by Shawn Brasseaux
The question is often asked, “Why does the Bible have ‘contradictions?’” The problem lies in man, not in God’s Word. Man is too sinful and rebellious to study God’s Word, God’s way. For example, suppose you write one set of instructions to one friend, and then you write a separate set of instructions to another friend. One set of instructions is the complete opposite to the other, but of course, as long each friend follows their own set of instructions (and not the other set), there is no confusion. Now, mix up all of these directions, and not surprisingly, you get a massive to-do list… and a massive headache to boot! This is exactly what man has done with God’s Word—just twisted it all out of shape by combining the directions that God gave to different groups of people in history and pretending all of these directions were spoken to one group of people. No wonder people get so confused about the Bible!
Mankind seeks every excuse he can find to avoid being held accountable to God. He avoids church, he leaves his Bible on the bookshelf to collect dust, and he refuses to hear what any Christian has to say. The truth is that the Bible convicts and these people cannot escape conviction. In great hopes of silencing the Christians, lost mankind says, “The Bible has contradictions!” Do not be intimidated by that same old trick; it is just as a last-minute effort to ditch the conversation. They need to understand that God’s Word must be studied His way or it will not make any sense.
Understand that our “dispensation,” or “economy”—the “Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2)—is distinct from God’s dealing with His covenant people Israel in the Dispensation of Law. Unlike Israel, we are under grace, not law (Romans 6:14-15). People fail to realize this basic fact of Scripture, so they glibly believe the idea that the Bible is full of “contradictions” and “errors.” Of course, God told Israel one thing under law, and He tells us another thing under grace: the same Lord God is dealing with two separate peoples in two distinct dispensations. See? There are NO contradictions in the Bible as long as you keep these two sets of instructions separate, keeping Israel’s “mail” separate from our “mail” (recall the analogy with which we opened this discussion).
When Israel fell as a nation after crucifying their Messiah and King Jesus of Nazareth, and refused to repent in the early Acts period (ultimately blaspheming against the Holy Spirit in Acts 7 with the stoning of Stephen; see Matthew 12:31-32), God needed a new instrument to reach lost Gentiles. Thus, God sent the Apostle Paul to the non-Jewish or Gentile world (Acts 9:15-16; Romans 15:16; 2 Timothy 1:11). Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). God changed the program with Paul, so what God said in the Bible before Paul’s salvation in Acts chapter 9 will not always agree with what God said in the Bible after Paul’s salvation (more on this in a moment).
While God has temporarily set Israel aside today, He is dispensing His directions to us through Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. These directions are separate and distinct from the instructions He gave Israel. And, no, although it was God’s Word to Israel, not us, we do not throw away the Old Testament. We simply view the entire Bible (all 66 books) from the Pauline perspective: this is called Pauline dispensationalism or mid-Acts dispensationalism. That is, how does everything relate to us today as members of the Church the Body of Christ? How do we receive God’s salvation today? How does God want us to live today? What does God want us to believe today? We must go to Paul for those answers—that information cannot be found anywhere else in the Bible but Paul!
Now, we move on to a related topic. Should we obey Jesus or Paul? The majority of pastors and Bible teachers seem to ignore Paul, and place more emphasis on Jesus’ earthly ministry. Now, there are many good Christians who have simply been misled; however, many are content to keep their religious tradition, and could not care less about proper Bible study. What Jesus Christ said was important, and we will never take away from what Jesus said because He is God. The problem with us “going by what Jesus said” is that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to Jews under the Mosaic Law. The Lord Jesus taught Jews according to the Mosaic Law, in light of the coming kingdom promised to Israel.
God the Father sent Jesus Christ to Israel. Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). The Lord Jesus came “to save his people [Israel] from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Christ “was a minister of the circumcision [Israel]” (Romans 15:8). Furthermore, Jesus sent the twelve apostles “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-7). “Salvation is of the Jews,” Jesus said in John 4:22. Jesus came “to redeem them that were under the law” (Galatians 4:4)—that is Israel. These Scriptures make it abundantly clear that the Lord Jesus Christ was not sent to us Gentiles in His earthly ministry.
We are Gentiles (non-Jews) living in the Dispensation of the Grace of God, so we cannot follow Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (although religion today tells us to do just that!). Just as God sent Moses to reveal the law program to the nation Israel, God sent Paul to reveal the grace program to the whole world. Jesus promoted Temple worship, Sabbath day keeping, water baptism, and tithing: all of which was given to Jews under the Law. We are not under the Law; we are not Israel. Today, we Christians are members of the Church the Body of Christ. Israel, however, is temporarily fallen, cast away, and spiritually blinded (Romans 11:11,15,25). Israel’s prophetic program is not in operation today; today, God is operating the mystery program (Acts 3:21; cf. Romans 16:25).
The ascended Lord Jesus Christ sent the Apostle Paul to us, so if we are to accept God, we are to accept God’s apostle to us (Matthew 10:40; John 13:20; Acts 9:15-16; Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; 2 Timothy 1:11). Paul is the only apostle who gives us the instructions about the grace life in Christ because to Paul alone the Lord Jesus Christ revealed our Dispensation of Grace and the Gospel of the Grace of God of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25-26; Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-9; 2 Timothy 2:8).
To ignore the Pauline epistles of Romans through Philemon, like most people have done, and replace them man’s ideas / religion (or replace them with Old Testament Law-keeping) is to ignore God’s message to you. Again, what the Lord has to say to us in this Dispensation of Grace was revealed only to Paul. The Holy Spirit caused the Apostle 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). To follow Paul is to follow Jesus Christ in our dispensation; to follow Jesus in His earthly ministry is not to follow Jesus Christ in our dispensation!
Paul writes that we are not under the law of Moses (Romans 6:14-15), that the Holy Spirit “baptizes” today without water (1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:5), that we are to give willingly and not grudgingly as with the Old Testament tithe (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), that we do not have to observe the kosher food laws of the Old Testament (Colossians 2:16), and that there is no Sabbath day for us to keep today (Colossians 2:16). The signs, miracles, and wonders program of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the early Acts period is also not in effect today because Israel has been temporarily set aside while God deals with us Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20).
As long as we “rightly divide” the Scriptures, we can avoid the spiritual confusion and immaturity that Christendom is experiencing. “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). Everything outside of Paul’s epistles is legalistic, associated with the nation Israel, the Mosaic Law, and Judaism. Thus, trying to practice the Mosaic Law will not be following the grace life God has for us in the Dispensation of Grace. Following the prophetic program God has for the nation Israel will only bind you, confuse you, and defeat you. We study all the Holy Scriptures, Genesis through Revelation, but the instructions we need to follow and the doctrine we need to believe is in the Pauline epistles. The Holy Spirit moved Paul to write to us as members of the Church the Body of Christ; if we ignore Paul, we are ignoring the Holy Spirit.
PAUL IS GOD’S SPOKESMAN TO US. PAUL IS OUR APOSTLE.