Grace Life Church
Proclaiming Jesus Christ and the Gospel of God's Grace
UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE
"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe."
1 Thes. 2:13
The Bible is the word of God. Because it's God's Word, we love its power and authority! The primary focus of the Bible is on a Person -- our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ! At Grace Life Church, we're passionate about proclaiming Jesus Christ and bringing grace to life in people's lives through proper study and understanding of the Bible. Only by knowing Jesus Christ and His amazing grace to us can a believer experience a victorious Christian life.
What is amazing about the Bible is that it actually "works" inside believers (1 Thes. 2:13)! The Holy Spirit uses the sound doctrine of the word of God to transform the lives of God's children, all for His glory. Therefore, how we read and study the Bible is a very important matter! Unfortunately, many believers today are confused, frustrated, and lack joy in their walk with Christ because they don't correctly understand God's word to them. This confusion and frustration is often the result of a failure to "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).
You need to know that the Bible gives us clear direction on how we are to correctly approach and understand the word of God!
The Bible reveals to us that God has been progressively revealing Himself to mankind throughout history. Understanding this leads us to use a certain approach in order to properly understand God's word. The Bible teaches us that a dispensational approach to studying the Bible is the best way to correctly understand God's word and avoid all kinds of error and confusion. If only more believers understood this!
Please don't let the word "dispensational" scare you or put you off. Dispensation is a biblical word. All it simply means is that it is the way of studying the Bible that recognizes that throughout the ages God has progressively revealed Himself to mankind in divine stages (or administrations/dispensations) as He administers the affairs of the world according to His will in the unfolding of His total purpose. This concept is clearly found in the Apostle Paul's writings -- Eph. 3:2-6.
This way of approaching and studying the Bible is not a system that man has made up. Rather, it's the system God actually leads us to use because the Bible reveals that He has been progressively revealing Himself to mankind in stages. Therefore, there is a right way to understand the Bible -- and there are wrong ways (2 Tim. 2:15)!
Most people who read the Bible can easily see that God has been progressively revealing Himself throughout human history (Rom. 3:21; 7:6; 16:25-27; Eph. 2:11-13; 3:1-12). You don't have to be a Bible scholar to notice this! The revelation we have today through the earthly ministry of the Godman, Jesus Christ, and by the writings of the New Testament writers years after Christ's resurrection, is significantly more than what was revealed to people in Old Testament times (Acts 17:30). In fact, the Bible says that Old Testament prophets knew there was further revelation to come (1 Pet. 1:10-12). Through Christ's entrance into the world and His work, God's grace was displayed to the world like never before (John 1:17)!
Through the Apostle Paul, we have the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now has been revealed (Rom. 16:25-27). We are so blessed today to have available to us in the word of God special, unique, and powerful information that God has revealed to us, through the Holy Spirit, that was not revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures! Understanding that God has been revealing Himself progressively to the world is at the heart of understanding the Bible dispensationally.
Are we saying that studying the Bible this way is the perfect way to do it? No, not at all. Since none of us have perfect knowledge about God's word (only God does) and none of us are infallible (only God is), whatever approach we use to interpret the Bible won't be perfect. However, we're confident that the dispensational approach to understanding the Bible is the best way to see and understand the distinctions that matter in God's word as a result of progressive revelation. Studying the Bible this way helps one interpret it correctly and consistently. If you love the word of God, this is what you want.
Foundational to understanding your Bible dispensationally is recognizing that there is a clear distinction between Israel and the church. This means understanding that believers today are NOT part of God's program for the nation Israel. We're in a new program today where God is doing something new -- forming the church, the Body of Christ! Knowing this distinction alone will help you better understand your Bible, avoid a lot of false teaching, appreciate more richly what God is doing today in building the church, and help you in your walk with Jesus Christ!
This program we're part of today is often called the dispensation of Grace (or the Church Age). The church started at Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago, 50 days after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (10 days after His ascension), when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. All believers in Jesus Christ since then have had the great joy of being members of the church, the Body of Christ, a spiritual organism made up of all true believers with Christ as the Head! God started a new program, distinct from His program for the nation Israel, where the grandeur and magnificence of His grace to mankind is on display like never before!
Now believers are in Christ as members of His body and Christ lives in them! We're in spiritual union with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17)! Furthermore, and very significantly, God does NOT want believers today to live under the law program that He gave exclusively to Israel. Instead, we're under something different -- the grace program (John 1:17; Rom. 6:14)! This wonderful gift of God's grace to us is ours only because of what our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for us through His death and resurrection!
The Bible tells you everything you need to know about all that Christ has done for you. The Bible tells you the wonderful truth about who God has made you in Christ. Besides this sound doctrine, living the grace life also involves trusting in God's word to work in you as it says it will. The Apostle Paul's words to the Ephesian elders tell us that one very important way God's word works in us is to build us up:
"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20:32)
God's word works effectively in those who believe. Trust in the word of God to work in you and to grow you spiritually -- all for His glory! All praise to our Lord Jesus Christ!
Stephen J. Moll
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Tim. 3:16-17