PLAINER WORDS SINCE 1968
Issue # 427
We acknowledge the great labors of Dr. E. W. Bullinger in his book, “How To Enjoy The Bible.” To a great extent, we will follow his outline in these essays on RIGHT DIVISION. He devoted about seventy-five pages to the development of THE ONE GREAT REQUIREMENT OF THE WORD “RIGHTLY DIVIDING” IT. This writer does not agree with of all the conclusions of the Doctor, but his labors have been entered into, and we thank the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for those earthen vessels, such as Dr. Bullinger, who have gone on before and left us tools with which to work.
“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).
The one great requirement of the Word is the fact that it is grounded on the principle that it is “the Word of Truth.” The verse is so stated that the implication is this; unless the Word is rightly divided, you shall not get “truth,” and you shall get its truth only in proportion to the measure in which you rightly divide it. It MUST be divided RIGHTLY; that is, avoid all of the ways that are wrong. It does not matter, at all, what all others have thought or said. Page after page could be filled with what man has thought concerning RIGHT DIVISION of the Word of Truth. Many treat the command of RIGHT DIVISION as though it is not binding at all. Many build ministries upon the Word of Truth, failing, all along, to observe the one great requirement of the Word of Truth; that is, the rightly dividing of it. They act as though it was never given. This command, in 2 Timothy 2:15, is as binding as any other of God's commands. Strange that so many totally ignore it as if God has not spoken concerning the subject. Dr. Bullinger noted the following in 2 Timothy 2:15:
1. The one great reason for our study is to seek the approval of God, not man.
2. We are to be diligent in the study of the Word of Truth.
3. Our aim, as workmen, is not to have cause to be ashamed of our work.
4. To gain God’s approval and avoid being put to shame we MUST rightly divide the Word of Truth.
All of this tells us that we will not get truth unless we RIGHTLY DIVIDE. We are to give heed to this GREAT REQUIREMENT OF THE WORD, simply because it is the Word of Truth.
The common belief, today, in Christian circles is that all of the Bible is to be interpreted in light of the present “church age.” Or, that every portion of Scripture is written TO the Christian. This neglect of rightly dividing the Scripture bars the believer from RIGHTLY understanding the Word. This is the reason for the neglect of the Word. This is the reason for the spiritual pygmies. The spiritual pygmies are the reason for the fact that confidence has been lost in the Scriptures. A generation of under-nourished, ill-fed, and, consequently, ill-equipped Christians think the problem with the so-called "Church" is that the Bible is not clear, or at best, it is outdated in its archaic King’s English. The problem, all along, has been the failure of God's people to recognize the one great principle of understanding the Word of Truth which they fail to RIGHTLY DIVIDE.
“While the Word of God is written FOR all persons, and FOR all time, yet it is as true that not every part of it is addressed TO all persons or ABOUT all persons” (E. W. Bullinger).
Lest we be misunderstood, we repeat that every word from Genesis to Revelation is written FOR us. There is not one word that we can do without. We believe all Scripture is FOR us and is for our learning (Rom.15:4), but not all Scripture is addressed TO us, or written CONCERNING us.
With the foregoing comments in mind, let’s apply the principle of 2 Timothy 2:15 to what we will call the Dispensational Teaching of the Word of Truth.
In order to “grow in knowledge,” for we are to increase in “knowledge" as well as “grace” (2 Peter 3:18), we need to UNlearn all that we have been taught by man if it does not recognize the one great principle of Bible study ─ rightly dividing the Word of Truth. We must empty ourselves of all Tradition.
If we think we already know, it will be impossible to learn. If a vessel is full, it is impossible for its contents to be increased. Room must be made for the INCREASE by continually replacing what we have learned from man with what we have learned from the Lord. We must be prepared to learn over again, the things we have learned from man which do not agree with the Word of God rightly divided. If what we learn is direct from the Word, the Truth will grip us instead of us holding the Truth.
1. Truth that belongs to ONE PART of a PAST DISPENSATION must not be read into ANOTHER PART of the PAST.
The Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John belong to a PAST dispensation and had a special relation to the Time before the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Truth that pertained to the period before the Cross was not Truth that pertained to the period after the Cross.
(a). Matthew 10:5-6: The Lord Jesus spoke to the twelve and said; “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Immediately, we can detect a problem. The command from the Lord is to "Go not" to the Gentiles. If the Word is not divided, rightly or wrongly, then, this command is still binding on all of the Lord's servants. If we fail to take note of what PART of what Dispensation the command took place in, then, it must be interpreted as being written to all persons for all time. If right division is not applied, missionary work among the Gentiles is forbidden. Only missionary work among the Jews should be endorsed by believers.
Modern missionaries do not follow this principle of “Go not.” Then, something must be wrong. The command of Matthew 10:5-6 either remains in force, and today’s missionaries are operating in defiance of it, or there is some explanation that will exonerate them from such wrong-headedness.
If it be said that the missionaries are operating under the marching order of Mark 16:15; “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” then, the Word of God flatly contradicts Itself as to the fundamental principle of missionary work. Do you see the problem? The solution to this is that some DIVISION must be made between the two commands of "Go not" and "Go ye." Now, both commands were true. Both were spoken by the Lord Himself. We contend that both commands were not to be ignored. One command should not be exalted at the expense of the other. Right division of the two assigns each to its proper place in the Dispensation in which they occurred.
The “Go not” applied to the period when the PROCLAMATION was made before the Lord Jesus’ crucifixion. However, when the Lord Jesus was crucified and risen, this command was no longer appropriate because of the changed circumstances. With the changed circumstances, the "go ye" of Mark 16:15 was in order. It superseded the "Go not" of Matthew 10:5-6.
(b). In connection with the command, there were others given also: “Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat” (Matthew 10:9-10; cf. Luke 9:3).
When the Lord was on the eve of being crucified, He abrogated the commands, Himself, as being no longer suitable because of the changed circumstances. The Lord repeated them and asked whether or not His promise was true; “When I sent you without a purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then He said unto them, BUT NOW, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one" (Luke 22:35-36).
The two words, “BUT NOW,” announced that even within the same Dispensation, a change took place. It must be noted, and the two commands must be rightly divided. The “BUT NOW” points out the fact that Truth which belongs to one part of a PAST dispensation must not necessarily be interpreted to be Truth for ANOTHER part of that same Dispensation.
Now, if the principle of right division must be followed when circumstances change within the same dispensation, how much more of a necessity is it to rightly divide the Word of Truth when the Dispensation, itself, changes?
We are to rightly divide one PART of a Dispensation from the other PART of the same Dispensation when circumstances change, as noted in (a) and (b). But, when the whole Dispensation changes, the whole sphere changes, and in most cases, the people dealt with change, and the principle on which God deals with them changes.
Even with the two examples given in this study (Matthew 10 and Luke 9), Christendom persists in jumbling the whole Bible together; Law, Gospel, Grace, Kingdom, Church, Israel, Jew, Gentile, Judgment, Glory, Appearing and Coming all are confused in one vast tangle. Is there any wonder the Bible is misunderstood and has become a closed Book to most of God’s people?
~~END of CHAPTER TWO~~
Copyright © Thomas L. Ballinger 2018
First Printing 1975
Major Revision 2011
Tom L. Ballinger