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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)
Greetings, and welcome to HBS.
For those of you who are somewhat new to our Bible study please know the most recent
Bible lesson always appears first on the website. The lessons then line up in sequential order after that. The search window may be used to look up a specific Bible topic or subject you’re interested in such as justification, reconciliation, redemption, and my doctrinal statement. One last thing; I recommended re-reading the prior lesson before studying the new one. This repetitious activity will help you mature in the faith:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (Colossians 1:9-10).
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished (To fix; to settle in a state for permanence; to make firm) in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7).
In the previous lesson we learned whether out of contention or like-mindedness the gospel of grace was preached in and about the city of Rome and our Apostle Paul rejoiced. It’s worth mentioning again, Paul uses the word “joy” or “rejoice” sixteen times in Philippians, and thus it’s known as the epistle of joy. I find this remarkable since he’s not only in prison unjustly he’s facing a death sentence for “the cause of Christ.” Paul believed the prayers of the saints and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ combined with the gospels’ positive influence would result in his deliverance or salvation from prison. You see, Paul believed the Lord would see him through this ordeal and out the other side. Why? Paul was sold out for Jesus Christ, i.e. serving the Lord was his life. Paul was confident he would be allowed to continue preaching the gospel of grace in Rome and elsewhere (Philippians 1:21).
Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:20-21.
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified (to make great or greater) in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, (1:20a) - this comment is connected to Paul’s previous statement in 1:17b: “…knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.” We’ve talked about why Paul defended his gospel. But I haven’t mentioned since its inception, God’s gospel of grace has been subjected to ridicule and rejected by those who defiantly proclaim “That’s not how it’s done.” Many people adamantly believe salvation is accomplished by means other than faith alone in Paul’s gospel (Acts 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). For instance, a lot of people believe salvation is achieved by something they do such as performing good works, water baptism, joining a specific church, etcetera. They believe the essence of religion is doing something good for God and that good work becomes the vehicle by which they are saved. But if that’s the case, how many good works must a person do and what about the “wrong things” people continuously do? Does one good work nullify one sin or does it take many good deeds to erase one wrong doing? The muddied waters are cleared by the fundamental teaching of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace (John 14:6; Romans 10:9-13; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Returning to verse 1:20a where Paul said “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed…” The word ashamed means: to dishonor, or make ashamed. It conveys the meaning of being put to shame. This same word appears in 1 Corinthians 10:8:
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:
And again in 1 John 2:28: And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
Why is Paul concerned about being ashamed? We find the answer in verse 1:20b “…but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
Even though it was his heart’s desire, to magnify the Lord in his body in defence of the gospel of grace, Paul was concerned when the time came he might not share the gospel boldly. Instead, the possibility existed he would remain silent and by his silence disgrace the gospel and the Lord. Therefore he asked the believing saints to pray specifically that he would make known the mystery of the gospel, boldly whenever the opportunity arises: Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that (specifically) I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:16-20).
Even though Paul demonstrated a Christ-like spirit, he’s still human. I mention this because there are people who think certain biblical figures such as Abraham, Moses, Paul, Peter, James, John, the Virgin Mary, etc. were wired differently while in their mother’s womb, that is to say they were super-spiritual at birth. However all the examples listed above, and many others I did not mention had and experienced human emotion. They were no different than you and me in this respect.
Our Apostle Paul is but one example. In the scripture passage below, he openly expresses the emotion of trepidation: And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Why was Paul uneasy? People describe 2 Corinthians as Paul pouring out his heart to the Believers in Corinth. Specific references to his emotions are found no less than thirty-five times in this communication. It’s been said the bravest are not those who do not experience the sensation of fear, but rather those who are keenly aware of danger and yet face it boldly. One Viet Nam veteran I knew long ago said to me, “There are no heroes in war only ordinary men doing extraordinary things for the good of their brothers-in-arms. When Paul arrived in the pagan city of Corinth, Greece, the people were busy exploring and surrendering to numerous fleshly (carnal) indulgences. Talking to like-minded Believers about God’s grace is not difficult. But taking God’s Word to the streets, literally, where taking care of self is the primary goal, and the world and its fleshly delights are paramount, you’ll find the road not only less traveled, but a rough one indeed. However, Paul seized the moment or “took the bull by the horns,” and preached the gospel to both the Jew and the Gentle and experienced the human emotions of weakness, fear, and trembling. Bearing this in mind, Paul knows his appointment (trial) before Nero is drawing near. If you know anything about this Roman emperor then you can understand his unease. Not only is the meeting itself unsettling, the outcome of it will determine whether he lives or dies.
Born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, (37-68 AD), Nero took his familiar name when he was adopted at age 13 by his great-uncle, the emperor Claudius. As Rome’s emperor (circa 54-68 AD), Nero made a villainous name for himself right up to the moment of his death. Nero is known for his debaucheries, political murders, and his passion for music and for persecuting Christians. Nero introduced “twilight executions.” Christians were dressed in wax, affixed to crosses, and set afire to light up the night. So, Paul’s apprehension stemmed from the possibility he would shrink from his God-given responsibility of defending the gospel of grace before Nero at this divinely ordained meeting:
But the Lord said unto him (Ananias), Go thy way: for he (Saul/Paul) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and (who) kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake (Acts 9:16-16).
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome (Acts 23:11).
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee (Acts 27:24).
So, in verse 1:20a, Paul reveals human characteristics. His future is uncertain (clouded over) and this made him nervous. But I don’t find one instance in scripture where Paul is so overwhelmed by emotion he permits his emotions to control him. This tender-hearted man was utterly devoted to his calling despite the difficulties (Romans 1:1):
Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:18b-24).
Paul’s earnest desire to serve God faithfully, bolstered by the prayers of the saints, and strengthened by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ allowed him to take the gospel of grace to places other people had not visited. Caesar’s palace was one of these places.
Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand. For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you (Romans 15:19-22).
“…as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”
When I see the word magnify, I think of a laboratory microscope. Blood cells are placed on a glass slide and slid into place on the magnifying instrument. With the aid of a bright light and a series of optical lenses a greatly magnified image is revealed. Thus, the word “magnify” here means: to be brought into the light so as to be clearly seen and understood; to make great or greater. Paul is telling the Philippians (and us) whatever the outcome of his trial he wanted Christ Jesus to be magnified in his body, whether it be by life, or by death.
Whether in life or in death, Paul wanted people to see the Light of Christ Jesus in him:
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth (Acts 13:46-47).
Do all things without murmurings and disputing: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom (what) shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life… (Philippians 2:14-16a).
Once again, we see Paul exemplifying what he believed and taught the Body of Christ:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your (what) bodies a living sacrifice (an offering), holy (set apart), acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1)
When the Lord Jesus Christ is magnified in one’s body, it enables people to better understand Him, His love, His ways, and subsequently His will for them. There’s nothing quite like a biblical example so please turn with me to the Acts 11:25-26: Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Those of you who have been with me for awhile understand I refrain from using certain words in my Bible lessons and the word Christian is one of them. This word has been hijacked (stolen); it no longer retains its original meaning. Permit me to explain.
The word Christian means “a follower of Christ.” The Believers at Antioch didn’t invent the term Christian. These Believers magnified the Lord in their bodies, meaning they displayed Christ-like qualities in their day-to-day living and this lifestyle was noticed by the Romans who had contact with them. It was meant to be disrespectful term. The Romans thought their behavior was strange. They couldn’t understand why people would want to imitate someone who died on the cross.
So Paul’s recognizing Caesar may choose to have him executed soon, so he added “whether it be by life, or by death.” His overall objective, to magnify Jesus Christ, is the most important thing on his list of things to do. If he could do this in living, fine and dandy; but if he had to die, then so be it. God will be glorified either way.
Paul stated in verse 1:20 he’s content to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ by death or by life. He follows that comment by effectively saying, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Another way of saying this is “Jesus Christ is my sole reason for living.”
Our Apostle Paul wanted to live as Jesus Christ desired him to live, and if he had to die for Christ, then so be it. Either way, Paul wanted to live so other people could see Christ Jesus in him. Joining these statements together we come up with the idea, whether in life or in death, Paul wants the Lord to be clearly seen and understood by all. The only way this can occur is if one chooses to die to self and allow the Lord to be evident in their life. Plainly said, God expects true Believers to model His Son or to walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1-3).
(To be continued)
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