“How to Approach the Bible” 

A study series by Arthur J Licursi

Part 12 of 24 – How to Study the Bible

Our Apostle Paul says the Bible is to be studied by being “rightly divided.”

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (KJV, 2Tim. 2:15)

The words “rightly divided” are translated from a Greek word “orthotomeo,” which means to “cut straight.” How many pieces do you have if you make one straight cut? You have two pieces. The two pieces we are concerned with in “rightly dividing” the Scripture may be titled by these two Biblical terms, “prophecy” and “mystery.”

The Apostle used the word “mystery” 17 times in his 13 epistles for “the body of Christ,” but the word mystery but it is not once in the general epistles written by the Apostles to “the circumcision.” The word “mystery” is transliterated from the Greek “musterion,” which means a secret that only God can reveal.” Paul was saved and chosen to be God’s revelator of “the mystery” gospel to the body of Christ. Ephesians 3:1-4 (KJV) For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he (Christ) made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Obviously, the “mystery” as a “secret,” by definition, is the very opposite of “prophecy” that is spoken. Here below we have two verses that make clear that two dispensations are linked to two gospel messages – one gospel message was spoken “by all the prophets since the world began” and the other had been kept secret since the word began.” These verses below use the very same phrase, since the world began,” to make diametrically opposite claims concerning two gospel messages.

1) Peter preached this below to “Ye men of Israel” concerning the restitution or restoration of the Davidic kingdom, by the return and presence of the King (v19-20) and His Kingdom, as it had been prophesied repeatedly since the world began.

Acts 3:20-21 (KJV) And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you ( Israel ): 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

2) Paul wrote this below to the Roman members “the body of Christ” concerning God’s secret plan, called “the mystery… kept secret since the world began,” which was first revealed by Christ to Paul, for us.

Romans 16:25 (KJV) Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

When we “rightly divide the word of truth” we find that the Bible clearly accentuates the many differences between that which was the subject of “prophecy” and that of “the mystery.” That is, we come to see the difference between what was clearly made known concerning Israel through many prophecies since the world began, and that which in the Bible concerns “the mystery” gospel for the body of Christ – which is God’s secret plan that had “been kept a secret since world began.” The mystery” was the plan and provision of God for the members of “the church, which is His body.” In fact, Paul is the only Bible writer who uses the term “the body of Christ.” The “mystery” was kept secret until it was first revealed to the Apostle Paul for the Gentiles.)

More than 80% of the Bible is devoted to Israel , including the promises and prophecies concerning Israel and its destiny to receive the Kingdom of God on earth and the promised “land” from “the river Nile to the river Euphrates as an “everlasting possession” (Gen 17:8). Less than 20% of the Bible is devoted to “the mystery” as given to Paul for the predominantly Gentile “body of Christ.”

1)       Prophecy” and promises were spoken and repeated by God directly, and via His surrogate prophets, to, for, and concerning Israel . At Pentecost, Peter confirmed those prophecies and the possibility of their imminent fulfillment when he addressed “Ye men of Israel …” (Acts 2:22, 3:12), saying Pentecost was the fulfillment of some of those foretellings or prophecies.

Acts 3:24-25 (KJV) “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken (prophesied), have likewise foretold of these days. 25 Ye ( Israel ) are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”

2) The Mystery or secret program of the pure grace of God for the Gentiles had been “hid” and “kept secret since the world began.” This “mystery” had never been prophesied or spoken of before the ascended Christ revealed it to Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Romans 16:25 (KJV) Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel (Paul’s gospel), and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

Colossians 1:26 (KJV) Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
Ephesians 3:9 (KJV) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

Could there be a more obvious difference found within the Bible than a dispensational message of God that was spoken of “by all the prophets… to be compared with “the mystery” gospel message that had not been spoken and in fact was kept secret since the world began”? Thus, as we approach the Bible in study we must always be careful to note and separate that which concerns the subject of “prophecy,” which always concerns the nation Israel, from that of “the mystery,” concerning the predominantly Gentile “the body of Christ.”

Biblical Interpretation:

Miles Coverdale, a Bible translator who died in 1569, states some basic tenets for proper Biblical interpretation. Miles Coverdale produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English. Actually, normal people normally employ Miles Cloverdale’s simple tenets when interpreting any book they may read. Frankly, it is a mystery to me as to why Christians ignore these reasonable Bible interpretation principles.

He wrote these words in the Early Modern English style. It shall greatly help ye to understand the Scripture if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but also;

·         of whom (who is speaking) and to whom, with what words,

·         at what time, where,

·         to what intent, with what circumstances,

·         considering what goeth before and what followeth after (considering its context).”

When we read in any secular book that we may be reading “John promised Charlie such and such,” we know John was speaking and to whom John was speaking, and about what John was speaking. We do not presume “John promised Susie such and such.” Yet, why is it Christians take the liberty that when God and His prophets spoke to and about Israel that they are speaking to and about “the body of Christ”?

Three Kinds of People:

We need also to note that there are three categories of people that God is concerned with. Any Bible statement attributed to God may at times apply to only one, or at other times to more than one of these three categories of people mentioned here in 1 Cor. 10:32. “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God :” The church of God to whom Paul refers here is “the church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22b-23a). We must always determine which of these three people groups any Bible statement applies. Thus, that which was specifically spoken to, of, or concerning Israel is not spoken to, of, or concerning “the church, which is his body” or the lost Gentiles.

Thus, it will serve us well to always bear in mind that Jesus of Nazareth came to Israel (Matt 15:24) as Israel’s Messiah and thus, that which was spoken by Jesus in the Gospels is most often specifically spoken to the Jews only; not to the “body of Christ.” We who are of “the body of Christ” still may learn from Jesus’ words about God’s character, wisdom, faithfulness, Israel ’s history, and God’s promises to Israel . Yet “the body of Christ” has no doctrine to be derived from Jesus of Nazareth’s words that were spoken to Israel . Jesus’ words do not apply to “the body of Christ” for our instruction. It would be an obvious error to take the following verse of instruction that Jesus gave to “the twelve” as though it were for “the body of Christ.” Matthew 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel