Saturday, July 23, 2016

Christ is ALL

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond norfree: but Christ is all, and in all. (Col. 3:11)


In the modern day preaching of a watered down gospel we hear clichés preached more than scriptural truth. One such cliché that we often hear is, “Let Jesus come into your life”. The unscriptural idea behind this cliché is that the Lord Jesus Christ desires to blend in to your identity and assist you in the life that you want to lead. In other words, He just wants to make your life better so that you can have, “Your best life now." That is the title of a book written by the popular motivational speaker Joel Osteen. In that book he wrote, “God wants to make your life easier. He wants to assist you, to promote you, to give you advantages. He wants you to receive preferential treatment.” I am sure that he has the bumper sticker that says, “God is my co-pilot” on his Rolls Royce. 

Many will let Jesus be a part of their life if it means He will help them accomplish their dreams and then take them to heaven when they die. Modern evangelism is man-centered instead of Christ-centered. It appeals to the selfish and religious nature of man. Everybody in their right mind wants to go to heaven when they die and they will gladly say a prayer to receive that ticket to heaven. But not everybody wants to be saved from sin and reconciled to God, nor are they willingly to trust Christ alone for salvation. False preachers claim that Jesus wants to come into your life and become your servant. The Bible declares that salvation is regeneration (new life) and that believers are God’s servants. 

Nowhere does the Bible teach that Jesus wants to become part of our life! The teaching of scripture is that when Christ saves us, He becomes our life (Col. 3:1-4; Phil. 1:21; Gal. 2:20)! Immediately upon salvation we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body of which Christ is the Head. We are in Him and He is in us by the Spirit. He is our identity (1 Cor. 12:12-13). 

In v.11, the apostle Paul is saying that earthly distinctions mean NOTHING when it comes to our standing before God. Under the Law dispensation being a law-keeping Jew gave you an advantage over the Gentiles and a standing before God that they did not have. BUT NOW, in this present dispensation of GRACE, that is all done away with. Nothing we are or can do gives us any standing before God because our standing is IN CHRIST alone (2 Cor. 5:16-17; Gal. 3:27-28). ALL members of the body of Christ have the same complete and perfect standing before God. 

Christ is ALL! The name “Christ” is used 26 times and the word “all” is used 32 times in this short epistle (15 are direct references to Christ, e.g., 1:19; 2:3, 9). Colossians was written to correct false doctrine that detracts from the supremacy and all-sufficiency of Christ as the Head of the Church and the blessed truth that all believers are complete in Him. For example, Paul warns against a mystical philosophy that claims superior knowledge, denies the incarnation of Christ, and teaches works-based salvation. In the first main passage of this epistle he declares the preeminence of Christ (1:18, not first among other competing things but superiority over all things). Christ is more than first in the body, He is everything! Without Him, we are nothing. If you take Christ out of the true church it does not and cannot exist! That’s why in the church Christ alone must receive all the glory (Eph. 3:21). There is NO true wisdom and knowledge that is found outside of Him (2:3). 

Let's consider some specific things mentioned in this epistle in which Christ is all.

I. Christ is ALL in Creation (Col. 1:16) 

If you take Christ out of creation, nothing would exist! This is a vital truth because it means that Christ is the Creator and not a creature. Jesus Christ is God and this truth is constantly under attack. False teachers try to use Col. 1:15 to prove that Christ was created, but it actually proves the opposite! He is the visible image of the invisible God. This means that He is God in a visible body. The title of “firstborn” is one of rank and authority (Ps. 89:27). He was not the firstborn AMONG every creature but ABOVE every creature, i.e. He has superiority over every creature because He is the Creator (also firstborn of the Spirit and from the dead). 

“Firstborn of every creature” – (v.16-17 explains v.15) He is the Head over creation because:
A. By Him were all things created (Gen. 1:26; John 1:1-3; Eph. 3:9)
B. All things were made for Him (Rev. 4:10-11)
C. He is before all things (Rev. 1:8; Isa. 44:6)  
D. By Him all things consist (Psalm 75:3; Heb. 1:1-3)

All this proves the deity of Christ. He is all-powerful. In creation we know something of God’s power (Rom. 1:20). 

II. Christ is ALL in Revelation (Col. 1:28; 2:8-10)

We don’t preach dead philosophy but a living PERSON! To take Christ out of the Bible would leave you with no Bible at all! He is central in the Bible and is found in every one of its 66 books. He is found in the first verse of the Bible (Gen.1:1 has 44 letters, 17 vowels, and 27 consonants) and in the last verse (Rev. 22:21 has 44 letters, 17 vowels, and 27 consonants). We see God’s power in creation, but we can only know His truth through the divine revelation of His word. To know Christ is to know truth, it is to know God (1 Jn. 5:20). Creation is a partial revelation of God, but the word of God is His perfect revelation (Ps. 19). 

The Bible presents many different personalities, but its purpose is to reveal one main person, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible is God's perfect revelation of Himself to man. Bullinger wrote, “The one great subject which runs through the whole Word of God is Christ: the promised seed of Gen. 3:15. This verse marks the depth of the ruin into which man had descended in the fall; and it becomes the foundation of the rest of the Bible. All hope for man and for creation is centered in Christ; who in due time should be born into the world, should suffer and die; and, in resurrection, should become the head of a new creation, and should finally crush the head of the Old Serpent, who had brought in all the ruin. Christ, therefore, the King, and the Kingdom which He should eventually set up become the one great subject which occupies the whole of the Word of God. Hence, He is the key to the Divine revelation in the Word; and apart from Him it cannot be understood. The contents of the Bible must therefore be seen and arranged with reference to Him. The counsels and purposes of God are all centered in Christ.” 

The Son of God is called the Word of God (Rev. 19:13) because He reveals and declares the Father (Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 18). Yet, what would we know of the Son of God apart from the written word of God? The written word of God reveals and declares both the Father and the Son and it was given by the Spirit's inspiration and only understood by His illumination. God has revealed Himself through the incarnate Word and the inspired word. Both are given the same titles and attributes. 
 
Jesus Christ is CENTRAL in the Scripture (OT - Lk. 24:27, 44; NT - Jn. 14:26; 16:12-14):
• OT - Preparation - promises, prophecies, and pictures of the coming Christ
• Gospels - Manifestation - Fourfold presentation of the person and work of Christ    
• Acts - Propagation - "they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" 
• Epistles - Explanation - doctrine and application concerning what Christ accomplished 
• Revelation - Consummation - purposes of God in and through Christ consummated 
  
Jesus Christ is the King and God purposes to establish His Kingdom on the earth:
•   OT - The King and His Kingdom promised and prophesied
•   Gospels - The King and His Kingdom presented and rejected
•  Acts - The King and His Kingdom offered and rejected (transition away from kingdom)
•   Pauline Epistles - The King in royal exile, Head of one new spiritual man, Kingdom postponed
•   Hebrew Epistles - The King and His Kingdom once again anticipated
•   Revelation - The King returns and His Kingdom is established 

Revelation is progressive. God gave the scripture over a 1,500 year period and it covers God’s dealings with man for all of human history. In this age there is only one gospel, but in different ages God has given man different messages of good news. How can a holy and righteous God offer ANY good news to unholy and unrighteous sinners? The answer is the “mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19, i.e. secret). The full meaning of what Christ accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection was purposed and planned by the Godhead before the world began, but was kept secret until Christ from Heaven revealed it through His chosen instrument, the apostle Paul. This demonstrates God’s great wisdom (Col. 1:25-2:3). 

III. Christ is ALL in Salvation (Col. 2:10)

Take Christ out of salvation and there is no salvation available to sinners! We know of God’s power through creation. We know of His truth and wisdom through revelation. We can know His love and grace through salvation! Either your salvation is all of Christ or you are not saved at all. We are saved by grace through faith plus NOTHING (Eph. 2:8-9). There is NOTHING more to it! To add ANYTHING to the finished work of Christ is to pervert the gospel of grace!

The apostle Paul called the message that He received by revelation of Christ the gospel of the grace of God. What is the BASIS for this grace? It is God’s riches at Christ’s expense (preaching of the cross). 
Col. 1:14; 20-22:
A. Redemption – to buy back with a price (sin, death, hell, Satan)
B. Forgiveness – all sins removed from God’s sight (2:13)
C. Peace – were enemies, now members of His body (Rom. 5:1)
D. Reconciliation – made right with God
E. Justification – declared righteous (holy, unblameable, unreproveable) 

How do we receive salvation (Col. 1:4)? How do we live the Christian life (2:6)? By faith we depend fully on Him. 

Christ is all, but is this truth real in our HEARTS? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Revelation

Revelation is the most feared book in the Bible. Many claim that it is impossible to understand, which is ironic in light of its title. It is the Apocalypse (unveiling), not the Apocrypha (hidden)! The purpose of the the book is to reveal, not conceal. The problem is not that men can't understand it, it's that they won't believe it! Like the rest of the Bible, this book is to be taken literally for exactly what it says. When symbols and figures are used we must rely on the word of God to interpret them. 

There are 3 main schools of thought about Revelation:
1) Preterist - This false view teaches that the events recorded in Revelation describe the problems and persecutions of the church during the times the book was written. 
2) Historic - This false view teaches that the events recorded in Revelation describe the history of the church. I also disagree with the view that chapters 1-3 are historical while 4-22 are prophetic.
3) Futurist - This is the correct view of the book. It teaches that book is what it claims to be, a "prophecy" (1:3). The whole book is futuristic (1:10).  

Most commentaries teach that this book was written in about 95 A.D. There is no way to prove that from scripture. It doesn't really matter when it was written because the events recorded in it will take place in the future (I believe it was written during the Acts period). We can get a good idea of what this book is all about by considering some things in the first chapter. 

The Introduction (1:1-3)
Notice that this book was given to “shew” God's servants "things which must shortly come to pass.” For those to whom the apostle John is writing, the fulfillment of all that  is written in this book was "at hand" (v.3; 22:6-10, 20). Therefore, John could not have written this book to the Body of Christ which is not the subject of prophecy (Revelation called “prophecy” five times), but the mystery revealed through Paul. Its been almost 2,000 years since he wrote it and it has not been fulfilled. We are living in a parenthetic dispensation in which prophecy concerning Israel is not being fulfilled. What does it mean that the Lord "signified" this book? He made it known by signs (1 Cor. 1:22). Would we be blessed by keeping the things written in this book (compare 22:14 with Eph. 1:3)? Is the instruction in 14:9-12 something that we must keep? 

The Salutation (1:4-6) 
This brief salutation is full of doctrinal truth. Notice the Trinity (three in one). The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, but the doctrine certainly is (1 Jn. 5:7). The “us” in v.5-6 refers to John and his brothers (Jews) and companions in TRIBULATION (v.9). Yes, Christ loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, but nowhere in Paul’s epistles do we learn that He has made the Body of Christ to be kings and priests to reign on earth. John is referring to what Christ will do for Israel, whom He has loved with an “everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3), upon His revelation (v.7). They will be washed from their sins as nation (Acts 3:19; Rom. 11:26-27; Zech. 12:9-10; 13:1; 1 Pet. 1:1-21) and made to be kings and priests on the earth (Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10; 20:4; Ex. 19:5-6; Isa. 61:6; 1 Pet. 2:5,9).

The Theme of the Book (v.7-8)
The main theme of the book is the revelation of Jesus Christ. This does not describe the rapture of the Body of Christ. 
He cometh - He is presently hidden away as it were in the third heaven at the right hand of the Father. He will be revealed with great power and glory from heaven and come back to earth.
with clouds – Clouds were associated with God’s presence in OT (Ex. 40:33-34, man cannot look upon His glory). He ascended in a cloud and is coming in like manner (Acts 1:9-12; Zech. 14:4). 
and every eye shall see him – This will be a public and visible return to earth (Matt. 24:29-30).
and they also which pierced him – Israel (Zech. 12:10)
and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him – Why (19:11)? 

The Opening Vision (vs.9-20) 
John saw the glorified Son of Man as the coming King and Judge. This vision is the major theme of the book. Here is the One that is going to be revealed from Heaven (19:11-16)!

How could John be a companion to the tribulation saints? He witnessed the whole tribulation and will be resurrected to enter the kingdom with those that endure it. They must patiently endure the tribulation before the kingdom comes (Lk. 21:19; Jam. 5:7-11; 14:12). Why was John in the isle of Patmos? Tradition says he was banished there by the Roman Emperor in 95 A.D. and that while there God gave him the revelation. Everything we need to understand the Bible is contained in the Bible. The Bible interprets itself. John plainly stated why he was there (v.2, 9). God sent him there to receive this revelation (probably during Acts period) just like He sent Paul into Arabia to receive revelations for this present age. 

If we don’t understand v.10 it will greatly hinder our understanding of the whole book. What did John mean by, “I was in the Spirit”? Every believer is in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but that is not what is being referred to here. John was in the Spirit in the same sense that this phrase is used throughout the book of Revelation (4:2; 17:3; 21:10). The Holy Spirit transported him to the future day of the Lord to be a witness and write what he saw. God did this for other prophets (Ezek. 37:1, in 40-48 he saw the future temple). 

Many refer to Sunday as the Lord’s day, but the Bible never does. The “Lord’s day” is the same thing as the “day of the Lord” which is mentioned 29 times in the Bible. It is the day that the Lord judges the earth in great wrath (Isa. 13:6-13). The Lord’s day is a prophetic period of time in which includes the 70th week of Daniel, the second coming of Christ, His millennial reign, the last battle with Satan, the renovation of the heavens and earth with fire, and the great white throne judgment. The book of Revelation reveals this day in great detail. It stands in contrast with this present age in which man is having his day. 

It is important to understand that the whole book of Revelation was sent to the seven churches for their instruction, and not just the seven letters in chapters 2-3. Why these seven churches? They are representative churches of all the tribulation saints (number of completion, “what the Spirit saith unto the churches”). Why churches in Asia and not Israel? They are scattered outside the land in the tribulation period (Jam. 1:1). 

The word “seven” and “seventh” are used 59 times in Revelation and there are many sets of sevens (churches, Spirits (1:4), golden candlesticks (1:12), stars (1:16), lamps of fire (4:5), seals (5:1), angels (8:2), trumpets (8:2), thunders (10:3), plagues (15:1), vials (17:1), and kings (17:10). This book is the completion of the prophetic program. Seven is a very important number in God’s dealings with Israel (7 feasts, 70x7 in Dan. 9). 

Christ told John that he was to write concerning three things (v.19):
1) The things which thou hast seen (1) – The vision of Christ
2) The things which are (2-20) – the Lord’s day 
3) The things which shall be hereafter (21-22) – eternal state 

Jude

This little epistle of 25 verses and 613 words was written either by the apostle Judas (Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13) or the Lord’s brother (Matt. 13:55). It seems that the writer distinguishes himself from the 12 apostles (compare 2 Pet. 3:2 with Jude 17). It was written during the Acts period and it is written to the same people that the other Hebrew epistles are written to; the kingdom saints. It is easy to read the Body of Christ into v.1, but what about v.21 (compare Rom. 8:35-39)? The kingdom saints are also said to be sanctified (Jn. 17:17) and preserved (Jn. 17:11-12). God will keep them IF they keep themselves in His love by keeping His commandments (Jn. 15:1-10). 

The theme of this epistle is stated in vs.3-4. The “common salvation” refers to the salvation which was spoken by the Lord in His earthly ministry concerning the “world to come” (Heb. 2:3-5). The tribulation saints must contend for the faith against the apostate teachers that Satan will plant among them (wolves in sheep’s clothing, tares among the wheat). The false teachers will try to add to and take away from the faith that was once delivered (Rev. 22:18-19). It is “the faith” that was spoken of by the prophets, Christ in His earthly ministry (Jam. 2:1), and His 12 apostles. This is distinct from the “one faith” (Eph. 4:5) that was revealed through Paul for the Body of Christ in this present age. 

I. Introduction (vs.1-2)
II. Purpose of the letter (vs.3-4)
III. Past examples of God judging apostasy (vs.5-7)
        A. Israel in the wilderness (v.5)
        B. Fallen angels (v.6)
        C. Sodom and Gomorrah (v.7) 
IV. Portrait of apostates (vs.8-19) – about 30 marks to identify them 
V. Prevention of apostasy (vs.20-25)
        A. Building (v.20)
        B. Praying (v.20)
        C. Keeping (v.21)
        D. Looking (v.21) 
        E. Reaching (vs.22-23)
        F. Trusting (vs.24-25)

There are many triplets in this epistle:
1) Sanctified, preserved, called (v.1)
2) Mercy, peace, love (v.2)
3) Ungodly, turning, denying (v.4)
4) The people, angels, the cities (vs.5-7)
5) Defile, despise, speak evil (v.8)
6) Cain, Balaam, Core (v.11)
7) Spots, clouds, trees (v.12)
8) Fruitless trees, raging waves, wandering stars (vs.12-13)
9) Murmurers, complainers, boasters (v.16)
10)   Separatists, sensual, not the Spirit (v.19) 

Epistles of John

God inspired the apostle John to write five books of the NT (only Paul wrote more). Although his name appears nowhere in these epistles, that he is the writer is easily seen by comparing them with the Gospel of John and Revelation. For example, John is the only writer who calls Christ the “Word” (Jn. 1:1, 14; 1 Jn. 1:1; 5:7; Rev. 19:13). The three epistles are written in the same style and the latter two illustrate the doctrine of the first. 

The name John corresponds to the OT name Jonah, which means “a dove”. John was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, and was the younger brother of James. The brothers worked with their father until Christ called them. They were two of the twelve apostles that Christ chose on earth and sent to Israel with the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 19:28). Peter, James, and John are often referred to as the “inner circle” because Christ seemed to set them apart from the twelve. He is known as the beloved disciple because in his gospel he often referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. 

We have literally no information as to the dates of his writing outside of his own epistles. No one can help us. Neither ancient writers, nor modern critics, can tell us anything beyond what we can read for ourselves in John’s own writings. All else is conjecture. It is commonly believed that all of his writings were written very late in the first century and were the last books to be written (85-95 AD). There is absolutely no biblical proof to support that claim. The gospel of John was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Jn. 5:2). Tradition says that John was exiled by the Roman emperor to the isle of Patmos in 95 AD, but that is not why John said he was there (Rev. 1:9). It is my opinion that John wrote all of his books during the Acts period and that Paul is the one who wrote the last books (Col. 1:25). 

The first epistle is not addressed to anyone in particular as the other two are (2 Jn. 1; 3 Jn. 1). John calls his readers “little children” nine times in his first epistle. I believe that he wrote to the children of the kingdom (Matt. 18:1-14; Jn. 13:33). In the transition period of the book of Acts there were two distinct groups of believers (kingdom church and the Body of Christ) and one was fading out while the other was fading in. As late as Acts 15 it is clear that John’s ministry was still to the circumcision (Gal. 2:9) and there is no evidence that ever changed (3 Jn. 7; Jam. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1). John’s epistles as well as all the Hebrew epistles have a future application to the Jewish tribulation saints (2:18, 28). 
 
John plainly states some of the reasons that he wrote this first epistle: 1:3-4; 2:1, 26; 5:13. He emphasizes KNOWING the truth (33 times). Throughout the epistle John draws stark contrasts:
Light vs. Darkness (1:5)
Righteousness vs. Wickedness (3:10) 
Love vs. Hatred (3:14-15)
Truth vs. Error (4:6)

What was the first sign Christ gave when His disciples asked Him about the sign of His coming and the end of the world (Matt. 24:3-5)? I believe that his main purpose in this epistle is to exalt Christ (Jn. 20:30-31) and expose the antichrist (4 times; “wicked one”, 4 times). There is an emphasis on believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who already came in the flesh (1:1-3; 4:1-3). John also writes to show the difference between their followers (3:10).  He gives a series of tests (“hereby we know”) to discern the wheat from the tares (Matt. 13:36-43). He often uses the expression, “If we say” or “He that saith” (ex: 1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, 6, 9; 4:20). The little word “if” is a key word (21 times). 

2 and 3 John are the two shortest books in the Bible (13 and 14 verses). They are very similar in style and were obviously written by the same writer who wrote 1 John. They are like appendixes to 1 John. The doctrine of 1 John is applied to the home (2 John 10) and the local assembly (3 John 9-10). The dispensational setting is the same as 1 John. It is aimed primarily at the tribulation saints living on the last days of Israel’s prophetic kingdom program. Of course, as with all scripture, there are applications for us. 

The theme of 2 John is walking in the truth (v.4). 

I. Introduction and greeting (vs.1-3)
II. Commendation for walking in the truth (v.4)
III. Commandment to love one another (vs.5-6)
IV. Cautions concerning false teachers (vs.7-11)
V. Conclusion and greeting (vs.12-13)

John writes his third epistle to a faithful kingdom saint named Gaius. In this letter he mentioned two other men (Diotrephes and Demetrius), one evil and the other good (1 Jn. 3:10). Evidently they were both leaders in the same church. John had written a letter to their church and sent it with certain brethren. They were rejected by Diotrephes but received by Gaius and Demetrius. 

I. Introduction (v.1)
II. Gaius (vs.2-8)
III. Diotrephes (vs.9-11)
IV. Demetrius (vs.12)
V.     Conclusion and Greetings (vs.13-14)

Monday, July 18, 2016

2 Peter

The apostle Peter wrote this second epistle to the same group as the first epistle (3:1). Both of Peter’s epistles were written to the scattered Jewish believers to remind them of the words of the prophets and the 12 apostles concerning the last days and the coming of the Lord (3:1-4). In his first epistle he speaks of the coming of the Lord as being “at hand” (4:7). In this epistle he knows that it has been postponed due to the longsuffering of the Lord (3:9). The difference is that between the writing of his two epistles he came to know some things about Paul’s ministry (3:15-16; 1 Tim. 1:16). 

By the time Peter wrote this epistle, Paul had already written a number of his. Paul wrote Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Romans, and 1 & 2 Corinthians during the Acts period. The saints recognized his writings as scripture (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:16). Some try to use v.15 to prove that Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews. However, not everything Paul wrote was scripture. For example, he wrote an epistle to the Corinthians before he wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9). All of the epistles that he wrote by inspiration of God are preserved in the Bible and they all start with his name (2 Thess. 3:17). Peter wrote this epistle not long before his death (1:12-15; Jn. 21:18-19). I think that it was likely written toward the end of the Acts period, in the early 60’s AD. 

Just because Peter knew of Paul’s ministry does not mean that he changed his. He continued as an apostle to the circumcision and wrote his last epistle to confirm that their prophetic kingdom program will be fulfilled (1:10-21; 3:8-14). 

The key word of this epistle is “knowledge” (1:2-3, 5-6, 8; 2:20; 3:18 = 7x’s). It begins and ends with a reference to the knowledge of God (1:1-4; 3:17-18). That knowledge is to be fruitful (vs.5-11) and based on the truth of God’s word (vs.16-21). As a faithful shepherd, Peter writes to warn the sheep against false teachers (2:1) and scoffers (3:3). It is possible for them to “fall” (1:10; 3:17) if they don’t overcome the deception of the last days (2:18-22). 

I. Knowledge of the Truth (1)
II. Warning Against False Teachers (2) 
III. The Day of the Lord will Come (3)

For emphasis, the Lord inspired both Peter and Jude to write a similar description of false teachers (compare 2 Pet. 2 with Jude). Satan will plant many wolves in sheep’s clothing among the godly remnant of Israel in an effort to lead them astray (Matt. 7:15). It will be absolutely vital for the little flock to identify the deceivers for who they really are. 

Peter was the leading apostle to the circumcision and Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. Although given distinct ministries, there are similarities between them (ex: same miracles recorded in Acts). It is interesting to compare their last epistles. For example:
Both are written with a knowledge of impending death (2 Tim. 4:6; 2 Pet. 1:14)
Both speak of the supernatural origin of the scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21)
Both warn of apostasy in the last days (2 Tim. 3:1; 2 Pet. 3:3) – different last days 
Both warn against false teachers (2 Tim. 2:16-18; 3:6-9, 13; 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 2). 

 

1 Peter

The apostle Peter wrote this epistle to the believing Jews that were scattered as strangers throughout Asia (1:1) in order to exhort them to be faithful in their suffering and remind them of the coming glory they will see and experience at the second coming of Christ (1:11; 4:13; 5:10). He refers to suffering 17 times and glory 14 times. The end of James naturally leads into this epistle (Jam. 5:7-11). There is no doubt that he is writing to Jews (1:18-21; 2:11-12). 

There were Jews from the areas mentioned in 1:1 that heard Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). Those that repented waited in Jerusalem for the kingdom until they were scattered by persecution. Peter is writing as a faithful shepherd to those sheep (Jn. 21:15-17; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:1-4). They are part of the little flock that Christ promised the kingdom (Lk. 12:32; Matt. 21:43; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). Most commentators mistakenly think that Peter is talking about Gentiles in 2:10, but Hos. 1:6-11 makes it clear he is referring to Israel. 

The Lord called Andrew and his brother Simon to leave their fishing business to follow Him and become fishers of men (Matt. 4:18-20). He later chose them to be 2 of His 12 apostles (Matt. 10:2). He gave Simon the name Cephas which means, a stone (Jn. 1:42). Peter is the same name as Cephas (Mk. 3:16). Of the 12 apostles, Peter, James, and John, seemed to be the Lord’s inner circle (Mk. 5:37; 9:2; 14:32-33). Of the three, Peter was the leader (Matt. 16:13-19). That is why Peter was the prominent figure in the first part of the book of Acts. But, Peter is certainly NOT the rock upon which Christ will build His kingdom church! Peter himself testified as to who the rock is (1 Pet. 2:4-8).  

Although Peter came to know something of Paul’s message and ministry (but he confessed that it was hard to understand, 2 Pet. 3:15-16), there is no evidence to suggest that he ever became an apostle to the Body of Christ. He continued to be an apostle to the circumcision until his death (2 Pet. 1:10-21). There are three passages that settle this issue in my mind (Matt. 19:28; Gal. 2:9; Rev. 21:14). Of course, as is the case with ALL scripture, there are spiritual applications in Peter’s epistles for us today (ex: 3:1-7). 

Most commentators date this epistle in the 60’s AD, but I believe that it was written earlier than that. Peter wrote it from Babylon and Silas and Mark were with him (5:12-13). Babylon is Babylon, it is not Rome. There is ZERO evidence that Peter ever went to Rome. The Roman Catholic Church claims he was the first pope and spent many years in Rome. Paul did not salute him in Romans 16 and he did not mention him in 2 Timothy 4. Peter, Silas, and Mark were in Jerusalem in Acts 15. Silas began to travel with Paul after Acts 15. After escaping prison Peter likely traveled and went to Babylon (Acts 12:17) and went back to Jerusalem several years later. There is internal evidence that he wrote this epistle no earlier than Acts 11 (1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 11:26). 

Peter came to learn some things about Paul’s ministry in Acts 15. In his second letter, he knows that the second coming of Christ has been postponed, but in his first letter he believed it was at hand (4:7, 17-18). This epistle has a future application to the tribulation saints when the second coming will once again be at hand (1:1-21; 5:8-9 compare with Rev. 12:12). The great tribulation will certainly be a “fiery trial” (1:7; 4:12-13; Zech. 13:9)!

I. Greeting (1:1-2)
II. Salvation (1:3-2:10)
III. Submission (2:11-3:12)
IV. Suffering (3:13-5:11)
V. Greeting (5:12-14)

James

Most preachers like to preach out of James because it is a very practical book. While there are certainly spiritual applications in this epistle for the Body of Christ, we must understand that it was not written to us. It contains doctrine that simply does not line up with the doctrine taught in Paul’s epistles. Instead of ignoring the differences or trying water them down, we are going to obey the Lord and rightly divide the word of truth. 

For example, there is an obvious difference between the teaching of James and Paul concerning justification. The reason for that is they wrote to different groups under different dispensations! Under the gospel of the kingdom, justification is by faith that works (Jam. 2:24). Under the gospel of the grace of God, we are justified instantly and permanently by faith without works (Rom. 3:28; 4:5) because we are justified by the "faith of Christ" (Gal. 2:16). Of course, good works should follow salvation (Eph. 2:10), but they play no part whatsoever in obtaining salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). 

Which James wrote this epistle? Two of the twelve apostles were named James (Matt. 10:2-4). After the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:7), James (one of the Lord’s brothers, Mark 6:3-4) believed and became the prominent leader in the kingdom church at Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:18; Gal. 1:19). That he replaced Peter as the main leader in Jerusalem was an evidence of the fading out of the kingdom program. All three of the apostles named James ministered to the Jews under the kingdom program and so knowing which one it was does not affect the doctrinal understanding of the epistle. 

When was it written? It was probably written shortly after Acts 8:1 which would date it in the early 30’s AD. It was very likely the first epistle to be written. It is located after Paul’s epistles for a dispensational reason. If James the son of Zebedee wrote it, the date could be no later than the early 40’s AD (Acts 12:1-2). 

To whom was it written? It was written to the twelve tribes scattered abroad (1:1). Historically, they were scattered due to the great persecution mentioned in Acts 8:1 (see also Acts 11:19). It is obvious from the first verse that James did NOT write this epistle to the Body of Christ wherein there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:26-28). There were believing Jews from all twelve tribes in the kingdom church (Acts 2:14, 22, 36). Prophetically, it is written to the twelve tribes scattered abroad in the tribulation period. It is possible that this letter is written to the 144,000 (12,000 from 12 tribes) who will preach the gospel of the kingdom in all the world. They will be the first-fruits of the nation that will be born again at the second coming of Christ  (1:18; Rev. 14:1-4). 
 
Why was it written? The key words are: “faith” (16x’s), “works” (13x’s), and “law” (10x’s). James writes to exhort Jews, whose faith is being tried (1:3), to have true faith that works according to the law (2:12) and endures patiently to the end (Matt. 24:13-14; Jam. 5:7-11). James teaches “pure religion” (1:25-27). The word “religion” is only found 5 times in scripture and it is used in reference to the works of the law. Notice that “pure religion” is to DO and CONTINUE in “the perfect law of liberty”. What is the “law of liberty”?  Many think that the law of liberty cannot be a reference to the law of Moses because it was called a “yoke of bondage” by Peter and Paul (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1). The law was a “yoke of bondage” to those who were required to obey it in order to be saved. Although the law itself cannot save (Rom. 3:20), seeking to keep it by faith was at one time required for salvation (Luke 1:5-6). As a nation, Israel failed under the old covenant but will be saved when God makes a new covenant with them when the kingdom is set up (Heb. 8:6-13). Under the new covenant, Israel will keep the law from the heart because they will be filled with the Holy Spirit. If the law is kept from the heart it is not a “yoke of bondage” but a “law of liberty” (Ps. 119:32, 45; Jn. 8:31-32). The Jews to whom James was writing were filled with the Spirit. The kingdom church of Acts was a preview of Israel in the Kingdom Age (Ezek. 36:24-28). The kingdom church lived by the law (Acts 2:1, 46; 3:1; 5:42; 21:20). Christ will rule by the law in the Kingdom Age (Isa. 2:1-5). 

I. Greeting (1:1)
II. Two kinds of Temptation (1:2-16)
III. Pure Religion (1:17-27)
IV. Justification by Faith that Works (2) 
V. The Tongue (3:1-12)
VI. Two Kinds of Wisdom (3:13-18)
VII. Worldliness (4) 
VIII. The Last Days (5)

The King taught “pure religion” in the beginning of His ministry when He taught the righteous principles of His kingdom in Matthew 5-7. The “Sermon on the Mount” was pure law (Matt. 5:17-20). Compare the following verses and you will easily see that James is a commentary on the “Sermon on the Mount.”

            James                                 Sermon on the Mount
1.         1:2                                         5:10-12
2.         1:4                                         5:48
3.         1:5, 17, 4:2, 5:15                   7:7-11
4.         1:9, 2:5                                   5:3
5.         1:25, 2:10-12                         5:19
6.         1:22, 2:14                              7:21-26
7.          2:8                                        7:12
8.          2:13                                      6:14-15, 7:2
9.          3:12                                      7:16  
10.        3:17-18                                 5:9
11.        4:4                                        6:24
12.        4:8                                         5:8
13.        4:9                                         5:4
14.        4:10                                       5:3-4
15.        4:11-12                                  7:1-2
16.        4:13-16                                  6:25, 34
17.        5:1-3                                      6:19
18.        5:9                                          5:22-24
19.        5:10                                        5:12
20.        5:12                                        5:34


The epistle of James is profitable for the Body of Christ to study (2 Tim. 3:16). It certainly contains moral principles and spiritual applications for us (as with the “Sermon on the Mount”). But, if we fail to rightly divide the epistle of James it will cause us great doctrinal confusion and problems.

Hebrews

The theme of an epistle is usually stated in the introduction. The first four verses of Hebrews is one sentence and it declares the theme of the book. Hebrews is about Jesus Christ and is a further expansion of the message that He preached to His own people in His earthly ministry (2:1-5). What was that message? It was the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:17, 23). Israel will enter her kingdom under the blood of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). The book of Hebrews is a transition book taking the Hebrews from the old covenant to the new and from the tribulation to the kingdom (8:1-13; 12:11-29). Hebrews reveals the changes in the law in preparation for entering the kingdom (7:12, like Deuteronomy). 

The first two verses of the book make it clear that it is written to the Hebrew people which is the earliest name of Israel (Hebrews, Israelite, seed of Abraham, 2 Cor. 11:22). To whose fathers did God speak to through His prophets in time past? To whom did Christ speak in His earthly ministry (Matt. 15:24)? The plural pronouns “us”, “we”, and “our” which are used throughout refer to the Hebrews. This book deals with:
The history of the Hebrews (3:7-4:2)
Their promises and covenants (4:1; 8:6)
Their salvation (1:14; 2:3)
Their hope (3:5-6; 11:1; 2:5; 12:25-29)

There are 29 direct quotations from the OT and 53 clear allusions to it for a total of 82 references to the OT in just 13 chapters! It was written during the Acts period and definitely before 70 AD because Jerusalem had not been destroyed when it was written (10:11). 

The key word in Hebrews is "better" (13 times). Christ is shown to be better than the angels, Moses, and Aaron, and that in Him is a better sacrifice, priesthood, and covenant. The writer of Hebrews speaks of a better:
1) Hope (7:19)
2) Testament (7:22)
3) Covenant (8:6)
4) Promises (8:6)
5) Sacrifices (9:23)
6) Substance (10:34)
7) Country (11:16)

The writer refers to his letter as a "word of exhortation" (13:22). The main exhortation of the letter is stated in the middle of it (6:1-2). There is a danger of the people falling away (6:4-12) and drawing back to perdition (10:26-39). The national salvation of Israel occurs at the second coming of Christ (Acts 3:19; Rom. 11:26-27). That is the reason some passages in the Hebrew epistles make it sound like the people are saved and others that they are looking to be saved. The difference is between individual and national salvation. 

General Outlines:
I. Doctrinal (1-10)
II. Practical (11-13) 

I. A Better Person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1-6)
A. Christ compared to the angels (1-2)
B. Christ compared to Moses (3-4)
C. Christ compared to Aaron (5-6)

II. Better Priesthood: After the order of Melchizedek (7-10)
A. Better order: Melchizedek, not Aaron (7)
B. Better covenant: new, not old (8)
C. Better sacrifice: God’s Son, not animals (9)
D. Better sanctuary: heavenly, not earthly (10)

III. Better Principle: Faith (11-13)

There has always been a debate over who wrote the book of Hebrews. If it was important for us to know who it was, God would have revealed it. Most think that Paul wrote it. The title of the book in most Bibles is, “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.” The titles of the books are helpful, but they are not part of the inspired text of scripture. 

The two strongest passages used to support the view that Paul was the writer are not conclusive:
Heb. 13:23-25 - Timothy was a common name, this may not be the same Timothy that was Paul's son in the faith. If these verses proved that it was Paul who wrote the letter, it would mean he wrote it after Acts 28 because it was written from Italy. That would mean he ignored all the revelations he had already received concerning the Body of Christ and regressed in doctrine. In fact, he would have contradicted some of his own doctrine (Heb. 3:6, 14). 
2 Pet. 3:15-16 – Note that v.15 does not say that the letter he wrote to the Jews was scripture. Not all of Paul’s epistles were given by inspiration (he wrote an epistle to the Corinthians before 1 Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5:9). Those that were written by inspiration of God are preserved in the KJB, and they all start with same word, “Paul.” That was token of his epistles (2 Thess. 3:17). 

Reasons that Paul did not write Hebrews:
Hebrews contains major doctrinal and dispensational differences from Paul’s epistles
Paul would be under his own curse if he wrote it (Gal. 1:6-9)
Someone who heard Christ in His earthly ministry wrote it (1:2)
It concerns the last days of Israel, not the Mystery Age (Acts 2:17)
It does not contain the token of his epistles (2 Thess. 3:17) 

The Hebrew Epistles

Anybody who distinguishes the OT from the NT is a dispensationalist, whether they admit it or not. Everybody divides the Bible to some extent, but sadly most do not rightly divide it. For example, the far majority of professing Christians believe that Hebrews through Revelation is just as much written to them and about them as is Romans through Philemon. They would call those of us who disagree with them “hyperdispensationalists.” The prefix hyper means excessive and going beyond normal. Are we going beyond the divisions that God put in His word when we distinguish the Pauline epistles from the Hebrew epistles? There are certainly spiritual applications in the Hebrew epistles for us today (like Heb. 11:1 and 1 Pet. 2:2), but they make NO mention of the three major doctrines in Paul’s church epistles: justification by the faith of Christ, the spiritual Body of Christ, and the rapture of the Body of Christ to heaven. In fact, the teaching is different:
Compare Rom. 3:28 with Jam. 2:24
Compare 1 Cor. 12:13 with Heb. 3:6, 14
Compare Gal. 3:28 with Jam. 1:1; Rev. 2:9, 3:9
Compare Rom. 8:35-39 with Jude 20-21
Compare 1 Cor. 15:51-52 with Rev. 1:7

James, Peter, John, and Jude were apostles to the circumcision and there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that ever changed! That is why these letters are addressed to the scattered twelve tribes (Jam. 1:1) and strangers (1 Pet. 1:1). The title of the first book in this section should be an obvious tip off (Hebrews)! The books of Hebrews through Revelation are written to and about the godly remnant of Israel who will suffer great tribulation as they look for the second coming of Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom. They have both an historical application to the kingdom church in the book of Acts and a prophetic application to the tribulation saints. 

George Williams in his Student’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (published in 1926) wrote, “The closing Books of the Bible – Hebrews to Revelation – relate to the future, and will uphold the faith of the elect members of the Hebrew people and of the Gentiles who will love and confess the true Messiah, and brave the persecutions of the future false Messiah. These Books specially belong to them, and will be understood by them.” 

There must be scripture written directly to the multitude of tribulation saints that will be living in the time of the culmination of the prophetic kingdom program. Christ foretold of the Hebrew epistles (Jn. 16:12-13). Note the emphasis on the last days of prophecy in the Hebrew Epistles: Heb. 1:1-2; Jam. 5:1-11; 1 Pet. 1:3-13; 2 Pet. 3:1-4; 1 Jn. 2:18; Jude 17-18; Rev. 1:1-3, 7-9. 

The books of the NT are arranged dispensationally, not chronologically. James was probably the first NT book to be written, but it is placed after the Pauline epistles because it is written to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (Jam. 1:1). 
The OT - The King and His coming Kingdom in promise and prophecy
The Gospels - The King and His Kingdom offered and rejected
The Acts - The King and His Kingdom re-offered & rejected, transition to the Body of Christ
The Pauline Epistles - The Kingdom postponed, the King made Head of the Church
The Hebrew Epistles - The King and His Kingdom once again at hand
The Revelation - The King comes to establish His kingdom on the earth

There are three transition books in the NT:
1) Matthew – from prophecy to fulfillment (Matt. 11:13) 
2) Acts – from prophecy to mystery
3) Hebrews – from old covenant to new covenant, tribulation to the kingdom 
*note – there is no transition from Body of Christ back to Israel because this mystery age ends suddenly and abruptly with the mystery of the rapture 

Just as the nine church epistles of Paul are arranged according to the order of doctrine, reproof, and correction for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), so are the nine Hebrew epistles. 

New Covenant in the Blood of Christ
Hebrews = doctrine about the superiority of the new covenant over the old covenant 
James =  reproof for not proving faith by works, pure religion 
1 Peter = correction – their suffering must precede the glory 

The Godly Remnant of Israel 
2 Peter = doctrine – How to make calling and election sure and not fall 
1, 2, & 3 John = reproof – tests to distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil 
Jude = correction – exposing the apostate and false prophets 

The Coming of Christ 
Revelation = primarily doctrine, reproof and correction in chapters 2-3

That the Hebrew epistles are a unit is proven by the fact that end of each one leads into the next one (Heb. 13:20-21; Jam. 5:7-11; 1 Pet. 5:8-9; 2 Pet. 3:17; 1 Jn. 5:19-21; Jude 22-25). The ending of Revelation does not lead into another book because it completes the group (22:21). The ending of Philemon is similar (v.25) because it certainly does not lead into Hebrews! 


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Philemon

This is the shortest of Paul's 13 epistles (1 chapter, 25 verses, and 430 words). It was written during the apostle’s first imprisonment in Rome in about 62 AD (note that he expected to be released, v.22). It is probably the most neglected and overlooked epistle, but it contains many spiritual principles (for example, it demonstrates brotherly love, Christian courtesy, and forgiveness) and it also contains a spiritual picture of great doctrinal truth concerning salvation in Christ. 

On the surface it may seem like just a personal letter between two friends. Why is it in the word of God and how are we to be edified by it? The books of the Bible are arranged according to a divine order. It is fitting that this is placed at the end of Paul's epistles. While it does not set forth doctrinal truth and practical exhortation in the same way that his other epistles do, it illustrates both through a real-life situation.

Paul referred to Philemon as his "dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer". All that we know about Philemon is derived from this epistle. He was a believer (saved through Paul's ministry, v.19) that lived in Colosse (compare with Col. 4:7-17) and was evidently a wealthy man (owned servants, house large enough for the church to meet in). One of his servants, Onesimus, had run away (likely stole from him, v.18) and ended up in Rome. While in Rome, he meets the apostle Paul (details as to how are not given) who leads him to the Lord (v.10). Roman law permitted a master to execute a rebellious servant, but Philemon was a godly man and Paul was confident that he would forgive Onesimus and welcome him back not only as a servant, but as a brother in Christ. Paul was a mediator between his new convert and his old friend. He does not command him as an apostle, but rather beseeches him as, “Paul the aged.” He writes with much feeling (“bowels” referred to 3 times, associated with heart, Jer. 4:19; 2 Cor. 6:11-12). He sent Onesimus back to his master with this letter in which he intercedes to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. He also carried the epistle to the Colossians and possibly Ephesians (Col. 4:7-9). 

I. Greeting (vs.1-3)
II. Philemon’s character (vs.4-7)
III. Intercession for Onesimus (vs.8-21) – The heart of the epistle 
IV. Conclusion (vs.22-25) 

I. Appreciation of Philemon (vs.1-7) - "I thank my God"
II. Appeal for Onesimus (vs.8-17) - "I beseech thee"
III. Assurance by Paul (vs.18-25) - "I will repay"

The scripture does not say that Philemon was a preacher, but he was what all believers should be; a "fellowlabourer" in the work of the ministry ("partner", v.17). The word "fellowlabourer" is associated with the word "fellowship.” Our fellowship should be centered around our labor for the Lord (Phil. 1:4-5; 1 Thess. 3:1-2). Notice also the terms "fellowsoldier" (v.2) and "fellowprisoner" (v.23). Ministry involves much more than preaching behind a pulpit. We need businessmen in the local church who like Philemon will be fellowlabourers in the ministry. Philemon was not too busy to serve the Lord! He served the Lord WITH his family (v.2). His wife (Apphia) was spiritual enough to go along with allowing the church to meet in their house. His son (Archippus) was evidently a preacher (Col. 4:17). A Christian home is more than a Christian family living in the same house. It is a Christian family living out their faith on a DAILY basis and serving the Lord together.

Why did Paul send Onesimus back to his master? Why didn't he rebuke Philemon for having servants? Why did he write this letter instead of "Uncle Philemon's Cabin?” There are several passages in Paul's epistles in which he exhorts servants to be good servants and to serve their master as unto the Lord. He also exhorts masters to be good to their servants and to remember that they have a Master in Heaven.  All believers are spiritually ONE in Christ and enjoy spiritual liberty in Him. However, on this earth there are still physical, social, and earthly distinctions. A saved woman has the same spiritual standing before God as her saved husband, but in this life she still must submit to his leadership. Likewise a saved servant has the same spiritual standing before God as his saved master, but in this life he must still obey his masters authority. 

Paul did not preach a social gospel. Slavery has existed in this world since the fall of man and still does. The church has not been called to make the world a better place to go to hell from! We are called to get sinners saved out of this present evil world. If Paul would have told servants to run away it would have been against the law, endangered the servants, and worst of all it would have HINDERED the gospel. Paul considered the furtherance of the gospel to be much more important than his rights or even his life. For Paul, it was all about personal responsibility and not personal rights (1 Cor. 7:20-24; 1 Tim. 6:1-5). 

By sending Onsesimus back to his master Paul knew that he was not obeying the Law of Moses which illustrates that in this age we are not under the law, but grace (Duet. 23:15; Rom. 6:14). 

The word of God not only plainly states the truth, it also illustrates it through types and pictures. This little epistle provides us with a beautiful picture of salvation by grace. In this picture:
Onesimus represents lost sinners 
Philemon represents God the Father
Paul represents God the Son

There are three great doctrinal truths concerning salvation by grace that are revealed and explained in Paul's epistles that are illustrated by this real-life situation that took place between Paul, Onesimus, and Philemon. 
1) Mediation (v.10) - the truth that Christ is the mediator between God and man
2) Imputation (v.18) - the truth that Christ took our sin and gives believers His righteousness
3) Identification (v.17) - the truth that God now receives the believer as He does Christ

The name Onesimus means "profitable,” but in time past he had been an unprofitable servant to Philemon. Now that he was saved, he was profitable. Based on how he had served him in prison, Paul had confidence that Onesimus would be  an excellent servant for Philemon (Col. 3:22-24). Salvation not only changes our hereafter, it changes us here and now! Evidently, Onesimus desired to return to his master that he had wronged. Those that are right with God desire to be right with others. 

In time past, before salvation, we were unprofitable to God (Rom. 3:10-19). But now, in Christ, we are made profitable (Rom. 3:20-22; Eph. 2; 1 Tim. 4:8).


Titus

Titus was a Greek young man that was saved and trained under Paul’s ministry (1:4). He is not mentioned by name in the book of Acts, but he is mentioned thirteen times in Paul’s epistles (nine times in 2 Corinthians). Based upon the things Paul said about him we know that he was a great help to him in the ministry (2 Cor. 2:13; 7:6; 8:16, 23; 12:18). He went with Paul to the meeting in Jerusalem (recorded in Acts 15) as an example of a Gentile who was saved without circumcision (Gal. 2). He must have been a bold young man for Paul to trust him to stand with him at that controversial meeting. Some think that Titus deserted Paul in the end (2 Tim. 4:10), but that is not clearly stated. 

Titus was overseeing the work on the Island of Crete when Paul wrote this letter to him. He was entrusted him with major responsibility (1:5). Crete was one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Just south of Greece, the island was famous for it’s “hundred cities.” The Cretians did not have a good reputation (1:12-13). The fact that there were now Christian men on the island qualified to serve as elders in the church is a great illustration of the power of the gospel. The Cretians may have been liars (1:12), but God, that cannot lie (1:2), can change anybody by the power of His faithful word (1:9). 

I. Greeting (1:1-4)
II. Church Leadership (1:5-16)
        A. Instructions concerning elders (1:5-9)
        B. Warnings concerning false teachers (1:10-16)
III. Christian Living (2:1-3:11)
        A. Things that become sound doctrine (2:1-10)
        B. What grace teaches believers (2:11-15)
        C. How to treat authorities (3:1-3)
        D. How God saved us (3:4-8)
        E. Dealing with hereticks (3:9-11)
IV. Conclusion (3:12-15)

Like the first epistle to Timothy, this epistle was written after Acts 28, but it is not a prison epistle. From the internal evidence we learn that after Paul’s release from the Roman prison, Titus journeyed with him and they preached in Crete, where the apostle left him to "set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city.” When he completed that work, he was instructed to join Paul at Nicopolis (3:12). 

Paul wrote Titus around the same time that he wrote 1 Timothy (about 65 AD). Titus is similar to 1 Timothy in that they both concern the proper order of the local church (both contain qualifications for leadership). The emphasis in 1 Timothy is on doctrine. The emphasis in Titus is on conduct. 

The word “doctrine” is used sixteen times in the Pastoral Epistles.
Protect the Doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3-4, 18-20)
Proclaim the Doctrine (2 Tim. 4:1-4)
Practice the Doctrine (Titus 2:1, 10)

The major theme of Titus is the necessity for GOOD WORKS to be evident in the life of the believer (1:15-16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14). In this book that emphasizes good works, Paul makes it very clear that we are not saved by works (3:3-7). 

No one can read Titus and say the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus Christ is God. Notice the alternate wording in the following verses: God our Saviour (1:3), Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour (1:4); God our Saviour (2:10), Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (2:13); God our Saviour (3:4), Jesus Christ our Saviour (3:6). 

There are four faithful sayings found in the pastoral epistles:
1) Concerning salvation (1 Tim. 1:15)
2) Concerning godliness (1 Tim. 4:8-9)
3) Concerning eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:10-13)
4) Concerning salvation and good works (Titus 3:4-8)

2 Timothy

This is the last letter written by the apostle Paul before his execution under the authority of the Roman Emperor Nero just a few years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It has 4 chapters, 83 verses, and 1,666 words. These are the last words of a man mightily used of God and take their place alongside other great last words recorded in the scripture (like Moses, Joshua, and David). I personally believe that this was the last book of the Bible that was written (Col. 1:24-26; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2:15). During the transition period covered by the book of Acts, Paul taught that the sign gifts would cease, “when that which is perfect is come” (1 Cor. 13:10). I believe “that which is perfect” refers to the complete revelation of the mystery of this age which is recorded in the sound words of Paul’s epistles. Paul had the sign gift of healing during the Acts period, but not afterwards (2 Tim. 4:20). 

Paul wrote this letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, to exhort him to faithfully fulfill his ministry in the midst of growing apostasy (1:6-15). Apostasy is a willful denial and departure from the truth that you once claimed to believe. Just as God revealed the law for Israel through Moses, He revealed specific doctrines for this age of grace through the apostle Paul. Just as it was apostasy for Israel to deny and depart from the word of God through their spokesman (Moses), so in this age it is apostasy to deny and depart from the word of God through our spokesman, the apostle Paul. There are three major doctrines revealed through Paul that are emphasized in the church epistles; justification by faith alone, the Body of Christ, and the blessed hope. Satan attacks these three main doctrines like nothing else. 

In the first letter to Timothy we see the church in rule, but in this second letter we see it in ruin. It is interesting that the church is not mentioned. In days of apostasy, we should be very thankful if we have some faithful men to commit the truth to (2:2). Timothy was a young, timid, and unhealthy man. It is evident from things said in both letters that Paul was concerned about his faithfulness in the midst of so much opposition and corruption. But just as Paul faithfully “kept the faith,” he could too by the grace of God. 

This letter is divided into four chapters and it may be outlined according to the chapter divisions. Paul makes four appeals to Timothy to be faithful:
I. The Pastoral Appeal (1)
II. The Practical Appeal (2)
III. The Prophetic Appeal (3)
IV. The Personal Appeal (4) 

One of the key words in this epistle is “truth” (2:15, 18, 25; 3:7-8; 4:4). Note the three downward stages of departure from the truth: "erred" (2:18), "resist" (3:8), and "turn away" (4:4). 

There was just a few years interval between the two letters that Paul wrote Timothy, but in that short time the apostasy had gotten much worse. The “some” in 1 Timothy (1:6, 19; 4:1; 5:15; 6:10, 21) became “all” in 2 Timothy (1:15; 4:16). Paul’s prediction that he made while speaking to the Ephesian elders came to pass (Acts 20:29-31). The introductory note to 2 Timothy  in the Old Scofield Bible says, “The Asian churches had not disbanded, nor ceased to call themselves Christian, but they had turned away from the doctrines of grace distinctively revealed through the apostle Paul. This was the proof that already apostasy had set in its first from, legalism.” 

The believers resources in a day of apostasy include: 
The Holy Spirit (1:7, 14)
The form of sound words given through Paul (1:13; 2:2; 2:7; 3:10)
The grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1)
The whole armor of God (2:3-4; Eph. 6:10-20)
True separation (2:16-22)
All scripture (3:16-17; 4:2)
The Lord’s presence and strength (4:16-17)

1 Timothy

By inspiration of God, the apostle Paul wrote 9 epistles to 7 churches (Galatians actually written to a group of churches in the region of Galatia) and 4 epistles to 3 individuals. The epistles to Timothy and Titus are commonly referred to as the Pastoral Epistles because they were written to pastors in regard to the work of the ministry. The emphasis in 1 Timothy and Titus is on the proper order, doctrine, and practice of the local church and in 2 Timothy it is on the apostasy of the professing church. 

It is likely that the apostle Paul suffered two Roman imprisonments and that he wrote this letter during the interval in about 64-65 AD. Timothy was Paul’s “son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2) in that he was saved and taught under his personal ministry. We can glean from the scriptures that Timothy was a young and somewhat timid man, but that Paul considered him to be a faithful and trustworthy fellow-laborer in the ministry (1 Cor. 4:14-17; Phil. 2:18-23). Timothy was the pastor of the church at Ephesus when Paul wrote to him (1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:15). 

The theme of this epistle is stated in the heart of it (3:14-16). The "house of God" is not a physical building because it is the "church of the living God" and a church is a called out assembly of people (Eph. 2:22). The church which is the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23) is made up all believers in this present age that have been saved through believing the gospel of the grace of God. There is only one church which is the Body of Christ. The local church is a local manifestation of that Body in a community. It is an assembly of believers who in fellowship together carry out the work of the ministry. The local churches in the NT had fellowship with one another but were independent and autonomous congregations. The apostle Paul gave orders and instruction to churches (1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 11:28), but he did not exercise dominion over their faith (2 Cor. 1:24). There are no apostles today, but everything we need to know about the local church is preserved for us in Paul’s epistles. The problem with most churches today is that they do not follow Paul as the spokesman to Body of Christ. The introductory note to 1 Timothy in the Old Scofield Bible says, “Well had it been with the churches if they had neither added to nor taken away from the divine order.” 

The church is to be the pillar and ground of the TRUTH. The church should be all about spiritual edification, not carnal entertainment. It is about building believers in the faith, not about building a “campus”. Paul refers to “doctrine” 17 times in the Pastoral Epistles. He emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine and warns against false doctrine. 

I. Introduction (1:1-2)
II. Pastoral Charge (1:3-20)
III. Priority of Prayer (2:1-7)
IV. Proper Order (2-3)
        A. Men and women (2:8-15)
        B. The office of bishop (3:1-7)
        C. The office of deacon (3:8-13)
V. Purpose of the Letter (3:14-16)
VI. Preventing Apostasy (4)
VII. Practical Instructions (5-6)
        A. Widows (5:1-16)
        B. Elders (5:17-25)
        C.  Servants (6:1-2)
VIII. Practical Admonitions (6:3-21)

Friday, July 1, 2016

1 & 2 Thessalonians

The historical record of how the Lord used the apostle Paul to start the church at Thessalonica during his second missionary journey is found in Acts 17. From the very beginning this church faced affliction. The unbelieving Jews instigated an uproar in the city that caused the brethren to send Paul away by night. He was very concerned for this young church and so sent Timothy to further establish them and to comfort them in their affliction. Timothy met back up with Paul in Corinth and gave him a good report on the church. Paul sent the first letter in about 52 or 53 AD from Corinth (Acts 18) and the second letter was evidently sent not too long after the first. The Thessalonian letters may have been Paul’s earliest inspired writings but they are placed last in order of the church epistles because of their content. The emphasis is on the coming of the Lord which will conclude this present age and is the consummation of our hope. We have already considered how the church epistles are arranged in order best suited for our edification.  

In the first letter Paul writes to express his thankfulness for the church, review his ministry among them, comfort them in their affliction, exhort them to continual growth in their Christian walk, and further instruct them concerning  the coming of the Lord. The 5 chapters may be simply divided into two main sections:
I. Personal (1-3)
II. Practical (4-5)

The emphasis in the first letter is on the secret rapture of the Body of Christ up to heaven which was a mystery revealed to Paul. The Body of Christ is the great mystery that Christ revealed through Paul (Eph. 3:1-13) and our rapture to heaven is one of the accompanying mysteries of this age (1 Cor. 4:1). It is Paul alone that shows us this mystery (1 Cor. 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:15). Reading our rapture into prophetic passages outside of Paul’s epistles will lead to false doctrine and rob us of our blessed hope. What we believe about the blessed hope is very important! The apostle Paul has much to say about our hope (Eph. 1:18; 4:4). 

In the second letter Paul writes to correct the false teaching that the Body of Christ will go through the day of the Lord. He also corrects the disorderly conduct which was the result of believing that false doctrine (1 Cor. 15:33). Some had quit working because they thought the world was about to end. We may outline the letter based on the chapter divisions:
I. Encouragement (1)
II. Correction (2)
III. Exhortation (3)

The day of the Lord is when the Lord will pour out His wrath on the world (Isa. 2:1-12, 17-21; 13:6-13). It is the second coming of Christ in particular, but it includes what leads up to it (tribulation period) and what follows it (kingdom age). The false teachers troubled the church at Thessalonica by telling them that their affliction was proof that the day of the Lord was at hand (which would mean that they were in the tribulation period). They even presented them with a counterfeit letter from Paul that supported their teaching (2:1-2; 3:17). 

Paul very plainly states that the Body of Christ is not appointed to wrath but salvation from it (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9). The whole seven year tribulation period will come as a result of God’s wrath (not just the last part as some teachers claim). The whole seven year tribulation period is the subject of prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27). Therefore, we know that the Body of Christ will be taken off the earth BEFORE that period ever begins because we have nothing to do with either the wrath of God or the prophetic program of Israel! Many Christians are troubled today because they are being taught that we will not be raptured before the tribulation period. Christians must deal with tribulation in this present evil world (1 Thess. 3:3-4) but we are not going through the prophesied tribulation period which is called the “time of JACOB’S trouble” (Jer. 30:7). 

The church at Thessalonica was being troubled from without (facing fierce persecution) and within (false teachers among them). In chapter one Paul encouraged them by thanking God for their patience and faith in the midst of the tribulations they were enduring and by explaining that God will recompense tribulation to their enemies in the coming day of the Lord. In chapter 2 he clears up their confusion that was caused by the false teaching that the second coming of Christ was at hand. The church at Thessalonica lost their blessed hope (compare 1 Thess. 1:3 with 2 Thess. 1:3) because they listened to teachers who were saying things that did not line up with Paul’s teaching (2 Tim. 2:7). False doctrine troubles the hearts and minds of God’s people but sound doctrine produces a sound mind (2 Thess. 2:16-17; 2 Tim. 1:7). 

Chapter 2 provides a basic overview of the correct order of events in the tribulation period:
Beginning = A falling away first (v.3) – Israel makes a covenant with the Antichrist 
Middle = The man of sin is revealed (vs.3-8a)
End = The coming of the Lord to destroy him (v.8)

It is crucial to understand that the “day of Christ” (2 Thess. 2:2) is not referring to our rapture but to the day of the Lord. Those who teach that we are going through the tribulation claim that in this passage Paul is teaching the rapture will not occur until after the man of sin is revealed (v.3). If the “day of Christ” referred to here is our blessed hope, why would the Thessalonians be shaken in mind and troubled for believing it was at hand? Paul uses phrases like “day of Christ” and “day of the Lord Jesus” in reference to the rapture and judgment seat of Christ. However, here he is clearly referring to the day of the Lord which comes AFTER this age because that is what he is talking about in the context. Christ is the Lord and so the "day of Christ" can certainly be referring to the "day of the Lord." Context determines how it is being used. I don't believe the text should be changed to say the "day of the Lord" because the KJB is perfect. That the "day of Christ" and the "day of the Lord" can be used interchangeably is a good proof for the deity of Christ.  

Even though we are not the subject of prophecy we need to learn the whole Bible (Rom. 16:25-26). We learn by comparison and contrast. Understanding the tribulation period makes me thankful that I will be delivered from it! The root reason for all the confusion that abounds today about the tribulation period and the second coming is a failure to rightly divide mystery truth from prophetic truth. We are living in parenthetical mystery age that interrupted the prophetic program concerning Israel and the kingdom. Therefore prophecy concerning Israel is NOT being fulfilled today and will not be until after this age closes with the rapture. Most teachers do not recognize Paul’s authority as the spokesman for this age and so they mix the word of truth instead of rightly dividing it. Paul deals with prophecy in 2 Thess. 2 but his point is not that we should be looking for these things but rather that we should NOT. We are to be looking for the blessed hope of being gathered together to meet Christ in the air, not for signs and the antichrist (1 Thess. 1:10; Phil. 3:20; Titus 2:13)! 


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