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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: June 25, 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).
1 Timothy 4:1-6 (L 17)
Welcome back to HBS y’all. I pray each one of you is actively participating in this study of God’s Word, rightly divided, by checking my work (words) to ensure they are in line with what God actually said in “the dispensation of the Grace of God.” When you do, you’re well on your way to becoming a faithful student of God’s Word.
Paul closed chapter three writing about “the mystery of godliness.” I draw your attention to the fact that in verse 3:9 Paul mentioned: “the mystery of the faith,” and all things considered both of these go together naturally. Moreover, “the mystery of godliness” here stands against “the mystery of iniquity” in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and as “the mystery of iniquity” (lawlessness) doth already work,” so too does “the mystery of godliness.” Lawlessness is present now, you don’t need me to tell you that, but it will culminate in the deeds of “that man of sin… the son of perdition;” This truth was a “mystery” until the risen Lord revealed it to and through Paul.
All this brings to mind a Bible personality, namely, Satan for most people, even Christians, are unaware of his true character. He is not the grotesque creature seen in public ads, and he’s not portrayed accurately on T.V. programs and in the movies. In Ephesians 2:2, Paul identified him as , “the prince the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Unseen, but not unfelt, he incites people to “lawlessness” (rebellion) against God. Moreover, in 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul wrote: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” so that they might be saved. We, i.e., the saved saints in Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:1), were once “the children (huios in Koine Greek meaning grown sons) of disobedience” and therefore, “by nature the children (teknon = born ones) of wrath,” But now, by His Grace, through faith, we have come to know and be known by God (Galatians 4:9). This, likewise, has been accomplished, not in some dramatic, outward way, there was no confetti parade, but by the quiet inward working of God the Spirit.
In contrast to “the mystery of lawlessness,” then, we have here “the mystery of godliness.” FYI: Godliness is the subject of chapter 3 and ungodliness is the subject of chapter 4. Godliness, of course, is personified in the Lord Jesus Christ, as lawlessness will one day be embodied in Antichrist. So, once again, by simply reading 1 Timothy 3:16, and not adding or taking anything away from it, the passage does not refer to Christ’s Incarnation or His deity, but to godliness ergo: “great is the mystery of godliness.” Godliness, in this world that has literally declared war on God, is indeed “a great mystery;” only those who are saved recognize it. When the Body of Christ is taken up and away from this earth at the Rapture, both “the mystery of godliness” and “the mystery of iniquity” will have run their course on earth. Then the next event on God’s timeline is the Tribulation (Daniel 9:24-27; Joel 2:30-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12).
Let us with one voice thank God the Father, that while “the mystery of iniquity” does its work among those who “receive not the love of the truth,” the Word of God too, is doing its work in redeemed hearts as we read in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
Please open your Bible at 1 Timothy chapter 4:1-6.
The Great Apostasy
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the (one) faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;”
Which “Latter Times” Would That Be?
That’s a good question. The prophetic Scriptures have much to say about the “last,” or latter “days” and “times.” It is clear, however, that Paul does not refer to the “latter times” of prophecy, for these had begun at Pentecost and were graciously interrupted just as sin had risen to its height (the nation of Israel had rejected the Godhead in totality with their rejection of Stephen’s Spirit-filled message – see Acts 2:23, 7; Romans 11), and the judgment of God, i.e., “the day of the Lord” was, according to prophecy, about to be realized. Nothing can be clearer than the words of Spirit-filled Peter at Pentecost: “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16-17).
What did the prophet Joel predict re: “the last days?” I see three things:
1) The Spirit of God would be “poured out” upon those who are His.
2) God’s judgment would be “poured out” upon those who are not His, i.e., His enemies (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32).
3) Because the world-at-large has declared war on God there are but two encampments in this world. There’s the enemy camp and then there’s the friendly camp. You can be one or the other, but you can’t be as Switzerland, i.e., neutral. Thus, an individual is either an enemy of God (an unbeliever) or you are God’s own, i.e., a Believer. No fence-sitting is permitted for no decision is a decision.
Without doubt the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) was poured out upon His apostles just as the Lord Jesus Christ promised (John 14;16; Acts 1:2, 4-8), but the predicted judgment of God upon His enemies did not, has not yet, come to pass. Instead, when the nation of Israel rejected the kingdom and the Messiah (her King), all was ready for the judgment to become a reality. “But God,” in infinite grace, saved Saul of Tarsus, the leader of the rebellion against the workings of God, and sent him forth as both the herald and the living demonstration of His infinite grace. Saul/Paul was used of God to usher in a parenthetical period of time known previously only by God until He revealed it by revelation to the Apostle Paul. We know this to be “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24; Galatians 1:11-24; Ephesians 2:8-9, 3:1-4).
As part of God’s eternal purpose, Israel’s prophetic program was interrupted; the establishment of the prophesied and literal 1,000 year kingdom on earth was now held in abeyance, and the nation of Israel, although still the apple of God’s eye, as it were, was placed on hold temporarily, “…until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Luke 21:24; Romans 11:15, 25-32).
Thus, Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 4:1, is not referencing the latter times of prophecy, but “the latter times” of the dispensation of God’s grace. In the latter times of prophecy there were to be specific signs heralding the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth to make war and then to reign as Israel’s King. Some of these signs were: the appearance of the Antichrist, the signing of the peace treaty with Israel and her enemies, the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (it won’t be as grandeur as the previous structure but it will be functional and operational), and the defiling of that very temple, the sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood, and so on. It is with respect to some of these signs of Messiah’s return to earth, the mount of Olives to be exact, that the Israelites were told: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28; Zechariah 14:4).
That being said and supported by Scripture, thus, understood to be true, there are no specific signs that herald the close of the dispensation of the grace of God or the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds to catch-away the Body of Christ (His Church) from the earth (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The dispensation of grace is timeless; there isn’t even a hint as to how long it will last. Rest assured the Age of Grace will not continue on endlessly. But every day is a day of grace, pure grace, and God’s grace is enhanced by the very apostasy which began in the days of the apostles and has continued to the present day. To Paul the apostasy was already close at hand, and he instructed pastor Timothy as to what to do about it but God, slow to anger and rich in mercy, has allowed it to continue for centuries.
When Paul speaks of the “latter times,” then, he refers to the latter times of the dispensation of grace, speaking of trends rather than of specific events, and leaving the coming of Christ for His saints always imminent and the evangelization and salvation of the lost most urgent (2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Ephesians 5:15-17). Of these “latter times,” and the apostasy associated with them, the Holy Spirit had “spoken expressly,” through Paul, as in Acts 20:29-31, where he reminded the Ephesian elders that for three years he had warned them “night and day with tears,” that serious spiritual defection from “the truth” of God’s Word was on their doorstep, and that’s what happened.
Since the dispensation of the grace of God is a parenthesis, a dispensation within a dispensation, so to speak, we should consider briefly the Apostle Peter’s comments on the subject found in 2 Peter 3. Peter, at Pentecost, had offered the return of the Christ to earth if his brethren would repent of their evil deed (See Acts 2:23, 30-31, 38, 3:19-21). But with all his preaching, and the preaching of the other apostles, Israel as a nation remained obstinate and unrepentant. The other thing Peter couldn’t help but notice was the Messiah had not returned to the Mount of Olives as the two angels said He would after His ascension, when he wrote his epistles years later (Acts 1:10-13). Peter, therefore, knowing that the “last days” of prophecy had begun, looked upon the dispensation of grace as a reprieve, a time-out, if you will, for the unbelieving Jews, so he instructed his people to look to the Apostle Paul for guidance re: spiritual matters. Thus, some 27 years after Pentecost, he prepared his Jewish brethren in advance with regard to this delay writing:
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 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. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:8-18).
That’s a lot of info but I think it’s necessary for you to know these things going forward.
God’s Infinite Grace
This element of timelessness is important in the consideration of the continued absence of our Lord and the delay in His coming for us, His Church, the members of His body. I reiterate for emphasis, some people believe and teach that the Rapture of the Lord’s saints will not occur at all, that it takes place mid-Tribulation, or at the end of the Tribulation, even though Paul has much to say about this Church event that draws nearer with each passing hour. I say that because we know it’s coming, we just don’t know when. So, don’t confuse “the day of the Lord” with “the day of Christ.” The phrase “the day of Christ” or “the day of the Lord Jesus” is unique to our Apostle Paul. He also called the day of Christ “that day” in his last letter to pastor Timothy. The phrases are found in 1 Corinthians 1:8, 3:13, 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10, 2:16; and 2 Timothy 1:18, 4:8.
The phrase “the day of the Lord” (also called “that day”) is common throughout the O.T. The prophets referred constantly to it. In the N.T., the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul, and Peter spoke of it. Some of the passages are: Isaiah 2:12, 13:6, 9, 34:8; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1, 11, 31, 3;14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14:1; Malachi 4:5; Matthew 24:1-51; Acts 2:20; Romans 2:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:10; and “that day” Isaiah 2:11, 17, 20, 3:18. This day, according to Scripture, is a time of darkness, wrath, and terror like the world has never experienced before. It is a “day of visitation” (Isaiah 10:3), a “day of the wrath of the Lord” (Ezekiel 7:19), it’s the “great and terrible day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31).
Looking again at Peter’s words above, what is his explanation for the continued absence of Israel’s Messiah? It is not “slackness,” slow to act, he said, but “longsuffering” i.e., patience (2 Peter 3:9). God, unlike us if we’re being honest, is not indifferent to the passage of time and He’s fully aware of the wickedness that permeates this world. But, as Peter said, the Lord Jesus Christ is “longsuffering” (Psalm 86:15; Romans 2:4). So then, this delay (identified as the dispensation of the grace of God), does not in any way imply that “God our Savior” (1 Timothy 1:1) is apathetic, forgetful, negligent, or weak, as the false teachers of Peter’s day were proclaiming. Scripture teaches us that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present, i.e., Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. While these three terms are not found in Scripture, the meaning behind each term is certainly applicable to God. The prefix omni means “all” and is used in the formation of compound words. Potent means power. Science means knowledge. Presence means space. Adding the prefix omni or “all” to each of the preceding three words captures the all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present nature of God when applied to His Person or Personality.
So then, in 2 Peter 3:9 Peter continues to answer if not rebuke the false message of the men who were actively working among the Jewish Believers trying their best to undermine the apostle’s ministry. With scorn in their words, they asked, "Where is this coming Jesus promised?" They say it's been too long, so Christ is not coming. But in verse 3:8, Peter urged his readers to remember that the Lord is not bound by human time. For God, a thousand years is like a day and vice versa. Peter's point is that God does not suffer the limitations of time the way mankind does. Peter insists that we cannot apply human demands about time to the promises of God saying, “He is not slow in keeping His promise.” God is the one who made the schedule: thus, He cannot be late. Instead, God keeps every promise and His timing is always exact. He’s not a minute early and He’s not a minute late. Peter’s declaration re: the Lord’s “longsuffering,” then, speaks of God’s infinite grace in this dispensation, that is, His pure grace. For God is not willing that any should perish or experience “the second death” - “And account that the longsuffering (patience) of our Lord is salvation;” (2 Peter 3:15).
Then, we note in the very next verse (3:16) Peter declared that Paul, “in all his epistles,” speaks of “these things.” Thus, we learn Peter’s message had concerned the return of the Lord Jesus Christ (not to receive His saints in the clouds at the Rapture), but to war against His enemies and then rule and reign as Israel’s King on the earth, as promised.
The Future Throne of King David
As promised in the Davidic Covenant, despite Israel’s unfaithfulness and backsliding, the throne of David endures forever. So what happens in the future? Before the birth of Jesus, Mary received the following promise: “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).
This divine promise is usually ignored or given a symbolic interpretation by the institutionalized church. In just about every church in this land, and elsewhere, people have been taught to pray the Lord’s prayer and in that prayer the Lord taught His disciples to pray for the promised kingdom on earth, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven… ” (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). Millions of Christians unknowingly pray for this promised kingdom every time they pray The Lord’s Prayer.”
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructed His disciples to pray for the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. This kingdom was a kingdom in which Israel would be supreme among the nations (Deuteronomy 28:1-13). It’s hard to miss this fact for there are hundreds of Bible verses in the O.T. that speak of this kingdom. One will search the Scriptures in vain to find any record that the LORD God (Jehovah) promised the Jews a place in heaven. Rather, their future hope was and is still today earthly in nature.
The Kingdom of God will indeed be established in the millennial age, as prayed in the Lord’s prayer, whether you pray for it or not. It was a promise of God to His chosen people, the Jews, and God does not break or renege on His promises. But here’s the thing, “the church of the living God,” i.e., the Body of Christ, is not included in this prophesied kingdom on earth (Isaiah 9:7; Zechariah 14:9) for God’s promises to His Church on heavenly in scope. Because the true Believer is positioned in Christ Jesus the very moment they believe Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) God sees them as already in heaven. Let’s see what Scripture has to say about this: “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 (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together (where?) in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Most sincere Believers, poorly taught in the Word of God, rightly divided, are concerned about getting to heaven. I know more than a few who are wondering if they are truly saved, even after being in a church denomination for many years. So, let’s be clear, as far as God is concerned, if you heard/read Paul’s gospel and in faith believed (nothing else is required), your citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). You have been “made accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6); God has given you a position “in Christ” and that’s permanent, i.e., eternal.
As the Lord Jesus Christ took sinful mankind’s place on Calvary’s cross, God now sees the true Believer “in Christ,” seated at His own right hand, the place of favor and honor. This is why the Apostle Paul says to every Believer in Christ: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).
And all this by the God’s infinite grace:
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:” (2 Timothy 1:9-10).
So then, as the Apostle Peter’s message had concerned the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to judge and then to reign as Israel’s long-promised King, or His Second Coming to the earth, Paul’s message concerned the continued absence of the Lord Jesus Christ and His extended session in heaven as the great Dispenser of grace to a doomed world in need of salvation, “until the fullness of the gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25) and this too, said Paul, was “a mystery” until the Lord revealed it to him and then to the world through Paul. The fact of the matter is having recognized Paul as the apostle of “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Galatians 2:9; 2 Peter 3:15-16), and all his writings Scripture, Peter closed his second epistle with this exhortation: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).
These are Peter’s last recorded words.
We’ve used up our allotted time for today, so please bookmark your Bible. We’ll pick up this Bible lesson from here next week.
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