Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Rightly Divided

Monday, September 2, 2019

Rightly Divided

Chapter Nineteen
Rightly Divided

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed {before God; exegetical work cannot be shamed because of its thoroughness}, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

Paul speaks to the central responsibility of all generations of pastors and disciple makers in this text – “rightly dividing the word of truth.”  Paul has already commanded pastor Timothy; “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2).  How can the command of II Timothy 2:2 be fulfilled apart from fulfilling the command of II Timothy 2:15?  “Rightly dividing the word of truth” is correctly understanding and carefully exacting God’s will by interpreting the details of what God has revealed in His inspired Words of the Holy Bible (II Timothy 3:16-17).  This is NOT WORK FOR NOVICES (I Timothy 3:6).  

A pastor should have a thorough knowledge of God’s Word and a detailed understanding of the doctrines that the Bible teaches.  A pastor should be able to immediately discern false doctrine and be able confront it while defending the sheep against the wolves that are trying to destroy them.  The very reason why God calls His children “sheep” is because they are ignorant and defenseless against the trickery of the wolf.  The sheep need to learn to trust the shepherd God appoints over them to defend them and watch over them.  

Obviously, if God’s Word can be “rightly divided” (interpreted), it can be wrongly “divided (interpreted).  In choosing a local church (a discipleship training center), a person is choosing a shepherd that he is willing to trust with “rightly dividing the word of truth.”  CHOOSE CAREFULLY and CHOOSE WISELY!  The great difficulty is that most people are making this choice out of ignorance of God’s Word.  Secondly, the filters through which most people make these choices are often false doctrines that they already believed and false presuppositions to which they already hold.  Think of the difficulties this presents to the genuine pastors of local churches.  Think of the struggle in trying to help people know the truth while struggling with their own mistrusts of pastors and their own misconceptions about the truth.  
          A major aspect of the organization of a local church is the “gifts” (Ephesians 4:8) of men God has given to lead and train the saints (Ephesians 4:12) coming to be discipled.  God calls these men to preach and calls them to a locality having given them the empowering of the special gifts of teaching, leadership, and organization.  These gifted and called of God men have a mandate from God.  They are to bring the saints to functional spiritual maturity, so each believer is prepared to do the “work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).  

Although II Timothy 2:15 is a command for all believer-priests to be able to fulfill their roles as disciple makers through their own study of God’s Word, the command is particularly sobering for pastors.  Pastors are the first line of defense within a local church against doctrinal error and its infiltration into the body of believers.  Secondly, if pastors are not “rightly dividing the word of truth,” they cannot teach, equip, and mature their congregations “for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).  If pastors are not “rightly dividing the word of truth,” they will propagate false doctrines.  If pastors are not “rightly dividing the word of truth,” they force their opinions upon lives and create people that follow them rather than follow the teachings of Christ.  These are some of the greatest concerns of a godly pastor who studies “to shew” himself “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed {before God; Judgment Seat accountability}.  

Imagine if you can, the difficulty in protection people against the cultural and theological; aberrations facing the average, but totally ignorant baby Christian in these last days.  Every person coming into the church in our era is infected and effected by many of these corruptions in various degrees.  This means these people are corrupted by these false teachings and philosophies in various degrees.  It is the work of the pastor and disciple maker to be able to discern and diagnose these corruptions and teach the truth of God’s Word to correct them.   Below is a list of the primary adversaries:

1. Relativism/Humanism
2. Pluralism
3. Ecumenicism
4. Covenant Theology
5. Replacement Theology
6. Calvinism
7. Pentecostalism
8. Cults
9. Soft Separatism
10. New Evangelicalism
11. Salvational Legalism
12. Sanctificational Legalism
13. Church Growth Movement
14. Contemporary Music
15. Easy Believism
16. Easy Prayerism
17. Only Believism
18. Corruptions of Inspiration
19. Universalism
20. Sacramentalism
21. Baptismal Regeneration
22. Neo-paganism
21. Pantheism/Spiritism
22. Hedonism
23. Humanistic Psychology
24. Pornography/Fornication
25. The Pharmaceutical Culture

These are just the tip of the iceberg!  There are hundreds of other variations and combinations of all these corruptions.  This is the world into which the believer-priest must minister the Word of God.  Therefore, “perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) is an overwhelming responsibility and difficulty.  When the faithful pastor talks about wolves trying to destroy the sheep, these are what wolves’ teeth look like.  These are a few false beliefs that corrupt “the faith.”  

Growing means doing.  Not everyone is willing to become doers of the Word.

21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:21-22).

          Hearing the Word of God, whether in its reading or in its preaching, without a predisposition to obey EVERY aspect of its instruction is the most subtle of all forms of self-deception.  The Word of God defines “the faith” and establishes the practices of “the faith” in holiness before God.  No one would have “the faith” that saves the soul without obeying what the Word of God says to receive that salvation (repent, believe, confess, call, and receive the LORD Jesus).  No one will save his life from ruin and waste apart from learning the Word of God and OBEYING the Word of God. 

          When the organization of a local church (those men listed in Ephesians 4:11) does their jobs and people follow their God ordained leadership, the church becomes a growing organism (“the edifying of the body of Christ,” Ephesians 4:12).  The word “edifying” is from the Greek word oikodome {oy-kod-om-ay'}, which refers to the act of building something up.  It refers to that work of the ministry that promotes another’s spiritual growth in the application of truth in a life unto holiness.  The church cannot become a growing organism until it becomes a disciplined organization of functionally mature believers (perfected/equipped saints doing the work of the ministry and following Biblical leadership).  This is God ORDAINED!

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account {Judgment Seat accountability}, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you {Judgment Seat accountability}” (Hebrews 13:17).

          Hebrews 13:17 is the last admonition in the epistle to the Hebrews before the concluding salutations.  It is an important admonition in that the believing Jews had already been admonished to abandon the Temple Order of Judaism and the leadership of the Old Covenant Priesthood of Israel.  Hebrews 13:17 redirects them to their new responsibilities and allegiance to their new God appointed leadership.  God does not leave believers without God-ordained and appointed shepherds of their souls.  “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).  Hebrews 13:17 leads us into four areas of individual responsibility of New Covenant believers regarding their own spiritual growth. 

1. Obedience to pastoral leadership and discipleship (Hebrews 13:17)

          There is no doubt that the word “obey” in Hebrews 13:17 is used to signify the authority given to pastors over the formal members of a local church.  Although the Greek word peitho (pi’-tho), translated “obey,” can have a number of meanings, the context along with the use of the words “submit” and “rule” would give us the meaning of ascending to authority.  Of course, the intent is to “obey” and submit to their leadership regarding the authority of correct doctrine and the disciplines of “the faith.”  

          The word “rule” is from the Greek word hegeomai (hayg-eh’-om-ahee), which refers to authoritative leadership.  It can mean to command with authority.  Pastors both govern and lead with the authority of the Word of God as they apply the interpretations of the Word of God to the issues and practices of life.  The Word of God does not speak to every new cultural nuance of worldliness or carnality.  For instance, the Word of God does not say - thou shalt not smoke Marijuana.  However, the Word of God gives us a governing principle for these kinds of issues in I Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power {control} of any.”  

Every local church requires at least one spiritual leader, who has a deep understanding of the Word of God, and who can interpret cultural nuances according to the general principles revealed in the Word of God.  These kinds of decisions should not be left in the hands of consensus (majority rule).  Therefore, a local church must be extremely careful in their examination of the man of God.  They must carefully examine him regarding his Scriptural qualifications for the position of authority they give him when they acknowledge he is God-called to be their pastor.  In the acknowledgement that he is their God-called pastor, they are also acknowledging their responsibilities to “obey” his doctrinal leadership and “submit” to the authority of this divinely appointed position in the local church.  This admonition leads us to the second admonition – “pray for us.” 

2. Praying for pastors and their ministries (Hebrews 13:18-19)

18 Pray for us: for we trust {are convinced} we have a good {correct or proper} conscience {moral consciousness or perception of what is right}, in all things willing to live honestly {morally honorable}. 19 But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored {reconstituted in health, home, or organization} to you the sooner” (Hebrews 13:18-19).

          Hebrews 13:19 takes the statement of Hebrews 13:18 beyond a request to a plea to fulfill an obligation to pray.  I believe this refers to the Apostle Paul specifically, especially due to the context of Hebrews 13:23 in the reference to “our brother Timothy is set at liberty.”  Spiritual leaders face the onslaught of both satanic opposition and extensive temptations.  

Spiritual leaders struggle with issues of discouragement, defeat, and all that accompanies trying to minister to people who often rebel against their leadership and resist the teaching of the Word of God.  Some people are untrusting, and others simply refuse to submit to God’s appointed authorities over their lives.  There are those who mistrust spiritual leaders because a spiritual leader has abused them in the past.  How would you like someone to mistrust you because of someone else’s failure? 

3. People working with diligence towards their own spiritual maturity (“perfection,” Hebrews 13:20-21)

20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21). 

          Just like the resurrection and glorification of Jesus, spiritual growth is a supernatural work.  Spiritual growth requires individual participation/cooperation in the operations of God.  The word “perfect” in Hebrews 13:21 is from the Greek word katartizo (kat-ar-tid'-zo).  Although the word means to make complete or thoroughly complete, there is a background intent regarding restoring to wholeness something previously broken.  The statement that follows (“in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight”) implies this perfection is the thorough spiritual equipping of a believer for the purposes God intends in doing the “work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).  

        Therefore, the implication of the admonition is that the believer ought to be making his own concerted effort to involve himself in the supernatural work of discipleship God has ordained for his life through the operations of the local church and God’s ordained leadership.  A believer can only bring glory to God through a life that has been thoroughly equipped to minister in doctrinal soundness and a walk that is pure from worldliness.  The word “amen” is a concluding admonition to a hypothetical response from those admonished – meaning so let it be!

4. “Suffer {hold yourself against or to; i.e., be accountable for living} the word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22)

22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. 23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. 24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. 25 Grace be with you all. Amen. Written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy” (Hebrews 13:22-25).

          Although the epistle to the Hebrews is a lengthy admonition, its message is simple.  The New Covenant believer has a superior position than the Old Covenant believer.  To this superior position is attached more extensive responsibilities.  In other words, the New Covenant believer has a higher level of accountability, and therefore culpability, for all the commandments given to Him by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles.  We are to preserve the Word of God by translating it into the language of living as James 1:22 commands.  This is a central obligation of every local church – holding one another accountable to learn and live the Word of God. 

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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