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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: April 24, 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 HBS.
Last week we looked at Paul’s teaching on positional and practical sanctification. Positional sanctification speaks of our current standing with God. We are called “saints” and “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:7) and this is how Paul addressed all Believers (Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11; Hebrews 10:10; Jude 1). Therefore, sainthood or positional sanctification is not something the Believer attains it is the state into which God, in grace, calls saved men and women, and in which they begin their “walk in newness of life with Christ” (Romans 6:4; Colossians 3:12; Hebrews 3:1).
Positional sanctification relates to the fact the Believer has been redeemed and cleansed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. They have been forgiven of all of their sins and placed in a new relationship with God: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).
Positional sanctification is true of every Believer. We have once and for all been set apart for God. This is why we are called “saints” because that is what we are in God’s sight. We have been sanctified and are holy (set apart) before God. We are “accepted in the Beloved.” Our positional sanctification is perfect just as Christ is perfect. Furthermore, positional sanctification is as complete for the immature Believer as it is for those who are maturing in the faith. Our positional sanctification depends only on our union and standing in Christ. In this standing before the Father the Believer is declared righteous and accepted before Him forever. An example of this teaching is found in 1 Corinthians 1:2. This is where Paul speaks of their current standing even though they were carnal (earthly). He wrote: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”
Positional sanctification is unchanging; however, the same can’t be said for practical sanctification. Practical sanctification does not refer to our position, but to our state or condition, which is flawed to say the least. Believers yield their members to the temptations of the flesh continually, but we do not lose our standing before God and we do not lose our salvation, because these are based on our perfect position in Christ. Our practical sanctification, plainly said, is living out our faith on a daily basis with the idea of conforming to the image of God’s Son always in mind:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Gentiles). For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).
“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” (Romans 8:29).
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:” (Colossians 3:10).
Positional sanctification becoming practical sanctification should be a reality in the Believers’ life to the extent that people notice the difference in the way you now live. As we follow Paul, as he follows the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), our practical sanctification will be brought more and more in line with our positional sanctification, until the day of completion (Romans 8:19-23).
Please open your Bible at Colossians 3:8-10.
Put Off; Put On
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, see that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”
Since the vast majority of denominational churches do not teach positional and practical sanctification (a fundamental truth of the faith), I’ve decided to park on this topic for a while longer so that people might come to understand what the perfect will of God is regarding this matter and grow in knowledge and truth.
In 3:8-9 Paul instructed the Colossians’ to do something; he said, “put off” (cease practicing) these vices: “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication and lying (dishonesty) to another.” Although it’s true their “old man” or their Adamic nature, was “put off” (destroyed) having been “crucified with him” (Christ), the moment they believed Paul’s gospel sin must be dealt with continually:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Our “old man” or our old selves, as we were in and from Adam is contrasted with the “new man” (Colossians 3:9-10), which is what we currently are and have in Christ. The word “our” indicates that what is said, is said of and to all those who are positioned in Christ. This means the term “old man” is a federal one (pertaining to all because all have sinned), as also is the phrase the “new man:”
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12).
Paul’s not saying the “old man” is Adam any more than the “new man” is Christ. Also, the “old man” must not be confused with “the flesh.” Adam fathered a son in his own likeness. This son of Adam possessed a natural (earthly) mind, feelings, tastes, and desires all apart from God (1 Corinthians 15:46). Cain truly was his father’s son and is a picture of the meaning of the term “old man.” Furthermore, since man’s activities were carried on in and through the body, he is now “after the flesh,” morally speaking.
Therefore, when Paul told the Colossians they had to “put off” or “put to death” the “old man” (3:8), he was addressing them as “new creatures” in Christ, and that the “old man” represented all they were by nature, namely, their ambitions desires, hopes, judgements, lusts, federally speaking. That’s who they used to be; but now they have put that off. In like manner, Paul urged the saints in Ephesus to “put to death” their former lifestyle: “That ye put off concerning the former conversation (manner of living identified here as) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;”
The old man is to be “put to death” that is, our former manner of life; for we are now in Christ and are “new creatures; old things are passed away; behold they are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:8).
The flesh has lusts and passions; it has a mind directly at enmity with God. Paul teaches the flesh is a manifestation of sin in the as yet unredeemed body (Romans 7:14-25, 8:12-13). Thus, the old man (our old self) is in accordance with the pagan mindset. This is the pre-Christ reality of every individual. The Believer must come to terms with the biblical teaching of the two natures that war within them; that of the flesh, which is dead and presents a problem to the “living out” of our new life in Christ, and the Spirit, which has sealed us to the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13) and which desires to live out the new life in Christ Jesus. Remember, Paul is speaking with the Ephesians re: their thinking and that they must no longer walk as unbelieving pagans. Such a walk is in the “futility of their minds” (Ephesians 4:17) and such thinking is “darkened,” “ignorant,” and “callous” (Ephesians 4:18). Believers are to understand what they have been taught regarding Christ and are to appropriate such teaching to the extent that their lives are changed by it.
Not every church denomination is in agreement with our apostle Paul’s affirmation that two natures exist in every true Believer, but the majority of these don’t recognize him or his apostolic authority. So, let’s be clear, the truth regarding the two natures that exist in the Believer is strictly a Pauline revelation and we are to accept it for what it is, truth. Plainly said, Paul’s saying the Colossians have the capacity for godly behavior because the Spirit of God lives within them, but they also have the capability to sin. However, Paul truthfully declared all Believers are “made free from sin,” therefore sin has no power (dominion) over them (Romans 6:11-14); what’s more they are viewed as “the servants of righteousness:”
“Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Romans 6:18-19).
I reiterate, at the moment of their conversion the Colossians received a new nature. But again, practical sanctification is the process by which God develops their “new man.” The Spirit of God enables them to say no to sin and yes to God’s expressed will. In Romans 7 Paul explained the spiritual battle that rages continually in even the most spiritually-minded person, including himself. He is on record stating he does what he doesn’t want to do, and, in fact, does the evil he loathes. He said that is the result of “sin living in me” (Romans 7:20). He goes on to say he delights in God’s law according to his “inner being,” but he sees another law at work in the members of (his) body, waging war against the law of (his) mind and making (him) a prisoner of the law of sin at work within (his) members” (7:23).
Here, again, Paul affirms that two entities exist in every true Believer. This is why Believers are strongly urged to “put to death” the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13), to put to death that which makes them sin (Colossians 3:5), and to put aside all earthly vices some of which are anger, wrath, malice, and so forth (Colossians 3:8).
All this to say there’s no controversy regarding the Believer’s two natures, i.e., the old and the new; and there’s no mistaking Paul instruction on renewing the new nature continually (Ephesians 4:23-24; Colossians 3:10). This renewing, once again, speaks of practical sanctification; an ongoing life-long process for the Believer, in Christ.
Put the Old Man Away
Before we proceed I think we need to review Paul’ command in verse 3:5: “Mortify (put to death) therefore your members (those parts of the body that are earthly) which are upon the earth;”
Speaking practically, when someone dies in many cases they are placed in a coffin and buried, that is, put away. And so it is for the “old man” and the earthly vices linked with it. Paul’s said “ye also put off (all that which is earthly in you), “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth, and lying (dishonesty) to one another…” (3:8-9). Evidently, Epaphras informed Paul these earthly vices were being practiced in the Colossian assembly so he addressed this concern by commanding them to “put off (put to death) your members which are upon the earth” (3:5) or those sins that seek to express themselves through different body parts.
Just so you know this problem wasn’t unique to Colosse, a similar church concern existed in the assembly in Rome, which prompted Paul to pose the following rhetorical question:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2)
He followed that up with this declaration in verse 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
Our “old man” the person we were before we were “crucified with Christ” and made a “new creature” raised up with Christ “to walk in newness of life,” is reckoned as dead “destroyed” which basically means the Believer is no longer enslaved to sin.
Once again this teaching is rarely heard in many of the so called Christian churches today, so I have no doubt this is new news for most of you. Please know those churches that teach dispensational truths are ardent defenders of the “two natures” that exist within the Believer. In other words, we stand with Paul because God revealed this revelation to him and he taught it to the grace churches he planted throughout the then known world, and we in turn teach it to y’all. That being said, please know there are a growing number of churches today that believe and falsely teach the “old man” is utterly destroyed upon one’s conversion. In plain language they teach Christians only possesses the new man, which is created in righteousness and holiness. The following statement from John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of “Grace to You,” radio ministry is one example of this errant viewpoint:
“I believe it is a serious misunderstanding to think of the believer as having both an old and new nature. Believers do not have dual personalities…there is no such thing as an old nature in the believer.” (John MacArthur, — , Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, Pages 31,32.)
Let it be said I’m more interested in building people up vs tearing them down, so I don’t want to belabor the point. I just want my readers to understand this wayward theological notion stands in opposition to one of the fundamental truths of the faith. Permit me to go on record stating, “By reason of Christ’s victory over sin and death, and His indwelling Spirit, every saved saint should experience deliverance from the power of sin by obedience to Romans 6:11; but I deny man’s sin nature is ever removed during our lifetime. It must be dealt with every single day ” (See Romans 6:6-14, 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 10:2-5; Galatians 5:16-25).
Summing up, the Scriptures clearly teach the Believer has two natures (See Romans 7); so Paul is instructing the Colossians not to allow their “old man” to have dominion over them. They are dead to sin, positionally, therefore they are not to obey the lusts of the flesh, and they are not to yield their members as instruments of unrighteousness (sin). Rather, they are to yield themselves to God (put yourself at His disposal), bearing in mind they are alive from the dead by the resurrection of Christ. They are instructed to yield their members as instruments of righteousness to the praise of His glory.
Now, let’s look at verse 3:10.
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”
Paul had previously commanded these saints to “put off” the “old man” or “put to death” those earthly vices identified as sin. Why? Because (they) have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”
Verse 3:10 picks up in the middle of a thought begun in verse 3:9, re: the Believer “putting away” their old man, that is, their worldly, sinful behavior. As stated earlier, in contrast with the old man, the Believer is a new creation (possesses a new nature) and should therefore live differently than before. Paul said the new man is continuously “renewed’ or refreshed. How? In knowledge of the One who “created him,” that is, Christ Jesus. Knowledge which is imparted from Christ is noted throughout this letter to the Colossians as being an important aspect of the Believer’s new life (1:9–10, 2:2–3).
The word “renewed” means: “to cause something to become new and different, with the underlying implication that it will be better than what had existed before.
I remember back when the Coca-Cola company changed their soda recipe and declared it new and improved. But the public tried it and didn’t like it to the extent that they demanded the old recipe be restored. This was a major marketing mistake; one which continues to cause the company embarrassment to this day. So then, not everything that is renewed can be declared better than before and the same goes for the Believer in Christ. The church in Corinth, Greece stands as the ideal example of this teaching. They had been taught by Paul and are noted as being “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints“ (1 Corinthians 1:2); “behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: (verse 1:7). However, although they considered themselves to be spiritually superior in reality they had one foot in the world and the other in heaven, spiritually speaking. This serves to underscore Paul’s teaching re: the two natures that exist in every Believer and his teaching on practical sanctification. The Corinthian’s new nature, like the Colossians, was a reality and is continually progressing until the day of its completion at the Rapture:
“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, awaiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Just as Christ is "the image of the invisible God" (1:15), Believers are being remade into the “image of him that created him:” which, again, speaks of practical sanctification. The relatively new converts in Colosse are recognized as new creatures having a “new nature” and increasingly designed to grow more and more like Christ.
The Believer knows or ought to know the Lord Jesus Christ is the living Word; this book we call the Holy Bible is the written Word of God, and is absolutely true from Genesis to Revelation. The “new man” is the person one becomes after their conversion; he or she now possesses a new nature, and consequently called to walk in newness of life. This speaks of a new lifestyle, to wit, they now see things as God sees them. Their values come more in line with God’s principles with each passing day and this is based on knowledge of the truth, which includes the truth about sin (iniquity) in its many forms. Instead of conforming to this world and its ungodly ways, Believers are commanded to conform to the image of God’s Beloved Son, and the scriptures have a great deal to say about this:
“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” (Romans 8:29).
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14).
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity (meaning: fleeting, empty, worthless or useless) of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:” (Ephesians 4:17-18).
In Ephesians 4:17-18 Paul speaks of the foolishness of the worldly. Just so we’re all on the same page the biblical meaning of “foolishness” isn’t goofy; it means: “vain, lacking understanding or sound judgment.” Those who are worldly by nature imagine themselves as being far more intelligent than those who believe and follow the apostle Paul who follows the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). But the Bible says this is the opposite of the truth. In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians with have this message from Paul:
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).
“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).
The unsaved people of the world can never know God by its wisdom because it considers the finished work of the cross to be foolishness. Paul clearly said “the preaching of Christ crucified” is a “stumbling block” to some and “foolishness” to others:
“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
Then in 1 Corinthians 3:19 Paul wrote, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” So then, in light of this truth, the Believer isn’t so foolish after all. Although the unsaved individual goes on and on in their “vain” way of thinking that there’s no God, no after life, no heaven and no hell, no eternal judgment, believing death is final, let’s be clear, based on what God has said they are the foolish ones. No matter their position in life, no matter what they scored on their SAT’s, and imagine to be true; they lack knowledge in the ABC’s of the most important thing they ought to have knowledge of, Paul’s gospel and the salvation of their precious soul from sin and it’s grim results.
These folks may consider sin to be joking matter; nothing more than harmless fun. However, Paul is clearly teaching the Colossians (and us) it is unwise to throw caution to the wind and deny what God has revealed about sinful behavior and it results. So, “put off” those earthly vices that are deemed unrighteous, since you have “put off” the “old man and his deeds,” and “put on” the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”
(To be continued)
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