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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: February 21, 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.
Last week we looked at more than a few things, namely, Paul’s apostleship by divine appointment in the Dispensation of Grace, his ministry to the Church in accordance with God’s message of reconciliation to all His enemies through Christ Jesus’ finished work, and the preaching of the revelation of the mystery to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;” (1:21-23).
In verse 1:24 Paul said he rejoiced “in his sufferings for you (Colossians), and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:” Nothing, not even, suffering could steal Paul’s joy. The other thing is Paul is not implying Christ’s redemptive work is incomplete; Christ’s sufferings have ended; He’s in glory! What’s left behind is the afflictions and sufferings Paul experienced because of the cause of Christ. Most Christian are ashamed of Paul and the mystery, which is the testimony of the Lord for which he suffers. Only those who suffer for proclaiming the mystery are the partakers of the afflictions of the gospel mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:8; for in the following verse (1:9) we are told it refers to that purpose of God which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
In verse 1:25 we learned Paul had been made a minister (servant) to the Church, “according to the dispensation (administration) of God.” He didn’t wake up one morning saying, “I’ think I’ll be an apostle of God for the Gentile’s sake…” He was made a servant of God and the sole preacher of the mystery by the risen Lord, “to fulfill the word of God;” Here Paul means to say he’s preaching the gospel of grace faithfully everywhere the Spirit of God takes him. We learned the term “fulfill” means “fully preached” and this is how Paul used the term in Romans 15:19: “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached all the counsel of God pertaining to the gospel of Christ.” In other words, Paul didn’t add anything and he didn’t take anything away from the gospel of grace. He dispensed it to the Body of Christ just as he received it from the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
********Please open your Bible at Colossians 1:25-26.
The Prophesied and Unprophesied Kingdoms
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:”
I included verse 1:25 because it will help us understand Paul’s thoughtful statement. Here, again, we find him referring to the Word of God as a “mystery.” The word translated “mystery” in Koine Greek is musterion; Strong’s Greek #3466 (pronounced moos-tay’-ree-on), and it means a secret or mystery; a hidden thing. Please understand Paul is not suggesting that God Himself is mysterious, far from it! William Edwy Vine (1873-1949), commonly known as W.E. Vine, was an English Biblical scholar, theologian, and writer, most famous for Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; and he had this to say about the mystery of which Paul writes:
“In the New Testament it denotes not the mysterious...but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God and to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense, a mystery implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed.”
The word “mystery” appears in both the O.T. and in the N.T. and must be understood as it is used in the context. The majority of the Scriptures are concerned with the kingdom of God, also called the kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s Gospel. This stands to reason since Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus as Israel’s King, their long awaited Messiah. Prophecy and its fulfillment under the Messiah have primary reference to God’s sovereignly-chosen people, Israel. The specific kingdom Paul referred to as the “Kingdom of His dear Son,” (Colossians 1:13) was . God’s eternal purpose to save Gentiles in a along with Jews was “hidden in God” as a secret until it was fulfilled. This was revealed thereafter by the Christ to our apostle Paul (See Romans through Philemon).
There is at least one phase of the kingdom of God which is equivalent to the kingdom of Heaven. This has reference to the prophetic kingdom about which Jesus of Nazareth and His apostles preached while He was with them on earth, and which they preached during the early Acts period. He was proclaimed to be Israel’s Messiah and King, the heir promised to David (2 Samuel 7:16), and the Son promised to Mary (Luke 1:31-33). He was “the Christ,” concerning whom the prophets spoke (Isaiah 9:7 and chapter 53).
The term “kingdom of heaven” is used more than 30 times in the Gospel of Matthew, and the term “kingdom of God” is referenced more than 70 other times. At times these refer to the same kingdom and at other times they are different. This leads to the conclusion that the designation “kingdom of God” is a universal term. It includes the kingdom of heaven and all other aspects of God’s sovereign jurisdiction over His creation, that is, animal, vegetable, mineral, life, matter, energy, light or time. In these cases, the context often reveals a more specific designation. There are many aspects and phases of “the kingdom.” Thus, we learn no single definition is adequate for all these broad terms. God had a theocratic kingdom in the past. His Messianic Kingdom was “at hand,” that is, viable when Christ Jesus was on earth. God’s Prophetic Program is currently on hold, but God’s timeclock meant for Israel will resume, in accordance with prophecy, and after the Tribulation Christ’s Messianic Kingdom will be established in “the millennium.” The Bible does not tell us what to expect after Christ’s 1,000 year reign on earth but I expect His Kingdom will continue on into eternity and never stop growing (Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:33).
Christ’ kingdom, foretold in Old Testament prophecies, was actively proclaimed as “ It will be fulfilled completely in the future. God’s Kingdom of today is not found in the O.T. Scriptures (Ephesians 3:5,9; Colossians 1:13), though its was anticipated by , , and The was revealed after Calvary and fits into the present interval during which “blindness in part is happened to Israel,” until the “fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25) The rest of these prophecies will then be fulfilled: and partially fulfilled during the earthly presence of Jesus of Nazareth.
“That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times, He might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him” (Ephesians 1:10).
Summing up, there are two aspects of God’s Kingdom in the Scriptures, one prophesied and one unprophesied. All aspects of Christ’s Kingdom are according to God’s eternal purpose in Christ in accordance with “the revealed will of God” (Ephesians 2:7, 3:10-11).
Just so we’re all on the same page I reiterate when Paul used the term “the mystery” it most often described the revelation of the mystery, i.e., the gospel of God’s Grace:
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1).
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,” (Romans 16:25, 2:16).
The LORD GOD laid the groundwork for the creation of the Jewish race with His call of Abram of UR from the Chaldees (Genesis 11:27 – 12:1-5). Jacob and his twelve sons moved to Egypt, where they were enslaved 400 years (Genesis 15:13; Acts 7:6), and during that time they multiplied as a people. They became a nation, under the LORD God, when He redeemed them and brought them out of Egypt. Under Moses divine authority the LORD gave them the ceremonial, the civil, and the moral law which is found in the first five books of the O.T. (the Pentateuch) and summed up in the Mosaic Law. All God’s dealings with mankind were mediated through Israel from Abraham to Paul. Based upon the Abrahamic Covenant, God’s blessings to Gentiles were to come through the nation of Israel. And all blessings to Israel were to come through the promised Messiah. But here’s the thing, how could God bless the Gentile nations when the channel of blessing, Israel, had rejected their Source of blessing? The Old Testament had no answer to this question. God had revealed no plan to bless Gentiles apart from Israel who were to become a nation of priests acting as go-betweens (See Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 61:6; 1 Peter 2:9). When God saved and commissioned Saul/Paul He began a new program or administration. With this program, He could bless (save) Gentiles despite Israel’s rejection of their Messiah and the Spirit led ministry of the twelve. With Paul’s commission, God created the Church, the Body of Christ, and brought in a new age, i.e., the Church age. The Church would not operate under the Mosaic Law as Israel had but under God’s grace (Romans 6:14). A radical change to say the least, which most Israelites, then and now, reject outright (Romans 9:30-33).
So then, Paul stands at the headwaters of this new program, as it were, and as such he became the first sinner saved by grace (alone) and the first member of the Body of Christ, a.k.a. the Church and is the “pattern to them which should hearafter believe on him to life everlasting:”
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (prominent). Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Saul of Tarsus, who later became known by his Roman name Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13) had one of the most remarkable lives in church history. God transformed him from being Jesus of Nazareth’s chief enemy to his most zealous servant and evangelist for the cause of Christ. But of much greater significance than Paul’s personal transformation was God’s change in His divine program. God revealed truths to Paul that He had kept secret. Jesus, during his three-year ministry on earth, never revealed these teachings and the twelve knew nothing of them, even after Christ’s resurrection. One of the significant theological errors by Christendom is its failure to understand Paul’s unique apostleship. Because of this, vast theological confusion and error exist within the Church to this very day. Here we must take into account the apostle Peter’s declaration in circa 68 AD which is found in 2 Peter 3:14-16. This is where said he does not understand some of Paul’s teachings:
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist), as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:14-16; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6).
Even though Peter didn’t understand everything Paul taught, it’s rather obvious he attempted to understand them. What’s more, we note he identified all of Paul’s epistles as Scripture, i.e., the very Word of God. The vast majority of Christian churches are doing neither. They won’t recognize Paul’s apostleship, his ministry, or his gospel. But according to Paul declaration in Romans 2:16, it is the gospel (good news) God will use to judge the secrets of men: “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”
Whether or not Christians understand the great church doctrine of “the mystery,” one thing is crystal clear “the mystery” is the “meat” Paul referenced in 1 Corinthians 3:2 by which the Believer is stablished in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25).
“And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony (the mystery) of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:” (1 Corinthians 2:6-7).
Paul wrote about the mystery in his letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 4:11-14 we read in part, “God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (to the Church) – “for the perfecting (spiritual growth) of the saints…” “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”
In Colossians 1:27-28, Paul speaks of “this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:” He goes on to say, “Whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect (spiritually mature) in Christ Jesus:
Here we note that the long hidden purpose of God, called “the mystery” in 1:27 centers wholly in Christ. In other words, All is Christ! Verse 1:27, “this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory,” he says, as noted above, “Whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
It is no small thing or coincidence that the writings of Paul which deal with “the mystery “are filled with such expressions as, “in Christ,” “in Him,” “in whom,” “with Christ,” and “by Christ.” All is Christ! This is significant because today in the dispensation of Grace you are counted as being either “complete in Christ,” (Colossians 2:10) or completely outside of Christ.
Picture Paul, the apostle of God’s Grace, “warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom” so “that we might present every man perfect in Christ.” See him “labour, striving according to God’s working in him.” What was he striving against? “Great conflict” which he has for the Colossians and every man that he might present “every man perfect (full grown) in Christ Jesus” (1:28); “…that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;” (Colossians 2:2).
Most Christians are afraid of conflict. Although Paul talks about “the mystery” often, they don’t talk about it with others because it invites conflict. They are, therefore, ashamed of Paul and his gospel and fail to understand every Believer is called to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and sometimes a soldier must fight:
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:1-3).
When Paul speaks of conflict he does not mean conflict of the mind, as though he had doubts about the importance of his message or his ministry; he meant conflict with others. Paul had to battle with religious zealots and their traditions so “that their hearts might be knit together;” and we do well to acknowledge there are battles to be fought before the divided Christian church of today can experience “unity of the Spirit” and “the unity of the faith.”
What the majority of people fail to understand is Satan’s involvement in the division of the Christian church, back in Paul’s day, and continuing to this very day. The devil would keep all Christians like the Corinthian babes; he would lull us into complacency, he would make us “dull of hearing” and “slow of heart to believe,” but “we are not ignorant of his devices,” or at least we should not be. The wise Believer understands Satan will never allow the Church to experience “unity of the faith” without a fight.
Therefore, if conflict must be, then it must be, because “the mystery” or “the testimony of God” must be heard for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Even though Paul was placed under house arrest in Rome for preaching the testimony of God concerning Christ, he encouraged the Philippian assembly with the following:
“For unto you is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same (what) conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Philippians 1:29-30).
Instead of trying to escape conflict, let’s understand conflict “in this present evil age” is to be expected. If you’re sharing the gospel of grace with others, then it goes with the territory, so to speak. All those who are faint of heart (timid) should carefully and prayerfully read Ephesians 6:18-20 and the Scripture passage below:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel 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: Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:7-12).
In closing let us take note of a significant phrase in this portion of Colossians: “The full assurance of understanding” (Colossians 2:2). It’s a wonderful thing indeed to have the “full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22); the “full assurance of hope” (Hebrews 6:11); and the “full assurance of understanding” (Colossians 2:2).
This goes with the acknowledgement (full knowledge) of “the mystery.” When Believers are stablished in this truth they are no longer considered as “children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” They have an intelligent grasp of “(God’s) own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (eternity past)” – 2 Timothy 1:9. They have the “full assurance of faith,” which comes with spiritual maturity:
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are had all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).
The mystery among the Gentiles is Christ. The mystery of God is Christ. It is not the world being blessed through the nation of Israel, Abraham’s seed; but the world being blessed through Christ, through Israel’s blindness and hard heartedness. It is not the message of Acts 2:36-39 and Acts 3:18-26, but the message of Romans 11:25-32 and Ephesians 2:16.
(To be continued)
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