AS an introduction to this subject, we quote a passage from one of Paul's personal letters, namely, 2 Tim, 2:15, a verse to which many attempts have been made to find a precise meaning.
It reads (in the King James version), "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." The Concordant renders it, "Endeavour to present yourself to God, qualified, an unashamed worker, correctly partitioning the word of truth."
The first part of the verse is fairly clear, although an inversion of the words in the King James rendering makes it even clearer. "Study to show thyself unto God, approved." Not that we are necessarily to show ourselves unto men as workmen approved unto God, but that we are to show ourselves unto Him as approved or qualified. God is the One that matters, what men think of us is immaterial if we have His approval.
It is when we come to the last phrase of the verse that difficulties seem to have arisen. What is meant by "rightly dividing" or "correctly partitioning" the word of truth? The Greek word translated "rightly dividing" is "orthotomeo", which means, according to Dr. Young, "cutting straight." But what does it mean by "cutting straight" the word of truth?
The word "orthotomeo" occurs in its complete form only this once in the Scriptures, and therefore we have no other passages to which we can refer for enlightenment as to its precise meaning. We can, however, study its context in this instance, and in the next three verses we have an example of two people who did not "rightly divide" or "cut straight" the Word of God. We read (C.V.)
"...correctly partitioning the word of truth. Yet stand aloof from profane prattlings, for they will be progressing to more irreverence, and their word will spread as gangrene, of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who swerve from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and are subverting the faith of some."
What did Hymenaeus and Philetus do? What mistake did they make? They put into the past something which was for the future. In other words, they did not see that all things in the Word of God have their appropriate places, and that he who studies to be approved unto God, must be careful not to remove them from their proper settings. Otherwise, truth can quickly become error, and be hard to detect as error, because it seems to have the support of the Scriptures. Hymenaeus and Philetus believed in the Resurrection (they were not like some of the Corinthians who doubted it, see 1 Cor. 15:12), but, because they were placing it at the wrong time, they were teaching error.
Do we not find people in our day teaching the very same thing, namely, that the resurrection, as applied to the Church, or body of Christ, is already past, and have they not also overthrown the faith of some? If the resurrection of the sleeping saints has been accomplished, then our Lord must already have come for them, and those who were alive at His coming must have been changed, for they were not to precede, nor be preceded by, those who were asleep. If this event has already taken place, then none of us still on earth can be in that blessed class, and our hope is vain.
Paul wrote in all nine letters to seven churches, as well as four personal letters. In arriving at this total, we ignore the epistle to the Laodiceans, referred to in Col. 4:16, for this is no part of Holy Writ, unless it is, as many people think, another term for the epistle to the Ephesians.
We also ignore the letter to the Hebrews, which, in the King James version, is attributed to Paul, but which does not bear his name like all his other epistles. It is very unlikely that Paul wrote this letter; its theme is so different from the authorised Pauline writings. Hebrews deals with the future priestly office of the Lord, an office to which Paul makes no reference at all. Why does Paul omit this? Because Paul writes for the present, and the priestly function of the Lord is a theme for the future. A priest ministers only on behalf of people who are in some way estranged from God—who require an intermediary to act on their behalf. Paul allows no estrangement between God and those to whom he writes; our lives, he says, are hid with Christ in God, and in another place (Romans 8:38) he says,
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor messengers, nor sovereignties, nor the present, nor the future, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
Another omission from Paul's writings is the veil, or the curtain between the Holy and the Most Holy in the temple, which is referred to three times in the book of Hebrews. The only veil that Paul mentions is the one which covered the face of Moses, and which in Christ is done away with, and this obviously has no reference to the curtain of the temple - in fact, a different Greek word is used in the original, and, consequently, a different English word in the Concordant Version. Paul does, indeed, speak of a middle wall of partition (C.V. the central wall of barrier) between Jew and Gentile, but shows that it also is broken down. No, Paul will have no barriers, but insists that all are one in Christ, and all have access by one spirit to the Father.
This grand truth of Oneness in Christ is the theme of all the Pauline letters, the silver cord that connects them together, and lifts them far above other writings penned by mortal men. It is clearly evident in the preparatory epistles (Romans 1 and 2, Corinthians, Galatians); it is the all-important feature of the perfection group (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians); and it reaches its climax in the Promise letters (1 and 2 Thessalonians), where it is quoted, in 1 Thess. 4, 7, "So shall we be ever with the Lord."
‘For ever with the Lord.' We were crucified with Him and buried with him (in the preparatory letters); we have been roused with Him and now we live with Him (in the perfection letters) and soon, how soon we do not know, we shall actually be united with Him in the fullest sense in His glory. Our relationship to Christ is prefigured for us under the similarity of a Head and a body, Christ being the Head; and this is a figure which admits of no separation. Bridegroom and Bride may become estranged, but Head and Body never, as Paul tells us in Eph. 5:29 and 30—for no one at any time hates his own flesh, but is nourishing and cherishing it, according as Christ also the ecclesia, seeing that we are members of His body. And in studying Paul's letters, we must remember that God never looks at us except through Christ, for we are "God's achievement, created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:10).
For ever with the Lord/ Amen, so let it be.
Life from the dead is in that word./‘Tis immortality.