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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, one and all, to HBS.
In last week’s Bible lesson our Apostle Paul urged the Philippian Believers to “put on” one spirit and one mind. In addition, as members of Christ’s one body they are to stand fast, united, for the faith of the gospel. To do this Believers are to put away their ungodly characteristics, i.e. their differences, grievances, and jealousies to preserve the bond of peace. Paul’s urging these folks to “put on” the characteristics of Jesus Christ (holy and blameless – Ephesians 1:4) to properly promote the gospel of grace:
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But (insert your name here) put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof (Romans 13:13-14).
Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:27-30.
We’ll begin by reviewing last week’s verse since it’s connected to verse 1:28.
Only let your conversation (conduct) be as it becometh (what) the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel: (1:27)
And in nothing (no way) terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition (destruction), but to you of salvation, and that of God (1:28).
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries (1:28a) – here Paul mentions one of the ways the Philippians’ proper conduct benefits the gospel of Christ. The Koine Greek word for adversaries is Antikeimai (an-tik’-i-mahee), Verb, Strong’s Greek #480, meaning: resist, oppose, opposite. Paul used the same word in 1 Corinthians 16:9: For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many (what) adversaries.
Some years earlier, just after Paul planted the church in Philippi, both he and his gospel encountered great opposition (resistance) from unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica. The Apostle Luke recorded this event in Acts 17:5-13:
But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.
I don’t find Paul giving us a list of exemptions in verse 1:28 instead he said “all” and “all” means every true Believer. Paul had exhorted the saints in Philippi to stand fast, in one spirit and one mind for the gospel’s sake. Paul knew in serving the Lord they would encounter opposition/resistance from those who opposed the gospel.
In the passage above Paul and Silas were threatened by unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica to such an extent they had to flee the city to avoid persecution and the possibility of incarceration by the magistrates or civil authorities. These Jews were so zealous in their persecution of Paul they followed him and Silas to Berea to pick up where they left off. FYI: It’s likely these same Jews or others with a like mindset troubled the church in Philippi. Whether this is true or not, we understand the Philippian church was being persecuted at the time of this writing (Reread 1:27-30).
Paul encouraged these folks to stand fast as one and in nothing terrified by your adversaries (opposition). The word terrified is an interesting choice of words. Its usage back in the day and outside the Bible usually referred to a frightened horse running away from an unfamiliar sound. I purchased a green-broke horse awhile ago for my wife. One of the first things we realized about this animal was its skittishness. This horse was so nervous should a leaf or piece of paper blow across the corral her eyes became as big as saucers and she tried to bolt. Having lived this, I get what Paul is saying. Applying this truth to Paul’s statement, these like-minded Believers were to stand together as one against their opposition and not “bolt” from the Lord and the gospel in fear. He then informed them their bold stand in the face of persecution would in fact turn the tables on their opponents by reminding them their end was perdition or eternal punishment in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:9), while it served to assure the faithful of their eternal salvation.
Our Apostle Paul wants these folks in Philippi to know as they live their lives (walk worthy) striving together to further the gospel of grace (in this present evil age) they can expect suffering. We know we’re on the right track here because Paul gave Timothy a spiritual “heads up” on this very topic saying “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
I pay little attention to the news media because much of what is said is as false as a bald man’s hairpiece, however, it’s rather obvious Christian liberty in America is under attack by its adversaries. Some folks deny this outright, but these same folks object the truth in any form. One of the reasons President Trump was elected was because people felt their religious liberty was being threatened, suffering erosion under the previous administration. I offer the Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann as a recent example. While exercising his freedoms of assembly and speech, wearing a MAGA cap at a political demonstration, he was singled out by a hate group and then later by the media and labeled a trouble maker and a racist. Nothing could be further from the truth, but, as I pointed out earlier, the truth isn’t fit for print anymore. This young man and his family along with their school received numerous death threats and hateful harassment from misguided people. I read yesterday this young man is suing his opponents and they’ll settle their differences in the courtroom. My point is simply this people of faith are being persecuted in America today, and the manner in which we respond to it matters to God and to those who are watching.
The Scriptures reveal Paul faced persecution and suffering wherever he preached the truth: Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even has Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? (Galatians 4:12-16)
If you stand firm for the faith and Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16) you can expect to be opposed by Satan, a lot of churched people, and unbelievers. In case you missed it, I mentioned Satan first because he is your chief adversary. The term Satan is actually a Hebrew word used throughout the Old Testament that means opponent or adversary. In the New Testament, Satan is referred as the adversary, the accuser, an enemy, an opponent, the devil, the serpent, and a dragon, whose sole focus is to deceive, divide and destroy God’s people and defeat the purpose of God. He is the father of lies; therefore, his greatest enemy is the truth. He opposes the Word of God and those who believe and advocate its truths:
But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Galatians 1:6-10).
There’s an old proverb that says “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” By this I mean to say since the inception of the gospel of grace (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), people from all walks of life have stood in opposition to Paul’s apostolic authority and the revelation of the mystery: Now to him that is of power to stablish (confirm; to settle in a state for permanence) you (how) according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to (what) the revelation of the mystery (Ephesians 3:1-7; Colossians 1:27).
Opposition to the gospel can be attributed to Satan. He has blinded people to the truth. I also point out the gospel highlights sinfulness (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 4:3), which is one more reason why people object to it. So, if you’re effectively promoting the gospel of grace, you have aroused Satan’s ire and you will suffer for it. It’s not really a matter of if, but when and how often… Personally, I’ve been “labeled” a religious heretic, a religious fanatic, a follower of a cult, and lost fellowship with more people than I care to count simply for promoting Paul’s gospel. Since it’s happening to me, I can assure you it will happen to you (Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Peter 5:8).
Let’s press on to verses 1:29-30:
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Have you ever questioned God’s undying love for you because you were being troubled by some difficulty or tragedy that occurred in your life? This is not unusual. It’s a known fact many people doubt God’s love, mercy, and His very existence because of all the calamity and general unrest in the world. Who hasn’t heard someone, somewhere, say, “How can God allow this or that to happen?” Case in point, a very good friend of mine told me some time ago he could never believe there is a God who cares because of his troubled childhood. Evidently, his mother and father argued quite a bit and now and again the dispute escalated to physical abuse. Furthermore, his older brother bullied him at every opportunity, so my friend can’t understand why God would permit all this turmoil. If you’ve ever had occasion to witness two people you love dearly go at it, then perhaps you can understand where he’s coming from.
Putting this all together, we understand each and every true Believer is a representative of Jesus Christ here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). Therefore, Paul calmly states if you’re serving the Lord you can expect suffering for His sake (Romans 12:1-2). That being said, Paul realized the threat of persecution may bring some of the Philippians to question God’s goodness causing them to bolt or desert the faith as well as the gospel of their salvation. This is why he reminded them suffering is as much a part of God’s purpose and plan for your lives as believing in Jesus Christ is.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him – looking at this phrase with the proper perspective, or Paul’s point of view, you then understand when you place your faith in the gospel (believe), you receive God’s free gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-10) and eternal life (Romans 6:23). Additionally, he’s saying you will be richly rewarded if you suffer for Christ Jesus. It’s human nature not to recognize suffering as a gift from God, but this is what Paul is saying. Both His grace and the suffering you endure, as you walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called, are gifts from God.
How do we know this? Look at what Paul said: “…Having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” I mentioned earlier Paul suffered persecution unlike anything we’ll face today, yet he stayed the course set before him, as did our Savior, Jesus Christ. God’s Word could not be silenced. I remind the group even though Paul and Silas were mistreated, unjustly jailed, and shackled to the prison floor in Philippi (Acts 16:20-25), these two godly men did not bemoan their present circumstances or their harsh treatment. Instead, Paul and Silas rejoiced!
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them (Acts 16:26).
The thing I want y’all to note is the cause and effect or the relationship between their hardship, their prayer and singing praises to God, and the ensuing result; “The keeper of the prison and his entire house believed” and were saved (Acts 16:26-34). That’s a powerful testimony folks and one we all should remember when the dark clouds roll in because people are observing your attitude and/or behavior. From this we learn suffering for God is not just for our benefit but for the benefit of others. The Philippians were suffering the same conflicts Paul experienced during his initial visit to Philippi and I brought a few of these to your attention recently. But we saw the cruel injustices at the hands of evil men resulted in the furtherance of the gospel and just like the keeper of the prison and his household people believed and were saved.
People today don’t want to hear suffering is a gift from God; instead people would rather believe the teachings of men, such as those who herald the “Health and Wealth” or the “Name it and Claim it” gospel. One of these sounds better than the other, but only one message is derived from the truth. If you’re walking the walk and talking the talk, this book says you can expect to encounter suffering. I’ve yet to find a person who has not experienced opposition from a family member, close friend, or relative, let alone the world-at-large because they stood firm with Paul and the revelation of the mystery. The Lord’s own brethren rejected both Him and His message (John 15:18). Since He was hated by the very people He was sent to help, don’t act surprised when it happens to you. Just remember suffering for the sake of the gospel is part and parcel of God’s gift of grace and His plan and purpose for each true Believer. God’s Word cannot be silenced.
(To be continued)
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