Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Nearly everyone recognizes the division between the Old and the New Testaments, but few know where the Old Testament ends and the New Testament begins. Even fewer know the difference between PROPHECY, that which was foretold, and THE MYSTERY, God's secret purpose which was not foretold, but was hid in God from before the foundation of the world and revealed to and through Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles.
Concerning the Old and the New Testaments, most people believe that the Old Testament consists of the scriptures from Genesis through Malachi and the New Testament begins with Matthew and goes through the Revelation. Our Bibles are traditionally divided this way. But this is not the proper division according to God's Word. This is only dividing the scriptures into that which was written before the birth of Christ and that which was written after; that which was written in Hebrew and that which was written in Greek.
The word, "testament" means covenant. We are therefore considering two covenants. What was the Old Covenant? God's Word says that the Old Covenant was THE LAW (Hebrews 9:1-10). With whom was the Old Covenant made? God's Word says that the Old Covenant was made with the Nation Israel (Exod. 19:1-8; Psalm 147:19,20). To whom did God commit the dispensation or stewardship of THE LAW? He committed it to Moses. When? About 1500 years B.C., or at least 2500 years after the creation of man. Therefore the book of Genesis, the book of Job (historically the first book of the Bible), and the first half of the book of Exodus are not included in the Old Covenant, THE LAW, in that they relate to God's dealings with man before the Law was given.
Concerning the New Testament or Covenant, we find that Christ is the Mediator of the new Testament (Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:23,24; Luke 22:20 - see Heb. 8:6-9, 12:24). Our Lord said, "This is my blood of the New Testament." Therefore, the New Testament was to be established by the shedding of His Own BLOOD. When was His blood shed? Near the END of each of the accounts in the so-called "Four Gospels" (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), on the cross, in the year A.D.29. According to Heb. 9:16,17, a testament is not valid unless there be the death of the testator. Therefore the New Covenant did not, indeed it could not begin until AFTER HIS DEATH and the BLOOD WAS SHED.
Our only conclusion here can be that the Old Testament was in force from the time it was made (Exodus) until after the death of Christ, and that the New Testament did NOT begin with the birth of Christ. Christ was born under, grew up under, and ministered under, the Old Testament, THE LAW. (Galatians 4:4)
Another thing which is most important to notice is that both covenants were made with ISRAEL (Heb. 8:6-9); both were conditional in that they depended on Israel's obedience as a nation (Exod. 19;5,6 - OLD; Acts 3:12-26 - NEW; see note (*)where both concern the blessings to come upon all the earth through the nation Israel (Acts 3:25). Where is Israel today? Have they, as a nation, accepted God's Word? Have they accepted God's Son? Have they accepted their Messiah? Is Christ, today, recognized (by Israel) as King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Are all the nations of the earth being blessed according to the New Covenant today through the Nation Israel? Obviously NOT! And according to the New Covenant, the only way the world can receive salvation and blessings is through the Nation Israel, upon their acceptance of their Messiah and Christ's return to the earth to establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth,(see Gem No.5)- with Israel as HEAD of all the nations. Then the peoples OF THE EARTH shall be blessed IN THE EARTH through Israel established ON THE EARTH and Christ reigning OVER THE EARTH.
Where then does that leave us today? Seemingly without hope! But! Thanks be to GOD, He had a SECRET PURPOSE which He revealed to us through our apostle Paul. "THE MYSTERY", was "hid in God", "kept secret", "not revealed to the sons of men", "BUT NOW MADE KNOWN" (SEE Eph.1:9,3:1-11;Col.1:24-27;1 Cor. 2:7,8; Rom. 16:25-26), wherein salvation is offered today to ALL, without distinction (Rom. 10:12,13; Gal.3:26-28); NOT because of Israel, BUT in spite of Israel. (Rom. 11:7-11); NOT by works of righteousness which we may have done, BUT entirely upon the merits of Christ (Rom. 3:24-26; Eph. 2:8,9); NOT with the promise of fleshly blessings and deliverance into the Kingdom of Heaven, to be established on earth, BUT with the promise of being blessed with "all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ" (Eph.1:3) Christ's relationship to us is NOT as Messiah, King (of Israel), BUT as LORD, as the glorified "Head of the Body, the Church..." (Col.1:18).
The Church of God today is NOT the "New Testament Church", which had its "historical beginning' at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost with the Jews (Acts 2) and the hope of Christ's return to the earth to establish the Kingdom (Acts 3:19,20; 1:6), BUT God's Church (out-calling) today is known as "The Body of Christ" (1 Cor.12:27); whose blessings are in SPIRIT ONLY (Eph.1:3); whose position is in the heavens (Eph.2:6), "where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1), not on earth as in the Kingdom, whose hope is Christ's coming in the air to TAKE UP HIS BODY, The Church, from out of the world, "and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thes.4:15-17)
The most important division in God's word to us then is NOT the Old and New Testaments, BUT the division between PROPHECY and THE MYSTERY, or between God's EARTHLY and His HEAVENLY purposes.
Are you part of God's program for today? If not, won't you hear what God's Word has to say about us? In Rom. 3:23, we read, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom.5:8). 1 Cor. 15:3,4 says; "...that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures." 2 Cor. 5:21 says, "For he (God) hath made Him (Christ) to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
How do we receive this righteousness? Simply by believing what God has said (about His Son, He is God-the Son; Faith plus NOTHING. Eph. 2:8-9; Rom.11:6). In Rom. 4:3 we find that "...Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness." What was counted to Abraham for righteous-ness? Rom.4:20-22 says, "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it (his faith) was imputed to him for righteousness." For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that (salvation) not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast". (Eph.2:8,9) Acts 16:31 says, "...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.."
Christian friend, are you still stumbling around in the maze of confusion that has been handed down to us by tradition? Are you still trying to hold to the precepts of the "Sermon on the Mount" and the "Great Commission"? Are you explaining away, or "spiritualizing" the scriptures in order to make them all correspond to what Paul has written, by inspiration, that contrasts and many times flatly contradicts that which was spoken by Christ on earth? If so, won't you please read what the apostle Paul writes in 2 Cor. 5:16? We shall quote: "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now HENCEFORTH (from now on) know we Him no more." We are not to follow Jesus Christ after the flesh,(as the 12 apostles did), BUT we are to follow Christ as Paul followed Him, after the spirit.
Paul says in 1 Cor.11:1, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." It behooves us then as Christians, as sons of God, to study to know how our apostle (Gentile apostle) followed Christian order that we may "Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith (we) are called.(Eph.4:1)
(*) In saying that both the Old and New Covenants made with Israel were conditional, we refer only to the conditions which were to be met by Israel as a nation at the time each of the covenants was offered. Concerning the Old, we find that the leaders of Israel said, "All that the Lord has spoken, we will do." (Exod.19:8) But we find that the leaders of Israel did not do all that the Lord had said in the Old Covenant, THE LAW (Acts 7:53). Concerning the New Covenant, we find the leaders of Israel saying, in so many words, "WE WILL NOT HAVE THIS MAN TO REIGN OVER US".(Luke 19:14 - See Acts 6:8 through 7:58). The New Covenant, however, shall be established with the Nation Israel, according to God's Word, not because they will have met any conditions, necessarily, but because of God's own good pleasure and for His Own Name's sake (Ezek.36:16-36) according as He has made promise to Abraham unconditionally, even before the Old covenant was made! We MUST know the difference in God's offering of the New Covenant to Israel and His establishing it with them in order to see where WE fit into God's program for today. Therefore, we are here considering, in relation to the New Covenant and Israel, only that which has gone before, and NOT that which is yet SURE TO COME.