A balanced look at “Rightly Dividing”

Two extremes of Bible Study, random reading and rightly dividing

Random Reading

Randomly fan the pages of an open Bible and stick a pin in a random verse on a random page and sing this little ditty as you try to apply that verse for you today…

Every promise in the book is mine. From Genesis to Revelation. Every chapter, every verse and every line.

This can’t be correct because the Bible contains the true and accurate accounts of many historical situations. The Bible contains quotations from God, angels, godly men and women, ungodly men and women, Satan, demons, and even animals (Num 22:28). The Bible contains accounts of blessings and curses, good and evil, war and peace, truth and lies, feast and famine, prosperity and poverty, sanctification and perversity, mercy and cruelty, righteousness and sin, and more. The Bible contains expressions of utmost exaltation from people in the greatest circumstances. And, the Bible contains expressions of deepest agony from people in the darkest despondency.

If we grab a passage, at random, from one of these categories without rightly dividing any understanding of the back story surrounding it, we can end up claiming that almost anything is ordained by God. Unfortunately, many people throughout history have applied this approach to Bible study, which has resulted in many strange fringe groups that can hardly be classified as Christian.

Rightly Dividing

Carefully “rightly divide” your Bible, using Rightly Dividing, Bullingerism, or Extreme Dispensationalism, into dispensations versus covenants, Kingdom versus Church, and Jew versus Gentile (1 Cor 10:32). This approach to Bible study will marginalize most of the Old Testament because it was for the Jews in The Kingdom. It will marginalize most of the Gospels because they were about the King of the Jews preaching about The Kingdom. It will marginalize most of The Apostle Paul’s earlier letters because they were during the time of the transition from Judaism to Christianity and contain a mixture of Kingdom and Church theology. It will marginalize most of James, John, and Peter’s writing because they were Jewish writing to Jews.

If you carry this to it’s logical conclusion, it will limit your reading to just the 7 books from the Apostle to the Gentiles that were written after the close of the progressive revelation during the book of Acts. These books are: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.

Now don’t misunderstand, I am not minimizing these 7 books at all. In fact, my desert island chapter (if I was stuck on a desert island with only 1 chapter of the Bible, which one would I choose?) is Colossians 3, or Philippians 2, or Ephesians 5, or Galatians 5.

But, if rightly dividing causes you to marginalize the writings of Moses, the historians, the poets, the prophets, the gospels, the letters, and The Acts of the Holy Spirit, you will end up ignoring most of the Bible. Unfortunately, many people throughout history have applied this approach to Bible study, which has resulted in many legalistic separatist fringe “rightly dividing” groups that can hardly be classified as Christian. This is a direct violation of these verses…

Everything written long ago was written to teach us so that we would have confidence through the endurance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us. (Romans 15:4 GWT)

These things happened to make them an example for others. These things were written down as a warning for us who are living in the closing days of history. (1 Corinthians 10:11)

Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God’s approval. They equip God’s servants so that they are completely prepared to do good things. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 GWT)

Balanced Bible Study

A better way to study is like the noble Bereans…

The people there were more open-minded than the people in Thessalonica. They listened to the message with great eagerness, and every day they studied the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was really true. (Acts 17:11 GWT)

Consider this popular verse, which is discarded by rightly dividing, but often chosen by random reading. Where does this fit within dispensations versus covenants, Kingdom versus Church, and Jew versus Gentile? Does it apply to us or not to us?

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 JPS Tanakh 1917)

This verse reveals the character of God for the children of Israel while they were in exile under judgement because of their sins. This is true of the character of God for you right now today. Which brings us back to the song that we started with…

By His stripes, the book says I’m healed
Until the day of redemption
The book says I’ve been sealed
(According to the same book)
To prosper and be in health is right in line

Every promise in the book is mine
Every promise in the book is mine
From Genesis to Revelation
Every chapter, every verse and every line
They all are blessings of His love divine
Every promise in the book is mine

The book says, “Delight yourself in the Lord
You can have what’s in your heart”
It also says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ
He’s got a brand new start”
And it also says, “Knock and the door shall be opened
Seek and you shall find”

Every promise in the book is mine
Every promise in the book is mine
From the very first chapter
Every chapter, every verse and every line
Everything in between, all the way down to the end
Every line, they all are blessings of His love divine
Every Promise In The Book Is Mine
from Let Us Encourage You
by The Sensational Nightingales

For deeper study

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2 Replies to “A balanced look at “Rightly Dividing””

  1. IMO we need to remember when saying Scriptures only that the Scriptures tell us there will also, be prophets and inspiration in the last days. For example Joel 2. Amen!

    • Yes, this is very true, and I appreciate you taking the time to write.

      In those days, it will be more important than ever to have a good solid understanding of the Bible and a quick way to evaluate prophecy, because there will be many false prophets proclaiming false teaching (Matt 24:11,24; 2 Pe 2:1-22).

      Even in those days, God will not contradict himself. We have to remember who the spirit is. New revelation from God will not contradict old revelation from God. It will be like the ministry of Jesus Christ, who opened up the understanding of ancient prophecies but did not destroy the law or the prophets.

      • Jesus Rejected at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30; Isaiah 61:1-11; Matthew 2:19-23; Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6; Luke 2:39-40)
      • Jesus Fulfills the Law (Matthew 5:17-20; Isaiah 40:6-8; Isaiah 44:21-26; Matthew 24:32-35; Luke 16:14-17; Luke 21:29-33)
      • The Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13; Joel 2:28-32; John 14:15-26; John 16:5-16; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 19:1-7)
      • A Call to Orderly Worship (1 Corinthians 14:26-40)

      It will become even more important to follow the Berean model: “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

      I pray that all Christians will be at least as strong as those in the Church in Philadelphia:

      These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. (Revelation 3:7-10)