Lesson 1 – Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Key Verse – II Timothy 2:15
According to the Word of God, we know that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He created man and breathed into him the breath of life, and he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). After this creation, man sinned and was separated from a righteous relationship with God. The Bible is the story of how God revealed Himself to mankind, and made known unto us His redemptive plan of Salvation. The greatest love story ever told! Today, the church is the guardian of this great revelation and truth.
According to the Bible, we all come into the world as sinners (Psalms 51:5) and are in need of a Savior. We know that we are not automatically saved because Jesus died on the Cross. He died to give the world a plan of redemption, that would restore our fellowship and relationship with our Creator. That is what is meant by being saved.
If we are to be children of God, we must be born into God’s family. Jesus said that the “New Birth”, was a birth of water and Spirit (John 3:5). There is a lot of misunderstanding about this. What does it mean to be born again? How do we know if we have been born again? We will address these questions throughout these lessons.
2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Rightly divide the Word of Truth. The word “divide” comes from a Greek word meaning, “to cut a straight line or to dissect correctly.” The Bible has division and order. We must study to know how to properly apply the Truth of God’s Word. We go to different parts of the Bible to address specific subjects. Just as in any other book, different sections address specific areas of study.
This lesson will show that the redemptive plan of God unfolded over a long period of time and that we now live in the day of God’s complete revelation. What that revelation is, and how it relates to us, is what these lessons are about.
Below are several things to keep in mind when you study the Bible.
THE OLD AND THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Bible is divided into the Old and the New Testaments. Another word for “testament” is “covenant”. A covenant is an agreement or contract between two or more parties, which sets forth certain terms and conditions.
The Old Covenant was in force until the death of Jesus at Calvary. The death of Christ fulfilled and completed the terms of the Old Covenant, and brought about certain changes that greatly affect us today. For more information on this, read Hebrews chapters 8-12.
It is obvious that the Old Testament is very important to us today. Some reasons are listed below.
The Old Testament is the Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
2 Peter 1:20-21, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 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 “
The Old Testament is revealed truth. Once the truth of God’s Word is established, it is always truth! Truth cannot be destroyed or thrown away, but it can be fulfilled. There are many truths in the Old Testament that still apply to us today. The moral laws of God, as set forth in the Old Testament, will always stand. The New Testament develops out of the Old Testament.
Types and Shadows. There are many things in the Old Testament that are “types” of what the Church enjoys today in reality. We also see many things “hidden” in the shadows of the Old Testament writings that have been brought into full light in the New Testament. EVERYTHING the Church possesses today is found in some form in the Old Testament. This helps us to validate what is real. (Read Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 8:5, 10: 1).
The Old Testament is written for our admonition and example. The record of events surrounding many Old Testament people are related to us for examples.
I Corinthians 10:6-7, “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”
I Peter 2:4-6, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly. “
THE FOUR P’S OF BIBLE STUDY:
- Who is the PERSON writing that particular Bible book?
- To what PEOPLE is it directed?
- For what PURPOSE was it written?
- To what PERIOD of time is it being written?
Not all Scripture is directed to everyone. Sometimes God is talking to Jews, Gentiles, sinners, or believers. At times, He is talking about things that will happen or have already happened. He may be referring to the days of some past or future dispensation.
The plan of God for redeeming lost humanity has been unfolding for millions of years. The New Testament Church has been in the works since the beginning of time.
Isaiah 28:10, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”
Hebrews 1: 1-3, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
In God’s wisdom, He revealed Himself and His redemptive plan of salvation to us a little at a time. His plans unfolded over a period of thousands years, until He completed His work and brought His plans to maturity.
We know, according to the Bible, that God is a Spirit. He did not have flesh and blood. In the Old Testament, God manifested Himself to mankind by what is called a “theophany“. A theophany is a manifestation or appearance of God, such as when God revealed Himself to others as an angel, a pillar of fire, a burning bush, or some other form visible to man.
The price demanded for sin required that blood be shed (Hebrews 9:22). In the Old Testament, God had a plan whereby the blood of certain animals was shed for the sins of the people. However, this did not remit sins, it only rolled them ahead a year and required the High Priest to make yearly sacrifices. We also know that God did not have pleasure in these offerings, and desired to come Himself as the perfect Lamb of God to offer sacrifice for our sin, once and for all (Hebrews 10).
Again, God, being a Spirit, did not have flesh and blood. Therefore, He had to prepare for Himself a body with flesh and blood. Thus, we read the story of how Jesus came into the world and became the Lamb of God, and was offered for our sins.
I John 3:8, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
In the above passage (Hebrews 1:1-3), we see that Jesus is the last expression of God. We do not have “theophanies” today, because God is finally come in the flesh of Jesus.
(Note: Isaiah 9:6, 2 Corinthians 5:19, Matthew 1:23, 1 Timothy 3:16)
Consequently, there will be no further revelations of his Godhead to man. He has finally completed His revelation to us in the form of Jesus Christ. God’s revelation of His Godhead and deity, His plan of redemption, and the New Testament Church is now completely manifest!
God still speaks and reveals Himself to mankind, but He does not come in the form of a theophany! He has revealed Himself to the world — in Jesus Christ.
People that study the Bible understand the importance of dispensations. A dispensation is the specific period of time during which God revealed Himself and related to man in a specific way. Those living during a particular dispensation were responsible to obey the revelation or the “light” that God gave during that time. Each dispensation brought a little more revelation or knowledge of God and His plan for man-kind.
The word “dispensation” comes from a Greek word meaning, “management.” This is where we get the English word, “economy.”
In the dictionary (Random House College Dictionary) the meaning of dispensation is, 1) a specified order, system, or arrangement; administration or management, 2) a divine ordering of the affairs of the world, 3) something that is distributed or given out.”
Therefore, we see two things that relate specifically to our subject. First, we see that God has arranged things, and revealed them to us, in a divine order. Secondly, when He came in the flesh, this was the final step in God’s plan of bringing Himself down to our level. He was broken on the cross, His flesh and blood given for our sin. He came back in Spirit form to live in our hearts. This is how God “dispensed” Himself to us!
From the heavens above, to the cross, to the empty tomb. He came out of the grave, ascended on high, came back in Spirit on the day of Pentecost, now He lives in the heart of man!
Most Bible scholars agree that there are seven dispensations of time. Five of them are past, we are presently living in the sixth, and there is one more to come. After that, we will be with Jesus in the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter II – 14).
THE SEVEN DISPENSATIONS OF TIME
- DISPENSATION OF INNOCENCE. This dispensation began with the creation of man (Adam in the garden of Eden) and ended when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden.
- DISPENSATION OF CONSCIENCE. This dispensation began with the fall of man, and ended with Noah’s flood.
- DISPENSATION OF HUMAN GOVERNMENT. This dispensation began with the flood and ended with the covenant God made with Abraham.
- DISPENSATION OF PROMISE. This dispensation began with Abraham and ended when God gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai.
- DISPENSATION OF LAW. This dispensation began when God gave Moses the Law and ended with Jesus at Mount Calvary.
- DISPENSATION OF GRACE. This dispensation began with the death and resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost and will not end until the rapture of the Church. We are living here now. This dispensation is also known as “The Times of the Gentiles”, and the “Church Age”.
- DISPENSATION OF THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM. This is also known as “The Thousand Years of Peace” that we read about in Revelation chapter 20. This is the last of the ordered ages regulating human life on earth. THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH. This is the final stage in the plan of God. This is a place where time is no more, and we live with Christ for eternity in the New Jerusalem He has prepared for us. So shall we ever be with the Lord!
One important note on the dispensations is that they did not butt end to end. There was a period of overlapping while the terms of the new covenant was being put into place. One example is the thief on the cross next to Jesus in Matthew chapter 27. He was not saved under “Law” or “Grace”. He was a law breaker and the Holy Ghost had not yet been given.
So we see that God revealed and dispensed Himself to man over a period of several thousand years through the dispensations and theophanies.
There will be no more revelations of His Godhead and deity. God has completed the revelation and dispensation of Himself to the world and there is no more to come.
Please note one final observation concerning the revelation of God to us: We also have the complete revelation of God to us in the Bible, the Word of God. There will not be any further revelation of God apart from the Word of God. In the Bible, we find all we need to know pertaining to life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:1-4). So with the coming of Jesus Christ and the written Scripture, we have the complete revelation of God today! David said the Word of God was forever settled. (Psalms 119:89) Nothing overshadows the Word of God. No dream or vision, no new revelation, nothing takes the place of the Word of God. IT IS FOREVER SETTLED!
TYPES AND SHADOWS
We also know that many things in the Old Testament are a foreshadowing of things to come. We call these “types and shadows.” The Old Testament gives us the “shadow” of things that we enjoy today in reality — for instance, the Sabbath Day. In the Old Testament the Sabbath day was a day set aside to honor God and to rest from any labor. In the New Testament, the Sabbath is not a day, but a place or an experience in God. It is a spiritual rest. (Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews chapters 3 & 4)
It is also important to point out that the Old Testament is the old covenant between God and man. The New Testament is the new covenant. It was brought into force by the death of the testator. We will see what changes the New Testament brought about.
Matt 26:26-28, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Hebrews 9:15-16, “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.”
Those of us alive today enjoy the fullest revelation of God that the world has ever known. We are blessed to be alive today. It means that we know more about God and have seen more of Him than anyone living before us. We also have the complete plan of salvation.
The plan of God for the salvation of mankind is not a new development. In fact, it is millions of years old.
Rev 13:8, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,”
The reference to the Lamb slain is a reference to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who died at Calvary. So we can see that Jesus dying for our sin was in the plan of God — even before the foundation of the world!
So, if God has taken thousands of years to completely reveal Himself to mankind through dispensations, theophanies, types and shadows, the Old and New Testament, and finally Jesus Christ himself, what do we have that the Old Testament church did not have? What do we know about God that they did not know? How does our plan of salvation differ from theirs? That is what this study is about.
PROPER DIVISION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
It is extremely important that we properly divide the New Testament. If you were to study addition, you would not go to a chapter on subtraction. You certainly would not go to a science book. You have to study the right material to get the correct information.
- DIVISION ONE: THE FOUR GOSPELS – The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four Gospels. They record the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. They record some of the words and teachings of Jesus. You will see where Jesus planted the seed for the New Testament Church in the hearts of the Apostles. We read about the life of John the Baptist in the four gospels. John said that the people should believe on Him who was to come (Jesus) and that He would baptize them with “Holy Ghost and fire”. (Matthew 3:11). John the Baptist did not start the Church. He was the forerunner of Christ. The Church actually was born into the world on the day of Pentecost. The Church as we know it today did not exist until the day of Pentecost as described in Acts chapter two. We are presently living in this “Church Age”.
- DIVISION TWO: THE BOOK OF ACTS – The book of Acts records the birth of the New Testament Church. This was the outpouring of the Spirit of God as prophesied in Joel 2:28. Peter confirmed this in Acts 2:16. In the book of Acts we follow the early preachers, from city to city, as they preach Christ and establish Churches, in cities that did not know about Christ. To name a few, they went to: Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica. Later, they wrote “epistles” or “letters” to these Churches instructing them in the ways of God and the affairs of the Church. THE BOOK OF ACTS TELLS US HOW TO GET SAVED. Read the book of Acts to find what the Apostles taught concerning the New Birth of water and Spirit as Jesus defined it in John 3:1-6.
- DIVISION THREE: THE EPISTLES – An “Epistle” is a letter. The Epistles go from the book of Romans to the book of Jude. These are letters written by the Apostles to Churches they established in the book of Acts. Some letters are written to individuals. The Epistles are letters of instruction, from the Apostles, to the Churches instructing them how to walk with God, grow in Grace, order the affairs of the Church, and the Spiritual Gifts, to name a few. No Church was started in the Epistles. No new plan of Salvation was preached in the Epistles. You do not read from the Epistles to tell someone how to be born again. You turn to the book of Acts for that. You read from the Epistles to help people perfect their faith and to grow in God. Example: Suppose a man of God went to a city that did not know Jesus, and established a Church. The first thing he will do is lead them to salvation. He teaches them, like the Apostles did; to repent, to be baptized in Jesus Name, and filled with the Holy Ghost. Assume that he leaves that Church and moves to another city. He decides to write a letter to them concerning their walk with God. This letter is not to tell them how to be saved, He has already done that! They already know what I teach concerning salvation. This is what the Apostles did. They brought the plan of salvation to people and established Churches. Later, they wrote letters to these Churches to encourage and instruct them in the ways of God, not to tell them how to be saved. The Epistles are written to “saved” people — to the Church. When sinners read the Epistles, they are reading someone else’s mail! Of course it is OK for anyone to read the Epistles, but we first need to be “saved”, or get into the Kingdom of God. Only then we can start to perfect our walk with God.
- DIVISION FOUR: THE BOOK OF REVELATION – This is a book of end-time prophecy. It tells some things about the rapture of the Church, the Tribulation period, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, etc. We read Revelation to find out about end-time events.
Taking the above things into consideration, the following points become clear:
- We must rightly divide the word of God in order to get the right answers.
- We are living in the last of the ordered ages. The Bible predicts no more dispensations to come. We are out of time!
- We are living in the time of the most complete revelation God has ever given to mankind.
- We must obey the revelation of God concerning salvation in this dispensation.
- God’s redemption plan has unfolded over a long period of time.