WHY I DON'T "RIGHTLY DIVIDE"
---------According to Scofield---------

A SCRIPTURALLY COMPATIBLE UNDERSTANDING OF SECOND TIMOTHY 2:15



W. H. SHOPE
 

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Second Timothy 2:15

A basic tenet of many Christian congregations is “right division.” The above verse is usually cited as justification for their position. To these members of the body of Christ, the meaning is very clear. If one seeks the approval of God, it is imperative that he rightly divide the Bible.

So, why, then, would I come right out and say that I choose not to rightly divide? Some clarification is needed. I believe, indeed, that a Christian should rightly divide the word of truth, just as Paul explains in this verse. Obviously, two Christians can read this verse and come away with very different understandings. Similarly, theologians have argued for centuries over the identity of the "he" in Daniel 9:27. Some say it's Christ and others say it's antichrist. How more disparate could such views be?

In the case of the Daniel verse, differences in understanding arise due to the possible choices of the antecedent for the pronoun, "he." In the case of the Second Timothy verse, differences in understanding arise due to differences in understanding of words and phrases.

First, those in one group understand that the phrase, "word of truth," refers to the Bible as we know it today. This phrase occurs 5 times in the King James Bible, the first of which is in the Old Testament:
 

And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.
Psalm 119:43

The 3 remaining New Testament references are:

By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
Second Corinthians 6:7

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Ephesians 1:13

Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
James 1:18

So, what are we to gain by chopping up the "word of truth"...as God defines it...into smaller pieces? Obviously, the psalmist would not be happy with that, for he is resting in ALL of the assurances given him by God. Would any one of us be content with the loss of a portion of the spiritual and physical protection offered by God, as indicated in the Second Corinthians reference? I think not. Certainly, the Ephesians verse indicates that nothing is to be gained by dividing the gospel (good news) of our salvation. Finally, we would not want to be separated from any portion of His miraculous power which saved and justified us (James 1:18).

And, even if it were at all desirable to divide the word of truth, how would it be accomplished? (Keep in mind that I most certainly agree with the division given by Paul. This is merely a diversion to silence those who would divide by other means.) The right division given by Paul has been twisted into the following perversion:

These teachers say that we are to consider the Bible to be describing sequential periods ot time called "dispensations." Now, it is certainly true that, with only a few exceptions, events described in God's Word are given sequentially. It is not wise, however, to attempt rigorous definitions of time periods and then to call them "dispensations."

"Dispensation" is used 4 times in the King James Bible:

For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
First Corinthians 9:17

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
Ephesians 1:10

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Ephesians 3:2

Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
Colossians 1:25
 

One of the definitions given for "dispensation," in a modern dictionary, is "a period of time." However, if one is to use an 1828 Webster's dictionary, no such definition is found. Instead, the word is simply defined as the act of dispensing or that which is dispensed. During the nineteenth century, the meaning of the word changed. That is, it still means the act of dispensing or that which is dispensed, but, in addition, it now also means a period of time. Why and how did this change come about?

The change obviously came about through the writings of John Nelson Darby and C.I. Scofield, for both of these men used the word to describe a period of time. Scofield, in particular, caused this definition to become popular world-wide through the marginal notes in his widely read Scofield Reference Bible. It is important to understand, however, that a search for one who would be recognized today as a dispensationalist in, say, the eighteenth century would be as futile as a search for a television repairman or a motorcycle mechanic.

So, that explains the "how," but what of the "why"? That is found in the obvious agenda of these two men. Both had accepted...and subsequently taught...an imminent pretribulation rapture doctrine based mainly on the visions of a teenage Scottish girl. In addition, Scofield's notes on Genesis 12 reflected the results of his association with a Zionist friend and, perhaps, the financial support for his reference Bible. The doctrine of "Christian Zionism" was the result. The "period of time" definition was essential to the teaching of these two new doctrines.

When pressed for a scriptural basis for imminency, the one who believes in an imminent pretribulation rapture has nothing to offer. This can be easily understood based on the prophecies concerning the lifetimes of Paul, Peter, and John. Selecting the extreme example, we see, in Revelation 10:11, that John was assured that he would not die on the isle of Patmos. Since his book was the last written, it follows that nothing could be written of imminency for this would be the publication of lies to those who read before John had finished his work.

As for that which is called "Christian Zionism," I would have the reader consider this country's decline...and the many who have suffered and died in Zionism's wars...since 1948 as opposed to Zionism's (Scofield's) promised blessings. Consider, also, Second Chronicles 19:2 and its context.

(If there is any confusion regrding the use of "dispensation" in Ephesians 1:10: This is a dispensation AWAY rather than a dispensation TO. This is equivalent to, "We'll dispense with the reading of the minutes of our previous meeting.")

But, there is a much more important aspect to the use of "dispensation" as a period of time. Instead of accepting the clear Bible teaching that justification before God is based on faith, Scofield came to the strange conclusion that there was not one, but four different ways by which man can be accepted by God. And, each of these ways has a particular niche in one of his dispensations. Today, those who call themselves dispensationalists speak in particular of the "kingdom dispensation" and the "grace dispensation." They then say that those who lived during the "kingdom dispensation" were "under the law," while those who now live in the "grace dispensation" are "under grace." No, they certanly do not say that those under the law were justified by keeping or doing the works associated with the Mosaic law. They say, instead, that they were saved as are those today, by grace through faith alone, but in a faith...not in the finished crosswork and subsequent resurrection of Christ..., but a faith in a prophesied Messiah (again, of course, Christ) Who would bring in the final kingdom. Except for the faulty use of the word "dispensation" as a period of time, I see no reason for a Bible believer to dispute this teaching. Christ did come to shed His blood on the cross for all and He would then, indeed, have brought in His kingdom, but the Jews, with the stoning of Stephen, fully rejected Him. God then set in motion a plan which had been known to Him from eternity past, but was a secret...a "mystery"...to mankind until it was revealed to Paul and to Paul alone. God commissioned Paul to take the message of a new faith focus...the cross...to the gentiles while the other apostles continued their work with the jews. Galatians 2:7 indicates that the other apostles recognized this distinction.(While it is often said that tne non-Pauline epistles unduly minimize Christ's crosswork, it must be remembered that those jewish congregations consisted mainly of individuals who had been saved in the instant that they first believed in a coming Messiah. It is on this base that the other apostles were building.)

The problem arises when those today claim that the gospel, the good news that was accepted for salvation in the "kingdom dispensation," cannot coexist with that of the "grace dispensation." In other words, if, during the time when men were under the law, an evangelist proclaimed God's acceptance if one placed his faith in a future Savior Who would shed His blood on a cross to pay redemption's price for all mankind, that profession of faith would be ineffectual. Similarly, the preaching of the kingdom gospel would be ineffectual among those, in the weeks and months following the cross, who had not yet heard of Christ's earthly ministry and His crosswork. Consider the enormous problems which follow such an understanding.

First, would these people say that the change from one gospel message to another occurred instantaneously? Could it have occurred between two words as an evangelist made his presentation? In other words, would the evangelist walk away, thinking he had been instrumental in keeping another soul from hell, only to later learn that he had failed, and, that he would continue to fail until someone reaches him with the new message? Well, that's quite ridiculous, so let's consider the alternative. Suppose there's a transition period, during which both gospel messages are effective. Then, there would be a "war" among evangelists, each camp considering the other to be teaching heresies and leading their hearers to eternal damnation. Again, quite ridiculous.

We see, then, that salvation has always been by faith and faith alone, with only the focus of that faith changing through the ages.

Since the "rightly dividing" of Second Timothy 2:15 has nothing to do with partitioning the Bible or Scofield's dispensations, what does it mean? Obviously, it does have a meaning or I would not have said that a believer should follow it, just as Paul explains in this verse. First, we should consider the verse and its context:
 

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
Second Timothy 2:14-19
 

Then, consider another verse from God's Word:
 

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
Romans 16:17
 

I would contend that the Romans verse and the Second Timothy passage serve essentially the same purpose: To warn us of the necessity to separate ourselves from the ungodly world which surrounds us. The Romans verse tells us that we are to avoid the paganism around us by physically avoiding it. The Bible speaks of a "meat offered to idols" problem, which is equivalent to the problems we face today when buying groceries. But, there are yet many choices we can make, with regard to dining places and entertainment, for instance, where the guidance of the Romans verse can be observed with only a slight sacrifice of the pleasures of the flesh.

But, where physical contact can not be avoided, there is another danger. Our senses are assaulted continuously by the filthiness around us. Words, whether heard or read, are to be tested against the truths of God's Word. Words which result from the ungodly philosophies around us are to be rejected. And, that is exactly what God is teaching us in the Second Timothy passage.

Verse 14 tells us of the harm such words can have upon the hearer. Verse 15 tells us that we are to separate (rightly divide) these harmful words from God's word, the word of truth. Verse 16 again warns us of the world's words. Verse 17 leads to a particular example of the warning of Romans 16:17. The final verses assure us of our security in Christ.

I would hope that the reader has developed a renewed...and scripturally compatible...interest in "rightly dividing the word of truth."