One Book...Rightly Divided
By Dr. Douglas D. Stauffer
(Section I of III)
By Dr. Douglas D. Stauffer
(Section I of III)
As expressed in the two preceding chapters, not every commandment in the Bible is directed to us who live in the Church Age. We cannot, and should not, follow or attempt to follow every commandment contained in the scriptures. For example, in Genesis 6:14 we find the commandment to “make thee an ark of gopher wood.”If we are to obey every commandment in the Bible, why not this one? The obvious answer is that God was speaking to Noah when He told him to build the ark.
God was speaking to Noah and not to us! It is scripturally incorrect for someone to apply to himself biblical commands addressed to someone else. We should not attempt to follow every commandment in the Bible. This simple example of Noah provides a starting point that will help determine the extent of this truth. If every command written in the Bible is to be followed and obeyed, consider the following:
Leviticus 4:20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.
Are we to follow this example and bring a sin offering to the priest for atonement? Obviously not! However, prior to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, one of the priestly functions was to make atonement for sin. Whose mail are you reading in the book of Leviticus?
The Lord did not abolish this practice during His earthly ministry. Instead, He commanded the leper whom He had healed to show himself to the priest. The leper was to abide by the Law of Moses for a testimony to the religious leaders and make an offering for his cleansing.
Mark 1:44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them
Whose mail are you reading in Mark chapter one? The priestly duties were not abolished until after Christ’s final blood sacrifice on Calvary. From that point forward, there is no basis for any further sacrifices. No instructions are given for involving an earthly priest in atoning or forgiving anyone’s sin today. In fact, Christ is specifically pointed to as our High Priest.
Hebrews 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
Hebrews points to the Lord Jesus Christ as our High Priest. Romans further reveals that through Christ’s functioning as our High Priest and sacrifice, we NOW have the atonement. It is a present possession. Consider whose mail you are reading in the next verse.
Romans 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
No longer do we follow the formula of Leviticus chapter 4 or even Mark 1:44. Our High Priest provided the atonement (payment) for sin through the offering of Himself. Through His bodily sacrifice we are sanctified for ever. The Old Testament priest could never accomplish this feat through his multitude of sacrifices offered year after year.
Hebrews 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
Thus, once a person receives the atonement mentioned in Romans, there is no further need for priestly sacrifices. Christ ended all of the sacrifices by offering Himself one time on the cross for our sins, and sat down at the right hand of the Father for ever.
All those that think that the church must be patterned after verses like those from Leviticus should bring their bullock to the altar for sacrifice. If an offering or blood sacrifice is still necessary for atonement or forgiveness, wouldn’t this indicate that Christ’s sacrifice of Himself was insufficient? This position is not only incorrect, but blasphemous!
The two examples, one from Genesis (the command given to Noah) and the other from Leviticus (concerning the priestly offering) may seem obvious to most Bible students. However, these two examples are presented to reveal the importance of considering the distinctions that must be made in other passages as well. An individual can certainly learn from reading scripture doctrinally applicable to another group. However, that individual is not commanded to keep every command contained in the Bible. This is especially true of those commands that God intended to apply only to a specific group of people during a particular period of time.
The different spokesmen in different ages gave different instructions from God. Whose “mail” (instructions) should we read and heed? Every Bible student must determine where to find God’s applicable direction in His word. Is God’s direction for the Church found as clearly in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, when the Lord said He was “not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24)? Is God’s direction for the Church found as clearly in Revelation where John plainly discusses the Tribulation period, Second Coming and Millennial rest? The answer is a resounding “no”! This mail primarily applies to others in the future.
Fortunately, God did not leave things up to chance for the student of His word. God’s specific directions for the Church are found predominantly in the thirteen epistles that God used Paul to pen for the Church Age; each of these epistles or books (Romans through Philemon) begins with Paul’s name. Ignore the instructions in these books at your own peril!
To further the point, consider the following question: what scriptures are most often used when trying to lead someone to trust Christ as Saviour? Many people have “instinctively” used the verses from the book of Romans first because they give a complete, concise picture of what one must know and believe in order to be saved. These verses have become so common in soul-winning discussions that they have been referred to as the “Roman’s Road” to salvation. It is not coincidental that these verses occur in Paul’s first epistle. Nor is it in fact simply instinct that has led people to this book, but rather the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit of God (Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:18).
The Romans Road—Your Mail
Romans chapter 2—the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (2:4-5)
Romans chapter 3—all have sinned (3:23)
Romans chapter 5—while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (5:8)
Romans chapter 6—the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (6:23)
Romans chapter 10—whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (10:13)
Why do you suppose that so many soul winners are led by the Spirit of God to go to the epistles of the Apostle Paul? The answer is rather simple. Many preachers, teachers, and evangelistically-minded persons follow the precepts of right division in practice without considering why. While reading everyone’s mail (Genesis through Revelation), the soul winner gravitates toward Paul’s epistles through supernatural prodding.
Romans provides the clearest, most concise presentation of the gospel. It is not only important that Christ died on the cross, but essential that the lost person (II Corinthians 4:3) understand exactly what this means to him. Romans provides the individual with a basis for his belief. For this reason, the next of Paul’s epistles emphasizes the how of Christ’s sacrifice as an important aspect of the gospel.
I Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel...how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
According to Paul, the gospel includes the how of Christ’s death. Yet, the whys and wherefores of Christ’s death were not completely revealed until after His death. Only then did the first century world find out that Christ specifically died for our sins (I Corinthians 15:3), became sin for us (II Corinthians 5:21) and that we must trust in Him for forgiveness of sins.
Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
In addition to realizing the importance of trusting in Christ, Paul’s epistles explain that the sealing of the Spirit follows one’s trusting in the person and work of Christ. Many of these truths could not have been revealed prior to the cross. With full knowledge of what would follow, Satan would not have become God’s pawn in the betrayal and crucifixion of God’s Son. The truth about the crucifixion had to remain a mystery until after the cross; therefore, you will find no one apart from the Lord with a full understanding of it prior to the cross. A mystery only remains a mystery until revealed. Had the princes of this world known the mystery, they would not have crucified Christ!
II Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The detailed truths of Christ’s death had to be hidden until the appointed time. Had the full implications of Christ’s sacrifice been understood by Satan prior to the cross, he would never have instigated Christ’s betrayal. No one understood the full implications of the cross prior to the cross. It was still a mystery, or else II Corinthians 2:7 is simply incorrect.