Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

'Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the world of truth."(2 Tim. 2.15)

· Have you ever wondered why today's Christians can eat pork even though in the Old Testament men were forbidden to do so?

· Or, do you know people (or, perhaps yourself) who shun Christianity because Christians can't seem to agree on anything?

· And what about all those contractions in the Bible?

These are all valid concerns, but when a person begins to "rightly divide" the word of truth, as admonished by Paul to Timothy, these seeming difficulties and disputations are resolved. To "rightly divide" means that God has dealt with mankind at different times with different expectations from him. Although it is profitable for us to read the entire Bible (2Tim.3:16), it is imperative that we understand which part of the Bible is intended primarily for us in this time of Grace. The following excerpt from the book "Things That Differ" by C.R. Stam explains:

"If I should step inside a modern United States Post Office all would doubtless seem very confusing to me. But it would be a mistake to suggest piling all the mail neatly into one corner and handing it out promiscuously to all comers as some would do with the Bible. The postal employees must rightly divide the mail so that each person receives what is addressed to him. What seems like confusion to the novice is really a simplification of the work to be done in getting each person's private mail
to him.

It is granted that in the Bible even that which was addressed to those of other dispensations is given to us for our learning and profit, but we must not confuse this with our own private mail or make the mistake of carrying out instructions meant particularly for others.

While I am reading mail addressed personally to me, a friend may hand me, for my interest or information, mail addressed to him. His mail and mine may all prove informative and profitable, but I must still be careful not to confuse the two, expecting to receive things promised to him or carrying out instructions addressed to him.

Thus, all the Bible is for us, but it is not all addressed to us or written about us, and if we would really understand and enjoy it; if we would really know how to use it effectively in service for Christ, we must be careful always to note who is addressing whom, about what and when and why" (p.20).

In every dispensation, righteousness before God has always been achieved by believing what God has said and acting upon it. For example, the law required every male child to be circumcised, but that is not God's requirement today.

The LAW says: And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. Gen. 17:14.

But GRACE says: And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands...Col. 2:10,11.

There were also many dietary laws, and one in particular many people remember is the prohibition not to eat pork. But under the dispensation of Grace, we are not under those prohibitions.

The LAW says: And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: Ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcass. Deut. 14:8

But GRACE says: For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 1Tim: 4:4

And the Sabbath day. In our day of grace, one day is like unto another. All are to be lived to the glory of God.

The Law says: Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God...Ex. 20:8,10.

But GRACE says: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days... Col.2:16,17

And because of the finished work of Jesus Christ at the Cross, we are no longer under any provision of the law for the forgiveness of sin.

The Law says: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matt. 6:12) For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matt. 6:14,15.

But GRACE says: And ye be kind one to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Eph. 4.32.

The ultimate example of the difference between law and grace is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The law required annual blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, which we now understand were but a foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice Christ Jesus would make for the complete payment for all of our sins.

The Law says: The blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifiethto the purifying of the flesh. Heb. 9:13

But GRACE says: Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Heb. 9:12

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph. 2:8,9)

Where the dispensation of the law was entrusted to Moses (John 1:17), the dispensation of the grace of God was entrusted to Paul. Why is understanding this so important? Because it is by this message of grace, dispensed by Paul, that God will judge us. Remember, righteousness comes by believing what God says (i.e., what God is saying to us in this age of Grace) and acting on it. That is what faith is: believing God; trusting Him and His Word. Paul says in Romans 2:16:

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to MY Gospel.

Paul tells us that he was appointed by God to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, "For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles,..." (Ro. 11:13) and that his message was revealed to him directly by Jesus Christ:

But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached to of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal.1:11,12)

How then does Paul's gospel differ? Pastor Thomas Brusha, in his booklet "Dictionary of the Gospel" gives a clear explanation:

God promised in the Old Testament to set up a Kingdom here on earth through the nation Israel, in which Christ would reign as King! Christ was here; and the good news proclaimed was that the Kingdom was at hand. In Matthew 10:7 we find this to be the same gospel the Twelve Apostles were sent to preach. Also, in Matthew 10:5,6 we learn that this gospel was good news for the Nation of Israel. It is amazing, yet true, that after the Twelve Apostles had been preaching this gospel now, for some time, they still did not know about Christ's purpose to go to the Cross and die for their sins. We know this is true because when Christ began later to tell his Apostles that he was going to Jerusalem to die, they didn't believe him, nor did they understand what he was talking about. The reason being, they were preaching the good news about the Kingdom. They expected Christ to establish Israel's Kingdom and to take the throne as their King - see Matthew 16:21,22; Luke 18:31-34: and Luke 19:11.

How then, could the twelve Apostles have preached the same gospel the Apostle Paul later preached, when they did not know or understand anything about the Cross at that time? Paul preached :

"THE CROSS" and "CHRIST CRUCIFIED (1 Corinthians 1:18,23)

The point is this. The gospel that the Twelve Apostles preached during the earthly ministry of Christ is not the same gospel the Apostle Paul was sent to preach later. According to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 the gospel Paul preached was the GOOD NEWS of the DEATH, BURIAL, and RESURRECTION of Christ FOR OUR SINS.

Paul tells us in Galatians 1:11,12 where his gospel originated. It was after the resurrection and ascension that the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul all that was accomplished on the Cross. In acts 20:24 Paul calls this message "THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD." In Galatians 2:1,2 we see that this gospel is intended for the Gentiles as well as the Jews; and in Galatians 2:6-10 we find that the Twelve Apostles learned of this gospel from Paul.

In this present age of "GRACE", God has set Israel as a nation aside, and the Kingdom promised to them has been postponed until a future time. Therefore the "GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM" is NOT God's message of good news for today, but rather the good news of how the Cross saves Sinners of all nationalities. This is God's message for today! (pp6-8).

The following books are recommended:

"Dictionary of the Gospel" by Thomas Bruscha
"Things That Differ" by C. R. Stam
"The Dispensations" by Hazel I. Brown