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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)
Welcome, I want to thank y’all for choosing HBS as your study partner.
In verse 4:1 our Apostle Paul pleaded for the Ephesian Church to “Walk in a manner worthy of your calling to which you have been called.” He then listed the five characteristics of those who walk in this manner: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love (4:2). Five is the number of grace in scripture (nearly every measurement of the Tabernacle was divisible by five, for instance). Because God showed His grace toward us, we are called to be gracious in our dealings with each other, in love (Romans 5:8-9; Ephesians 4:32; 1 Peter 3:8).
Paul then gives the reason for “walking” in this manner. It is to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:2-3). Paul’s talking about an organic, spiritual unity founded on seven (which signifies divine perfection, as in the creation event, totality, or completion) essential unifying factors related to the Triune Godhead (4:4-6). The same unity God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit experience is the exact same unity God’s one Church already has and must labor to preserve.
Beginning in verse 7, Paul changes the subject segueing from corporate unity to looking at Believers individually. “…to each one of us” (4:7) means he’s now speaking directly to each Believer who make up the Body of Christ. What’s Paul’s message? Paul wants all these folks, both Jew and Gentile, to come together as one. As a unit they are then to illuminate the world, drawing lost souls out of the darkness and into the Light. To accomplish this effectively each one of them has to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power.
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree together, so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be united in mind and conviction (1 Timothy 1:10).
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 4:7-10 and let’s read this passage together.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended in the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
Some people believe verse 7 is saying Christ has given specific spiritual gifts to each Believer. However, Paul hasn’t been talking about spiritual gifts and he’s not “changing horses’ midstream here.” Paul normally used the Koine Greek word Charisma when speaking of the spiritual gifts given to Believers for God’s service. But here Paul used the Koine Greek word Doma in reference to these gifts. We don’t have to wonder what Paul was talking about because he tells us what these gifts are in verse 4:11: “He gave some, as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” These five church offices were given to the Church, which is Christ’s body for its edification, in love. Paul got more specific in verse 4:13 saying, (so) we’d all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
These two passages together explain these five church offices all have to do with communicating the Word of Truth to all. This means Believers and unbelievers alike. Not everyone sitting in church on Sunday is a true Believer. When the Bible was completed, God withdrew some of these gifts from the Church such as apostles and prophets. However, God’s one Church should not assume all these gifts have disappeared. Those who have been called to serve the body in Truth are certainly gifted men; above the ordinary, so to speak, and they would have to be. They are obligated to communicate God’s authoritative Word starting from “In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1); to “Yes, I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20) and every spoken word in between. Per Paul the Church is known as “the pillar and support of the truth” (1Timothy 3:15). Meaning, God’s entire truth must be preached to every generation without adding to it or taking away from it.
Therefore, it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES (triumphed over His enemies), AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN” (4:8).
There are mixed opinions regarding what this verse says. Paul is quoting from Psalm 68:18, in part. I say “in part” because he does not quote it exactly. With the Spirit’s leading he’s modified it somewhat to get his point across to the Believers in Ephesus.
In Ephesians 4:8-10 Paul is tying the gift of Christ to two events that actually took place, His first ascension and His previous descent into the center of the earth. He borrowed from Psalm 68:18 to illustrate the enemies of Christ, that is, Satan, sin, and death which were defeated at the Cross. Jesus Christ gives the gift of the Spirit to all those who identify with His death, burial, and resurrection, in faith.
for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:7-1;
1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us (how many) all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Colossians 2:13-15; Ephesians 1:22-23, 2:1-6; Psalm 2).
Paul’s saying all true Believers are to reckon (consider) themselves dead to sin and alive to God. This event occurs instantaneously the moment you believe the gospel of peace (Romans 2:16, 16:25).
WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES – Paul regularly draws images from everyday life to teach a point. Here he uses the analogy of a Roman general that conquered the enemies of Rome. After the fight the general took captives and returned to Rome with them. There he led his army and these captives through the streets in a triumphal procession. In Judges 5:30 we find the conqueror distributing gifts (spoils) among his soldiers and the people.
So, in this passage we have the imagery of the Christ, triumphant in His battle on earth, returning to heaven. When He ascended on high, He led captive the captives (trophies of His triumph over Satan, sin, and death) and He gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to every true Believer. The phrase, “led captivity captive” is referring to Jesus Christ liberating the souls of the O.T. saints (Believers who had put their faith in God and His Word) from Sheol. No O.T. Believer died and entered heaven straight away as they do today. That’s because the way to God the Father was shut! It could not be opened until Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, shed His blood for the sins of all (2 Corinthians 5:15). He descended into the center of the earth, to Sheol, and took the captives there captive. He then led them to heaven, into the very presence of God, emptying that section of Sheol which the Lord identified as Paradise (Luke 16:19-31).
As I hinted earlier in this lesson, this was the first of the Lord Jesus Christ’s two ascensions. How do we know this? Please turn with me in your Bible to John 20:16-17. On the morning of Jesus Christ’s resurrection He met Mary Magdalene briefly. She didn’t recognize Him initially, thinking He was the gardener (John 20:15). As you read about this encounter please pay attention to Jesus’ words: Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ”
The O.T. scriptures provide a “shadow” of this event; it’s called the Day of Atonement the most solemn holy day of Israel’s feasts and festivals. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the Jewish High Priest would sacrifice a goat (with no imperfections) to atone for the sins of the Israelites (Leviticus 23; Hebrews 9:22). He alone was permitted to pass through the holy place and then enter “the Holy of Holies” which was within the Tabernacle. There, in the presence of God Almighty, he sprinkled the goat’s blood on the Brazen Altar. The High Priest then, per his instructions, returned to the people. The sprinkling of the goat’s blood symbolized the cleansing of the Brazen Altar for the coming year (Leviticus 16:15-19).
There’s more to the Day of Atonement than what I’ve explained but now you have a general idea of what took place on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. The day Jesus, God’s perfect Lamb, died He descended into the lower parts of the earth to the Paradise side of Sheol. There He remained for 3 days fulfilling His prophecy: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40 – Berean Study Bible).
Are Hades, Sheol, and Paradise Real?
The thief who confessed his faith in the Lord while awaiting his death, asked Jesus to remember him. Scripture records Jesus’ response: “And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
When I was a child I was taught by the priest of our parish Paradise was heaven. When Jesus died, He went to heaven. That’s where He would encounter this thief. Well, that was wrong! Much later, I discovered through personal Bible study Paradise was in Sheol, the center of the earth. On the opposite side of Paradise was Hades. Hades was the place where the souls of unbelievers went after they died. Their bodies went into the earth, but their eternal souls went to Hades, a place of torment (2 Peter 2:9-10b). Paradise is the opposite of this. The souls of the Believers in the Old Testament that died went down to Paradise. Why? The way to God the Father was unopened. Jesus was the “Firstfruits.” His substitionary death, consequent burial, and His prophesied resurrection made the way to the Father open to Believers (1 Corinthians 15:20-49).
There’s an account in scripture told by Jesus Himself in Luke 16:19-31 which gives us a record of a remarkable conversation that took place in Hades/Sheol between “the rich man and Lazarus.” Some people conclude this is not a real event because these places aren’t real; this was only a story used to teach righteous living. I disagree whole heartedly. These words came from the Lord and with them He explains in a few words that Sheol/ Hades and Paradise did exist. They are not the same thing and they are not in the same place. They are separate locations.
The lifeless bodies of the saints who died from Adam onward were buried in the ground but their eternal souls had to have someplace to go, since the way to heaven was inaccessible, with a couple of exceptions (see Enoch and Elijah) before the Cross. Although millions of animals and birds were sacrificed to God in His Temple, all that blood combined could not take away one individual’s sin (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus Christ became the way (John 14:6). His atoning blood at the Cross built a bridge, in love, to heaven and to God the Father (Genesis 3:9-19; John 14:6; Hebrews 9:12-14, 10:19-24).
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended in the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things)
This verse has caused much confusion in the churches, so people teach this passage differently. However, this verse is to be understood literally. Paul is stating a fact; therefore, verse 9 says what it means and means what it says. The one, He descended, had to occur before Jesus Christ’s first ascension, in glory, to the third heaven. The souls of all the O.T. Believers had to be liberated from Sheol and the only Person who could manage this was the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter states Jesus preached to the spirits of those now in prison (torment).
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison (Sheol), who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water (1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6).
Please note Peter’s not saying the gospel was preached to them. Jesus made a proclamation. We don’t have the Lord’s message to the prisoners in torment recorded for us, but the Redeemer probably mentioned the hopelessness of their situation. They had the advantage of God’s Word spoken through the prophets and the O.T. scriptures but due to their unbelief they have been sentenced to a life of torment for eternity.
From Adam onward faith in God and what He has said (the gospel of that particular dispensation) has always been the vehicle for one’s salvation. All the O.T. saints were saved by faith, but they were denied access to God (heaven) because Christ’s work of the Cross was a future event.
So, Jesus Christ removes the captives from the Paradise side of Sheol, out of the lower parts of the earth, up to heaven and the Father, that He might (ful)fill all things (4:10, Ephesians 1:23). This is what the work of the Cross accomplished. The Carpenter’s work is completed! It is truly finished.
This declaration from our Apostle Paul that Christ ascended to the third heaven in order to “fulfill all things,” to complete them all and to render them perfect is specifically speaking about God’s one Church. We know this because Paul goes on to explain how the risen Lord will bring this about when empowered by the Holy Spirit:
Giving apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (4:11).
For equipping the saints for ministry for the building up of the Body of Christ (4:12).
Until we all obtain unity of the faith in the knowledge of the Son (4:13).
Achieving maturity, the full stature of Christ Jesus (4:13).
So that we will no longer be children, tossed about by false teaching (4:14).
That we would grow up in every way into Christ, who is the head (4:15).
It goes without saying this includes the filling of the Holy Spirit, which is the way Christ Jesus indwells His Church. Through the Spirit, Jesus Christ will mature His body and this will be evidenced by unity, if His people “turn the power on, that is.” (Ephesians 1:10, 2:14, 3:6).
(To be continued)
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