This article is meant to be an introduction into the importance of bible study by rightly dividing. It only scratches the surface and for a fuller study on rightly dividing the word of God and understanding our current dispensation, the book, Things That Differ, by C.R. Stam is an excellent resource and will clear up much confusion.
God is not fictitious, He is real. His word, is the tool we are to use to know Him. You can not love someone you do not know and that is why it is important to study the word of God. How can you love someone you know nothing about.
The best way to know God and understand his will for the believer is through His word. The bible is God’s word to us and to understand the bible you need to study it the way God intended for it to be studied. We need to rightly divide the word to determine which marching orders we are to follow. 2Ti 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Throughout the bible we are exhorted to study the word of God so that we may know what God’s will is for us. Act 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Many people fall into the trap of believing whatever passage they read is God’s command to them. 2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, It is true that all scripture is profitable for our learning but only certain scriptures are for our application. If you try to apply all scriptures in the bible to yourself, you will find many are impossible to follow, some will contradict each other, and yet other events are in the future. This road will only lead to confusion and bring you out of the will of God.
How are you to know which verses are God’s orders for you? The key is to study the bible dispensationally. This will help you to know your marching orders for today. Dispensation is not necessarily a measurement of time but is God’s particular mode of dealing with those under him, particularly man. In other words it is God’s program or instruction for man
To be fruitful in our understanding of God’s Word, it is important that we rightly divide these dispensations/programs so that we may discover when and where a change takes place. God remains the same Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. but as both history and the bible show God has changed how he deals with man through out the ages. Some example of these changes are:
|Lev 11:3-4||Compare With||1 Ti 4:4|
|Genesis 17:9-14||Compare With||Galatians 5:2|
|Mar 16:17-18||Compare With||1 Co 13:8|
|Matthew 6:25||Compare With||1 Timothy 5:8|
|Matthew 10:5-6||Compare With||Mark 16:15|
|Luke 9:3||Compare With||Luke 22:36|
|Micah 4:3||Compare With||Joel 3:10|
Search the bible out and you will find many more examples, but you will notice God never changes. His nature and attributes remain the same. He is a moral and righteous God.
An analogy that might help you understand dispensationalism better is if you were an electrician hired to wire up a new building. You would want to see the blueprints for the building so that you would know where the wires needed to go. On the blueprint the wiring schematics would be the part of the drawing that applied to you but you would still be interested in the whole drawing so you could better understand how your part fit into the whole scheme of things.
As an electrician you would not want to follow the schematics for the plumbing. This would be quite disastrous and you would soon become one unemployed electrician. The same is true with the bible. You are interested in all of it because it has much to teach you but you are most concerned about the part that is to you and about you. If you decide to follow the parts in the bible that are not for you much like with the electrician it will lead to disaster.
The bible is a progressive revelation with Christ at the heart of it. Because the bible is progressive it lends itself well to a time line. A good study would be to draw a time line starting at Genisis 1:1 through Revelations 22:21 and listing the different dispensation along the time line and then locating the verses that belong with each dispensation. Some of the dispensations you might put on your time line would be the age of innocence, conscience, government, law, mystery, kingdom, fullness of times. You may find more or less dispensations depending on what changes in God’s program you consider major enough to create its own dispensation.
In the Pauline epistles the Apostle Paul divides the bible into three main parts to help our understanding: Time Past, But Now (present), The Ages to Come (future). A big clue in determining what verses apply to this present dispensation (the mystery) is to search out the but now’s in the Pauline epistles.
It is common for some dispensations to overlap as one dispensation gives way to another one. These transition phases are where a lot of believers stumble. God will be phasing out one dispensation while at the same time introducing a new one, so for a while both dispensations are going on simultaneously. The book of Acts is a good example of this. But, once the transition is complete, you can not carry over the commands that no longer apply. Sadly, many Christians feel they have the right to choose willy nilly from anywhere in the bible which of God’s commands they will follow even if it contradicts with the present dispensation and the marching orders God has given us to follow today.
An analogy that might help to clear this up is how the phone company phases in a new area code. The area you are living in may be issued a new area code because the phone company has run out of phone numbers. The phone company will have a grace period, usually 3 months where both area codes work. They do this to allow for a smooth transition and allow the people time to prepare and get use to the change but once this grace period runs out you can not use your old area code. If you do you will either get a wrong number or a dead line.
This truth holds for the bible also. If you try to bring truths from one dispensation that do not belong in another dispensation you will get a wrong number and instead of doing God’s will you will be doing man’s will. This is a serious matter since the down fall of man began when Adam first rebelled against God by eating the forbidden fruit, putting his will above God’s. It is important to note when and where God changes the area code in the bible so you may know what his will is and to start using the new number before you get disconnected.
Keys to Understanding
To help you understand the bible better and to help you figure out what a particular verse is about and whether it applies to you or does this verse belong to a prior dispensation or is this a truth that applies to all dispensations, you must approach the bible like a detective picking out clues from the verse until the truth is uncovered. Some of the tools you can use to help discern the truth are the five W’s.
* Who is speaking or writing the passage
* Whom is being addressed or spoken to
* What is the author speaking about, what issue is being addressed
* When was it spoken
* Where was it spoken
Another tool that is helpful is context. You need to take into account the surrounding verses; what was being said before and after the verse you are studying. If you were to isolate a single verse it could have several interpretations, though only one would be correct. For example if I were to say the word block, you might think of a solid piece of wood, a stand which articles are sold at a auction, an obstacle, a grouping of items, a segment of a street, a cessation of thought or possibly even something else but if I were to say the grocery store is two blocks south of my house, you would know exactly what I meant when I said the word block.
Many times bible verses are taken out of context to teach false doctrine. As a faithful student of the word it is your duty to study the scripture so you may discern the truth and not be swayed by the arguments of man and his traditions. Along with the study aid tools mentioned above prayer and guidance of the Holy Spirit are needed.
Phi 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
1Co 2:11-14 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Good News in God’s Word
As man we are doomed without God. We are a people separated form their creator by sin, but God did a wonderful thing, while we were still at enmity with God, He sent his son to die our death at Calvary so that we may have life. Christ is our righteousness and through God’s word Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. we can learn about and enjoy God’s gift to us, eternal life in the heavenlies.
Ephesians 2:8,9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
I hope this article helps you to discover and unlock the wonderful truths contained in the bible.