by Shawn Brasseaux
Who is your apostle? Have you ever heard of “the Dispensation of the Grace of God?” What is a “dispensation?” What does the expression “rightly dividing the word of truth” mean? Does your pastor ever make reference to “the revelation of the mystery” or “the Gospel of the Grace of God?”
The average church member in any denomination is either vaguely familiar or completely unfamiliar with these terms (which are Bible terms, by the way). Proper Bible study—let alone any Bible study—is rare these days, and this is especially true in many so-called “Bible-believing” churches too! Much of today’s “church” services consist of nearly an hour of “worship” followed by five minutes of reading Bible verses (“sermonettes”). How can we Christians oppose Satan’s evil world system if we do not know even how to use our weapon, “the sword of the Spirit,” God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17)?
Most church members have several Bibles at home, but the devil is unthreatened. Why? Oftentimes, people are too confused about the Bible to read and enjoy it, so they are not inclined to read or believe it anyway. Satan’s primary tool for confusing mankind—especially the Church the Body of Christ—is religious tradition (“denominationalism”). Traditionally, most churches refuse to use the Bible God’s way. They wrest (twist) the Bible’s passages, forcing God’s Word to agree with their denominational biases instead of allowing the Bible to say what it says where it says it.
All of the confusion that religion causes can be dispelled using Pauline dispensationalism—proper Bible study, studying the Bible as God designed it to be studied. Not surprisingly, religion will do everything possible to keep you from learning the truths of God’s Word, so that you do what they want you to do to further their church program and doctrine. Consequently, they will also discourage you from believing the rightly divided Bible and forbid you from using Pauline dispensationalism. Do not let them fool you!
Please memorize 2 Timothy 2:15 as it appears in the King James Bible: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Tragically, modern English Bibles have omitted the words “study” and “rightly dividing.” Because these “Bibles” are more “popular” than the King James Bible, most church members are never instructed to study the Bible, nor are they told to rightly divide the Bible.
Brethren, it does matter what Bible translation you use. If the “Bible” you use does not tell you to “study” it and “rightly divide” it, then that “Bible” is in error—it cannot and is not God’s inerrant and infallible Word. Toss out that modern Bible and only use the Authorized Version King James Bible, God’s perfectly preserved Word for us English-speaking people.
So, have you ever read or seen 2 Timothy 2:15 anywhere? In a church bulletin? What about a ministry newsletter? Perhaps, a Bible study group? Or, a devotion? Maybe a pastor’s sermon? Chances are, you have never seen it or heard it. If this verse is so important, why has no one told you about it?
Well, most “Christian” churches today do not care to teach and preach God’s Word, God’s way. They just want to circulate their denominational doctrine (their biased theological system). Most church members have no idea that 2 Timothy 2:15 is even in the Bible! Many people who do discover this verse pretend it is not there because they dislike what it teaches. Again, they prefer their denominational tradition, and what did the Lord Jesus Christ said to the religious leaders of His day? “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9).
To repeat for the sake of emphasis, the solution to the abounding confusion in Christendom is to listen to God’s instructions: 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV. Man’s disobedience has led to sin and death, and now it has also led to confusion in regards to Bible study and understanding. People are misusing God’s Word, and have made the Bible a confusing mish-mash of doctrines. This is exactly what Satan wants, for “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). If you want to be “approved unto God,” and if you want to be “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” you must “rightly divide the word of truth.” Now that I have your attention, you are probably asking what exactly does it mean to “rightly divide the word of truth?” I am glad you asked!
If God wants to change His mode of operation, He can, without seeking wisdom or authority from an outside source. God’s essence, His nature, never changes (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), but His dealings with mankind have changed throughout human history because man has changed. For instance, the nation Israel was once God’s favored nation (Exodus 19:3-6; Deuteronomy 4:20). Today, God has temporarily set wicked Israel aside while He deals with the whole world, the Gentiles (Romans 10:1-3; Romans 11:11,12,15,25-32).
A second example is that once mankind fell into sin, God brought in the curse and banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Why do God’s dealings with man change? Again, mankind changes, so in order to accommodate these changes in man, God’s method of dealing with mankind must also change. This is why some books of the Bible “contradict” other portions of Scripture. God gave diverse directions to various people at sundry times, so we would do well if we did not pretend as though every verse in the Bible was spoken to us (which is what Christendom wrongly believes, even today).
Again, 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV says: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Notice that God’s Word is “the word of truth” (see John 17:17; cf. Daniel 10:21). All of the Bible is true, but certain portions are not true for everyone. All of the Bible is true, but it is not all true today. That is, one set of Bible directions is true for one group of people, but it is not true for another group of people (these people have a set of directions that are true for them). For instance, is a global flood threatening us today, such as in the days of Noah? No, but that was true in Noah’s day! Again, throughout human history, God gave diverse directions to various people at sundry times. In their respective places, these directions are true and good, but they are not true and good if they are applied to the wrong time period.
What is a dispensation? A dispensation is simply a set of instructions which God reveals to man limited information, how God deals with mankind in a particular way at a particular time. The word “dispensation” appears four times in the King James Bible (1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:25). Every dispensation has its own unique set of directions, so when you combine the dispensations—that is, confuse the information revealed in one dispensation with information given in another dispensation, or forcing directions into a dispensation in which it was never given—then you will destroy the clarity of God’s Word. (This is the very cause of Bible confusion today!)
THE TWO PROGRAMS OF GOD’S WORD
The first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, clearly says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The two spheres of God’s influence are the heaven and the earth. It is extremely important that we keep these two realms separate from one another.
Israel is God’s earthly people (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 24:7; Genesis 26:15; Exodus 19:5,6; etc.), whereas the Church the Body of Christ is God’s heavenly people (2 Corinthians 5:1; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6,7; Colossians 1:5; etc.). God has a special plan for Israel (the prophetic program) that is separate and distinct from His special plan for the Church the Body of Christ (the mystery program). That is, one portion of the Bible is focused on the heaven (and the Body of Christ), while the other portion of God’s Word is centered on the earth (and the nation Israel).
Consider this. The Apostle Peter says that he is preaching that “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21)—this is the prophetic program. But, the Apostle Paul writes that he is preaching “according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest…” (Romans 16:25,26a)—this is the mystery (secret) program. These programs cannot be one and the same (they are not to be confused, as they are commonly muddled up in today’s “Christian” circles).
Dispensational Bible study (also known as Pauline dispensationalism* or mid-Acts dispensationalism*) is a threat to the traditional preaching and teaching found in most “Bible-believing” churches because religion confuses Israel with the Church the Body of Christ and it combines Israel’s prophetic program with our mystery program. People haphazardly take verses that belong to the nation Israel and/or pretend that we are “spiritual Israel” and apply those verses to us. This is dangerous and dishonest because we are taking something that God never gave us. Faith is believing what God says to us, so if we are to have faith, we need to know what God said to us. It is not faith to believe and do something God never told us to believe or do.
I am well aware that most of the preaching in Christendom today comes from the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. While the Four Gospels are God’s Word, they are God’s Word to Israel. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry was to Israel only. The Lord Jesus declared, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). “Salvation is of the Jews,” Jesus stated in John 4:22. Paul writes that Jesus “was a minister of the circumcision [Israel] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:” (Romans 15:8). Jesus sent His twelve apostles to Israel only (Matthew 10:5-7).
If Jesus’ earthly ministry was to Jews only, then how can we Gentiles follow Matthew through John and expect to be following God’s will for us? We would be following the directions Jesus gave to Israel. We are not Israel, so why obey the instructions God gave to Israel? It makes no sense. The instructions God gave to Israel are not the instructions He has given us. Please understand that you can follow the Bible and the quote the Bible all you want, but if you ignore the distinctions God has made in His Word, you will be outside of the will of God. Right division (dispensational Bible study) is that critical to your understanding the Bible!
UNDERSTANDING WHO YOUR APOSTLE IS
Just as God the Father sent Jesus Christ to minister to the Jews, God also sent one man to minister to us non-Jews (Gentiles). This is why the Apostle Paul wrote: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles; I magnify mine office” (Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; 2 Timothy 1:11). God’s spokesman to us today is the Apostle Paul. If you want to know what God has to say to you today, go to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. The Holy Spirit led Paul to write, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37 KJV). Just as God used Moses to teach Israel His law, God uses the Apostle Paul to teach us His grace! But, prior to Paul’s salvation, things were quite different regarding God’s dealings with man.
After mankind fell into sin back in Genesis chapter 3, God promised a Redeemer, a Saviour, “the seed of the woman” (verse 15). During the next 2000 years, mankind was still rebellious and wicked—how was this Redeemer going to born of men when mankind was refusing to cooperate with God? Well, finally, God set aside one man, Abraham, and He promised that, through Abraham’s son Isaac, a new nation of people, Israel, would be born (Genesis 12:1-3). God would use then use Israel to give birth to the Saviour-King, the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ would set up His kingdom in the earth, Israel would evangelize the Gentiles (Exodus 19:5,6; Isaiah 60:1-3; Zechariah 9:20-23; et al.).
However, when Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, came and claimed to be their King, they demanded the Roman government carry out His crucifixion; albeit God raised Him from the dead (Acts 2:22-39; Acts 3:12-26). So, in the early part of the book of Acts, Israel is still mostly rejecting Peter and the other apostles’ preaching. The Jews later killed their prophet Stephen in Acts chapter 7.
Just as God’s wrath was about to be poured out in Acts 7:54-56 (cf. Psalm 110:1; Psalm 68:1), there was a dispensational change. Now that the Jews had rejected God the Father (by letting Herod behead John the Baptist; John 1:6), rejected God the Son, Jesus Christ, by demanding His crucifixion (John 19:15), and rejected the Holy Spirit (who was ministering to them through the twelve apostles in early Acts [Hebrews 2:4,5]), God would turn to the Gentiles without Israel. Israel had blasphemed against the Holy Ghost—she had committed the “unpardonable sin” of Matthew 12:31,32. Israel’s kingdom would now be postponed indefinitely while God would deal with the non-Jews.
Ephesians 2:11,12 KJV talks about the when God made the distinction between the nation Israel (“Circumcision”) and the Gentiles (“Uncircumcision”): “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”
This is what the Bible calls “time past,” and would include the “Old Testament,” the Four Gospels, and the first nine chapters of Acts. But, verse 13 says, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Dispensational Bible study enables us to “rightly divide” the “time past” and the “but now.” Before Paul and the Dispensation of Grace (the “but now,”), God dealt with mankind on the basis on Jew and Gentile. Now, God is not making a distinction between Jew and Gentile. God has changed the program: this is the dispensational change that occurred with the conversion of the Apostle Paul.
Furthermore, the nation Israel, which God intended to use to evangelize the world, is currently set aside. Today, the Gentile (non-Jewish) world is hearing God’s Word through the ministry of the Apostle Paul, apart from Israel. Today, Israel’s prophetic program is temporarily suspended (note that it is not eternally suspended). Their kingdom is still postponed, for their Messiah has not yet returned at His Second Coming to bring in their kingdom.
Today, God’s salvation message to us is not, “Repent and be baptized” (Peter’s message to Israel in Acts 2:38), but rather “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day” (Paul’s message to us Gentiles in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, also known as “the Gospel of the Grace of God,” according to Acts 20:24).
We are not Jews living under the burdens of the Mosaic Law. Rather, we are Gentiles living in the “Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2). If every church member would recognize the stark difference between Peter and the eleven’s ministry to Israel and the Apostle Paul’s ministry to us the Gentiles, many churches would be empty (the members would realize the preacher claiming to be teaching “God’s truth” was actually preaching “Satan’s error!”).
If preachers ever did come to understand that our apostle (Paul) forbade tithing, water baptism, and Sabbath Day keeping, most of them would keep it secret because they would lose funding! Law and grace are mutually exclusive, so keep them “rightly divided.” “Ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14-15; Romans 11:6; Galatians 5:1-5).
Most Bible “scholars” and theologians try to place the birthday of the Church the Body of Christ, in Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost. Scholars?! They can read Greek with ease, but they have difficulty understanding what the English Bible says—that Paul had a ministry separate from the twelve apostles. Only Paul writes about “the Church the Body of Christ,” so the Body of Christ is a Pauline doctrine (a doctrine revealed only to Paul; see Ephesians 3:1-9). Paul is not mentioned in the Bible until Acts chapter 9, so Acts chapter 2 is not the Body of Christ! Acts chapter 2, if you notice is still Jewish (Acts 2:14,22,36) while the Body of Christ has neither Jews nor Gentiles in it (Galatians 3:28).
* NOTE: The term Pauline dispensationalism means that we study and believe the Bible according to the ministry and doctrine committed to the Apostle Paul. You may also hear this referred to as mid-Acts dispensationalism, for the dispensational change that affects us occurred during the middle part of the book of Acts (Paul’s conversion in Acts chapter 9).
What right division IS:
- It is separating our mystery program from Israel’s prophetic program.
- It is separating the Church the Body of Christ from the nation Israel.
- It is separating law and grace.
- It is separating “time past,” “but now,” and “the ages to come.”
- It is separating Paul’s apostleship from Peter’s apostleship.
- It is separating the truths of God’s Word written to us (Paul’s epistles) from the truths of His Word written to others.
What right division is NOT:
- It is not separating the Old and New Testaments.
- It is not separating truth from error.
- It is not throwing away or ignoring the non-Pauline books of the Bible.
- It is not exalting the Apostle Paul as Saviour or God.
- It is not chopping up the Bible.
- It is not following traditional Bible study.