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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday AM
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 and welcome to HBS.
Last week we started working our way through the first ten verses of Ephesians 2. I mention again these ten verses contain three segments. Verses 1-3 focus on fallen man and his hopeless condition – he is dead, not ill, not gravely wounded, He is spiritually dead, i.e. unresponsive to the spiritual things of God. Verses 4-6 focus on the Sovereign God’s mercy, love, and grace in making all Believers alive to God. We were dead, but God gave us spiritual life in Christ Jesus as a Sovereign act of His will. Verses 7-10 focus on the purpose of our salvation; it is to the praise and glory of God.
Please open your Bible at Ephesians chapter 2, and we’ll read 2:7-10 together.
…so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Beginning with 2:7a Paul writes: so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus –we Believers benefit from receiving God’s mercy and grace through faith without question. But here our Apostle Paul explains the reasons why God kindly provided lost humanity the opportunity to be reconciled to Him through faith (alone).
1: It is so the riches of His amazing grace would be shown (evidenced) in the conversion of people who were once lost but now found in the ages to come (Psalm 106:48; 1 Timothy 1:16-17). Said differently, every true Believer is authorized by God to state in the ages to come that He who saved these sinners at Ephesus is ready to save all who like them believe the gospel unto salvation. The blessings of God’s grace come to us Believers because we are united with Jesus Christ in His death and His resurrection:
For if we (who have trusted in the gospel of Jesus Christ) have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection… (Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
This truth is also reflected in verses 6-7 where Paul explained Believers were: made alive together with Christ (v5), raised us up with Him (v6), and seated us with Him in the heavenly places (6). The three verbs, “made alive,” “raised up,” and “seated” were all prefixed with the denotation “with,” highlighting how God did to us what He previously did to Christ Jesus. Here Paul emphasizes the divine and secure link between Jesus Christ and true Believers. God cannot reject us without rejecting His own Son. It’s that kind of relationship; we are family.
“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:35-36).
2: Believers praise God because of His mercy and grace in our salvation. True Believers stand in the flow of God’s unending mercy and grace.
What does this mean? Admittedly, I value organization and exactness. But even though I try there are no “sin-less” days in my life. I win some spiritual battles with my flesh but I lose far too many. This annoys me because I’m actually trying to know and respond to the will of God who desires that I be Christlike in everything I do and say (Galatians 2:20; Ephesian 4:22-23; Philippians 2:1-30). I’m not there yet. It’s good to know this book says God doesn’t expect me to be perfect (Matthew 5:48). Perfect in Koine Greek is translated “Teleios” and it means: “something that has come to an end.” It frequently refers to a body that is fully grown, reached its full potential, or matured.
Our Apostle Paul speaks our language, so to speak, as he writes: For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want (Romans 7:15-19).
God knows we’re going to sin and He has made provision for us for that through Jesus Christ’s work of the Cross (1 John 2:1). We are justified through faith (Romans 3:24). God has forgiven all our sin (Colossians 2:13). This brings me to my point; when I reflect on God’s gift of grace and mercy which was given to me, knowing even on my best day I’m going to “fumble the ball” at some point in time, it leaves me speechless.
In view of the fact we were dead, without hope in this world, and all things have been given to Jesus Christ by God the Father, the question arises, “What can we give God,” since all we are and all we have is due to these two words But God?
In response to receiving the priceless gift of salvation, Paul said we are to give praise and glory to God along with thanksgiving and praise.
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name” (Psalm 100:4).
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
This book says all good things come from God (Psalm 127; James 1:17). Therefore we give thanks for everything the Lord has done and provided for us. We are not to count our circumstances; we’re to count our blessings, i.e. all that flows from God’s mercy and grace (Psalm 27:13).
Praise like thanksgiving comes from the heart but it is different; it’s more meaningful than thanking Him. I need to mention this book says all of creation is commanded to give praise to God (Psalm 148:1-10). When we praise God for all He is and what He’s done for us we experience more productive lives and our frustration is neutralized. We actually find more people praising the sunset rather than the Creator of the sun. The difficulties of life often cloud our vision and keep us from praising God. However, Praise chases away gloom and despair (Isaiah 61:3).
Great is the LORD (Jehovah; a.k.a. Jesus Christ in the N.T.), and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:3).
No matter our circumstances Jesus Christ is worthy of our praise 24/7/365. The point being, things are from God, through God, and to God – the glory is all His (Romans 11:33-36).
Verse 8 -9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
As I pointed out above, all things are from God, through God, and to God; to Him go thanksgiving, praise and glory. Salvation is by grace through faith, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Why? God alone receives the glory.
To get a handle on these verses you must understand what Paul meant by the words: saved; grace; faith; gift (as opposed to works); and boast.
1: A lot of people don’t care for the biblical word saved. Explaining they need salvation is an affront to them because according to their reckoning they’ve done nothing wrong. Most people play the comparison game. They consider themselves a better person than so-and-so. But to be saved means the Lord Jesus Christ has rescued us from God’s wrath and judgment.
The main message of the Bible is declared in line one; right at the dawn of human history. After God made all things and said, “It is very good,” everything went bad because the serpent entered God’s perfect garden, consequently, evil entered the world through the man’s sin. In order for everything to be made right again, God designed a plan to rescue humanity and the broken world from sin’s corruptions. The LORD told Satan:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).
These symbolic words, sometimes called the “First Gospel,” are God’s inaugural announcement of the solution He will provide for humanity’s sinful predicament. The only part man has to play in this is believe what God said or exercise their faith. The LORD’s words also establish the theme for the rest of Scripture. From this point forward, the great battle unfolds between the offspring of Satan (his evil forces) and the offspring of the woman (God’s appointed Redeemer), and the outcome of the conflict is certain declared the LORD:
Satan will wound the Redeemer (“bruise his heel”), but the Redeemer will deal Satan a mortal blow (“He shall bruise your head.”)
Simply put, God will graciously provide a divine deliverance from the human dilemma.
A lot of people in and outside the church don’t want to hear about God’s wrath either. But here’s the thing, Paul pointed out in Ephesians 2:1-3 we were all formerly dead in our trespasses and sins. This means we were “by nature children of (God’s) wrath.”
As I said, God’s wrath isn’t a popular topic. You seldom hear anyone speak of it anymore in the churches. Why? It makes the people sitting in the pews uneasy.
But if you reject the wrath of God as truth you might just as well reject the rest of God’s Word. God judges and punishes evil. Scripture reveals God’s wrath is real and this world will experience it. The climax of His righteous wrath will be revealed to all ungodliness in the last 7 years of human history (See the Book of Revelation). But this isn’t the end, God’s wrath culminates in the final, eternal judgment of the Lake of Fire; the second death for every unbeliever (Revelation 2:11).
Far too many people emphasize God’s love in their sermons and ignore or deny the wrath of God. During an interview on “60 Minutes,” Joel Osteen, the pastor of America’s largest church and author of many books, including the best seller, “Your Best Life Now” [Warner Faith] was interviewed by T.V. host Byron Pitts. Mr. Pitts was surprised at the absence of any mention of God or Jesus Christ in the main points of Osteen’s latest book, “To Become a Better You.”
Mr. Osteen’s response to that was, “That’s just my message. There is scripture there that backs it all up. But I feel like, Byron, I’m called to help people… how do we walk out the Christian life? How do we live it? And these principles can help you. I mean, there’s a lot better people qualified to say, ‘Here’s a book that going to explain the scriptures to you.’ I don’t think that’s my gifting.’” The question is: “How can you genuinely help lost people if you don’t point them to the cross of Christ?”
But here’s the thing Mr. Osteen and so many others fail to report. If we were not under God’s wrath, Jesus didn’t need to show up in our world at His first Advent and He definitely did not have to die on the Cross, which means you and I don’t need to be saved!
Mr. Osteen preaches there are “many paths to Jesus,” (see interview by Oprah Winfrey) denying what God has said re: the exclusivity of Christ. He preaches his prosperity gospel message for a couple of reasons: people flock to it and he’s making lots of money (2 Timothy 4:3); he’s helping no one but himself. Paul had to deal with people just like him in the first century church (see Acts 19:13-20). There were a number of exorcists practicing in Ephesus. God’s hand was on Paul’s work and some folks wanted to “cash” in on it. If Paul could accomplish what he did in the name of Jesus Christ, so could they - for a profit (Luke 11:19).
Our Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders about false apostles in Acts 20:29. These men distorted God’s truths in order to draw away disciples to themselves. I continue to warn people today about men who appear to be for God and you, because they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They teach false gospels and deny outright what God has said. The danger is real. Do not be deceived (Galatians 6:7-10).
“There’s nothing new under the sun” wrote King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
2: Salvation by grace (plus nothing else) means we did absolutely nothing to earn or merit our salvation. Simply defined, grace is God’s unmerited favor to those who are dead (outside of Christ). If we could earn it, it is no longer grace. If God gives grace to us because He noticed we were a good person, as compared to so-and-so, then it’s not grace. God’s grace means you receive the opposite of what you deserve, i.e. God’s wrath.
When you work your employer is responsible to pay you a wage or salary. These wages are owed to you. Paul uses this analogy, which signified the food and pay which Roman generals gave to their soldiers, to explain the unbeliever whose “work” is sin will receive the payment of spiritual death. But there’s good news in this passage. Paul provides the answer to their sin problem.
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).
Someone described grace as: God’s riches at Christ’s expense. I like this expression because it explains God did not compromise His righteousness or justice in forgiving us. His justice demands the penalty for sin be paid. Jesus volunteered to place Himself in the gap between the world and God. He paid the penalty on the cross for all who trust in the gospel. In this way God can be the justifier and the one who exercises their faith (Romans 3:26).
3: Many people don’t understand saving faith. There are those folks who confess to believing in God, but they have issues with His Son – the only way to the Father. This phrase is far too restrictive for them. It may surprise you to know about 70% of evangelical Christians have fallen for Joel Osteen’s opinion of scripture believing there are many paths to heaven. Just because people utter words it doesn’t mean they are being truthful.
This book says Jesus Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23-24). He is not simply one of an infinite number of ways to God; He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). This is probably the most exclusive statement ever made by anyone in Scripture. It is also an offensive remark, according to a great many people in this present age of tolerance who openly declare “You do you and I’ll do me.”
But the truth remains: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The world “outside of Christ” despises that statement. However, God’s Word says Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:8-11). Put another way, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
Jesus, the great I Am, spoke with supreme authority on the night before His death. This is one of the seven great “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John. He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” The “way” is the only path to God the Father. Jesus Christ is the truth incarnate and He is the life to all who believe on Him.
4: Salvation is God’s free gift. Paul wrote: “it is the gift of God, not as a result of works…” Plainly put, we are saved by grace. Paul repeats his earlier statement but here he adds, “through faith.”
The true Believer’s most important tenet is how we receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation from the Lord: we are saved by grace. This is where the “rubber meets the road,” so to speak. The second important tenet is we receive this gift through faith – not by works.
Ephesians 2:8-9 is plainly written. The gift of eternal salvation can only be received by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and this not by works of any type. Why? Because the Bible instructs us every single person has sinned and has fallen short of the glory of God, and there is no one righteous before God, not even one (Romans 3:20-23, 11:6; Galatians 2:16; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 2:11).
“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).
As I’ve said repeatedly, God the Father has made it easy for all of us to receive eternal life with Him. I don’t mean to say God’s salvation plan is simplistic. I don’t think we’ll fully understand God’s plan and purpose until we reach our heavenly destination. There are understanding will be complete. I mean to say we are simply saved by grace and our responsibility in this is to exercise faith in what has said (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). That’s about as easy as receiving your paycheck on payday! The only difference in that is you are owed your paycheck. God owes us nothing. Our (self) righteousness is like filthy rags, says the prophet Isaiah (64:6); our iniquities have taken us far from God’s favor.
5: Our Salvation gives all the glory to God and none to us. Paul concludes verse 9 by saying, “so that no one may boast” in His presence. We have nothing to boast about. And we’d never be able to stand in His presence if not for His grace.
Or, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 after arguing that salvation rests on God’s grace (alone). But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God… LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”
In other words, relativism, ritualism, and legalism are out the door when it comes to being able to receive eternal salvation through Jesus. You can’t neglect the only way to the Father and hope to make it to God’s heaven. All that boasting being practiced in the church at Corinth was misdirected. If any part of salvation, including the faith that saves, comes from us, then we have some grounds for boasting. “No,” Paul said, if salvation is totally of the Lord, then He gets all the glory.
So, God provides the way to approach Him and He wants all to be saved. In the Dispensation of Grace it’s through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, Paul informs the Ephesians (and us) their good works are not considered “filthy rags” anymore:
For we are His workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (2:10).
The Koine Greek word translated workmanship is Poiema (poy’-ay-mah), Noun Neuter, Strong’s Greek #4161, and it means: that which has been made; of the works of God as the Creator. We get our English word “poem” from this word. This should give you some idea as to why Paul chose this word. He used this word once before in Romans 1:20:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, He eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Paul uses five words to present Poiema here as he refers to the “physical creation.” All we hear, smell, taste, and touch in the universe is akin to reading God’s creative masterpiece, His epic poem.
The meaning is almost the same in 2:10. I say almost because the sun, moon, and the stars aren’t complex, living creatures and they can’t recognize their Creator or know Him personally. Charles Darwin, who was baptized an Anglican, and used to run the mile to school, prayed earnestly to God to help him, attributing His success to these prayers. Later in life after he quit believing in God he wrote: “it was absurd to propose that the human eye evolved through spontaneous mutation and natural selection…”
I know a few surgeons who were unbelievers at one time, but after medical school, and definitely after operating on numerous patients, conceded only God could have created the human body. One surgeon told me she willingly performs the necessary surgery on her patients, but understands God heals them. This phrase was stenciled on a banner over her office desk.
So, as I’m reading this, God, through our Apostle Paul, wants the Ephesians to understand they are His wonderful masterpiece (Poiema) created: body, soul, and spirit. They are God’s living poem or symphony:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature (creation); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Now let’s return to 2:10:
…created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Your good works will not save you; Paul (speaking for God) doesn’t mince words. He makes this point clear in several of his letters to the churches:
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ; and may be found in Him, not having (what) a righteousness of my own derived from (keeping) the Law, but that which is (here it is) through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:8-9; Romans 1:17, 9:30, 10:5; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
Although deeds play no part in earning their salvation, Paul says they are not unrelated to it. Paul is saying the Ephesians were created in Christ Jesus (Galatians 6:15) so they could practice good works (Titus 3:5).
Paul’s saying God doesn’t intend for their salvation to be a passive experience. They are to walk continuously in the good works God prepared beforehand for each of them. Let’s not miss the point: it’s not a suggestion. God has purposed these good works for them, therefore He expects these Believers to obey. They (like us) don’t know what these good works are, but it’s clear from this passage they are out there waiting for the Ephesians (and us) to walk in them.
The other thing worth mentioning is this does not mean doing the work for God; instead, they are performing His works in and through Believers:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves (see another person’s highest good); do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others…
Summing up, this passage begins by explaining those who are dead to sin walk according to the flesh or the world (v2). Paul ends it by exhorting Believers to walk the road God paved for them, i.e. practicing good works, which God ordained in eternity past.
(To be continued)
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