What hinders you from understanding?
A pastor asked me for advice as to how to structure the courses for a Bible school he was planning to start. I replied, “The first class should be a course in grammar.” Why? Because there is nothing wrong with the English Bible given to us by God via the King James Version. The problems in understanding the Word of God, and the basis for errant teaching, occurs because most people do not have a good working knowledge of proper grammatical usage.
The English language can be complicated sometimes!
Here is an example of a common grammar mistake that you might be making: Do you get confused about when to use “for” and when to use “to” in everyday English?
If so, this is for you. I will explain when to use both of these and I will give you useful examples so that you will not be confused! And it will help you to get your doctrine in order too.
Used to indicate the place, person, or thing that someone or something moves toward, or the direction of something:
- I am heading to the entrance of the building.
- The package was mailed to Mr. Kim yesterday.
- All of us went to the movie theater.
- Please send it back to me.
Used to indicate a limit or an ending point:
- The snow was piled up to the roof.
- The stock prices rose up to 100 dollars.
Used to indicate relationship:
- This letter was written specifically to you.
- My answer to your question is in this envelop.
- Do not respond to every little thing in your life.
- Not every instruction applies to you.
Used to indicate a time or a period:
- I work nine to six, Monday to Friday.
- It is now 10 to five. (In other words, it is 4:50.)
Used to indicate the use of something; a reason or purpose:
- This place is for exhibitions and shows.
- I baked a cake for your birthday.
- I put a note on the door for privacy.
- The Word of God was written for you.
Used to mean because of:
- I am so happy for you.
- We feel deeply sorry for your loss.
- For this reason, I’ve decided to quit this job.
Used to indicate time or duration:
- He’s been famous for many decades.
- I attended the university for one year only.
- This is all I have for today.
By the foregoing understanding of prepositions…the entire Bible is written for us, but not all of it is written to us.
The Old Testament is written for us to understand how we got to where we are today, to show the Messiah is coming, and to show us the Law cannot save anyone; it only condemns by pointing out sin.
The New Covenant does not begin with the New Testament Gospels, part of which are a continuation of the Old Testament story, as Jesus was speaking to Old Testament Jews. “And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” (Matthew 13:57) The New Covenant begins with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of all sins and the promise of life everlasting with him.
The Old Testament contains timeless truths, historical evidences and prophetic knowledge of the future; hence, those things were written for us.
The Scriptures are historical, doctrinal and spiritual. The history shows us how we got to where we are today and a spiritual application can be found in most passages. Yet, not all found there are doctrines, reproofs, corrections or instructions in righteousness written specifically to Gentile believers and Jewish converts operating under a New Covenant.
Every book of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament (the Gospels) is the story of Jesus and his coming; leading us to his finished work on the cross which begins the New Covenant. That is when the change begins and going forward from there, the New Covenant tells us how to live an abundant and fruitful life walking with Jesus and having him live his life through us.
It’s difficult for us to stop trying to run things ourselves and walk solely by faith, because worldly traditions teach that doing things in our own strength, walking by sight, determines the outcome of our lives. Such thinking is the fertile ground where pride takes root and eventually leads men to elevate themselves to being the final authority over and above the dispensational truths as found in the Scriptures.
Jesus entertained questions from those religious leaders who did not like or agree with his teaching. Sadly, church leaders today seldom respond to those who question their teaching. Think not? Try raising your hand to ask a question the next time you are sitting in your pew listening to preaching. It is our responsibility to study the Scriptures in order to know the truth.
In order to understand the Bible, one must study the dispensational divisions contained within its pages, that is, rightly divide the scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15). But what does it mean to rightly divide? On the most basic level: It is reading a Bible passage and asking, “Am I in the group of people being spoken to here?” That is, “Is this passage speaking to Christians?” Most commonly, we are taught that the entire Bible is written to us. But that is not entirely correct. The whole Bible is written for us, for our learning, but not all of it is addressed to us.
For example: When God gave the law to the people of Israel through Moses, one of the laws was to do no work on the Sabbath. The Sabbath lasts from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. When a man was found picking up sticks on the Sabbath in Numbers 15:32-36, God commanded the people of Israel to put him to death by stoning. Now does that mean if we see our neighbor mowing his grass on Saturday morning that he is committing a sin? Should we round up the whole neighborhood and kill him? Of course not! Sadly, there are fundamentalists who adhere to such a mindset, because, for them, forcing Old Covenant Laws into the New Covenant gives them a sense of power and control. We must realize that the children of Israel were not Christians. They were operating under the Old Covenant. We are not under the Law of Moses as they were. They lived in a different dispensation from us.
It would be self-defeating to desire greater understanding of the Bible by cutting portions out. This is not greater understanding. In doing so, it would be simply shrinking the Bible down to our level. God forbid we eliminate or ignore one word, syllable, or punctuation from the complete sacred text of God’s perfect Word!
Rightly dividing the word of truth is not cutting out certain portions of Scripture.
Consider how writers divide the contents of a book into its index or a speech into its outline. By separating the parts into their appropriate context we are in a better position to understand the whole. Most people do not even know that the chapter and verse additions found in the Bible were added centuries later after the original writings were penned. Why? The chapter and verse divisions were added to the Bible for the sake of convenience. There is no authoritative basis for those divisions. It must always be remembered that the divisions into chapters and verses are human-made. They are sometimes arbitrary, and they sometimes interfere with the sense of the passage. That said, the authoritative basis for the dispensations found in the Scriptures does exist and should be understood to clarify what is written for us and what is written to us.
The entire Bible is written for us, but not every verse is addressed to us or written about us. All scripture is profitable, but not every passage is for our participation or obedience.
A popular opposition to dispensational Bible study is to claim that it eliminates most of the Bible as applicable to us. This is a misunderstanding of what it means to rightly divide the word of truth. In no sense would the Bible be better off by ignoring certain books, or rejecting books as beneficial for our profit and application.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” – 2 Timothy 3:16
Right division means acknowledging that the doctrine concerning the church today is found in Paul’s epistles alone by the revelation of Jesus Christ. This dispensation given to Paul was hidden in ages past, kept secret since the world began (Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:25-26; 2 Timothy 2:7-15).
However, that this mystery was kept secret since the world began does not diminish the benefit that can be gained from the rest of scripture.
How would we know sin if it were not by the law? (Romans 3:19; Romans 7:7; 1 John 3:4)
How would we know of imputed righteousness if we could not read what ‘Abraham our Father, pertaining to the flesh, hath found?’ (Romans 4:1-3)
How could we know the obedience that God requests, unless we read the example of how Israel lusted after evil things in the wilderness? (1 Corinthians 10:6).
It is from our own apostle that we read that all scripture is profitable for our learning.
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” – Romans 15:4
These are the same Scriptures that witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, essential to the gospel that we preach today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)! It should be evident that every word in the Bible is written for our edification and profit.
What is gained from an understanding of right division is the proper interpretation of every verse into its dispensational context. While every book and testament is written for us, not every book and testament is written to us or about us.
Would you not agree that when God told Noah to build an ark, he was speaking to Noah and not to anyone in the 21st century? Once realizing the proper context, we can understand the limits of its application. While we may learn the spiritual truths about Noah’s righteous obedience as an example, or his faithful diligence, we would be wrong to go and build an ark because of a failure to rightly divide and believing, “since God said it, I’m supposed to obey it”.
It may sound trivial when applied to building an ark, but many use this same reasoning to support applying any verse of Scripture to their daily situations as if it were talking specifically to them. We would be wise to first interpret every passage in the Bible into its dispensational context, before believing it is doctrine given specifically to us.
Choosing not to rightly divide a passage into its dispensational context is the root of the majority of Biblical misinterpretations and errors taught today. Rightly dividing allows us to understand why there are apparent contradictions in Biblical doctrine.
Human nature causes some to pick and choose which verses to obey, but in doing so, it is like saying in the same breathe that every verse in the Bible should be obeyed. Their personal application is inconsistent with their claim. Attempting to obey every word in the Bible outside of its dispensational context will produce contradictions.
For example, concerning our zealous missionary efforts, do we go to Gentile nations to preach the gospel? Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10:5 to “Go not into the way of the Gentiles”, but in Acts 22:21 the same Jesus tells Paul to go to the Gentiles: “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” – Acts 22:21
Surely, we cannot do both. Obviously, what Jesus told the disciples was not given to the apostle Paul to obey in his ministry. The question the church should be asking is whether we follow the Lord’s instructions to the twelve disciples, or the Lord’s instructions to the apostle Paul. The answer is found in rightly dividing the word of truth.
This is just one of many examples of why, if we are to profit from the entire Bible, it is required that we rightly divide the entire Bible.
It is only by rightly dividing the word of truth that we can see with clarity God’s eternal purpose on every page, the specific instructions to us and the enormous profit it sows in our Christian walk. “What does the Bible say?” That is always the “bottom line,” but the answer must be understood in light of to whom the Bible is speaking.