In this day and age, a Christian can go to a bookstore and find a mass of resources regarding, “how to study God’s Word”. Without a doubt, many of these can provide insight in connection with many things regarding God’s Word, for instance: geography, measurements, cultural characteristics, and the like. Yet, these are more study aids and resources about things in the Bible than books on “how to study” the Bible. There are books that provide steps to study the Bible, steps designed to provide you, if followed, with an understanding of any given passage. There are also systematic theology books that compartmentalize doctrines for you. Commentaries are also a main source for many as they study God’s Word. The question becomes with all these “how to’s” and resources to understanding the scriptures, is this how God tells you to study HIS WORD?
When a Christian, with honesty of heart, asks this question and desires a godly answer the very thing they are seeking, “how to study”, will be found in God’s Word. There are some vital issues concerning “how to study” found in God’s Word itself, which He Himself provides for us. One of the biggest issues is set forth in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The apostle Paul was the only one that God gave the instruction to study, as well as, “how to study”. The reason for this is because due to God’s purpose and ministry to Paul demanded for those who would study His Word to separate or divide some things from other things. If Paul wasn’t in the Bible there would be nothing to “rightly divide” one from the other. Due to the nature of the ministry God gave Paul and “the hidden wisdom” contained therein, as well as, the diverse nature of the information given to Paul compared to the information previous to him starting in Acts 9, it is necessary to “rightly divide the word of truth”. Therefore, Paul is the sole receiver of God’s instructions to “rightly divide”, because of the ministry given to Paul. Without going into great detail let me provide a general summary of what is involved in “rightly dividing the word of truth”.
The right division of God’s Word recognizes God’s two-fold plan and purpose through the ages or time. This two-fold plan and purpose is broken into three separate time periods or what God through Paul calls – “time past”, “but now”, and “the ages to come”. God’s two-fold plan and purpose involves two entities of His workmanship: 1) True Israel (believing Israel), and 2) The Body of Christ. These are two different, separate, and unique entities of God that He planned to not only create, but utilize for His plan and purpose of His universe. In “time past”, God formed and Fathered the nation of Israel into existence starting in Genesis 12 with Abram. The majority of space to follow, in the Bible, is given to His program with His nation Israel – Genesis-Acts 7. God communicated at this time through prophecy, or, what He made known through the mouth of all His holy prophets “since the world began.” (Acts 3:21) However, in Acts 9 God did something unexpected and un-prophesied; He put on hold His prophesied program, raised up a brand new apostle, the apostle Paul, ushered in this dispensation of grace in which we live, and committed to Paul “the mystery of Christ”, that which God kept secret since the world began (Eph. 3:1-12), as well as, all the instructions, commandments, and information we need to understand today. This Dispensation of Grace started with Paul (Acts 9:1ff; 1 Tim. 1:15-16) and will end with the rapture of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 15:51ff; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). The time in which we live is referenced by Paul as “but now”. The information is not of a prophetic nature; therefore, you cannot understand what Paul was given by the information contained in Genesis-Acts 7, because it was a “mystery” and “unsearchable”. Paul was given “the mystery of Christ”, that which God hid in Himself since the beginning of the world (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-12). After the rapture of the body of Christ God will resume His prophetic program with Israel and fulfill all His plans, promises, and covenants with her and the world through the believing remnant of Israel, as they pertain to them (Roman 9:1-4). This time period Paul references as “to come” or “the ages to come”. The context and information used at this time is found after Paul’s epistles in Hebrews-Revelation. This time includes the tribulation and great tribulation periods, the millennial kingdom, and great white throne judgment. Lastly, “the ages to come” also involves “the mystery of His will” or “the dispensation of times” (Eph. 1:9-10) which will take place after the great white throne judgment where He will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him” (Eph. 1:10); in other words, God will gather: the world through Israel on this earth with that of the body of Christ in the heavenly places, together under the imperial headship of the Lord Jesus Christ. God will have thus “…having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Col. 1:20)
It is needful therefore that we “rightly divide the word of truth”. Recognizing and acknowledging God’s two-fold singular plan & purpose to reconcile all things back to Himself. This two-fold singular plan & purpose to reconcile all things (things on earth and things in heaven) back to Himself is recorded on the pages of God’s Word and demands we study in like manner. Recognizing these differences in our study, keeping them separate where need be, and also acknowledging the similarities between God’s two programs is all part of “rightly dividing”. This takes “study” and being “a workman” resulting in whether we are and will be “approved unto God” or not. For further consideration of this essential issue, if God specifically gave the apostle Paul the instructions to “study” and how to study, one could logically and naturally expect Paul to be doing this very thing in his epistles.
Pastor Josh Strelecki