver it effectively on Sunday, only to watch people get up and walk out in the middle of it or they simply don’t come back because they didn’t agree with something they “heard” or thought they heard. These folks then go from church to church until they find someone who’ll “speak” what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:1-4)… and they’re out there. There are plenty of people behind the podium who are more interested in attendance figures then they are in “preaching” God’s Truths to the people – believe me.
Last week I said the Truth needed to be heard whether people wanted to hear it or not and likened this fact to an operation to remove a cancerous growth, which can be a lifesaving procedure, and that’s good, but it's not pleasant for the patient. 180 degrees out from that example, some things are pleasant but not good. Play is pleasant and enjoyable when we gather with friends for an afternoon of Frisbee or flag football and then follow that up with fellowship and a picnic. But continual play, while shunning our responsibilities, is not good.
Truth is a rare commodity in this age. In a world overflowing with opinions, lies, and deceit, the Truth is often overlooked or ignored outright. Relative truth has become a fixation in our society and has become a friend of the religious and the spiritual as well.
Evidence and facts are our friends when we are pursuing Truth but they are the enemies of individuals who do not want to acknowledge them simply because they are not interested in “change.” These folks react negatively by arguing or getting angry simply because they disagree when the “facts” are presented.
Arguing about Truth doesn’t alter it or make it go away. Those who refuse to acknowledge and respond to Truth eventually wind up making decisions based on incomplete and inaccurate information. I'll use the nation of Israel as an example in Paul's day: And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children (Matthew 27:25)!
Our Apostle Paul wants every Believer to know they are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), the Holy Spirit lives within us; therefore a Believer’s life should be a changed life. It’s true we’re forgiven no matter how many times we sin, but at the same time God’s Grace does not afford us the liberty to do whatever we want – to live a lifestyle that conflicts with His expressed will. Every Believer should live a progressively more sanctified life as we gain more knowledge of our Lord.
The Apostle John had this to say: I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth (3 John 1:4).
but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
The problem doesn't lie in the proclaiming of the Truth
but in those who do not choose to submit to it.
but in those who do not choose to submit to it.
Paul’s Appeal to Unity
There are few things in this world that are good and pleasant, actually beneficial to us, and at the same time enjoyable experiences. In the course of studying the book of Romans, our Apostle Paul has shown us that both of these qualities are found in unity in Jesus Christ, in brothers and sisters dwelling together in one accord.
According to New Testament teachings, unity in Christ Jesus is not only “good” and “pleasant” to us Believers, but even more important, it is good and pleasing to God. On the night Jesus Christ was betrayed into the hands of lawless men, He prayed to His heavenly Father for the unity of those who would believe on Him in the future: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:20-21).
If you knew this was your last night on earth, and you knelt and prayed a prayer to your heavenly Father, what would ask for? While you’re pondering that, reflect back on the Lord’s request to His Father. His focus wasn’t “inward” it was “outward.” The unity of all Believers had to be the most important longing in His heart, otherwise He would not have prayed for it.
When Paul wrote to the divided church in Corinth, a church beset by many ills and carnal weaknesses, the very same yoke lay heavy on his heart for his first inclination was to urge his brethren to unite: Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10).
One of the signs of apostasy (falling away from the Truth) in the church is the bickering and disunity among Believers. Jesus said that the world would know that we were His disciples if you have love for one another (John 13:35). In Colossians 3:14, Paul writes: love is the perfect bond of unity. Ephesians 4:5 Paul explains that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism (of the Holy Spirit) and by this he means to say all Believers are unified in Christ Jesus. Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 that Jesus Christ is not divided. Although Christ isn’t divided, His body of Believers certainly is. Divisions in the church can be a healthy and necessary thing according to Paul’s teaching: “For there must also be factions (dissension) among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19). But here again too much of a good thing isn’t good.
It’s o.k. to have differences of opinion on non-essential matters. In other words, let’s not get all worked up while majoring on the minor issues such as: what we can eat and what we should not eat, how to dress for church, should I kneel when I pray or is it o.k. if I sit or stand, is it permissible to drink alcohol, and does it really matter what day of the week I choose to worship God? On such issues we can agree to disagree, but when it comes to what God has clearly revealed to us in His Word, especially regarding one’s salvation in this Dispensation of Grace, there is no room for disagreement or discussion. We accept all these teachings on faith and the very definition of faith is: taking God at His Word or God said it; I believe it. That’s that!
Thus our Apostle Paul wrote to the divided church (ecclesia) in Corinth, Greece and 1 Corinthians 1:10 takes on special significance in our age, when the Church, even the true Church of born-again Believers, is caught up in the grip of disorganization and division, offering to the world a view that is anything but a united testimony to the Grace and Glory of God the Father, I am reminded: God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 1.
1 Corinthians 1
1: Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2: To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours;
In verse one Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter and adds that he’s been called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the (expressed) will of God. Why he mentions Sosthenes our brother, at the beginning of this letter no one knows for certain. He may have been a leader in this church with some authority.
Paul isn’t “boasting” with his opening statement and he’s not asserting his authority over this church in Corinth. We know this because of what he said, “…an apostle…by the will of God.” I want you to see how this opening remark from Paul “fits” into the dispute he addresses in verses 11 thru 13, but also remember what we learned from the introductory lessons. The vast majority of Believers in this church group had issues with Paul’s apostleship. Because of these facts Paul wanted to establish from the get-go that God is first, last, and always in importance, or as I like to say, He is the Main thing! One of the disputes within the Corinthian Church concerned whom to follow. Paul says God chose me to serve Him. Thus, his service is to God first and foremost; it’s not about “pleasing” himself or men.
*By the way - one doesn’t “volunteer” to become an apostle of Jesus Christ; an individual is selected by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself or appointed by one of the apostles to replace an apostle who has died (Acts 1:12-26, 9).
In verse two we note that these Corinthian Believers were a church of God, i.e. one of his called-out assemblies (Ecclesia in the Greek language), having been sanctified in Christ Jesus. This is an old English word for “saintified,” for a saint is one who has been “set apart” as sacred; dedicated to God (Hagiazo – pronounced Hag-ee-ad’-zo in the Greek language) – see Ephesians 1:6.
But were these church members holy in the true sense of the word? Were they saints? No, they were not. They couldn’t divorce themselves from the sinful culture they grew up in and in which they continued to embrace. They sinned continually and yet Paul calls them saints. There is a very clear difference between your position before God the Father and your practice, between your standing and your present state. In the eyes of God Believers are as righteous as Jesus Christ; however, we don’t act like it.
They are called to be holy, called to be saints. How can they be sanctified yet not holy?
How is that consistent with the idea that sanctification is the “work of a lifetime?”
1 Corinthians 6:11 says: Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Our standing is defined as holiness; our behavior is defined as unholiness, if you will. In other words, these Corinthians Believers had not made their “life” match their “position.” They hadn’t lived up to who they were in Christ Jesus.
Many years ago Zenith Electronics had an ad jingle that went “the quality goes in before the name goes on.” With God and Believers it’s just the opposite: “the name goes on before the quality goes in.” We are declared sanctified by the name of Jesus Christ. It takes us a lifetime to become like God’s Son (Ephesians 5:1-5; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 3:1, 10:10-14).
Moving to the second-half of this verse, please note with the following words Paul emphasizes the close relationship (unity) of the Corinthian Church with other Believers everywhere and not just with one another, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours; reminding them that the Body of Christ is one complete family of Believers.
This family of Believers included Sosthenes (pronounced – Sos-the-nez); the Jewish gentleman who became the chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth after Crispus was converted. He led the Jews in ridiculing Paul and his teachings about Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected attempting to destroy him. He and some of the other Jews took Paul before the Roman proconsul, but Gallio dismissed the charges against Paul and released him. The “worked-up” mob was intent on beating on somebody, so after Paul was set free they attacked Sosthenes in front of the judgment seat (Acts 18:12-17).
Sosthenes like Paul is living proof that a person’s heart and life can change from being an ignorant antagonist to an evangelist after hearing the Gospel, acknowledging their sins, and believing. We know from Acts 18:8 the former Jewish synagogue leader, Crispus, had been converted by Paul. Perhaps he played a role in Sosthenes’ change of attitude but we know for certain only the Holy Spirit can open a person’s heart to respond to the things of God (Acts 16:14).
Let’s look at verse 3.
1 Corinthians 1
3: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is called an “opening benediction.” The word benediction comes from the Latin bene meaning “good” and dicere meaning “say.” In Scripture, a benediction referred to “good words” from God the Father or His representatives to His people as a blessing.
You’ll find a benediction in every one of Paul’s letters signed by his name.
Grace – Paul has changed the normal Greek letter opening term “greetings,” (Charein), to a uniquely Christian one which sounds similar, (Charis).
Peace – It’s possible as Grace reflected a typical Greek greeting the word Peace reflected the typical Hebrew greeting, shalom. The term shalom is both a Hebrew greeting and farewell. It implies not only the absence of problems, but the presence of goodness and well-being. Paul may have borrowed this greeting from Numbers 6:25-26 where both Grace and Peace appear. Theologically speaking, Grace always precedes Peace, but both are found ONLY in a faith relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ both corporately and individually.
True Grace and Peace only come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. Peace is the absence of “spiritual” stress or anxiety: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27; Philippians 4:4-7)
God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are linked together grammatically as One, i.e. one preposition, but two objects. This is how the N.T. authors emphasize Jesus Christ’s deity (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 3:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1:12, 2:16).
(To be continued)
[Published Weekly on Friday]
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