Appendix to “How to Approach the Bible”
1. Biblical Canon:
It would be helpful to the Bible student to consider and note the specific order of the books contained in the Biblical Canon. In their God-ordained order the books of the Bible serve to reveal the unfolding of the ages; uncovering the unique place of Paul’s “mystery” gospel in God’s eternal plan. The Books in the Bible are not at all listed according to the chronological order of their writing. They are set in the order of the unfolding of the dispensations and ages; past, present, and the ages to come.
The index of our Bible (i.e., the Authorized Kings James Version) reveals the uniqueness of Paul’s epistles, and the fact that “the dispensation of the grace of God” given to Paul for “the body of Christ” appears to be inserted as a parenthesis in the ages. God’s eternal plan includes an interruption in God’s ultimate plan for
, which will yet be fulfilled. After Paul’s thirteen (13) epistles to “the church, which is body of Christ,” the focus of Hebrews picks up from the Gospels, still being upon Israel , as though “the dispensation of the grace of God” had not occurred. Only then, the truth of the cross revealed to Paul is added for Israel to see and receive in “the ages to come.” Israel
Let’s now consider the specific order of the books of the New Testament, noting to whom they are addressed and intended.
· The four Gospels are set in what Paul calls “time past,” while yet under “the Law” and the Old Covenant for
· The Book of Acts begins in “time past” and then we note the transition to “but now” (“the dispensation of the grace of God”) with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 and the salvation of Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9. Saul Paulus (Paul, the Apostle to the gentiles) then received “the mystery” gospel under the “the dispensation of the grace of God” from the ascended Christ for “the body of Christ.”
· Paul’s thirteen (13) epistles to “the body of Christ” (Romans-Philemon) follow the transition recorded in Acts. These are inserted as an interruption of God’s plan for
. These Pauline epistles, for “the body of Christ,” present the entirely new truth of the new “dispensation of the grace of God” called “the mystery,” which “had been kept secret since the world began” (Rom 16:25). Israel
NOTE: All the books from “Hebrews to Revelation” are non-Pauline, written to and/or of
. They concern God’s provision for meeting Israel Israel’s needs in the Tribulation, and ’s position in “ages to come.” God knew these truths would be needed to teach, encourage, and guide Israel ’s believers in their reliance upon God, so as to equip them, such that they may endure the Tribulation. “The body of Christ” will already by then have been “raptured,” to be with the Lord forever in heaven (1Thes 4:17). Israel
· The Epistle to the Hebrews is written by Paul to present the truth of the cross of Christ as only he received it. It will be needed if the believers are to endure the Tribulation period. Paul here reveals the cross, blood, death, and resurrection of Christ; citing many of
’s historical events and Patriachs as allegory or metaphor of these truths. Hebrews is written in a way that the Hebrews could better come to understand the truths of the cross. The law of “conditional blessing” (Heb 3:6, 14, 6:6, 10:26, 12:25) for Israel is still present in Hebrews, which is entirely contrary to “the dispensation of the grace of God.” Thus, God’s clock will then have moved ahead from Paul’s “time past” for the lost Gentiles (Eph 2:2) to Paul’s “but now” the body of Christ (Eph 2:13) and onto “the ages to come” (Eph 2:7) that focuses upon Israel. Confusion and insecurity occurs in “the body of Christ” when Christians try to apply these conditions of blessing given to Israel . These requirements do not fist the grace dispensation for “the body of Christ.” Israel
Before we look at the remainder of the books from Hebrews to Revelation we need to note that in Gal 2:9 “James, Cephas (Peter), and John” restricted their ministry “to the circumcision,” while Paul was to go to the Gentile “uncircumcision” with his new unique gospel. It is obvious then that “James, Cephas (Peter), and John” would be addressing “the circumcision” (
) in their epistles that followed. Israel
· James’ epistle is plainly addressed to “the lost sheep of the house of
” (James 1:1) Israel
· Peter’s 2 epistles are addressed to
Israel’s diaspora – ’s “strangers (in the world) scattered (sowed)” abroad (1Pet 1:1). 1Peter 2:12 speaks of being “among the Gentiles” – then the recipients of this epistle must not be Gentiles, but Jews. 1Pet 2:9-10 quotes Ex 19:5-6, a promise of God to Israel . Israel
· John’s 3 epistles are addressing
Israel’s diaspora – the scattered of . Israel
· Jude’s epistle is concerns
. Jude was “the brother of James” (v1) and Jude was one of “the twelve” Apostles of Israel who were told to go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel ” (Matt 10:5-6). Jude in verse 17 refers the recipients to “words spoken by the twelve” – not to the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. Israel
· The Book of Revelation, written by John, concerns Jesus Christ’s appearing is unto Israel at His return to earth. It reveals the happenings of the time of “the ages to come” when Christ will return to set up the physical, literal, earthly, kingdom of heaven as was promised to Israel. It is primarily about
2. A Closing Word
I end this study series by clearly stating my consistent focus and ultimate goal in writing these studies. That objective is that every believer might personally come to learn of Christ through the written word and then, most importantly, come to experientially know the indwelling Christ as their life and governing Lord.
There is a time when we only know about the Lord, but we must go on to know “Christ who is our life” (
Paul tells us there is “much more” for the believer than being reconciled to God through Christ’s cross. Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, MUCH MORE, being reconciled, we shall be saved (sozo, completed) by his life.
We should note that it is not the Bible that gives us Christ’s resurrection life; only the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” gives us real life. All life is organic and only God’s pro-creative eternal life begets genuine life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 …the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. Jesus of Nazareth has been processed via the cross to become “the life-giving Spirit” (1Cor 15:45). He may now indwell every believer’s spirit as “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” If we do not possess His Spirit we are not His (Rom 8:8-9, 1Cor 6:17).
The great need of Christians everywhere is to come to know the truth of the indwelling Christ, and then to enjoy the provision of the rich deposit of the very life of the resurrected Christ as the inheritance already possessed within them. We each have already received all of His all-sufficient life-supply.
Most Christians are simply deficient in the knowledge of who they now are by Christ in them as their new life. See their great need, Paul prayed for revelation knowledge of this truth to come to the believers at
Ephesians 1:16-18 (I Paul) Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM and revelation in the KNOWLEDGE OF HIM: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance IN THE SAINTS,
The Bible, studied in its context and revealed by His Spirit (1Jonh 2:20, 27), leads us to see the riches of the gift of our indwelling inheritance, and that this inheritance is ours as the fruit of the cross of Christ. “The (resurrected) Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” now is our real life. This is the Spirit of the crucified, resurrected, and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. He has become the life-giving Spirit (1Cor 15:45) who now indwells our human spirit (1Cor 6:17) to be “our life” (
3:4, Gal 2:20). Col
The written word of the Bible is God’s gift to us that is used of His Spirit to give us the light we need to see Christ as He is today – as our all-sufficient indwelling life-supply. Being in and one with us, Christ now is so close at hand and so available. “The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is both our life and our enlightener that we might come to know Him who is our indwelling life, to guide our living in an intimate way (1John 2:20, 27).
My prayer is that the study tools and understandings presented in this study series may be used of Him to aid you in your approach to Bible Study and in your walk; that you as a believer might come know Him “in you,” in that ever deepening way that God desired and has made possible for each of us.
2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord Jesus Christ be (is) WITH THY SPIRIT. Grace be (is) WITH YOU. Amen.