Grace Family Bible Church
Paul and the Mystery
By: Scott Morton
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:  Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
The Apostle Paul starts to speak about some of the things which are true of him related to his role in the Body of Christ. He has a lot to say in his epistles about whom he is and why he was given this role. This is done because he has to defend his apostleship from those who think the only program was the one that was dealing with Israel.
The starting point for this is the issue of suffering, which seems to be a strange place to begin. Most people do not like to think about the issue of suffering and think that there must be something wrong if the believer has any suffering going on in their life. This is not the promise for us in this dispensation:
Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:  And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.  But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
It was promised from the very beginning of the ministry of Paul there was going to be suffering. These things were all going to occur in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. These come upon him because of the fact that he was following the things which had been given unto him to do. This gets stated in his epistles and should be a help to us when we start to see these things in our lives:
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
2 Timothy 2:11-13
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:  If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:  If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
These two passages show how this is an expected part of the experience we are to have as members of the Body of Christ. There is not going to be a way to avoid these things if we are functioning according to the doctrine which is laid out in Romans through Philemon. Individuals want to not face these things, but this is not what is intended for us. It would be easier to go through life without having to deal with these afflictions, but we see this is part of the life of a believer:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
In spite of what people think about this passage, there is only one fruit. The fruit which has been given to every believer by the Spirit contains the issue of longsuffering. This means we are going to have suffering in our life and it is going to be a major part of it to where it can truly be called longsuffering.
There is also a fellowship we have in suffering (Philippians 3:10). This fellowship centers on His suffering for us. This fact is why we have suffering in our life. The suffering which is mentioned goes along with the identity we have in Christ:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
This is something which many people struggle to see. The thought is that the Lord Jesus Christ is with us, which is what is portrayed in the Gospels to Israel. This is what they were waiting for, which is why He was called Emmanuel (God with us). The members of the Body of Christ have a completely different promise. It is the Lord Jesus Christ in us. This is who is living through us when we are doing the right things, which is why there is affliction towards us. It is actually aimed at the Lord Jesus Christ who is living in us and through us.
This is an identity which was only revealed to the Apostle Paul to give to the members of the Body of Christ. This could never have been written to Israel, as it was not part of their doctrine. This is why Paul could say the following to the assembly in Rome:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
All of the members of the Body of Christ are identified with His death, burial, and resurrection. This became a reality for us the moment we put our trust in the gospel message for today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Based on this, the Apostle Paul states the following:
2 Timothy 1:8-12
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;  Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,  But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:  Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.  For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Paul tells Timothy he needs to be a partaker of the afflictions. These are associated with the stand taken for the gospel message. Timothy was showing signs of trying to avoid these things, which is why this reminder had to be made. Even though he was doing this, Paul still looked at him as faithful and was writing this final epistle to him.
We need to be partakers of these things as well. This is done by our stand for what has been given to us by the Apostle Paul, in spite of the opposition that comes from the world and sometimes from the members of the Body of Christ. This can be tough at times to deal with, which is why the Word of God has given the tools to us to be able to effectively deal with these things as they come up.
Paul speaks about the fact he has been made a minister. While this is not an official position, it speaks of the authority which was given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. This can be seen throughout Paul's epistles, as he has to keep bringing up the authority given to him.
1 Timothy 1:15-16
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
This starts with the pattern the Apostle Paul was made. This pattern does not mean our lives have to look like his, including salvation. If this was the case we would need to be waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ to be appearing to us out of the heavenly places. This does mean the information which has been given to us in the Word of God is functioning to lay out what we need to understand.
Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,  That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
The Apostle Paul lays out the purpose that he had. He is responsible for the ministering of the gospel message to the Gentiles. Earlier in this same chapter he speaks about how the Lord Jesus Christ came and confirmed the promises which had been made to the fathers (Romans 15:8), which speaks of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This shows a clear contrast between the two messages, which is something many people struggle to be able to identify. Paul records in his epistles a ministry which does not line up with what is found in Time Past.
When we look at who the Apostle Paul was prior to his salvation, we can see why it has to be said that he was made a minister. This is not who he was, as he was doing things which were contrary to what God would have wanted done:
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:  And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
Paul was doing things that were negatively impacting the ministry. We was persecuting the church, thinking this is what was supposed to have been done. This was because of his rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah. By not believing this, Paul though He was a blasphemer, which would have made Him worthy of death. This would apply to any that would be followers of Him, which is why we see Paul going around and persecuting the church which existed at that time.
We can also see how Paul identifies this:
1 Timothy 1:12-13
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;  Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
By stating this was being done ignorantly we see that Paul is able to identify this was not being done in a way which would have lined up with God's program. God does not punish those who are doing the right thing. This is always being done by the opposition to the program of God. Paul further clarifies this with the issues of unbelief. He was not a believer and could not have been seen as a believer.
We see Paul refer to a standing in the flesh:
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:  Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
This list of things identifies every advantage Paul had. All of these are related to him being part of Israel and following the things of the religion. While this did give him the physical advantages, he learns this has nothing to do with who we are during this dispensation. We have been given a new identity which is where the focus is supposed to be.
Even though Paul states he had all of these advantages, we see what happened. He did a lot of bad things which are identified in the book of Acts:
Acts 7:54 -60
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,  And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.  And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.  And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.  As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.  And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.  Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
These three passages show what Paul was like prior to salvation during the early part of Acts (the chapter 26 passage recounting Acts 9 in a little more detail). He thought he was doing the right things according to his understanding, but was going against everything of who God is. This is why the things of the flesh cannot be seen as being where God is focusing. There is nothing good in who we are.
This is why Paul speaks about the fact he was made a minister. This had to be separate from the things which he had been doing in the past. When he saw the Lord Jesus Christ in the glory of heaven, he was chosen to be the vessel to teach the information related to the dispensation of the grace of God. This is why Paul starts to speak about the things which were given to him:
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.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
Paul speaks here about things which had been heard from the Apostle Paul and that it was committed unto Timothy. This goes along with what is said in the very next chapter:
2 Timothy 2:2
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Paul speaks here about taking the same things which had been committed to Timothy and making sure this information keeps going. This is how the dispensation of the grace of God keeps going. If the information which had been committed to Paul stops being taught, this dispensation will come to an end.
The Apostle Paul holds up the saints in Thessalonica as an example of how to live the life intended and what individuals are to do with the doctrine given:
1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
These saints took the things which were given to them and accepted it as the Word of God. This means it created faith in their life (Romans 10:17) and dictated how they were going to function as members of the Body of Christ. This is the goal for all of us.
Paul says it was given to him to fulfil the Word of God. Many commentators take this word to mean fully preached. This means so much more than that. The idea of this word is to bring it to completion. This means Paul was the one to complete the Word of God. When he wrote his final epistle, the Word of God was brought to a close and we have that which is perfect. This would bring about the end of the sign gifts in this dispensation, as spoken about in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4.
This means we need to figure out what is the last book the Apostle Paul wrote, so we can see the completion of the doctrine. By looking at the internal evidence, we see that 2 Timothy was the last epistle written. There are many things which show what was going to happen:
2 Tim 1:6
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
Timothy was told that he was going to have to stir up the gift that was inside of him. This is something which was contrary to the early part of the ministry. The gifts were in place to demonstrate to Israel the changes which were occurring. The fact that the gift had to be stirred up now showed the fading away of the gifts, which had been stated in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4.
2 Timothy 1:11
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
Even in this late stage of the ministry is there a need to keep defending his apostleship. Paul had to do this throughout his ministry, as hey were rejecting what he was doing. This statement, even in his last epistle, shows how easy it is for individuals to go against what the Bible says and try to follow the program laid out in a different dispensation.
2 Timothy 2:3-6
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.  And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.  The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
Paul gives Timothy some examples of how the Christian life is supposed to be. Each of these show difficulty that is going to occur with it and how there are going to be things which are faced which will cause problems for the believer. This means the life we are living here is not promised to be easy, which is repeated throughout this chapter.
2 Timothy 2:16-17
But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.  And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
There are things which Timothy is told he is going to need to avoid in his life. These are things which are going to pull people away from the truth of God's Word rightly divided, which is why it is said right after Timothy is reminded about how he is going to have to study the Word of God.
2 Timothy 2:22-23
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
Timothy is being told that there are certain things which are going to try to pull him away from the Word of God because of his youth. We can see this in our society today, as there are things which are geared at younger individuals and some end up entangled in these things. This entanglement keeps them from living the life which God intends for the believer.
Paul doesn't just say what to stay away from. He also gives the answers of what should be the focus. The doctrine is given to us in a way that we should not struggle with trying to figure out what our purpose is, as we have the information present.
2 Timothy 3:1-6
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,  Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;  Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
Most individuals teach this as a description of what the world is going to look like. The problem with this is the world has always looked like this. The description here is of the things which are opposing the truth. This cannot be what Paul is warning about, as he could not call it shall come, as it has already been present.
The Apostle Paul is giving a warning of what is going to happen to the Body of Christ as we approach the end of this dispensation. All of the things which are written in this will describe the local assembly. This is the falling away which will occur. There will not be a way to distinguish the Body of Christ from the rest of the world.
2 Timothy 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
There is a time coming when all who are living as the doctrine lays out are going to suffer persecution. While some in the United States might feel they are having this happen, we are not experiencing this. In the previous verses Paul is telling Timothy to remember what happened to Paul in several cities. Reading through Acts we see these cities and are able to see what Paul is making a reference to. There were some things that happened to him we are not experiencing yet. The time is coming and the encouragement is we need to remain faithful even when these things are happening.
2 Timothy 3:13
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
Paul speaks here about how the evil individuals will be getting worse over time. This includes those who are seducing individuals. We can see this in how those who have once stood for the truth of God's Word rightly divided are being pulled away from teaching the truth. This is going to get worse until we end up with the situation we saw at the beginning of 2 Timothy 3, where the Body of Christ will be looking like everyone else.
2 Timothy 3:14
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
The Apostle Paul does not leave individuals without guidance on how to be able to prevent these things from occurring. We see him encouraging us in making sure we are standing in the truth which has been given to us. This is the only way we are going to be able to get through these situations.
2 Timothy 4:1-5
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
This passage shows the continuation of the instructions and encouragement being given to Timothy by the Apostle Paul. This is the solution to the situation which was described to begin the previous chapter. If individuals are doing these things, the Body of Christ is not going to fall into the trap of being seduced by the false doctrine.
While many think this is mainly a problem for the Pastors of the local assemblies, all members of the Body of Christ have a responsibility related to this. It is why we are all encouraged to study (2 Timothy 2:15). It is up to everyone to make sure they are keeping themselves in the position which has been intended and they are standing for the truth of the Word of God.
2 Timothy 4:10
For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
This passage shows how easy it is for individuals to be pulled away from the truth. Paul names three individuals who forsook him because they loved this present world more than they loved what was being done. One of these individuals was Titus who was someone Paul had ministered with and we can see the care he had for him in 2 Corinthians. This was someone who had an epistle written to him and yet he fell away. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.
2 Timothy 4:11
Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
These are the only individuals which have remained faithful that Paul is having close contact with. The number of people standing for the truth of the dispensation of the grace of God was getting smaller and smaller. This is a reality which we see today. Individuals who have understood this truth are walking away from it. This is a danger everyone has to watch out for.
2 Timothy 4:17
Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
The goal is that this would be fully known by all individuals. Everyone has access to the salvation being offered today (Titus 2:11). There just needs to be a belief in the gospel message which was given to the Apostle Paul for today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This is the only things which can produce salvation today.
This is why there is a focus on the message which Paul has given to us today. He knew his responsibility (Ephesians 3:8-9) and he knows the responsibility each individual has today related to their personal growth (2 Timothy 2:15). We need to make sure we are following the pattern which has been laid out for us.