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How to make sense of the differences in the Bible

Introduction and Chapter Ia By Timothy S. Morton


Copyright 1997, Timothy S. Morton, All Rights Reserved All Scripture references and quotations are from the Authorized King James Version of the Bible


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Introduction

When a person receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, he, with the Lord, also receives a desire to know more about his salvation and the one who saved him (John 15:26). This desire causes the new believer, possibly for the very first time in his life, to open the Holy Bible in a serious attempt to learn what God has to say. Once in the Scriptures the believer soon realizes that the Bible speaks of much more than just personal salvation and Christ dying on the cross; it speaks of God's whole program for His entire creation from eternity to eternity. It reveals what God wants man to know about God Himself, His creation, and His purpose with His creation. Unless the believer understands this and divides the Bible accordingly (2 Tim. 2:15), he may become overwhelmed by its vast scope and perplexed by its differences. All the Bible's major differences can be reconciled with some study (sometimes very little), but if the believer neglects to study and sort these differences out, he will cheat himself out of understanding not only God's plan and purpose for man in general, but also for himself in particular.

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How to make sense of the differences in the Bible

Chapter Ib


The Covenants And The Dispensations cont.

The Abrahamic Covenant and The Dispensation of Promise

Nine generations after Shem, Abraham was born. Abraham was about 75 years old and living in Ur of the Chaldees when God one day spoke to him. God, through His amazing grace, wanted to make another covenant with man and chose Abraham as His partner. The covenant He made with him was again unconditional and contained many promises (Gen 12:1-3). The only hint of a condition appears to be that Abraham had to forsake his home and family and go to a land God would show him. When Abraham obeyed and entered the land the promises became fixed. God promised to:

1. Make Abraham a great nation (vs. 2). This promise has been fulfilled both physically and spiritually. Physically through Isaac and Ishmael, spiritually through all those who have Abraham’s faith (Gal. 3:7).
2. To bless him (vs. 2), and He did this also both physically (13:14-18) and spiritually (15:6).
3. To make his name great (vs. 2). Still today the name of Abraham is known and respected by millions.
4. Make him a blessing to others (vs. 2). Abraham blessed people in his own time and blessed humanity by his seed Jesus Christ.
5. To bless those who bless him (vs. 3).
6. And curse those who curse him (vs. 3). God has not only blessed those who blessed Abraham, but He also blessed those who blessed the nation that sprang from his loins, Israel. On the other hand, those who cursed Israel (Babylon, Assyria, Rome, Germany, etc.) must suffer. Some have suffered already, but these promises will not be completely fulfilled until the future.
7. Bless all the families of the earth in him (vs. 3). The fulfillment of this is Christ himself, who blesses all those who believe on Him with salvation and who will also physically bless all who are in the millennium.

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How to make sense of the differences in the Bible

Chapter II



Salvation In The Old Testament

From our brief overview of the major divisions of the Bible, it should be clear to the reader that God does not always work exactly the same way in every dispensation. What God required of Adam (don’t eat of the tree), He did not require of Moses; what He required of Noah (ark), He did not require of David. Likewise what He required of Moses and David (keep the Law), He does not require of us today. God is the same God, but He simply does not work with man the same way in every dispensation. Therefore, every Christian MUST know where the divisions between the dispensations are and what God requires of man in each of them to make reasonable sense of the Bible. Again, this is imperative to see God’s overall program for man as He has revealed it.

In this chapter and the following, we are going to look at the covenants and dispensations from the standpoint of personal, individual salvation. This is a touchy topic, but our only concern is what the Bible says about the matter. Now, we realize every Bible preacher, teacher, minister, “scholar,” etc. who attempts to teach something from the Bible says he is only interested in what the Bible says; therefore, the reader must determine the truth himself through prayer and study. Don’t blindly follow the opinions of men no matter how “godly,” “devoted,” and “fundamental” they may appear; follow only the BOOK (AV 1611). When anyone (including your author) does not strictly go by the Bible, abandon him, at least in the area of error. The Bible is the Christian’s absolute, final authority for ALL matters and is subject to no individual, group, church, or school.

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How to make sense of the differences in the Bible

Chapter III


Salvation In The New Testament

As mentioned in the last chapter, salvation was only decreed to those saved in the Old Testament because the necessary atonement and redemption to take the sins away had not yet been made (Heb. 10:4). Only the “lamb of God,” Jesus Christ, who came in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) could make an acceptable atonement and provide “eternal redemption” to forever remove the penalty and guilt of sin from any believer. The hundreds of thousands of bloody animal sacrifices offered to God in the Old Testament could not do this, they could only temporarily cover the sins until Christ’s expiatory sacrifice took them away. God decreed salvation to people in the Old Testament and remitted their sins solely on the basis of what He knew Christ would later do on the cross (Rom. 3:25).

Christ said Himself He came to die “for (because of) the remission of sins” in the past (Matt. 26:28). Without the cross God’s decree of salvation would be of no lasting effect; God had to ultimately purchase eternal redemption. Thus the whole religious system of Judaism as revealed in the Old Testament could eternally save no one. It was for the most part a great object lesson to show man he was a sinner (Rom. 3:20), sin required payment (death) (Lev. 1-15), and a substitute provided by God could die in the sinner’s place (Ex. 12). By the time Jesus was born, God had spent 4000 years trying to get these basic and essential doctrines through man’s stubborn head, insisting man cannot save himself and only God can provide escape from the everlasting penalty of sin and supply eternal salvation.

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How to make sense of the differences in the Bible

Chapter IV



Salvation In The New Testament
cont.

Since in the book of Acts salvation became predominately Gentile, it is only logical the following books of the Bible (Romans—Philemon) apply doctrinally to the Gentile Church. Most of the three epistles of John also apply to this age as well as much of the epistles of Peter. We know this because the books are addressed to either New Testament churches (Rom.—2 Thes.), to individual ministers (1 Tim.—Tit.), or to other Christians. The books Hebrews and James, however, are not written to born again Christians but to Jews. Hebrews means Hebrews, not Gentiles, and James is addressed to the “twelve tribes” (James. 1:1), not the body of Christ. Remember, knowing who a book or epistle is written to is imperative for sound Bible study.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans is clearly a Gentile, church age book, and because of its emphasis on doctrine, it is often called “the Constitution of the Christian faith.” The Holy Spirit caused this book to be placed immediately after Acts even though it was written later than most of Paul’s other books because He wanted the Bible reader to be grounded in sound Christian doctrine. In the first eight chapters, Paul explains how salvation is by faith alone apart from any works (4:5) and then defines salvation’s exceedingly rich blessings with terms like justification, propitiation, adoption, imputation, redemption, reconciliation, sanctification, etc. These are all doctrines that apply to every Christian NOW, not to blessings he will receive in the future. Romans should be studied by the believer until he knows its rich doctrines by heart; only then can he begin to appreciate what God has done for him.

How Many Gospels?

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