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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: April 09, 2021
“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.
I want to give a shout-out to all those who have recently joined our “no frills” study of God’s Word, rightly divided, per the Lord’s command (2 Timothy 2:15). Then when it comes to spiritual edification, I strongly suggest y’all get in the habit of “fact-checking” the words of men, including mine, for “the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
The time Paul lived in was rampant in sin, one example that comes to mind is Caligula formally known as Gaius. He was the third Roman emperor ruling from 37 to 41 AD. Caligula was born into the first ruling family of the Roman Empire, conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. But he’s best known for his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion, which presented him as an insane tyrant. Then there’s Nero he certainly wasn’t a choirboy, and come to think of it, neither was our Apostle Paul otherwise known as Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7-9) the chief persecutor of “the way” or those Jewish men, women, and children that followed Christ (acts 9:2, 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:14, 22). But I digress. The point I’m making is sin has been in the world since Adam’s disobedient act in Genesis 3, and it’s rampant in our society today
(See Romans 1:18-32). So then, just as Noah lived a godly life prior to a time of judgment, Paul urged his readers to live godly lives in obedience to the Lord’s commands, knowing “the evil days” in which they lived indicated that God’s righteous judgment (the Day of the Lord) could come at any time. The Rapture didn’t occur during Paul’s life, obviously, but that truth stands for His coming in the clouds for His saints is still relevant and true today.
No Other Doctrine
By the words “no other doctrine” our Apostle Paul means to say “no” other than that which he had taught them by “word or epistle.” This is emphasized again in 1 Timothy 6:3-5, where he closes his first epistle to Timothy saying, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
Why Is This is a Serious Matter?
With all the confused thinking about the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, or the very words of Jesus after the turn of the century it was little wonder that modernism swept so many people off their feet with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, a Man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), following in His footsteps, social betterment, political reform, and what have you. At that time multitudes were so taken up with the “social gospel,” so eager to help make the world a better place to live in, that they did not notice or believe that the modernists denied the very fundamentals of the faith.
Fast forward to today and we find the new evangelicalism of our day is even more dangerous. For one thing it is BIG. It is well financed. It is popular. And it is subtle. By subtle I mean to say while claiming to be conservative, it minimizes the importance of the fundamentals of the faith and the danger of apostatizing (departing) from them, preferring the idea of the adequacy of the Bible, rather than its inerrancy. Thus, I remind the group the words of Paul to Timothy are God’s inspired Word to us today: “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” or teach no doctrine that contradicts Pauline doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-4).
“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:5-11).
The Need For Paul’s Charge to Timothy
Carefully note Paul does not refer, in verse 5, to any or all of the Ten Commandments, but rather to his “charge” or command, “to teach no other doctrine” than that which he had handed down to them. The word is not the same as that used in verse 7 and elsewhere for the Law. It is rather that which Paul used in verse 3, here rendered “charge,” a different word altogether so it makes a difference.
Keeping this between the lines, or in context, the “end” or object, of this “charge,” he said, “is charity (agape love) out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1:1). I’ve mentioned this before, but I ask, what was Paul’s message of grace? Is it not a proclamation of “(God’s) great love wherewith he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4; Romans 5:8-9). And how this “great love” should in turn produce love in our hearts and in our daily walk (lives). That’s a rhetorical question meant to inspire one’s intellect.
Here’s the thing, Paul said some have “swerved” from this love, flowing “from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and sincere faith,” and had “turned aside” to “vain jangling,” an old-fashion term meaning: fruitless discussion and debate. Believing themselves to be intellectual, they “desired” to be teachers of the Law, but one doesn’t have to wonder what God thought about this unruly activity for it is recorded here: “They don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t understand the things they so dogmatically affirm.” Although it’s true “love is the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law” (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:10), the Law in and of itself does not produce love.
Now let’s review a Bible passage I mentioned last week for the purpose of our “edification” and because it fits with what we’re about to study.
“And how I kept nothing that was profitable unto you, But have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house (i.e., ekklesia in the Greek and is translated throughout Paul’s epistles as church, churches), Testifying both to the Jews, and also the Greeks (gentile nations), repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:20-29).
I remind the group Paul’s prediction in Acts 20:20-29 became a reality. Legalizers (Judaizers) followed Paul wherever he went and then after he departed an assembly of grace Believers, they entered in denouncing the teachings of Paul while promoting legalism (strict adherence to the Mosaic Law) as the only way to be saved, and some were taken in (deceived) by their legalistic doctrines (See Galatians 1:6-10).
We find Paul’s other son in the faith, Titus, encountering the same problem at Crete, for in Titus 1:9-11 Paul wrote to him with regard to the responsibilities of the elders that, among other things, the elder should continue: “…Holding fast the (What?) faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision (the Judaizers): Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which are not, for filthy lucre’s (greed’s) sake.”
But the idle talk of those who desired a reputation for profound learning and the money that might be paid by the preaching of unsound doctrine had nothing in common with the sound, constructive teaching of the grace by which Paul had taught and helped many people to understand. The Law never produced the virtues referred to in verse 1:5. Only God’s grace can do this (Titus 2:11-12).
Next, we’re going to look at an allegation many religious Jews accused Paul of. They said he repudiated the Mosaic Law but one should look into their motive for doing so for nothing could be further from the truth (See 1:8-9).
The Purpose of the Law
“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”
The Bible passage above confirms Paul’s protests elsewhere against those who declared that he had renounced the Mosaic Law, or that he was in some way opposed to it. In 1:8 we have the apostle’s response: “Not so,” said Paul for, “the Law is good if a man use it lawfully,” or legitimately. “Knowing (recognizing) this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient…” (v 9). And then Paul presents a list of those to whom the Law does apply, and we note that they are all lawbreakers. Here I point out that we are not lawbreakers, i.e., sinners, because we break God’s laws; we break God’s laws and man’s because we are sinners.
In pronouncing the Law “good” (1:8) Paul is teaching Timothy how to deal with those who desire to teach it (1:7). So, you begin by acknowledging the Law is good just as Moses said (Deuteronomy 4:6-9) and can do good things (Psalm 19:7-8, 119:98). But the Law is “good” only “if” it is used lawfully (1:8). Paul said it is not for those who are right with God, i.e., it’s not for those who are saved “by grace… through faith; (alone)” (Ephesians 2:8a). For only the saved individual is declared “righteous” before God.
Paul wrote: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11), but we can be “made righteous” by the obedience of Christ. What does that mean? The "obedience" (hupakoe) of Christ is directly mentioned only 3 times in the N.T., although many other passages describe or allude to it:
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (the Lord Jesus Christ) shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
"He humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
phrase in 2 Corinthians 10:5 signifies an attitude toward Christ, i.e., it
speaks of one’s character and conduct. This
passage is answering critics among the Corinthians who claim Paul's brash
letters and calm personality are evidence of his hypocrisy or weakness. Their evil intent appears to have been all
about undermining his authority as an apostle and discrediting him in the
process. These “puffed up” individuals
would particularly have objected to Paul's right to rebuke or correct those in
Corinth in matters of the knowledge of God and the practice of the
faith. Paul takes this challenge
seriously. He sees himself at war with
these false teachers. He has written
that he does not fight with physical weapons but with spiritual ones. These tools, such as prayer and Scripture, are
of God so they are powered by Him. This
makes them potent enough for Paul and his fellow workers to destroy strongholds
of resistance to the gospel of Christ Jesus
(1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The prior verse
used terminology referring both to military fortresses and to debate, combining
imagery to make a powerful point.
The battlefield in question is not an earthly region, but the hearts and minds of the Believers in Corinth. In God's power, Paul and his co-workers for Christ are able to destroy all the arguments and impressive-sounding opinions his opponents put forward against the knowledge of God (1 Corinthians 1:17-31). Using godly tools, Paul and his associates destroy the feeble arguments, but they capture the thoughts of the people in order to motivate them to obey Christ. In posing this as spiritual war for the mind, Paul reveals an essential truth. Wrong teaching leads to wrong thinking, which leads to disobedience to Christ. Understanding the true knowledge of God leads to “right thinking,” which leads to “obedience to Christ.” In going to war against the false arguments of his opponents, Paul's final goal is that the saints in Corinth would obey Christ in all things. Paul doesn't fight for his own glory or for the sake of victory alone, but to bring more and more “obedience to Christ” among the Corinthians.
That being said and since there are only two kinds of people in the world, the saved and the unsaved, and the Law isn’t made for the saved, it must be made for the unsaved, a group Paul called “the lawless.” He also referred to them as “the disobedient” (1:9). Paul issued a dire warning for “the disobedient,” those who choose to remain outside of Christ Jesus or the unsaved saying, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
God made the Law for the unsaved to show them they are sinners (Romans 3:20) and in need of a Savior because they are powerless to save themselves. When the Law finds its way to a “good” moral person, it makes the sin in them “exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:13). When we’re told not to do something, it’s akin to waving a red cape or cloth at a wild bull in the field. By that I mean to say it arouses our fallen nature and makes us want to break the law or commandment all the more. That’s why Paul said, “the strength of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56).
Since the first commandment is not to have other gods before God, if you do, you are “ungodly” (Exodus 20:3; 1:9). Those who make graven images (Exodus 20:4) are “sinners” (1:9). Since the next commandment says to keep the Sabbath “holy” (Exodus 20:8), if the Jews who were under the law didn’t keep it holy, they were “unholy” (1:9). Since we’re not supposed to take God’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7), the “profane” are those who break this commandment (1:9). When Paul said the law was made for “murderers,” he’s addressing Exodus 20:13. When he adds you shouldn’t kill your mother or father, he’s referencing Exodus 20:12.
Under the law “manslayers” (1:9) were those who killed people unintentionally, but in this context the word refers to those who kill anyone, not just fathers and mothers. God left the commandment “thou shalt not kill” open-ended to include even the killing of yourself in suicide. What’s more, this open-ended commandment prohibits the killing of unborn children widely known as an abortion. I call it sacrificing an unborn child on the altar of convenience. The majority of abortions, world-wide, are realized because someone determines they are not prepared to parent a child, or simply because a child in their life at this time is “not convenient.”
A whore in our day is a prostitute who exchanges sex for money, so a “whoremonger” (1:10) would be a prostitute’s customer. But originally a whore was any promiscuous woman, so a “whoremonger” was any promiscuous man or woman, any who violate Exodus 20:14. Paul is also referencing the commandment not to covet (Exodus 20:17), since coveting is what causes “whoremongering” (Romans 7:7). “Whoremongering” would also include those that defile themselves with mankind (1:10), for adultery with “mankind” is no better than adultery with a woman of ill repute (Leviticus 18:22).
The Law was also made for “menstealers” (1:10), i.e., those who’d violate Exodus 20:15 by stealing the most valuable thing that can be stolen, people. “Liars” (1:10) break the commandment found in Exodus 20:16. I don’t know about y’all but Paul’s words, “perjured persons,” makes me think of a courtroom because perjury mean to lie under oath. When Paul adds, “if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,” (1:10) according to his gospel (1:11), the Sabbath was not contrary to sound doctrine according to the Law, but it is according to Paul’s gospel (Colossians 2:16). So if you use that Law to bring a knowledge of sin on an unbeliever you are using it unlawfully.
Paul calls his gospel “glorious” to remind Timothy to prompt those that desired to be teachers of the Law that his gospel wasn’t contrary to the Law as he’d been charged (Acts 18:13), it was a secret, that is, a “mystery” an unrevealed part of God’s plan and purpose for His people in this parenthetical period of time known as the Age of God’s Grace and a glorious solution to the weakness and unprofitableness of the Law:
“Forasmuch as ye (y’all) are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, (the Mosaic Law), but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall the ministration of the spirit be glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth” (2 Corinthians 3:3-10).
“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. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested (brought into the spotlight) 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 (do what) believe: for there is no difference (between the Jews and the Gentiles): For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified (means as though you never sinned) through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his (shed) blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:19-26).
Summing up, this was the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” (2 Corinthians 4:6) which had been committed to Paul’s trust (1:11). Glorious, indeed, was the good news that Calvary, so far from being our Lord’s undoing, proved to be His greatest victory; that there the “righteousness of God” was revealed as our Lord and Savior paid the just penalty for all our sin (Romans 1:17, 3:26), that there the Law was crucified and taken out of the way for us (Colossians 2:14), that there Satan and all his evil hosts were utterly and “openly” defeated (Colossians 2:15), that our Lord was no longer to be thought of as an unfortunate victim, but the mighty Victor over all His enemies and ours for that matter (Colossians 2:15).
This glorious good news, this news of the glory of God, if you please, was that from which some of the “would be” teachers at Ephesus had “swerved,” stirring up “idle discussions” about “speculative questions” related to the Law of Moses. How refreshing, then, to read on and listen to Paul’s personal testimony as to what the infinite grace of God had done for and through the Lord Jesus Christ to all that simply believe what God has said re: salvation in the Dispensation of Grace. I have a few Bible verses below that speak of Paul’s witness and testimony and his message:
“…Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but… the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant” (I Timothy 1:13-14).
“Not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” (Romans 5:15).
“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).
“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Ephesians 1:7-8).
“And God is able to make all grace abound unto you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
“For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).
In closing, “the dispensation of the grace of God,” we read in Ephesians 3, was “a mystery” only made known “by revelation” to Paul, some years after the rejected Christ had returned to heaven. In verse 5 he said that “in other ages” it was “not made known.” In verse 8 he calls it “the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” In Romans 16:25 he said it was “kept secret since the world began.” In Colossians 1:26 he insists again that it was “hid from ages and from generations.”
Praise and heart-felt thanksgiving to the one true living God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit for this glorious good news and for revealing it to Paul, our Apostle, who in turn faithfully handed it down to us (Galatians 1:11-12).
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