All who read the Bible divide it in some fashion. Even an unbeliever who gives the Bible a casual reading is influenced by where the publishers have placed certain labels for certain sections of the Bible. Surprisingly, those who actually study, and many of those who teach the Bible are also influenced by publisher’s divisions. We must correct that.
The notion that the Bible has divisions within it cannot be denied. Even those who would consider themselves to be covenant theologians would admit that they are not performing animal sacrifices at a temple that is administered by priests from the tribe of Levi each Sabbath. Those are clearly instructions to a certain people group during a specific period in history and are thus not instructions for Christians to follow. Thus, even the staunchest of Christians who would label themselves as “reformed” would recognize basic divisions within the word of God that have to be made.
Again, certain instructions and certain commandments were given by God to specific people during specific points within history. The studied Christian must recognize these distinctions and through them, they must rightly divide the word of God while identifying different audiences, different epochs of time, and different instructions provided by God. That is what Mid-Acts Pauline Dispensationalism, or “Right Division,” attempts to do.
The Bible documents all of history – from eternity past to eternity future. You and I are living within only a small fraction of that overall history. If we are truly going to understand our period of history, the instructions provided to us for living in this slice of history, and the will of God for our lives, then we must recognize that rightly dividing our Bible is both necessary and appropriate. Since we are instructed to study the Bible, one would think that God would provide us a hint as to what the best approach is for studying His word:
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]
The Bible, with the verse above found within, commands the Christian to study his or her Bible. That is not a suggestion … it is a command. You are to study your Bible. Unfortunately, so few who call themselves “Christian” actually do study their Bible. Each of us, if we are truly Bible-believing Christians, will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ and we will give an account of what we have done with what He has given us. Do you want to be approved by God and unashamed within that certain future moment?
God has given you His word, the Bible. You have been commanded to study it, but wait, there’s more to this verse and it provides the hint we are looking for in order to know how best to study His word. You have also been commanded to “rightly divide” the word of truth. The Greek word behind “rightly dividing” in this verse is orthotomeō and it means to cut straight; to cut straight ways.
The word of truth is the entire Bible, all sixty-six books, but not all of the Bible is YOUR truth. The Bible must be rightly divided in order to be properly understood. Right division leads to clearing up the confusion that we previously discussed within our scenario in this post. Right division is the answer to church splits and the creation of denominations. Right division also leads to the correct Gospel being understood and thus souls being saved through the proclamation of that correct Gospel. To rightly divide means to cut straight – to cut where it needs to be cut. God showed the apostle Paul how to rightly divide the word of truth and Paul recorded that division for us within his 13 epistles.
When one hears someone say that the Bible needs to be rightly divided, they often immediately think of “Dispensationalism.” The fact is that one of the major battlefronts within Christendom for over the last one hundred years has been in the area of Dispensational Theology versus Covenant Theology, with the primary argument being the topic of “dispensations.” What one rarely ever hears or reads is that there are multiple ways, other than dispensations, in which the Bible can and should be divided.
The apostle Paul provides the Christian a number of ways in which the Bible is to be “cut straight.” Within the previous post, we looked at the most important division within Scripture – prophecy versus mystery. This is where the Christian should start with his or her approach to how the Bible is to be understood or logically divided. The emphasis within this post will be an analysis of the most common approach to dividing the Bible, one that basically every reader of the Bible subjects themselves to. Additional posts will follow that speak to additional ways in which we can divide Scripture and we will conclude our focus upon rightly dividing the word of truth by looking at the topic of dispensations.
If we are to divide God’s word correctly and accurately, thus “rightly divide” it, we must learn from God where to make divisions in His word. Through that understanding, we must allow the Bible to correct our poor theology that we have accumulated through various sources over the years. We do that by identifying where God is speaking directly to and about us today, and where He is not speaking to and about us today. When one is reading prophecy within the Bible, they can rest assure that they are not reading passages that apply to them during this dispensation. Beyond the division we are to make between prophecy and mystery, there exist a number of additional divisions that should be made. When looked at in totality, each method of dividing our Bibles should be in complete harmony with each other and should provide those who study Scripture zero conflicts. Let’s next look at the most obvious division within our Bibles.
Defining Old Versus New
As stated within a previous post, there are two pages within your Bible that are not inspired by God, but yet have shaped the theology of countless people who have read the Bible. The first page comes before Genesis 1:1 and is labeled “The Old Testament.” The second page comes before Matthew 1:1 and is labeled “The New Testament.” This division, purely inserted by Bible publishers and uninspired by God, has lead to such poor theology as to hear proclaimed that “the Old Testament is for the Jews and the New Testament is for Christians.” Nothing can be further from the truth. It is true to state that the Old Testament was made with Israel, but it would be false to state that the New Testament was made with the Church.
The first topic of confusion that enters into this subject area comes through the use of the word “Testament.” Just what is, Biblically speaking, a testament? Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines the word “Testament” as follows:
TEST’AMENT, n. [Fr. from L. testamentum, from testor, to make a will.]
- A solemn authentic instrument in writing, by which a person declares his will as to the disposal of his estate and effects after his death. This is otherwise called a will. A testament, to be valid, must be made when the testator is of sound mind and it must be subscribed, witnessed and published in such manner as the law prescribes. A man in certain cases may make a valid will by words only, and such will is called nuncupative.
- The name of each general division of the canonical books of the sacred Scriptures; as the Old Testament; the New Testament. The name is equivalent to covenant, and in our use of it, we apply it to the books which contain the old and new dispensations; that of Moses, and that of Jesus Christ.
It is within the second definition provided above that we find our interest. The word “Testament” is equivalent to the word “Covenant.” Thus it would not be improper to see “The Old Testament” labeled as “The Old Covenant.” The same can be said for the New. The emphasis, supplied to us by publishers, for division within the Bible pertains to the Covenants provided within. There are, however, many covenants documented for us within Scripture and the label “Old Testament” is to be found within only one verse within all of Scripture:
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. [2 Corinthians 3:14]
Before Jesus came to the earth, there was only one group of sacred writings – the Tanakh, what you and I call the Old Testament today. At that time in history, there was no “Old” Testament. Soon after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, it was recognized that God had provided further sacred writings to humanity and believers began to distinguish between these two groups of written Scripture. The division between “Old” and “New” was further emphasized by the fact that the writings before Christ’s earthly ministry were written mostly in Hebrew while the writings after Christ’s earthly ministry were written mostly in Greek. This provided a logical division for publishers, but it is a logic that is flawed, as witnessed within Scripture.
We must ask ourselves the question, “just what is the ‘Old Testament’ referred to within the Bible?” The answer to that question is found within both the verse that precedes, and the verse that follows, the previously referenced 2 Corinthians 3:14 –
And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. [2 Corinthians 3:13-15]
Notice the multiple references to Moses within this passage above. The “Old Testament” is the Mosaic Covenant, the giving of the Law. The Old Testament, or Old Covenant, derives its name from the agreement that God made with the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai. The Mosaic Covenant is conditional, it guarantees blessings or cursing depending upon Israel’s obedience or disobedience to the Law. This Law was intended to be a blessing to the world through Israel’s separation and obedience. The Law was declared to be their righteousness if Israel performed all that God instructed. It would also be a curse if they disobeyed, and it was this latter lesson that Israel would learn. Israel could not keep the law and required a sacrificial system that God provided in order to cover their sin. The Mosaic Covenant is the most detailed covenant within Scripture because it includes the sacrificial system provided by God. Part of the Mosaic Covenant is the Ten Commandments, but please recognize that the Mosaic Law includes over 600 commands. It is interesting to note that the history books of Joshua through Esther record how Israel obeyed the Law or failed to obey the Law before Christ’s earthly ministry.
Old And New Testament Beginnings
With this understanding of the Old Testament, we must ask the question “where does the Old Testament begin within Scripture?” The answer to that question is found to be Exodus 19:5 –
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. [Exodus 19:5-7]
Thus we conclude that the first division provided to us within our Bibles, one that virtually every reader of the Bible recognizes, is actually a division that is made in error. The Old Testament did not begin until Exodus 19:5. Combined with recognizing that most of us have never heard a sermon preached on a Sunday morning pertaining to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, we must also recognize that errant theology has been placed upon us without our giving it any real thought. What we should be striving for is a level of precision, while studying to show ourselves approved unto God, that is not downplayed as “splitting hairs,” but rather demonstrates that we are taking our Bibles seriously and we are wanting to understand it correctly.
This topic of division becomes further exaggerated when we look at the New Covenant. As stated previously, there is a page before Matthew 1:1 in each of our Bibles that reads “The New Covenant.” We must, at this point, ask two questions – 1) what is the New Covenant, and 2) when did/does the New Covenant begin?
The New Covenant is provided within Jeremiah, chapter 31 –
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. [Jeremiah 31:31-34]
The first thing we must recognize is who this covenant is made with. Jeremiah 31:31 clearly states, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah”. The Church, the body of Christ, is found nowhere within verse 31. To emphasize who this covenant is being made with, God repeats Himself in verse 33 – “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;”. The Church, the body of Christ, is found nowhere within this entire passage. The New Covenant, or “New Testament,” is provided in Jeremiah chapter 31 and it is a covenant made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, and the Church, the body of Christ, is not mentioned at all.
It is very common for us on Sunday mornings to hear Jeremiah 31 referenced by our pastors when the New Covenant is discussed. What is far less common is to hear the sister-passage to Jeremiah 31:31-34 mentioned by those same pastors when we enter into that discussion. While recognizing that Jeremiah 31 is the “go to” chapter for discussing the New Covenant, we must, if we are to achieve a high level of precision within our studies, immediately link Ezekiel chapter 36 to Jeremiah chapter 31:
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD. [Ezekiel 36:22-38]
I think you will agree that Ezekiel 36 provides much more detail pertaining to the New Covenant than what Jeremiah 31 provides. Aside from asking the question, “why don’t I hear more about Ezekiel 36 on Sunday mornings than I do Jeremiah 31,” the question we really need to be asking is, “who is this covenant being made with?”. Within the passage provided above, Israel is mentioned four times and again, the Church, the body of Christ, is found nowhere within the passage. Israel is referred to as the party that God is making this New Covenant with. Since the Church, the body of Christ, was a mystery at the time of Ezekiel’s and Jeremiah’s writings, it stands to reason for us to conclude that the New Covenant was not intended for the Church, but has been made with Israel.
We also notice between these two parallel passages that God has promised to put His Law within Israel’s inward parts and that He has promised to write His Law in their hearts. God has promised to give Israel a new heart and a new spirit that will be placed within them. He has promised to take away their stony heart and to give them a heart of flesh. His spirit will be placed within them and that will cause them to walk in His statutes, to keep His judgments, and to do them. With this background, we can clearly recognize the New Covenant being spoken to within passages that make reference to “circumcising the heart”:
And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. [Deuteronomy 30:1-8]
The New Covenant is a fulfillment of the promise that God made with Israel to bring them back into the land He promised them and to help them to properly obey the Law that He provided them. As a result, this better testament will allow Israel to reap the blessings of God’s covenant that was made with their fathers:
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. [Luke 1:72-75]
God promises through the New Covenant that He will have compassion upon Israel, that He will gather them together from among all the nations, that He will allow them to dwell in the promised land, that He will circumcise their hearts so that they can obey His commandments, that He will multiply the fruit of the tree, and that He will make their work plenteous. This New Testament will finally provide for the redemption of the nation of Israel and it will institute what was needed to begin God’s strategy for blessing the kindreds of the earth through their royal priesthood. That which Israel has failed to accomplish on their own accord under the Old Covenant (Testament), God will provide for them under the New.
With this background understood, we must ask the question, “when did the New Covenant begin?”. With each of us having a page in our Bibles before Matthew 1:1 that reads “The New Testament,” we must study our Bibles and we must strive for a level of precision that allows us to identify if this is a right placement or not. When we do that, we identify that the book of Hebrews tells us that the New Covenant was not in force until after the death of Christ:
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. [Hebrews 9:15-17]
If while the testator liveth the New Testament is of no strength, then Jesus’ birth, life, and ministry on earth were all Old Testament. According to Galatians 4, Jesus was born and lived under the Old Covenant. It was not until Christ’s death that the New Testament could be made available. Since the large majority of the four gospels and Jesus’ entire earthly ministry occurred before His death, it should be considered that these four books are still in the context of the Old Covenant. Thus we conclude that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are technically Old Testament writings. This would explain why it is that the apostle Paul wrote the following:
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: [Romans 15:8]
We must recognize that Jesus operated in His earthly ministry according to the Old Testament specifications. Jesus was circumcised and sacrifices were offered according to the Law after His birth, He was water baptized, He observed the feast days, He frequented the Jewish temple, He instructed the people to follow the commandments, He taught Levitical sacrifice for healing, He taught conditional forgiveness, He told his listeners to obey the Pharisees, and He separated from Gentiles.
After Jesus died, He sent down the “Comforter” who would prepare the saints with the New Covenant power that was promised through the prophets in order for Israel to enter into their promised kingdom. It is this “better covenant” that the author of Hebrews describes while quoting Jeremiah 31:
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. [Hebrews 8:6]
It was for this reason that Christ died for Israel so that their past transgressions under the Old Covenant would be redeemed and they could then partake in the promises provided through the New Covenant. The enforcement of this covenant relationship with God was exclusive and severe. All those who were part of the covenant were accompanied by the blessings specified within the covenant, while those who rejected or fell away from the covenant were denied salvation:
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. [Hebrews 10:26-27]
Salvation Without A Covenant
During Saul of Tarsus’s rebellion within the early chapters to the book of Acts, God’s strategy for implementing the New Covenant was halted in order to implement a different strategy for a purpose that had never before been previously revealed. This revelation of the mystery, dispensed to the apostle Paul, was information about God’s plan for heavenly places and for a heavenly people. As a result the New Covenant promises have yet to be realized. Paul explains how those promises will be realized after the fulfillment of something he labels as the fulness of the Gentiles be come in:
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. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. [Romans 11:25-27]
Israel as a channel of God’s blessing was not done away by their failure to keep the Law.
God had made promises to the fathers of Israel to make Israel the nation through which the world would be blessed. The promises of God cannot be revoked because Israel did not fulfill them by their own power. Understand that the New Covenant has been confirmed and it was established as a result of Christ’s death on a cross. The New Testament, or New Covenant, began at the death of Christ and not at the start of Matthew’s gospel. The results of the New Covenant, the promises made to Israel, have not yet been realized. Israel has not taken possession of its promised kingdom and God’s plan for the earth has not come to completion yet. Instead, what is occurring is an interim dispensation of reconciliation that is focused upon all the world, not just a chosen nation, where Christ is offered apart from any covenant, special people status, or nationality.
Both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant include the Law, priests, a kingdom, and sacrifices for sin. Both covenants were intended to provide the blessing of the world through Israel. Both are the subject of prophecy, and are not part of God’s mystery, which was kept secret since the world began. The New Covenant was made better for Israel in that God would perform all that they could not do on their own. He would be the better priest, He would give the Spirit to cause them to keep the Law, and He would send Christ to establish their promised kingdom. The New Covenant is merely the Old Covenant blessing, the promises to the fathers, made possible through the provision of God. Whereas the Old Covenant emphasized man’s performance, the New Covenant was God performing for Israel what they could not. The Old failed to fulfill the promises, but the New will not fail.
Thus we conclude that there is much more to this second area of division, Old versus New, than what we have been led to believe. The divisions within our Bibles, inserted by publishers and not by God, are in error and have influenced our theology for many years. Understanding this fact assists us with further understanding the topic of covenants and just how different the Church, the body of Christ, is from the nation of Israel. Let’s use this second topic of division, Old versus New, to springboard into a deeper discussion and therefore a deeper understanding.
Three Division Instead Of Two
The Old Covenant, the New Covenant, and the fellowship of the mystery discussed in an earlier post, all describe different ways in which people receive God’s blessings. When one ignores these differences, they make themselves susceptible to claiming blessings or cursing that belong to someone else. This inevitably results in perverted religious behaviors with those performing them believing that they will invoke God’s blessings.
Since the New Covenant described God’s performance on behalf of Israel, many are confused by the difference between the New Covenant and the fellowship of the mystery and have been led to believe, since both require God’s grace, that they both must be talking about the same thing. There is, in fact, a difference between the two and that difference is critical to our correctly understanding God’s word.
The New Covenant is God’s blessing of grace through the nation of Israel, the promises made through their covenants, and the Law written in their hearts. The fellowship of the mystery is God’s grace given to all, Jew or Gentile, freely without the nation of Israel and its earthly covenants or Law written in their hearts, during a specific dispensation in which one apostle wrote 13 epistles providing instructions for those who believe the content of a specific Gospel. Though many a preacher today will tell you that the Church is under the New Covenant, the fact is that the New Covenant does not explain the creation of the mystery body in Christ in which there is a new creature where there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Scripture clearly informs us that Israel will not cease to be a nation, but have you ever given thought to what relevance that fact has upon the hope that the Church, the body of Christ, is to have today?
Under the Old Covenant, God was the Law giver. Under the New Covenant God, in Christ, was the Law keeper. Under the fellowship of the mystery, God, in Christ, is the Law remover. The Old Covenant was given to Israel, and the New Covenant was given to believing Israel. The fellowship of the mystery is for all those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and that includes Jew or Gentile. There is no place in the one body of the mystery for a separation between Israel and the Gentiles. Whereas the Old and New covenants are the subject of prophecy to fulfill God’s promise of blessing through Israel, the fellowship of the mystery was not revealed in any promise from God since the world began. The fellowship of the mystery is not the fulfillment of any covenant, prophecy, or promise given to Israel. The dispensation of the grace of God was hid in God until it was revealed to the apostle Paul for the Church, the body of Christ.
Once the differences between the Old Covenant, the New Covenant, and the fellowship of the mystery are understood, then the riches of God’s grace according to the revelation of the mystery will be better appreciated. Grace and faith have always been necessary in order to receive blessings from God, but today, grace stands alone in the fellowship of the mystery without the nation Israel, the Law, or covenants as the way God blesses the world. During this dispensation of the grace of God, the apostle Paul clearly tells us that the covenants were and are for Israel and are not for the body of Christ:
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: [Ephesians 2:12]
Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; [Romans 9:4]
During this dispensation, grace stands alone because of the fellowship of the mystery of Christ. Once this distinction is understood, the studied Christian will no longer divide their Bible in terms of Old Testament and New Testament, but rather, they will understand and appreciate that there are actually three key sections that must be rightly divided within Scripture:
Old Testament (OT) New Testament (NT) Mystery Truth (MT)
New Covenant Confusion
After Jesus died, Hebrews chapter 9 explains that Jesus became the mediator of Israel’s New Testament. This was a far better covenant for Israel than the Old. Jesus’ ministry for Israel began in heaven with Him serving as their Great High Priest. The book of Hebrews calls this work a “more excellent ministry” when he entered “into heaven itself” into the “true tabernacle”. Israel’s Messiah had to ascend to heaven to perform their New Testament ministry. Later, He will return to bring salvation to Israel. Israel’s salvation is today incomplete. Israel today stands ignorant of the mystery. Israel, this very minute, continues to wait for the receiving of their promised blessing in an earthly kingdom. While we read about the Word putting on flesh and blood and ministering to Israel while on earth, what Israel needed to learn after He died was the special ministry that Jesus was performing for them in heaven in fulfillment of the New Testament. That subject is what comprises the content of the book of Hebrews.
Jesus had a ministry on earth under the Old Testament. Jesus started a ministry in heaven for the New Testament. Both of these covenants were made with Israel. The New Testament is not complete as of yet and has been placed on hold while Jesus performs a mystery ministry now that Israel is fallen and waiting for salvation. This mystery ministry from heaven was first revealed to the apostle Paul and it involves a special dispensation of grace that is offered to all men. The revelation of this special ministry contains the message that the Church is to be proclaiming and the ministry that the Church is to be performing. Jesus Christ is currently the Head of a new creature that is called the body of Christ and during this unique dispensation, the body is not waiting for Israel’s New Testament to be fulfilled.
Those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ have atonement now:
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. [Romans 5:11]
Those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ have forgiveness now:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; [Ephesians 1:7]
Those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ have a salvation that is a present possession:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. [1 Corinthians 1:18]
Those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ have a completed position in Christ:
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: [Colossians 2:10]
Those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ have all sufficient grace right now by the gospel:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: [Ephesians 1:3]
With Jesus ministering from heaven, the Church is His body here on earth serving as His ambassadors, tasked with preaching the glory and grace of His death, burial, and resurrection as salvation offered freely for all. This fact is found only within the apostle Paul’s 13 epistles. Jesus the Christ did not have just one ministry. Jesus lived under the Old Testament, He died for the New Testament, and He has now revealed the mystery of the gospel of the grace of God for the forming of the one new man, which is His body.
Though the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant, we must recognize that the mystery of Christ, with grace offered freely to you, is far better than the New Testament. If you are saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ today, you receive salvation now, freely, by grace through faith in the blood, burial, and resurrection of Christ, with all the unsearchable riches that come with that truth, according to the mystery.
Incorrect teachings regarding the New Covenant have long been a hindrance to correctly understanding how to rightly divide the word of truth. The common teaching within Christendom states that if we are not under the Old Testament, then we must of necessity be under the New Testament. This view disregards the third program, the mystery of Christ, and discounts the unique ministry that the apostle Paul was called to. The teaching that we are under Israel’s New Testament confuses God’s prophetic purpose in Christ with His mystery purpose in Christ.
If the Church, the body of Christ, is to accurately understand the Bible and fulfill its true “great commission,” then it must recognize the distinction between the prophecy and mystery programs, the distinction between the Old Testament (OT), New Testament (NT), and Mystery Truth (MT), and that the Bible, like your life, can be viewed as having three parts to it – past, present, and future. God’s recording of history past, history present, and history future is the topic of our next post and it is the third example we will review as to how the Christian can rightly divide their Bible. As we close this review of the correct understanding of the New Testament, please be aware that additional information regarding the New Covenant can be found in Appendix 7.
The Christian must recognize that the gospel is not a covenant.
Tanakh is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text’s three traditional subdivisions: Torah (‘Teaching’, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (’Prophets’) and Ketuvim (’Writings’) – hence TaNaKh.
Deuteronomy 6:24-25 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.
Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5
The Talmud indicates (Tractate Makkot 23b) that there are 613 commandments (mitzvot) in the Torah; 248 Positive Commandments (do’s) and 365 Negative Commandments (do not’s).
Acts 3:25, Genesis 12:3, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14
Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Jesus died in the very end of his earthly ministry as recorded in Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, and John 19:30.
Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24
John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
2 Corinthians 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 8:7-10 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
For example, how often do we hear 2 Chronicles 7:14 applied to the Church, the body of Christ, or to the United States of America?
Titus 2:13, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Romans 5:2, Ephesians 4:4, Colossians 1:5, 23
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; Colossians 3:11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:1-2 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Romans 11:25-27, 1 Peter 1:13
2 Corinthians 5:20
1 Timothy 2:4
Ephesians 3:4, Colossians 4:3