Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
Home Bible Study©
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 (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
We’re glad you decided to stop by, whether that was merely to “check us out” to see what we’re about or perhaps you intended to “hang with us” for the long run, because you’ve been meaning to study your Bible for some time and today’s a good day to kick off that program. Welcome to HBS – whatever the reason…
Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”
The New Testament reveals there were only two gospels being preached. Undoubtedably, these two invitations from the Sovereign God to lost humanity to be saved are to be found in the early chapters of the book of Acts. Here we find the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God overlapping for a time. What we have then is the Dispensation of the Law coming to a close and the revelation of the mystery of God’s Grace, as revealed to our Apostle Paul, commencing, i.e. the Dispensation of Grace. Paul’s first missionary journey actually commenced about 45 AD; and that would be 12 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.
The twelve all preached the gospel of the kingdom which had begun with John the Baptist. That gospel focused upon the identity of Christ, i.e. believing who He was, i.e. the Messiah, or the Son of God. The Old Testament is all about the kingdom and the coming Messiah, consequently the Jews looked for the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth with their Messiah ruling as King (Matthew 6:10, 6:33).
Our Apostle Paul received his gospel directly from the risen, glorified Lord (Galatians 1:11-12). It focused upon His work, i.e. that He died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead. As I said just a minute ago, the faith part of the gospel of the kingdom was believing that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16:16; John 11:27; Acts 8:37). But in addition, that gospel also required repentance, keeping the Law, and water baptism for salvation (Mark 1:4, 16:16; Luke 10:25-28; Acts 2:38, 15:1-5).
With Paul’s gospel God requires but one thing from the sinner: trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Romans 2:16, 16:25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). When Peter preached the Lord’s death, he did not preach it as good news but as a Jewish crime. He demanded the entire Jewish nation repent of it (Acts 2:36-38, 3:13-15). For Peter, the significance of the Lord’s resurrection was, if the Jewish nation would believe, repent of killing their Messiah, and be baptized, the Lord could return at any time and establish His kingdom on earth (Acts 3:19-20, 25-26).
But here’s the thing, the last 7 years of Daniel’s 490 year prophecy had to be fulfilled before the kingdom on earth could be established. Peter understood this truth, which is why he quotes the prophet Joel to the men of Israel (v2:14) in Acts 2:17:21: And it shall come to pass afterward, That I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids In those day will I pour out my spirit (this portion of the prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out or received by the Believers in Jerusalem. The latter half of this prophecy is unfulfilled. The Day of the Lord speaks of God’s wrath or Daniel’s 70th week, i.e. the Tribulation) And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, Blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, Before the great and terrible day of the LORD come (Joel 28-31- KJV). The nation of Israel has to endure the terrible day of the LORD before the King and His kingdom can be established here on earth.
When you rightly divide Scripture, it becomes obvious that the gospel the Lord gave Paul to preach proclaims His death, burial, and resurrection as “good news” for the sinner (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul’s invitation is a gospel of grace and faith alone (Romans 1:16-17, 3:22, 26, 28, 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). The twelve had no idea Jesus was going up to Jerusalem where He would be betrayed by one of His own, falsely tried and convicted by the Jews, and then handed over to the Romans to be killed in order to pay God’s penalty for mankind’s sin thereby reconciling the world to Himself (Psalm 2:1-4; Luke 18: 31-34; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21). This truth remained hidden (a secret) until the risen Lord revealed it to Paul, as a mystery. The twelve eventually learned it from Paul (Acts 15; 2 Peter 3:15-16).
After the Feast of Pentecost, and in anticipation of the Lord’s return to earth, the Jewish saints sold all their possessions: And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need… And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-45, 47b).
Now, in the good old US of A one of our traditions is to collect and hold onto things. Attics and garages are filled with stuff; so much so, many people park their cars on the parking pads outside of their garage or on the street near their home because there is no room for them inside the garage, which is where the car(s) were meant to be parked. If we’re being honest, they’ll probably never part with any of these items– no matter what. There’s probably a prom dress packed away in a box somewhere in there as well as an old worn out catcher’s mitt… So, the idea that these Jews not only sold all their possessions but their property (meaning homes, land, etc.) and gave the proceeds to the apostles to add to the petty cash fund to help anyone who might have a need is mind boggling to most Americans - wouldn’t you say? People today ask, “Why would they do such a thing?” The reason can be found in Jesus’ teachings: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:32-34).
So, you see, the actions of these Jewish saints were consistent with the words of the Lord. Their zeal was aligned with God’s will; these folks were dutifully following the kingdom program. But as you know, if you were here a few weeks ago, the all things common program soon gave way to the dispensation of the mystery of God’s Grace. The stoning of Stephen (Acts 7) was the turning point in Scripture for the nation of Israel. With this act they had rejected all three members of the Holy Trinity.
Rejection of God – 1 Samuel 1 Samuel 8:1-9
Rejection of God’s Son – Matthew 27:11-26
Rejection of the Holy Spirit – Acts 7
God put the “kingdom” program on hold, if you’ll permit (Romans 11) after Stephen’s death. Believers who had disposed of their goods to enter the kingdom began to lack. The “Petty Cash Fund” was soon exhausted. The world-wide famine which occurred during Claudius’ reign probably, hastened the failure of the all things common arrangement. Scripture reveals Paul and Barnabas carried the monetary “gift” to the saints in Jerusalem. This was the purpose for the one time collection (Acts 11:27-30; Romans 15:25-26).
It can be said that some people utilized zeal without knowledge in Scripture just as some people are today. Saul of Tarsus (later known as the Apostle Paul) and the Apostle Peter were two of these men: For ye have heard of my conversation 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 traditions of my fathers (Galatians 1:13-14).
He (Jesus Christ) was transfigured before them... Then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three tabernacles--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, "This is My Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him" (Matthew 17:2-5).
When Jesus' followers saw what was about to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And He touched the man's ear and healed him (Luke 22:49-51).
Zeal without Knowledge
Romans 10:2 - For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
When religious zeal is on target, it can be extremely effective for the kingdom of God. For example, the early Christians were zealous Christians. They were more than committed to the cause of Christ they were zealously committed to the Lord and His kingdom. All of the apostles preached the word, as it was revealed to them, and they sacrificed their lives for doing this, except for John; he basically spent his remaining years in prison. Nothing came between them and the gospel; not even death. As a consequence, the church witnessed unparalleled growth in the first few centuries after Christ because their zeal, once again, was on target.
When religious zeal is off target, however, it can have the opposite effect. Zeal without knowledge can be extremely destructive in its effects on the cause of Christ and the single mission of God’s Church. Let’s use the Judaizers as our example from Scripture. They came in behind our Apostle Paul trying their best to undermine the gospel of God’s Grace by preaching a gospel of “works.” They had religious zeal, but it was "zeal without knowledge" (Romans 10:2). Following the example of the Pharisees who had zealously sent their Messiah to the cross in the name of religion, or tradition, these Jews attempted to distort and even destroy the simple faith in Christ of many early Believers in this church.
But non-Christian religious people are not the only ones who are guilty of zeal without knowledge. Even well-meaning Believers can wreak havoc in the Church because of misguided zeal. Many times the gospel that saves in this dispensation has been hindered and the cause of Christ has been impaired by Christians whose zeal is "without knowledge." Religious zeal can be misguided in the area of doctrine (how we think), and in the area of means (what we do). Let's consider two incidents in the life of Peter which God has included in His Word to illustrate these two forms of misguided zeal.
Peter's response to his experience at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-13) is an illustration of misguided zeal in the area of doctrine. "…if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” I’m certain Peter thought this was an appropriate gesture of unwavering faith, but he was off target. His motive was commendable, but his theology was way off-target. In his attempt to demonstrate his religious zeal, he actually demoted Christ, the Son of God, to the level of mere men. God the Father had to remove Moses and Elijah from Peter's vision and speak audibly from the cloud in order to get Peter’s thinking on the right track. "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!" Although the idea of building three shrines to commemorate this event certainly involved commitment and zeal, it was misguided zeal.
Misguided religious zeal in the area of doctrine is certainly seen in Christendom today. It can be evidenced in literal shrine-building, when distorted thinking elevates material buildings and lands to an unhealthy importance, and the cause of Christ receives a secondary place. But it can also be evidenced in ways other than literal shrine-building. Anytime a "social gospel" is preached and practiced, misguided doctrinal zeal is involved. The value of the saving work of Christ, which is of the utmost importance, is demoted to a status below the material needs of mankind. While Christians have a definite responsibility to help people in need, our focus must always be on their primary need - their need for salvation from sin. One must never be ashamed of the gospel that saves today (1 Corinthians 15:4).
Obtaining Health and Wealth
Another example of misguided zeal in the area of doctrine is the teaching that God is actually a heavenly ATM wanting to make every Christian "healthy and wealthy." Many church leaders today are zealously promoting this false doctrine and leading thousands of Christians astray. This tactic works because Satan is aware of our weakness for money, therefore it’s an area of our lives easily exploited. The "prosperity gospel" actually teaches that the faith of Christians who are not experiencing good health and growing wealth is somewhat suspect, if not missing altogether.
The distortion and sin of this misguided "doctrine" is clearly seen when the "Christian prosperity lifestyle" is contrasted with the lives of those believers who, in this life, have sacrificed all opportunity for personal gain for the work of the Lord (see the Apostle Paul). The commitment to Christ of these dedicated people of faith is definitely more in line with Scripture than the commitment to self of the misguided zealots of the prosperity gospel (Luke 9:23-25; Philippians 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12).
Nowhere in the Bible does it state that God has planned for all Believers to be poor or sick in this life, which means health and wealth are not guaranteed for any Believer regardless of the zealous teachings of the prosperity preachers. God did say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith... My grace is sufficient for you.”
The fact that false doctrine may become popular and promoted by many people in the church (perhaps even the majority) doesn't make false doctrine any less false. Today the church is experiencing the religious zeal of gay activists for the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle within God’s Church. We’re witnessing the religious zeal of feminists for the ordination of women, and the religious zeal of the Emerging Church who favors a one-world religion. These are further examples of doctrinal "zeal without knowledge." Let's be careful that the Church Age Doctrine, as revealed to our Apostle Paul, and to which we “stand” is not distorted by zeal without knowledge (Ephesians 4:11-15).
Cutting off Ears
Peter's defense of the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane is another occasion on which the Apostle Peter illustrated zeal without knowledge. In this case it was misguided zeal in the area of means or method. When Peter cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant, he was zealously committed to defending the Lord. He probably was aiming to cut the servant's head off, but because his emotions were running high in the excitement of the moment he missed and only got an ear. Even so, his intention was to defend his Lord -- even to death. Perhaps Peter wanted to prove that he really meant what he had said a few hours earlier in the Upper Room (John 13:37). In any case, Peter showed a lot of courage here, but it was misguided zeal.
Zealously standing up for the Lord was not the problem. Even the use of physical force was not the issue at hand. The Bible indicates that there is a time and place to use physical force as a means of expressing religious zeal. The Lord asked Gideon, for example, to physically pull down and destroy the idol that his father had set up in their back yard (Judges 6:25). Our Lord Himself used physical force to drive the money-changers from the Temple (John 2:15). On that occasion He quoted Psalm 69:9, "The zeal for Thy House has consumed Me." So the use of physical force per se was not Peter's problem. The problem was the method Peter used.
He struck an agent of the Roman government with his sword without receiving permission from the Lord. As usual, Peter’s emotion got the best of him, but more importantly he was not sensitive to the Lord's mission at this point. The resulting defiant action God would never approve of. This teaches us without direction from the Lord, religious zeal is an accident waiting to happen. Religious zeal out of control (God's control) can disrupt and destroy the work of the Lord for years to come. And it can happen suddenly, as in Peter's case. We note Jesus stepped in, rebuking Peter, and then healed the wounded man before being taken away.
One of the first things my drill instructor taught me upon my arrival at the Naval Training Center (boot camp), was there are three ways of doing things in this life: the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy Way! It didn’t take long for me to learn what he meant. Having grown up in the world, I was accustomed to certain realities, i.e. I had my own way of doing things. My Drill Instructor let me know, in no uncertain terms, from minute one he was “in control.” He would tell me when to get up in the morning, when to eat, what I would wear, what activities would fill my day, and when I would retire at night. It goes without saying, this was quite a change from what I had been accustomed to. I learned quickly to become sensitive to the sound of his voice, even in a crowded, noisy room, because he was the “man in charge” and dutifully following his commands was a “standing order.” To do otherwise brought quick punishment upon oneself and the entire platoon, usually.
Now that I’ve been baptized into this living organism called the Body of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and a “soldier” in Christ’s army, I recognize there is ultimately One Person who is large and in charge, and the Holy Spirit has taught me to be sensitive to His voice. I’m referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, Of course.
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the one church: He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything (Colossian 1:17-18). (See also Ephesians 5:22-25).
What do we learn from this? I’m glad you asked. Church leaders and the Body of Christ (its members) are to surrender ultimate leadership to the Lord Jesus Christ – not only is He in charge He is the Man with the plan! He is the One who leads and determines the teachings and practices of His Church. All those who are in the Body of Christ are to follow Christ first and earthy leaders second (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Fund-raising without Scruples
Zealous means used in fund-raising can certainly hinder the growth of the kingdom of God. Think of the damage that has been done to the cause of Christ by unscrupulous fund-raising schemes -- made in the name of Christ. Christians are certainly not invulnerable to the biblical truth that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).
The desire for unnecessarily large church buildings, elaborate church programs, or lavish salaries have justified the fusion of religious zeal with the never-satisfied sinful nature of man. Fund-raising strategists actually develop never-ending lists of new programs or projects so the funds will never cease to flow from Christian givers. But as they say, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Meaning, seekers of truth and unbelievers have been turned off by this greedy attitude and new Believers are growing increasingly wary of constant pleas for more money.
Every time a religious leader, in their zealous attempt to raise funds “for the Lord’s work” by offering “unbiblical promises “ in exchange for giving, maligns and mocks the name of Jesus Christ. The means by which the church uses to raise funds for the Lord’s work is an area where Satan knows he can get an easy foothold. Satan employs this scheme on humanity because we all are extremely susceptible to greed or the lust for money (Matthew 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23-24).
A biblical example of fund-raising is found in 2 Corinthians 8. Here the Believers were encouraged to share in a project to help the poor Jews in Judea. Paul didn’t ask them to contribute to a building-fund or a church program and this collection had nothing to do with a salary for the apostle Paul.
Paul left Ephesus with this “one-time” gift with the intention of returning to Jerusalem for the purpose of delivering the collection to the Jerusalem church at Pentecost (Romans 15:25-26). Paul had made such a collection once before and that was before his first missionary journey as recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 13. Paul and Barnabas delivered funds to Jerusalem collected by the Antioch church. This visit is the subject of Galatians 2:1-10, where the Apostle James encouraged him to remember the poor in Jerusalem.”
Checking Scripture for like examples, we find when funds were raised for the biblical building project of the Tabernacle, God’s chosen people were actually told to stop giving when the funds for the project were sufficient (Exodus 36:5-7). Has such a letter ever been sent out by a Christian ministry in modern times? I don’t recall ever receiving one myself and my wife told me she hasn’t either. Check your mailbox maybe you received one recently. Let me know. Let's be very careful not to employ "zeal without knowledge" in fund-raising.
(To be continued)
© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved