Rightly dividing, is not, as our detractors would say, “cherry picking” the verses that we like and don’t like.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
The Bible is, without a doubt, God’s perfect and preserved word as found in the King James Bible, however, taken from a surface level it would appear to contain many seeming contradictions that have puzzled many Bible students and teachers alike. But hidden in the Scriptures is the key for understanding how to resolve this pressing issue.
The Holy Spirit, writing through the Apostle Paul, gives Christians a tri-fold command (see above verse) for understanding the Bible. The first part of the command is that we are to STUDY the Bible. Secondly, not just to study by to approach it as a “workman” would labor at his job. Hard, diligent study with an open mind. Lastly, Paul tells us to “rightly divide” the word of truth, the Bible, and therein do we find our answer.
Rightly dividing, is not, as our detractors would say, “cherry picking” the verses that we like and don’t like. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rightly dividing begins with the understanding that while the whole Bible is written for us, the whole Bible is not written to us. In the Bible, there are at any given time, three people groups that God can be addressing when He is speaking. He can be talking to the Jews and Israel, He can be addressing Christians and the Church, or He can be talking to the vast body of unsaved gentiles. Let me give you some examples to illustrate what I mean.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV) – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
This verse is written to the Jews specifically, and the land it is talking about is the Holy Land of Israel. Nothing replaces the Jews or Israel. As doctrine, it is not a promise by God to “heal America” if Christians repent and turn back to Him. It is not a promise we can claim in any other sense than a spiritual sense that God forgives sin and welcomes back sinners and nations who repent, like He did with Nineveh. Let me give you another one.
Mark 16:17,18 (KJV) – “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Because these verses appear in the New Testament, many Christians mistakenly believe that Jesus is talking to the Church when in reality He is not. We know this to be true because we are unable to successfully manifest these signs in our Christian life. Playing with a fully-loaded cottonmouth snake or drinking poison graphically powerfully illustrates why Mark 16 does not apply to the Christian Church in our dispensation. However, these verses did apply to Jewish disciples alive at that time and it will apply to the 144,000 Jews God raises up in the Tribulation after the Rapture of the Church.
Now these 3 people groups – Jews, Christians and Gentiles – appear throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and because of that, we always need to ask ourselves in whatever passage we are reading, who is God speaking to? Failing to first ask that question, and then answer it, will result in a misinterpretation of Scripture resulting in a wrong conclusion. Let me show you a powerful example of what I mean.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:4-6 (KJV)
This verse appears in the New Testament, and Christians will point to it as a warning that we can “lose our salvation” if we fall into sin. But is that true? The writings of the Apostle Paul indicate an opposing position.
“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, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13,14 (KJV)
Hebrews says that falling away from the truth is impossible to recover from, and Ephesians says that believers are sealed at the moment of salvation so they can never lose it. Well, which is it? It is for exactly this reason that people erroneously that the Bible contains contradictions and/or errors. But, rest assured, I am here to tell you that the Bible is 100% free of any error or contradiction of any kind.
As doctrine, the book of Hebrews was written to, as you may have already guessed, Hebrews. Jewish believers. Most of the book is a 100% address to Jews reminding them of their common heritage through Abraham and Moses. It is also a prophetic book that will have huge impact for Jewish believers during the time of the Great Tribulation. From a spiritual perspective there is much that Hebrews offers us, and sheds valuable light on the nature and character of office of High Priest held by Jesus Christ for us right now. But the believers alive in the Tribulation will be saved by a combination of faith plus works, they will not be saved by grace through faith alone as we are now in the age of grace. Hebrews 6 will be their doctrine, and if they fall away during that time period, they will not be saved. Aren’t you glad that you will miss all that? Nothing a Christian can do in the age of grace will cause us to lose our salvation, because our doctrine tells us we have eternal security.
So remember that when you see what appears to be a contradiction in Scripture, look and see who God is addressing, and you will know if it applies to you in a doctrinal sense, spiritual sense, or if it’s Paul’s writings, in both.