“How to Approach the Bible” 

A study series by Arthur J Licursi


Part 13 of 24 – Rightly Dividing the Word Can Change Our Lives

Though I had studied the Scripture since I was saved in 1968, I was ignorant of Paul’s principle of “rightly dividing the word of truth” until 1992. Following the teaching of Pastors and teachers that I had known, I took that which was spoken to and concerning Israel as though it was spoken to and concerning the Church, “the body of Christ.” Of course I observed the apparent discrepancies and contradiction which that approach to the Bible yields, but frankly, I tried not to face the obvious apparent contradictions.

My approach to the Bible now is to follow Paul’s instruction to “rightly divide the word of truth” – I divide that which applies to Israel versus that which applies to the predominantly Gentile “the church, which is the body of Christ.” As I began to study God's written word “rightly divided,” some 17 years ago, the Spirit of God opened my blind eyes and gave me an entirely different perspective, understanding, and outlook upon His word. I now see and appreciate the Bible’s perfect structure and continuity, as it has been fulfilled and even now is being instituted by the hand of God. The Bible has now become so clear, unambiguous, and free of contradiction. Most personally, “rightly dividing the word of truth” has made the riches of Christ and His cross so much more evident, meaningful, and empowering to me – it has changed my way of living such that I now have a greater peace and rest.

I have already referred to those who play “fast and loose" with Bible interpretation by “spiritualizing” the Bible, which is an improper way of Bible interpretation. When we do that we corrupt the word of God and thereby lose out on the riches and security that we should gain from our relationship with God. E.g., if we take Israel ’s law, which does not apply to us today (Rom 6:14), we then lose out on the rest that we should have by living under the pure grace gospel.

First and foremost, we should always determine to whom God is speaking and/or of whom the Bible writer is writing, and then take it literally for the intended party alone, whether it concerns Israel or “the body of Christ.” As stated earlier, serious problems will arise when believers, Bible scholars, Pastors, and teachers “spiritualize” the Bible. Most specifically, the greatest error in interpretation comes about when they take the words God spoke to Israel and try to apply them to “the Church, which is his body”“the body of Christ.” This is a blatant misuse use of the Scriptures. This is a failure to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2Timothy 2:15).

Israel ’s Fall Gave Way to the Rise of “the body of Christ:

We must come to clearly see the difference between the gospel proclaimed by “the twelve Apostles,” and that gospel message preached by the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. “The twelve” were and are of another dispensation, for another people of God ( Israel ), during another God ordained time (dispensation). Though the “kingdom of heaven” was once “at hand” as Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed it when He walked the earth, God today is not now es­tablishing the Messianic kingdom of God upon this Christ-rejecting earth. The King was rejected by Israel and that kingdom is now set aside, in abeyance. Jesus of Nazareth is now seated in heaven and “the twelve” Apostles and their callings have passed for now. Jesus now awaits His Father to “make His enemies His footstool” (Heb 1:13, 10:13) – then He will stand or “arise” as prophesied (Isaiah 60:1), to return in Judgment at close of the Tribulation. Israel fell and the opportunity to receive the Kingdom has passed; Israel rejected the King and His Kingdom that was being offered and confirmed by the signs and wonders that continued until the time of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Israel has fallen (Rom 11:2). Now, the prospect of Israel ’s hoped for Messianic Kingdom on earth has been set aside, put in abeyance “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom 11:25).

Today, during “the dispensation of the grace of God,” God is not carrying out the directives of Jesus’ so-called “Great Commission” that Jesus of Nazareth gave to His Jewish disciples.

Read Romans 11:11, 13, and 25 and you will discover Israel 's fall and loss of the promised blessing, for the time being. The fact that Israel has fallen to the point of being set aside by God for now is so clearly seen in this one verse. Romans 11:25 (KJV) For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. You cannot help but note that Israel has been set aside for a time during “the times of the Gentiles.”

At Pentecost, a Jewish feast, Peter addressed “Ye men of Israel .” Peter said “this it that… (Acts 2:16)...which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21). Compare this with Paul’s message “...which was kept secret since the world began” (Rom.16:25, 26). In this way we can note the difference between God's earthly program for Israel and the nations on earth who are to come under Israel in the millennium; and that of His heavenly program for “the Body of Christ” as revealed through the Apostle Paul for us today.

We might say we live in a time of the “parenthesis” in the Bible. Just as a parenthesis interrupts a sentence, “the dispensation of the grace of God” has been revealed to have been inserted as a dispensational time that interrupts God’s dealing with the nation Israel .

Paul writes of Israel being set-aside using other words.

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election (the “little flock,” Luke 12:32) hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded...unto this day(Rom.11:7, 8).

“Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The Stone (Jesus) which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation (Strong’s 1484, “ethnos,” meaning, “non-Jewish people,” Gentiles) bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt.21:42, 43).

In the raising up of the Apostle Paul with a new gospel, “the kingdom” that was to come to earth as promised to Israel was postponed and the nation was set aside because of Israel 's unbelief.

“I say then, have they ( Israel ) stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them ( Israel ) to jealousy” (Rom.11:11). “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office” (Rom.11:13).

Israel only “stumbled” by their killing Jesus, “they ( Israel ) stumbled at the stumblingstone” (1Peter 2:8, Rom 9:32), but that was not yet their “fall.” It was not yet their “fall” because at Jesus’ request, “Father forgive them they now not what they do,” God still held the door open to offer the promised Kingdom to come to earth confirming it with miraculous “signs following” at the hands of the Apostles. The Kingdom was offered from the day of Pentecost through the early Acts period, up to the stoning of Stephen. This was to be Israel's final rejection, by blaspheming of the Holy Spirit; by this Israel fell. Jesus had said blaspheming the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven them “in that age or in the ages to come” (Matt 12:32). Stephen said; Acts 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. With that, Israel stoned Stephen to death and Israel was set aside. God then introduced a heretofore hidden truth, a vertically deposited message from heaven. It appeared when Jesus came down from heaven to save the Apostle Paul, for Paul to introduce the heretofore planned but hidden, grace-filled, “dispensation of the grace of God” for the Gentiles (Eph 3:1-2).

Thus, it should by now have become clear that there are two separate lines of happenings that can be traced in the Bible; one is toward the ultimate destiny of the nation Israel ; the other is toward the mostly Gentile “body of Christ.” Today, Israel has been set aside in unbelief, “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

Rom 11:25 I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel , until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

It has been said that the journeys of these two, the nation Israel and “the body of Christ,” are like two sets of train tracks – sometimes running parallel, but then often diverging. The parallel portion of track is in that, while having separate callings, we come together in that we each will ultimately depend upon the cross of Christ for our ultimate salvation. Nevertheless, these are two distinct people groups, having two different histories and two different ultimate outcomes for eternity.