A Biblical Lesson: Rightfully Dividing the Word

Modern skeptics and Bible critics sometimes pick out individual passages in the Bible and hold them up as if they are universal commands to be maintained for all time. Such interpretation is not handling the text for what it claims of itself. Part of the reason the critics make such mistakes is that they often do not study the text, but merely search for prooftexts which support their bias. Even if we were to disagree with the Bible, we should at least present it for what it says of itself.

The Bible is a lengthy work, made up of multiple writers giving God’s messages and slowly revealing truths over many years. The following are examples of how God deals with people in different dispensations, and asks different things of us at different times:

Eating Meat

  • In Genesis 1:30, God says He gave plants for food; no meat was to be eaten
  • In Genesis 9:3, every livng thing is fit for food, so all kinds of meat can be eaten.
  • In Leviticus, some kinds of meat can be eaten but others cannot.
  • In the New Testament, all kinds of meat can again be eaten, or one is free to eat only vegetables.
  • In the future millennial kingdom, there is some indication that no animals will be eaten.


  • God did not require circumcision from Adam to Abraham.
  • Beginning with Abraham, God required circumcision of Jewish males only. Non-Jews were not required to be circumcised.
  • With the new covenant under Jesus, God did not require circumcision. Paul refused to circumcise Titus, but did circumcise Timothy.

Jews, Gentiles, and the Church

  • After Adam, God did not have a specific chosen people.
  • Beginning with Abraham, God chose the Jewish nation as the primary group to reveal Himself. Gentiles were kept out of the Old Testament sacrificial system.
  • In the new covenant under Jesus, Jews and Gentiles are together in the church. God primarily reveals Himself through the church.
  • One day Jesus will return and rule all nations of the earth.


However, getting right with God has always been the same — by faith. Adam, Abraham, Moses, and everyone in the current church age can get right with God by putting trust in Him. Salvation was never by doing good works.

Keep in mind that between each of these changes in God’s expectations of us, there were many generations of people over hundreds of years. Many people lived their entire lives and died between each one. The examples above are indications of how the things God asks of us are not the same throughout history, but God never changes. We must be cautious when taking individual passages and saying what God expects.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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9 Responses to A Biblical Lesson: Rightfully Dividing the Word

  1. Fubara says:

    Wonderful write up. Thank you. Can i just bring up something in leviticus 19, how do we know the verses that are binding and those that are not because people say we are obeying some and not obeying some. If jesus change his mind about them, how do we know?

    • humblesmith says:

      The Lord did not change His mind, but had a plan from the beginning about how He would progressively reveal His message. One main rule we have in interpreting such things is that what has been said throughout the scriptures…..in the case of the ten commandments, for example, they are all repeated in the New Testament with the exception of sabbath-keeping, which we are specifically told in Romans 14 and elsewhere that we do not please God by keeping of days. As to things like the sacrifices, the New Testament tells us that Jesus fulfulled the sacrificial system and the spilling of blood for a sacrifice to God is no longer necessary. As to things like being fair in judgement, keeping your own wife, loving instead of hating, being honest and not stealing, and many other things mentioned in Lev. 19, the New Testament speaks to these as well.

  2. Mike says:

    It has always been hard to me to put all these ideas together and come up with the right interpretation. The only thing that I discovered is that the bible is never the book that means what is really written there, rather it is the meaning of the text according to the reader/interpreter! And each one is claiming his own version of truth or correctness.

    Since there is so many confusion between humans about the same text, then why doesn’t god take some time and clarify this to us by revealing himself in an unmistakable way to all of us? Just give us a moral slap is the face, tell us to follow a certain religion! Clearly one of these religions/interpretations is the most correct one, so why not clarify?

    I am not seeking a human being to clarify this as obviously all people would claim that their interpretation is the correct one. Is this a difficult task for god to achieve? Aren’t we worth the clarification?

    • humblesmith says:

      You are correct that there is great confusion among humans about what is true and how to interpret the Bible. This proves the Bible correct when it says we are all sinners and do not understand God without Him revealing Himself to us (Rom. 3). We must also remember that just because many people disagree, we cannot conclude that all positions are incorrect or correct.

      God revealed Himself in an unmistakable way to the Jewish leaders, and did so many times ranging from Mt. Sinai which had dramatic lightning, thunder, and earthquakes, to Jesus who spoke softly and healed people and taught a better way. Every time God revealed Himself, some accepted and some rejected Him, just like today. Even if God were to write in fire in the sky, some would reject Him.

      • Mike says:

        Well my friend, you are of course free to think about the meaning of what you read/conclude from the bible as you want. I am personally not convinced with what you claim. God might have revealed himself as you claimed (or as the scripture claim) but he did it in an odd manner, he did it long time ago, when no photography and video record keeping devices were invented.

        Revealing himself to the Jews (very long time ago), through Jesus (again very long time ago) to credulous people who didn’t have the means to verify what was going on. Now that we have photography, strangely nothing of this sort happen! I am not saying it definitely didn’t happen, but the frequency it happens and the circumstances and means available to verify this makes me think of it as unreal.

        Besides, and once again, why not revealing himself again NOW in an unmistakable way, preferably without earthquakes or natural disasters (why would earthquakes, volcanoes, lightning or natural disasters happen when an all loving God has to reveal himself anyway?)

        What I mean by revealing himself unmistakably, is not indirect reference of his presence, but a direct proof to the whole humanity, not in a particular place, for particular people, of a particular culture, language, faith, color, race etc. Just for all humanity. Have you seen the film “The day the world stood still”? I mean something like that! A way that no human can deny it, or mistake it with any other thing. Why not doing something like that every 100 years?

        It is not true that people would still deny him as you believe. I am an atheist, and there are many atheists here that would really like to know if he really exists or not. His existence will annihilate most of the atheists and non believers. Sure, there would still be some people who deny him, these are like the holocaust deniers, and I’d be sorry for them.

        I don’t believe that what am I asking for is impossible for God, I think it is an extremely good way for providing people a reminder of his existence, and to put a stop for the universal bloodshed in this world what is happening from fanatics who literally believe they are applying the literal word of God (Muslims above all, but also including Christians and Jews and other beliefs).

        You see, if I was some sort of an important guy, let us say a leader of a nation, and I say something to my followers that makes them discuss about it so much, including bloodsheds and wars, this means that what I have said is not clear to some people. So why stay silent and watch them fight rather than appearing in public telling all of them what I really meant by what I have said? This will clear a lot for both sides!


  3. Mike says:

    Nice argument against moral absolutism via changing revelation. It goes to show you that morality under Christianity is completely arbitrary and dependent on the whim’s of god – or should I say, whoever is claiming to have a revelation from god.

  4. Fourth: Arrange the results of your topical study in an orderly way and write them down. One should constantly use pen and paper in Bible study. When one has gone through the Text Book on any subject, he will have a large amount of material, but he will want to get it into usable shape. The various passages given on any topic in the Text Book are classified, but the classification is not always just the one best adapted to our individual use. Take for example the subject “Prayer.” The classification of texts in the topic is very suggestive, but a better one for some purposes would be: 1st. Who Can Pray so that God Will Hear? 2nd. To Whom to Pray. 3d. For Whom to Pray. 4th. When to Pray. 5th. Where to Pray. 6th. For What to pray. 7th. How to Pray. 8th. Hindrances to Prayer. 9th. The results of Prayer. The passages given in the Text Book would come under these heads. It is well to make a trial division of the subject before taking up the individual passages given and to arrange each passage as we take it up under the appropriate head. We may have to add to the divisions with which we began as we find new passages. The best classification of passages for any individual is the one he makes for himself, although he will get helpful suggestions from others.

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