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A New Year, A New Challenge

By: Scott Morton

This marks the beginning of a new year. For many people, this means making a New Year's resolution related to something they are promising they will do. There is a major problem with these, as most people have broken whatever their resolution is within the first few days of the New Year.

The Apostle Paul states something in 2 Timothy about how a person who is a member of the Body of Christ should be conducting themselves. This is an important passage, as it challenges us on what we should do:

2 Timothy 1:13-14

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. [14] That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

In this passage, we are being told to hold fast the form of sound words. The sound words come from the Word of God, as this is what produces faith (Romans 10:17). The sound words are the things given to the Apostle Paul by the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). The sound words are understood by members of the Body of Christ today when the principle of right division is used:

2 Timothy 2:15

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

It is interesting to note that there are many passages speaking about studying or meditating in the Word (Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 119 are examples of this). None of these passages speak about how an individual is study the Word of God. It is only the Apostle Paul who brings up this concept.

There is a reason why this does need to be addressed. There is a lot of confusion created when someone takes a passage from the Bible and applies it to them when it should not be. This happens because the promise sounds good on the surface, but does not belong to members of the Body of Christ. The following passage is an example of where this happens:

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

The promise of this verse sounds pretty good, especially when you watch the news. It is not hard to see all the problems going on in the world today. This verse here seems to be the perfect solution. If only the people of the United States would turn from all of their sin and turn their lives over to God. This would be the solution to all of the problems we face as a nation.

There is a major problem with this line of thinking. Who does the Bible define as being the people of God?

Exodus 4:22-23

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: [23] And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

The nation of Israel is the people of God. They are referred to as being the son of God. There were numerous promises made to them related to this position they have in the eyes of God. They were to be made a nation of priests and were called a peculiar treasure (Exodus 19:5-6). These promises made in the Old Testament deal with the nation of Israel.

The question then is what about the Gentiles? How did God view the Gentiles during this period, if the nation of Israel was defined as His people? The Apostle Paul gives us the information on how God viewed the Gentiles:

Ephesians 2:11-12

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

This is how the gentiles were viewed during time past. They were considered aliens and strangers. They were without God and without the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a horrible position to be in. the only hope the Gentiles had was they could join themselves to the nation of Israel and follow all of the commands given to this nation. We need to understand this, as this gives us the information about how we should consider the Old Testament (Genesis through Malachi). These are promises made to the nation of Israel and are not part of our doctrine.

While most people have an understanding of this, they then struggle with the next section of the Bible; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Many people want to believe these books are written to them and deal with God bringing salvation to the entire world. This is not what is seen in these books:

Matthew 10:5-10

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. [9] Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, [10] Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

The Lord Jesus Christ is giving specifics on what the 12 Apostles are to do. They are to be going to the people of Israel and teaching them that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. They are specifically told not to go to anyone else.

It is amazing to consider how many people can read through Matthew and not see this. They want to make themselves Israel and will do all sorts of things to try to make this true. They will claim it does not really mean Israel, but is talking about all people. They will say all people who are believers are considered to be Israel in the eyes of God.

While it might be nice to think this way, it is simply not true. When God is referring to Israel, He is speaking to a distinct group of people. There is a reason why Israel is dealt with here. They are fulfilling the promises of God and will be responsible for inheriting the earth after it is reconciled to God. They have been promised all of the earthly blessings in the Bible.

The next question then is what about us. What does God have in store for the Gentiles during this dispensation?

Ephesians 1:1-3

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: [2] Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. [3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Ephesians 2:4-7

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, [5] Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) [6] And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 6:12

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

In these three passages, the Apostle Paul brings up the promises given to those who are members of the Body of Christ. While the passages speaking of Israel spoke of a kingdom being established on the earth, the members of the Body of Christ are promised spiritual blessings in heavenly places. These three passages from the book of Ephesians are just a sample of the promises made to those who are members of the Body of Christ.

There are different promises given to those who are part of the two groups because God has done different things with them. Another example of this is how someone joins themselves to these groups:

Matthew 19:16-22

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? [17] And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. [18] He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, [19] Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [20] The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? [21] Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. [22] But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; [2] By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. [3] For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; [4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

These two passages show two different ways an individual can be saved and receive eternal life. In Matthew, the young man comes up and specifically asks what he would have to do to inherit eternal life. The first thing he is told by the Lord Jesus Christ is to keep the law. This is the covenant that was given to the nation of Israel and it was important for them to be keeping this covenant.

It is after this statement and the acknowledgement of the young man of doing this that we see another piece of information added. The Lord Jesus Christ tells him to sell all he has, give it to the poor, and follow Him. The young man refused to do this because of the large number of possessions he had. While this passage may seem confusing to people, we see in Acts 2:45 and Acts 4:34-37 individuals doing this after they had received salvation. It was an important part of the salvation process, as it was preparing them to be able to enter into the kingdom and rely completely on God to do everything for them.

The Apostle Paul gives us a different message in 1 Corinthians. He speaks of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He does not mention any works associated with this salvation, instead it being done through belief (Romans 4:5), which means we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is a completely different message from what had been preached during Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Apostle Paul shows how it is a member of the Body of Christ is able to receive salvation. This is the only thing a person can put their trust in today to be able to achieve salvation.

The title of the article mentioned a new challenge for those who are members of the Body of Christ. The challenge has to do with what it is we should be doing. The Apostle Paul gives us a couple of instructions on what we should be trying to do today:

2 Timothy 1:13-14

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. [14] That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

There is something committed to us as members of the Body of Christ. This is the message given to the Apostle Paul (Galatians 1:11-12) that has been passed down to all of those who have received this message. It is what the church at Thessalonica recognized as being the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

It is hard for some people to hold to this truth. They want to be popular and know this message is not the easiest thing for most people to accept. Therefore it becomes easier for them to teach something they feel will be accepted and go away from this message. Others have what the Apostle Paul referred to as itching ears (2 Timothy 4:1-4) and will turn away from the doctrine given to them. They go along with the things of this world, as he warns later in the same chapter:

2 Timothy 4:10-11

For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. [11] Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.

The Apostle Paul speaks here of three people who have left him (Demas, Crescens, and Titus). One of these people (Titus) has a book of the Bible written to him and traveled with the Apostle Paul. The reason why they left is they loved the present world more than they loved the Word of God. This is often a trap individuals fall into and this is a warning being given here.

In order for them to go to into the world, these cities would have been in the things of this world as well. These are places where the Apostle Paul had traveled and had written epistles unto the church in existence in these areas. These churches would have lost their effectiveness and would no longer be functioning. This is the definition of apostasy:

Apostasy

APOS'TASY, n. [Gr. a defection, to depart.]

1. An abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion, or departure from one's faith or religion.

2. The desertion from a party to which one has adhered.

3. Among physicians, the throwing off of exfoliated or fractured bone, or the various solution of disease.

4. An abscess.

This definition comes from Webster´┐Żs 1828 Dictionary. There are those who fall away from teaching the truth all the time. This is unfortunate, as the Bible warns of this and it is something all members of the Body of Christ are to be on the lookout for.

When you understand right division, you have the truth of what God's Word is saying. This is something that needs to be held onto, so others may hear this message:

Ephesians 3:8-12

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; [9] And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: [10] To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, [11] According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: [12] In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

The Apostle Paul shows hear what the purpose of his ministry was. It was to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery. He knew this message had been committed to him and he was going out and teaching this message. This is the gospel message listed above (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

As members of the Body of Christ, we need to follow the example of the Apostle Paul. We need to work to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery. This year, we need to do everything we can to spread this message in order to give hope to this world.



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