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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: September 15, 2019
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Let’s begin with a brief review of last week’s lesson.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).
Paul’s desired to “forget those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…” and his commands to “stand,” “walk,” and “run” our individual races remembering to keep our eyes focused on the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Paul’s goal in life was to know Christ intimately. He desired to be all he could be, as God’s called apostle to the gentiles. He strived to be counted faithful in all things related to “the revelation of the mystery” as long as life remained in his mortal body (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:1-3).
Before we pick up our Bible lesson from that point, I want to remind everyone we live in an imperfect world. There is no area of concern in this world that Satan has not corrupted, and the churches or religions in existence today are included. Not every church leader is looking out for your best interest or for your edification and that’s because greed (or covetousness) often disrupts the process, whatever form that takes.
Therefore, please be aware when it comes to doing the Lord’s work, not every speaker behind the pulpit or in front of it is genuinely concerned about your spiritual welfare. So it is invigorating when we come across a spiritual leader such as our Apostle Paul, who was sincerely concerned about all those God had entrusted to his care. Thus, Paul has been divinely appointed as a pattern for all Believers to follow in both what he taught and the manner in which he lived his life. We know this because of His encouraging statement to the Philippians in verse 3:17: “be followers of me…”
I have another Bible verse to show you with a similar message. Please turn to 1 Timothy 1:15-16: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (an example; a pattern or model for imitation).
********That verse is an ideal segue to today’s study. Please open your Bible at Philippians 3:15-17.
“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample (a pattern to imitate).”
“…as many as be perfect,” - it is important to understand the context of this Bible verse. If you have believed Paul’s gospel, you are a saved individual, in Christ; therefore, you are perfect or complete, positionally speaking, in Him. Let’s look at a similar message in Colossians: “And ye are complete in Him” (Christ Jesus) 2:10.
If death were to claim you this very day, the real you (your soul and spirit), would be ushered instantaneously into the presence of God: For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).
God sees the true Believer as a perfect individual in Christ, not because of something they did or didn’t do, but on the basis of their expressed faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While it is true each member of the Body of Christ is perfect, on this side of glory we still possess a sin nature; consequently, we will never reach a state of perfection. But even though we will never fully realize it, like Paul, we are to strive toward this goal (mark) as long as there is breath in our bodies, and we’re to continue growing in knowledge of the Lord daily. Paul had this thought in mind back in Philippians 3:12:
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Although Paul knew he would fall far short of reaching a state of complete spiritual maturity in this life, he still “pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
When Paul stated “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…” (3:15), he is in no way contradicting himself with regard to what he said in verse 3:12. He is simply saying that, even though he was far from his intended goal, he was a mature Believer due to the fact he consistently applied the grace of God in his life and when Paul realized he had a long way to go to obtain that goal demonstrates his spiritual maturity. Warren Wiersbe remarks on this teaching point:
“The dual use of the word ‘perfect’ in verses 12 and 15 explains his [Paul’s] thinking. He has not arrived yet at perfection (vs. 12), but he is ‘perfect’ [mature] (vs. 15), and one mark of this maturity is the knowledge that he is not perfect! The mature Christian honestly evaluates himself and strives to do better.”
“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded, and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” (3:15)
One of the marks of a mature Believer is that they have “the mind of Christ.” This theme is found in Philippians 2:3-5. We Believers are to be like-minded as we strive toward the goal of “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” However, some of the folks at Philippi had changed course, having disagreed with some of Pau’s instructions. In doing so, they failed to follow after his pattern or example. Although these Believers were possibly sincere, they were sincerely wrong in their thinking. Consequently, Paul chose to leave this matter to the Lord – “and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.”
Let’s look at verses 3:16-17:
“Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample (a pattern to imitate).”
Paul used three words in this Bible passage to help us walk in the right direction, so we don’t lose our way. First, the word “rule” in Koine Greek means a standard, which in this case has the idea of a standard of faith and practice. Next, “followers together denotes a co-imitator. Thirdly, the term “ensample” means a type or pattern.
When we put all of this together we learn Paul is God’s ordained pattern who received from the glorified, risen Lord, the standard of faith for today embodied in the teachings of grace. Thus, we are to be imitators of Paul, his teachings, and his manner of life.
The verb “be followers” in verse 17 is not a suggestion it is a command of God to every member of the Body of Christ and they are to “conform” (Romans 12:1-2). This is why Paul instructs these Believers (and us) to “mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” In other words, we are to mark, (study closely) or observe the lives of other Believers to see if their daily walk with the Lord is according to Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16).
I feel the need to insert a for instance here, so here goes. If you heard a church leader say you are to follow Jesus’ marching orders as they pertain to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), it is obvious he or she has rejected or is unaware of Paul’s apostleship and special revelation. While it’s true we owe other members of the Body of Christ their due respect, we are not required to place ourselves under their unsound teachings or realm of influence for they are “enemies of the cross” (3:18).
We’ll stop here for now and pick this up when next we meet.
(To be continued)
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