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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Late Great Discipline of Study

Hal Lindsey to Retire

I heard this morning on HisChannel that Hal Lindsey lately of The Hal Lindsey Report and author of the 1970 best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth is retiring. First, let me say that Hal has been a workman these many years. He helped introduced a dispensational view to the Jesus Movement of the late 60s and early 70s. He has had a powerful influence on the Calvary Chapel Movement. I am not the judge of another man's servant (Rom 14:4), but none of our teachings are above scrutiny (cp Acts 17:11).

This is not meant to cast a dim light on Hal, but I do want to use the influence of his book to make a greater point. My theology is not what is was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 1 year ago, last month. The course of my understanding can be seen as moving in a particular direction, yes, but it is nonetheless moving. And as I continue to dig into some topics I also acknowledge that some things I hold are set in stone. I am building upon a firm foundation. We lay a firm foundation on Christ and then study to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Tim 2:15). We build with gold, silver, and precious stones or we build with wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor 3:11-13).

Hal's book has been treated by some almost as though it is inspired. They would never agree to such an assessment, but I ask those who continually make reference to it, have you questioned anything in it over the last 5 decades? Is it above scrutiny? Is Hal wrong about anything in your view?

God's Thoughts Are Higher Than Our Thoughts

I am thankful for the work of John Darby (I have a daughter with the middle name Darby), but he is not my "authority." I have used his work to help me, but I have moved beyond him in a number of ways. None of us in infallible. There are a number of Bible teachers I utilize and trust, but nothing they teach is above scrutiny. A true Bible teacher would have it no other way.

Scripture is an incredible book. It contains truths a child can understand. We can clearly see a God of love, a God of history, a God who offers a free gift of life through the name of the Savior. We also see tremendously complex and deep thoughts which are sometimes beyond comprehension.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts..."
-Isaiah 55:8-9

 We cannot conceive of an eternal past or an eternal future, but logically we know it must be true. We cannot fully grasp the Trinity, but it is the witness of scripture. The examples are legion. Scripture itself purposely hides or obscures things requiring us to dig deeper (Prov 25:2). In some cases, the Lord spoke to purposely hide truth from those who refuse to listen to his clear teachings.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. -Matt 13:10-12

Earlier this year I offered a short study titled The Christian Journey - Don't Find Yourself Stuck.  Allow me to quote a short excerpt from that entry:

To this day, I continue to grow and study and "mark things that differ [Phil 1:10]." As I look back over some of these posts over the last couple of years, I see studies for which I now feel as though I have greater insight. What was somewhat foggy is slightly more clear. The way I explain a passage is now more refined. Never rest. Continue to build upon a sure foundation. Compare scripture with scripture, rightly divide the Word of Truth, and trust no man as your authority. 

Sometimes something becoming more clear means that a previously held position is now less clear. That is, a topic seen in a more focused context may make a previously stated opinion not very solid. The solid becomes as clay and is allowed  to be remolded by scripture and the Holy Spirit.

The Lord is Patient and Rewards Those Who Diligently Seek Him

Pray that the Lord lead you into all truth. Follow a thing to its end, then revisit the path again. Make your own charts. Compare scripture with scripture. Mark the things that differ. Rightly divide the word of truth. Mark the audience, the situation, the age in which God speaks. Note the address on the envelope, as it were, as you read and study.

Don't be like the retired pastor I once encountered who said he settled every Bible issue decades before when he left seminary. What he did was study what someone else believed which is based on what someone before him believed. Our beliefs must be our own in the end. We will stand alone at the Bema Seat. No seminary or church or pastor or priest will answer for us.

The study of scripture is a lifelong journey. The Lord knows we are but dust. He knows we are frail creatures with weak minds and limited capacity. He knows we have a lazy, wicked flesh which recoils at correction or conviction. In spite of all that, he loves us and will reward those who diligently seek him.

"The Late Great Planet Earth" has its place, but it is not the 67th book of scripture. As valuable as it has been in some ways, in many other ways, it may have stunted the growth of many a Christian (including Hal himself).

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Fresh Look at 1 John - Part 2

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12

We turn our attention to the full context of "light" and "darkness" in 1 John. We noted last time that the "cleansing" of 1 John 1:9 is a continual action. That helps us see the "confessing of sin" in the past tense. All sin was taken away by the cross ("the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world... it is finished"). God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ (2 Cor 5:18). But we experience that past act as a present condition.

Something like: "If we are counted among those who have confessed they are sinners and were cleansed, he is faithful and is continually cleansing us from sin." 

  When we widen out from that verse, it starts to become clearer still.

Verse 8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Believers have Christ, thus we have "light" (John 8:12) and we have "truth" and his "word" is in us. 

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. - John 18:37c
But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. - John 5:38

Verse 10: If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

This is not a warning that one can have light, then lose it. It is a clarification and comforting reminder to the believer. In that age (and the focus of John's ministry as an apostle to the circumcision), these are Jews who were cleansed from the condemnations and unrighteousness resulting from the law.

John writes (1:1-4) that he seeks the fellowship of fellow believers because all are in Christ and all have eternal life. He tells them he is wring to them "that your joy may be full." Those to whom John ministered could not lose "life" (it has always been a free gift), but they could be "disqualified" (2 Cor 9:27) or even lose the inheritance of the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9, parables of the kingdom, etc.).

Verses 5-7 lay out the basis for fellowship: they are all "in the light" and the blood of Christ continually cleanses them from all sin. 

Verses 8-10 explain the difference between a true believer and a false believer. This clarification is evident in 1 John 2, culminating is verse 19:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Backing up a little in 1 John 2, we read:

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world... 
-1 John 2:1-2

We see, again, that sins are continually considered cleansed. John then returns to light and darkness:

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loves his brother abides in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and knows not whither he goes, because that darkness has blinded his eyes.
-1 John 2:9-11

We will find fellowship with other believers. There are "professing" Christians who truly hate the light. They claim Christ, but oppose and blaspheme true believers. These are those who either never enter among us or, as we see in verse 19, go out from among us at some point.

We may have clashes with individual Christians, but we do not condemn true believer as a whole. In our age, this calls to mind the instruction in Ephesian 4:3, "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." It is not a "created" unity by man, it is the maintaining of a unity created by God. This particular unity is given to the Body in this age:

"There is one spirit. When the Spirit seals and indwells, there is no room for other spirits. This is the true unity God desires for all, but is enjoyed only by His body. There is one calling to the body. The body is the called out assembly. Those believing ones are called out of the miasma of the world to walk the walk of those who please Him." -Jack Eberle 

There is a dispensational difference here. The "unity" of this age is unique, but we can see some parallels with John's instructions. True believers in Christ (those baptized into his death) will, in the new nature, seek fellowship with the like-minded. We naturally love the brethren. I know some who naturally hate true believers while claiming to be Christian.

We also see a parallel in Paul's admonition that we go on to "the unity of the faith" (Eph 4:13). In contrast to the "keeping" of verse 3, this unity is achieved through seeking perfection (maturation). It is also unique to the Body, but, in any age, as believers come to a greater knowledge of the truths of that age, there will be a unity of faith. A truth for all ages:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
-Psalm 133:1

I will close this study here. I still have much reflection to do on this book and I may revisit it again in the future. But for now, I look back at 1 John 1:9 and say again that it is wonderful to know that the blood of Christ continually cleanses (current and past act) those who have come into the light of Christ by faith in his name!

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Two Terrible Dichotomies of Christendom

We previously looked at The Two Great Dichotomies of Scripture (The Seed War, The Two Trees), along with another great dichotomy: the New nature versus the Old nature. But there are two unbiblical dichotomies prevalent in our churches which obscure a clearer understanding of the bible. 

When we read heaven/hell (the traditional "hell" of Christendom) and saved/lost into every scripture, we end up missing quite a bit (and risk great loss). In our study on Walking in the Spirit we noted the Christian is quite capable of being rather slothful and wicked. Peter even goes as far as warning his readers (Jewish believers) they should not be condemned as murderers, thieves, evildoers or gossips. 

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. -1 Peter 4:15

Can a Christian be a murderer? Obviously this is possible. Does he forfeit a free gift? No. That's impossible. We have covered the Christian walk in our series on Walking in the Spirit, so we only say here, if a Christian chooses to walk according to the flesh (the old nature), he risks great misery now and great loss at his judgment.

In our study on Scriptural Mysteries we observed how trying to apply warnings to Christians to unbelievers ends us confusing the gift of eternal life with rewards, prizes and crowns. By limiting ourselves to the saved/lost paradigm, we are forced to either explain away the words of the Apostles or fall into a trap of believing one can forfeit a free gift (thus making ourselves our own saviors).

In addition to 1 Peter 4 (among other examples), we have Paul's list of wicked acts to the Corinthians and a similar list to believers in Ephesus:

No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. - 1 Cor 6:8-11
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. -Eph 5:1-5

If all you have is heaven/hell and saved/lost what do you do with these?  Paul is clearly addressing believers. He states they have been "washed." But if "the kingdom of God" must mean "heaven" because that is all you have, you're on perilous ground. Likewise, if we teach that "real Christians" can't be wicked, these warnings make no sense.

In looking through a number of commentaries on the passage in 1 Corinthians, I cannot seem to find a definitive statement of the loss of the kingdom in view save possibly in Daniel Whedon's commentary. As an Arminian he does not outright say that a Christian can forfeit the free gift of life through his name by faith (an Arminian belief)), but he sure muddies the water.

The central problem in all of these somewhat confusing commentaries is a misunderstanding of the many facets of God'd kingdom. As noted, Whedon was an Arminian. We expect him to deny the free gift. But what of the one who preaches the finished work of Christ and the free gift of life by faith alone? If we must have only saved/lost and heaven/hell what does not inheriting the kingdom entail?

Ironically, Whedon accidentally comes close to the truth when he writes:

This paragraph condemns... All idea that the being once justified insures, in spite of relapse into vice, a secured inheritance of God’s glorified kingdom...

Whedon is denying that "once justified" means "always justified" (for life, it does mean this), but had he understood the kingdom in view here, his statement would be true. One can have life and not inherit other promises. One can forfeit crowns, prizes, rewards. One can be "disqualified." We can be "vessels unto dishonor." None of that, however, is s forfeiture of the free gift of life by faith alone.

We saw in our studies on the parables that some servants will be cast out of the earthly kingdom. Some will forfeit blessings. Some will gnash teeth and weep. But these will see resurrection and have a promise of resurrection life. If we do not understand this, we end up denying the work of Christ and the free offer of life.

Once we understand the difference between that which is free and that which requires qualification (the just servant from the unjust servant are both servants), we can start to make sense of these passages (and many others).

If we fail to "mark the things which differ" (Phil 1:10), we may end up denying the cross or putting men under bondage to fear. Scripture is a tapestry which God wants us to study in way that we will be "approved." God wants us to seek out truth. The saved/lost and heaven/hell dichotomies melt scripture down to childish simplicities. We find ourselves explaining away difficult passages. Let us to the work of a workman and rightly divide God's word.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Fresh Look at 1 John - Part 1

The Common Understanding 

I endeavor in my studies to seek out the truths of scripture by studying verses, passages, books, etc. in context. In the case of 1 John 1:9, I have not been comfortable with the common interpretation and application of this popular verse.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Pretty straightforward, one would think, but there are a few concerns I have with its blanket application. I'll quickly address the most obvious: this can only refer to true Christians. While that may seem obvious, it is important to note that almost the entire Bible is written to believers. This is especially important to note when dealing with the epistles. We start, then, with noting this is given to sanctified and secure believers. That "security" will be important as we look at the greater passage.

Beyond the seemingly obvious application to believers, we need to look at the surrounding context and John's audience. As with a few other commonly-quoted verses, the accepted understanding makes less sense when we look at the whole chapter and even the whole book in which we find it. We saw this in our study on 2 Cor 5:8 (The Most Misquoted Verse in Scripture).

The accepted understanding is that when a believer sins, he must confess that sin (to God) and then he will be cleansed from the unrighteousness brought on by that sin. As we go forward, let us remember this is supposedly in regard to sanctified and secure believers.

Cleanse and Cleansing 

Let me lay some groundwork by pulling out the word "cleanse." We need to note here verse 7 which also includes this idea.

But if we walk in light, even as he is in light, then we have fellowship with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Both verses employ the Greek word "katharízō." It is in the aorist tense, which, for our sake, means it is not locked into past, present, or future.

Something like, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and we are continually being cleaned from all unrighteousness."

A very good consideration to explain this verse is along this line: when we "sin," we must agree with God that what we have done is sin. This is born out in the following verse, "if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." This is slightly problematic for me as it is possible for a Christian to sin and not fully realize it. But, again, it's a reasonable argument.

Walk in the Light

That said, I think if we widen the lens, we start to see that the passage is addressing a past action. That is, being in the light (verse 7) leads to a continual action of cleansing.

But if we walk in light, even as he is in light, then we have fellowship with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son [continually] cleanses us from all sin.

This verse is the condition. So what does it mean to "walk in the light?" Conversely, what does it mean to "walk in darkness" (verse 6)? John and the Lord give us the answer, I believe, in John's gospel.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not. -John 1:4-5

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12

I am come a light into the world, so that whosoever believes on me will not remain in darkness. -John 12:49

From these verses, we can see that one is in "darkness" until he truly has faith. We note here that john's gospel is written to the world (those in darkness) while his epistle is written to believing Jews in the Acts age. We will get to chapter 2 of 1 John soon, but let me dip my toe in that water while we're looking at "darkness."

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. -1 John 2:8

This "darkness," which is "passing away" is the darkness which was upon Israel. Matthew in his gospel of the kingdom to Israel alone quotes Isaiah in regard to the coming of the Messiah to his "people" (Israel):

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned.” -Matt 4:16 (Is 9:2)

So, this is still the kingdom period when the Light of the Messianic kingdom in Israel was still anticipated.  The Light of that kingdom was shining in the Acts Age as the kingdom was being offered (from Pentecost to the end of the Acts).

Next time we will take the idea of "darkness" being unbelief and "light" being faith and the acceptance of the offer of the finished work of the Savior and apply it 1 John chapter 1 as a whole.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Scriptural Mysteries

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
-Prov 25:2 
The Bible has a series of "mysteries" which the Lord unfolded as he willed.

μυστήριον = musterion = something hidden (until revealed)

Now, the mysteries in scripture are not puzzles or "secret knowledge." This is no Gnosticism. When the Lord reveals these mysteries, they can be known. Sometimes they're obvious, sometimes they are meant to be difficult.  Sometimes people just refuse to see it because it messes with their preconceived theology.

We saw this diversity in understanding in our series on the parables of Matthew.

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

-Matt 13:10-13

The parables spoke of "mysteries" which were meant to hide greater meaning beyond the obvious. For a more in-depth look at this part of the Lord's earthly ministry, visit our study on those parables.

The Mystery of Christ

Probably the first "mystery" in scripture (as I see it) can be found in the revelation of the coming Messiah after Adam and Eve introduced death into the current world.

I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
-Gen 3:15

The "Mystery of Christ" (Romans 16, Ephesians 3) was revealed over time, in various ways, through the ages beyond Gen 3:15. Immediately in Genesis 3:21 the Lord sheds the blood of animals and covers Adam and Eve. This is another picture of Christ and his ministry. It is a little more disclosure of hidden truth.

Christ's place of birth, his bloodline, his manner of death, etc. These were all revealed through the ages and were fulfilled in Christ in his first advent. And then, after the Lord had risen and spent 40 days teaching the eleven about the coming kingdom, there is further revelation when the Lord reveals the grafting into Israel of Gentiles at Acts 10.

All of this was "hidden," from full understanding, but not hidden in God. It was not understood in God's word, but it was there. We see in Romans 16 that the Mystery of Christ is said to be "since the foundation of the ages." In Romans 15, we see multiple scriptures quoted which pointed to Gentiles being blessed in Abraham. All of these were "hidden," but not "unrevealed;" "misunderstood," but not "impossible to understand."

All these, as we have noted, were hidden in the Word, "since" the ages began.

The Dispensation of the Mystery

The Great Mystery of the One New Man (Gk: heîs kainós ánthrōposEph 2:15) as revealed in Ephesians, however, was hidden from "BEFORE the foundation of the ages." It is a created Joint-Body (Gk: sýssōmos, only used in Eph 3:6) which has no reliance on Abraham or the program for Israel. This is not to say God is done with Israel. No. We only note that "this present age" is independent of Israel and her future restoration (Acts 1:6) and glory (Jer 31; Isaiah 66; etc.). The plan for Israel is currently on hold.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.
-Rom 16:25

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
-Eph 1:3-4

Romans 16:25 states that "the mystery" there was "kept secret." That is, it was not understood. The Greek word here is "sigáō" which means "to keep silent " or "to keep close" (Strong's). It is also defined "to keep silence, hold one's peace" (Thayer's). Paul preached the "revelation," that is "the revealing" of the things kept silent. They were all there. This is how Paul could proclaim Christ using the Hebrew scriptures alone.

To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass. - Acts 26:22

The Lord's earthly ministry was to confirm the promises made to Israel.

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs. -Rom 15:8
For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain. -Acts 28:20

Paul, in the Acts Age, only preached and revealed what was hidden in the Hebrew scriptures. This was not something "new," but something newly revealed. To the Jews to whom he preached in that age, they could test him by the Hebrew scriptures.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. -Acts 17:11
In Ephesians, Paul tell us that he was privileged to have the Dispensation of the Mystery revealed to him alone. The Mystery of Christ could be found in Moses, the prophets, and through the Apostles. But the One New Man was only known through Paul as it was hidden from BEFORE the overthrow of Genesis 1:2.

To me [Paul], the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the incomprehensible riches of Christ, and to reveal for all people what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ... - Eph 3:8-9
I have been made a servant of it according to the commission of God, which has been given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery which has been hidden from past ages and generations, but now is revealed to His saints. To them God would make known what is the glorious riches of this mystery among the nations [Gentiles]. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory... - Col 1:25-27

There are many commonalities in scripture which last through the ages. For example:

  • God is love
  • Resurrection life is a free gift by grace through faith
  • God's word is unchanging
  • God's promises are true and will all come to pass

But in different ages, God has dealt with men in different ways. God has offered different hopes and promises. We have covered these previously, but we can easily see that God has promises which are tied to the earth and others waiting in "the far above the heavens." Commands for one age are wholly out of place in other ages. Certain promises are specific to individuals, nations, ages. This is why we must "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15) and "mark things that differ" (Phil 1:10). 

After the Kingdom offer ended after the end of the Acts Age, we entered into the present age. Today, those who have been "chosen from before the ages began" know no Jew or Gentile. We have no earthly ordinances. We have no hope on this earth. We have nothing to do with angels. We have no part in the "New Covenant" promised to Israel.

Compare Paul's' 7 epistles written during the Acts Age with the 7 written after Acts 28. Among other differences, the Old testament essentially disappears. The few scant references pale compared to the overwhelming use in the first 7. And we even see a change in application when we do see it.

“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise, “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” -Eph 6:2-3 
Honor your father and your mother, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. -Deut 5:16

In the Septuagint, the Greek word "'ădâmâh" is used for "land," whereas in Ephesians the Greek word "ge" is used for land/earth. To be clear that is not sufficient a reason to declare a great difference, what is more telling is the absence of the phrase "which the Lord your God is giving you." Israel is promised a land, while the blessings of this age are "spiritual, in heavenly places" (Eph). The principle of obedience applies, but it is no longer connected to any earthly promise. 

We "mark the things that differ" here (Phil 1:10), and we can see a change in hope and focus.

Reiterating the Importance of Right Division

If we fail to make these distinctions, we may lose out on reward in the age to come. We might even be found guilty of teaching horrific error and even blaspheming the God who bought us. 

I attended a service recently wherein speaker was asked about homosexuality. While he properly answered that we must lean on God's word and not on our worthless opinion (very true indeed), he inadvertently denied the work of the Lord on Calvary and the assurance of the gift of life by pointing us to 1 Cor 6.

There he noted that the homosexual and the effeminate cannot "inherit the kingdom." True. But he went on to say that the passage also applies to those living together outside of marriage and those who do not tithe. Well, he's right (well, greed is a disqualifier, we'll ignore the tithe for now). But, unfortunately, the implication, if you wrongly divide the word, is that homosexuals and those who do not tithe have no salvation at all and will be sent to traditional "hell." Is that the message of this age? Is that the message of any age?

We know the traditional doctrine of "hell" is a gross mutation of the true doctrine of death, but in his context (no matter the punishment), he was unwittingly arguing that we must tithe to maintain the free gift of life by faith alone! Conversely, as 1 Cor is written to Christians who have been recociled to God and cleansed, why would Paul be warning them about such terrible sins? Must they "maintain" their salvation by obedience? Must we? Can a free gift be forfeited? God forbid!

This is horrific error and is the result of a false notion of hell and failure to understand the "kingdom" in sight in 1 Corinthians, in the Acts Age. One can lose his place in the earthly kingdom (we saw this in our study on the parables), but one cannot lose a free gift. Right Division holds the key to right understanding. Otherwise, we leave people confused and in bondage to fear.

Paul warns the Corinthians who were once involved in wicked lives of all kinds that they risked being cast out of the coming kingdom on earth. Never, never, is the free gift subject to loss for disobedience. Certainly no one is going lose a free gift (or be tortured by fire in their theology) because he does not tithe! Is that salvation by philanthropy? It is a blasphemy against the work of Christ. He didn't mean it as such, but the implication was confusing at best, a denial of the free gift at worst.

We cannot stress enough the importance of rightly dividing the word of truth.

Final Thought

The current dispensation of the Mystery completes the greater Mystery of Christ. It completes the revelation of God. Paul had a unique calling and we do as well. Let us look again at Colossians 1:24-28. We noted part of this passage earlier, but now we will consider it in a different light (the Word of God is deep!):

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of GodEven the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus...

In this dispensation of the Mystery Body, God is calling all men into the unsearchable riches of Christ. We have no ordinances. We have no earthly hope. We look to no temple (for we are the temple). We must start with an understanding of this Mystery if we are to understand the present age and if we are correctly handle God's word (a task for which we will answer before him one day soon).

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