From: Bob Williams
As we study the Bible, if we want to understand not only what it says in general, but in particular what it says to us today, it makes sense to do what God tells us to do when it comes to properly handling His Word. In II Timothy 2:15 the Apostle Paul declares the method of Bible study that God wants us to use: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God, in this verse, tells us not only to study, but how to study in order to get the profit out of His Word that He put into it for us.
To “rightly divide the word of truth” means to recognize and correctly make the divisions that need to be made in it because of the two different programs God lays out in the Bible. This two-fold plan and purpose God is working out is clear to see when you “rightly divide the word.” One aspect of His plan and purpose centers around the people of Israel and the covenant God made with Abraham and his seed. God’s plan and purpose with Israel pertains to this earth and has been the subject matter of “all His holy prophets since the world began,” Luke 1:67-75; Acts 3:19-26.
The other aspect of God’s plan and purpose centers around His “new creature” (II Cor. 5:17), which is the Church the body of Christ He is forming in this “dispensation of Gentile grace.” God’s purpose with the Church pertains to the heavenly places and is something God kept “hid in Himself” in ages past, or “since the world began” per Romans 16:25 and Ephesians 3:9, only revealing it when He raised up Paul to be a brand new apostle, (Eph. 2:11-3:12). God’s dealings with Israel and the Church the body of Christ are not the same; they are the two distinct programs the Bible sets forth.
Because of this, the “word of truth” must be “rightly divided” as Paul tells us. If we do not do this, our study of the scriptures will result in confusion and uncertainty over who we are and God’s plans for us now and into eternity. Unfortunately Christendom often attempts to merge the programs into one, which has caused much misinformation and frustration when a person attempts to claim promises, blessings and even curses that belong in another program. In addition, we will actually dishonor and disobey the Lord if we try to follow some instructions that are not part of His program and dealings with us today.
Fortunately, God, through Paul, gives us some instructions on how to “rightly divide the word of truth.” In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul sets forth the basic three-fold division in God’s dealing with mankind: “Time Past” (vs.11 and 12); “But Now” (v.13); and the “Ages to Come” (v.7). When the Bible is laid out according to this divinely inspired design we easily get an overview of not only what we are reading, but when and to whom it was written. Thus the Word of God itself provides us with the key to its own proper understanding and right division. (More about right division in the coming weeks.)