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TITLE: HOW DOES ONE RIGHTLY DIVIDE THE WORD OF TRUTH?

Subtitle: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" 2 Tim. 2:15 (KJV)

Among other things, news reporters have always been told to use the "5 W's" (who, what, when, where, and why), so that their articles will accurately reflect the facts as presented. And this principle is vitally important to keep in mind whenever we study the Word of God. We must compare Scripture with Scripture and refrain from lifting anything out of context.

Be not deceived--the Bible can easily be twisted to support false doctrines.

If you need proof of this assertion, just look at Christendom today! Among those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior there are as many conflicting doctrines as there are denominations and sects. Everybody claims they have the "market cornered" on doctrinal truth, but obviously all cannot possibly be correct. So where does that leave us? The sad fact is that millions are in the grip of demonic deception and blissfully ignorant of their perilous state. Hordes of apostate preachers are building fan clubs around their personal charisma and ability to pursuade--with many genuine saints falling for their sales pitch.

"Speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:16 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified, emphasis mine).

"But wicked men and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and leading astray others and being deceived and led astray themselves. 2 Tim. 3:13 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified, emphasis mine).

However, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit genuine believers are able to discern the truth if they truly seek it:

"But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you [to do]. 1 John 2:27 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified).

But one major obstacle we face in rightly dividing the Word of truth is the English language itself! I am certainly no expert in linguistics and the same type of problem may in fact be true of all other languages now extant, but it seems our "mother tongue" is especially easy to misinterpret. Two people often read the very same words and wind up with diametrically opposing views as to what is being stated. For example, I have often used this phrase from an old nursery rhyme to illustrate the point: "Mary had a little lamb....." As a minimum, there are five entirely different ways it can be interpreted--even though some are  ridiculous. (1) Some time in the past Mary owned a little lamb--the offspring of a sheep, or (2) she give birth to it, or (3) the statement is hyperbole indicating the precious "lamb" nature of her baby, or (4) she had lamb for dinner. Then (5) if we resort to "street vernacular" we could add the possibility of Mary cheating the lamb. And there may be more!  See what I mean?

However, the next line of the rhyme says, "...its fleece was white as snow..." Aha! Context narrows the possibilities considerably and with the addition of the next line, "....and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go," common sense should limit the interpretation to #1. But what if several people adamantly insist she "had" it for dinner?  Yes, I know this is straining the extreme limits of the illustration, but bear with me.

A classic example of this principle in Scripture is found in Acts 2:38, where Peter says "....repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..."  Pouncing upon the word "for" and taking it to mean  "in order to receive," Roman Catholics and a few within the ranks of Protestantism are adamant in insisting one must be baptized in order to secure the remission of sins! While on the other hand most conservative, evangelical Christians (myself included) understand the word "for" in this instance to mean "because of" or "with reference to" the remission of sins. So who is right and who is wrong? It is obvious the English language allows a dual interpretation here and that fact is most unfortunate. To determine beyond doubt what is actually being said, one must "rightly divide the Word of truth" by paying close attention to such things as context and the "5-W's" mentioned earlier. Scripture must be compared with Scripture and all conclusions must "fit" with the whole of Scripture. In other words, the Word of God does not and will not contradict itself if properly interpreted. And if there appears to be a contradiction between two or more passages, we had best seek the aid and instruction of the Holy Spirit because we are on shaky ground!

First and foremost, the preponderance of Scripture teaches salvation is by God's grace plus nothing! Secondly, the Greek word translated "for" in Acts 2:38 is eis--an indefinite preposition of reference and is often translated "to" or "unto" throughout the New Testament--clearly indicating its function of reference.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast" Ephes. 2:8-9 (KJV, emphasis mine).

What does the Greek word ergon translated "works" mean? Strong's Concordance say this about it:

ergon,  er'-gon; from a primary (but obsolete) ergo (to work); toil (as an effort or occupation); by implication an act :- deed, doing, labour, work. (emphasis mine).

"Works" in the broadest sense denotes any act, or deed, on our part. But in the context of Ephesians 2:8-9 (and others), the term refers specifically to acts, deeds, etc., which some erroneously believe help them to secure salvation. And the Apostle Paul also speaks against this heresy in the Book of Titus:

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" Titus 3:5 (KJV, emphasis mine).

Once again, the word "works" translates the Greek word ergon. And, interestingly enough, we also find in this verse the phrase "washing of regeneration"--an instance where figurative language is incorrectly held to be a reference to baptism. Regeneration--being born again--"washes" sin from the individual, making his/her record clean before God--not the waters of baptism, even though Acts 22:16 is another verse that seems to suggest this is the case!

"And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" Acts 22:16 (KJV)

In this particular case the Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest translates the word "calling" in the past tense--"having previously called." And this interpretation is consistent with the sequence we find following Saul's (Paul's) conversion experience:

"And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Acts 9:17 (KJV, emphasis mine).

Paul received the Holy Spirit on the road to Damascus when he was born again. He was filled with the Spirit later when he was baptized.

This same sequence of salvation first and baptism later is also seen in Acts chapter 10

"While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. [45] And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. [46] For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, [47] Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" Acts 10:44-47 (KJV, emphasis mine)

For these people, baptism clearly came after the reception of the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit takes up residence, the individual is born again, period! So we want to stress that baptism is as important step of obedience to the Lord's command, but it does not save.

I could go on at length, but my primary intent is not to discuss "baptismal regeneration." That false doctrine (like all others) came about by someone bringing a preconceived notion to the Word of God and lifting "proof texts" to support it. When such things are done, the principle that Scripture does not contradict Scripture is always violated.

Another illustration of "wrongly dividing the Word of truth" involves preachers who blatantly misapply Old Testament principles and precepts to New Testament situations. A case in point is the "name it and claim it" crowd who have been duped into believing God will make them rich if they have enough faith. That promise was made to the Jew of the Old Testament and was contingent upon his being obedient. It was not reiterated in the New Testament and therefore has no application whatever to the Church.

Then there is the little three-letter word "all," which continues to cause problems with interpretation. Consider the following:

"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" 1 Cor. 15:22 (KJV)

In this particular case, both "alls" mean "all without exception"--in other words, all without exception died in Adam, but the second comparison can be (and is by some) wrongly construed to teach a universal salvation. The second "all" is modified by the necessity of being "in Christ" and refers to 100% of those saved by Jesus Christ--not all men everywhere.

Next we have

"One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" Ephes. 4:6 (KJV)

Used by those who erroneously teach the universal Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man, the first phrase does say God is Father of all. So how do we know it does not--indeed can not--mean God is the Father of all men everywhere? Because when we consult the whole of Scripture, we learn the prinicple than one must be born into His family through the new birth before He becomes our heavenly Father. And that overriding principle dictates a meaning of, "....Father of [us] all....," referring of course, to Paul and the believers at Ephesus to whom he was writing.

Still another illustration is found in this verse:

"So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places" Philip. 1:13 (KJV)

Are we to understand that Paul's bonds were manifested all over the world? "All other places" could certainly be interpreted to mean that. But common sense tells us the "all" in this case is relative and, at the maximum, could only refer to those who knew about Paul's confinement.

Speaking of the Gospel message, Paul says:

"Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth" Col. 1:6 (KJV)

Was the Gospel message being preached around the entire world at that time? No, taken in context, this is saying all Jews of the dispersion within the far-flung reaches of the Roman Empire had heard it. That was the known "world" of their day.

Then there is the following, which still causes much dispute among the brethren:

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" 1 Tim. 2:4 (KJV)

First and foremost, we must recognize the fact that if God willed all men everywhere to be saved, then all would be.

"But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him? And what He wants to do, that He does" Job 23:13 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified, emphasis mine).

And the Greek word translated "will" in 1 Timothy 2:4 above actually means "to prefer, or wish." But even with this being the case, does God really prefer or wish that, without exception, all men everywhere be saved? As heartless as this may sound and regardless of how it violates your "comfort zone" of belief--I must insist this is not the case. There the "all"  means "all without distinction"--not "all without exception"--and refers to Jews and Gentiles alike. So if you can put aside preconceived opinion and think about it as objectively as possible, I believe you will see that if God truly wished all men (without exception) to be saved--His Holy Spirit would hound them to the grave! But we know that does not happen because of the following:

"But God turned [away from them] and delivered them up to worship and serve the host (stars) of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: Did you [really] offer to Me slain beasts and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness (desert), O house of Israel?"  Acts 7:42 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified)

"For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions. For their women exchanged their natural function for an unnatural and abnormal one" Romans 1:26 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified, emphasis mine).

 "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient" Romans 1:28 (KJV, emphasis mine)

"Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith" 2 Tim. 3:8 (KJV, emphasis mine)

Do we not see from these passages that the "all" can not possibly  mean all without exception?

He wishes representatives from all ethnicities and groups of men the Bible classifies as Jews and Gentiles--all without distinction--to be saved and history has shown that to be the case. His original choice of Israel has now been broadened to include every race and nation on earth. But it is not His intent to save all of this fallen race--just a few!

"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" 1 Cor. 1:26 (KJV, emphasis mine).

So to insist God's desire is to save everyone, everywhere without exception is just not Scriptural. But what about 2 Peter 3:9, some of you are bound to be asking?  Well, let us try to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" and see:

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)

To whom is the longsuffering of God directed? "To us-ward", or as we would say in present day English, "Toward us."
Then next we need to find out who is being referred to as "us." Well, the following verses tell us this epistle was written by the Apostle Peter to believers:

"Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" 2 Peter 1:1 (KJV, emphasis mine)

"This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance" 2 Peter 3:1 (KJV, emphasis mine)

Therefore, the "us" includes both Peter and the brethren to whom he was writing. And now that we have established the identity of the "us," to whom does the rest of the sentence in 2 Peter 3:9 refer? Is it the whole of mankind as many today insist?

The venerable old commentator Matthew Henry had this to say about the verse in question:

"What men count slackness is truly longsuffering, and that to us-ward; it is giving more time to his own people that they may bring glory to God, and improve in a meetness for heaven; for God is not willing that any of these should perish, but that all of them should come to repentance...." (emphasis mine).

We find this same viewpoint reflected by Jay P. Green, Sr. in his Pocket Interlinear New Testament, where he translates 2 Peter 3:9 as:

"The Lord is not slow as to the promise as some deem slowness, but is long-suffering toward us, not having purposed any of us to perish, but all of us to come to repentance." (emphasis mine).

So who is right and who is wrong in all these instances? I wish I could give you a "chiseled out in granite" answer, but God has seen fit to leave His Word open to personal interpretation. If His intent had been otherwise, He could have given it to mankind  couched in legal terminology. But that would have resulted in a library rather than the Bible we now have! Because when the emphasis is upon eliminating the possibility of "loopholes," great care must be taken to ensure it is worded in a way that can not be twisted to mean something else. And, unfortunately, conciseness is usually aways sacrificed in the process--as demonstrated by the length of most legal documents.

I believe the very fact that God leaves us to interpret what is being stated proves something I explored in a previous article, "Is Possession Of A Bible Necessary For Salvation?":

http://www.cuttingedge.org/articles/p207.htm

My friends, salvation is received by child-like faith, or not at all:

"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. [17] Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. Luke 18:16-17 (KJV, emphasis mine).

How many children understand the theological differences that cause so much heartburn among us adults? The point is that God does the saving and a degree in theology is not required! Knowledge and faith are not mutually exclusive--but they certainly are not synonymous! The occult link between Gnosticism and knowledge continues to strangle Christendom because most who profess Christ today today exhibit a tendency to make knowledge entirely too much of a factor in the salvation of a soul. By that I mean they attempt to "educate" people into coming to Christ through logic and reason (not to mention psychological pressure)--which is something that cannot be done legitimately.

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. [19] For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. [20] Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? [21] For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" 1 Cor. 1:18-21 (KJV)

False professions of faith are all too often the result when such tactics are employed. And we must never allow Satan such an open door because he will always exploit it by sowing tares among the wheat!

"Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. Ephes. 4:27 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified).

The simplicity of the Gospel message is stressed by the Apostle Paul in the first chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians. And that intent ties in perfectly with child-like faith. The Holy Spirit speaks to the heart of the elect individual through the supernatural message and draws them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Many four and five year old children (some even younger) come to the Savior with no adult prompting whatever, because when they hear the Gospel it convicts their precious little hearts--pulling them with cords of love to their heavenly Father. And the same must be true of adults when they come to Christ. When the simple message is preached and the Holy Spirit does His work in the heart, the intent is that everyone  recognize the supernatural power involved, with all praise and honor redounding to Jesus Christ--not foolish preachers who resort to oratory and unscriptural methods.

So our prayer is that God's people will "rightly divide the Word of truth" in such a way as to please Him.

If you have been born again and received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.

If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.

We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order—Kingdom of Antichrist—in their daily news.

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