“How to Approach the Bible” 

a study series by Arthur J Licursi


Part 3 of 24 – Noting the Differing Peoples and Differing Times within the Bible

For the sake of discussion, let’s now refer to God’s speaking to His chosen people Israel as recorded in the Bible as “Jewish mail,” sent to and belonging to the Jews only. Christians today, as non-Jews, may read some Jewish mail that is delivered into their mailbox - their Bible. Though it’s not their mail in particular, they may in fact learn some Jewish information that adds to their knowledge about God, His relationship with His promises to the Jews; nevertheless the details of that “Jewish mail” pertain to the Jews only.

We may liken that Jewish mail to be as an electric bill sent to the Jews, or a phone bill to the Jews, or some good news mail, or some promised blessings and curses for the Jews. We Gentiles would not be expected to respond and pay those electric or phone bills sent to the Jews – would we? Yet, many Christians try to appropriate God’s promises that were made to Israel, to them, while being careful to ignore God’s promised curses. Then the mistaken Christian wonders why the promises don’t really work for them. That’s because those promises belong to Israel alone. All of this indicates that even though the Jewish mail can be found in our joint-mailbox called the Bible, we need to be careful to read to whom the “mail” in the box is actually addressed. We certainly should not pilfer other people’s mail.

Example: The book of James is Jewish mail, obviously belonging to the nation of Israel. Note its introduction. Jamesto the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad...” (James 1:1)

Thus, we can see that James’ statement that “faith without works is dead” is instruction for Israel. By contrast, Paul tells “the church, which is His body” we are saved by grace through faith, not of works.”(Eph 2:8-9). Now salvation is received by hearing and believing alone. Paul makes it clear that works for salvation are not merely unnecessary; they are forbidden. Today salvation is “to him that worketh not, but believeth” (Rom. 4:5).

Once the works of the Law were required for salvation: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested” (Rom. 3:21) and men are saved solely by faith in Christ, “being justified freely by (God's) grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). We are saved as we hear and believe what Paul calls, “the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13).

God has changed His dealings with men from time to time down through the ages, teaching one lesson at a time to the people of that time. This is why it is so important to note the dispensational distinctions in Scriptures by “rightly dividing the Word of truth,” if we are to see what exactly is for us today under the grace gospel.

Considering the Bible’s overview, the Apostle Paul uses three terms in one verse that describe the only three kinds of people that exist today. There are “the Jews, the Gentiles, and the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:32.  All Bible “mail” is addressed specifically to or spoken particularly about one or the other of these three. For any one of these three groups to read and apply the “mail” that was addressed to another party as though it was for them can only lead to confusion, contradiction, misunderstanding, and disappointment.

Since we cannot pay attention to the details of other people’s “mail,” applying it to ourselves, without likely coming to confusion and contradiction, we need to see and understand the general big-picture by noting these in our study. 1) To whom God and/or His representatives (i.e., His prophets, angels, and Apostles) are speaking… 2) concerning who3) to apply at what time… and 4) to what effect. So, our core principle in approaching the Bible in study is to logically start by gaining the proper, big-picture, general overview, by “rightly dividing the (written) word of truth” (2Tim 2:15). We need to discern who is involved, at what time, and to what effect.

Only then should we proceed to dig into the details and particulars that apply to each dispensation and the relationships we find for the differing peoples involved. Today, we should particularly study what applies to us, to the Gentles of “the church which is the body of Christ” (Eph 1:22b-23a), as written by the “Apostle” appointed “to the Gentiles,” Paul (Rom 11:13).

Now let’s consider certain aspects of the changing times within the Bible.

In Romans 5:12 we learn that “by one man (Adam) sin entered” the human race. Then later, after Adam’s fall from the time of “innocence,” many things changed. Still later “the law entered” (Rom 5:20). But still later, several years after the cross, the Apostle Paul was given to say: But now, the righteousness of God without the law is manifested” (Rom. 3:21) and Romans 6:14 sin shall not have dominion over youye are not under the law, but under grace.  Thus, we see change upon change.

Another example of change is the varying means prescribed by God for dealing with man’s sins…over time.

·       Early in man's history, as seen by Adam and Eve being covered with skins of an innocent animal slain by God, blood sacrifices of innocent animals were instituted and required for acceptance with God.

·       Then later circumcision and works of the Law were required of the children of Israel (Gen 17:14; Ex 19:5).

·       Still later, in the Gospels and early Acts, repentance and water baptism were required for salvation (Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38).

·       It’s not until Paul receives and delivers to us the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), which he received from the ascended Christ, that we learn of a salvation by grace through faith alone, on the basis of Christ's finished, all-sufficient work of redemption at the cross.

So today, repentance with baptism in water is “out,” not applicable for “the body of Christ.”  The “baptism (immersion) into the body of Christ” is the “one baptism” we have each partaken of. Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism. The time has changed, so today there is no other baptism for us as pure grace believers. This “one baptism (immersion)” into Christ’s body was accomplished the moment we received Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

It is only as we recognize the changes occurring with time in Scripture, that we clearly see the differences between the dispensation of “the Law” and that of “the dispensation of the grace of God.” We then come to see the differences in so many critical matters of the faith with a clear understanding, such as this below.

1.     Note the difference between “the kingdom of heaven to come to earth for the nation Israel alone, and that of the body of Christ consisting of Jews and Gentiles without distinction (Gal 3:28).

2.     Note the differences between “the gospel of the kingdomcoming on earth (Matt 6:10) for the nation Israel and “the gospel of the grace of God for “the body of Christ” whose “citizenship is in heaven (Philip 3:20). These then are two differing gospels, having two differing eternal outcomes.

3.     Note the differences between the dispensation of law and the dispensation of the grace of God.  Paul writes this to “the body of Christ.” Romans 6:14 you are not under law, but under grace.

Noting these God ordained changes that have occurred with the passage of time is why the Apostle refers to the passage of time in “… the faith which should afterward be revealed” Galatians 3:23.  Paul also declares that our Lord “gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,” and Paul adds this, whereunto I am ordained a preacher and an apostle” (I Tim. 2:6-7).

Paul refers to the details of the gospel he preached in the context of the passage of “time.” Comparing Romans 3:21 and 26 (below) where Paul uses the terms ““But now and “the present time.This indicates how this time element is emphasized in Pauline Scripture to help us to better note the significant changes we see by Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Romans 3:21 (NIV) But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

Romans 3:26 (NIV) he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

It is only after discussing the function of the Law in Rom 3:19-20 that the Apostle Paul declares: But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested...” Then in verse 26 Paul states this it is God's purpose “To declare, I say, at this time His (Christ's) righteousness; that He (God) might be just and the Justifier of him that believeth in (trusts, clings to, and relies upon) Jesus.”