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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 want to take a moment to recognize and to thank everyone first for your faithfulness to God’s Word, and then your regular attendance. I also want to send a special greeting to all our new visitors, especially the brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who are visiting today from the Dade City, Florida Grace Bible Church.
As per normal, let’s begin with a quick review of last week’s Bible lesson. If you’ll recall we left off discussing Philippians 1:1-4:
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers (bishops) and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all… (Philippians 1:1-4).
I mention again, because of its importance, this letter is oft referred to as “the epistle of joy.” Paul uses the term joy 16 times, and he mentions Christ 50 times in this letter. From this we learn Paul’s joy is found in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so is ours. Joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God through our Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit produces joy in us as we receive “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) in faith, and walk (live our lives) in commune (fellowship) with the Lord.
If you’re familiar with Paul’s writings, you’ve picked up on the fact his joy is a settled state of mind, no matter the circumstance, and this is synonymous with peace. He had an attitude that enabled him to view the world with all its ups and downs with a Christ-like mindset. He experienced peace because he looked beyond his circumstances to the God of his circumstances knowing full well He is in control.
Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:5-8.
Paul expressed thanksgiving for the Philippians. Why? For their fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet (right) for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ (KJV).
In verse 3 Paul experienced the joy of memory saying, “I thank God in all my remembrance of you.”
In verse 4, the joy of prayer: “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all…”
And in verse 5, the joy of fellowship: “in view of your participation (fellowship) in the gospel from the first day until now” (NASB).
In verse 5 Paul’s saying, “Thank you for your fellowship in the gospel.” Today people associate coffee and sweet treats with their fellowship. This is usually before, during, or after attending a Bible study. Some people opt to meet at a local restaurant after church service for fellowship. A better term for this activity is a “social gathering.” I’ve attended both many times over the years, but I want y’all to know this is not what Paul’s saying, and this is not my opinion. I base it on the back half of Paul’s statement, “in view of your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” I pray you recognize not only the difference but the significance of this verse.
Please don’t assume the worst here. I’m not saying fellowship should be without refreshments. I am saying the word fellowship translated from the Koine Greek word Koinonia (koy-nohn-ee’-ah), Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek #2842, actually means: partnership; communion, contributory help; being equally yoked. Symbolically, a yoke in the Bible can suggest hard labor (Acts 15:4-12) and in reference to the nation of Israel it means bondage, i.e. slavery (Leviticus 26:13). The yoke itself is made of wood that has been shaped or carved to fit around the necks of two cattle, oxen, or other beasts of burden. It enabled the animals to pull heavily loaded carts or wagons evenly, as they pulled together in unison. The same is true, or should be, in regard to our spiritual experience with God’s Word, specifically, the gospel of grace. As this pertains to Paul’s statement, he said, “One person shouldn’t say one thing while someone else says something contradictory. You’re to be like-minded”
So, the fellowship Paul speaks of here is based upon the Word of God and not “happy hour.” When Paul thanked God for their “fellowship in the gospel,” notice he added “from the first day until now.” Our fellowship with one another is a product of our response to God’s invitation of salvation and/or redemption, “for faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Here our Apostle Paul refers to the very first time he preached the gospel of grace in Europe. Their partnership in the faith began on the day Lydia and others at Philippi experienced the Holy Spirit opening their heart to receive the gospel and having believed they were saved (Acts 16:14).
When this assembly fellowshipped together, they didn’t sit around gossiping about their neighbors or discussing the political viewpoints of their day, while enjoying refreshments. These treats may have been available but their fellowship was centered on the Lord Jesus Christ and all He had accomplished for them at the cross. I’ve attended several church Bible study groups over the years. These meetings were well attended but inattentive to the Word of God. 75% or more of our time was spent discussing politics and what someone’s brother-in-law was doing back home. Social ills and personal concerns dominated the session and this should not be the case. When we finally got around to opening our Bibles, our time was all but spent.
I feel the need to interject at this point so as not to be misunderstood I’m not saying people and their concerns are not important because both are. People also deserve the floor to talk about them with other like-minded Believers. However, there is a time for a social gathering and a time for diligent Bible study. These two events should be kept separate. Hold your intimate gathering and refreshments before or after the scheduled Bible study. Since the God we serve is organized and not chaotic, I recommend y’all keep the distractions to a minimum once you open your Bibles. I also suggest you elect a facilitator to help keep your Bible study under control and moving forward: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Note also there’s a natural progression in Philippians from having fellowship with one another to enjoying the unity and fellowship of the Spirit of God, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind (like-minded), maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2 - NASB).
Here Paul pleads with the folks who were at odds with one another that they may be of the same mind, i.e. like-minded. Why? So the gospel of grace would not be hindered. He challenged them to accomplish this on the basis of their joint fellowship with the Holy Spirit:
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the (what) unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).
If the people responsible for the conflict in this church did more than just listen to the Word of God, (Paul’s letters were passed around the churches and read aloud. The New Testament didn’t exist) it would enable the Holy Spirit to work more freely in and through them and eventually their differences would be reconciled. Paul wanted these folks to be “filled with the Spirit” (under the Spirit’s control) instead of exercising self-centeredness (Ephesians 5:18).
Paul then adds to this we have fellowship in Jesus Christ’s sufferings, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (3:10).
Paul’s saying the church partakes (participates) in the sufferings of Christ. Like the Lord, we too experience rejection, misrepresentation, and cruel treatment when we stand firm for the truth or what God has said. Paul’s saying every suffering and/or trial we experience in this life for the cause of Christ actually draws us nearer to Him. We know Paul shared in Christ’s sufferings because he faithfully served “the cause of Christ Jesus.”
“For this cause, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…” (Ephesians 3:1).
Our Lord and Savior was arrested and sentenced to die on a Roman cross for teaching the truth to the nation of Israel. In similar fashion, Paul was unjustly arrested and imprisoned and he faced the death penalty because he preached the revelation of the mystery and related church doctrine to both Jew and Gentile. From this we understand you should not be shocked when you experience persecution and suffering for the cause of Christ, while walking worthy of the calling with which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1-3). I could continue discussing this aspect of the faith with you, but I think you understand what Paul’s saying well enough for us to proceed. I will say before leaving this subject if you’re not experiencing difficulties for the cause of Christ, you’re probably not walking in fellowship with Him. The two go hand-in-hand.
Let’s go to Philippians 1:6.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Y’all are aware there is a big difference between being confident of something and walking in doubt, right? I sincerely doubt my name is connected to the next billion dollar lottery pot, but I am confident in the fact I am eternally saved by faith (alone). Paul’s saying he is “confident of this very thing.” What thing? The good work which the Lord had begun in these Believers would continue until (this is a time related word) the day of Christ Jesus. In other words, “their race is not over.”
But what is the good work that God is performing in these Believers (and us)? I’m glad you asked. The answer: Redemption. Webster’s defines this as, “the spiritually improved state of someone saved from irreversible decline.” This is not the biblical definition of redemption but it expresses the idea the road we all traveled prior to our conversion was anything but spiritual. We were all experiencing an irreversible decline because we are powerless to change the biblical fact we all enter this world “dead to God” (Ephesians 2:5). Most people don’t recognize the significance of this truth, but be that as it may your redemption (salvation) and mine was secured for us at the cross of Jesus Christ. His final words “It is finished” convey the meaning everything that needed to be done was accomplished at the cross. Not one thing more needs to be added.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3).
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be (what) made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The Lord’s sacrificial death doesn’t make people “right with God” automatically, as some folks claim. The key to one’s redemption is their expressed faith in the gospel of grace (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). So, Paul’s informing the saints in Philippi their redemption was secured for them by Christ Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures, however, it won’t be completed until “the redemption of the purchased possession.” Let’s go to Ephesians 1:13-14.
...you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
Salvation is but step one in fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for those who profess faith in the gospel. We have been “set apart” unto God for the work of service (Ephesians 2:10, 4:12). God is working in and through us to carry out the good pleasure of His will, which ultimately means we’re to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). Just as the Lord came to serve and to do the will of the Father, we too have been called to a life of service to“the building up of the Body of Christ” to the praise and glory of God. One of the areas of service the Philippians excelled in was their sacrificial support of Paul’s apostleship and his ministry. In this, they demonstrated their commitment to the cause of Christ.
Next we note God will complete this good work in the Philippians (and us) at the day of Jesus Christ. There’s plenty of confusion and disagreement in the church today regarding these two biblical events, so I thought we’d briefly examine these two separate and significant days.
The Day of Jesus Christ
The phrase “the day of Christ” or “the day of the Lord Jesus” is unique to our Apostle Paul. You won’t find them in the O.T. These phrases are found in Paul’s writings. (See 1 Corinthians 1:8, 3:13, 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10, 2:16; and 2 Timothy 1:19, 4:8).
On the other hand, the phrase “the day of the Lord” is common throughout the Old Testament. The prophets referenced it again and again. The Lord Jesus Christ, Paul, and Peter also wrote about it. Here are some Bible passages to review: Isaiah 2:12, 13:6, 9, 34:8; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1, 11, 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5; Matthew 24:1-51; Acts 2:20; Romans 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2;2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:10.
Let’s be clear, the world is rushing headlong towards the day of the Lord but it is not a jubilant occasion, as more than a few preachers proclaim. It is a time of great distress, suffering, and travail. It is “the day of the wrath of the LORD” (Ezekiel 7:19) and as the prophet Zephaniah put it, “the great day of the Lord… The mighty man (is not overjoyed he) shall cry (once) there bitterly” (Zephaniah 1:14). People conclude joy and happiness are associated with that day because they fail to rightly divide the Scriptures. What does this book say?
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then (what) sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do (1 Thessalonians 4:5-11).
In the Bible passage above Paul refers to the day of the Lord (a.k.a. the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth, the Mt of Olives to be specific, the very place He ascended to the Father.
And his feet shall (literally) stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south (Zechariah 14:4).
The day of Christ refers to the Lord Jesus Christ returning in the clouds (the first heaven) for the Body of Christ. Unlike the Day of the Lord, (a.k.a. the Second Coming of Christ Jesus) the Day of Christ is eagerly anticipated by the church or should be. The Day of Christ was not revealed in the O.T., by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry to the Jews, or even to the twelve, His closest friends. The ascended Lord revealed this church event to Paul only. Paul referred to it as “that blessed hope.”
Looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
In Romans chapter 8 Paul mentioned “that day” saying, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, awaiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:17-23; 1 Corinthians 15:35-57).
Once in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, this book clearly states we will all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account of our conduct (whether good or bad) and our service. While many Believers will express joy in that day, many others will suffer loss of reward. They can’t lose their salvation because that was secured by Jesus Christ. From this we also learn no unbelievers will be present at the Bema Seat Judgment.
If any man's (good) work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:14-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 - KJV).
So, at the Judgment Seat of Christ the good work that God began in the Philippians (and us) will be complete on that day. We will then be seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenly places and in glory.
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved ;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:5-6 - KJV).
This closes out the day of the Christ.
Let’s move on to Philippians 1:7a.
Even as it is meet (right) for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart , inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace (KJV) – the term it is meet in the Greek language is Axios (ax’-ee-os), Adjective, Strongs Greek # 514, meaning: of weight, of worth, worthy; to weigh in properly; to assess. As I pointed out in the introduction, Paul was a compassionate, tender-hearted man. His admiration and love for these saints is exhibited here and throughout the remainder of this letter.
He previously said, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus,” so here Paul’s saying, “It is right of me to think this of y’all because I have you in my heart.” That is, he’s not mistaken about his conclusion that the good work the Lord had begun and would continue until the day of Jesus Christ. But how could Paul be so certain? Answer: he knew God would honor His Word because He cannot lie, there’s no deception in Him.
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; (Titus 1:1-2).
Paul was genuinely moved by their faithfulness to Him, his apostolic authority, and to God’s Word. He knew this pleased and honored God.
For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ (KJV) – don’t permit words like bowels to throw you off course, if I can find the true meaning of this word and others so can you. Most people are aware the term bowels refer to the intestines. In Paul’s day people believed the intestines (bowels) were an inseparable link between the physical body and a person’s innermost being. To illustrate this belief I offer this explanation. If while walking with your child down the street, you saw them trip and fall on the concrete sidewalk, you’d probably experience a wave of emotions from deep concern to fear and these “feelings” would be centered in your core. This may give you some idea of what Paul felt.
The world used this term to express a range of emotions such as anger and love, but Paul and the household of God meant for it to communicate a person’s seat of affection, compassion, kindness, and tender mercies or the deepest human emotions that touch our lives. So Paul is saying, whenever he thought of the Philippians, a wave of emotions swept through him, as he longed to be with them. He truly missed them. Paul also desired to spend time with those who were at odds with one another, as indicated by his frequent us of the term, “you all” in this letter.
Do you see what Paul’s doing here? He’s not allowing either faction to claim he’s on their side. Paul remained neutral, like Switzerland, when it came to personality clashes and the ensuing collateral damage because he knew this was nothing more than the unspiritual fruit of carnality.
For God is my record – Paul often calls upon God to “bear record” on his behalf because his message is brand new as it was kept hidden in the mind of God since the foundation of the earth (Colossians 1:26). Only God could substantiate it, for the patriarchs and prophets of old knew nothing of it. But he’s also calling upon the Lord as his witness to prove his deep admiration for the Philippians was genuine.
(To be continued)
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