The Right Division of Scripture
l. The declaration.
We believe all Scripture to be inspired and profitable, but we also realise that while
all Scripture is written for our learning, all has not been written to or about us.
We see the need to distinguish between dispensations, to avoid confusing law and
gospel, kingdom and church. In other words, we believe it fundamental to all true interpretation
of Scripture to put into practice the injunction of 2 Timothy 2:15, viz., rightly
to divide the Word of truth.
2. Scriptural grounds.
'Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the Word of truth' (2 Tim. 2:15).
'And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in
all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent (margin -- that ye may
try the things that differ)' (Phil. 1:9,10).
3. An expansion and application of this important principle of interpretation.
While we believe that the Scriptures are nothing short of miraculous in their origin,
we do not believe that laziness, indifference or misdirected zeal in the reader are
thereby encouraged. Throughout the record we find continual exhortation to meditate,
ponder, learn, read, study and compare, remembering always that we are dealing with
holy things, and that spiritual matters cannot be handled with carnal instruments.
We believe the principle enjoined in 2 Timothy 2:15 to be fundamental to all true
'Rightly dividing the word of truth'
The word translated 'rightly dividing' was in use before Paul wrote his epistle to
Timothy, for it is found in the LXX (Greek Version of the Old Testament compiled
long before Christ) of Proverbs 3:6, where it is used for 'rightly dividing' a path
-- A.V. 'Direct thy paths'. While, as we have said, all Scripture is written for us, it was
not all addressed to us or written about us, and before we consider the meaning of
words or the grammatical construction of sentences, we must see to it that we do
not confuse 'things that differ'.
Let us once more turn to the example of Him whom we call Master and Lord. In Luke
4:18,19 we have a quotation from Isaiah 61, but if the reader will compare these
two passages he will find that the Lord shut the book half-way through a verse.
He closed His quotation with 'the acceptable year of the Lord', for He was about to add: 'This
day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears' (Luke 4:21). Such a statement could
not have been made, had the quotation been complete, for Isaiah goes on to speak
of a day of vengeance. This day of vengeance is future, and between the two statements in
Isaiah lies the bulk of Luke's Gospel. We do not meet with these days until the
prophecy on the Mount is given: 'For these be the days of vengeance' (Luke 21:22).
Here, therefore, the Lord 'rightly divided' Isaiah's prophecy, allotting one portion
to the days of His first advent, and the other to His second coming.
The ways of God with men are differentiated into dispensations. This word, used by
Paul of the present dispensation of the grace of God to Gentiles (Eph. 3:1,2) means
'the administration of a household' or, as it is translated in Luke 16:2, 'stewardship'. The church at Jerusalem was compelled to recognise the distinctive 'stewardships'
or 'dispensations' given to Peter and Paul (Gal. 2:6-10), and saw that the distinction
involved not only 'apostleship' but 'gospel'. There are some, prompted we do not
doubt by a zeal for the glory of God, who quote Galatians 1:8 against any who dare to
suggest that there is more than one gospel in the Scriptures. They fail to see that
they would need to quote this verse against the Council of the Church at Jerusalem.
Let us see the passages together :
'But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that
which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed' (Gal. 1:8).
' ... Fourteen years after ... I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them
that Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles' (Gal. 2:1,2).
' ... When they saw that the gospel of (not merely 'to') the uncircumcision was committed
unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter ... they gave to me and
Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they unto the circumcision' (Gal. 2:7,9).
Paul's anathema is against any who preach to the Gentile Galatians any other gospel
than that of the uncircumcision, for 'certain men which came down from Judaea taught
the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot
be saved' (Acts 15:1).
The gospel of the circumcision differs from the gospel of the uncircumcision in many
particulars. What would Paul's gospel be without justification by faith, and reconciliation?
Yet neither of these basic doctrines finds expression in Peter's ministry.
When a letter is delivered to our door by the postman, we usually look at the envelope
before we open it and read the letter, for it may be addressed to another member
of the family. When we open the Bible, we should also look at the envelope, for,
though all the redeemed are one family, they have different spheres, different callings,
different destinies. Some are to 'inherit the earth', others are to be 'seated together
in heavenly places' and instructions sent to guide the one may not always fit the
Isaiah's prophecy is wonderfully evangelical, yet it is wise to note the inspired
'address' -- 'Concerning Judah and Jerusalem' (Isa. 1:1).
Peter's epistles contain much precious truth, yet the believer called during the present
dispensation of grace to the Gentiles would be wise to note that Peter does not transgress
the bounds of his administration; he still ministers to the circumcision and addresses himself to 'the dispersion' -- the people of Israel scattered among the
nations. If this is noted, the Gentile reader may be saved from misappropriating
the exclusively Jewish calling of a 'kingdom of priests'. 'A royal priesthood, a
holy nation' does not describe the character of the church of the One Body.
The epistle of James is addressed to 'the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad'--
(Jas. 1:1), and we therefore consider that no Gentile assembly or Gentile minister
can find scriptural warrant from James 5:14 for anointing the sick with oil.
Other divisions of truth that are vital to its true understanding are :
The distinction between law and grace.
The difference between standing and state.
The distinction between salvation and service.
The difference between kingdom and church.
And there are many others which the earnest student will recognize as he pursues the
truth through the Word.
Once again we must remember that our object here is to make a 'declaration', the explanation
and defence being subsidiary. Each heading would demand a volume to itself if we
would present it in any measure of completeness. We therefore must leave the matter here, with the declaration that we most sincerely believe that to attain unto
the truth of the Word of God, that Word must be divided rightly, especially with
reference to its varied 'dispensations'. 'Distinguish the dispensations, and discrepancies
The interested reader will find the pamphlet, United yet Divided, a Key to Holy Scripture,
by the same author and publisher, of help in this matter of right division.