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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
I’m going to take a minute to welcome you, the church, to HBS and to give thanks to our Lord for your commitment to the study of God’s Word, and if that’s not here necessarily on a regular basis, I pray it’s wherever you believe the knowledge of the truth is being heralded.
A couple of weeks ago I announced to the group that “readership was down.” I thought I would inform you the trend over the past two weeks has shown a reversal; “readership” is steadily increasing here at HBS. More than 600 people from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Unites States, Viet Nam, and Russia read (hopefully studied) last week’s Bible lesson.
All glory and praise go to God and the working of the Holy Spirit; and the Lord Jesus Christ because Scripture clearly says without Him we can do nothing of any eternal significance. Jesus said, “”…apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b)
When I announced a few weeks back that readership was down, I wasn’t disappointed and I didn’t bring this to your attention because I was dismayed. I was simply remarking on a “trend,” and I noted a plausible reason for the downturn. The Stock Market rises and falls; so does church attendance and Bible study attendance and with all of these variables come into play.
Most of us are aware that human beings are creatures of habit. This means we tend to continue acting as we have acted in the past. Like a river flowing through a canyon, the longer a habit continues, the deeper it becomes, and consequently the harder it is to change. This is true of all habits both good and bad.
Becoming a Believer requires change; a fact the majority of the Believers in Corinth failed to understand completely... We must discard our bad habits and develop new ones. Paul writes: in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed (changed) in the spirit of the mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the (what) truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:17)
Knowing the changes we need to make and making them – two different things.
Dropping bad habits doesn’t come easily. This is where studying your Bible becomes essential. If you’re seeking answers on how to live a life pleasing to God, the Bible is the only book you’ll need. It’s the best self-help book sitting on the shelf (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Last week I mentioned Paul’s message to the churches (this included the Believers in Corinth) in relation to being of one mind and one spirit; with a united testimony re: the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how this communication was specific to the Church Age.
If the Body of Christ (the church) isn’t speaking the same things, if the church isn’t complete in the same mind and in the same judgment (Spirit), how can there be Scriptural unity? This is why our Apostle Paul urged them in v10 saying, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… that there be no divisions among you. If the church in Corinth is speaking the same things, referring to doctrinal subjects, then there is no cause for divisions – they’re all on the “same page,” so to speak.
If you’ll recall from the introductory lessons, I remarked that if a Believer was traveling and attended a house church in Antioch, Ephesus, or Colosse they not only “heard” the same doctrinal message they could rely on it. I liken this to a person entering a McDonald’s in Dayton, Ohio and ordering a Big Mac “knowing” it would look and taste the same as the Big Mac he had ordered and eaten for lunch before leaving Orlando, Florida.
Putting this into the proper perspective, the church in Corinth was in danger of disrupting God’s doctrinal truth because they weren’t speaking the same things. This is illustrated by Paul in the next few verses, where some Corinthian Believers were saying they were of Paul, or of Apollos, or of Cephas (Peter), or of Jesus Christ. Paul’s response to this divisive attitude was, “Is Christ divided?”
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 1:12.
1 Corinthians 1
12: Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I am of Apollos,” and “I am of Cephas, and “I of Christ,”
Now I mean this – Paul was astounded to hear of the disruptive behavior in Corinth. If you stop to consider it, Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Jesus Christ all spoke the same things.
Put another way, Paul, Apollos, and Peter only did what the Lord Jesus Christ appointed them to do (Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-11). They were the servants of Jesus Christ. They weren’t acting independently building up rival schools of thought; they were building up the body.
I prefer to let this book do the talking as much as I can, so please turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 3. We’ll drop in at verse 3: for you are still fleshly (Paul’s still speaking to the Corinthian Believers). For since there is jealously and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul, and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants (the conduit) through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth… - For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:3-6, 11).
Paul says in chapter 3, verse 5, that there is jealously and strife among you. Another word for this type of behavior is discord. I want to show you something. Let’s look at the 7 sins God “hates” the most: There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, (read carefully this is why we’re here) And one who spreads strife (discord) among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19).
Before I go any further with this teaching I want to remind the group when we see the writers of Scripture assigning “human emotions and actions” to Almighty God such as hates here or God being jealous at Exodus 20:5 it is man’s attempt to apply “human attributes” to God. Man also applies “human traits” to God such as ““He set His face against evil” at Leviticus 20:6 and “He keeps His eye on the land” Deuteronomy 11:12.
This practice is called Anthropomorphism - the purpose being to describe God in terms more understandable to humans. Since God is Divine and a Spirit, without anthropomorphism we would not have a framework on which to understand Him.
Moving on… there are more sins than the 7 listed above but at least two of these sins were being practiced by the Corinthian Believers. One of them should be obvious; one who spreads strife (discord). Chloe and her people wrote to Paul informing him there were quarrels (discord) among them and she explained why they were arguing.
As I understand the way Proverbs 6:16-19 is written, the greater emphasis is placed on the last sin mentioned, “…and one who spreads strife.” Please take this to heart. If you’re guilty of spreading discord among the brethren, confess it now and make plans to change because God says it’s the sin that He hates the most.
Let’s move on to verse 13.
13: Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
In response to Paul’s rhetorical question, “Has Christ been divided”, the answer is no. Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10:16-17: Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
Here we find one of Paul’s fundamental teachings about the church. Just as a physical body is one, even though it is made up of many members, so also is the church, which is the Body of Christ, and it cannot be divided (1 Corinthians 11:29).
Paul said, the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body. People expect Paul to finish this declaration up by saying, so too is the church, as the Body of Christ. But that’s not what he said. Paul said Christ is the church with this statement: so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
By this Paul means to say the glorified Jesus Christ who ascended into heaven is no longer physically present on earth. But the Holy Spirit (the Helper) is active in the church. The church is now in Christ, in heaven, and Christ is now in the church, His body, on earth (Ephesians 1:3, 1:18-23, 2:6; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Colossians 3:1-3).
Summing up, Jesus Christ doesn’t wish to be divided, and therefore, He won’t be. That is to say there is only one Head of the Church; either we are completely in alignment with Him and His Word, or we are not. (Colossians 1:18-20)
Nothing but the Truth
The Apostle John writes: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and (what) truth (John 1:14).
Jesus said, “…I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37b). God wants everyone to know the truth. He gave us the Bible to help us understand the truth. It is the Bible that separates Truth from untruth.
…But the Truth Divides us
Jesus Christ also said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three…” (Luke 12:51-52)
This is one of Scripture’s hard Truths but it’s in the Bible so we have to deal with it. By the way this isn’t one of “those” contradictions in Scripture; our Lord is saying the Truth divides us. Jesus Christ never intended to be “politically correct.” He didn’t walk the land speaking things people wanted to hear. He spoke the Truth and He expected people to “adapt” to it. After all, the words He spoke were given to Him by His Father (John 12:47-50).
Today each Believer receives the Holy Spirit and is baptized into the Body of Christ the moment they believe (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit unifies us, and He does this by leading people into all truth: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come (John 16:13).
The promise from our Lord Jesus Christ to all Believers is not that He will help them find some truth or assure them of limited truth but that He will guide them into all Truth! (Psalm 119-105)
John 17:17 says: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word (God’s Word) is truth.
Church unity is attained and maintained via actual doctrinal agreement, by faith in what God said, through the working of the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of the redeemed, as He helps people to grow complete, maturing in Christ Jesus - Remember those who led you (Paul, Apollos, and Peter), who spoke the word of God (the truth) to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; Ephesians 4:11-16).
The Lord Jesus Christ calls everyone to be saved through His gospel, and then to unity in His body. God planned it (Ephesians 3:2-6), Christ Jesus prayed for unity and provided the means for it (John 17:21), the Holy Spirit produces it (Ephesians 4:3-6), and our Apostle Paul pleads for unity (1 Corinthians 1:10).
Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Obviously, the answer is no.
Only Jesus Christ could pay the price God required for mankind’s sins (1 Corinthians 1:23). In actuality, the Corinthian’s were guilty of “preacher worship.” As good as Apollos, Paul, and Peter were, they were merely servants of Jesus Christ, appointed by Him to teach His doctrines and to build up the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
However, the Corinthian’s problem runs much deeper. They held stubbornly onto their bad habits one of which was their attraction to worldly wisdom. In so doing, they overlooked a couple of Paul’s teachings #1: Jesus Christ’s finished work of the cross is absolutely vital to one’s salvation. #2: No one else could have accomplished the crucial work of redemption (John 14:6; Romans 5:6-9; Philippians 2:1-9; Hebrews 10:11-14).
Not much has changed over the centuries. People are still attracted to worldly wisdom a.k.a. “fluctuating opinions.” Today human philosophy (Relativism) and science (Darwinism) are warmly accepted by society and promoted in our educational system while attempts to teach Intelligent Design or Creationism face stiff opposition from the private sector and the Supreme Court who declared it to be “unconstitutional.” The trend of “pushing” God away continues in America unabated but God said this would happen. (2 Peter 2:1-10, 3:3-9).
The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
But what do the people say? A recent Pew Research Poll revealed that 70% of Americans, including evangelical church attenders, stated they believe many religions can lead to eternal life… meaning Christianity isn’t the only one; refuting Jesus’ statement above. President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Joel Osteen openly expressed agreement with them. One of the things the church needs to learn from this is, if Christians believe there are many “paths” to heaven, the church is failing in its mission and other nations might want to consider sending missionaries here.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed the signs of apostasy in America. Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the west, including the U.S.A., for abstaining from Christian values and opting instead for a “path to degradation” in his State of the Nation speech on January 29, 2014. In this speech he said, “Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values… Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan.”
Remarkably, it wasn’t that long ago the United States accused Russia of being a “god-less nation…” Ronald Reagan said this to an audience of evangelicals on March 8, 1983…
As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”
I believe people should remember the words of Jesus Christ who said that His words would be the “test” by which men and women would ultimately be judged (John 12:48).
Let’s move on.
In verse 13 Paul asked another rhetorical question: Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? Some people put a lot of emphasis on a name that is to say I was baptized by “so and so.” But Paul teaches it isn’t who performed the baptism that matters but who the saved individual was baptized into: Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:3-5).
Paul is effectively making the case for Christ is these verses by stressing the need for unity by emphasizing these three points: Christ is one, Christ is the one who died for His church, and He’s the one each Believer is baptized into.
Then in verses 14-15 Paul says, I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no would say you were baptized in my name. For those who are visiting or new to HBS, Crispus was the Jewish leader of the synagogue in Corinth before he became a Believer; along with all his household (Acts 18:8). At Acts 18:8 it also says, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. Since Paul said he only baptized Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas, this probably means other people performed the baptism ceremony.
1 Corinthians 1
16: Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
Perhaps Gaius and Stephanas were Gentile Believers but Scripture is silent on this. What we do know for certain is that Paul’s gospel did not include the religious ceremony of baptism.
Now I know most of you out there will say John 3:16 is the gospel if I asked you, and that’s because this is what you’ve been taught over the years, but it’s not in alignment with Church Age Doctrine or the Scriptures rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15).
I believe in the inerrancy and the harmony of Scripture and I make no apology for this. When Paul says, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets (sins) of men (and women) through Christ Jesus it is by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In other words, what he says is Scripture and we all need to pay attention. Ignoring Paul would be equal to you choosing to ignore the words of our glorified Lord Jesus Christ, if I may be so direct. (2 Peter 3:14-18)
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is the clearest explanation of Paul’s gospel by far and here it is: Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are (what) saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Compare the paragraph above with John 3:16 and you’ll discover there’s no mention of Jesus Christ dying for our sins or the need to believe in His death, burial, and resurrection to be saved. The Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter each preached the gospel. But upon examination of what they were saying, it is quite apparent that their messages were different from one another. Yet, they did not contradict one another, because they spoke their “good news” to two separate audiences.
The churches gospel, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave his life voluntarily, as the perfect sacrifice to pay for the sins of all mankind, was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures is the message preached by Paul and his co-workers. This is the only gospel being proclaimed today!
The Old Testament Kingdom Program is based on the LORD God’s promise to Abram of a land, a King, and a nation or kingdom. Their nation was to eventually become a nation of priests to bring salvation to the Gentile nations. In the Old Testament, it was no mystery that Israel would someday spread the Word of God to all nations. But, it was prophesied to be after the Messiah had come and set up His kingdom centered in Jerusalem. The people of Israel would then be sent to all nations to lead the Gentiles to their God in Jerusalem. But all Israel did not receive and has not received Him yet. So the fulfillment of the old program has been postponed. The mystery was that God planned to go to the Gentiles (through the apostle Paul), when Israel rejected their King. After this dispensation of grace ends at the rapture, God will resume the old program.
Per Jesus Christ, the gospel message for that particular dispensation was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17, 10:7) But before the nation of Israel could realize her King and the kingdom could be ushered in the entire nation of Israel had to believe that Jesus was the Messiah – the Son of God (Acts 8:25-37).
Let’s look at the account of Peter’s confession of Christ at Matthew chapter 16. I’m not going to go over every word with you; most of you are familiar with the story. This is what I want you to see: Jesus asked Peter this question at verse 15: “But who do you say that I am?” (Did Peter answer, you’re the One who is going to die for my sins, be buried, and rise from the dead? No. What does the book say?) Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Did Jesus scold Peter for his answer? Did Jesus say, Peter you got it all wrong? Did Jesus say I need to see you after class? No. Jesus said) “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
It’s worth mentioning the twelve apostles had no idea that Jesus Christ was going to die and then rise from the dead, even though He told them He would (Luke 18:31-34).
Further proof of this is recorded in Scripture for us. On the day of His resurrection where were His disciples? Were they sitting out in front of His tomb on the third day waiting to greet Him? No. They were behind a locked door in hiding: for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead (John 20:9).
(To be continued)
[Published weekly on Friday]
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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