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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, one and all, and welcome to HBS.
For He Himself is our (what) peace, who made both groups (Jew and Gentile) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace (Ephesians 2:14-15).
We left off last week studying the passage above. I thought I’d put it back in play to refresh your memories and to encourage y’all. Discord and dissension was evident in the Ephesian church due to cultural superiority and religious beliefs. Ergo, because both groups in this church couldn’t rid themselves of personal baggage they were not experiencing the peace of Jesus Christ.
We see discord both in the church and outside the church today; it hasn’t gone away. An article I read recently reveals the animosity that exists in people’s hearts. Supporters of President Trump and his administration met on a college campus and were denied their constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and speech by people who have a problem with those who do not hold the same opinion or values they do. They are blind to truth because of their hatred and their pride. Violence erupted, disturbing the peace, and the police had to intervene to restore harmony. This is just one example of the turmoil and unrest that exists in America and elsewhere.
In short, Americans is not experiencing the peace of Jesus Christ. I believe the root cause of the unrest were witnessing stems from people’s lack of “inner peace” an essential ingredient for good health, a sense of well-being, thriving relationships, success, etc. This causes anxiety, fear, and stress to gain a foothold in their lives. Have you heard the expression, “When you come to school or work, leave your troubles at the door?” This expression conveys the meaning people carry their troubles around with them like excess baggage. This is harmful to self and others. Pick any country and you’ll find flashpoints ignited by politics, poverty, pride, religion, social conflict, terrorism etc. all feeding the flames of discord. The seeds of discord being sown in the Ephesian Church and in society today are one of Satan’s prolific schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (strongholds). We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Those things we allow into our mind and heart tend to become established fortresses, a.k.a. strongholds and the seeds of sin are always planted in the mind. Paul said it’s our responsibility to understand we are at war with the dark forces in the spiritual realm and we are to battle “destroying fortresses.” Fortresses are mental blocks. It is any activity or argument set up against the knowledge of God. Paul said destroy these fortresses that can be one of two things: 1) It can be a worldview such as Atheism, Communism, Darwinism, hedonism, secularism, relativism, etc. 2) A fortress can also be a personal attitude. Worry can be a fortress. Seeking the approval of others rather than the approval of God is a fortress. Anything you make an idol in your life can be a fortress. Envy, fear, guilt, insecurity, resentment are fortresses. These are all mental fortresses set up against the knowledge of God. Paul said “tear them down.”
Jesus Christ comforted His disciples with these words: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). Here the Lord is seeking our “highest good.” Most people do not understand peace as a positive concept. This world only knows the negative aspect of peace, i.e. the absence of strife, trials, and trouble. Biblical peace is unrelated to our circumstances. Believers retain their peace despite their trials.
Paul wrote: Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
Believer’s can rest in the fact that He Himself (the Lord Jesus Christ) is our peace. The risen Lord ended the discord between Jews and Gentiles, uniting both groups into one. He also established a new relationship of unity in Christ Jesus.
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 2:16.
16: and might reconcile them both (Jew and Gentile) in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to the death the enmity.
Our Apostle Paul emphasizes the cross of Christ Jesus repeatedly. If it were not for His shed blood on the cross, which paid God’s penalty for the sins of all, we’d still be dead in our transgressions:
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).
Transgression (Pesha) is a willful act of disobedience. It is a transgression done specifically to spite God. Please turn to Psalm 32:5 so we can understand the difference between iniquity, sin, and transgressions.
David wrote: I acknowledge my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the guilt of my sin.
By separating sin, iniquity, and transgressions David is signifying they are different things. But one thing is certain; all transgressions and all iniquities are sin. If you transgressed one of God’s laws, you committed sin. It’s like having a neighbor who posted a sign on his property saying, “Do not trespass.” If you decide to climb over his fence, you are transgressing the no trespassing law, and this is sin.
David said he would acknowledge (means agree with) his transgressions (his willful acts of disobedience) to the LORD, and God will forgive the iniquity (his bending, twisting, and distorting of His law that gradually grew in degrees worthy of greater punishment), of his sin (the transgression of God’s law). All three of these are sin; all are just being more specific to the degree of sin, to the degree of the act of will, and to the degree of breaking God’s perfect laws.
The Bible says there are different degrees of sin and punishment. The LORD explained this truth in a parable: “A moneylender had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more? Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly” (Luke 7:41-43, 10:11-13).
Jesus taught there are varying degrees of sin but understand there are differences in the degrees of the effects of sin and the punishment that will come to all those who are not saved (12:47-48).
All sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and the wages of sin is death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). But the severity of our sin can have different effects on us. Murder is not the same as stealing a loaf of bread to feed a hungry family for instance. The trespass of murder warrants a greater penalty. Thus the effects of sin, even though we are forgiven, are readily known.
Getting back to Ephesians 2:16: and might reconcile them both (Jew and Gentile) in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
Few doctrines are more important than the Church Doctrine of Reconciliation. Basically, after a breakdown of relationship between man and the LORD God through one man’s sin, resulting in enmity between God and man; God provides through the one-time sacrifice of His Son, the removal of this enmity, making it possible for individuals to recover that relationship through faith in the gospel of peace (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Let’s all turn to 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
We’ve looked at this passage before, but because we have folks who are relatively new to our Bible study we revisit it. I want to remind y’all Paul repeats himself again and again in this letter and for good reason. Sometimes, people have to hear a message more than once, before the Truth is recognized and accepted in their heart and mind. Christ reconciled us to God through His death on the cross by it having put to death the enmity. Enmity (Echthra) pronounced: ekh’-thrah, Strong’s Greek #2189, means: hate, being hostile with, or in opposition too. We were of the world at one time, which means we stood in opposition to God (Romans 5:10-11; James 4:4).
We were separated from God because of our sin. No one is righteous not even one (Romans 3:10-12). But God demonstrated He loved us, His enemies, by sending His Son to die on the cross for the sins of all, thus reconciling them to Himself. Therefore, Believers are commanded to love their enemies as well as their neighbors; we are to remove the barriers of racial and religious discord that separate us (Luke 10:29-37; Matthew 5:43-48). This is Paul’s message to the Ephesians and to us.
AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE (reconciliation with God) TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,
AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE - in order to have PEACE, Believers must remember Christ Jesus brought humanity reconciliation with God through His death on the cross. Again, reconciliation means to restore a relationship. The religious system which HE PREACHED was adapted to produce PEACE with God. HE PREACHED it personally to those who were near (His kinsmen; the Jews) by the twelve and then to those who were far away (the Gentiles) by our Apostle Paul and his co-workers (Acts 2:39; Ephesians 2:13).
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you (Titus 2:13-15).
When we were dead in our sins, separated from God, we were unholy, the opposite of who God is. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”
Holiness (set apart) is a separation from sin unto righteousness. The Lord Jesus Christ accomplished this for us Believers by His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. He died to make those who would believe the gospel of peace holy (set apart for God and His purpose). Paul said, “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10-15 - KJV).
The Koine Greek word for preach is Euangelizo, literally meaning to bring or announce good news. We only find the word in the N.T. and it means to proclaim the gospel of peace through faith (alone). He took our sin upon Himself and in turn gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). The righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed “to our account” granting all true Believers access to God and experience a personal relationship with Him as adopted sons and daughters.
18: for through Him we both (Jew and Gentile) have our access to one Spirit to the Father.
The Lord Jesus Christ reconciled Believers to God by giving them access to one Spirit. The word access is only used three times in the N.T. In each case it refers to the Believer’s access to God (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12). In Paul’s day a related word was used to describe the court official who introduced people to the king. They gave access to the monarch on the throne. The visitor did not possess the right to access; access was granted to them by the king. By this we know we have been given access to the Father and we are welcome in His presence. It is by the Holy Spirit we continually approach God (Ephesians 2:18).
Romans 8:15 reads: For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry “Abba! Father!”
In verse 18 Jews and Gentiles are to be presented unto God the Father. The Spirit of God works in their hearts preparing them for this presentation and Jesus Christ introduces them. No soul can have access to God but by Jesus Christ, and He introduces only those who have the Spirit of God within them.
19: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,
you are no longer strangers and aliens – here our Apostle Paul compares God’s one Church to a city, which has multiple privileges, rights, etc. assured them. The Gentiles, having believed the gospel of peace, are all incorporated with the believing Jews into this one city. We need to understand where Paul is coming from with this instruction. In his day, any Gentile entering the city of Jerusalem, being strangers to the commonwealth of Israel and excluded from the covenants of promise, they had zero rights. If the Gentile acknowledged the God of Israel, but opted not to receive circumcision, he was permitted to dwell in the land, but he had no right to the blessings of the covenants. These folks were referred to as sojourners – people who have no property in the land, and may only rent a house for a time.
you are fellow citizens with the saints – The saints spoken of here refer to the Christian Jews who had been converted. Paul’s saying the Gentiles have equal privileges with the Jews, who themselves were holy people (set apart) and Paul refers to these folks as saints, a holy priesthood. That was the LORD’s original plan. But the O.T. reveals their hearts were far from the LORD, even after being brought near.
are of God’s household – In the O.T. the house of God was the first temple. King Solomon, David’s son, was entrusted with building the temple per the LORD’s blueprint, that is, His directions (1 Kings 6; Chronicles 17:1-15, 28; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3). In the Dispensation of Grace, Paul said our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit:
For by one Spirit we were baptized into one body (the Body of Christ; no water involved), whether Jews of Greeks (Gentiles), whether slaves or free (men and women), and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19).
All true Believers, Jews and Gentiles, have equal advantages, privileges, and rights. They are God’s adopted children and servants, for you are not your own.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable (reasonable) and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).
Every true Believer has been granted access to God the Father through faith in Christ. God emphasizes the need for faith throughout the Bible. Why? Most people are destitute of faith; they follow the pattern of Cain (Genesis 4:2b-7). Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because his heart was far from the LORD, however, his brother’s sacrifice was accepted because He exercised his faith in what the LORD said: By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks (to everyone) – Hebrews 11:4, 6 - NASB.
Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone - in laying a foundation of a building, a large stone is generally placed at one of the angles or corners, which serves to form a part of the two walls which meet in that angle. Following that logic, Paul uses this metaphor to compares God’s one Church to a city, and to the temple. The Believing Ephesians are represented as parts of that one building; they are living stones:
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed” (1 Peter 2:4-6).
The Lord Jesus Christ being that cornerstone, the connecting medium by which both Jew and Gentile are united are framed together in the God’s one building, growing together, and are becoming God’s Holy Temple through the sanctification process (v21).
A priest acts as a go-between; a person who serves as an agent or intermediary between God and man. God causes us to “come near;” we do not go to Him on our own. If He did not do what He does, we would never draw near to God (John 6:44). Coming near to God is a priest’s calling. He is the official mediator between God and lost mankind. Priest or “first,” its root meaning, indicates a leadership position. The Lord Jesus is our High Priest according to Hebrews 4:14-16. He is the Mediator between God and mankind (1Timothy 2:5).
in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (v 22). Our Apostle Paul applies the metaphor he introduced to the purpose for which he produced it. The Jews and Gentiles, as living stones, are all properly placed so as to form a complete house, and become a habitation for the Holy Spirit of God. We are God’s one Church, much like the Temple of old, in which God the Father shall be worshipped and in which He can dwell continually.
After the model of this was the spiritual temple, God’s one Church, and God was to dwell in the one, as He had dwelt in the other. Many of the folks in this church at Ephesus were Jews and were well acquainted with the Temple of God at Jerusalem and all that entails. They would recognize Paul’s allegory, and be led to look for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God.
Paul’s point is, as we have only one God, and only one Savior and Mediator between God and mankind, and one inspiring Holy Spirit, there is but one Church.
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many (1 Corinthians 12:13-14, 20). The Lord Jesus Christ and His Church form one body. He is the Head of the Church and every true Believer is a member possessing equal rights and privileges. Thanks and praise be to God!
(To be continued)
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