Studying the Bible
As we study the Bible, if we want to understand not only what it says in general, but in particular what it says to us today, it makes sense to do what God tells us to do when it comes to properly handling His word. In II Timothy 2:15 the apostle Paul declares the method of Bible study that God wants us to use.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.” (II Timothy 2:15)
To be “RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH” means to recognize and correctly make the divisions in the Bible that need to be made in it because of the two different programs of God that it sets forth.
The Bible clearly declares the fact that God is working out a two-fold plan and purpose. One aspect of His plan and purpose centers around the people of Israel and the covenant God made with Abraham and his seed. God’s plan and purpose with Israel pertains to this earth, and has been the subject matter of “all his holy prophets since the world began.” (e.g. Luke 1:67-75; Acts 3:19-26) The other aspect of God’s plan and purpose centers around His formation of the “new creature,” the “one new man,” the church the body of Christ, which He is forming now in this present dispensation of Gentile grace. God’s purpose with the church pertains to the heavenly places and is something God kept “hid in himself” in ages past, only revealing it when He raised up Paul to be His brand new apostle. (e.g. Ephesians 2:11-3:12) God’s program and dealings with Israel and His program and dealings with the church the body of Christ are NOT the same. Instead they are two distinct programs that the Bible sets forth.
Because of this the “word of truth,” the Bible, must be “rightly divided” as the apostle Paul says. If we do not do this our study of the Scriptures will result in confusion and uncertainty. In addition, we will actually dishonor and disobey the Lord if we try to follow some instructions that are not part of His program and dealings with us today.
ITS RIGHT DIVISION
The chart on the inside of this cover illustrates the RIGHT DIVISION of God’s word.
In the books of Genesis through Malachi, along with the four Gospels and the opening chapters of the book of Acts, God sets forth the details of the “TIME PAST” aspect of His program and dealings with Israel. We Gentiles were “without Christ” and “without God in the world” at this time. (Ephesians 2:11-12) This portion of the Bible records God’s special covenant dealings with Israel and the outworking of His program with them before this present dispensation.
However when God raised up the apostle Paul as a brand new apostle (Acts 9) things changed. To Paul God revealed the “mystery of Christ” – a secret purpose which He has in Christ involving a new dispensation and a “new creation.” Until Paul was raised up God’s program with Israel was in effect. “BUT NOW” God has temporarily suspended Israel’s program and the dispensation of Gentile grace is now in effect. Paul is the “apostle of the Gentiles” in accordance with the revelation of “the mystery.” Hence it is in his epistles of Romans through Philemon that we have the doctrine and instruction from God that is directly TO us and expressly ABOUT us today.
During this present dispensation of grace God is NOT carrying out His program with Israel. Yet God is by no means through with Israel. As Paul teaches in Romans 9-11, God will resume and fulfill His program and dealings with Israel after this present dispensation is over. Israel’s “fulness” is yet “TO COME.” In accordance with this the books of Hebrews through The Revelation follow Paul’s epistles in the Divine layout of the Bible, and they focus upon the resumption and fulfillment of God’s program with Israel.
The Bible records ALL of God’s plan and purpose – His “TIME PAST” dealings with Israel, His “NOW” dealings with us, and the resumption of Israel’s program yet “TO COME.” The RIGHT DIVISION of the Bible in accordance with this layout is the key to its proper handling and understanding. – K.R. Blades