Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The purpose of the Law and the danger of mishandling that same Law is discussed. The contrast of law and gospel is examined.

“We know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” [1]

The Apostle exposed the motives of the false teachers—they wanted to be teachers of the Law, though they had neither equipping for nor divine appointment to such responsibility. It seems apparent that they yearned for the recognition, the honour and perhaps even the moral authority that attends those who teach the things of God in truth. Exposing these frauds as Paul has done could leave the impression that the Word of God can be twisted into whatever shape an individual wishes. In fact, that is a common perception among many outsiders looking in at the Faith. They believe that the Bible can say about anything, depending upon the intent of the one presenting that word.

That reminds me of the man who took his daily guidance from a casual approach to the Word. It was his habit simply to let the Bible fall open. Then, dropping his finger to a page, he would read the verse on which his finger alighted. He would take that whatever he read was “God’s marching orders for the day.”

One day, his finger fell on a verse that left him disquieted, to say the least. The verse read, “[Judas] went and hanged himself” [MATTHEW 27:5]. He concluded that surely this verse had no application in his situation. Therefore, he closed his Bible and let it fall open once more. This time, the verse on which his finger landed read, “You go, and do likewise” [LUKE 10:37]. Thoroughly shaken, the man realised that this verse surely could not apply to him. Therefore, he once again closed his Bible and let it fall open. This time his finger alit on the verse that reads, “What you are going to do, do quickly” [JOHN 13:27].

I suppose it is possible to make the Bible say whatever one wishes it to say; however, a well-established hermeneutical principle cautions, “Any text out of context is pretext.” One who reads the Word is responsible to consider what is said in the context in which it is presented. For instance, you will note that on several occasions the Bible faithfully records the words Satan spoke. We know that the devil is “the father of lies” [JOHN 8:44]. This does not mean that Satan is to be obeyed or that his word is to be accepted as accurate; it does mean that the Bible faithfully records the statements that the evil one made. Similarly, there are instances when things are communicated that are blatantly false. While the Word of God faithfully records what was said, one should not conclude that God approves of falsehoods. The one reading the Word, and especially the one providing exposition of the Word, is responsible to handle carefully the Word, ensuring accuracy in what is communicated. The Apostle cautions anyone who would serve as a spokesman for God, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” [2 TIMOTHY 2:15].

Let’s invest time exploring the Apostle’s presentation in order to discover the error these false teachers made. If we can determine how they erred, we will be better equipped to expose similar errors in our day, and also to avoid falling into the trap of such errors ourselves. Join me in exploring the Word of God as Paul explains how false teachers were misusing the Law.

THE LAW IS GOOD, BUT LIMITED — The initial matter which the Apostle addresses is the value of the Law. Nor is this the only time in his writings that Paul will speak of the Law and its value. Here is a point to note for those who will fully understand what the Apostle has written. Paul has been warning against false teachers, some of whom may actually have been among the elders who met with him at Miletus [see ACTS 20:17-38]. Thus, as I read what he writes in this text, the opening words jump out at me: “Now we know…” The Greek word used is oĆ­damen, implying an intuitive knowledge in contradistinction to knowledge that is acquired through experience or relationship. Paul’s point is that this knowledge is complete and not being acquired.

The second point to note is that Paul uses the first person plural form of the perfect tense, implying that he is drawing a distinction between himself and Timothy—and all who believe—from the false teachers. Those who know God and who are appointed by God possess this knowledge; the false teachers do not possess this knowledge.

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