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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: November 7, 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).
Welcome back to HBS
To keep from aggravating my left arm and hand I’ve decided to skip the lesson review. I do suggest you refresh your minds by reading the last lesson before starting this one.
Please open your Bible at Philippians 4:4-7.
“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice (4:4) - Paul did not say “rejoice always” he said “Rejoice alway” This means continually without variation, or in every way. Said differently, “Believers rejoice continually, in every way, whether things are going their way or not.” It’s as though Paul considered the hard times in his life, past, present, and future and in spite of them said, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Here Paul is counting his blessings and is unable to contain his joy.
I heard a pastor compare the Believer’s life to a roller coaster ride complete with ups and downs, twists and turns, and few level places. We’re human so there will be times when we act as humans. We’re going to experience disappointment, distress, pain, rejection, sorrow, etc., so we may not feel like “rejoicing always.” However, there’s no instruction here from Paul to put on sackcloth and ashes and glory in your suffering. Many people do. One of the most loaded questions in the English language is “How are you?” You might want to prepare yourself for their answer, which could begin with them saying, “You have no idea what I’m dealing with…” These people glory in their suffering, when they ought to be glorying in God. They ought to be counting their blessings instead of their sorrows.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be happy. However, happiness is often determined by what is happening in our lives, so this emotion is fleeting; it comes and goes like the tide. But true joy is found only in the Lord. It is the product of an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ; a relationship that begins with believing Paul’s gospel of grace (Romans 2:16; Galatians 1:11-20; 2 Timothy 2:8).
Therefore, Believers rejoice alway because of Christ Jesus’ great love for us (Romans 5:8); because we have redemption through Christ Jesus’ shed blood and the forgiveness of all our sin (Ephesians 1:7); and because we’re justified freely by His grace for we are saved by grace through faith (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 2:8-9). For these reasons, and others, Paul emphasized the Lord Jesus Christ is the source of our joy (Psalm 43:4; Romans 5:11).
“Let your moderation be known unto all men...”
The word “moderation” means graciousness; practicing restraint in all things, including one’s speech. Verse 4:5a confirms the fact some of the people in the church were at odds with each other; their discussions had become heated arguments and tempers were flaring. It’s a well-known fact personality conflicts and disagreements about what the Bible says or doesn’t say are reasons why a once healthy church becomes unhealthy and eventually splits apart. So, Paul’s purpose in saying, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” was twofold. First, he intended for it to defuse the unstable situation in Philippi. If those involved in the dispute would simply choose to practice graciousness and restraint in all things, the instability in this assembly could be managed in a Christ-like manner:
“If there be therefore any 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 likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (2:1-4).
Second, this assembly, whether knowingly or unknowingly, was tarnishing their reputation before the unsaved world, which, up until now had been commendable (4:1). Paul wanted them to understand their ill behavior was not only producing anxiety and confusion in the church it had an adverse effect on the gospel and the unsaved people in their community. This is why Paul said, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” and not just your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
He cited the reason for this in 4:5b saying, “The Lord is at hand.”
In the O.T., which includes the 4 gospels, John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ preached “the gospel of the kingdom” saying, “Repent for the kingdom is at hand…” (Matthew 3:1, 4:17). Why? The Messiah (their king) was on scene and prepared to usher in the prophesied earthly kingdom (Romans 15:8). But first the Israelites had to go through a time of cleansing. They had to experience a seven-year period of time known as Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7); Daniel’s 70th Week (Daniel 9:20-25); the Tribulation (Ezekiel 22:17-22).
Paul’s not talking about such things. The Church isn’t looking forward to the kingdom of God. It is looking expectedly for the return of the Lord in the clouds, an event the Body of Christ recognizes as the Rapture. This Church event can be viewed as a rescue operation, while the Tribulation is God pouring out His righteous wrath upon Israel and a Jesus hating world (1 Corinthians 15:50-56; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10). So, when Paul said, “Let your moderation be known (visible) unto all men. The Lord is at hand“ he was in effect saying, “Live your life as though Christ Jesus’ might return this very day.”
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Be careful for nothing – this is another way of saying “We walk by faith not by sight.” Walking by faith essentially means “Worry about nothing.” You see, faith is not about things turning out the way we want, faith is about being content no matter how things turn out. This reminds me of something Paul said in 4:10-12:
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
We know God is able, but even if He doesn’t improve our situation we still walk by faith not by sight. Seeing isn’t believing; believing is seeing!
“…but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
Permit me to begin our study of this section of scripture by saying it’s okay to mix some things together such as Chex Mix, corn beef hash, peanuts, tossed salad, and scrambled eggs; however, God commanded the Believer to study their Bible using right division. Ergo, we are not to mix the scriptures together (2 Timothy 2:15). Case in point, Paul’s instructions on prayer found in 4:6-7 are often mixed together with the Lord’s directions on prayer found in the O.T. Because of this many people have misconceptions and unrealistic expectations about prayer. I’ll share two personal examples with you. Last week I was viewing the postings on my Facebook page when I came across a “Chain Prayer.” It said, “Pray this prayer, repost this message, and you will receive a miracle within the hour.” Then recently, another Facebook friend declared, “Whatever you need ask of God know He will answer.” He cited Isaiah 65:24 as proof of this.
I ask you are these prayers and the petitioner’s expectations valid? Most people say “Yes,” but this is because of how they were taught to pray and I’m including myself. The churches I partnered with in the past used several Bible verses from the O.T. to teach people how to pray. I will take you to three verses that are widely used to show you what I mean.
We begin with Matthew 21:22. Here the Lord is teaching His disciples how to pray:
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
What does “all” mean? It means nothing omitted, right? People can ask God for anything and if they believe they will receive.
Now please turn to Matthew 7:7; once again this is the Lord speaking:
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”
Here Jesus said, “ask, seek, knock, and it shall be opened to you.”
Our last stop is the Lord’s instructions on prayer found in John 14:12-14:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (See Matthew 6:27-33)
According to these Bible verses, if you “Ask God for anything, in Jesus’ name, He will do it!”
“Ask any thing in my name” means “pray in Jesus’ name.” This verse was utilized to teach us to end our prayers saying, “in Jesus’ name.” If we ask in Jesus’ name, then He will do it. So, we wait for God to make it happen, but there’s a catch. We were taught God answers prayer the same way a parent responds to their child’s request. They can say “Yes,” “No,” or “Not right now.” Isn’t this a contradiction? I prayed in Jesus name and now I’m told it might not happen.
That thought serves to take us to Paul statement in Romans 8:26:
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought.”
Another way of saying this is, “There’s a right way and a wrong way to pray.” The phrase “Ask in Jesus’ name” means pray in accordance with His will. To do that we need to determine what His will is in the Dispensation of Grace. The fallacies many people have regarding prayer can be attributed to their ignorance of God’s character and a lack of understanding as to why he deals differently with the nation of Israel than He does the Body of Christ. In other words, people are over the place regarding their beliefs about prayer because they do not know God, dispensationaly speaking.
Not long ago I mentioned Jesus (the promised Messiah) came to the nation of Israel preaching “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand,” and He taught the twelve to preach this same message but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). So the Bible verses re: prayer we just looked at were written to and for the whole house of Israel; gentiles were excluded by the Lord Himself.
Throughout the O.T. the Lord God taught the nation of Israel to depend on Him for their needs. We find evidence of this in their exodus from Egypt and their salvation from Pharaoh’s army through the Red Sea experience. Then there was the manna from heaven, quail when they complained about not having meat to eat, and when they complained about being thirsty God provided water gushing from the rock and so on, etc. He even fought their battles for them. It was Abraham who referred to the LORD God as Jehovah Jireh meaning God will provide (Genesis 22). People wrongly borrow this term today to support their notions about prayer saying, “Ask whatsoever you want, in Jesus’ name, and God will provide.” But this comes with a disclaimer. According to them (not the Bible), if you do not receive what you asked for such as winning the state lottery, getting a new job, a new car, a new home, or whatever it’s because you didn’t have enough faith – keep trying. Those who preach the false prosperity gospel teach this message, however, the only people getting rich are the people behind the pulpit.
I also mentioned before Israel could enter into their promised earthly kingdom they had to go through the Tribulation period. They’ll come a time when the Jews will not be able to buy and sell unless they accept “the mark of the beast.” If they identify with the beast, their names will be blotted out from the book of life. There’s no do-overs. So, once again, during the Tribulation Israel will be dependent on the goodness of God for their needs. Therefore, in keeping with the context, those Bible verses we reviewed in Matthew and John were examples of Jesus preparing the whole house of Israel for the time of Jacob’s trouble.
I hope you’re beginning to understand Jesus Christ’s purpose and plan for prayer in the O.T. Those instructions were for the nation of Israel; they have nothing to do with the Body of Christ today. Those things written in time past are for our learning:
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning (not for our doctrine today), that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Here Paul is referring to the O.T. scriptures that were “written aforetime,” or in time past.
The Bible as we know it today did not exist. God ushered in the Dispensation of Grace with the calling of Saul of Tarsus; he is the one and only apostle to the gentiles (Acts 9; Romans 1:1). He is also the first person baptized into the Body of Christ; therefore he is our pattern (example) to imitate (1 Timothy 1:12-16).
Believer’s today don’t follow Israel’s marching orders we follow the church doctrines related to the “revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25-26). So it stands to reason our motivation for praying today is understanding God dispensationaly. Religion proudly states, “God does not change;” and “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”(Hebrews 13:8), and I agree. God does not change, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, however, the manner in which God deals with mankind does change; this is the essence of dispensational teaching (1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:1, 3:2; Colossians 1:25).
“Be careful (worry) about nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (4:6).
While religion teaches people to pray for “Whatsoever their heart desires and if they believe they will receive,” Paul’s directions on prayer are noticeably different. He has outlined the process of prayer for every Believer in 4:6, and it begins with “Be careful for nothing,” that is, don’t worry about a thing. After that command, he said, “…but in every thing by prayer and supplication with (what) thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Paul’s emphasized thanksgiving unto God over our prayer and supplication, so the central theme of our prayers today is thanksgiving or praying with a thankful heart. I refer to this as counting your blessings:
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:15-17, 4:2).
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I compile a list of the things I am grateful for and mentally check them off one by one as I give thanks to God. This exercise taught me to number my blessings both physical and spiritual. So, Paul is not saying you cannot ask something of God. He is saying the focus of your prayers ought to be thanksgiving. You see, giving thanks to the Father, or having a life characterized by a thankful heart; is the acknowledgement and appreciation of God’s person, His magnificent grace, and sovereign work in one’s life, i.e. their present sanctification.
God would have us pray about In view of the fact God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies today, it stands to reason our prayer life should primarily focus on spiritual things, such as praying for a loved one’s salvation, a fuller understanding of the Scriptures, a knowledge of God’s will, dispensationaly speaking, wisdom, and so on. , whether it is spiritual or physical in nature.
Here again, however, we must keep in mind Paul said pray about everything not just spiritual things. From this we understand God would have the Believer maintain a proper balance. According to the Bible, there’s nothing wrong with personal prayer requests. Our Apostle Paul prayed about his “Thorn in the flesh,” asking God three times to remove it (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). By the way God did not remove it. Prior to his incarceration in Caesarea, Paul requested he might have a “ to Rome; that is, free from hardship (Romans 1:9-10). Paul also said we are to pray for people who are placed in position of authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Paul instructed us not to be an ungrateful people, as Israel was in time past; therefore, we are to give thanks to God, and according to the prayer process Paul laid out for us, our thanksgiving ought to precede our practical prayer requests. We should also pray about the in which we might find ourselves. For instance, Paul coveted the prayers of the saints at Philippi that he would soon be from his prison cell in Rome (Philippians 1:19). Paul wrote something similar to Philemon: “But withal prepare me also a : for I trust that through your I shall be ” (Philemon 1:22).
Paul also said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)! This doesn’t mean pray every minute of the day. This can be compared to someone who coughs intermittently or in intervals due to an illness. They don’t cough audibly all the time, but the tendency to cough is ever present. So too with the Believer. They ought to maintain a prayerful attitude even though they’re not actively engaged in prayer at the moment.
While we’re still on the subject of prayer, it doesn’t matter where you happen to be when you pray. I pray in my car when the mood hits me and in this area of Florida that’s not a bad idea. You don’t have to wait until you’re in a church building to pray. In addition, your prayer is not regulated to specific times of the day. Paul does not mention any prayer position, such as, kneeling or lying prone face down on the floor. There’s also no need be long-winded. Just because you have command of the English language doesn’t mean you should try to impress God with the overuse of it. What’s more, we can pray alone or with other people, which debunks religion’s notion that “where two or three gather together in my name there I am.” (Matthew 18:20). Every Believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and Christ Jesus dwells within them (Romans 8:10-11; Galatians 2:20). He’s with us 24/7/365 not just when we gather to pray.
Truth be told, many people only pray when they want something from God. They rarely, if ever, contact Him just to say thanks. These folks in effect treat God as though He operated a fire station and is on call 24/7. When trouble hits, then they pray for relief. That situation helps to define what prayer is. It’s asking God for a favor. An earnest prayer on the other hand, such as, praying for someone’s salvation or for a loved one in uniform who is currently standing in harm’s way overseas is referred to as supplication. It is seeking God’s face because you bear a heavy burden. But no matter what your prayer is it ought to be preceded with thanksgiving.
“…And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
A few Christians I know have told me they don’t pray anymore and that’s because God doesn’t answer their prayers. These folks and others are obviously unaware of Paul’s guidelines on prayer. We don’t go to God in prayer asking for our heart’s desires, in Jesus’ name, and then wait to receive it. In this dispensation in which we all live, Paul said God answers every prayer with: “the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
What is the peace of God and is it different than peace with God? Some folks say they are one and the same, so we need to take a look at this. Please turn to Romans 5:1-2.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
According to this scripture passage, something happened before the saved individual had peace with God or was no longer His enemy (Romans 5:8). This verse says they were justified by faith. This is a legal term meaning, “Just as though you never sinned.” Your slate is wiped clean by God. But there’s more. The Believer now has by faith access into this grace wherein we stand…” Access to what? Access to every blessing that flows from God’s grace, including direct access to the throne room of God through prayer. This is one of the greatest privileges the Believer has.
So then, every true Believer has peace with God but what about the peace of God? Go to Romans 8:5-6:
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and (what) peace.”
Who is Paul writing to here? For those of you who do not know Paul only writes to Believers. Most people believe Paul wrote Romans while in Corinth, Greece, so from that up close and personal experience when he mentioned those folks who were carnally minded he’s referring to the Believers in Corinth:
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
I took y’all down that brief rabbit trail to demonstrate The Corinthian believers as well as the saints in Philippi were not perfect. And neither are we. We hardly live the perfect life, if we’re being honest. So not every Believer is going to experience the peace of God, and that’s because our focus is on things other than the things of God. Put another way we are not spiritually minded 24 hours a day. So, if you do not have the peace of God it is because you are carnally minded or better said, “You don’t have the mind of Christ.”
The peace of God is best described as a process. The more you know God’s will, dispensationaly speaking, the more God is able to work in you. The more you allow God to work in you and through you, the more peace of God you’ll experience. That comment takes us back to what Paul wrote in Romans 5:2 regarding “access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” Not every Believer takes advantage of their ability to communicate with God through prayer. Those that do are able to experience God’s answer to their prayers, which is, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Let’s look at Romans 8:27-28:
“And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 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.”
Here, once again, Paul speaks of God’s will re: prayer; not our will. Most understand this peace to be a tranquil life where they “lie down in green pastures” and the Lord leads them “beside the still waters” as the Psalmist says. Paul, however, is speaking about the peace of God in the midst of harsh times. It is resting in the fact that God is sovereign and is in control of all things. Having this peace is looking beyond the bad times and the sad times, knowing that all things work together for good to them love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” This is the peace of God which passeth all understanding…”
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