Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: May 08, 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.
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness (Colossians 3:10-14).
Based on the context of this Bible passage it goes without saying we are in the practical section of this letter. Paul is telling the Colossians (and us) how we are to live as God's beloved children. In verse 3:9 he said the Colossians “have put off the old man with his deeds;” or the old self, which is earthly in nature. This occurred at their conversion. Their old identity with Adam ended when they were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20-21). Then in verse 3:10 we have the flip-side of putting off the old self which is “putting on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:” or their new self. So, when they believed Paul’s gospel their identity with Adam ended and they were immediately united with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The fact Paul urged the Colossians to “put on” the virtues in verse 3:12 indicates these qualities were in short supply. But as the Believer develops them, they must also practice forbearance and forgiveness in their dealings with one another. Why? Because their brethren are also acquiring the same virtues of verse 3:12. Because of this they retain noticeable flaws and weaknesses which underscores the need for the virtues Paul mentioned with special emphasis on “forbearing and forgiveness,“ remembering all the while “…Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (3:13b).
Please open your Bible at Colossians 3:15-17.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (3:15a) - the word “peace” comes from the Koine Greek word “eirene;” it’s Hebrew equivalent is the word shalom. “Peace” refers to: “the absence of conflict, tranquility, serenity.” Paul speaks of “the peace of God” elsewhere in his writings. I provided some examples below:
“To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).
“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Galatians 1:3).
“Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:2).
But what is the “the peace of God?” I’m glad you asked. Permit me to begin by asking y’all, “Is your life free of conflict; are you basking in tranquility presently? Probably not, so please know “the peace of God” has nothing to do with one’s circumstances. In addition to that, the unsaved (earthly) world does not know “the peace of God.” They’re currently experiencing enmity with God not peace. Therefore, “the peace of God” is something only the true Believer can have. As I alluded earlier, the biblical concept of peace does not focus on the absence of strife, so it’s unrelated to our circumstances. You can be in the midst of great trials and still have “the peace of God.” Since Paul is our example to follow (1 Corinthians 11:1), let’s turn to him for advice on this matter. Please turn to Philippians 4:11:
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
Paul said he could be content in any circumstance; and he demonstrated he had “the peace of God” even though he was falsely accused of a crime and placed in jail at Philippi. Please note his situation didn’t defeat him or define him. Who and what he is in Christ does however being witnessed by the fact that he and Silas prayed and sang hymns of praise to God (Acts 16:25-40. This demonstrated their steadfast confidence that God was being gracious to them irregardless of their predicament. Then when the opportunity arose, he spoke of God's goodness to the Philippian jailer, and brought him and his family to salvation.
So then, Paul wants the Colossians (and us) to know if you’re experiencing a lack of “peace with God” it is most likely due to sin for sin robs people of their peace or you’re unaware of this biblical truth. If that’s the case, please know this peace Paul speaks of is one of God’s greatest blessings. Please know it is the opposite of the fear, stress, and uncertainty that marks the unsaved world. That is why Paul said don’t do those things for which the Lord Jesus Christ died. Instead, do those things God considers right. “Put off” therefore all that is earthly within you and all that which is part and parcel of the old nature, and “put on” those virtues that honor God and “the peace of God will rule your hearts.” (3:15a)
Peace With God
We cannot enjoy “the peace of God” until we have experienced “peace with God.” This is what the sacrificial death of Christ accomplished for the Believer:
“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God (how) through our Lord Jesus Christ:” (Romans 5:1).
This knowledge is a glorious truth, but once again, all those who are currently outside of Christ cannot have “peace with God.” Remember, God cares what you do about the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in infinite love that He gave His Son, and that Christ Jesus gave Himself to die a death that was not His to die; “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Because of this, you cannot have “peace with God” until you have placed your faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for your sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Now there are a great many that continue to deny the existence of God and His Son,
heaven and hell, sin and eternal judgment, and so forth. Instead of believing what God has clearly said about these things, their mantra is, “live and let live for tomorrow we die.”
“If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:32-33).
Those folks outside of Christ and therefore deemed “lost” don’t care that the Lord Jesus Christ died for their sins, but God cares; so please don’t be counted among them.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
“Peace with God” is one thing; “the peace of God” is another. To enjoy the latter, we must first experience the former, for “the peace of God,” ruling in our hearts, is the result of “peace with God,” through our Lord Jesus Christ. The result of “peace with God” is “the peace of God,” the peace that He gives to His own amid all the troubles of life. This is why our apostle Paul wrote: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
While it’s true Believers have “the peace of God,” it’s also true all those who are at “peace with God” don’t necessarily enjoy this blessing. God’s saints only experience “the peace of God” by practicing Philippians 4:6-7:
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
As we follow Paul’s prayer instructions for the Body of Christ, the promises therein will certainly be fulfilled. As Believers in Christ Jesus, “… we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Therefore we should not be constantly overwhelmed and defeated by the adversities of life, but should heed Paul’s exhortation, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:16).
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
It’s truly a wonderful blessing to have peace with God so that we can experience “the peace of God which passeth all understanding” but peace in and of itself is passive, while this verse and others like it are telling the Colossians to be proactive; they are to do those things that honor and please God. This is why Colossians 3 focuses on the Believer’s walk (life). It clarifies some characteristics we’re to put off, and clarifies those Christ-like qualities we’re to put on, and all this is based on “the word of Christ,” rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15). Not only should we know what the risen Lord has revealed to the Body of Christ Paul’s saying it should fill our hearts and lives. In layman’s terms, Christ’s word should direct every aspect of the Believer’s life and control every thought, word, and deed or as Paul put it, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;” (3:16). Practical knowledge becomes “wisdom,” when you put it to work in your life (Colossians 4:5).
Note carefully our apostle Paul did not say the Word of God; he said, “the word of Christ.” Only here is this exact phrase found and emphasized by Paul. “The word of Christ,” therefore, is the Church doctrines he received from the risen and glorified Lord, the revelation of the mystery of God’s Grace being preeminent:
“For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:” (Colossians 1:5-6 ; See also: Romans 16:25-27; 2 Corinthians 13:3; Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-8; 1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Paul used this unique phrase here because he is showing the preeminence of Christ in all things. The false teachers came into this assembly with man-made traditions, religious rules, and human philosophies (2:8). They were trying to blend “the word of Christ” with their teachings, but they could not succeed. Why is that? Christ’s word shines the light of truth on what God’s is doing with the Church today, whereas theirs did not. This being true, it was not the word of false teachers that brought salvation to the Colossians; it was “the Word of Christ,” i.e., “the truth of the Gospel” (1:5).
It’s worth mentioning at this point as it was in Paul’s day so it is today. Not much has changed over the years. People back then were omitting what God said or adding their own opinions and thoughts to it and the same is true today. That being the case let’s look at Paul’s declaration, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;” in that light. This phrase has been misunderstood by Bible scholars and the like to the extent that it served as the basis for the compilation of the red letter New Testament.
A red letter Bible is an edition of scripture in which the words spoken by Jesus Christ are printed in red ink. The red letters are meant to help readers easily locate the actual words spoken by Him. The red letter edition of the Bible was instituted by Louis Klopsch, an innovative and philanthropic editor of the Christian Herald magazine. In 1899 Klopsch published the first red letter New Testament. Two years later, he released the first full red letter edition titled The Holy Bible: Red Letter Edition (Christian Herald, 1901). This first red letter Bible was a King James Version, but today many other translations exist with the words of Christ printed in red letters.
Mr. Klopsch, a close friend and contemporary of Dwight L. Moody, helped raise funds to support Moody’s Bible Institute in Chicago. Klopsch was also driven to print and distribute Bibles to as many people as possible. As owner and managing editor of the Christian Herald, he was able to fulfill that mission, publishing more than 60,000 Bibles each year.
Sounds harmless enough, right. But let’s be clear, Mr. Klopsch believed all the words of the Lord Jesus Christ found in the N.T. ought to be highlighted in red. But I ask you, is this the case? Are all of Christ’s words printed in red ink? That would be no; for all those red letter Bibles omit the very words of Christ and print them in black ink not red. Where does one find these omitted communications? They are those which the risen Lord of glory revealed from heaven as He ushered in “the dispensation of the grace of God” through our apostle Paul. His greatest message to the world to date are printed in black ink (not red), and are found in Paul’s writings. Paul shines the light of truth on this biblical fact in the Bible verses below:
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you…” (1 Corinthians 11:23a).
“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37).
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received,” (1 Corinthians 15:3a).
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord,” (1 Thessalonians 4:15a).
Throughout his letters to the saints in Christ Paul makes it clear his writings are a revelation from the glorified, risen Lord. His are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to the world again through the chief of sinners, the first to be saved by God’s grace (plus nothing else). The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are the individual records of Christ’s ministry to the nation of Israel, and you’ll find therein some of the things He said. But here’s the thing, although Paul penned two-thirds of the N.T. and the four gospels bear Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s name, “all scripture is given by inspiration of God:”
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16).
“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, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
In case you missed it, the apostle Peter identified and validated all of Paul’s epistles as scripture, even though he struggled to understand some of the things he wrote. Why weren’t Peter and Paul on the same page, scripturally speaking? Peter was called and commissioned by Jesus Christ as an apostle of the circumcision (the nation of Israel) and Paul was called and commissioned as the apostle to the gentiles or all nations a.k.a. the uncircumcision by the Lord Jesus Christ. In short, they were given different gospels to preach. Peter preached the gospel of the kingdom to Jew only under the dispensation of the Law (Matthew 4:23; Acts11:19; Romans 15:8). Paul received by revelation the mystery, that is, the gospel of the grace of God, and this he preached, “warning, and teaching every man in all wisdom” (Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Colossians 1:25-29).
So, not only does God care what you do about His beloved Son, He also cares where you derive your “marching orders” (knowledge) and this is where the red letter Bible falls well short of the supposed goal. All of Paul’s writings are of greater importance because they reveal what God is doing today in the dispensation of grace re: the Body of Christ, so they supersede what the Lord Jesus Christ said while He was on the earth (See 2 Corinthians 5:16; Ephesians 2:11-22).
So, this is what Paul meant in saying, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;” this “word of Christ,” this Word that he has been proclaiming, this great and glorious message that had been entrusted to him, and to him alone (Ephesians 3:1-3).
To the carnal Corinthians Paul wrote, “I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you” (2 Corinthians 13:2-3).
That’s what Paul is talking about. These very epistles that bear Paul’s name, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;” Paul’s instructing the Colossians to do something about this and it stands as biblical truth for every Believer today. We are to study the writings of our apostle Paul because they are written to each member of the Body of Christ. Paul’s on record stating, “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:” (Romans 11:13; 2 Timothy 2:15).
Please know the Jews are not excluded. You see, first God had only one nation unto Himself on earth, as again He will have when He resumes His Kingdom Program (Prophetic Program). But during this dispensation of grace, the gospel goes out to all nations and that is what the word gentiles means, the nations, and Israel is simply one of those nations today. And Paul said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I am the apostle to the nations, I magnify my office.”
Now he goes on to say in Colossians 3:16b:
“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Here Paul reminds these saints God would have his people be joyful because of what He has done for them for one but also because it is His purpose:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
The same idea is expressed in Ephesians as in Colossians chapter 3:
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:17-21).
Clearly, God would have every Believer’s heart filled with joy and thanksgiving.
Now we’ll look at one more verse because it goes with, “the peace of God” in your hearts, and “the word of Christ dwelling in you richly,” and “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord,” the passage I speak of follows:
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (3:17).
People of all ages have told me at one time or another they don’t know what God’s will is. One person said, “I have no sense of direction when it comes to what God wants for me. I’m like a ship without a rudder.” If this is a concern for you as well, please know you’ll find God’s will for you in Paul’s writings and we have one of them here before us. Let it be the foundation for all that you do, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
Whatever you can do to glorify God with thanksgiving in your heart, that is the right thing to do. Since our salvation in Christ comes by faith alone, and since faith is the root from which all “good works” flow, we would expect to find an enduring connection between faith and giving glory to God in all of our conduct. The flip-side is, if you cannot do it (whatever it is) to God’s glory, it is wrong so don’t do it. Now some people say what about everyday ordinary things like eating and drinking? It’s good to know Paul has covered this topic as well,
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
This is a great lesson that should not be overlooked or forgotten. Believers are saved by God’s grace in order that they might in turn prove to be a spiritual blessing to others. The only way in which we can do this is to truly live as “saints”, i.e., the ambassadors of the Lord He has called us to be (1 Corinthians 1:2).
(To be continued)
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