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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)
Greetings one and all, and welcome to HBS.
If you’re just joining us, chapters 10-13 are about Paul’s defense of his apostolic authority and his gospel (Romans 2:16). Our Apostle Paul was called and sent by God to preach the mystery of God’s grace, regarding the salvation of all, to Gentiles and Jews alike for now there is no difference (Romans 1:1, 10:12; 1Corinthians 15:1-4).
The Corinthian letters are suitable to our situation today for few know the Lord Jesus Christ as He should be known. This is because so many Christian leaders are preaching another Jesus. They present, as a matter of routine, the Jesus of the gospels. The Son of Man who walked on the water, performed countless miracles, fed thousands of hungry people, and taught His disciples parables. But too little is said today about the One who left heaven’s glory to bear the disgrace and penalty for our sins, and now dispenses the riches of His grace to believing sinners, as the Head of His one church (Philippians 2:5-10; Colossians 1:18). Unfortunately, this is where a lot of people turn me and others with a similar message off. Instead of studying the scriptures to see what God has said about these things, they prefer to “go with” the teachings of men, much like the Corinthians. I have a few personal encounters of my own that are now in the bank, so to speak, so I have some experience in this area. I’ve defended Paul’s apostolic authority and his gospel several times because of comments such as, “You make too much of Paul.”
Why Paul, Why Not Jesus?
The debate regarding Jesus Christ versus Paul has been going on since the first century, even though they’re on the same team, if you’ll permit the expression, but their ministries came in two different dispensations. I’ve mentioned a time or two that many churches prefer to preach solely from the four gospels or the words of Jesus Christ and there’s nothing wrong with some of that but do that religiously fails to properly teach people who Jesus Christ is today in relation to His Church, i.e. the Body of Christ.
I am not anti-Jesus, folks. I’m only saying our Apostle Paul has been forced into the gospels and the gospels have been forced into Paul for the past 2000 years, and he doesn’t fit in there. Jesus’ death on the Cross changed everything. Paul articulated this change with these words: Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16). This literally screams the truth that the ministries of Jesus Christ and Paul are fundamentally different. Anyone who studies their Bible, rightly divided, understands why God separated the twelve after Paul’s conversion and why Paul’s contact with the twelve was extremely limited. God kept them separated because He’s doing something new and at this point in time Grace and the Law do not mix (Galatians 1:1, 6, 11-12, 15-20, 3:23-25).
Fundamental Differences between the Ministries of Jesus and Paul
Preached the gospel of the kingdom
Defined the “kingdom of heaven” as Israel’s prophetic earthly kingdom
Presented Himself as Messiah and King of the Jews (Israel)
Preached repentance, water baptism, and faith as necessary for salvation
Had Jews only for His audience (3 exceptions in the gospels)
Operated under the Mosaic Law
Preached the gospel of the grace of God
Defined the “kingdom of heaven” as the heavenly position of the Body of Christ
Presented Jesus as the risen Lord, Head of the Church, the Body of Christ
Preached faith alone as necessary for salvation
Had Gentiles as his primary audience
Operated under God’s Grace
To resolve the fundamental differences (a.k.a. misconceptions) between the ministries of Jesus and Paul one must be faithful to the text, recognize the truth, and recognize major differences exist between their two ministries. There are zero contradictions in scripture for God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). We need to realize God has a program for Israel, which he revealed to the prophets, and a new program for His one, Church, the Body of Christ, which He revealed to our Apostle Paul, and God wants them kept separate (Acts 20:24; Ephesians 3:2).
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 10:12.
2 Corinthians 10
12: For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.
I’m picking up a bit of sarcasm from Paul here and that’s not unusual when he’s writing to the Corinthians. If you recall from last week’s lesson, the Jewish intruders were comparing themselves to Paul by their standards, i.e. appearance, rank, eloquence, etc. But Paul has alluded to human commendations in 2 Corinthians 3:1, and he will again in 10:18; now he expands this to human comparisons. He does this because the false teachers were obviously attempting to accentuate theirs while depreciating his.
If the people attempting to undermine Paul’s apostolic authority and the gospel would only stop long enough to study the O.T., i.e. 1 Samuel 16:7 and Proverbs 21:2 specifically, they would realize God’s standard for evaluating people differed from theirs greatly making theirs fruitless.
Paul’s comment: they are without understanding probably shocked his antagonists and I think it was meant to – consider it “shock therapy.” To Greek philosophers it would depreciate their claim to superior spiritual knowledge, knocking them off of their pedestals, so to speak. To the Hebrew legalizers, Paul’s saying the truths of God and the characteristics of Jesus Christ are the proper standards Believers are to observe and respect and not the inflated pride of individuals, seeking their own glory.
Let’s go to verses 13-18.
But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you (Corinthians), for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; not boasting beyond our
measure, that is, in other men’s labors (building on Paul’s foundation) but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. But HE WHO BOASTS IS TO BOAST IN THE LORD. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends (v13-18).
We know these false apostles came to Corinth building on the foundation laid by the apostle Paul. But they were building on it with false information which means they were destroying his apostolic work already accomplished in the Lord. Then they started to demean him because he didn’t have letters of recommendations or credentials from Jerusalem. They overlooked the obvious. When he first came to Corinth he didn’t build on someone else’s work. As per his custom, he went straight to his countrymen in the synagogue preaching the gospel to Jews and Greeks, until he was forced out and then his ministry was entirely to the gentiles (Acts 18:1-11), and as we know by the grace of God he planted the largest gentile church in world at that time.
For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you (Corinthians), for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ (v14).
Paul didn’t have to “overextend” his funds to evangelize Corinth. He didn’t have to build on another man’s foundations. He certainly did not boast of other men’s labors, as though they were his own accomplishments. None of these things applied to Paul; his ministry advanced only as sufficient funds were contributed by God’s faithful people. It was his hope that now with the Corinthian church established, they might truly experience spiritual growth, and we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you (v15).
Meaning, when the Corinthian church finally reached the point where their faith became so strong his presence was no longer needed, and they could assist him with his travel, then he would enter on his wide field of labor for the Lord. Paul had no intention of setting limits on preaching the gospel; he would take it as far as God would allow (Romans 1:8; Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:8).
We know Paul longed to go to Rome and then Spain, but let’s go to the book. Turn to Romans, chapter 15:20-25: And thus I aspire to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; but as it is written, “THEY WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND.” For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain – for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while – but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the (poor) saints.
Paul made it to Rome more than once, whether or not he made it to Spain is anyone’s guess. But we do know his trip to Rome was made possible only through the financial support of Believers who stepped up to the plate. This permitted Paul to practice what he preached: HE WHO BOASTS IS TO BOAST IN THE LORD. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends (v17-18).
(To be continued)
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