Rightly Dividing the Word – Part III

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Timothy 2:15).

Sometimes doctrine or religious instruction is built on obscure or unclear passages.  Professing Christians and new believers with a limited knowledge of Scripture can fall prey to teachings that are not consistent with clear teaching elsewhere in Scripture.

Bible believing pastors, elders and teachers will invite honest questions concerning the Scriptures.  A former pastor of mine used to exhort his congregation by saying; Do not park your brains at the door when you come to church.  Bring your Bible with you and do not accept sentimentality or church tradition as sound doctrine if it is contrary to Scripture.

When studying Bible doctrine therefore, always interpret unclear passages in the light of clear Bible passages on the same subject. Remember this principle: the Holy Spirit, who is the author of Scripture (II Peter 1:21), will never lead you contrary to Scripture.

An example of doctrine built on unclear passages of Scripture without regard to clear Bible passages on the same subject is the teaching of baptismal regeneration by water for salvation.

When the Philippian jailer came trembling and fell down before Paul and Silas he asked, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  Their response was simple and direct, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved….

Paul further explained salvation in Ephesians 2:8&9 by saying what it was not; For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.  Titus 3:5 goes on to say that salvation doesn’t even come as a result of righteous works.

John 3:16 declares; For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.  Verse 36 of the same chapter tells us why people are lost.  It is not because they didn’t participate in a righteous deed.  It is because they did not believe on the Lord Jesus.  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Romans chapter 4 reminds us that just as Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness, so it is for us.  Verse 5; But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith (not baptism) is counted for righteousness.

So how do we interpret the verses that mention baptism in the same breath as salvation?  We must interpret them in light of the clear passages.

For example Acts 2:38; …Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost.  The Greek word translated for can also be translated because of.  In the context of the clear Bible passages, salvation comes as a result of believing, not as a result of being water baptized.

The translation of Acts 2:38 which is most consistent therefore with clear Scripture passages on salvation should read; Repent and be baptized because of the remission of sins.  We  submit to water baptism because we’ve been forgiven, not in order to be forgiven.

Acts 2:41 confirms this by saying; then they that gladly received his word were baptized.  The order here is receiving his word or believing first and then water baptism is to follow.

Note:  Water and Spirit baptism are often confused.

  • Spirit baptism places a believer into the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13).
  • Spirit baptism occurs at the moment of salvation (Romans 8:9b).
  • Water baptism is done in obedience to Christ and publicly identifies the believer as a follower of Christ.
  • Water baptism by immersion pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life in you) in you richly…

Rightly Dividing the Word – Part II

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  II Timothy 2:15.

It is possible to defend just about anything you want with Scripture by pulling individual verses or passages out of context.  That is why Part I of this series is so important.  It deals with Scripture intake and familiarization.  By studying the whole of Scripture systematically one is able to compare Scripture with Scripture.  One passage sheds light on another passage.  One part explains another part.  Often the answer to a problem passage is just around the corner.  Keep on reading!

One example of such a passage is in John 6.  Here Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and His disciples after the feeding of the five thousand and walking upon the sea.

Jesus began His discourse on the Bread of Life by saying; the Father giveth the true bread which is come down from heaven.  The hearers said give us this bread.  Jesus answered, I am the bread which came down from heaven.  They countered, Is not this Jesus….whose mother and father we know?  Jesus continued, ….the bread that I will give is my flesh...  This started an argument among the Jews.  They argued, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  Jesus pushed it farther by saying, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  The Law forbade the consumption of any kind of blood.

By this time His disciples were looking at each other and murmuring, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?  Jesus knew they murmured at His teaching and asked, Doth this offend you?

There are many that stop here and try to make sense of what Christ has said thus far, but this is the wrong place to stop.  Just around the corner, in verse 63 of John chapter 6, the Lord explains to His disciples what He was concealing from the Pharisees who would not believe.  Now He reveals the truth of His teaching to His disciples as He often did when He taught them in parables.  Jesus explained, It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.

Peter further explains Christ’s teaching when he states, Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever (I Peter 1:23).

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

 Note:  

  • When studying the Word always consider context.  Check the immediate context, the book context and the overall context of Scripture.  Study context, context, context!
  • Read John chapter one and consider who is the Living Word.
  • Study Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and count how many times the Lord Jesus quotes the Old Testament.  What does that tell you about His view of Scripture?

Which Came First?

We are all familiar with the question: which came first, the chicken or the egg?  May I present to you a similiar question: which came first, God or the universe?

If God came first, then He is the Creator.  If the universe came first, then the idea of God is the product of man.

The way that you and I live and think reveals what we really do believe.

Here’s another one for you:  which came first, a living cell or DNA?Can you have one without the other?  Isn’t DNA just basically information or genetic instruction that determines what “it” is?

So where did the information come from?  Did the information come first or …….the source of information?  

Isn’t specifically detailed  and organized  information the result of intelligence or did some primordial computor explode somewhere spewing specifically detailed and organized information into the universe resulting in life?

Whichever way this question is answered……..it will involve faith.  According to WE Vine faith is defined as a firm persuasion or conviction based on hearing.  If you are an evolutionist there is no doubt in my mind that you have a large amount of faith.  Doesn’t that make you religious?

Rightly Dividing the Word – Part I

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15.

That believers are to study the word is clear from Paul’s instruction to Timothy, but how is that done and where does one start?

It starts with a good translation of the Bible.  The King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the American Standard Version (ASV), and the English Standard version (ESV) are all reliable translations and easily obtainable.

You will want a translation as opposed to a paraphrase.  A translation is word for word from the original languages.  (The paraphrase is someone simply writing down what they think the translation is saying.  When it comes to paraphrasing, one man’s idea is as good as the next.)  A translation will tell us what the Bible says, not what someone thinks it says.

Personally, I like the language of the old KJV, but I use the NKJV MacArthur study bible.  The language is updated and this study bible is loaded with notes on the text.  It is a very useful study tool. There are other reliable translations out there but they may not be as readily available or as easily recognized.

Studying the Bible can be as simple as reading it systematically.  By systematic reading I mean that one begins reading a certain book,  or the Old or New Testament and continues on a regular basis until finished with that book or section.  There are 1189 chapters in the Bible.  If one reads four chapters a day, the entire Bible can be easily read through in a year.

Reading through the Bible helps to tie everything together and gives one an overall view of God’s revelation of Himself to man.  It also helps to familiarize the reader with the Scriptures enough so that he/she is more comfortable  remembering and finding passages.

One can read through the Scriptures and at the same time study a particular book of the Bible.  The book of Proverbs for example has thirty one chapters, one for each day of the month.  It can be read through twelve times during the year while reading through the entire Bible at the same time.  Proverbs is full of practical instruction.

Do not read with an eye on your reading schedule.  If it takes you more than a year, so be it.  It is far more important to absorb what is being read rather than being able to say one has read it through.

Read with a pen in hand and do not be afraid to mark passages for memorization or for future reference.  Make notes on recurring words, themes or doctrine and write down questions for your Bible believing pastor if something is not clear.

Think about or meditate on what has been read.  Ask God to make His truth known and be willing to obey what He reveals through His word.  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” Psalm 119:105.

Note:

  • Our experience never trumps the Bible.
  • My pastor often reminds us; “If we tried something from Scripture and it didn’t work, we didn’t do it correctly.”
  • If one does not make Bible study a priority, it probably won’t happen.
  • Obtain the Bible on audio, if reading is not working.
  • When finished reading through the Scriptures, do it again!

I’m Saved……Now What?

I have accepted God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as my own personal Saviour and my only hope of salvation,……now what?

The Scripture says that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away, behold all things are become new”.  What does this mean?  It means that you’ve been born again.  It means that you who were dead in trespasses and sin, have been made alive unto God.

As a child of God, you now have a heavenly Father who loves and cares for you and wants you to walk with Him.  You have more family; brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom you will share fellowship and the common bond of love for Jesus Christ and His Word.  As a child of God you have an inheritance of a home in heaven and eternal life.

You have new appetites and desires that you have not experienced before.  You now have a gift or gifts for serving God which were bestowed on you by the Holy Spirit when He sealed your salvation. You have not only been delivered from the penalty of sin, but you now have the capacity to be delivered from the power of sin.

You have the ability to grow spiritually through the meat, milk, bread and honey of God’s Word. You are a work in progress, created unto good works, and your life will be the workmanship of Christ Himself as you yield yourself to Him.  He will finish the work in you that He has begun.

You are the child of a King and you have the privilege of coming boldly before His throne to obtain grace and mercy and to find help in the time of need.  You have been forgiven.  Your burden of sin and guilt has been removed as far as the east is from the west and it is being replaced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.  You now have the power to love the unlovable and to forgive the unforgivable.

You will never again be alone because God has promised to never leave you or forsake you.  You have a reason to be thankful. You have purpose and peace. You now have a testimony of what Christ has done for you.  Go tell someone!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16.

Note:  As you read through the Bible, search for each of the above items.  Underline or otherwise mark the location of the specific promise or teaching stated above and memorize the promise.

The Gift

My family moved to town from the farm when I was about six years old.  Most of the town kids had bicycles and rode well.  I did not have a bike, but they shared their bikes and I soon learned to ride.  They would put me on a bike, give me a shove, and then chase me all over town until I ran out of gas and crashed.

After I learned to ride, I dearly wanted a bike of my own, so I began to save for one.  I put my nickels, dimes and quarters in one of my Dad’s socks and stashed it in his sock drawer.  Whenever someone would come over to visit, I would get that sock out, spill its contents on the table and proceed to tell them about the bicycle I was going to get with that money.

Finally the day came when Dad said it was time to go get my bicycle and he took me to the Schwinn bicycle shop in the city.  We walked in and he told me to pick out the one that I wanted.  As soon as I saw the black twenty four inch Schwinn bike, I knew it was the one I for me.

When we stepped up to the counter to pay for it, I began to get my money out.  That’s when Dad told me to put my money away, that he would pay for it.

If the truth were known, I did not have enough money to buy that bicycle anyway.  All of my saving and collecting and working was not enough.  If my dad had not intervened, I would not have been able to get that bike.

And so it is with us and our good deeds and salvation.  We collect our good works and sock them away in our memories, so we can get them out when we have doubts about eternity, heaven and our relationship with God.  We recount them and assure ourselves that everything will be alright, but it is not enough!

The cost of salvation is too high.  We cannot pay for salvation with our nickel, dime and quarter deeds, but God says to put away our good deeds/works, Jesus paid it all!

The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 6:23

What Are We?

Years ago, Walt Disney produced a series of Herbie movies. There is a scene in one of those movies that is etched into my memory.  

Herbie, the car,  has the young lady locked in and won’t let her out. She is banging on the window and yelling Help! Help! Let me out!

In the vehicle next to Herbie is a hippie.  He turns, looks, and listens to her pleas for a moment and then says……to no one in particular;……….We all locked up!  

He may have been onto something!

Have you ever thought of time as a created thing?  We often refer to the beginning and the end, but have we ever considered what was before time began, and what will be, when it ends?

We are creatures of time and the physical and we are also, in this world, prisoners of time and the physical.  We are focused solely on what has happened, what is happening, and what will be happening as it relates to ourselves within the confines of time.  To the human race, it is all about us, but in reality it is all about God.

God is not bound by the limits of time nor by the boundaries of the universe.  He has always been and He will always be.  Time and the physical are His creations and the universe, as we know it, is His footstool.  We exist at His good pleasure.

When a person dies, something leaves the body.  When observing a deceased individual (his/her body), one can’t help but conclude that that individual’s spirit has departed.  The person is gone.  Where did they go?  Where are they now?

What are we?  Are we just a body, whose person (spirit) vanishes like a vapor when the body wears out and quits?  Or are we really a spirit bound (locked up) in a body but released into eternity when the physical body dies?  What is God’s plan?

The Bible says that God is a spirit and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.  The Bible also says that man is made in the image of God.  How can that be, seeing that God is a spirit?

Could it be that being made in the image of God pertains to our intellect, our will, our ability to discern right from wrong ; all of the invisible characteristics of our inward being or spirit?

According to the Scriptures, humans are not like the animals that perish.  We are eternal beings.  We are going to live somewhere forever when we leave this body.  Will it be with our Creator or will He have us?

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.  John 17:3.

Expectations and Prayer

The Old Testament Jews, who lived when Jesus Christ walked among them, had the wrong expectations of the Messiah. They expected that God would send them a conqueror who would deliver them from their physical bondage to Rome.  They were expecting a political deliverer.

God sent His Son into the world to deliver men, not from physical bondage but from spiritual bondage.  Christ came to deliver man from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and one day from the very presence of sin.  Mankind is the servant of sin, Christ is the deliverer. The Jewish religious leader’s expectations failed because they were focused on themselves and not on God and His purposes.

We have similar expectations when it comes to prayer.  There are many promises in Scripture that we trivialize by our focus on ourselves and our own physical wants and needs.  In John 14:13 Jesus says; If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.  In John 15:7, He says;…you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  Psalm 37:4 says; …and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

We see these promises and all of a sudden, God becomes the proverbial geni in a bottle, a great rabbit’s foot in the sky, or a heavenly slot machine.  Prayer becomes an incantation for riches, or a repetitive magical petition.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Psalm 37:4 says; Delight thyself also in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  This doesn’t mean that God will give us anything we want.  It does mean that if we delight ourselves in Him, He will place His desires within us.

The Lord’s words in John 15:7 and quoted above are conditioned upon; if ye abide in me and my words abide in you.  We abide in His words by reading the Bible, meditating upon what we have read, and then by willingly obeying Him.  This is delighting oneself in the Lord. The result for the believer is that our old desires begin to fade away and His desires begin to replace them.

When we pray the Lord’s prayer, it takes on new meaning.  Thy kingdom come,….what is His kingdom?  Right now it is the rule of Christ in the hearts of men.  Do we long for that?  Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,…what is happening in heaven? No sin!  How would this world be different if there were no sin?  What is our hearts desire?  Do we long for the absence of sin or do we live for the pleasure of it?

The blank check promises of Christ are not for those who abide in sin, but they are for those who abide in Christ.  They are for those who long to do His will.  They are for those who intercede with God for others.

These blank checks are for equipping believers to do the work of the ministry. They are for enabling believers to live with victory in their lives, not just outwardly, but most importantly, inwardly.

The blank check verses are for the furtherance of God’s kingdom here on earth.  All of God’s gifts and resources are available to every believer to be whatever our calling in Christ requires as long as it is for His glory and not our own.  We must remind ourselves of that every day.

Does God care about our physical needs?  Yes, He does, but our physical needs are not to be our priority in life.  The passage in Matthew 6:19-34 deals with this very thing.  It is all summed up in verse 33 which says; But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (physical needs) shall be added unto you.  So,…what should be our expectations?  We should expect God to finish His work that He started in us when we were saved  and He will!  (See Ephesians 2:8-10 & Philippians 1:6)

Grace and Salvation

For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8 & 9.

GRACE is God’s help and unmerited favor. It is all of God. Salvation is too expensive for us to purchase (the wages of sin is death), and too far out of our reach for us to obtain by any efforts of our own or by any means other than Jesus Christ Himself (Acts 4:12).

The word SAVED simply means to be delivered from God’s wrath or judgment.  Saved is used over and over in Scripture.  It is a good sound biblical word.

FAITH (according to WE Vine) is a firm persuasion or conviction based upon hearing.  Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

It has been said that faith is the gang plank used to board the ship of grace.  Misplaced faith can be used to board the wrong ship. Saving faith depends upon Christ alone as one’s only hope of salvation.

Salvation is a GIFT.  It is a gift undeserved.  It cannot be earned or paid for.  It is a gift made available to us only by God’s grace.  It is free; but it came at great expense, which God paid Himself (John 3:16).

WORKS are activities or deeds done by religious people to obtain merit in order to receive salvation. We are not saved by works. We are not even saved by righteous works (Titus 3:5).  To be saved by our works, we would have to become sinless or perfect which is impossible for sinful man.

In order to be saved by grace through faith in Christ, we must cease from our works and rely only upon the merit of Christ.  We must rest in Him.  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His (Hebrews 4:10).

The Sabbath is the believer’s rest in what God has already done. Christ declared from the cross; It is finished!  Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath because He finished the work of salvation!  Mark 2:27 says that the Sabbath was made for man.  Jesus says; Come unto me and I will give you rest.  Believers no longer observe the Sabbath day, but they are to observe the Sabbath rest.

And he (Abraham) believed (trusted, rested) in the Lord: and He (God) counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

Note: See Romans 10:1-4, 9-13.

Thinking Out Loud #1

I believe that many Christian men just give up on their thought life. It’s too hard, it’s an unceasing battle, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  It is all these things and more.  It is like a leopard trying to change his spots.  Having a pure thought life is everything impossible…………but with God, nothing is impossible.

Having victory begins with taking ownership of one’s thoughts. Wow!…..wonder where that thought came from?  It must have been Satan!  Really?  Chances are it wasn’t Satan, it was just the flesh.  My flesh.  Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

Having victory comes with allowing God access to the deepest crevices of our inward being.  Take Him to it.  Tell Him what’s there.  Cry out to Him for help!  Read Psalm 18 for God’s response to the cry of His children.  Proverbs 28:13 “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy.” 

Having victory carries the price of diligence. Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”  It has been said that you can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep him from building a nest in your hair.  

Victory in the thought life is much like having humility.  About the time you think you have it, you just lost it.  “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” I Corinthians 10:12. Check out the context leading up to verse 12 and the promise following it in verse 13. 

Having victory is an act of faith.  “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee!”  Do we believe this?  Jesus said to the desperate father of the demon possessed boy, after the disciples were unable to deliver him; “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”  What should you and I do with the Word of God?  Obedience is a symptom of saving faith.

Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

Note: Fill your yielded heart and mind with the Word of God and before you know it you’ll be walking in the Spirit.  See “Walking in the Spirit”.

Do you have questions? Get answers; Read Your Bible!