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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 we’re glad that you took the time to be here with us today.
Before we begin this week’s Bible lesson I’d like to remind the group that with each passing hour the Church is drawing nearer to the next major event on its calendar and that would be the Rapture. Now, no one but God the Father knows when the Lord Jesus Christ is coming in the clouds for the Body of Christ, but God has prophesied that certain events would take place on this planet prior to His coming.
Jan Markell from “Olive Tree Ministries” and “Understanding the Times Radio” said God’s timepiece is the nation of Israel; therefore, we must keep our eyes on her. The minute hand is on Jerusalem and the second hand is the Temple Mount. Can you name a day when Israel or the Mideast isn't in the news?
She publishes a list each year called “Top Bible Prophecy Stories,” which appears below. All of these events occurred in 2016 and they set the stage for the outpouring of God’s wrath during the Tribulation event:
1) Zechariah 12:3 became a reality on December 23. This was the day the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to come against Israel. The USA abstained which is essentially voting in agreement with the other members of the council. Israel symbolically became the world’s burdensome stone. Israel is to return to her 1967 borders. The holy city of Jerusalem becomes occupied territory and Israel is further isolated and alienated as predicted.
2) The Great Falling Away Continues Unabated in 2016. Many evangelical churches became nothing more than advocates for open borders and multiculturalism. The social gospel made giant inroads and salvation issues took a backseat. Emergent/Postmodernism grew even more popular. Other churches fell into lukewarmness. Very few churches deal with the coming day of the Lord or the Lord’s return. The focus of many churches today is money.
3) The Longing for a “Man with a Plan” was never so prominent. Even CNN’s Home Page begged for a man who could restore order. It asks in smaller print, “Is there a leader who can stop the chaos and heal America?”
4) Israel’s Re-Convened Sanhedrin took the Momentous Step of Nominating a High Priest for the Temple. For the first time since its destruction since 70 AD, the Tribulation Temple is in the works, even though the U.N. just declared the area of the Temple Mount off-limits to the Jews!
5) Israel Struck Damascus in early December. Israel targeted some weapons there; this is a precursor to what is predicted in Isaiah 17:1: “Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city And will become a fallen ruin.
6) God Continues to Intervene for His Sovereign nation of Israel. In November, God sent a pillar of a cloud of dust and rain to push back ISIS on Israel’s border (Psalm 121). The cloud of dust and rain stayed right at the border. It did not move or cross into Israel.
7) The War on Cash Intensifies. A few Nations are banning cash and this will eventually lead to the “the Mark of the Beast” accounting system. Technology was introduced that enables the total payment of goods and services using only an embedded chip.
8) The Gog-Magog Players are Gearing up. Russia is the new power player in the Mideast thanks to America’s absence. So is Iran. Turkey is in utter Chaos and is looking to Russia for support. These are the three primary players in Ezekiel 38-39, although other nations are involved.
9) Europe is in Meltdown Setting the Unstable Stage for the Arrival of the Antichrist from out of the old Roman Empire. Europe’s godless culture welcomes all things dark and occultic. Their refugee policy has thrown the continent into chaos. It will welcome a “Mr. Fix-it” to calm the storm. On June 1 they had a literal Satanic ceremony as they dedicated the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland. European leaders cheered this.
10) The Season of Mocking the Lord’s Return Intensified. The Christian publication “Christian Today” scorned the Lord’s return and said a “zombie apocalypse” was more likely.
We closed last week’s lesson with Paul commanding the Corinthian church to forgive and comfort the remorseful man who was introduced to us in 1 Corinthians, chapter 5. This apostolic discipline became necessary when these Believers would not restore him to the Body of Christ, a.k.a the family of Believers. Then in verse 8 Paul urged them to reaffirm your love for him. Since this individual responded to the correction, i.e. he had been convicted of his sin; he made the proper lifestyle changes, now it was time for the healing process to begin.
Paul’s phrase, “To reaffirm” actually refers to reinstatement or lawful action by an official vote of the church, motivated by agape love, which means seeking another persons' highest good. This fulfills the law of Christ (Romans 13:8; Galatians 3:15, 6:2).
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians, chapter 2, and we’ll read through verses 9-11.
For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes (9-11).
For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test - Paul longed to hear word from Titus as to how things were going in Corinth. To apply the proper church discipline to the immoral Believer in their midst was an important responsibility, but now that that the Holy Spirit had convicted him of his sin and he was remorseful, Paul wondered, did they forgive him? This part of the discipline process was just as important and no less a responsibility of theirs. In addition to this they had accepted Paul’s rebuke of their own permissiveness in this matter– his case against them was impossible to contradict. But had their attitude toward him changed, since God had called him and appointed him to be an apostle? If these Believers achieved these goals they would have been obedient in all things indeed (V9).
But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also (v10a). Here Paul is saying if you forgive this individual, then I forgive him also. You have to understand what’s driving this action or the thing that motivates God’s church to forgive and restore the sinner not just once but every time they fall into one of Satan’s traps. The church (or the Body of Christ) doesn’t comply with Paul’s command just because they’ve been told to, if that’s the reason you’re doing it – you missed it. The inspiration driving this act is agape love. Paul wrote about this type of love in 1 Corinthians 13. The best example in Scripture of it is when Jesus Christ willingly died for all on the Cross, while they were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).
Paul goes on to say he did this for their sakes in the presence of Christ, i.e. he is representing Jesus Christ. This is Paul’s way of asserting the restoration of the grieving sinner will strengthen the church, from a spiritual perspective, because the opposite action “weakens” both the Believer and God’s church. Here’s why, every Believer must be “alert” at all times so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan. Paul’s saying the devil seeks to take advantage of our mistakes, as a church and as individuals because Satan is our adversary.
According to a George Barna Poll, dated August 13, 2015, 60% of all American Christians do NOT believe the devil is real, so it’s no wonder evil is running rampant in the USA. I shudder to think of the advantages he’s gained in their lives due to their willful ignorance of his existence, but ask yourself, “How can you engage and defeat an enemy that most people don’t even acknowledge exists?”
Think this through – Jesus’ ministry here on earth began with a battle against Satan that lasted forty days (Matthew 4:1-11). As His ministry was drawing near an end, Satan was there in Garden of Gethsemane; the stress was so great on God’s Son that He sweat drops of blood onto the ground (Luke 22:44). One thing we learn from these accounts is this, the battle with Satan doesn’t get easier the closer we draw near to God the Father, if anything is truer; the battle “heats up.” Ask any Pastor, priest, or minister if they believe in spiritual warfare; if they believe that those who lead in the cause for Christ come under Satan’s spiritual attacks. I don’t know of one who answers, no.
When our Apostle Paul went to Ephesus to preach the gospel, he faced immediate opposition. He was run out of the synagogue there by unbelieving Jewish leaders (Acts 19:8-9), mimicked by apostate Jewish exorcists (13-16), and threatened by silversmiths, whose idol-making business was suffering financial loss because of Paul’s ministry (23-40). Paul knew where the greatest spiritual challenge lied was also likely to be the greatest danger and opposition to God’s work here on earth. Wherever God’s work is being done, Satan will be there to oppose it. This is why Paul instructs these Believers to be alert because Satan is looking for any weakness in their spiritual armour (Ephesians 6:11-17).
If you’re a true Believer, Scripture says Satan is your enemy. He is always “on the prowl, seeking someone to devour” and he has his own set of goals which are contrary to God’s and to your spiritual goals (1 Peter 5:8). If he cannot defeat us by inducing us to condone evil (see 1 Corinthians 5), he will do so by instilling a self-righteousness within us that looks down on an apologetic brother or sister, in the Lord, refusing to forgive them and restore them to their rightful position in the Body of Christ.
Take advantage is the Greek word Pleonekteo (pronounced: pleh-on-cek-teh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #4122, and it means – I take advantage of; to defraud. This term is used in four other places in the N.T. (2 Corinthians 7:2, 12:17-18, and 1 Thessalonians 4:6). It conveys the idea of cheating someone out of something that belongs to them. Our English term Identity Theft conveys the same meaning. When a Believer is ignorant of Satan’s schemes, the devil is able to take things away from them that are rightfully theirs in Christ Jesus, things such as a sense of forgiveness, fellowship, joy, peace, and our victory in Christ Jesus itself (people actually doubt their salvation).
For we are not ignorant of his schemes (v11) – The Corinthians failure to show agape love to the remorseful man could be used as a strategy of Satan. Paul was certainly aware of this but the Believers in Corinth were clueless to Satan’s schemes and this was the problem. Permit me to explain.
Satan’s scheme against the sinning man was first focused on lust (incest to be precise), then the devil used the emotions of hopelessness and despair against him. Remember, Paul said he was overwhelmed with excessive sorrow; these feelings were piled on, as it were, when his church family opted not to forgive him and welcome him back into their midst.
Satan’s scheme against the church was first their toleration of evil, i.e. winking at sin in their midst; then in using unnecessary, severe punishment.
Satan’s scheme against our Apostle Paul was to stress him out to a point where he became so upset he wasn’t able to think straight. He lost his peace and his ministry suffered for it.
It’s no wonder Paul could say, “…for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”
Let’s go to verses 12-13.
Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother, I went on to Macedonia.
Now when I came to Troas – this comment actually follows Paul’s itinerary of 1 Corinthians 16:5 (Acts 16:8-11). Paul was under attack by some of the Corinthians Believers because of his inconsistent travel plans. Here Paul explains why he was delayed: for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord (12).
Paul sought God’s guidance through prayer in all things. We’ve come across this biblical truth a couple of times before and here it is again. Paul used the metaphor “open door” in two other letters (1 Corinthians 16:9; Colossians 4:3) and you’ll also find it in Acts 14:27. These all speak of the effective power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.
I had no rest for my spirit – the small “s” indicates Paul is referring to his human self (1 Corinthians 16:18) and not the indwelt Holy Spirit. “No rest” indicates Paul was constantly concerned about the Corinthian saints (2 Corinthians 7:5) and his friend and co-worker in Christ Jesus, Titus. Put another way, Paul’s mind found no rest, which means his thoughts were “all over the place.”
Let’s bring this into our day. Have you ever tried to sleep when a child of yours is out of the home way past curfew? If you’ve “been there,” as they say, your thoughts were probably all over the place just like Paul’s? A loving parent usually imagines the worst possible scenario in a situation like this, which is why their mind finds no rest.
Not finding Titus my brother – Paul had sent Timothy to Corinth earlier, but he was not received well by the Believers there, so Paul sent Titus to Corinth with the “severe letter” mentioned in this letter that was misplaced or destroyed (2:3-4). Since Paul did not meet up with him as expected, he became very concerned.
Evidently, Paul made arrangements with Titus, somehow, to meet him in Troas, which was located on the western shore of what is now modern day Turkey. From there they planned to go around the northern area of the Black Sea – it was known as Bithynia at that time, and then they planned to go back into Asia. So, in some way, unbeknownst to us, these two men had communicated with one another and agreed to meet at a specific time in the ancient port city of Troas which was actually the ancient city of Troy. But Paul didn’t find Titus there as planned, so Paul left there for Macedonia.
I went on to Macedonia (13b) – Why Paul chose the city of Troas to reunite with Titus the Bible does not say. We do know this city was on the regular route from Ephesus to Macedonia. It’s possible he chose to wait there for word from Titus about Corinth. But while waiting he wasn’t going to sit idle; he intended to preach the gospel while he waited.
Paul fretted over Titus’ absence while preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in Troas, but Paul didn’t decide to get up and leave Troas, a promising “harvest field,” on his own. God directed his steps “…and when a door was opened for me in the Lord (12b).”
We can get a better picture of what’s going on here by turning to the book of Acts16:6-10: They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Macedonia was located in Northern Greece, and according to Paul’s vision this is where the Spirit of Jesus Christ was directing him to preach the gospel. They immediately made plans to leave.
Let’s turn back to 2 Corinthians 2:13 and rejoin Paul. He can’t find his brother, in Christ Jesus Titus, and Timothy isn’t with him either. Paul’s mind is all over the place with
his concern for Titus and the Corinthian saints, but while sleeping, perhaps this was the first good night’s rest the man’s had in quite some time – he has the Macedonian vision. There stood a man pleading with him, “Please come over to Macedonia and help us.” Evidently, there are people in Macedonia begging for some “good news” from Paul! According to the Acts account, he wastes no time in getting there - immediately we sought to go into Macedonia.
Now we’ve arrived at the parenthetical section of this letter that’s known as the “great digression” or the “digression of praise to God for Christ.” Basically, this means Paul doesn’t mention the Macedonia trip again until 2 Corinthians 7:5. However, due to his departure from the subject we obtain many memorable quotes from our Apostle Paul.
Let’s go to verses 14-15.
2 Corinthians 2
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.
Let’s start with this: But thanks be to God - Hold it right there. Didn’t we just learn Paul was under a great deal of pressure because Titus was late in coming to Troas bringing word from Corinth with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” concerning their response to Paul’s letter? In addition, we know Satan was relentlessly attacking him from all sides. Yet, despite these trials and others Paul gives thanks and praise to God.
Some people in the church attach “superstar” status to men like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, etc. In other words, these men who spent time with the Lord, dined with Him, and were taught by Him. They consider these people to be extra-ordinary men. So they’ve mentally placed them on a “pedestal” and hold them there when reading about them. Others take that a step further when they try to follow them as examples in their life.
My response to that is, “Not so much.” These men were just as human as you or I. We were born with a sin-nature and guess what; they entered this world with one too. Furthermore, our Apostle Paul felt depressed at times; he expressed sadness as well, but he also expressed immense joy. Life for Paul was a roller-coaster ride, as is ours at times – it’s filled with emotional ups-and-downs. But thanks be to God no matter the situation for Christ has won the victory over sin and death at the Cross and if you’re a Believer we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved.
Who always leads us in triumph in Christ - Paul liked to make up word-pictures taken from everyday life so that people could understand his message. Here he refers to a Roman military practice called the triumphal march. This parade through the streets of Rome was in honor of victorious legion commanders returning from battle (v14).
And manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place –In front of this triumphal march is the priest burning incense. The odor of burning incense was meant to signify victory not only to the general but to his officers, his soldiers, and to the citizens of Rome who had gathered along the parade route. But here’s the thing, to the captives, i.e. the prisoners of war bound in chains at the end of this lengthy procession it signified their death, probably in a public arena, to show the Roman populace what happens to those who dare to resist the mighty power of Rome.
Putting this all together, how appropriate then, in verse 14, are the words of Paul: “But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (v14-15).
When we talk to others about our faith, when we share the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) with another person, whether that individual is saved or perishing, it is like a sweet aroma (incense) to God, meaning He is well-pleased. The results of our efforts to reach others for Jesus Christ are of no affect. The fact is we are always victorious if we proclaim Jesus Christ faithfully, in truth.
Let’s move on to verses 16-17.
2 Corinthians 2
And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling (adulterating or watering down for financial gain or worldly acclaim) the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
Some folks presume Paul is asking, “Who is sufficient to comprehend these things?” But that’s not what Paul is asking. Instead, he asks, “Who is equal to such responsibilities?”Consider the thought behind such a question. What manner of minister, preacher, or priest should he be who preaches a gospel that may determine the eternal destiny of those who hear it; that may very well prove to be fatal to those who come into contact with it, should he be found preaching another gospel such as the social gospel (Romans 2:16; Galatians 1:6-9).
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
The preaching of the word of God also divides humanity eternally. When we get into 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, we’re going to discover that God equips His children for the awesome witnessing responsibility. Therefore, each Believer’s life is a sweet aroma to God that others react to, either in trust toward Jesus Christ or outright rejection of Christ. It’s just important how we live our lives as it is in what we say; people are watching (2 Corinthians 2:16, 3:2-3). As I’ve often pointed out, we’re not in the salvation business; that is the work of the Holy Spirit. However, we must be faithful to speak the gospel, to share our faith with others, this is our spiritual responsibility (John 6:44, 65). You don’t have to be an eloquent spokesman or the most knowledgeable speaker to get the job done. Be honest, be yourself, but as Paul’s about to say, be true to the Word:
17: For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
For we are not like many - Paul is referring to the traveling teachers in the Greco-Roman world, the trained, and well paid, philosophers who traveled from place to place teaching as well as the false teachers who traveled from Palestine like those in Galatians 1:6-9 who attacked Paul, his gospel, and his apostolic authority.
Peddling the word of God – this term comes right from the wine industry of that day; it could be used in two ways:
To water down wine so as to make more money, i.e. adulterate
To hawk one’s product to make a profit, i.e. a huckster
Our Apostle Paul did not alter God’s Gospel for different audiences, i.e. Greeks one day and the Jews the next. But he did customize his approach (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
But as from sincerity – this is the opposite of peddling. It conveys the idea of Paul preaching the one true gospel with nothing but pure motives, in other words he has no hidden agenda. Paul hammers this thought home with the following parallel statement
“but as from sincerity” and “but as from God” affirming that his gospel message is God’s message and the message is Christ Jesus conquered sin and death at the Cross (1 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12, 2:17; Philippians 1:10, 2 Peter 3:1). We speak in Christ in the sight of God – Paul repeats this phrase in 2 Corinthians 12:19, asserting the trustworthiness and truthfulness of God’s Gospel.
(To be continued)
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