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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: April 17, 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.
In Colossians chapter 1 Paul taught the Colossians who Christ is: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature; by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, all things were created by Him and for Him, and all things are sustained by Him. And He is the Head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness of deity dwell.
In chapters 1-2 Paul also sets forth what Christ has done: He has reconciled all things to the Father through His death so that the Believer may be presented pure and blameless in Him. He has spiritually circumcised and baptized (no water needed) the Believer in the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection, granting them new life and the forgiveness of sins past, present and future. He has blotted out the Law that was against them having nailed it to His cross. He has utterly defeated all of the enemies that held the Colossians captive, i.e., sin, death, and the devil himself are defeated foes.
Paul has presented a clear picture of who Christ is and what He has done not only for the church at Colosse but for all that believe, and as Believers we share in all that Christ is and has done. Therefore, the Colossians are instructed not to live their lives as before:
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (2:6-7);
“Set your affections on those things above, not on things on the earth” (3:2).
Please open your Bible at Colossians 3:5-9.
“Mortify (put to death) therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 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;”
Here Paul goes from writing about the positional to the practical aspect of the Colossians’ daily walk with the Lord. This speaks of the Believer’s positional sanctification and the lifelong process of practical sanctification. It is with the Colossians’ present position and standing before God along with his declaration in verse 3:3 in mind, he mentioned some of the sins of the flesh commanding them to “Mortify (put to death) that which is earthly to you: fornication (sexual immorality in all its forms), uncleanness (morally impure thoughts), inordinate affection (desire; eagerness for), evil concupiscence (evil desire), and covetousness, which he said is idolatry.”
The term “members” is used for the various sins that exist in, and seek to express themselves through different parts of the human body. The word “therefore” looks back to verse 3:3 inasmuch as they are “dead to sin,” the Colossians are to make this death to their old lifestyle a reality in their daily lives.
“For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:”
Some people read this verse and assume it’s saying God’s wrath is coming on the Believers in Colosse because of their disobedience, but that’s not true. Let’ compare scripture with scripture. Here’s what Paul wrote to the Believers at Ephesus:
“Among whom also we all had our conversation (manner of living) 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).
Like the Ephesians the Colossians at one time “were the children of wrath,” but God has done something incredible for their sake. He has given them new life in Christ; they’ve been “crucified with Christ,” therefore, the old man is dead, and they are raised “to walk in newness of life…,” “with Christ Jesus.”
Paul does not mean to imply the Believer is immune to sin because y’all know that’s not true; we all commit sin and on a regular basis. When was the last time you lied to someone, have you ever taken office supplies home from work for personal use, have you ever lived a day in which you didn’t covet someone or something, when was the last time you entertained an impure thought, and so on? Exactly! It is for these reasons, and others, that Paul said the Colossians are “obligated” to continually put to death (mortify) that which is earthly in them, that is, their “old man” who draws them back to sin in its many forms (Romans 6:6, 7). It’s because of “these things (for which) the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.” (3:6-7).
First, Paul is not saying the wrath of God cometh upon the Colossian saints but upon the unsaved whose standing is outside of Christ. Before their conversion the Colossians were counted among them, but on this side of their expressed faith God has done great things for them. They have been “accepted in the Beloved,” and God sees them as He sees His Son, perfect. This being so, they are to behave as children of Light and not children of darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5-8). Secondly, in saying “put to death” the sins of the flesh Paul is talking about their practical sanctification and means to say do not practice them because the Believer has been delivered (freed) from sin:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” (Ephesians 4:31).
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that dare dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2).
“For if (since) we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 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 6:5-7).
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:12-17).
Paul’s message in Romans 8:12 is crystal clear the Colossians are “debtors,” i.e., obligated to mind their conduct because of what God has done for them through Christ Jesus. Again this speaks of the lifelong process of practical sanctification. This word means set apart or consecrated to God. Please know both in our salvation and in our daily walk it has been God’s purpose not merely to set us apart from the world around us, but also to set us apart as consecrated to Himself. In Romans chapter 6 Paul explained the power that exists within the Believer to live apart from the sins of the unbelieving world, which Paul recorded for us in Romans 1:18 – 3:32:
When sin entered the world through the man’s disobedient act, it brought death (spiritual separation from God) to mankind and resulted in man’s fear of God (Genesis 3:8). But Paul said the Believer has not received a spirit of slavery which leads to fear. On the contrary, they have received a new spirit: a spirit of adoption as sons. As a result, those who are in Christ exclaim, “Abba! Father!” The indwelling Holy Spirit agrees with our spirit we are children of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). This is an awesome revelation and worthy of acceptance. The Believer is an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. A joint-heir is one who shares everything with the heir. A joint-heir or a joint-tenant on a bank account, stock, or bond has full rights to the financial asset. Such is our position in Christ. In layman’s terms everything He has, we have.
I believe most parents view their children as being precious, even if they don’t always behave. Parents love their children and in similar fashion God loves those who are His, therefore, He sees the Believer the same way He views His Son, as the apple of His eye. This shows how precious the Believer is to God and makes our separation from the world and sin the natural of our consecration to Him: “Ye turned ,” said Paul, not “from idols to God” (See 1 Thessalonians 1:9).
True scriptural sanctification, or holiness, then, does not consist in “dos” and “don’ts,” nor is it to be confused with living a sinless life. It is rather a consecration to God which results in a closer walk with Him. Reminds me of the account in Genesis where the man once walked with the LORD God in the garden in sublime fellowship; they enjoyed one another’s company. But that changed after he disobeyed the LORD’s commandment. After that incident, the LORD came looking for the man and the woman in the garden but they hid from Him. No more closer walk with Thee - their fellowship and their relationship had not only been tarnished it no longer existed.
In reality, every true Believer has already been sanctified or consecrated to God. This took place the moment they believed Paul’s gospel. But in some religious circles sanctification is viewed as a second work of God’s grace, after salvation. Actually it is the very first work of grace. Sanctification begins with God as He saves us and sets us apart for Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of sin and leads us to faith and obedience in Christ. Thus we read:
“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; 1 Peter 1:2).
The lifelong process of practical sanctification is not affected by one’s conduct. Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 5:1-5:
“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. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
Paul declared the Believer should “walk… as becometh saints (sanctified ones).” As I read this the underlying implication is some of the Ephesians were not walking after God, or as they had been taught. However, Paul addressed them “as dear children” not of the devil but of God. The same is true for the carnal Corinthians, whom Paul addressed as, “saints; sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2). Even though their ill behavior marked them as carnal Christians, Paul addressed them as “saints sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Paul then proceeds to name some of their carnal practices in chapters 5 thru 6:1-11.
Thus, Believers, whatever their state, are called:
“…them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32, 26:18)
“…the elect of God, holy and beloved…” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Once again, all this pertains to the Believer’s present position and standing before God. It is He who, in infinite grace and love, set us apart as His own, declaring us righteous in Christ. None of this would be possible if it were not for the grace of God through Christ Jesus’ finished work of the Cross. Said differently, the Believer’s present position (sanctified) before God is based on their unwavering faith in the glorious all sufficient work of Christ on their behalf:
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 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 atonement” (Romans 5:6-11).
“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10).
“For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
Positionally speaking, every Believer has been sanctified (set apart), by God for Himself through the operation of God the Spirit and on the basis of their faith in the shed blood of Christ for all their sins. Paul hammers this truth home in Romans 8:33-35:
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
If (since) God, in love, set us apart as His precious possession, shouldn’t the Believer’s response to His matchless grace and love be one of undying gratitude, which is reflected in their daily choices and their ensuing conduct? Shouldn’t they live their lives pleasing to God? The answer to both questions is a resounding, “Yes.” Remember what Paul wrote in Colossians 1:
“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:” (Colossians 1:9-12).
It is with the above questions in mind Paul writes:
“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,” (Ephesians 1:4-5).
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Please know nowhere in Scripture is the Believer instructed to sanctify their carnal flesh. The Scriptures teach the flesh (our old man/our Adamic nature) is totally corrupt. The flesh cannot be improved, reformed, or converted to God’s way of thinking. They that are fleshly (the self-indulgent) cannot please God (Romans 8:8). It is for this reason God the Father sent His Son, “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” to condemn sin in the flesh at Calvary (Romans 8:3). Therefore, the Believer is not instructed to improve their old man but to recognize it as being “dead,” that is, crucified with Christ Jesus:
“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” (Romans 6:6).
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11).
The flesh cannot be improved upon or sanctified to God, but the Believer’s body can and should be. Here’s what Paul had to say about this:
“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).
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
“That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” (1 Thessalonians 4:4).
“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
Thus Paul concludes:
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he declared that while “the Lord knoweth them that are His,” all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ should “depart from iniquity,” (sin), and explained further in saying: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
Here Paul used the analogy of “a household vessel” in describing the Body of Christ, the Church, for it is “a great house.” In a wealthy house, there would be found containers made of various materials, used for different purposes, and given different roles to fulfill. Gold and silver are clearly the most expensive and desirable vessels. Wood and clay were the everyday materials used in the making of cups, jars, plates, and pitchers in the 1st century.
The containers meant for “honourable” use are the gold and silver vessels. These items were not meant for everyday dining but were reserved for special meals and gatherings. Those vessels deemed “dishonourable” referred to the vessels made of wood and clay or those items meant for everyday use. Paul wants Timothy to focus on “cleansing” himself from what was “dishonourable” (2 Timothy 2:21) so he could be a vessel for “honourable” use. In layman’s terms this means those people God is able to use are those who pursue a consecrated (holy) life, abstaining from sin in its many forms, which Paul referred to as “iniquity” (verse 19) and “false teachings” (2 Timothy 2:16-18).
Therefore, the “wrath of God” does not come upon the Believer when they return to sin for Christ Jesus paid our sin debt in full at Calvary. Meaning, all our sins past, present, and future are covered by the shed blood of Christ. Those who remain unsaved are by nature “the children of wrath” and are not counted among the “the children of God” for they remain outside of Christ.
As we consider how to be sanctified to God in our daily walk and experiences, the emphasis is placed on what God has said and rightfully so. No one will deny prayer is an important element in one’s practical sanctification, yet over and above that this book places the supreme emphasis upon itself, i.e., God’s Word. Our Lord and Savior prayed the following prayer for His disciples:
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
Our apostle Paul declared:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, ” (Ephesians 5:25-26).
Members of the Body of Christ were cleansed “by the word” at their conversion. When I taught Sunday school much emphasis was placed upon Bible memorization. Some of the children had no problem with this, while others experienced great difficulty trying to remember the weekly Bible verse. Just so you know I’m not picking on the children I also urged my adult students to remember a significant verse week after week and its Bible address. One of them told me they had a mind like a “sieve.” You know that kitchen item used to strain pasta and vegetables. I told them I use a sieve to wash residue off my brown rice, so the sieve has a “cleansing” effect. The same is true for the Word of God it too has a cleansing effect upon those who prayerfully read it and deliberate on it. It is the Word which its Author, the Holy Spirit, uses to cleanse and sanctify the Believer more and more to God. There’s almost always a flip-side to consider, so we’ll do that here. All those who rarely spend time with their Bible will never enjoy true practical sanctification no matter how often they pray. Because they choose not to read/study the Bible, rightly divided, God’s truths are foreign to them.
(To be continued)
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