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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: March 27, 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).
Hello and welcome to HBS.
Let’s begin with a brief review of last week’s Bible lesson.
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
When Paul wrote this letter around 62 A.D. subtle yet dangerous false teachings threatened to undermine the spiritual unity of the Colossian church. In verse 2:8 Paul said, “Beware” which is both a command and a warning. He’s strongly urging the Colossians to be ever vigilant because heretics were threatening to draw them away from the truth of the gospel. But, as I pointed out last week, he didn’t prepare them for the “slippery slope” of heretical teaching by listing them one by one. He taught them the truth re: Christ’s preeminence in all relationships and who they are in Christ. Paul also taught them the Lord Jesus Christ is the Standard by which all things will be judged in righteousness. Therefore, if you have trusted in Him as your Savior (plus nothing else), please know He has nothing against you presently and He will have nothing against you in the future for Christ paid the penalty for all your sins. Furthermore, we learned Satan is a defeated foe. When Christ rose triumphantly from the grave He conquered not only the devil but also sin and death “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Please open your Bible at Colossians 2:16-17.
The Bible passage we’re about to study speaks of the Believer’s liberty (freedom) in Christ and instructs the Colossians to guard it as you would a valuable treasure. I can’t speak for y’all but for me freedom is very important. In fact, when I was told the freedom of others in Indo China was under attack by communist forces, I joined the military to help defend them against that threat. Back home, I would like to think your view on the freedoms guaranteed to every American citizen by our constitution are worthy to be defended from all enemies foreign or domestic. If someone were to intrude upon our personal freedom in some way, we ought to let that individual know their intrusion is unwanted and they need to back off. If they ignore this warning, then perhaps we would seek legal assistance to help them get the message and if the situation warranted we would fight to protect our freedoms and those of our loved ones. The defense of our home is one example. Many dedicated service men and women have paid the ultimate price to ensure our freedoms remain intact. However, many people today are ignorant of these freedoms having chosen not to become familiar with them, which means the very freedoms men and women have fought and died for are taken for granted and in some cases walked under foot, that is to say, insignificant.
Just as we ought to value, defend, and guard our personal freedoms, Paul is about to tell the Colossians (and us) we are to treasure our spiritual freedom in Christ and guard it. The good news of the gospel message is that we have been set free from the Law and the power of sin and death to walk in newness of life by faith through God’s grace. Sadly, many Christians are unaware of the extent of their liberty in Christ. Because of this they choose to live as though they were operating under the strict commandments and the covenants of God. However, our apostle Paul addressed the issue saying, and I’m paraphrasing, “Don’t let anyone rob you, i.e., draw you away from the truth of the gospel, and don’t let any one judge you because God has annulled the Law” (2:8, 2:16).
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat (food), or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body (substance) is of Christ.”
Over the years I’ve witnessed and experienced a judgmental spirit within Christianity. My earliest recollection dates back to when I was a child, but I came across it again and again over the years. Permit me to explain. I had the feeling people were looking at me and scrutinizing my behavior, mentally comparing it to some standard that they themselves were striving to live up to. I’m not talking about how I looked, dressed, and spoke, although these things aren’t off the list. I grew up in the radical 60’s so that in itself ought to explain much. I overheard people gossiping in small groups which is a favorite pastime of many. They were speaking negatively of others, including myself. They were putting people down for something they supposedly did or didn’t do, and it wasn’t always the same people commanding the conversation. The majority of the church, at times, acted this way. There is a term for this it’s called legalism, which is defined as strict adherence to the law.
Just so you know legalism is the human attempt to gain salvation, favor, or prove our spirituality by outwardly conforming to a list of religious do’s and don’ts. It’s often disguised in Christian phraseology and behavior. When Christians or churches become legalistic in their approach, they will become judgmental in their attitude, and it is so easy for people to adopt a legalistic attitude and people can succumb to legalism without trying to do so. Let's say you discover a discipline that really aids you in your daily walk with Christ. This activity helps you so much that soon you begin to wonder why others aren’t doing the same thing. From here you begin to feel self-righteous because in your mind you are doing what everyone else should be doing. That’s how subtle legalism is? Discipline in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but if it becomes the standard by which you judge other people’s spirituality then you’re treading on thin ice, scripturally speaking, for we are not under law but grace:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6).
“But if you obey the Spirit, the Law of Moses has no control over you” (Galatians 5:18).
In this section of Scripture, Paul issued three appeals starting with verse 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil (rob) you;” “Let no man judge you” (2:16); and “Let no man beguile you” (2:18). We’ll be looking at Paul’s second appeal today in verse 2:16.
If you’ve trusted in the shed blood of Christ for forgiveness of all your sin, then you have a standing before God. Paul said you are now in Christ and He has pronounced you “complete in him” (2:10). There is no such thing as being almost saved or almost an adopted child of God. My friends you are either in Christ or you’re outside of Christ. If you’re unsaved (outside of Christ), God sees you just as you are and He knows everything there is to know about you. That’s not my opinion or church-speak it’s taken right from Scripture: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Once again, you might choose not to know God, but God knows everything about you. You’ll have to stand before Him one day future in judgment to answer for your unbelief, unless you choose to be saved by faith (alone) in Christ’s finished work of the cross. He died a horrible death to pay the penalty for all your sins and put them away, to such a degree that they’ll never be used against you again. If you trust in Him as your Savior, God said you are accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), and God sees you in Christ; you have a standing before God in Christ, therefore you are “complete in him.” That’s why Paul said, “Beware lest any man rob you” or carry you away from the truth of the gospel by false teaching.
Paul expounds on this instruction in verses 2:11-13 to show the Colossians they were crucified with Christ and were buried with Him in baptism, and raised with Him unto newness of life (Romans 6; Galatians 2:20). This naturally leads us to verses 14 thru 17: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat (food), or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath : Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body (substance) of Christ.”
Paul makes it clear that when Christ died on the cross He abolished for us all the demands of the Law and this includes anything someone might demand of us, that is, certain things we must do to be saved or retain our salvation. These things contradict what God has clearly said re: your acceptance in the Beloved and your present standing for you are complete in Christ. Christ has “blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” or those things He said must be done to be accepted by Him. The first example of this teaching is found in Cain and Abel’s sacrifices. The LORD God had told Cain and Abel to bring a blood sacrifice before Him. We read the LORD accepted Abel’s sacrifice and him because he did as he was instructed. His brother Cain’s response to this command was to devise a plan all his own. He offered the LORD fruit, the work of his own hands, as a sacrifice which demonstrated he was destitute of faith in what the LORD clearly said, so both he and his sacrifice were deemed unacceptable (Genesis 4:1-7).
I mention Cain’s lack of faith because throughout the scriptures you’ll find it was the obedience of faith in what God had said that determined whether or not a person was considered righteous (See Genesis 15:6; Psalm 106:31; Romans 4:2-4; Galatians 3:6). But then came our apostle Paul saying I have the greatest message of all, that is, the preaching of the cross; that Christ died to pay the penalty for all our sin that we might be saved by grace through faith and not of works of any kind (Ephesians 2:8-9).
In Romans 4:3-5 Paul said, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith (his believing) is counted for righteousness.”
That’s why Paul said in Colossians 2:14 the Lord Jesus Christ “blotted out the handwriting of ordinances which was against us…” All these laws and commands could only condemn us. Even if we could do them we would never be sure we had done enough and there’s the question of whether or not we performed them in the right spirit, that is, the right frame of mind. In short, the Law revealed our sin: “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” (Romans 3:19-20).
So, Paul said that list of things to do and not to do known as the Law or those things “that were against us” Christ “took out of our way, nailing it to His cross.” But here’s the thing, when was this truth revealed? You don’t find the message of Christ’s all sufficient work of the cross in the O.T., the four gospels, or in Acts chapters 1-8. It wasn’t until Saul/Paul “the chief (first) of sinners” was saved by God’s grace alone (Acts 9). It wasn’t known until Paul proclaimed the message of the mystery to both Jew and Gentile: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:21-22).
It is not known until Paul said, “sin shall not have dominion over you for you’re not under law but under grace.” So, the Law of sin and death was done away with by the cross of Christ, but this message wasn’t revealed immediately thereafter. The message of salvation by God’s grace through faith was not made known until the risen and glorified Lord raised up Saul of Tarsus as the apostle to the gentile nations (Acts 9). In Ephesians 3:1-6, according to Paul, the revelation of this present dispensation, or program, was something God first made known and committed unto him:
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:” (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
This present dispensation is something which was a “mystery” before Paul. God kept it secret unto Himself in ages and generations past. It wasn’t known about before or even anticipated until God raised up the apostle Paul and revealed to him the mystery of God’s grace through the Christ’s finished work of the cross. Therefore, the dispensation of God’s amazing grace began with a revelation the Lord made known to our apostle Paul: “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, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:” (Romans 16-25-26; Acts 20:24).
“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 (first). 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).
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat (food), or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body (substance) is of Christ.”
If someone says you have to do this or that to please God, remember who you are in Christ (2:10). Whomsoever the Son sets free he or she is free indeed. In the Grace Age we are to live for Him out of sheer gratitude for all the things He has done for us (Romans 12:1-2). Therefore, don’t let anyone rob you; don’t let anyone judge you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to be water baptized, you must attend church on certain calendar days, or perform some sort of self-sacrifice such as those that are done during the Lenten period; all these things are shadows of things to come (2:17). Paul said, “but the body (substance) is of Christ.” All the do’s and don’ts contained within the Mosaic Law were a shadow of things to come in that they foreshadowed or foretold of coming spiritual blessings in Christ. But the substance of these blessings or divine benefits themselves come, not after the Law, but from Christ. The Colossians, therefore, should not permit anyone to judge them, or enslave them to legalistic regulations and rituals.
(To be continued)
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