Rightly Dividing God’s Word: Part 1, Introduction To The Ages

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2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The Apostle Paul was nearing the end of his ministry. He told Timothy – a young man he was training:

2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Paul knew that shortly he would be standing before the Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (rule 54-68AD), and that he would be – in all likelihood – beheaded for his preaching of Christ. One Source notes,

Based on historical events of the day, it is likely that Paul was beheaded, possibly around the same time that Peter was crucified.”

Before Paul was saved on the Damascus Road, he trained under the noted Bible Scholar, Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Paul was “taught according to the perfect manner of the Law of the fathers”, the Scripture. As Paul prepared to die he wanted to leave Timothy with the best advice on how to live and promote the Gospel of Christ.

Saved By Grace, We Are Sanctified By Study Of The Scripture

He encouraged Timothy to study the Scripture. He told Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved…

Word Study: Let’s break this down. Study is the Greek spoudazō, which means “to labor over, be diligent to look into, to hasten to examine, to study”. Timothy was to study the Word of truth. What is the Word of truth? Jesus told us what the Word of truth is in His prayer for the Church. He prayed to the Father:

John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word {O Father God} is truth.

The Bible contains the truth of God. We are to spoudazō, to Study the Bible, the Word of God. The Christian is given the Holy Spirit of God to aid us in studying and applying God’s Word. One of the nicknames that Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit is “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) because it is His function to “Guide us unto all truth”. Jesus said:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

Question: Why was the Holy Spirit given to the Christian? __________________________

The phrase that describes the Scripture, Word of truth, is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Psalmist spoke saying that salvation comes only through the Word of God:

Psalm 119:41-45 Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to thy word. 42 So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word. 43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments. 44 So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. 45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

Salvation comes by the Word of truth. The Apostle Paul speaks of proving himself as a minister of God by holding fast to the Word of truth (see 2 Corinthians 6:7). It is the Word of truth that saves us. Paul told the Church at Ephesus:

Ephesians 1:12-13 … we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

The Bible is the Word of truth. Paul tells Timothy to study that Bible:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God…

Word Study: The word approved is the Greek dókimos, which means “accepted, pleasing”.

Notice the text doesn’t tell you to study or examine the Scripture to be saved. It tells us to study or examine the Scripture to prove the genuineness of our salvation.

The Scripture is given to the Christian to help shape our minds to be like Christ’s mind. Paul told Timothy in another place:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect {mature, like Jesus}, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

The Scripture – Old and New Testament – is given by inspiration of God. All Scripture is profitable. The Scripture contains four elements related to our growth:

Doctrine (didaskalia) = Teaching us how to be like Jesus
Reproof (élenchos) = That by which our faith is proved or tested
Correction (epanorthōsis) = That which restores one to an upright state
Instruction In Righteousness = How to be pleasing to God

Going back to our focal text:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

When we study the Scripture, we are to always be rightly dividing the text. The Bible tells us that – though God used people to write it – that God Himself is the ultimate Author of the Scripture. The Chief Apostle writes:

2 Peter 1:20-21 no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Since the Holy Text was written by holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, then the Scripture MUST interpret the Scripture. Only God’s Word can properly interpret God’s Word.

Does All Of Scripture Apply TO Me?

God gave the entire Bible to the believer in Christ, both Old and New Testaments. As Christians, when we read the Scripture, we need to read

in Context, and
in the Spirit.

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Word Study: rightly dividing is the Greek orthotomeō, meaning “to make straight and smooth, to handle correctly, to teach the truth in a Godly manner”. The Scripture is not to be twisted or turned to suit our opinions. One of the things I have learned over the years is that:

All Scripture is written TO the believer, but
not all Scripture is written FOR the believer.

The Scripture has divisions and applications that are addressed to:

  1. ALL people at all times, and
  2. CERTAIN people at certain times

This is the reason our Bibles are divided into OLD Testament (or Covenant) and NEW Testament (or Covenant).

Under the Old Covenant God had a people
He saved by Grace called “Israel”.

The nation Israel itself was created because of a promise that God made to a man called Abram or Abraham. Abraham was not saved by his own goodness, but by faith in God. Abraham’s name is mentioned 230 times in the King James text. The Apostle Paul said of Abraham:

R omans 4:2-3 … if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Salvation from sin came to Abraham just as it comes to us. We believe God, and God counts or imputes righteousness to us because we believe. Paul goes on to quote The Psalmist David who, in Psalm 32:1-2 said:

R omans 4:6-8 … as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Salvation has ALWAYS been by faith in God. It has never been a thing that you can work toward. ONCE GOD SAVED ISRAEL OUT OF EGYPT (see Exodus 14:13, “Fear not, STAND STILL and SEE THE SALVATION OF THE LORD, which He will show to you today”) it was THEN that God gave His people rules for living.

Those whom God saves, He saves by Grace. Once He saves His people, God, as King, gives His people rules to live by.

This has never varied. Whether Old Covenant (Testament) or New Covenant (Testament), God gives His people rules to live by. Our Lord Jesus said to His Church:

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

But our Lord told His Old Covenant Israel:

Leviticus 22:31 Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 26:2-5 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. 3 If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; 4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

A believer is saved by Grace and the mercy of God. A believer is saved by faith in the Savior. But once saved, as believers (Old or New Covenant) we are to follow the commands that God our Savior gives to us. This is where RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE TRUTH comes into play.

As I said before, all Scripture is FOR us, but not all Scripture is TO us.

God gave His Law to Israel from Mount Sinai. In that Law were:

The Judgments or SOCIAL Law
The Ordinances or CEREMONIAL Law

The Moral Law (such as the Ten Commandments, the injunctions against sexual sin and perversion) is consistent between both Old and New Testaments. For instance,

  1. Murder is prohibited in both the Old Testament (Genesis 9:6; Leviticus 24:17; Numbers 35:30-31) as well as the New Testament (Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 4:15).
  2. Sexual sin is prohibited in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 22:21; Exodus 20:14) as well as the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:18; 7:2; Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 15:19). Some have said that homosexuality has been forbidden only in the Old Testament (Covenant – see Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) but not in the New Testament (Covenant). This is NOT true. The Apostle Paul condemned homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 & 1 Corinthians 6:9. Jesus condemned same sex marriage when He said, Have you NOT READ that He Who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6, NKJV).
  3. Of the TEN Commandments, only ONE, the Commandment to “Keep the Sabbath” is NOT repeated in the New Testament.

The Social Law covered laws that specifically related to Israel (see Exodus 21:1-23:13). The Social Laws specifically governed Israel in her diet, secular, political and economic life. A good example of the Social Law is found in:

Numbers 19:16-19 And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17 And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: 18 And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: 19 And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.

If an Israelite touched any portion of a dead body, they had to go through a CEREMONIAL cleansing after a seven day quarantine. This commandment was for Israel alone, not for the Church under the New Covenant, as it is not repeated in the New Testament. Which brings us to:

The Ceremonial Law. This is the religious portion of Israel’s Law that guided the nation in worship and fellowship with God. Under the ceremonial law you find the rules governing the priesthood, the tabernacle or Temple, and the sacrifices. The Ceremonial Law pointed to the coming ministry of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of His people. The Book of Hebrews tells us that:

H ebrews 10:1-10 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Wherefore when He {a reference to Jesus} cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The Ceremonial Law of Israel was NEVER given to make those who came to God perfect or right before God. Every animal sacrificed showed Israel (and us) that:

  1. Sin is no joke, but a serious thing with God
  2. Sin separates us from God, and we cannot fix that separation with our good works
  3. The blood of an innocent must be spilled to atone for or cover sin
  4. No one has EVER been saved by works, for animal sacrifices were repeated on a regular basis
  5. Animal sacrifices could never satisfy God, thus Jesus had to come for our sins.
  6. We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all

Jesus satisfied the requirements of the Law. Because of Jesus we who are New Covenant believers are “not under the Law, but under grace”. The Old Covenant believer was dominated by sin because the ceremonial Law kept him bound to the Temple or the Tabernacle, to the Levitical Priesthood and the High Priest. The New Testament believer, however, is not under the shadow of the Law. The Bible says:

R omans 6:12-18 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

Freed from the Ceremonial & Social Law of Israel, we do not become amoral, but we become servants of righteousness. We strive to live our lives – not according to Social or Ceremonial Mosaic Law – but to imitate Christ. But Scripture – whether Old or New Testament – is FOR all Christians, though it may not be TO us.

The Bible Addresses Different Times Or Ages,
Though God Never Changes, Nor Does Salvation Change

In the Old Testament God used Israel and the Jews to introduce us to Himself. As we study the Scriptures, there are seven major divisions or ages that we are introduced to in both Old and New Testaments. Theologians (those who study the Bible professionally) call these time periods “Dispensations” or “Ages”. Grace and the goodness of God are a continuing theme through these “Ages”. Under the Old Covenant, the Jew – saved by Grace – kept the Moral, Social, and Ceremonial Laws, something the Bible calls the “Mosaic Law” or “The Law of Moses”. In the Old Testament Israel began to believe that only Israel was to be saved. This is what the Apostle Paul believed before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. After meeting Jesus, Saul (now called Paul) came to understand that God wanted to save whosoever will. He spoke of this in:

E phesians 3:1-11 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

The Jews had come to believe that God only loved the Jews. Yet this is not the truth. God loves every person, and calls whosoever will to His side through faith in Christ Jesus. Once a believer is saved by Grace, that believer falls under the Royal Law of God:

James 2:8-9 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

The royal law according to the scripture is that the believer, saved by Grace through faith in Christ, shall as Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37-39 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This “Royal Law” transcends every Age, from Creation until today. The “Royal Law” is the heartbeat of the Mosaic Law, and the Law the Christian follows today.

This Sunday night we will begin to start talking about the Seven Ages found in the Scripture, and the Covenants that God gave during each of those Ages. May God tough your hearts to grow in your knowledge of Him. Amen and Amen.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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