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

Rightly dividing the Word is a subject not being either taught, nor practiced in our churches or study groups today, especially where modern Bible versions are used. Here, I hope to at least try to open some thoughtful suggestions as to what this subject represents, and why I think it is so important. Improperly dividing God’s Word can and does cause confusion in those people who are being taught in such error. This is one reason we have different denominations. Some areas of dividing God’s Word rightly that should concern all us are as follows:


Division by dispensation of grace is a prime area of Scripture that needs careful attention. Too often textual portions are shifted by the reader from one dispensation to another without regard to what God is trying to teach His people and the people of the world. An important example of this error is that of bringing elements of the Law of Moses with the teachings of the Prophets into the New Covenant dispensation without regard to whom the Law applies. All who are not under the grace of Christ are under the Law, whether of Moses or under the law of the Gentiles. Born again Christians are not under these laws, but being in Christ are under grace. Care must be taken to not be all-inclusive when applying laws today in the churches. These laws are only applicable to the lost, not to the Body of Christ. Also, using Jesus’ teachings to the Jews should not become standards for His Body of believers today. The Jews’ hearts were not cleansed of sin, nor empowered by the Holy Ghost as are those saved by His blood and filled with His Holy Spirit, given after His ascension. Care must be taken against all such error, which causes great confusion among God’s people.


Division by calling is another area where lack of  rightly dividing can cause confusion. Often the powers and responsibilities of the Apostles are ascribed to all members of the Body through erroneous teaching. To believe that what was spoken to one applies to all is not recognizing the differences of God’s gifts to individual members of the Body . To usurp this work of God can cause much hurt and confusion in the church. If one is called a teacher, let him teach, and not assume that he is a pastor, and visa-versa. Also, a prophet of the Old Covenant is not called as a prophet of the New Covenant, unless the Word specifically so declares. Moses’ calling was to the Jews for their deliverance, not for the deliverance of people other than Jews today. Many today get involved in “faith healing” who have no God-given gift of healing. Some will be healed through their own faith, and will rejoice. Some will not be healed because they did not have the faith, nor did the “faith Healer”. What a disappointment for this person. But this causes two schools of thought about this “healer”, one that he has power to heal, the other that he has not, a confusion hurtful to the Body of Christ.


Division by tenses also requires our attention. Past, present and future events must not be intermingled, unless the Word specifically so indicates. What was determined for one age or generation of man must not be applied to another without a sure word that the subject is universal. To determine that we as God’s people are to destroy all the unrighteous from our land today does not bear with our present relationship with God as it was in that earlier generation of God’s people. Other less profound commands of God are often used today, and should not be. Also, modern “Bibles” use “have been” instead of “are” or “am”. “I am crucified with Christ”, not, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Our death is daily.

Division by peoples and kingdoms must be given serious consideration. The word of God to the people of His kingdom does not apply to the world’s kingdom, and visa-versa. To burden God’s people with the wrath of God against the world’s unrighteous is to destroy the freedom given to them. It destroys the power of God’s people when they assume the same rebukes from God that are meant for the unrighteous. Also, the unrighteous are not able to see the righteousness of God’s people if God’s people are bound under the burden of death along with the world, yet without guilt. The righteous must stand in the righteousness of God so that the world can see their own shame, and at the same time be warned not to fall away from God’s grace into His wrath meant for the unrighteous.


Division by first, second, or third person addresser and the addressed. Here is another problem for those who are not wary of dividing God’s word rightly. In many of the Epistles, the writer separates himself from his listeners. “I“, “we” and “you” are used frequently as the writer opens God’s word of faith and wisdom to the listeners. What applies to an Apostle does not apply to a novice who could not bear the responsibilities of the former. On the other hand, the Apostle must himself be a representative of what he is teaching the novice. When the Apostle writes, “God has chosen us that we might bring you this word of truth”, it does not mean that all are chosen, but only those who are bringing the message. To assume that all are chosen in such an instance would be a great discouragement to one who might try to live a “chosen” life. Rather he/she must live an ordered life, an encouragement for the learner, because he/she can with God’s help accomplish this desire of God.


Division by the cross and resurrection. What applies to the Saints before the cross of Christ does not apply to the Saints after the cross of Christ, because these are two distinct dispensations of God’s grace and power to His people. As we read Jesus’ ministry to the Jews, we must realize that these are not written to the Body of Christ. The Jews were without the righteousness of God, rather they developed their own system of righteousness which was of works without faith. Jesus’ ministry to the Jews, who were supposed to be God’s people, but were not, is not His ministry to the Body of Christ which is righteous by the faith of Christ. So, we must be careful again not to put ourselves under the condemnation due the unfaithful Jews by assuming for ourselves God’s wrath, which belonged to those Jews at that time.


Division by saved and lost: Here we have the problem again to do with interpretation of the New Testament letters. Warnings by the writer to God’s people concerning the keeping of the faith do not apply to the lost. When Christians use these scriptures as they minister to the lost, the lost tend by their efforts to keep these warnings, thinking by doing so that they are becoming “Christian”. Some of these folk do a better job of walking in this way than do many Christians. So, Christians who are watching the walk of others will believe the lost are saved by their “holy” walk, and treat them as brothers and sisters in the faith. When we know men by their fruits rather than by their works, we make a proper, righteous judgment. “Ye must be born again” is the proper ministry to the lost. The words of encouragement and warnings to maintain a holy walk are for the saved.


Division by covenants: God has always required covenant with His people. Covenants made by God for His people’s good correspond to that generation’s need and ability to keep His covenant. Since covenants are forms of agreement between two or more parties, there must be harmony in the arrangement, or the covenant will fail. God has made many offers by which man might become at peace with Him. Until the coming of Christ, all God’s covenants have been broken, not by God, but by His people, or by man in general. “If you will do----”; “If you will hear----”; “If you will destroy----”, and so on God provides a way for a successful covenant with His people, generation and age after age. Since these covenants were broken and replaced with other covenants, why should people of a later age return to mend such covenants? They should not. Neither should we Christians endeavor to keep old, broken covenants that have been replaced with a new covenant. We must be careful to divide the covenants of God according to the dispensation in which they were offered, and not stray out of the will of God for His work among people in this day.


Division by ethnicity and moral history: What God speaks to the Samaritans is for them, not the Jews. What God demands of the Ephesians, He has not put upon the Thessalonians. What God determined for Sodom and Gomorra, He did not put upon the Corinthians. Some cities, even in Jesus’ time were notorious for their evil religions and customs, others were not. So God has put His word against, or for the ways of those cities He has chosen to address. If people today live individually or collectively in the same manner as those He rebuked or commended, be sure that the same punishment or blessing will apply today, for they are examples for our admonition. We must place ourselves individually or collectively in the place of those He spoke to in ages past, not in keeping laws, but of hearing His words of revival and warning spoken by His prophets and apostles.


Division by God’s Commandments: We must certainly know the difference between God’s commandments for one people and those for another people, those for one dispensation and those for another. When we Christians know what God expects of us in His Law, by His grace and by His Spirit since Christ, we are able to keep it. If one is not a Christian, there is no way on earth that he can keep His Laws, and so would know his sins and repent unto salvation. The Law is not made for the righteous, but for the unrighteous so that they can know their plight and turn to be saved. The Law will be kept in front of the lost, not only by preaching, but by Christians  walking in God’s Spirit, not fulfilling the lust of the flesh.


Division by faith. All men are provided “the measure of faith” by which we are able to believe unto salvation, even as Abraham, Noah, Job, and others believed unto righteousness at the call of God. This is the faith we are given as part of the body of Christ, an adequate faith for adoption into the body, but not the same as the gift of faith from the Holy Ghost, which is by Jesus, who baptizes with the Holy Ghost and fire, spoken of by John the Baptist. This is the faith of Christ, as Paul said, “I live in the flesh by the faith of Christ.” Born-again Christians often use only their faith IN Christ to live by, not being aware that they have the faith OF Christ at their disposal. One of the items of our armor is the shield of faith, without which we are vulnerable to the enemy. We must use His faith, not ours which is inadequate for the battle we are in if we do indeed fight the good fight of faith.

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