An Example – Part 1
Why We Must Keep the Bible in Context
In the last couple of posts, entitled One Body, I challenged everyone to take a hard look at the doctrines that divide us. You see, although it is imperative that we unite as one body, we can’t just say, “forget doctrine and come together,” that would be wrong. But, we do need to take a hard look at the doctrines that divide us, because if it isn’t messing with salvation by grace through faith in Christ, then why are we arguing about it? So, these next three posts are looking at an example of one of those doctrines, in fact, this is a doctrine that I was entangled by for many years. We’re going to look at it and do our best to set aside everything we were ever taught about it and see what the Bible says in context.
There is a large following, among Christians, of a belief known as “dispensationalism”. This belief system dates back to the mid-1800’s and is attributed to John Darby. I was taught this my entire life, and bought into it for many years, until one day when I started realizing what the Bible really says. This belief, however well followed, is simply not scriptural. This belief, among other things, teaches that there are 7 dispensations, or periods of time, the first 5 of which happened before Exodus chapter 19. The 5th dispensation is believed to have been when the Israelites in the Old Testament times were “under the dispensation of the law”. They claim that we now are in the 6th dispensation, where Christians today are “under the dispensation of grace”. They believe this will last until the end of the Great Tribulation and will be followed by the 7th dispensation, “The Kingdom Dispensation”.
First, let’s look at the word that was translated, in the KJV, as “dispensation”. It only appears twice in the original scriptures, in Ephesians 3:2, and Colossians 1:25. Those who follow the belief of dispensationalism believe that the word means, a period of time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The word in these two verses which was translated in the KJV as “dispensation” is the Greek word oikonomia (oi-ko-no-mē’-ä) which means, “The office of a manager or overseer, stewardship; Administration.” So, had Darby bothered to look at the original language, he would have realized what these verses were talking about.
Ephesians 3:2 (KJV)
“2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:”
Ephesians 3:2 (NASB)
“2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;”
Colossians 1:25 (KJV)
“25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God;”
Colossians 1:25 (NASB)
“25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,”
As we can see, it’s not a time period of grace in Ephesians 3:2, it’s the stewardship of God’s grace that we were entrusted with. Again, it Colossians 1:25, it’s not a period of time that God bestowed on us, it is our stewardship God has bestowed on us. So many pastors will tell you, “They were under the Law in the Old Testament, but we are under Grace.” That is simply unfounded, and just another example of people trying to interpolate the scriptures to fit their preconceived beliefs.
Do you see how it changes the meaning of these verses when you mistranslate just one word? This is an example of why we must do the work of studying, 2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth”. When the writers of the KJV translated that word in 1611, the word dispensation meant something else. In the 1800’s, when Darby invented the theology of dispensationalism, he didn’t go to the original language, he just used the current meaning of the word.
This illustrates why it is imperative that we get a translation of the Bible that we can understand. In fact, the seventy men who translated the Latin Bible into English for King James in 1611, wrote a preface to the work, and in it, talked about how language changes over time and that it is imperative that we get a translation we can understand.
The Israelites of the Old Testament were not saved by keeping the law, they tried to make it about that, because that’s what we humans do. We always want to make it about what we do, as if we’re in control, somehow. To this day people are trying to make salvation about doing good works or keeping the law, but scripture makes it eminently clear that salvation has never been about works. Here are a few of the verses, but you really need to read all of Romans chapters 3 and 4 as well.
“4Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” Note the Old Testament reference.
“19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”
“27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. 29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”
“1Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? 2 If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. 3 For the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ 4 When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. 5 But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.”
“13 Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. 14 If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. 15 For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)”
“20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”
In our next installment, we will look more into the place faith has in the life of a Christ follower, both now, and in the Old Testament. See you then.
An Example – Part 2
Why We Must Keep the Bible in Context
So, we’ve talked a lot about the belief of dispensationalism, and the fact that it is not scripturally based, so let’s look at the part faith plays now, and in the Old Testament. In Galatians 3:6 we read, “6 In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” and in Galatians 3:8 “8 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” Did you catch that? “God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago.”
But, I need to stop here for a minute. Because, there are a lot of people out there preaching, simple faith…saying that all you need is faith. Here’s the problem with that, faith alone is simply not enough, look at James 2:19, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” You see, it must be a life-altering faith which is evident in our works, James 2:26 “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” We are not saved by our works, but we are saved for good works. Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Christ goes on to tell us that He didn’t come to do away with the law but to fulfill it. He also talked about how important it is for Christians to keep the law. Do you see the order? We follow Christ first, then we keep the law. We don’t follow Christ by keeping the law.
“1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
“4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.”
“5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.”
“6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”
“7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.”
“8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.”
“9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.”
“11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.”
“13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”
“17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac,”
“18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” “19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.”
“20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.”
“21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.”
“22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.”
“23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.”
“24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”
“25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.”
“26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.”
“27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.”
“28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.”
“19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. 25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”
Okay, there is just so much scripture on this subject, and, although I can’t cover it all. But, it is extremely clear that salvation has always been about a life changing faith in Christ…even before He came to earth. In the Old Testament, they were not saved by keeping the law, they were saved by their faith in the coming Messiah, but they had to demonstrate that faith by making the sacrifices. There is still a lot I want to cover, so let’s meet back here to finish this up.
An Example – Part 3
Why We Must Keep The Bible In Context
Okay, let’s finish this one up. In Galatians 2:11-21 it says,“11 But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” Also in Galatians 3:6-9 “6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” (Genesis 12:3)9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” And, again in Galatians 3:15-4:7 “15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
4 1Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
I realize that this is a lot of scripture to digest, but I don’t ever want anyone to think this is my opinion or my interpretation. This is the word of God and, as such, is irrefutable. God does not now, nor has He ever, awarded salvation in exchange for good works. Even the sacrifices of the Old Testament didn’t save them. The sacrifices were a symbol of the coming Messiah, and salvation came from their faith in the coming Messiah. We cannot be good enough to get into heaven, and neither could the Hebrews of the Old Testament. Paul made it clear that the law was never intended for salvation, but it was to show us how much we need God.
I know this one might be a little controversial for some, but please, study it out and see what the scripture says about this and any other doctrine you were taught by people. I John 4:1 says, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” So, don’t just blindly believe the doctrine you have been taught, and don’t just blindly believe me. You are charged with doing the work…study it out but keep it in context, then let me know what you find. I’d love to hear from you.