In our quest to enjoy the Bible, I have quoted the saying, "The Bible is not enjoyed because it is not understood" (E.W. Bullinger). And to understand the Bible we'll need to jettison some false concepts that have come to us through lyrics of choruses and song, as well as those from bad teachings, and even from the way the English Bible is laid out.
In the second church we pastored in Western Australia, the start of the Sunday evening service was usually comprised of singing choruses from the yellow Elim Choruses words-only edition. One I remember was No. 636: "Every promise in the Book is mine, Every chapter, every verse, every line, All the blessings of His love divine, Every promise in the Book is mine." And in our ignorance we'd sing it with vigor.
Just because you sing or hear a song doesn't make it truth for you! Take this promise: "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you" (Joshua 1:3 ESV). Look out Warren Buffett and Bill Gates! I'm passing your net worth at rocket speed! Just because someone prayed "search me, O God" in Psalm 139:33 doesn't mean we now have to sing the prayer "Search me, O God, and know my heart today." God already knows you heart! "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all" (Acts 1:24). The chorus cannot be true because God made many promises to individuals and nations in the Old Testament that were specific to them and not to you and me.
To understand the Bible, we should first consider what it is. We see it as one book because that is how our translation is bound. In reality it is a collection of 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. It was penned by some 33+ writers over a period of around 1,500 years. It is conveniently divided into two parts: the "Old Covenant," later known as the "Old Testament," which was primarily written in Hebrew, and the New Testament, primarily written in Greek.
New Testament title page KJV
Between the two testaments was a period when no books were penned, probably around 350 years or so. For our convenience, there is a title page placed between the two testaments yet totally without divine inspiration, and it is the most confusing page
of the whole Bible! It reads: "The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
"For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive" (Hebrews 9:16-17). Yes, it will be shock to many to discover that the New Testament, Will, or Covenant (all the same Greek word) does not start at Matthew 1:1. It can only start at the death of Jesus!
"First, the New Testament doesn't actually begin in Matthew 1. In fact, it doesn’t begin at any page in the Bible. It begins at the point in history when Jesus’ blood was shed. No blood was shed in the first chapter of Matthew, and no sacrificial death was carried out in the manger. It was not our Savior’s birth that changed everything. It was his death that inspired the apostles to declare the message of 'out with the old, and in with the new'" (Andrew Farley, The Naked Gospel, 2008, page 80).
He goes on to observe, "When we attempt to mix Old with New, we end up with a contradictory covenant of our own invention. This is where I lived for years. Since there were a few elements of the New in my imaginary covenant, it didn't kill me right away. Instead, it afforded me a slower death. I had adopted a belief system that was essentially a balance of Old and New. I neither suffered under the stringency of the entire law nor enjoyed the bliss of unconditional favor."
So the Past must not be read into the Present, the Present is not to be read into the Past, and the Future is not to be read into the Present, as E.W. Bullinger details in 60+ pages of his book "How to Enjoy the Bible." I have often said that our ministry is for "generic New Testament Christians." "Generic" means not specific or having no brand name, and "New Testament" because in reality that is the only kind of Christians that exist! "The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed" (one of the few quotes from St. Augustine that I agree with!). So there is value in the Old, but we're living in the New, in Acts 29 territory (since the church age didn't end with Acts 28:31, the last narrative section of the New Testament).
Even in the ministry of Jesus there are contradictory statements that are only understood by noting when they were spoken. In Luke 9:3 when sending out the twelve disciples to minister, "And he said to them, Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics." Yet just before Jesus died he said to them, "'When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?' They said, 'Nothing.' He said to them, 'But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one'" (Luke 22:35b-36). Notice the "But now..." So the new command cancels the old. And many Old Testament promises and commands are replaced by New Testament commands and promises.
Is there an answer to this situation that you can understand without a university degree? Yes, there is, and space means I'll have to share it with you in our next post. (But if you can't wait, order the book God's Principles and Your Potential and read chapter 4.) -- Peter Wade.
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