Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 7, 1954
NUMBER 34, PAGE 2-3a

"The First .... The Second", Rightly Dividing The Word Of God

Thomas Allen Robertson, San Bernardino, California

The Bible Addressed To Man's Intelligence In his exhortation to Timothy Paul said, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some., Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." (2 Tim. 2:15-19) This exhortation to Timothy is also applicable to us. We all need to search the scriptures as Christ enjoined the Jews to do, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39) And, we need to properly divide the word of truth as Paul enjoins Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15.

Man is an intelligent, thinking being. Therefore, the religion of God is addressed to man's intelligence. Christ declared that the people of his day were not converted because they refused to understand. Of those people Christ said, "For this people's heart is waxed gross and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." (Matt. 13:15) Since the religion of God is addressed to the intelligence of man we can better understand the work of the Holy Spirit in the scheme of redemption. The Holy Spirit through the New Testament writers delivered to us the word of God that we might know how to walk as God would have us to. We might say that the work of the Holy Spirit was like a trail blazer blazing a trail through the woods for all men who came after to follow. The Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to say the right thing at the right time (Matt. 10:18,19); put them in remembrance of what Christ had said; taught them all things (John 14:26), and enabled them to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:7-14) And, the Holy Spirit is still doing all of these things through the word of God.

What Is The Proper Basis For Division Of God's Word?

Our text (2 Tim. 2:15) makes us understand that it is possible to make a wrong division of God's word. So we must turn to the Bible to find out what the proper division is. As we look into the Bible we find that the Book itself recognizes that it is divided into two great parts; the first called the Old Testament or first will (2 Cor. 3:14; Heb. 10:9,10), and the second called the New Testament or second will. (2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 10:9, 10) Throughout the New Testament this distinction is made. Concerning this very point Paul said, "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of the letter." (Rom. 7:6) Again he said, "Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." (2 Cor. 3:6) And again, "For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son." (Rom. 1:9) And, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." (Heb. 1:1-2) These passages, and many others like them show plainly that we are not now to serve God in the precepts, commandments and ordinances of the Old Testament, but in the new and living way; the last will or New Testament of Jesus Christ.

The law (the Old Testament) never was intended to apply to any except Abraham's house or those bought with his money. And more specifically those who were a party to the covenant made at Sinai and their children. For, notice to whom that covenant was given: "The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day." (Dent. 5:2,3) This covenant had not been made with their fathers but with them. And that there be no mistake about it the New Testament writer tells us exactly when that covenant was made, how the Jews disregarded it, how God resolved to make a new covenant, and how Christ had become the mediator of a better covenant; and then in defining the new covenant he quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord." (Heb. 8:8,9)

Not only does the New Testament tell us to whom the Old Testament was given and when it was given, but it tells us why it was given and for how long it was to be in effect. The law was given because of transgressions. "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." (Gal. 3:19) In this passage the reason for the law as well as the limitation is set forth. It was added because of transgressions until the seed should come. And we are told who that seed was in Galatians 3:16, "And to thy seed which is Christ." That Christ was the seed that was to fulfill the law and bring it to an end is clearly set forth in the New Testament. When Christ stated his relationship to the law he said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matt. 5:17, 18) And after his death burial and resurrection Christ said to the disciples, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." (Luke 24:44) Thus Christ stated the fact that he was to fulfill the law and bring it to a close, and then he states that he had fulfilled it. That the completion of the law was thereby intended is obvious, for after that the Holy Spirit had come upon the apostles to bring to their remembrance all things Christ had spoken unto them, they, by inspiration stated that the law ended at the cross of Christ.

The apostle Paul said, "..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) Also, "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace." (Eph. 2:15) And again, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." (Rom. 7:4) But someone says, "How do you know that Paul was talking about the Ten Commandment law?" We know this because he goes on to mention one of the Ten Commandments specifically as being a part of the law he had in mind; "Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." (Horn. 7:7) And in 2 Corinthians 3 he talks at length about that which was written and graven in stone and leaves no doubt as to what he has in mind when he says, "For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." (2 Cor. 3:11) Thus we see that the old covenant with its commandments, ordinances, prophecies and psalms is blotted out (Col. 2:14), broken down (Eph. 2:14, 15), done away (2 Cor. 3:6-18), and dead so that we may be married to another, even Christ. (Rom. 7:1-7)

Many people object to this understanding of the proper division of the Bible by saying, "I want all of the Bible, you are taking part of the Bible away." Such reasoning is not sound. And what they really mean is they want the part of the Old Testament that contains the practice they want but cannot find in the New Testament. In fact they don't want all of the Old Testament. Noah was commanded to build an ark. Does anyone advocate that today? Abraham was commanded to leave his country and kinsmen. Is that command to us today? Also, Abraham was told to offer his son s a sacrifice. Must we do this in this day? The Jews were to offer burnt offerings go to Jerusalem once a year, offer blood for their atonement once a year, etc., etc. Are all of these binding upon us today? You say no? Then are you not removing a part of the Old Testament?

The truth of the matter is that in everyday life we understand the principle involved in the relationship of the Old and New Testaments. For example: We understand that the laws of one state are not binding upon another. And, that the laws of a territory are not binding after the territory becomes a state. Also the laws of the federation were not binding after the Constitution was ratified. So, the law of God as given through Moses was not binding after Christ came and gave us the gospel. Nine of the Ten Commandments were accepted and modified by Christ and made a part of the gospel. Their place in the gospel was not given to them because they were in the old law but because as modified by Christ they expressed the spirituality of the New Law.

Now we are under a new covenant which is better than the old and which holds forth better promises. (Heb. 8:113; 10:9-11) Under this new covenant men can, by believing in God (John 14:1), and believing in Christ as the Son of God (John 1:11,12; 1 John 5:5), and repenting of past sins (Acts 17:30), and confessing faith in Christ before men (Rom. 10:10), and being baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26,27), and then living in this world as God would have him to (2 Peter 1:5-11), be saved from every sin and spend eternity basking in the sunshine of God's love.

Friends why not study the Bible that you might properly divide it and be found well pleasing onto God?