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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: July 31, 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 y’all to HBS.
“ For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols (this is faith) to serve the living and true God (this is love); And to wait for his Son from heaven (this is hope), whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1:9-10).
If you recall awhile back I said we take a longer look at the three grace virtues faith, hope, and love (charity) so that’s why we haven’t moved on.
Faith, Hope, and Love
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love)” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul taught the supernatural communication gifts which God gave the early Church, i.e., prophecy, tongues, and the gift of knowledge, would cease once the Scriptures were complete. After this, the Body of Christ would operate on the basis of the written Word of God, dispensationaly speaking of course, through the three grace virtues faith, hope, and love (charity). Charity speaks of agape love that’s why he said of these three virtues the greatest is charity because it is the ultimate expression of love. In layman’s terms, it literally means to seek one another’s highest good “alway,” that is, until the Lord comes for His Church and not just when you’re in the mood. The best biblical example of agape love is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for He suffered a horrible death that was not His to die for all mankind’s sake.
The Completed Scriptures
One of the things we learn from 1 Corinthians 13:13 is that Paul’s commission as the risen and glorified Lord’s apostle to the gentiles included completing the Scriptures (see Romans 1:1-5; Colossians 1:25; 2 Peter 3:15-17). Thus, the supernatural gifts of 1 Corinthians 13 ceased by the time Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy in 68 AD. No one in the Church legitimately exercises these three spiritual gifts today. They have been replaced by things far superior, namely, the completed Word of God and faith, hope, and love.
I reiterate, God saved Paul and appointed him to be the apostle of the gentiles (Romans 11:13). Included in this commission was that Paul would establish something brand new, that is, “a new creature,” the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 3:1-7) made up of individual Believers. This new program required new truths for “new wine cannot abide old wineskins” (Matthew 9:17). The Lord revealed (by revelation) to Paul these new truths re: the Church to guide and manage it: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). These “mysteries” revealed God’s plan and purpose for His Church in the dispensation of the grace of God and were meant to “stablish” the Believer (to settle permanently in a state; to make firm; to establish; to fix) in the faith. Furthermore, with the Believer’s practical sanctification in mind, God set forth our apostle Paul as “the pattern” for the Body of Christ to copy or imitate (1 Timothy 1:12-16).
The Grace Trinity of Faith, Hope, and Love
In addition to the blessing of the completed Word of God, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 of the blessings of faith, hope, and love for the Body of Christ is to live by these grace virtues. Two other passages, both found in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, contain these virtues, which again points to the reason why we haven’t moved on in our study. They are the following: “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). The phrases “work of faith, “labour of love” and “patience of hope” was the language of his prayer for the Thessalonian saints (1 Thessalonians 1:2). This prayer reveals how Believers should pray today. You see, part of copying Paul’s life most certainly includes imitating his prayer life, “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
Paul regarded faith and love as our “breastplate.” A breastplate was designed to defend the soldier’s heart, the source of faith and love. “Hope” here refers to the soldier’s helmet an item designed to protect the head or the mind. So, let’s be clear the “Hope of salvation” does not mean we are to hope our salvation is genuine and long-lasting. I say this because the uneducated individual might view the expression “hope of salvation” with a question mark at the end of it. It may cause them to think in terms of the earthly definition of hope, which generally suggests the idea of something yet to be received, thus it remains hoped for. But elsewhere Paul wrote: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:24-25).
Here Paul focused on something that has not yet been received. How, then, can the Believer possess salvation (1 Corinthians 15:2), and yet “hope” for it? The answer is to be found in the fact that words may be used in different senses in the Scriptures. There is a sense in which salvation has already been received, i.e., we received the forgiveness of all our sins past, present, and future, the very moment we believed Paul’s gospel (Romans 16:25-27; Galatians 1:4; Colossians 2:13). And yet, in another manner of speaking, we “hope” for a salvation yet to come (1 Thessalonians 5:8), which is “nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11), but is yet to be obtained in its fullness (2 Timothy 2:10). So then, the “hope of salvation” is not something that might or might not happen it is as certain as any other promise of God. One day future every true Believer will “fly away” and be fully free of the temptations and wiles of Satan, and the difficulties this life presents and their salvation will be fully realized (Ephesians 1:11-14).
The word “faith” is a verb. It means to believe what God has said, more specifically, what God has said in each dispensation for God’s program and plan change from one dispensation to another. Please note God Himself does not change, but the manner in which He deals with mankind most certainly changes. Today in the dispensation of the grace of God a Believer has the assurance of salvation and eternal life because he or she believes God will do what He has said. It’s that simple. The Lord Jesus Christ has done the work of salvation. Remember, shortly before He expired on the cross He said, “It is finished.” Therefore, not one more thing needs to be done. Our part in God’s salvation plan is simply to believe God. Please note I did not say believe “in” God I said believe God. We believe this because God has said He will not accept those who try to pitch in and help Him by adding human effort in any form to Christ’s perfect work of salvation. Therefore, the only path to Salvation is the one God has declared for this age: “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 is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:8-9, 3:1-12).
Let’s be clear, the word “hope” is short for the Believer’s joyful, sure, and confident expectation of what God has promised. Because of this, it’s related to “faith.” It doesn’t mean hope in the sense of “I hope French fries comes with that,” or “I hope I win the lottery.” The biblical meaning of “hope” is a confident assurance in God and in His Word. Thus, a Believer’s “hope of salvation” and eternal life translates to a confident and sure expectation that God will do exactly what He has promised (1Corinthians 15:12-23).
The biblical term “love” is also a verb, that is, it’s an action word. Who hasn’t heard the expression “Actions speak louder than words” or “what you do is more important than what you say.” I don’t think y’all need me to point out that in our culture love has a variety of meanings. People love that which gives them pleasure and that could be almost anything under the sun. Over time the biblical meaning of love has been swallowed up by the world’s view, so again, “love” as it’s used here denotes something you do not for yourself but for someone else’s benefit. For instance, Jesus Christ walked with His disciples for about 3 years and one of the last commands He issued was, “love one another.” Why? I believe it was to draw others to Himself for Christ Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). So, once again, “love,” is a verb; “charity” is an unselfish act toward another. With that thought in mind Paul said “love” looks like this:
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).
Simply said, “love” believes the best or gives people the benefit of the doubt; it doesn’t jump to conclusions. “Love” bears with one another’s short-comings; “love” hopes in the fact 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). “Love” allows us to endure the insults, ridicule, rejection, and scorn we receive for our faith and in serving others in Christ’s name. “Love” means giving our enemies what they don’t deserve, just as God has done for us.
Our apostle Paul goes on to say, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:29-32); “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 5:2).
The world-at-large defines love as anything that brings them pleasure and that’s quite different from the biblical meaning as you can plainly read. All one need do is look to the cross of Christ Jesus to see that. So, from God’s Word we learn there are tangible things we can do to show “charity” to one another. For example, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10); so, if you want to show the love of God to each other then, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind (humility) let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:3-4);
The world’s view of love then is connected to one’s emotions, while the biblical meaning of “love” relates to one’s mental attitude. Paul doesn’t leave us wondering what that means for in Philippians 2:5 he said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Every true Believer is to put on the mind of Christ. “Put on” denotes something that you do; it’s not automatic or natural, and that’s because the “old man” wants to take us one way and the indwelt Holy Spirit intends to take us in the opposite direction, thus “the spiritual conflict” Paul writes of in Romans 7.
Permit me to illustrate: just the other day a driver cut me off in traffic almost causing a rear-end collision. I did not have warm, fuzzy thoughts about this careless person, if I’m being honest. But instead of going where my flesh, i.e., “the old man” wanted to go I remembered that this individual was created in the image of God and the Lord Jesus Christ died for them (Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 139-14). Christ Jesus didn’t give them or me, for that matter, what we deserved; He gave us mercy and grace while we were yet His enemies (Romans 5:8-9; 12:1-21). So, in a sense, I “Let this mind be in (me), which was also in Christ Jesus:” I considered this person and their unkindly act with that perspective and by that I mean to say I did not let my emotions rule the day. I might not be able to change my feelings but I can certainly adjust my mental attitude and where the mind goes the body soon follows. Because Christ lives in me I’m able to control what I think and say. Paul said, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me (imitate), do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Summing up, all Scripture is written for our enlightenment but not all Scripture is written nor is it us. We must study all Scripture in the light of Paul’s epistles, i.e., Romans through Philemon. Only in the letters of Paul do we find the “word of Christ,” not in red ink but black, along with the marching orders for the Body of Christ (Colossians 3:16). Paul’s distinctive message and ministry must be recognized in order for the Believers in this dispensation to fully understand “the mystery of His will” (Ephesians 1:8-9). Once this is accomplished, we discover Paul is more than just our apostle. He is our example (Philippians 3:17), he is our minister (Colossians 1:25), and he is our father figure and instructor (I Corinthians 4:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 2:11).
The letters of Paul are directed to Believers who have been saved by faith in what God has clearly said in this dispensation of His grace. Paul calls this good news “my gospel” (Acts 20:24; Romans 2:16, 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8). As our apostle, Paul enlightens us regarding our spiritual relationship and responsibility. We are to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1); “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32); “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without” (Colossians 4:5). Paul prayed, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:17).
Paul urges us to totally dedicate ourselves in the service of Christ (Romans 12:1). He affirms that we will “suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12). But he also assured us that God will empower us to perform the good works He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10), which includes “the ministry of reconciliation.” “For the love of Christ constraineth us….” And “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me” (1 Corinthians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Philippians 4:13).
(To be Continued)
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