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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 to HBS.
I thank you for your faithful attendance and attentiveness, and I pray the Spirit of God will assist you in “leaving the elementary teachings about the Christ, and be taken to spiritual maturity…” (Hebrews 6:1). Why? “The Lord Jesus Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one according to the flesh. Although we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:15-17)
We covered a lot of Spiritual ground in last week’s Bible lesson, but as predicted we did not complete our study of Ephesians 6:18-20. We may accomplish this today, but only time will tell. If the Holy Spirit reveals something to me that needs to be brought into the lesson, we’re going to go there. In other words I have an outline to follow, but it’s written with a #2 pencil…
Two things I want to remind y’all of from the previous lesson are:
1) We are to pray, in the Spirit (under the Spirit’s control - Ephesians 5:18). This is Paul praying and striving to take the gospel of grace to Bythinia but being sensitive and obedient to the Spirit’s leading to see the Lord intended he go to Macedonia instead (Acts. 16:7-10). It is Paul praying three times to have the thorn in his flesh removed, but being satisfied with Gods answer that the Lord’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:9). To pray in the Spirit means include your mind (1 Corinthians 14:14-15). God’s aware there are times we aren’t able to vocalize our need (Romans 8:26), i.e. “we do not know how to pray as we should but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” God interprets unintelligible sounds.
2) We are to pray in accordance with God’s Word. In this age God speaks to us primarily via His Word and through godly men: And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, (and woman) to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).
I add to this the Bible is a complete work; meaning we should not be expecting new revelation from Him. Thus, people need to respond to what “has been written” in order to be in harmony with God and His Word. We’ve been studying the Lord’s command to put on the full armor of God… with (by means of) all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit so we can stand firm against the devil’s schemes in this present evil age. Although you won’t find the term “spiritual warfare” in the Bible Paul makes us aware of this conflict between God’s saints and the devil’s evil forces.
Please open your Bible and return to Ephesians 6:18-20.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
I mentioned last week this section of Scripture is often overlooked by Bible readers which mean the priority of prayer in spiritual warfare is often ignored or unrecognized. Obviously, Paul is saying habitual prayer is absolutely essential in spiritual warfare.
I also mentioned verse 6:18 isn’t the start of a new paragraph. Remember, Bible addresses were added by the Bible translators. This has proved helpful in studying your Bible and witnessing, however, it often alters or dims the Bible text. Ephesians 6:17 and 6:18 are connected and read as, “And take the HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, with (by means of) all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit…” Paul then introduces the specifics of praying.
We examined the word prayer (Proseuche) last week, so we’ll look at the next word in line representing prayer which is “petition.” This word is Deesis (deh’-ay-sis) in Koine Greek; Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek#1162, meaning: entreaty; to pray for a specific need. The word prayer is used in a general way while petition refers to those specific needs we communicate to God the Father either mentally or verbally. Paul writes:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice. Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious (careful – KJV) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Contrary to opinion God answers every prayer. We know this because Paul goes on to explain) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
When you pray, God gives you His peace to guard your hearts and minds in Christ. But let’s be clear Paul is not saying you are to “name and claim your heart’s desire.” This phrase is associated with the Jewish Prophetic Program, as I showed y’all last week; and it’s the main reason for unanswered prayer. Today it is connected to the “prosperity gospel” and various other religious philosophies coming out of The Word of Faith and the New Age movements. These folks teach their congregations they can create their own reality through prayer, and they obtain their heart’s desire via the “power of faith.” They say if you’re not getting a response to your prayers, it’s because you lack the faith necessary to get er’ done. In other words, y’all need more faith. In essence, they have redefined faith from “complete trust in a holy and sovereign God despite life’s difficulties,” to a way of controlling God so He will give them what they want, whenever they want it.” Instead of walking by faith and not by sight, faith actually becomes the power source they “tap into” to obtain the things they desire, instead of placing their trust in God, the sufficiency of His Grace, and His power to strengthen them in every circumstance.
Although prayer is not meant to be the 7th armament of God, it is to be utilized at all times in the Spirit. Permit me to explain. In addition to the armaments of warfare, most armies employ a secret battle strategy (like the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. The allies’ attack on Nazi held France caught Hitler and His vast army dozing). As this concerns us, we enter the fray using prayer as our secret strategy. But what should we pray? I’ll answer that question with a question. How did the Lord Jesus Christ defeat Satan in the wilderness? Let’s all turn to Matthew 4:1-11 for the answer.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry (a human weakness). And (in His moment of weakness) the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
As you read on, you’ll find Satan approached Jesus three times and tried to use temptations of the flesh and false worship to lead Him into sin. Satan often seeks to take advantage of our circumstances wanting to tempt us. But we’re to meet his assaults (temptations) as our Savior did, with the clear and positive declarations of Scripture. You know what the right thing to do is because as Jesus Christ said, “It is written.”
We are not to trust our “feelings” or “our flesh” but we are to place our complete trust in the infallible word of truth. As soldiers in Christ’s army we’re to “pray without ceasing” as we “fight the good fight of the faith.” The expression, “pray without ceasing” is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. The Koine Greek word translated: "without ceasing" is a military term meaning repeated military assaults. It was also used in reference to a hacking cough. Someone with a hacking cough does not cough every second, but they do cough repetitively. Literally, this term means, “in every season of life, praying always. Paul’s saying God wants to hear from us in every season of life not just when we’re in trouble. Our prayers would include: intercession, petition, supplication, thanksgiving, etc. These are to be offered up on every occasion, not only for ourselves, but also for our fellow-soldiers fighting the good fight of the faith.
This begs the question, “How would the Lord describe your prayer life?” Do you pray without ceasing or are you like the people who treat God as though He were a 911 operator or a heavenly bell hop (a divine step-n-fetch)? The truth of the matter is when things are going well prayer is rarely thought of. But as soon as life begins to get rough people want action and they want it now! Paul said prayer is to be habitual and not sporadic; it’s likened to our breathing. Breathing isn’t planned or sporadic it’s a reoccurring activity. This is what Paul meant by “pray at all times, about “all things.” Prayer is to be habitual; a reoccurring action in the Believer’s life.
Paul’s saying our praying will come under the heading of general prayer or specific prayer (petitions). An example of general prayer is when we ask God to “show me how I can serve You” or “Lead me to the job You have for me.” Examples of specific prayer requests (Petitions) are “help me be a dependable witnesses (6:19),” “help me control my anger (4:26-27),” “help me be a loving parent (6:4),” or “help me lead my spouse (4:25, 29).”
We’re to pray and petition the Lord after putting on the full armor of God. But we’re also to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for their works of service, and their worthy walk. People are stumbling over Satan’s schemes on a daily basis which proves you and I are not the only ones involved in spiritual warfare, so Paul concludes 6:18 saying, “…with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition (pray specifically) for all the saints.”
This is why Paul urges the Ephesian saints to be on the alert and they are to do this with all perseverance… for the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour… Perhaps you’re aware of a brother or sister in Christ Jesus who suffers from an addiction of some sort, or who has been deceived by false teaching and are being led away from the truth. Paul’s saying your supportive prayers are needed to help them overcome (stand firm) temptation.
The Koine Greek word for alert is Gregoreo (gray-gor-yoo’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1127, and it means: literally, to stay awake, be responsible, watchful. As Paul uses it here it means: “a watchful attention to spiritual matters.” The term be alert is connected to his military analogy, i.e. to say “Your responsibility as a sentry on duty, is to be alert.”
The Koine Greek word for perseverance is Makrothumia (mak-roth-oo-mee’-ah), Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek #3115, meaning: patience, steadfastness, earnestly keeping on. This is only place in the N.T. where you’ll find this term. It literally means persistence and we find this term linked to prayer in Acts 1:14, 2:42, 6:4; Romans 12:12; and Colossians 4:2. It means to devote one’s self constantly to a life of prayer because this pleases God. In other words, we’re not to wave the white flag and give up because you’re not seeing a response to your prayer(s). Instead, we’re to “be on the alert (watching) with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Watching for what? God to work in their lives in answers to our prayers for the timing is the Lord’s.
What if after years of praying I still see no response to my prayer? Scripture reveals Paul prayed x3 for God to remove his “thorn in his flesh.” But instead of removing it God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” We aren’t given any information as to how long Paul prayed. But if you’ll study 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, you’ll find he didn’t complain about this physical ailment, get angry with God, or stop believing in the power of prayer. Paul came to realize this hurtful thing was actually a gift from God, “to keep him from exalting himself because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations.”
I’ve yet to meet an individual who said, “My difficulty is actually a gift from God.” But Paul’s head and his heart were in the right place. In the midst of this trial he said, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). True Believers should understand it’s what God wants that matters. Life isn’t about fairness it’s about awareness.
Now let’s examine Ephesians 6:19.
…and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
Here Paul makes a personal request for prayer. Just as he started this letter in chapter 1 with prayer for the saints of Ephesus, praying for the Believers and all their needs, he now asks them to pray for him. In doing so, Paul reveals he is most concerned about the ministry of reconciliation.
Pray on my behalf – in case you’ve forgotten, Paul writes these words while in prison. What do you suppose people in prison usually pray for if they believe in prayer that is? Most want justice to be served, hardly anyone in prison believes they belong there, and people usually complain about prison conditions – no cable T.V. for instance. Paul doesn’t complain about his present state. He prays specifically "That utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,"
I use several Bible translations in my Bible study and I’ll use the passage above to show you why that is. The Authorized Version translates verse 19 as, “that I may open my mouth” whereas the NASB renders it “That utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth” or said differently, “that God may open my mouth…” The KJV says the same thing basically. Thus we learn not all Bible translations are equal, and we learn the significance between Paul opening his own mouth and God opening his mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.
If you’ll look at the following writings of Paul, you’ll discover he asks the Believers in Christ to remember him in their prayers (Romans 15:30-33; Colossians 4:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). What’s the general concern being expressed? The answer: in all but one he doesn’t ask for personal needs, although there is nothing wrong with that, his primary concern is that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and He be glorified… In actuality, Paul’s prayer was for more boldness in proclaiming the mystery of the gospel, even though it was this boldness, as well as this message, that ignited Jewish hatred and caused him to be imprisoned.
This brings me back to a point I’ve mentioned over and over again. The goal of every true Believer in Christ Jesus is to “know Him and the power of His resurrection for salvation, to a mature man.” Therefore, I pray some of you are imitating Paul by praying regularly for boldness in speaking about what the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished for you (witnessing) and that God’s good news of salvation based on faith (alone) in the gospel will spread accurately and rapidly (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Paul reveals our commission, “marching orders from Headquarters” in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21: And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath (what) given to us the ministry of reconciliation (v17-18). If you’re a true Believer, this concerns you because we are the Lord’s ambassador here on earth. Our citizenship is in heaven, but God has provided “good works” for us. One of these works is speaking the truth about Jesus Christ and the finished work of the cross, with confidence to a dying world (Ephesians 2:8-10).
However, the vast majority of Christendom is ignorant of this teaching. They’re only aware of the “Great Commission” given to the twelve by the Lord in Matthew 28 (Judas had committed suicide, but they’re still known as “the twelve.” I’ll take the time to explain beginning with the nation of Israel’s Prophetic Program. God’s chosen people held a position of primacy over the gentile nations; our Lord instructed the twelve to begin this ministry at Jerusalem. Why, because this city was the seat of authority both politically and religiously. In case you missed it, people have been fighting over Jerusalem for centuries (See the Crusades and the Arab and PLO demands for control of the Holy City). Why, these folks all claim Jerusalem as their capital. On December 6, 2017 President Trump ignored warnings from diplomats around the world and reversed decades of American policy toward this highly contested city by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the U.S. Embassy to move.
The Great Commission
I hadn’t planned on explaining the difference between the Great Commission and the Ministry of Reconciliation but it’s been brought to my attention, so we’re going there; and for good reason. Most of Christendom has been taught Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 28:18-20 to His eleven disciples constitute the Church’s Great Commission. They usually present this passage as Jesus’ last words to His apostles and the Church’s marching orders.
Here’s the Bible passage: And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
There are parallel passages in the other gospels we need to take a look at, if we’re to understand Jesus’ last words on earth to His remaining apostles. Let’s look at these now.
Mark recorded: And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:15-18).
Luke recorded: Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:45-49).
Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, continued his history lesson in (Acts 1:4-8) saying, Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
And John recorded: So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20:21-23).
The passages above provide the content and context of Jesus’ instructions to His eleven apostles. Anyone familiar with Christian teaching on the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, baptism, miraculous gifts, and the work of the Holy Spirit, will recognize the wide inconsistency of the meaning of these doctrines in Christendom. Multiple church denominations have been created depending on how they interpret these passages. With regard to the so-called “Great Commission,” the chief focus of commentaries, evangelists, and Sunday sermons today are on the Lord’s command to preach the gospel and the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. Largely ignored are the problems created by these passages. But all is not lost there is a way to overcome the “the wall of confusion” and understand the teachings of Jesus Christ then, and what the Body of Christ, a.k.a. the Church should be doing today. Scripture holds the answer.
Beginning with this: Paul summarized the Prophetic Program in His statement to the church in Rome: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Paul’s saying the gospel went first to the Jew then to the Gentile, per God’s command. Paul’s statement has nothing to do with evangelistic priority in our present era. We do not evangelize Jews first and then go to Gentiles. That day has passed. While Paul’s practice throughout Acts was to go first to Jews, after Acts 28, this practice ended. No distinctions exist between Jew and Gentile in the Body of Christ today (Ephesians 2:13-16; Galatians 3:27-29). This is in contrast with Jesus’ teachings and Peter’s ministry.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry the Jew had priority. When Jesus gave orders to go forth and proclaim “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” because their King was here, He ordered His apostles not to go to the Gentiles but only to “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10.5-6). In His instruction of how to deal with a sinning brother Jesus taught His disciples that if the brother refused to listen then they should consider him a Gentile (Matthew 18:12-17). Does this sound like Paul’s Church Doctrine of “no distinction?” Hardly! But we have an example of this truth in Mark 7:25-29. When the Canaanite woman requested Jesus heal her daughter from demon possession, how did He respond to her? He told her it was “not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to dogs.” Who were the “children?” Jesus is referring to the Jews. The “dogs” were the Gentiles. We know from this biblical account this woman was persistent; she would not be denied. Her determined faith caused Jesus to relent and grant her plea. Despite Jewish priority, Jesus made an exception. But it is clear from the Scriptures the Jews had priority in the prophetic kingdom of God. Peter, obedient to his Lord and to the Scriptures continued this priority.
Thus, we read Peter’s statement to the Jews that they received the gospel first: “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3.25-26).
Compare this with Paul’s statement to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch about the priority of the Jews, And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we are turning to the Gentiles”” (Acts 13.46).
While were here we may as well address the purpose of the Book of Acts. Most believe Luke wrote Acts to record the origination and growth of the Church. The Church’s birth and growth is recorded so this is certainly part of Acts’ purpose. However, Luke’s chief purpose was to explain what happened to God’s plan for Israel. Acts explains Israel’s continued rejection of Jesus as their King and the consequent fall of the nation of Israel and the prophetic program due to unbelief. Israel had committed a great crime in crucifying their Messiah (Acts 2:22-36). But Jesus had risen triumphantly from the dead. Jesus, as He had promised sent the Holy Spirit. The prophecy of Joel had begun to be fulfilled (Acts 2.16-21). The stage was set to fulfill the promises the prophets proclaimed throughout the O.T. Peter, as head of the apostles, offered the nation a choice. If they repented, the kingdom would come. But they rejected his message. Tragically, Acts closes in despair. Acts records the Jews rejection of the gospel and ends with Paul’s witness of the Jews at Rome rejecting the gospel. Luke recorded Paul’s declaration: “Let it be known to you therefore, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen” (Acts 28.28).
God’s salvation had been sent first to the Jews. They refused it. Paul proclaimed that the Gentiles would accept it. And they have. The vast majority, probably 99% of the Body of Christ, is composed of Gentiles today. Paul’s pronouncement does not mean God is finished with His chosen people. They have been set aside until “the fullness of the Gentiles is complete.”
I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! (Romans 11)
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery-- so that you will not be wise in your own estimation-- that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; (Romans 11:25).
Only God knows the name of the last individual (Jew or Gentile) to be saved in the Church Age and the timing of the Rapture of His saints in Christ.
We’ve run out of time, so we’ll begin next week’s Bible lesson from this spot.
(To be continued)
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