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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: January 31, 2020
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 our verse-by-verse study of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. One of the biblical terms we looked at last week was reconciliation (1:14, 19-20). In this lesson we find Paul continuing to speak about reconciliation through Christ Jesus’s finished work of the cross. You can’t have one without the other. It might help you to know the first time Paul mentioned the concept of reconciliation, reconciling, is in Romans, which was written about 25 years after the Cross: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11).
Saul/Paul was saved by the gospel of reconciliation and became a lifelong servant of it. Let’s review some of his writings on the subject:
“For if the casting away of them (the nation of Israel) be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)
“And all things are of God, Who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to as the ministry of reconciliation, To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (Corinthians 5:18-19).
“And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you (Gentiles) which were afar off, and to them that were nigh (i.e. the nation of Israel)” (Ephesians 2:16-17).
“For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:19-20).
By studying these Scripture passages and their context we learn when and why the Lord Jesus Christ committed to Paul the ministry of reconciliation and the dispensation of the Grace of God for the Gentiles and Romans 11:15 is one of the key verses that reveal this truth. Paul declared salvation was sent unto the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy; and that the Gentiles obtained mercy because of Israel’s unbelief (Acts 7; Romans 11:11, 30). Reconciliation was sent to the Gentiles when and because Israel was set aside (Romans 11:15). The twelve were not involved in this new program, for, according to Galatians 2:9, even after Peter had preached to the household of Cornelius, per the risen Lord’s command, he agreed to go with his message and ministry to Israel. The twelve did not preach salvation to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. The message they preached to Israel and Cornelius concerned Jesus of Nazareth and what He did on the earth (Acts 2:22, 10:35-38).
But in connection with the message of Peter preached “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit;” and “Repent and God will send Christ back from heaven,” ergo, Peter preached “restitution” not reconciliation. and “the new creation,” Paul says concerning Jesus Christ, “henceforth know we Him no more after the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Peter’s message was different from Paul’s gospel of grace, and it is indeed enlightening to learn our Apostle Paul was not sent to baptize, but to preach Christ crucified for the sins of all. The attentive Bible student recognizes the reason for this. Israel was God’s religious nation. When God set them aside, the time of reformation had arrived (Hebrews 9:10) and God was through with His religious program under the law. Churches today attach specific meanings to water baptism; some go so far as to preach without it you cannot be saved. However, according to the revelation given to Paul water baptism is nothing more than a religious ceremony or ordinance meant for the Israelites who were under the Law. Thus, water baptism doesn’t fit in with what God is doing in the Church Age. People skirt this truth either by ignoring what Paul has to say on the subject or denying it outright. But these divine commands were given by revelation to the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 14:37). Perhaps you remember his testimony to the Believers in Rome, “I magnify my office…for I am the apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), and his statement to the Corinthians, “Christ Jesus sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17, 15:1-4). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where the message of reconciliation is mentioned, Paul wrote about the one baptism of the Holy Spirit, but he never emphasized the need to be water baptized. (See Romans 5:10-11, 6:3-6; Ephesians 2:13, 4:5; and Colossians 1:20-21, 2:12).
********Please open your Bible at Colossians 1:20-23.
“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled. In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;”, whether things in earth, or things in heaven.
There’s a lot going on in these Bible verses, and I’ll do my best to enlighten you. Let’s begin by looking at our text in Colossians 1:20 again because something noteworthy came to me after posting last week’s lesson and I want to share it with the group.
“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, , whether things in earth, or things in heaven.”
Some of you may be aware that people “twist the Scriptures” either out of ignorance or by design (2 Peter 3:14-16). It’s a common practice. Such is the case with verse 1:20. It is used to teach universalism, namely, that everyone will be saved, eventually, and none will be punished for eternity. The Universalists believe God will reconcile to Himself all the people from Adam onward that died in unbelief, and this includes Satan. But this reverses what the Scriptures teach. Let’s consider Colossians 1:20 with Colossians 3:10-11, to better understand what the Scriptures actually say:
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”
Who are the people that “have put on the new man?” All those who believe Jesus Christ died for their sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, that’s who: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
So then, Paul is describing the true Believer who has “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” and not every person that has ever been born. Then verse 3:11 begins with the word “where” to show what Paul is about to say is limited in scope regarding the new creature now positioned in Christ. Paul said, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” The Universalists take the phrase, “Christ is all, and in all” and hang there hat on it, so to speak, to teach all will be saved, but they ignore the first part of this verse. However, we know what Paul means to say because he limited the scope of this message to the Body of Christ, the Church. This is where we find “Christ Jesus is all and in all.” (1:18-20).
Look at how the paragraph is organized. The scope of verse 1:15-17 is all creation. The whole universe is in view and the point is that Christ is preeminent over all creation because He created it and what’s more by Him all things consist or are held together. Then in 1:18 Paul shifted his focus and the scope is no longer the whole universe but the new creation, namely the Church, the Body of Christ. Paul said, “And he is the head of the body, the church…” Next, in verse 1:20, Paul wrote: “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” The “all things: in 1:20 ought to be limited the same way the word “all” in 3:11 is limited, that is, to the Church, the Body of Christ. This is the way Colossians 1:20 should be understood.
By examining these verses we learn Paul is not saying everyone who has ever lived or died is going to heaven and this includes God’s chief enemy Satan. Instead, verse 1:20 teaches us God has already made peace for the sinner by the blood of the cross of Christ: “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). God’s part in reconciliation is finished. He is not imputing the world’s trespasses to them. The question is will the world in turn make peace with God. This is why Paul goes on to say, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
Summing up, reconciliation describes a state in which there has been a change of relationship from enmity to amity, from hostility to harmony, from discord to concord, from estrangement to friendship. God’s answer to man’s alienation (Colossians 1:21) is reconciliation, initiated by Christ's finished work on the Cross (John 19:30; Romans 5:10). Although God took the initiative in reconciliation this doesn’t mean salvation is automatically applied to one’s account. It is personally realized by grace through faith in the shed blood of Christ. In other words, the alienated position of the world was altered by Christ Jesus’ death so that all are now able to be saved, yet salvation is only applied to those who humbly approach the cross of Christ, in faith: “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 3:18).
“And you, that were sometime (once) alienated and enemies in In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:” mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.
Paul has already said Christ Jesus made peace through the blood of His cross. Now he underscores this truth, so to speak, in verse 1:22 saying, “(Reconciled) In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:”
The Modernist faith doesn’t believe this, but in the same breath they will say I believe in the Bible. But how can a person make that claim while denying Christ Jesus’ shed blood paid the price God the Father demanded for all our sin, in full, or the need of the sinner to be saved through His death? This goes to show there is nothing modern about the denial of God’s Word. Evidence of this truth is found in Genesis, chapter 4. This is where we find the account of Cain and his brother Abel’s sacrifice. The LORD had told them what type of sacrifice they should bring. We know this because in Hebrews 11:4 we read: “By faith (in what the LORD had said) Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” (Romans 10:17).
God had obviously told them to bring a blood sacrifice for their atonement and Abel did just that by bringing the firstlings of his flock. But Cain, who was destitute of faith, came up with an idea all his own. He brought the fruit of the ground in which he had toiled. Don’t overlook the noticeable implication. Cain brought the fruit of his labor, in disobedience to God’s expressed will:
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:3-5).
To discover the result of Cain’s disobedient act you need look no further than Genesis 4:5-7: “But unto Cain and to his offering he (the LORD) had not respect. And Cain was very wroth (angry), and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”
Plainly said, sinner Cain chose to approach the LORD God under his own terms rather than how the LORD had commanded. Well, that’s exactly what God would say to all those who think they can approach God in their own way and by their own power today. There are many people who don’t want to think somebody had to die in their place or that Christ Jesus had to endure the Cross in order to save them, but this is exactly what Paul is saying, there is no getting around or ahead of it. On the one side of the Cross you have the biblical terms, alienated, enemies, “by wicked works.” Doesn’t sound good at all does it… But on this side of the Cross Paul used the words, holy, unblameable, and unreprovable, “in His sight.” This is what God wants for all, and this is the difference the Cross of Christ can make for all who believe.
“In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;”
In 1:22 Paul basically said Christ Jesus died for you so that He might “present you holy, unblameable, unreproveable in His sight…” and followed that up with “if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away...” Some of the Colossians were listening to the religious views of others. These folks believed Jesus Christ wasn’t the Son of God, and His death had nothing to do with one’s salvation. The possibility existed some of the Colossians might be swayed by these unbelievers, so Paul began verse 1:23 saying, “if” - small word but the implication is enormous. Let’s all turn to Exodus 19:5-6 and I’ll show you what I mean. This is where the LORD God introduced the Mosaic Covenant of Law to the nation of Israel and He began by saying, “Now therefore, if…”
“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”
In other words He said, if you obey all My commands, I’ll bless you. That is the very essence of the Mosaic Covenant of the Law. What was Israel’s response? They raised their hands and shouted in unison, “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8). But remember, before Moses descended Mt Sinai, after receiving the commandments of the LORD, the Israelites were dancing naked around a golden calf Aaron had made for them (Exodus 32:1-35). The O.T. shows from that day onward, when they began to break the Law of Moses, they were never able to keep it, try as they might, and truth be told no one, Jew or Gentile, has succeeded in keeping it ever. Our Apostle Paul shined the light of truth on this subject in Romans 3:19-20:
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
But thanks be to God for Paul’s next statement, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested… (Romans 3:21).
In Colossians 1:23 we find the word “if” used in a way that has made many people anxious and worried. They conclude those who have trusted Christ as their Savior are saved, but they might lose their salvation, “if” they are unfaithful to Him, and do not continue in the faith, grounded, and settled. I’ll share a life experience with y’all. I covered the doctrine of eternal salvation during one of my Bible lessons many years ago and was immediately challenged by several people in the room that held an opposing view. They were all members of the same church. Evidently their preacher had taught them salvation is fragile; i.e. it can be lost and nothing I showed them from the Scriptures changed their hearts. After they left that night, I never saw or heard from them again. However, as I was packing up to leave, the husband and wife hosting this event approached me with the question, “Is it true your salvation can be lost?” I asked them to re-examine God’s Word to see what is and what isn’t the truth. In other words, don’t rest on what I have said permit God to have the final Word. Then I told them about Charles Stanley the well-known Baptist evangelist and author. At one time he believed and taught salvation can be lost. But years later he retracted that statement having concluded through personal Bible study that salvation is permanent. He had evidently been taught salvation can be lost while attending Bible college, so he merely passed on the information he had been given. He now teaches salvation is eternal.
I can sympathize with Dr. Stanley. I have been taught many things over the years and believed them because men made it believable. I shared this information with the people who attended my Bible studies. However, on more than one occasion I had to retract my statement, after the fact, having learned the truth from personal Bible study. I don’t like retractions but it’s far better to eat a slice of humble pie than it is to let people believe something that isn’t true. And it seems to me that nothing could be clearer or more emphatic than what the Word of God teaches on the subject of the Believer’s eternal security. So, please consider what God has said on this topic in case you too have been taught the doctrine of eternal security erroneously.
I’ve lost track of the number of people (of all ages) who have asked me if their salvation can be lost. So, let’s begin with Paul’s declaration in Romans chapter 8:
“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. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).
Here we learn the Believer was predestinated (predetermined; foreordained; decreed), that he or she has been called (invited), justified (the remission of sin and absolution from guilt and punishment; or an act of free grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ) and glorified (to make glorious; to exalt to glory, or to celestial happiness).
It is God who foreknew, who predestinated, who has called, justified and glorified the true Believer. I use the term “true Believer” because I’ve met people who believe church membership and doing things for God made them a saved child of God. But that’s hardly the case. You are not saved simply because you do something for God. Sitting in church no more makes you a saved individual than sitting in a garage makes you a Chevrolet. Therefore, the three questions that follow: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect.” “Who is he that condemneth.” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” are answered by Romans 8:1, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;” followed by the these words at the end of the chapter: “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In Romans 6:23 Paul said, “The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” I don’t know how people can misunderstand this verse, but they do. Clearly, every true Believer has accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, in Christ Jesus, which means, in part, that we are not saved by our works of righteousness done in the flesh:
“For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).
According to God’s Word, He saves us, not by works, “not of works lest any man should boast, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). What is the gift of God? Eternal life. What kind of life is the gift of God? Eternal life. Ergo, Christ Jesus is our life and Christ is the eternal life (I John 5:20). It was Jesus Christ Himself that prayed, “…And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3).
In John 17:2 Jesus Christ said: “And thou hast given Him power over all things that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him.”
The true Believer has been given to Christ by God the Father and the Son gives eternal life to them. As Jesus Christ closed His prayer He said, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Now, so far as I am personally concerned, I am positive the Father will hear and respond favorably to this prayer from His beloved Son on behalf of every Believer who has trusted in Christ’s finished work of the cross.
This same thought is expressed by Christ in John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Every one included in Romans 8:29 shall come unto Christ, and every one predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, will be called, will be justified, will be glorified; and not one single one of them will be lost. It was Jesus Christ who said, “And I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). To me, this is conclusive proof the Believer’s salvation is eternally secure because they are eternally position in the beloved, i.e., Jesus Christ:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
“ For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7).
You can’t unfry an egg and if you’ve genuinely believed Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross for your sin, then you are saved and there’s nothing you can do to undo it.
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest (Spiritual down payment) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
True Believers are “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” If that’s not eternal security, what is it? God has literally made the Believer “tamper-proof!” Thus, your salvation and mine is totally of God alone. There’s nothing you can do to earn it and there’s nothing you can do to lose it:
“(according to the power of God) Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (2 Timothy 1:9-10).
“And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” (Colossians 2:10).
An object is said to be complete when nothing more needs to be added to it. This completeness Paul speaks of includes the furnishing of the Believer with all the spiritual blessings required for their present and final salvation (Colossians 1:21-22, 28, 2:11-15) and nothing has been left out. The Person and work of Christ Jesus are complete and perfect, and if anyone or any teaching seeks to add to or take away something from Christ's Person or His work, then it is a counterfeit, pure and simple. Thus, Paul assures the Colossians of the purity of the message they had believed and encouraged them to remain steadfast to that message, for in this way, and this way only, they could attain spiritual maturity for faithful service and bring glory and praise to God the Father.
(To be continued)
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