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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, one and all, to HBS.
Before we begin I have one announcement for the group. This is the last Bible lesson of 2018. Since HBS’s inception in 2008, it has become customary to “stand down” (a military term) from publishing new Bible lessons during the Christmas holiday season. Please note I did not say take a vacation from studying your Bible. May it never be! I am saying, as you celebrate the holiday with your family and friends, remember to celebrate God by sharing the gift of His Son to the world (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
We’ll pick up the Bible lesson from where we leave off today on the first Friday in January 2019, as per normal. In the meantime,
“Be safe, be found studying the Word, and have a very Merry Christmas!
I begin this Bible lesson with a prayer for y’all. I pray, “As ye (insert your name here if you’re a true Believer) have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him. Rooted and built up in him, and stablished (established) in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with (what) thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7 - KJV).
After Paul’s salutation, i.e. his initial greeting, he usually dedicates the next section of his letter(s) to prayer and thanksgiving. In Philippians 1:3-8 he’s thanking the Lord for the Philippians and the joy they have brought him. If you’ll recall, in verse 1:6 Paul expressed confidence that God who had begun a good work in them would perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. In 1:9-11 Paul petitions the Lord praying specifically for the continual spiritual development of the saints in Philippi.
Here we discern the desire of Paul’s heart and his concern was for all the churches. Here, and in his other writings, we see Paul's persistent passion for the well being of the Believers in Christ Jesus and their spiritual growth: Apart from these external trials, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (1 Corinthians 11:28 – BSB).
I made it a point last week to mention Paul was the epitome of what he believed. He not only believed in a consistent prayer life he set the example (modeled) that prayer life for all the churches. Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:9-10 and we’ll examine his petition (prayer) for the Philippian saints:
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till (until when) the day of Christ; (1:9-10 - KJV).
At this point we observe Paul’s concern for the spiritual growth of the Body of Christ. In other words, Paul’s saying, “Don’t just talk the talk; you ought to walk the walk.”
While we’re on the subject, let’s look at a couple more of his prayers for Believers:
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe (Ephesians 1:15-19 - KJV).
Paul’s saying, "I pray you will continue to mature in the faith."
Please turn to Ephesians 3:14-19.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness (fullness) of God (KJV).
Here Paul prays for the Ephesians’ spiritual health.
Let’s look at one more prayer in Colossians 1:9-12:
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet (worthy) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
Paul was as enthusiastic about the true Believer’s spiritual maturity as a new parent is for their child. Since the Corinthian church was lagging in this area, Paul wrote: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15).
Now Paul was not their natural father, however he became their spiritual father by leading them to the Lord Jesus Christ (that’s what begotten means here) and because of this he was responsible for their spiritual maturity.
I’m not aware of any parent that desires their children to remain as they are. They want the best for them in all things. Don’t they wait eagerly for those first understandable, spoken words, their child’s first steps, and the day they feed themselves, i.e. the food actually goes into their mouth and not their hair or onto the floor? Sure they do. Paul wants the Philippians to mature in the faith because it’s part and parcel of God’s plan and purpose for them. If we look at these prayers as a whole, we notice Paul prays these Believers may abound in: wisdom, knowledge, power, endurance, longsuffering, joy, gratitude and love. I’m not seeing a single prayer for their “daily bread,” i.e. material or physical needs, although there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead his focus is primarily on their spiritual needs.
Who doesn’t have material and physical needs? These Believers weren’t any different than the grace Believers today. People need clothing, food, shelter, wellness, etc. In Philippians 2:19-30, Paul prays specifically for Epaphroditus who was suffering from an illness. So, once again, I want to highlight the fact there’s absolutely nothing wrong with petitioning God for those things you need. But the thing I don’t want you to overlook is Paul prayers targeted their spiritual maturity in regard to their daily walk (or fellowship) with the Lord Jesus Christ, the gospel of grace, and one another.
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment (discernment) - Philippians 1:9. The term I pray is translated from the Koine Greek word Proseuchomai (pros-yoo’-khom-ahee), Verb, Strong’s Greek #4336, meaning: to pray, pray for, offer prayer. The term pray is in the present tense, which tells us it’s an ongoing, repetitious spiritual activity. Paul continually prayed for the Philippians and all the Believers in Christ Jesus.
He specifically petitioned the Lord asking that their love may abound more and more. How so? In knowledge and in all discernment (judgment). Paul’s concern is that their love may abound more and more for the Lord Jesus Christ and one another in (true) knowledge and discernment.
It’s been said, “One’s love cannot be horizontal if it is not first vertical.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement. The Lord taught us how to love God and our neighbor. So, there’s a noticeable progression here. First and foremost it’s vital these Believers (and us) have a full knowledge of God’s plan, purpose, and will for each of them in the Dispensation of Grace. I call your attention to the Bible passages that follow:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God (vertical love), to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, (a lot of people read right over this but carefully note this is God’s will for you and me) which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (Ephesians 3:20)
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
I have taught (explained; Acts 8:30-31) the Scriptures to children who were in the first thru fifth grade, to teenagers, and adults of all ages for more than 22 years. In that time period I’ve encountered many people who openly declared they didn’t know what God expected from them. Others asked with sincerity, “How am I supposed to know God’s will for me?” They even said they had prayed about this concern often, but have not received an answer.
My response was in each case “I’m not surprised to hear this.” With the multiple messages coming from the various church denominations confusion and uncertainty is a natural reaction. But, if you want to get a handle on God’s will the very first thing you must do is understand God’s plan and purpose in the Dispensation of Grace, then you can adequately determine God’s will for you.
In other words, you must have an understanding of God’s will dispensationally before y’all can walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1-3). Let’s also remember God’s command to study His Word “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15). Rightly divide is a carpentry term and this should not surprise anyone because Jesus was a carpenter. It literally means to make an accurate “straight cut.” I worked with surgeons at the Tampa VAMC who practiced this same principle, especially the Orthopaedic surgeons. They measured twice but “cut” only once. How does this apply to our Bible study? I’m glad you asked. In brief, although this entire book has been written for our “learning,” not all of it is written to us (the Body of Christ), or the church specifically. Be mindful of what Paul wrote: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4 – KJV).
A member of my church wrote down the following information on the white board, “Each time you open this book five things observe with care of whom, to whom, and why, when, and where” it is written. Follow the principle of “rightly dividing the Scriptures” and you’ll be on solid ground. Confusion and those so-called contradictions disappear. The other thing necessary to understand is this can only be accomplished as you recognize and acknowledge Paul’s apostolic authority and his communications to you- ward (Ephesians 3:1-12). Then, as you participate in the ministry of reconciliation, following Paul’s example, may everything you say and do point to the Lord Jesus Christ and glorify God.
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1 - NASB).
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation ( 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 - KJV).
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead (to sin), and your life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-2 - KJV).
Let’s go to Philippians 1:11:
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God (KJV).
Opinions vary as to the meaning of this statement. Some believe he’s referring to the fruit of Jesus Christ’s righteousness which is imputed to every true Believer through faith (alone):
For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Romans 4:3 – NASB).
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also (Romans 4:11)
And be found in him, not having amine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Philippians 3:9)
Others believe this remark from Paul has to do with the fruits in relation to what the Believer in Christ Jesus ought to be, since he or she is now “right with God.” I think you can go either way with this without doing any harm to the passage. But what do we know? Living a righteous life, according to God’s will, is an outward expression of the imputed righteousness we have in Jesus Christ. In other words, true Believers’ don’t seek to be “PC,” that is, politically correct, in trying to please everyone despite truth. They want what God wants. When we keep God and His Word as the “main things” in our lives, this not only pleases God it glorifies Him! Glorifying God in all things was Paul’s goal in life and we all need to follow his example, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
(To be continued January 4, 2019)
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