|Vol. 16 No. 11 November 2014||
Gary C. Hampton
Paul told Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This verse clearly points out our need to study. Study will help us know what to do to be approved of God through obedience to his will. Paul’s words to the young preacher also let us know there is a right and a wrong way to divide Scripture. We must carefully study the truth so that we may rightly divide its teachings and be acceptable in God’s sight.
Before the World Was Formed
God planned His creation before He began to create. His plan included the free moral agency of man, which meant that man could sin and fall away from God. Thus, God prepared for the eventuality of man’s fall before He framed the world. In speaking of our redemption by the precious blood of the Savior, Peter wrote, “Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:18-20). Paul agreed with Peter and said God chose for the saved to be in Christ all along, but did not send Him until the time was right.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love… that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him. (Ephesians 1:3-4, 10)
Creation and the Fall
Man was formed by God out of the dust of the ground and created in the image of God. God made a special garden and placed man in it to “tend and keep it” (Genesis 1:26; 2:7-15). Besides these assigned tasks, God only set forth one law, so far as the written record is concerned. Man was not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (2:16-17). Woman was created to be a suitable helper for man (2:18).
Satan became the father of liars by adding just one word to that which God had said (Genesis 3:4; John 8:44). He told a partial truth that made sin seem attractive (Genesis 3:5, 7, 22). He appealed to fleshly desire by telling Eve that it was good for food. Satan aroused her desire through sight, as she saw that it was “pleasant to the eyes.” He took advantage of wrongful pride through causing her to think it was “to be desired to make one wise” (3:6; 1 John 2:15-17). In God’s words to the serpent, after man’s fall, God presented the first great foreshadowing of His plan to send Christ. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (3:15). In His death on the cross, Jesus suffered a painful bruise like one we might get on the heel, but in His resurrection, Jesus dealt a mortal or head wound to Satan.
While he was in the Garden of Eden, man enjoyed a close relationship with God (Genesis 3:8). Man’s sin placed a barrier between him and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). The long road to the restoration of that relationship or fellowship began with the Patriarchal Age. During that age, God spoke to the head of the house or Patriarch.
When God Spoke to the Fathers
Once man had sinned, God put into action His plan to bring him back. We call the first step in that plan the Patriarchal Age. In that age, the head of a household would direct his family as God directed him. For example, God spoke to Noah and instructed him to build an ark of gopher wood (Genesis 6:12-14). Notice that other families were destroyed for their disobedience, but Noah’s was saved because he led them in the way of obedience. The writer of Genesis penned, “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22). As the writer of Hebrews reported, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). As Noah and his family came forth out of the ark, we can see that great patriarch leading his family in worship to God (Genesis 8:15-20). His righteousness caused God to bless his family and promise never to destroy the world by water again (8:21-9:1).
Abraham was another of the patriarchs to whom God spoke (Genesis 12:1-4). We should notice again that certain blessings accompany obedience. Further, God knew he would be a good spiritual leader for all those in his house, both servants and children (18:18-19). Abraham obeyed even in the most difficult of circumstances, thus teaching his son Isaac the way of obedience (22:1-13, especially 7-8; Hebrews 11:17-19; Genesis 26:1-3, 6).
The Law Delivered on Sinai
After the Patriarchal Age, God dealt with man through the written Law of Moses (John 1:17). This law was specifically delivered only to Israel, causing some to believe the Gentiles continued to worship God at the direction of their fathers (Exodus 19:3-6; Acts 10:1-4). Just as the people of the Patriarchal Age died in the flood because of disobedience, the disobedient under Moses’ law were punished (Leviticus 10:1-2; 1 Corinthians 10:1-10; Judges 2:10-14). The law showed man that he could not live a perfect life, and pointed out the great need for a means of overcoming sin, but it did not make such a means available to the people (Hebrews 10:1-4). That law fulfilled its purpose when it showed man his need for a perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ. “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:19-25). Its narratives serve as an example to us of how God will deal with disobedient man. “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Fellowship with God Is Restored in Christ
Jesus came to fulfill the Law and its many promises of a Savior. Our Lord told His disciples, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). Just as the prophets had prophesied, Jesus was born of a virgin in the little town of Bethlehem. He was crucified between two thieves, but buried in a rich man’s tomb. He carried man’s sins to the cross despite the fact that He had been rejected by the very ones He came to save (Isaiah 7:14; 53:1-12; Micah 5:2-3). In His death, Jesus took the Old Law out of the way and put His law into force. Paul told the Christians at Colosse, “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 9:11-17). Christ’s resurrection was the final great proof that He is God’s anointed (Acts 2:22-36). He ascended to heaven and took His rightful seat on the throne of power.
In taking away the Law at the cross, Jesus tore down the barrier between Jew and Gentile or man and man. The blood shed on that cross also gave man the means of overcoming sin, which for centuries had stood as a barrier between man and God (Ephesians 2:11-16; Hebrews 9:22). The Gentiles, as well as the Jews, were granted repentance unto life (Acts 10:34-36, 40, 42-43; 11:15-18). In fact, it can be said that all are one in the church or in Christ since it is His body (Ephesians 2:16; Galatians 3:26-28). Thus, peace can be preached to all (Ephesians 2:17-19). We are built upon the foundation of Christ, and are a temple in which God can live (2:20-22; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16). Man had walked with God in the Garden of Eden. Now, in Christ, we can be in fellowship with Him again through the blood of His glorious Son (1 John 1:3-7).