Friday, May 27, 2016

2 Corinthians

The apostle Paul wrote this second inspired epistle to the church at Corinth around 58-59 AD from Macedonia not long after he wrote the first epistle (Acts 20:1). This epistle is in direct contrast to the tone of 1 Corinthians, it is intensely personal and filled with the deep emotions of the dedicated apostle. 

Paul had sent Titus to Corinth to see how they would respond to his first letter which was full of rebuke and correction. He had told them that he would visit them himself but circumstances were such that he was delayed along the way (1 Cor. 16:5-7). He had hoped to meet Titus at Troas but that didn’t work out either (2 Cor. 2:12-13). Paul preached at Troas and then made his way to Macedonia (probably Philippi) where he finally met up with Titus and heard the good report that the majority of the church had responded in obedience to his first letter which prompted him to write this second letter (7:5-13). There was still a rebellious and disobedient element in the church (12:20-13:3). 

We can glean from the letter itself that Paul had several purposes in mind when he wrote it:
To explain why he had not visited them yet like he planned to (1:15-24)
To commend the church for disciplining the man living in fornication (1 Cor. 5) and encourage them to forgive and receive him since he repented (2:1-11)
To answer those who accused him of wrong motives (4:1-2) 
To encourage them to follow through on their promise to participate in the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem (8-9)
To defend his apostolic authority (10-12)
To prepare them for his visit (13) 

Simple outline:
I. Explanation of Ministry (1-7)
II. Exhortation for Giving (8-9)
III. Vindication of Apostleship (10-13)  

It must be vital that we recognize Paul’s distinct message and ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles because the Lord inspired Paul to write much scripture defending his apostleship (see Gal. 1-2 for another example).  

This epistle is all about the ministry. It provides a real and honest picture of what a faithful ministry in this present age of grace looks like and it is not glamorous (6:1-10). This epistle emphasizes the suffering Paul endured in the path of OBEDIENCE (1:3-11; 4:7-12; 11:22-33; 12:7-10; Col. 1:24). 

Since Paul was persecuted for preaching the doctrines that Christ revealed through him, what should we expect if we are going to follow his doctrine and pattern (2 Tim. 3:10-17)? Yet, most ministries in America seem to think gain is godliness (1 Tim. 6:3-6)! Satan’s focus is always on opposing what God is doing. He is working to blind the lost to the gospel of Christ (4:3-4) and to blind believers to the truth of the mystery (Eph. 1:18). Those who are faithfully working to preach the gospel of the grace of God and ground believers in the truth of the mystery know what spiritual warfare is all about (10:3-5; 11:1-4, 13-15). 

This epistle contains the Great Commission of the Body of Christ (5:14-21). Ambassadors are:
1) Sent to a foreign land in time of peace
2) Entrusted with an important message 
3) Represent their king and homeland 
4) Brought home before war is declared (pre-tribulation rapture)

We are not sufficient for the ministry, our sufficiency is of God (2:14-17; 3:5; 4:7; 9:8; 12:9). 

Monday, May 23, 2016

1 Corinthians

The apostle Paul wrote this letter by inspiration of God at the close of his three year ministry at Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:5-8) in about 58 AD. It is the longest epistle in the NT with 16 chapters, 437 verses, and 9,489 words. The record of how the Lord used him to start the church at Corinth during his second missionary journey is found in Acts 18. It was started next door to the Jewish synagogue. God gave the church all the sign gifts to provoke the unbelieving Jews to jealousy (Rom. 11). It became probably one of the largest and wealthiest churches that Paul started and yet it was the most carnal. Remember that Romans through Galatians go together concerning the doctrine of salvation. This is a letter of reproof dealing with conduct that is not in line with the doctrine set forth in Romans. However, there are great doctrinal passages found in this epistle as well (examples: judgment seat of Christ in chapter 3 and resurrection in chapter 15). 

Corinth was the capitol city of the Roman province of Achaia, the 4th largest city in the Roman Empire. It had a population of about 200,000 (primarily Greek, Roman, and Oriental). Located on the narrow isthmus between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas, having a harbor on each side it was a port city and wealthy commercial center. It had an outdoor theater that could sit 20,000 people where it hosted athletic games that were second only to the Olympic Games. It also had a great temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexuality. The temple had a thousand prostitutes and fornication was part of their pagan worship. Corinth was so notorious for its immorality that there was actually a term in the Greek language for fornicators that meant to “act the Corinthian.” Corinth was known for its commerce, culture, and corruption. Today it is just a small fishing village (the fashion of this world passes away, 7:31). The church at Corinth was being more conformed to the world around them than they were being transformed by the truth Paul had taught them. We too live in the midst of a corrupt culture but we are to shine as lights in this dark world (Phil. 2:12-16). 

Paul had already written at least one letter to this church (5:9), not everything he wrote was inspired of God (13 epistles were and we have them perfectly preserved in the KJB). He wrote this letter for two primary reasons: to address to problems he heard about in the church (1:11; 5:1) and to answer the questions they had written to him about (7:1; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1). Before he answers their questions he deals with the problems and gets to the root of it all: they were carnal (3:1-3). Sound doctrine can only be lived out by the power of the Spirit. There are 3 kinds of people:

1. The natural (2:14) – those without the Spirit
2. The spiritual (2:15-16) – those in the Spirit that also walk in the Spirit
3. The carnal (3:1-3) – those in the Spirit that walk after the flesh

Every chapter deals with a problem. Although it is a very negative letter it does start out with a positive introduction (1:1-9). Thank God that a wrong state cannot affect our right standing in Christ. Paul doesn’t thank God for their conduct (like he does for the Thessalonians) but for the grace God has given them (1:4). 

1 Corinthians has been called the troubleshooting manual of the local church. I don’t think God put this letter in the Bible so the errors of the church at Corinth would be remembered forever but because He knew these same problems would exist in the local church throughout the present dispensation of grace, especially in the last days (2 Tim. 3:1-5). 

I. Introduction (1:1-9)
II. Addressing Problems and Answering Questions (1:10-16:4)
III. Conclusion (16:5-24)

1) Division in the church (1-3) 
2) Influence of worldly wisdom (1-3) 
3) Wrong perspective of the ministry (3-4) 
4) Fornication (5-6) – 
5) Inability to judge and solve disputes between brethren (6) 
6) Women not showing submission (11) 
7) Abuse of the Lord’s Supper (11) 
8) False doctrine, denying bodily resurrection (15) 

1) Marriage, divorce, and remarriage (7)
2) Eating meat offered to idols (8-10) – issue of personal liberty 
3) Spiritual gifts (12-14) – purpose, motive, and order
4) The collection (16) 

Great dispensational passages:
1) The mystery – 2:6-16
2) The judgment seat of Christ (3:10-17)
3) Following Paul – 4:16-17; 7:17; 11:1; 14:37
4) The Body of Christ – 12:12-13
5) Sign gifts shall cease – 13:8-13
6) The gospel – 15:1-4
7) The rapture – 15:51-52

Principles that should govern our decisions: 
1) Is it expedient? (6:12a)
2) Can it bring me under bondage? (6:12b)
3) Will it be a stumbling-block to others? (8:9) 
4) Is it spiritually edifying? (10:23)
5) Does it glorify God? (10:31)

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Romans is the 45th book of the Bible and it is the first one that we come to that was written directly to Gentiles by the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13). Without the book of Acts demonstrating God's transition away from Israel to Paul's special ministry among the Gentiles how strange it would be to go from the Gospel records right into an epistle to the Romans from an apostle with a Gentile name! 

The apostle Paul wrote this epistle around 60 A.D. from Corinth during his 3 month stay in Greece after his departure from Ephesus (Acts 20:1-3). It was not his first inspired epistle but it is placed first in order because it is the foundational book of doctrine for the Grace Age. In Romans we learn that we are crucified, buried, and risen with Christ. The mystery of the Body of Christ is alluded to but not explained (12:4-5). The end of Romans sets us up for the next great doctrinal book: Ephesians (in which we learn that we are ascended up and seated with Christ in heavenly places). 

I. Introduction (1:1-17) – why he is writing 
II. Condemnation (1:18-3:20) – FIRST the bad news 
III. Justification (3:21-5:21) – On basis of the blood of Christ thru FAITH ALONE 
IV. Identification (6-8) – one with Christ, the key to the Christian life, Spirit 
V. Dispensation (9-11) – Israel’s fall, not permanent, Gentiles blessed without Israel 
VI. Application (12-15) – conduct in relation to: God, church, enemies, gov, weaker brethren 
VII. Conclusion (16) – greetings, closing remarks 

Romans reveals great doctrines such as salvation, redemption, justification, imputation, propitiation, sanctification, identification, predestination, adoption, and glorification. All of this is and more is offered freely by the grace of God to all sinners everywhere on the basis of the perfect cross-work and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every believer must be grounded in these doctrines. But most churches focus on the OT and Gospels because they have stories. 

The doctrine of this epistle answers the ancient question, "How can man be just with God?" (Job 9:2). The theme of Romans is stated in 1:16-17. Legalists hate the message of salvation by grace through faith plus nothing. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel Christ reveled to him (Gal. 1:11-12) even though he was slandered for preaching it (3:8). 

Romans systematically and logically explains how the righteous God can justify (declare righteous) unrighteous sinners by faith alone (Rom. 3:9-28). 

E.W. Bullinger wrote, "ROMANS comes first in order of the three great doctrinal epistles. And rightly so, for it contains the ABCs of the believer’s education. Until its lesson is learned, we know and can know nothing. The Holy Spirit has placed it first in Canonical order because it lies at the threshold of all "church" teaching, and if we wrong here we shall be wrong altogether... The great subject is the revelation of God’s wrath against sin, and of the ground upon which alone the sinner can stand in righteousness before Him. The fundamental text is "The just shall live by faith" (Rom 1:17), and it shows Jew and Gentile alike short of the standard of God's glory (Rom 3:23). All alike sinners, shut up under sin, and needing a Divine righteousness, the only difference being that to the Jew had been committed the oracles (utterances or revelations) of God… The prominent feature of the Epistle is the long doctrinal portion from Rom 1:16 to Rom 8:39. This shows that doctrine is the important part and dominates the whole. It reveals what God has done with "sins" and with "sin "; and how the saved sinner, taken out from the deepest degradation, is justified by faith, and united to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection-life. It teaches him that though his "old Adam" nature continues with him till the end, in ever-present hostility to God, yet that for those in Christ there is no judgment and, consequently, no separation "from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord".

A.C. Gaebelein wrote, "No Christian can enjoy the Gospel and know true deliverance unless he knows the precious arguments of the first eight chapters of this epistle. It is the great need at the present time. So many professing Christians are ignorant of what redemption is and what it includes. Many have but a hazy view of justification and have little or no knowledge of a settled peace with God and lack the assurance of salvation. They are constantly striving to be something and to attain to something, which God in infinite grace has already supplied in the Gospel of His Son." 

Luther said, "It is the true masterpiece of the New Testament, and the very purest Gospel, which is well worth and deserving that a Christian man should not only learn it by heart, word for word, but also that he should daily deal with it as the daily bread of men's souls. For it can never be too much or too well read or studied; and the more it is handled the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes."

Martin Luther sure liked Romans a lot better than James! Because he didn’t know how to rightly divide the word of truth he couldn’t handle the fact that Paul and James contradicted each other (Rom. 3:28; Jam. 2:24). He wrote, “Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. “Faith justifies” and “faith does not justify” contradict each other flatly. If anyone can harmonize them I will give him my Doctor’s Hood and let him call me a fool.” The explanation is that James likely wrote his epistle before Paul was even saved and he wrote to the scattered 12 tribes of Israel. The gospel of the kingdom requires works to prove faith; a man is justified by his own faith (his faith must be tried and perfected). Under the gospel of the grace of God we are justified by the faith of Christ (already tried and perfect) and therefore no works whatseover are required to be justified in this age (Rom. 4:5). 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Paul's Epistles

There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write 13 epistles to the Body of Christ in this present age (13 associated with his separate ministry, see Acts 13:2). His name appears first in every epistle that he wrote (2 Thess. 3:17). 

While all the Bible is for our learning and admonition we must consider what Paul says first because he is the spokesman to the Body of Christ in this present age. Christ made various appearances to him and progressively gave him “an abundance of revelations”. I agree with the note in the Old Scofield Bible that says, “In his writings alone we find the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the church.” 

The major keys to Bible study are:
1. Believe the scriptures (1 Thess. 2:13)
2. Search the scriptures (Acts 17:11)
3. Compare the scriptures (1 Cor. 2:13) 
4. Consider the scriptures written by Paul (2 Tim. 2:7)
5. Rightly divide the scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15) 

Right division has to do with the study of dispensational truth. Moral truth never changes but dispensational truth is gradually revealed and brings about changes in God’s dealings with men. The word "dispensation" is used four times in the Bible (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25). A dispensation is simply a dealing out or dispensing of something. Ages are periods of time. Dispensations operate withinn ages but are not periods of time. Each dispensation is marked by: divine revelations, human spokesman, human responsibility, human failure, and divine judgment. 

God dispensed grace to Paul to make known the mystery of the Body of Christ. Just as the law was dispensed through Moses (Jn. 1:17), so the mystery was dispensed through Paul. This mystery fulfilled or completed the word of God (Col. 1:24-26). Although the book of Revelation is placed as the last book of the Bible it is the consummation of OT prophecy and was probably written much earlier than most teachers claim. We are not told to rightly divide the Bible until Paul fulfilled the word of God with his last inspired epistle which, chronologically, was possibly the last book of the Bible that was written. 

It is vital to understand that the dispensation of the mystery was not given to John the Baptist, Jesus (in His earthly ministry), or the twelve apostles. One of the keys to understanding the Bible is to understand the distinctiveness of Paul’s apostleship and message. God gave us three chapters about Paul’s conversion (Acts 9; 22; 26) as well as several other passages (Gal. 1:13-23; Phil.  3:4-8; 1 Tim. 1:12-16). Paul referred to the importance of his ministry in nearly every epistle that he wrote (Rom. 11:13; 15:16; 16:25; 1 Cor. 3:10; 4:16-17; 9:1, 17; 11:1; 14:37; 2 Cor. 12:1-4; 13:3; Gal. 1:1, 11-12, 2:5-9; Eph. 3:1-12; Phil. 3:17; 4:9; Col. 1:24-29; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2 Thess. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:11-16; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11-13, 15; 2:2, 7; 3:10; Titus 1:3).
Paul was not an egomaniac (Eph. 3:8)! Clearly, the Lord has placed an emphasis on the distinct apostleship and ministry of Paul because he is the spokesman for the Body of Christ to follow in this age. The specific doctrines for this age are revealed in Paul’s epistles. We cannot base doctrine on the book of Acts because it is a history book that records a transition. Things are changing throughout the book of Acts! 

Romans is first in order of his 13 epistles but it was not the first epistle that he wrote by inspiration of God (probably Thessalonians). The Pauline epistles are not arranged chronologically but according to a divine order for our edification (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He wrote 9 epistles to 7 churches and 4 epistles to 3 individuals. 

Let's consider the order of the church epistles:

Salvation in Christ
Romans - doctrine of salvation by faith
1 & 2 Corinthians - reproof for not living by the doctrine of Romans
Galatians - correction for listening to doctrine not in line with Romans

Body of Christ
Ephesians - doctrine of the body of Christ
Philippians - reproof for not living by the doctrine of Ephesians
Colossians - correction for listening to doctrine not in line with Ephesians

Coming of Christ
1 & 2 Thessalonians - doctrine, reproof, and correction concerning the coming of the Lord

Taken together these epistles provide instruction in righteousness for the present age. The epistles to Timothy and Titus concern the proper order for the church. The second epistle to Timothy deals with the apostasy of the last days. The epistle to Philemon is fittingly placed last because it illustrates the doctrines of Paul's epistles through a real-life situation. 

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