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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
If you’ve been studying your Bible with us for awhile, then you’ve heard me say every now and again, “I don’t hold to any particular church group’s teachings,” which essentially means I’m not promoting one church group over another and I’ll briefly explain why that it is. It’s because God’s Word doesn’t mention or support the 217+ Christian denominations currently operating in the USA today. If you’ll take the time to study early church history, you’ll find the leaders of the church became hardened and corrupt. Power struggles within the church developed by the second millennium, as did doctrinal differences between church leaders, which caused the church to split into two parts: The Eastern Orthodox Church, headed by the patriarch of the Church of Constantinople, and the Latin Western Church, led by the pope, the bishop of Rome. This church came to be known as the Roman Catholic Church.
In the 16th century, many Reformers tried to correct the erroneous practices and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, calling it back to obedience to God’s Word. But the powerful and influential church leadership had managed to suppress these attempts, often by torturing and killing the Reformers.
I’d like to continue with this train of thought because I find church history an interesting subject, even more so when I compare the political and social climates of today. But here’s the thing, before the foundations of the earth, the Triune Godhead predetermined there would be one New Covenant church (Ekklesia) made up of Jewish and Gentile Believers (Acts 2:22-24; Ephesians 1:4; Romans 8:29, 10-12; 1 Peter 1:20).
What does this book say? “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism (the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the Body of Christ); one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Perhaps now you have a better understanding of the principle I hold fast to: “What do the Scriptures say,” and “What do the Scriptures not say.” Some people choose to call this nondenominational teaching. I prefer to call it “Keeping God’s Word in Harmony” or explaining God’s Word by Rightly Dividing the Scriptures. Most Believers are unaware that God commands them to study their Bible using this discipline and this is truly unfortunate for many reasons one of which is a possible loss of reward at the Bema Seat of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:15).
Here’s one more reason why it’s so important to Rightly Divide the Scriptures. This example comes from a recent encounter. I was asked a question about the four horsemen in Revelation 6 just the other day. This individual listened to an audio commentary on this chapter from a gentleman; his name is unimportant. But in his comments, he told his audience the four horsemen symbolized four Christian church organizations in the last days; He went on to name each one of them and why he believed this was so. I don’t intend to get into the details of what he said because none of it is true to God’s Word; it’s merely his opinion. Why speak of opinions when we can discuss the Truths Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit have revealed to us in the Bible.
What Do the Scriptures Say?
The four horsemen are mentioned in Revelation 6: 1-8. They are symbolic descriptions of different end time events which will take place on this planet prior to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The White Horse - Revelation 6:2; the rider of this horse is the counterfeit christ, a.k.a. the anti-chirst, making his appearance in the last days; he will be given authority and will conquer all who oppose him for a time. (Daniel 7:25; Matthew 24:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
The Red Horse – Revelation 6:4 its rider was given power to take peace from the earth.
The second horseman refers to terrible warfare that will break out all over the earth in the end times. (Matthew 24:6-7a)
The Black Horse – Revelation 6:5-6; this rider represents famine that will increase around the world as the end draws near. Famines are the result of severe droughts and wars. (Matthew 24:7b)
The Pale Horse – Revelation 6:7-8; this rider symbolizes world-wide pestilence (disease on a large-scale, i.e. epidemics and pandemics) increases around the globe. Wars and famines contribute to world-wide pestilence. (Matthew 24:7c)
It’s important to note once a seal is opened it remains opened its effects don’t wane. In other words, each seal is added to the seals previously opened, continuing to take their toll on the inhabitants of planet earth and the planet itself – and they all greatly intensify as the end of the world draws near – TRAVAIL! (Matthew 24:8)
These comments may have been a bit “off course” from our Corinthian study, but remain consistent to the nature of our Bible study for this reason: “Let’s be careful in our search for biblical truth and understanding in this present age. For the very first thing Jesus Christ told His disciples when asked, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age,” He offered them this warning, – ‘Do not be deceived.’” Deception is Satan’s chief weapon against mankind; always has been, and for good reason; it works! So, be alert; be in the Word daily (1 Peter 5:8); and always Rightly Divide the Scriptures.
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 11:23.
The Lord’s Supper
Last week we learned the Corinthian Believers had mistaken the nature of the Lord’s Supper or the “Love Feast” specifically, which was a lead-in to the commemorative service. Instead of respecting it as a solemn occasion, they treated it as a common festival, mimicking the behavior of the pagan supper clubs that were held regularly throughout the city, only worse; their conduct was considered more disgraceful than the pagans. Paul said he could not praise them for this and rightly so.
Paul stated: For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you – (v23). Paul was not present at the last supper of the Lord; there’s no question about this. But we have this from our Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:11-20: For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
The account of the Lord’s Supper is recorded for us in these three gospels Matthew 26:20-30; Mark 14:12-26; and Luke 22:1-38. The Apostle John writes from the standpoint that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, so his account of the last supper is remarkably different from his fellow apostles (See John 13, 14,15,16,17, 18:1). It’s also good to know the gospels were not completed when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, around 55 AD.
- The book of Mark was likely the first gospel written by John Mark, cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:3), and completed before or after the death of Peter in Rome in the mid to late 60s AD.
- The book of Matthew is the subject of much debate as to whether or not it was completed before or after the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD. Many conservative scholars suggest a completion date somewhere in the mid 60s AD.
- The book of Luke provides the strongest evidence re: its completion date. Luke and Acts were written as two parts of a single work (Acts 1:1-3). Since Acts concludes with Paul under arrest in Rome in approximately 62 AD, many believe Luke-Acts was written during this general time period. Other scholars suggest 60-65 AD.
As our Apostle Paul said, He received the instructions re: the Lord’s Supper directly from the risen Lord by revelation and he delivered this teaching to the Corinthians (Acts 18): that the Lord Jesus (Christ) in the night in which He was betrayed took (a single loaf of) bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (v24-25).
I find it interesting Jesus’ comment, “do this in remembrance of Me” is not included in Matthew or Mark’s record. Luke is the only one who records these words for us at Luke 22:19. We don’t see it again until Paul pens his letter to the Corinthians (11:24-25).
Let’s go to verse 26.
1 Corinthians 11
26: For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (for His Church in the air at the Rapture event). You can search Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s record for this information, but I can save you some time – it’s not there. Why? This was a special revelation for these Gentiles in the flesh (1 Corinthians 12:2). This commemorative event was not a continuation of the Jewish Passover Feast. Paul delivered these instructions as he received them from the risen Lord who was now glorified in heaven (Psalm 110:1).
It’s worth mentioning at this point this is not an ordinance; it is both a joyful celebration and a solemn remembrance of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on Calvary. Paul had this to say regarding the ordinances of Judaism: having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees (ordinances) against us, which was hostile to us; and He (Jesus Christ) has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
And in Ephesians 2:15 Paul said: by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in (what) ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace…
Ordinances in Scripture are consistently “things ordained,” by God i.e., in order for an individual to be considered in “right standing” or acceptable with God. This isn’t the case with the Lord’s Supper. Paul doesn’t even command his readers to observe it. Instead, he leaves it all to grace as he naturally assumes those who have been redeemed will want to celebrate and remember the great sacrifice of their Redeemer.
Furthermore, not only doesn’t Paul command Believers to observe this practice, he doesn’t even suggest when or how often this celebration should be held. Again, it’s all left up to grace. All Paul said was: For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup (v26). In other words, the decision rests with the church pastor and its members. Today the church elders, your minister, pastor, priest, the church members themselves may decide how often to hold communion service. There is no set schedule.
Paul Discusses the Sanctity of the Lord’s Supper
1 Corinthians 11
27: Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
28: But a man (and a woman) must examine himself (and herself), and in so doing he (or she) is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29: For he (or she) who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself (or herself) if he (or she) does not judge the body rightly.
Although we celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a joyous event, it’s also true this is a solemn occasion. It’s a solemn event because we are to remind ourselves that Jesus Christ died, His blood was shed, and He rose from the dead for our sins. It could be said the Lord’s Supper is a backwards look at the Lord’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). But it is also a look forward to His coming in the air for His Church at the Rapture; and we wait for this experience with joyous expectation for it is imminent (2 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
It is in light of the special revelation given to our Apostle Paul about the Lord’s Supper that he now dwells at some length on the sacredness of this memorial. But we must be careful not to read into Paul’s words more than he is actually saying, remember the principle, “What do the Scriptures not say.” I mention this here because many sincere Believers hesitate to partake of communion, being wary of the warning in verses 27-29. They sit in their church pew or seat carefully considering their personal unworthiness, thinking to themselves: “If I participate in the communion now, based on my recent behavior, I will be guilty of doing so in an unworthy manner and will face eternal judgment. I need to square things with so-and-so before I proceed…”
If that’s the case, you’re missing it. This isn’t what Paul is saying. This passage doesn’t say anything about eternal damnation. This is an old English word for condemnation, (Krima) and is rendered “judgment” and “condemnation” 21 times in the King James Bible. If you study this passage closely, you’ll see Paul doesn’t mention our unworthiness once, but speaks of partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, which he described for us in verses 20-22.
Remember, the Corinthian saints were too careless concerning their attitude and their behavior during the Lord’s Supper. Paul’s not referring to their acts of gluttony or drunkenness here, which many people suggest. It was their divisive spirit, which became more apparent when they came together as a church because they chose to dine separately and some people were deprived of food and drink intentionally. So little respect did they have, as they combined their so called “Love Feasts” with the Lord’s Supper, that the Paul reprimanded them saying, “this is not the Lord’s Supper.”
In verses 27-29 Paul is saying, if we participate in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner we condemn ourselves as “guilty,” not of personal unworthiness, but of demonstrating a lack of appreciation of our Lord’s precious body, which was sacrificed for us, and for His blood, our Lord’s own life’s blood, which was holy and shed for our sins. An individual’s disrespectful attitude or behavior towards the Lord’s Supper robs this memorial of its sacredness.
Let’s go to verse 30.
30: For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep (or have died prematurely in Christ Jesus).
My opening remarks become applicable here. If you study this letter carefully, you’ll notice Paul places a lot of emphasis on the bread. In chapter 5, Paul spoke of the bread in its development stage as one lump of dough which will be corrupted by the sinner who is not disciplined (5:6-8). In chapter 10, Paul speaks of the bread as “one bread” (10:16-17), so that all who partake of it are “one body.”
The single loaf of bread, which was broken by the Lord at the last supper and divided among His disciples, and which we share in communion as a remembrance as well, represents the physical “Body of Christ.” The bread represents the actual Body of Christ, in which our Lord came to the earth, endured all the temptations and trials we face daily, and yet was without sin, and suffered and died in our place (1 Peter 2:24).
By partaking of the bread at communion, we symbolize that we have, by faith, partaken of the work of Christ on our behalf at the cross, by which we are cleansed from our sin and guilt and justified with His righteousness. This is what Jesus is teaching His disciples in John 6, but no what catches on to what He’s saying until after His death and resurrection (John 6:41-58; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
The single loaf of bread, or one large cracker from which all those little pieces come from that are in the plate that is passed around, and we all partake of at communion, also represents Christ’s spiritual body, the one church. Communion is not a private celebration, but one which is observed by the entire church body, when it gathers to observe the Lord’s Supper (v17-18). By participating in this commemoration, we proclaim the unity of the church, the Body of Christ, and our communion or fellowship with the rest of the saints, who have also partaken of the work of Christ Jesus (10:17).
This is the point Paul is making, when we all share of the “one loaf,” even if it’s a piece of a cracker, as a gathered assembly, we not only symbolize our union with Christ in His atoning work, but our union with His “body,” the church in this dispensation. We demonstrate that we all together make up the Body of Christ, and that we are all equal sharers in the saving work of our Savior; Christ died for all (2 Corinthians 5:15). Paul’s saying, not only to we profess our unity but our equality. Since we are all “one body” and we have equal standing before the Lord, in that body, by virtue of His finished work at Calvary, we all are saved – no one is more saved or less saved than anyone else in His body.
This is key; it’s is why Paul finds it so important for the Corinthians to wait for one another when they come together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It is so they can all eat (share) the meal together, as “one body” and so that each one who eats can receive an equal share at the Lord’s Table. We know this is what he means to say because of what he said in verse 33: So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat (the Lord’s Supper you are to), wait for one another.
Here is why failing to wait for one another is such a serious sin in the eyes of God. The symbolism of the Lord’s Supper is not limited just to the bread and the wine, but it extends to the entire meal (Love Feast) as well. Some wealthy Corinthians were arriving earlier than others. This is easily done when you own the business and are free to come and go as you please. When they arrived, they refused to wait for the poorer brethren. They ate the food they had prepared and brought with them in haste so they could enjoy it without sharing it with the poorer members or the less fortunate members of the church. Those that “had” plenty received more than they needed, and the “have-nots” did not get enough. This was blatant inequality at the Lord’s Supper.
Contrastingly, Christ’s finished work at Calvary, commemorated in the Lord’s Supper, made all Believers equal in Him.
- How could one commemorate Christ’s equalizing work of atonement by eating the meal in a way that exhibited inequality?
- How could those who proclaimed their unity with their fellow Believers ignore the physical needs of those who came with little or no food?
- How could a church which was “one body” begin to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with only a partial “body” present?
In effect, what the Corinthians were doing at the Lord’s Supper denied the very things the occasion was intended to symbolize. It’s no wonder Paul could not praise them.
Paul had exposed a serious problem in the Corinthians’ observance of the Lord’s Supper and links this problem to the sickness and death many in the church were experiencing saying: For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep (or have died prematurely in Christ Jesus).
The context implies some of the Corinthians were experiencing bouts of weakness, sickness, and sleep due to the disrupted unity of the church caused by factious groups’ arrogance and pride; they are manifestations of God’s divine discipline because of the improper manner in which they viewed and celebrated the Lord’s Supper.
It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, in those days, for God to express His extreme displeasure by punishing people with calamity, sickness and even death because of their sin. When Ananias and Saphira lied to Peter about the proceeds from the sale of their property, they also lied to God. Because of their wicked behavior God caused them to die on the spot. They were saved individuals so they weren’t cast into the pit of hell to be sure. Because they were Believers, the Lord took them right then to be with Himself; He could not allow such wicked behavior to plant seeds of corruption in the “Jewish Kingdom church” (Daniel 2:44; Zechariah 14:9). But their deaths or the life-lesson wasn’t lost on those left behind for Scripture reveals great fear came over the whole church; people took notice: “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things” - Acts 5:1-11. (See also Acts 13:11, and 1Timothy 1:20)
Let’s go to verses 31-32:
31: But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.
32: But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
Paul states quite clearly that they were chastised, i.e. disciplined by the Lord for their irresponsibility, which they unashamedly displayed at the Lord’s Supper towards God and their fellow saints (why) so that we (Paul includes himself and every Believer here for no one is above reproach – 10:12) will not be condemned along with the (unbelieving) world.
This brings a Bible passage to mind. Please turn to the book of Hebrews at 12:6 - FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON (and daughter) WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
There are other Bible passages that parallel this subject. Please turn to Proverbs 3:12.
For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
Then at Proverbs 13:24 King Solomon writes: He who withholds the rod hates his son (or daughter), But he who loves him (or her) disciplines him (or her) diligently.
Let’s go to verses 33-34.
33: So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
34: If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.
In closing, Paul wants these Believers to know neither the Lord’s Supper nor the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is a “common” thing, so they are not to treat either as some common festival where a person comes to satisfy his or her worldly “appetites.” It is a memorial. If any man (or woman) is hungry, let him eat at home was written to correct their views of the “Love Feast.” Simply said, Paul wants them to remember Jesus Christ died for all of them and not just for some of them and they are all equal sharers of the blessings of the cross.
Paul’s statement, The remaining matters I will arrange when I come, probably refers to other church concerns outlined in the “lost” letter, and it’s evident Paul purposed to go to Corinth at some later date to help them with their spiritual walk (1:15-16).
(To be continued)
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