Dispensational Bible Study Explained?
This paper is to further explain ‘dispensational Bible study.’ We will present contrasting information as seen when we compare certain details of the Pauline “revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16:25) explained in his thirteen epistles written to the church that Paul call “the body of Christ” … comparing this with Scripture concerning God’s unique program that applies only to the nation Israel. The key to properly approaching the Bible and recognizing these truths is found by “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
“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)
The Confusion of ‘Religious Tradition’
Have you ever wondered why there is so much confusion and debate among and within “Christian” circles and churches? Most all professing Christians ‘quote the Bible,’ all claiming to believe the Bible, and yet, it is quite amazing to realize that they all disagree regarding what the Bible actually teaches!
All of the thousands of denominations in Christendom claim to be serving and following “Jesus Christ,” and yet, they all believe mutually exclusive doctrines and practice opposing rites and rituals. How can they all be following Jesus Christ while all doing different things
Here are some examples of the major arguments among the division of Christendom:
- Many churches believe that faith plus works are both necessary for salvation and to be kept saved, quoting Matthew 19:17 and James 2:24. The remainder of churches believe that salvation is by faith alone, citing Paul’s Romans 3:28, Romans 4:5, and Ephesians 2:8-9.
- Some groups believe that water baptism is necessary for salvation, relying on Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21; others hold that it is merely a testimony of salvation, citing Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38; still others do not water baptize at all, relying on Paul’s 1 Cor. 1:17, 12:13, and Eph. 4:5.
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body (of Christ), whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13 (KJV)
- Some churches still participate in “snake handling,” “demonic exorcisms,” “tongue talking” and “healing services,” citing Mark 16:17-18 and James 5:15; others completely reject those practices, quoting Paul’s Romans 8:18, 1 Tim. 5:23, and 2 Tim. 4:20, 1Cor 13:8.
- Some churches argue that we must observe the Saturday Sabbath, citing Exodus 20:8-11, while others believe there is no Sabbath day to keep today, quoting Paul’s Romans 6:14 and Colossians 2:16. (There are even groups that argue that we must observe Sunday, as the alleged “Christian Sabbath!”)
- Some groups teach that Christians can lose their salvation, following Psalm 51:11, Matthew 24:13, John 15:6, and Hebrews 6:4-6; other groups believe Christians are eternally secure in Christ, relying on Paul’s Ephesians 1:13, 4:30, Romans 8:35-39, and 2 Timothy 1:12.
- Some churches teach the necessity of tithing, according to Malachi 3:8-11, while other churches believe that we are not under an obligatory giving system, citing Paul’s Rom. 6:14 and 2 Cor. 9:7.
- Some argue that we should confess our sins to God daily, quoting Matthew 6:12,14,15 and 1 John 1:9. Other groups believe that we should confess our sins to priests, using John 20:23 and James 5:16. Still, others believe that confession of sins is unnecessary because Jesus Christ died to pay for ALL our sins and we are already forgiven of all of our sins, citing Paul’s Eph. 4:32 and Col. 2:13.
- Some groups say we are bound to keep the Mosaic Law, using Exo. 20:1-17 and 1 Jn. 2:3-4, while others say we are under grace, not law, citing Paul’s Rom. 6:14 and Gal. 5:1-5.
Amazing, isn’t it? All of these groups are using Bible verses to support these opposing views! If you noticed the scriptures referenced you will note; one the one side the verses are from the OT, the four Gospels and epistles of the Twelve, while on the other side we have the verse of Paul’s thirteen epistles.
The “Church,” which is the One “Body of Christ” is supposed to be united; nevertheless, we note that schisms, strife, and contradictions abound.
Why is there such division and contradiction? How is this possible? If the Bible has all of these conflicting views, then exactly what does God expect us to believe?!
What is the solution to this abounding confusion and these so-called Bible “contradictions?” First, understand that “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
The problem is not with God’s Word; God’s Word is infallible, perfect, and completely sound. But, Sinful mankind and Satan, not God, are to blame for the gross theological errors and false teaching in Christendom. Never blame God for the confusion that Satan and mankind generate by creating and using manmade religious tradition and human “wisdom.”
Actually, if people would simply use the Bible God’s way, all of the doctrinal confusion in Christian circles would disappear. But, as it was even in Israel, people today prefer their religious tradition, so they do not care to submit to God’s Word. The Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the religious leaders of His day: “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, (so) that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9 KJV). These people approach God’s Word with denominational biases and reach denominational conclusions, instead of seeing what the Bible actually says and to whom it says it. What makes it all the more disturbing is that the pastors and teachers who should be dispelling confusion and doubt are only adding to the preexisting confusion by failing to use God’s Word God’s way themselves. These church leaders only teach God’s Word as their denominational, or independent church systems, interprets it, instead of letting the Bible’s testimony speak for itself; to mean what it says, where it says it, and to whom it says it.
The Solution for this is found in Paul’s 2 Timothy 2:15
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, (by) rightly dividing the word of truth.”
If we use God’s Word, God’s way, there will be no contradictions and no confusion. The Bible will only make sense to you if you approach it the way God designed it to be studied, that is by “rightly dividing the word of truth” The Apostle Paul wrote this in 2 Timothy 2:15, as found in the King James Bible only. The only verse in the Bible that tells you to “study” the Bible also tells us how to study it. When we “rightly divide the word of truth,” we are recognizing the distinctions/divisions that God has made in His Word.
Through various dispensational sets of relational instructions, God gave different instructions to various groups of people. For instance, compare the differing dietary laws that God gave in Genesis 1:27-29, 9:1-4, Leviticus 11:2, and 1 Timothy 4:3-5. We must never accept instructions into today’s given to Israel under “the Law” as though they were given to us Gentiles under grace. Confusion results when we mix or combine all of the Bible’s instructions given to various people, as though they were for all people of all ages. We don’t today build an ark as God once instructed Noah. There are several dispensations in the Bible given to different people at various times, we must never confuse them. It’s the failure to “rightly DIVIDE the word of truth” that gives rise to all the seeming conflicting doctrines that were listed earlier.
Let’s now discuss the basics of “rightly DIVIDING the word of truth.” God has Two Programs for Two God-Ordained People Groups in His Word. We see this from the beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, the very first verse in the Bible, reads: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” God divides the heaven from the earth. This is true even at the end of the Bible, in Rev. 21:1. Furthermore, God has designed a unique program to operate in each of these realms; one for EARTH and one for HEAVEN. We call the two programs in the Bible the “prophetic program” and the “mystery program.”
- The Apostle Peter says in Acts 3:21 that he is preaching in accord with the PROPHETIC program, “which God hath Spoken By The Mouth of All His Holy PROPHETS Since The World Began.”
- The Apostle Paul writes in Rom. 16:25-26a that he is preaching “Christ according to the revelation of the MYSTERY (secret), which was Kept Secret Since The World Began, but now is made manifest….”
If words mean anything, and they do, then Peter and Paul are speaking of two different programs of God. That “spoken since the world began” cannot be the same as something “kept secret since the world began.”
The prophetic program focuses on the nation Israel and an earthly kingdom (Exo. 19:5,6; Deut. 4:20), where Gentiles could at one time receive salvation through that kingdom (Isaiah 60:1-3). On the other hand, the mystery program focuses on “the Church, which is His Body” destined to reign in the heavenly kingdom (Eph. 2:6-7, 1:22-23), where Gentiles receive salvation without Israel’s kingdom program (Rom. 11:11, 12, 25). If we’re to avoid confusion, we must keep those two programs and their respective instructions separated (“rightly divided”).
Sadly, most of Christendom ignores Paul’s words and combines all of these Bible verses into one program. They ignore the differences between the program that involves Israel’s kingdom and the mystery program, which doesn’t involve Israel’s kingdom at all. Such haphazard handling of the Bible is the source of the spiritual confusion and the alleged Bible “contradictions.” They mix opposing instructions God gave in two peoples of two different dispensations, these are not given in the same dispensational age.
The Apostle Paul wrote that the ‘prophetic program’ that was operating in the “Old Testament,” the Four Gospels, and the early Acts period is ‘temporarily suspended.’ We’re currently living during the “Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Eph. 3:2), the mystery program that the Lord had kept secret in the Old Testament but has since revealed it to mankind through the ministry of the Apostle Paul (Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 3:1-11). Why did God hide it prior to Paul? It was to keep the devil from knowing His entire plan, so Satan could crucify Jesus Christ; he thereby would actually defeat himself (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-8)!
Whose Instruction Should We Follow Today?
It’s often mistakenly assumed that we need as Christians are called to “follow Jesus” (the red letters of the Four Gospels). Yet, when we consider the Scriptures, this makes no sense whatsoever. Can we sinners follow the sinless Lord Jesus Christ? Of Course Not, we still have “Sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3, 7:18, 20)!
Romans 11:13 KJV says that Paul is “the (one) apostle of the Gentiles.” As previously stated, the ascended Lord Jesus Christ revealed to Paul alone “the revelation of the mystery (God’s long-held secret plan)” (Rom. 16:25-26), His secret (or mystery) program to deal with all mankind on the basis of grace extended through Christ’s finished crosswork at Calvary.
On the other hand, Jesus of Nazareth ministered to Jews only in Matthew through John (Matt. 15:24, 10:5-7, 15:24; Jn. 4:22; Rom. 15:8). Jesus had no ministry to the Gentiles because He had to save apostate Israel first, so they were to go to the Gentiles! Not until we come to Paul’s ministry does God begin to deal with Gentiles. This is one basic fact of Scripture that most church members have never been told.
Jesus Christ urged His followers to obey ‘Moses Law,’ and commanding them to teach others to do the same (Matt. 5:17-19). Contrariwise, God through Paul tells us, “ye are NOT under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14-15). Obviously, we can’t follow both of these instructions simultaneously. We cannot follow Jesus of Nazareth’s earthly ministry toward Israel only… because as Gentiles we … are not Jews.
Furthermore, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea though we have known Christ after the flesh (in His earthly ministry to Israel), yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16). We don’t know Jesus after His earthly ministry to Israel as seen in Matt., Mark, Luke, and John. We follow Him according to His heavenly ministry that He to Paul as revealed in Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon).
God set forth Paul to be our “pattern” as to how we receive salvation.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first (Gk. protos, meaning, as the ‘prototype’). Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him (Jesus Christ) to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
Thus, Paul wrote, “Be ye followers of me, even as (in the same way) I am (a follower) of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). So, in the Christian life, we learn to follow Paul in the way that he learned to follow Christ.
In Paul’s epistles alone we find the doctrine, duty, walk, and destiny of “the Church the Body of Christ.” Paul is God’s spokesman to you, just as Moses was God’s spokesman to Israel. If you want to learn what God has to say to you today, you must go to Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon). To reject Paul is to reject Christ who sent Paul to you, and to reject Christ is to reject God the Father (Matt. 10:40; Jn. 13:20).
Paul wrote: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I (Paul) write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). The test of spirituality today is NOT following Jesus in His earthly ministry, but obeying what God the Holy Spirit says today through Paul.
As the members of “The Church,” which is “The Body of Christ” we’re not the nation Israel. During our dispensational age of “the grace of God” Israel is temporarily “fallen,” “cast away,” and “spiritually blinded.” “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (cf. Rom 11:25, 10-11, 15).
In “The Church, the Body of Christ,” there is “neither Jew nor Gentile,” as “all are one in Christ” (Gal. 3:26-28; Eph. 1:22-23). What God has to say to us is different from what He told the nation Israel in the “Old Testament,” the Jesus said in the Four Gospels, and the Twelve Apostles said in the early part of Acts. It’s important to understand how your Christian life operates as a non-Israelite, as a Gentile living during today’s “Dispensation of the Grace of God” and as a member of “the Church the Body of Christ.” If you want to be spiritually “edified” (built up, strengthened) and spiritually “perfected” (matured), you need to study and believe the truth of the Pauline epistles (Eph. 4:12).
God wants to “stablish” (stabilize) your Christian life and inner man by using a three-fold process. God wants you to understand the life that He has given to you in Christ Jesus, so that you can better understand what He is doing today, and then you can, by faith, follow Him and do the same. This is how we discover and do God’s will for our lives. Paul wrote in Romans 16:25-26 KJV:
“25 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, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets…”
Notice the three-fold process of Christian edification includes:
- “my gospel” — Paul’s mystery Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, is the foundation of the Christian life
- “the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery” — this is Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon, the sound doctrinal truth (building materials) which we use to build on that foundation
- “the scriptures of the prophets” — this is all of the Holy Scriptures, in light of the doctrine revealed to Paul.
This is why studying the Bible rightly divided is so important. We study all of the Bible, Genesis through Revelation, but we follow the design of Christian edification as laid out in Romans 16:25-26.
If we refuse to follow the dispensational layout of Scripture, and most people do refuse it, then we will be going against what God is doing today, and our Christian lives will be a powerless fiasco, which is why Christendom is in such pitiful shape!
Some will accuse you of Only Studying Paul’s Epistles? No! Paul wrote this below.
All of the Bible is God’s Word, so we study all 66 books of the King James Bible (Genesis to Revelation). But, unlike most churches and professing Christians, we study the entire Bible according to the “revelation of the mystery,” in light of the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. All of the Bible is for us, but not all of the Bible is to us and not all of the Bible is about us (Remember,75% of the Bible is written to and is about the nation Israel, not us.). We follow God’s design for Christian edification, and we seek God’s approval, not man’s approval (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15).
When studying a particular Bible passage, you first need to establish the following, in this order:
Who is writing/speaking, 2) To whom are they writing, 3) What are they writing? and, 4) To apply at what time?
Again, keep in mind that Paul’s thirteen epistles of Romans through Philemon are what God has to say to us today, and the rest of the Bible deals with another program, Israel’s program. Plainly stated … if Paul does not instruct us to do it, then God does not expect us to practice it in our life.
Many say, “Why Have I Not Heard This Before?”
You may be shocked by what you have just read? But, doesn’t the Bible make more sense now?
You may want to ask your pastor, Bible teacher, or priest why he never told you any of this. You might be surprised at his answer!
- by Arthur J Licursi, as adapted from Shawn Brasseaux -