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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: January 4, 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 to HBS and Happy New Year!
No change in my condition, therefore, I highly recommend you review the previous lesson to refresh your memory.
Please open your Bible at Colossians 1:9-14.
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
In verse 1:9 Paul prayed the Colossians “might be filled with the knowledge of his (God’s) will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding…” To ensure we’re all on the same page moving forward I’m going to define the terms knowledge, wisdom, and understanding because I do not assume everyone understands what they mean.
Knowledge - a clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact.
Wisdom - the right use or exercise of knowledge.
Understanding – the ability of the human mind by which it apprehends the real state of things presented to it, or by which it receives or comprehends the ideas which others express and intend to communicate; see Ephesians 1 for an example.
Then in verse 1:10 Paul cited the practical application of this prayer:
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;”
Considering God has given us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14) every Believer ought to desire not only to know God fully, but also know what His will is for this dispensation and live their lives accordingly. As it stands, the majority of Christendom reads verse 1:9 thinking only in terms of God’s will for them. So this passage of Scripture is in the same category as Philippians 4:13, i.e., it’s misread, misunderstood, and misused.
I’ll illustrate: I know someone who is asking God if they should be a missionary overseas. Another person wants God’s insight on the person they hope to marry, while another seeks God’s will as to which college to attend. Although these folks show concern about God’s will for their lives, they are woefully ignorant of God’s will, i.e. what it is God wants done in the Dispensation of Grace and the Believer’s spiritual responsibility in relation to the revelation of the mystery.
So, when Paul prayed for the Colossians, and would pray the very same prayer for us, “that ye (we) might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” he’s not referring to God’s will for them in a given situation, but to His long hidden purpose and program for His Church, the Body of Christ, and the Believer’s “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1), as Christ Jesus’ ambassador on earth:
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:” (Ephesians 1:9).
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us 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. 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 5:17-21).
It's a given that God is interested in us and every aspect of our lives; He would have us look to Him for guidance. But in verse 1:9-10 Paul is indirectly speaking about the Colossian’s spiritual growth. This process begins with “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.” Think this through. If someone is ignorant of the will and purpose of God, what good is it to inquire whether or not they should become a missionary, get married, or attend a specific college? How will these things positively impact this present evil age (Galatians 1:4) and prosper the cause of Christ? On the other hand, the one who has an intelligent understanding of God’s will for them in this dispensation and is convinced by it won’t find themselves sitting idle on the sidelines they’ll be found instead on the front lines, fighting “the good fight of the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Plainly said, in order to walk worthy of the Lord, the Colossians (and us) need to be smackdab in the center of God’s will, having come to a knowledge and an understanding of the revelation of the mystery; that great secret revealed to our Apostle Paul, which he refers to as “my gospel” (See Acts 15; Romans 2:16, 16:25-27).
Paul refers to it as “my gospel” because he did not receive it from man; it was revealed to him by the risen, glorified, Lord Jesus Christ and no other (Galatians 1:1). The twelve were commanded by the Lord to preach the kingdom gospel “to Jews only” (Acts 11:19, 15). So, with this thought in mind, I pray the following information might help you understand the risen Lord has set aside the gospel of the kingdom for a time (Matthew 24:14; Romans 11; Revelation 14:6) having introduced the good news that salvation is a free gift of God via His grace to all that believe (Romans 4:16).
According to the Scriptures, before the cross of Christ mankind was divided into two groups: Jews and Gentiles. The O.T. and N.T. both make clear what brought about this distinction. It was the covenants the LORD God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants through Moses. These covenant promises were for the nation of Israel alone. The Israelites were segregated from the rest of the world by the Mosaic Law and their unique relationship with the Great “I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
This important distinction is maintained throughout the Bible:
“But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people” (Leviticus 20:24).
“For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that upon the face of the earth” (Exodus 33:16).
“And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the holy, and have severed you from people, (i.e. cut from the herd, so to speak) that ye should be mine” (Leviticus 20:26).
“And what one nation in the earth like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt? For thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, , becamest their God” (1 Chronicles 17:21-22).
How long is forever? There’s no end date when the word forever is used. I mention this because some people teach God has turned His back, so to speak, on the nation of Israel, but the Bible says different. Paul makes it known in times past the Gentiles were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; strangers to the covenant promises, having no hope and were without God…
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13).
Therefore, after the cross, a new entity came into existence, i.e. the Church that the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ is building with Paul as his “wise masterbuilder:”
“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
There are now three divisions of mankind, not two as before, which Paul identified as the Jews, the Gentiles, and the church of God, a.k.a. the Body of Christ:
“Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:” (1 Corinthians 10:32).
I pray you understand these three groups of people exist side-by-side in the world today and the need to recognize the differences between them because God does.
“…That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
I know we just looked at verse 1:10, but I included it here so we don’t lose track of the context. Paul’s heartfelt prayer in verse 1:9 was that these Believers might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. We learned he is not referring to God’s will as it pertains to their personal desires or circumstances but to God’s will as it pertains to “the work of the ministry” of God’s Grace. Without this knowledge how can these folks truly “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God?” The short answer is, “They’re not able to.” I likened this to a football team. Is it possible for them to run their plays without knowing the coach’s game plan? Hardly.
I have an illustration for y’all that might help you understand what Paul is saying. A sailor aboard ship was trying to get a box through a hatchway. He lifted, pushed, pulled, and strained with no success. His shipmate saw him struggling with the box so he decided to pitch-in and help. Together they lifted, pushed, and pulled again and again with no success. Finally, his shipmate said, “You’ll never get this box in there.” To which the sailor replied, “In?” “I’m trying to get it out!”
With that illustration in mind, ask yourself, how can we suitably serve the Lord if we do not have an intelligent understanding of what it is He wants done in the Age of Grace and how it’s to be done? Again, the short answer is, “We can’t.” This helps us to understand why many churches are so discombobulated today and why I whole heartedly stress the necessity for the Believer to study their Bible in accordance with God’s command in 2 Timothy 2:15 to practice right division of God’s Word. This is how one acquires the knowledge of God’s will for today:
“Study to shew thyself approved by God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”
So, in verse 1:10, Paul expanded his conversation from knowing God’s will to the practical application of it:
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;”
There’s a similar Bible passage back in Ephesians 4:1. This is where Paul encouraged the saints in Ephesus to “walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called” and prayed that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation” about Himself:
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation (the act of disclosing or discovering to others what was before unknown to them; appropriately, the disclosure or communication of truth to men by God himself, or by his authorized agents, the prophets and apostles)in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,” (Ephesians 1:17-19).
So then, every Believer is to have knowledge of God’s will as it relates to the gospel of grace and understand where they “fit” into that program. Does anyone out there sincerely believe this is what’s taking place in the church today? I can say with all certainty that it is not. Only a precious few churches practice right division of God’s Word, so the majority of the Christian churches in existence today are not in the center of God’s will. I have a for instance I’ll share with y’all. While listening to the radio the other day I heard a church pastor telling his audience they are to be looking expectedly for Jesus Christ’s return to set up His kingdom on the earth; it will be a time of great jubilation, no more pain, sorrow, suffering, etc. But is this true to God’s Word? The short answer is, “No.” This pastor doesn’t acknowledge the future church event known as the Rapture, even though Paul has written about it in the Scriptures (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At that time, the Lord will return in the “clouds” to snatch away the members of the Body of Christ; both the dead, in Christ, and the living. When Jesus Christ sets His feet back on this earth, literally, it’s not for the purpose of setting up His kingdom. He’s bringing the wrath of God with Him “to wage war;” does this sound like a joyful experience to you; one you should be looking expectedly for? I don’t think so (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 19:6-11). So, this gentleman is ignorant of more than a few things; the knowledge of God’s will being one. He and many others resemble the two sailors I mentioned earlier in my illustration. They may be working hard, but they are working in opposition to what God wants done in this dispensation, so they’re actually getting nowhere and more’s the pity.
“…Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness…”
Here Paul used three terms for power: strengthened with all might (with His might), according to His glorious power.
The question you ought to be exercising is “Why do the Colossians (and us) need to be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power?” Paul doesn’t leave us hanging the answer follows immediately: “…unto (an obsolete word meaning “to”) all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness…” (1:11b).
The word patience means “The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness. It may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from Christian submission to the divine will of God.”
Some time ago while attending a Bible study at church I recall the instructor said the words patience and longsuffering are interchangeable because they mean the same thing. However, that’s not true. Longsuffering means “Bearing injuries or provocation for a long time, while exercising patience; not easily provoked.”
I feel the need for a biblical example, so, let’s all turn to Exodus 34:5-7 where Moses wrote about the characteristics of the LORD God (Jehovah) and the manner in which He dealt with the Israelites:
“And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”
I have a N.T. example, so let’s all turn to 2 Peter 3:9:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Longsuffering, therefore, means enduring deliberate injuries or provocations over a long period of time, while remaining patient, in love (Corinthians 13:13).
Joyfulness means “Great gladness; joy,” which is the product of the indwelt Holy Spirit as is longsuffering (Galatians 5:22-23).
What does Paul mean by “strengthened with all might according to His glorious power?” In short, he’s saying the Colossians need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power in order to effectively exercise the godly attributes longsuffering and patience in this present evil age, with true joyfulness.
We find Paul expressing a similar thought in Ephesians 3:13-16:
“Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”
Skip down to verse 3:20:
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,”
Paul’s saying the unlimited power by which God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask in prayer is the same power that works in us. As God works in us, He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, or could ever conceive, or possibly imagine through us.
In I Thessalonians 2:13 Paul wrote, “the Word of God…effectually worketh…in you that believe.” God works in us by His Word, and changes our will and desires as we mature in the faith and apply this knowledge to our lives. Our minds, attitude, priorities, worldview, and understanding of life are transformed by the Word of God. When we do this, the blinders come off as we learn to see the world as it is through His eyes and feel with His heart. As God works in us by the Word of Truth, His “will” becomes ours, and we will seek to do things of “His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). And “to will and do of God’s good pleasure” is about “Looking not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4). Therefore, seeking one another’s highest good, in love, just as Christ Jesus did for all on the cross, is God’s will for every Believer (Philippians 2:5-8).
Paul gives the next reason why he desired the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of his will it’s so that they might always be:
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet (fit) to be partakers of (share in) the inheritance of the saints in light:”
As Paul said in Ephesians 1:6b, “ He hath (past tense) made us accepted in the beloved,” that is, Christ Jesus. Said differently we are now fit for God’s presence because the righteousness of Christ Jesus has been imputed to us. Unsaved people will argue the point, but if this is how God the Father views all those in the Body of Christ now, there had to be a time when they were unfit for God’s presence. Please turn to Ephesians 5:8-17:
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye (do what) walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
Paul includes himself when he described the Colossian’s previous state in verse 1:13:
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son:”
The word “darkness” means different things depending on the context. Here it means “the empire of Satan – the god of this world.” Paul makes this known in Galatians 4:1-4:
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
And again in Ephesians 6:12:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Here Paul said Satan and his evil hosts are “the rulers of the darkness of this world (age).” When we Believers try to share God’s Word, rightly divided, with other people we encounter attitudes, minds, and hearts that are bound by darkness. This is because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not.” However, this is not a permanent state. God is Good and He is able to deliver them from the power of darkness and “translate them into the kingdom of his dear son.”
The ideal example of this teaching is Saul of Tarsus. When he met the risen Lord on the Damascus RD “there shined around about him a light from heaven” (Acts 9:3). After his conversion he became God’s apostle to the gentiles and had much to say about light and “the children of the light.” When he was blinded by the light from heaven and heard the voice of “the Light of the world” (John 1:1-5) who spoke to him saying, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18).
“The whole world lieth in Satan” (I John 5:19), so all who walk in darkness are in the power of Satan. Therefore, all those walking in unbelief are the children of darkness. The Word of God provides the light of truth (Psalms 119:105; John 14:6). It tells of God’s Son, His perfect sacrifice for all, and the way the lost are saved, specifically, in this dispensation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 5:15; Hebrews 10:14).
The Bible informs us Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), he deceives the lost not wanting them to hear or understand the light of the gospel. But the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms all those that believe and also translates them into “the kingdom of his dear Son:”
“And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan) the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us, into the kingdom of His dear Son: in Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” – But now the Colossians (and us) are of the Light having been delivered from the power of darkness (Satan’s slave market). “…in Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” literally, from death to life in Christ Jesus. A glorious transformation indeed; therefore, “walk as children of the Light!”
(To be continued. Publication date uncertain).
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