Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to Rightly Divide the Word of God

Many people read the Bible in many different ways.  That's why there are so many different denominations in the world today.  But according to the Bible itself, there is a wrong way and a right way to read the scriptures.  The right way is to "rightly divide" the Bible.  That is, to read it from the standpoint of not only to whom it is written, but when.  It is only then that we find the scriptures opening up to us.
The following simple saying explains so much in helping us rightly divide the word of God:  "All of the Bible is written for us, but not all of the Bible is written to us."  That means that even though the entire Bible is written by God for man, not all of the Bible applies to us today.  For example, we who are Christians are not supposed to keep the law.  We do not offer sacrifices of animals.  We do not go to a temple, nor do we have priests who go to God for us.  In the Bible, we who are Christians are our own priests, who have the sacrifice of Jesus already done for us on our behalf at Calvary almost 2000 years ago, and we ourselves are the temple of God who lives within us! 
How do we know this?  It is by RIGHTLY DIVIDING the scriptures that we find this out. 
So how do we "rightly divide" the Bible?  The answer is much more simple than you think.  Let us now look at some basic Bible divisions, as we seek to rightly divide the word of God

THE OLD TESTAMENT vs NEW TESTAMENT

The first division we find is in the Bible itself is what is called the Old Testament vs. the New Testament.  The Old Testament is what happened historically before Jesus died.  The New Testament is what happened after he died and what will soon happen in the future.  In the Old Testament we find much history, as well as geneology.  We also find in the book of Genesis, which gives us the account of Creation, God's calling of his own people through Abraham, and his forming of the Jewish people through Jacob.  The entire Old Testament thereafter is all about the Jews, God's chosen people.

DIVISIONS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT ITSELF

The Old Testament contains three parts:  The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.   And as we read the Old Testament we find some different divisions within it.  For example, there were those who lived before Moses, that is before God gave the law to his people.  These people lived by the light of their own conscience, and oftentimes God would verbally speak to such people, often even appearing to them in person.  (Something that doesn't happen today).  Under the law, we see God's chosen people, the Jews, serving him, and we read of much of the history of the Jewish nation, it's victories and it's defeats.  Much of the Old Testament is not only history of things past, but also of things to come, for there was much prophecy in the Old Testament, much of which comes from what we call the major and minor prophets.   Even the book of Psalms (Jewish Songs) written by King David contains many prophecies of Jesus Christ well before he came to this world. 
But the law and the propehts, we are told in the book of John, were up until John the Baptist.  That is the forerunner of Jesus, who came to announce the coming of the Messiah. 
Thus, the Old Testament has several distinct divisions.  It starts with the creation and goes to the formation of the Jewish people.  It then goes to Moses who God used to give his law to his chosen people.  But that law was until John the Baptist, for we later learn that Jesus Christ came to redeem sinners from the curse of the law!

DIVISION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

According to the Book of Hebrews, a "testament" is something that comes by the death of a Testator.  Thus, the New Testament of Jesus Christ begins at his DEATH.  When Jesus died, he was buried, but rose again the third day according to the scriptures, and we find that his purpose was to start a CHURCH.  We call the period after Jesus' death in which we live today the Church Age, or the age of Grace, for in this time period, we are saved by GRACE through FAITH and not by works. (Eph. 2:8,9).  Salvation today is by simple trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  It is not by keeping the law or doing good, rather by accepting what Jesus did for us as sufficient to save us from hell. 
Yet the Bible teaches that this time period will not go on forever.  In fact, it is only about 2000 years in length, and its end is marked by what is called the Rapture, in which all Christians are taken to heaven with Jesus.  Afterwards, the Bible tells that the anti-christ will reign on the earth for seven years.  He will put people in bondage and make them to receive a mark on their right hand or forehead.  All those who refuse will be beheaded, according to the book of Revelation.  But God will reserve to himself a remnant (of Jews) who he will be protected by God from the anti-Christ.  And in the book of Revelation, we find that Jesus himself will return from heaven at the great battle of Armaggedon, and will defeat the beast and false prophet and he will rule and reign on earth for one thousand years!  This time period we call the "Millenium" or the "Millenial reign of Christ." 
Thus, we see divisions in the New Testament as well.  There is the Church Age, the Tribulation, and then the Millenial kingdom of God.
 
HOW TO RIGHTLY DIVIDE THE BIBLE

Now that we see the basic divisions in the scriptures (the King James Bible), we must ask ourselves, "What part of the Bible is written for me to follow?"  The answer is simple.  We are now in the CHURCH AGE, and according to the New Testament, we find that the apostle to us Gentiles is none other than the apostle Paul. (Rom. 11:13).  His books from Romans to Philemon are the heart of our doctrine for us today, and we are to follow the teachings in his books.  What does he teach?  He teaches the GOSPEL of our salvation, which is found in 1 Cor. 15:1-4.  It is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins.  When someone trusts in that finished work of Jesus Christ, they are saved!  And according to the writings of Paul, they can never lose that great salvation!  They are a child of God forever!
Rightly dividing, then, is simple if we see the whole picture.  And for us to know the truth today we need to study, memorize, and obey the Pauline epistles.  For it is there we find the doctrine God has given for Christians to follow.

HOW TO WRONGLY DIVIDE THE BIBLE

There are many ways to wrongly divide the Bible.  And there are many denominations that do just that.  Instead of following Paul, they run to the Gospels, or Acts, or Hebrews, or James, or even the book of Revelation, seeking to form their doctrine based upon these books alone.  But when they do so, they forget that God called Paul to preach the gospel and to give us Christians the doctrine of the Church.
To go to the "gospels" to try to find doctrine for us today is very foolish.  Why? Because even though Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are found in the "New Testament" in the Bible itself, the fact is that they speak of things that happened in the Old Testament.  Remember, that the New Testament started at the death of the "Testator."  That means that the gospels speak of Old Testament things until the death of Jesus is recounted in each one.  Thus, going to Matthew 5-8, as many do today, and teaching the "beatitudes" for Christian doctrine is not correct.  Jesus was speaking to his fellow Jews about a coming Kingdom (the millenium).  
Others refuse Paul and run to the book of Acts to form their doctrine.  But to do so causes a great mess!  For the book of Acts is a transitional book.  It starts with Jews preaching to other Jews, and slowly transitions to preaching the gospel to Gentiles.  It also shows us Paul and how he became a part of the Church and God sent him to preach to Gentiles.  We therefore, cannot base our doctrine on a book of "transition."  
Hebrews is another book that many people get confused with.  In that book, it says that someone can lose their salvation.  Yet Paul preached the opposite, with once saved always saved!  So who can lose it?  If you look at the title of the book, it says to whom it was written: "Hebrews."  Are you a Hewbrew?   The same with the book of James, which says a person must have faith and works.  But Paul says we are saved by faith without works.  Isn't this an apparent contradiciton?  It is to those who wrongly divide.  But if you rightly divide, you read the first verse of the book, and find that it's written not to Christians but to Jews. 
There is no confusion nor contradiction when we follow the Pauline epistles written for us today, for we find that God called Paul to preach the Gospel that is for us today.  We do not take our doctrine from the Gospels, Acts, Hebrews, or James.  That is not to say we don't read them.  Of course we do.  We read the entire Bible!  But we make sure to rightly divide it!   We realize that Acts was a transition book.  We see Hebrews and James for what they are, books written to Jewish people.  We take the teaching on the blood atonement from Hebrews, as it corresponds with Paul's writings, but we discern that the lose of one's salvation is not possible today, but it can be possible in the Tribulation, if one were to take the mark of the beast.  We further read James and find there is much in it that applies to Jews who are actually in the Tribulation themselves!

IN CLOSING

Do you rightly divide the word of God?  If you do, then congratulations!  For you will find joy, peace, happiness, and grace from it.  For if you rightly divide, then you know we today are in the CHURCH AGE, an age of GRACE in which God saves sinners by faith without works.  He then seals them until the day of redemption (the rapture).  Today is a great time in history to live.
But if you don't rightly divide then you might be miserable.  Many denominations who don't rightly divide the word of God try to put their congregations into bondage.  They pick and choose parts of the scriptures, and usually do so only to enslave their people.  Many Christian ministers of today preach WORKS for salvation, telling a sinner he must DO something to get to heavenBut, according to Paul's epistles, we aren't saved by what we do, rather by simply trusting in what Jesus already DID for us on Calvary. 
The book of Galatians (written by Paul) is a great book to read about this.  For Paul preached GRACE in his day, and yet he found there were others who preached against him, wanting people to follow the LAW instead.  Paul tells us such people were nothing more than religious slave drivers, seeking to enslave and put others into both physical and spiritual bondage. 
Rightly dividing, therefore, frees us from such people.  When we truly understand that our doctrine for us today comes from the Pauline epistles, we cannot be deceived by others into trying to keep the law.  We know that God has redeemed us from the curse of the law! 

How about you?  Do you rightly divide the scriptures?  I'm not saying you can't read the entire Bible.  You should read it all.  But when you do, you should discern what is written for you and what was written in other times for others.  And you should realize that the Pauline Epistles are written for us today to follow.