Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 8, 1949
NUMBER 18, PAGE 4-5b

Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth

Murray W. Wilson

One writer has described the Bible as "the Book containing the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the travelers map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its contents."

Paul said, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (I Tim. 2:15) Why do we need to "divide" the scriptures, or "handle aright" the word of God? It is because some of the scriptures, are applicable to our present age and some are not. We must be able to make the distinction. Parts of the Bible have been written to a special group of individuals; some for one age, some for another. Some of the Bible is history, some law, some poetry, some ordinances, some biography. There is a part of it that is given to us in this age—that part we call the gospel of Christ.

The Bible tells of God's dealing with the human race during all the three great dispensations of time, patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian. We need to know our Bible well enough that we are able to distinguish between words of God to the ancient world before the cross and words addressed to those of us who live this side of the cross.

Consider the one great division of the Bible that has been recognized (at least superficially) by all the religious world. In our Bibles we have what is known as the "Old Testament" followed by what we call the "New Testament." In each of these major divisions we find a number of minor divisions or sub-heads.

The Old Testament

In the Old Testament we find the books of the law from Genesis through Deuteronomy; the books of history from Joshua through Esther; the books of poetry from Job through the Songs of Solomon; the books of prophecy from Isaiah through Malachi.

If we ask the purpose of the Old Testament (often referred to in the New Testament simply as "the law"), Paul gives a very clear and sufficient answer. He wrote, "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." (Gal 3:24-25) Again the Bible speaks concerning the Old Testament as being "a shadow of good things to come." (Heb. 10:1) In that same chapter we are told that God "taketh away the first that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all"

Christ fulfilled the law. He lived perfectly. As he hung suspended on the cross he cried, "It is finished," Therefore, we have Paul referring to it in these words, "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." (Col 2:14) Thus the law ended at the cross of Christ, having been completely fulfilled by Christ, and having been by him forever taken "out of the way."

The New Testament

When we turn to the New Testament we find that it is the will of Christ, which became effective after his death. "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." (Heb. 9:16, 17)

This part of the Bible also is divided into four main subdivisions, just as we had in the Old Testament. First comes what we call "the gospels"—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books tell of the life, work, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. They tell who he was and what he did. The second division of the New Testament is called "Acts of Apostles." Really, it is some of the acts of some of the apostles. It is a book of conversions, showing how men became obedient to the gospel of Christ. It gives numerous examples showing thousands of people fulfilling the conditions of pardon. We live in the same age and are governed by the same laws as these people. What it took to make them children of God, it takes to make us children. If we do as they did, and faithfully serve God all our days, our earthly life will be happy, our death triumphant, and our eternity will be never-ending bliss.

The third division of the New Testament is made up of twenty-one letters or epistles to Christians. The purpose of these letters is to direct Christians in the straight and narrow way that will lead to eternal life. Many important and beautiful figures are set forth in these epistles describing the Christian's work and service. He is variously described as a disciple, an athlete, a soldier, a builder, a laborer, an heir, a son, a brother, a saint, and many others. He goes forth to fight against Satan and against sin.

The fourth and last division of the New Testament is the book of Revelation. This book has been described as a great lake in which one may dive as deeply as his wisdom permits, and where there are shallow eddies where even children may wade. Probably its greatest promise is found in these words, "Blessed are they that do his commandments that they may have a right to the tree of life and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Rev. 22:14)

The law of the Lord is adapted to the nature of man. Place the book in the hands of one who is young in years and he turns not to Revelation or to the epistles, but rather to the beautiful story of Christ and his life. Then as he grows older he becomes interested in the book of Acts. Here he finds answered the eternal question, "What must I do to be saved?" Once baptized into Christ the epistles teach and encourage him in living the Christian life. And at last he comes face to face with death. His question is, what then? what lies beyond? The Book of Revelation gives the answer. It shows the eternal happiness of the redeemed, the eternal misery of the wicked. Thus the full duty of man is set forth. God has left nothing out. All we need to do, to know, to practice, or to believe is fully declared.