In this day in age, a Christian can go to a bookstore and find a mass of resources on “How to Study God’s Word”. Without a doubt, these resources can provide insight regarding: geography, measurements, cultural characteristics, and the like. Yet, these are more study aids and resources about things in the Bible rather than books on “how to study” the Bible. There are books that provide steps to study the Bible, steps designed to provide you with an understanding of any given passage. There are also books of systematic theology that compartmentalize doctrines for you. For many commentaries are also sources for the studying of God’s Word. The question becomes, with all these resources to aid in understanding the scriptures, how does God tell 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, is found in God’s Word. God not only provided His Word, but teaches how it is to be studied and handled. The foremost text on how to study God’s Word 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 this instruction to. The reason is found in God’s purpose for making Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. Without the mystery of Christ committed to Paul which provides differences from God’s time past dealing with the nation of Israel we would have no need to “rightly divide the word of truth.” If Paul wasn’t in the Bible there would be nothing to “rightly divide” one from the other. 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 “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 for His creation, in heaven and on earth. 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, that is, Genesis 12-Acts 8. 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; 1 Tim. 1:15-16) and will end with the rapture of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 15:51ff; 1 The. 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 12-Acts 8, 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 that pertains to her (Romans 9:1-4) His plans, promises, and covenants with her and the world through her. This time period Paul refers to 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, as well as, all the unfulfilled prophecy in the law, psalms, and prophets. This time includes the time of Jacob’s trouble, the 70th week of Daniel, the beginning of sorrows, and great tribulation, as well as, the millennial kingdom, and great white throne judgment. Lastly, “the ages to come” also involves “the mystery of His will” or “the dispensation of the fulness 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 the body of Christ in the heavenly places, together under the imperial headship of the Lord Jesus Christ. God will “…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.
Josh Strelecki, Pastor-Teacher