XI. Rightly Handling the Word of God
The sixty-six books of the Bible are a perfect unity. God himself is its author. This is a body of truth communicated to man. But this was communicated progressively and it is complete.
“In the Old Testament we have an interpretation of human need and the New Testament is a revelation of Divine supply. In the Old we have unveilings of the human heart. In the New we have the unveiling of the heart of God, and the way in which He has answered humanity’s need in Christ” (G. Campbell Morgan).
The Old Testament, in its four successive compartments i.e. the organizational, the historical, the philosophical and the prophetical, is a book of (1) unexplained ceremonies, (2) unachieved purposes, (3) unappeased longings and (4) unfulfilled prophecies; but the New testament is the completed masterpiece (J. Sidlow Baxter).
We do have the New Testament in the Old Testament, but only in a bud form. The full-grown flower we find in the New.
Therefore when we study the Bible we need to distinguish between the things that differ and rightly divide the Word (2 Tim.2.15). Right from the time the first man was created, God tested him in the matter of the revealed will of God. Since revelation itself was progressive man’s stewardship in each time period differed. These different time periods are called an age, or a dispensation. God’s earlier revelation was not negated by any new revelation given, but this became cumulative. But unregenerate man failed in every dispensation.
We find seven major dispensations in the Bible. They are:
Innocence (Gen.1.28 Conscience or moral responsibility Gen.3.7 Human Government Gen.8.15 Promise Gen.12.1 Law Ex.19.1 Church Acts 2.1 Kingdom Rev.20.4 (New Scoffield Reference Bible P.3)
In His pamphlet, “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” C.I.Scoffield, the Editor of Scoffield Reference Bible indicates the following divisions:
The Jews, The Gentiles and the Church of God (1 Cor.10.32). In the Old Testament we have the dealings of God with the Jews. Jesus Christ came as the king of the Jews, but they rejected Him. Since the King was rejected, the kingdom offered to them was postponed. From then onwards, God started dealing with individuals, whether Jew or Gentile. Today He is taking out a bride for His son, the Church (which comprise of Jew and Gentile). God is going to deal with the Jews as a nation again when Jesus Christ returns. The Seven dispensations. This was mentioned earlier. The Two advents. The Old Testament prophecies were mainly concerned about the coming of the ‘seed of the woman’. The Spirit of Christ that was in the prophets prophesied of his sufferings and the glory that should follow (1 Pet.1.10, 11). These were the subject matter of his first coming and Second Coming. Though they prophesied of His first and second coming in their Old Testament prophecies, they were not marked as such in them. He came and He is to come again. Those who prophesied of these ‘mountain peaks of prophecies’ were not able to see the valley between them, which is the Church age. This was a mystery hidden in God but now revealed to his apostles and prophets (Eph.3). He appeared to put away sin. Now He is appearing on behalf of his saints in the Holy of Holies. He will appear again a second time to consummate salvation (Heb.9.24-16). His Second Coming also has two aspects. The first is His coming for the Church. After the Church is caught up in the air, he will start dealing with the Jews as a Nation and come again to establish the Kingdom and rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem. The Two resurrections.
All those who are in the grave will hear the voice of the Son of God and rise again, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting judgement (Jn.5.24-25). The New Testament believers and the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation saints have part in the first resurrection and the unbelievers in the second resurrection.
The Five judgements.
The believers’ sins are judged on the Cross. There is therefore no condemnation to them (Rom.8.1-3) The believers’ sins in the present are judged in the present age. This is the chastisement by the Father. Sometimes this may end in physical death also (Heb.12.6; 1 Cor.11.30) The believers’ works will be judged when Christ comes again. This is to receive the reward (2 Cor.5.10) When Christ appears in glory the nations will be judged (Matt.25.31-32) All the wicked in every age will be judged at the Great White Throne (Rev.20.11-15). They will be cast into the lake of fire.
The Law and Grace.
The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (Jn.1.17). It contains both moral and civil and ceremonial laws. Law asked man to do certain things and not to do certain things, but did not give him power to perform its requirements. Law only condemned him when he disobeyed. Grace freely forgives a repentant sinner, because of the punishment meted out to Jesus Christ, who suffered on his behalf.
Believers’ two natures.
He has two natures – the Old and the New, i.e. the flesh and the spirit. They are contrary to one another (Rom.8.6f). Believers are exhorted to mortify the old nature and live in the spirit.
The believer’s standing and state.
The believer’s standing is perfect before God. But his state is not so. This is because of the flesh. One day Christ will present every believer perfect before himself.
Salvation and rewards
Salvation is a free gift from God. But reward is for the service rendered. Salvation is never going to be lost, but many may lose their rewards.
Believers and professors
There are only believers in the body of Christ. But there may be many professors in the local churches. Every believer is one who is saved i.e. whose sin are completely washed in the blood of Christ but the professors claim they are Christians while they are not. They will only be condemned.