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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 back to HBS.
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will (desire) and to do of his will (good pleasure) - Philippians 2:12-13.
I think y’all agree it’s so much easier to behave as sons and daughters of God when responsible adults are around. But what usually happens when no one’s watching? I think y’all know the answer to that question. This is when our “old man,” our Adamic nature comes calling and we forget we are accountable to God and to one another?
In the Bible passage above Paul’s referring to the Philippians’ present sanctification or their present walk with Lord Jesus Christ; he’s is not telling them to work for their salvation. He’s saying each member of this church is to “carry the present sanctification process out to the desired goal.” What’s the desired goal? According to our Apostle Paul, every true Believer is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29; 12:1-2).
Directions are included with things that read “some assembly required.” However, people try to complete the project without reviewing those instructions; this is human nature. How hard can it be there’s a finished picture on the box cover, right? But somewhere in the process a problem is encountered that forces the individual to review the instruction manual. Once the error is discovered and corrected, the assembly process is renewed, step-by-step, bringing the project to “the desired goal.”
The Bible is the Believer’s “How to Book,” and you’ll find the instructions for achieving Christlikeness in Romans through Philemon or Paul’s epistles (Ephesians 1:5-9). The Body of Christ is both a living organism and a “work currently in progress.” I say this because we have not obtained that which we are to strive for. Paul urged the Philippians to “practice what they preach,” and “work out” their present sanctification to “its desired goal,” which is Christlikeness (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Paul’s been telling these Believers to “mind their conduct” since verse 1:27: “Only let your conversation (General course of manners; behavior; deportment; especially as it respects morals) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” He repeats himself in verse 3:20 and again in 4:1-2. What was the problem? Some of these people not only gave voice to their disagreements they argued with one another. This negative behavior caused disharmony among the brothers and sisters in the Lord to the degree Paul was concerned this church would split apart. Although they were aware of God’s Grace, having been saved by it (through faith), they were not extending grace to one another. This is why Paul commanded them to “put on” Jesus Christ’s human characteristic of humility: “Look not every man on his own things (interests), but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (2:4-5).
Everything considered this church was spiritually healthy when compared to the churches at Corinth and Galatia. However, just like those churches, and others, these folks were not likeminded. The Galatian church was turning from Paul’s gospel “to a different gospel” in Paul’s absence and needed correction (Galatians 1:6). Clearly, they were abandoning the “grace of Christ,” which indicates a move to embrace something other than the gift of Jesus’ perfect righteousness as the foundation of their salvation.
From this we understand church harmony and unity are related; they are two peas in a pod. Both traits are necessary for the spiritual growth of the body. Below is a scripture passage from Paul to the church at Rome addressing their lack of like-mindedness:
“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded (in harmony) one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).
Having provided significant instruction in Romans 14:1–15:1 on the Believer’s liberty in Christ and their accountability to God, that is to say, strong and weak Believers should not despise or judge each other (break apart over matters that are not essential for salvation), Paul concludes the discussion with a prayer calling for church unity. Paul recognizes church harmony is impossible apart from God’s empowerment, so he calls upon the Lord to grant the readers of this epistle the ability along with the willingness to glorify “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” with one mind and one mouth (voice).
Our Apostle Paul’s prayer for church unity is not only an attempt to resolve conflict within this church it can be viewed as an exhortation. When Paul added this prayer to his letter, he again stresses the importance of church unity. He’s actually praying for what the Lord wants, namely, a people united in the gospel and tolerant of diversity (varying opinions) when it comes to matters of the faith in accordance with God’s will.
Paul’s message in Romans 14 is perfect liberty exists in the Dispensation of Grace, but each Believer must walk according to their conscience, relying on the instruction manual, so to speak. When opinions varied on the eating of meat sacrificed to idols, for example, the strong Believer is to walk, in love, with the weak Believer understanding the Holy Spirit will bring him or her along in due time. They must not be despised, judged, or ridiculed for their lack of knowledge here referred to as “weak faith.” There is room to maneuver in the Body of Christ when differences of opinion arise, as long as the gospel itself is not maligned or distorted.
Paul’s communication to the church at Ephesus conveys, if not underlines, this message:
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep (preserve) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:1-4).
And we have this prayer from Paul in Philippians 1:9-10:
“And this I pray, that your (what) love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence til the day of Christ;”
Getting along with other Believers is definitely a lesson in love. It takes effort and by that I mean it requires “putting on” humility and patience. Paul wrote:
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (Galatians 5:25-26, 6:1-2).
Paul’s message to every Believer is this: church unity is produced by the Spirit of God, therefore, we are to guard and preserve the unity into which we’re called (Ephesians 4:1-3).
We took the scenic route to get here, but the information provided beforehand lays the groundwork for the next Bible passage under study. Please open your Bible at Philippians 2:14:
Do all things without murmurings (uttering complaints in a low voice or sullen manner; grumbling) and disputing (contending by words or argument): That ye may be blameless (without fault; innocent) and harmless (not hurtful or injurious), the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of (surrounded by) a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.
Here Paul addressed one of the problems this church was experiencing and it had to do with their conduct in the body. I’ve yet to meet an individual, whether in a church or in life, who isn’t dissatisfied or disturbed about someone or something and I include myself; I’m equally guilty. However our society has a critical mentality about everything. Recently, a confederate statue dedicated to the southerners in North Carolina who died in the Civil War upset one or more people so to appease them the government is removing it. This same scenario is being played out in Lakeland, FL where a confederate statue that has stood for a 100 years is now considered insulting. I foresee the day when people will disagree with history books and the book burning process will begin anew. Clearly, people will find fault with a sunny day; and I’m not joking. I read last week about a young man suing his parents for giving birth to him, demonstrating everything and everyone is subject to personal attack. So we should not be surprised to learn this worldly attitude has invaded the church.
Do all things without murmurings and disputing – here Paul’s saying when some people stand in opposition to someone or something they either complained in low whispers or audibly so everyone within ear shot can hear them. This behavior is certainly found in the world, but it should not be found in the church. Since God is producing in the Philippians (and us) the willing and doing of His good and perfect will (2:13), there can be no legitimate reason for complaining in the Body of Christ.
However, our “old man,” the flesh, can justify anything, even murmurings and disputing, but ask yourself “Is this a Christ-like characteristic?” The answer should be obvious. Clearly, some of these folks were permitting their “old man” to dominate their new man in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 3:9-11). But according to our Apostle Paul “our old man was crucified with Christ” (Romans 6:6) therefore we’re no longer enslaved to sin.
Paul said you have been taught with reference to your former life (outside of Christ) to lay aside the old man:
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (greediness), and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24).
In the passage above Paul calls all Believers to lay aside their former, ungodly, conduct and renew their minds. But here’s the thing, when it comes to the subject of changing our minds (along with our lives), we all feel the same as we feel about going to heaven: We’re all for it, but we’d rather not go through what you have to go through to get there! The idea of change sounds good, but when it gets right down to it, we’re thinking “You mean I actually have to live differently?”
We see evidence of this thinking at the start of every New Year. People take the moral high ground electing to exercise, quit smoking, drinking, cursing, or whatever, but within a few weeks they consider that change too difficult and kick it to the curb. However, the true Believer’s life is essentially a changed life. This book says so. If you claim to believe Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sin, but are living just as you did before you believed in Him, you need to examine whether you truly believe in Him. Becoming a Believer begins with changing your present mindset. We become what we believe, so a changed mindset should resemble the blameless life to which we’ve been called (Philippians 3:8). God changes us radically at the moment of our salvation by imparting new life to us (Ephesians 2:1-4). This is to be followed by a lifetime of conforming to the image of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul paints a word picture of how unbelievers live. While not all unbelievers are Attila the Hun or Joseph Stalin they all live “…in the vanity (futility) of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (lusts of the flesh). This rather bleak picture describes each one of us before we believed the gospel of grace.
But now, as it were, Paul draws a sharp contrast between then and now in Ephesians 4:20: “But (now) ye have not so learned Christ:” He then explains what every true Believer should be experiencing or the changes God is working in and through them via the gospel in 4:21:
If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus…
Paul said “if” declaring hearing the truth does not always translate to belief. It’s a given, sometimes the truth enters one ear and exists the other.
Paul then informs us in Ephesians 4:22-24 the changed life stems from the change God works in us through the gospel’s message.
“…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
When you get up in the morning and dress for the day, don’t forget to prayerfully “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
So, Paul said, “Do all things without murmurings and disputing,” and we acknowledge the fact that many Believers do some things without murmurings or disputing. The problem is we’re to do all things without displaying a negative attitude. One preacher said, “To do all things without complaining is the fruit of humility to which Paul had exhorted them in 2:3-4.” I agree with him. Love is a verb and one way we express our love is through sincere humility:
If there be therefore an consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies (and there is), fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (2:1-2).
Therefore, we all need to constantly remind ourselves to “put on” both of these character traits because our old man resists them. As I mentioned earlier, when in doubt, review the instruction manual a.k.a Paul’s writings.
Now let’s examine Philippians 2:15:
“…That ye may be blameless (without fault; innocent) and harmless (not hurtful or injurious), the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of (surrounded by) a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world (2:15).
Here we have the reasons for not murmuring and disputing. Paul could have easily said, “For this reason” instead of “That.” The purpose of the attitude we’re called to “put on” is found in the preceding verse (2:14), so there might be a complete absence of these specific things spoken of by Paul that disrupt church unity and damage both the gospel of grace along with our personal testimony.
Paul’s point is if you’re not on the front lines fighting “the good fight of the faith,” then you’re most likely somewhere in the shadows criticizing those who are actively engaged in promoting the gospel of grace. Criticism is not one of the fruits of the Spirit it is the manifestation of the flesh. So, Paul’s telling all those at Philippi who were carnal minded (relating to someone’s physical needs) to “renew their mind” so the Lord can use them for the greater good. They were called to be blameless, harmless, and without rebuke so those people outside the church, in the world, could recognize them for who they are in Christ Jesus, that is, light in a darkened world:
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
Here Paul said he lived a blameless life while among them. They could try to accuse him of wrongdoing, but the accusation would not stick. Then in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, Paul prays that they also live a “blameless” life:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
Putting this altogether, Paul’s telling the Philippians if they lay aside (put off) murmurings and disputing, they will be well on their way to becoming blameless and harmless, i.e. no one will be able to wag the finger of blame at them. Just so we’re all on the same page harmless does not mean someone won’t harm you. The word in the Greek has to do with being innocent or pure of heart. This word was used back in the day when people talked about pure gold, pure copper, or any metal that did not contain impurities. It was also used of milk and wine that was not watered-down. The Marriage Feast at Cana where the Lord Jesus Christ changed water to the best tasting wine on the menu that day was one of the 7 signs of the Apostle John (John 2:1-11) and an ideal example of this teaching.
All true Believers are to live a life without rebuke. In this passage of scripture we catch a glimpse of God’s purpose for His people. In their character and conduct there should be no characteristic on which an unbeliever would pass judgment. Now I’m thinking about the youth pastor at a church nearby who was arrested for abusing children in his care. This is an example of what not to do per Paul and supports my opening commentary on his statement in 1:27:
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
(To be continued)
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