30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
September 5, 1999
Speaker: Richie Thetford
Now, at this time, I would like for you to take out your Bible and be ready to turn to the scriptures that we discuss this morning. Thank you so much for allowing us to come into your homes and study with you the word of God. It is important that we study, properly divide, and understand the bible, if we are to live acceptable lives in the sight of God. The Apostle Paul wrote to a young Timothy and encouraged him to: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15) My friends, an intelligent study and a proper division of the word of God will go far toward eliminating all the divisions in the religious world. An attempt to justify the divided state of affairs in the religious world on the grounds that "we can't see the Bible alike", is a tacit admission that an intelligent study of the word has not been made and that nothing whatsoever is known about a right division of the bible. This passage of scripture, 2 Timothy 2:15, is a passage that each of us should give serious thought to. For you see, we can't be approved of by God if we do not study. And if we do not study, we cannot know how to properly divide good and evil. You see, before we can answer the question "What Is Truth?" we must first know what the truth is. Jesus said in John 8:32, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." There is eternal value to knowing the truth. Freedom will only come to us when we know the truth. Therefore, let us strive to study our Bibles so that we can know the truth in order to be saved.
For a few minutes this morning, we would like to reason with you out of the book divine, concerning its proper divisions. I am fully persuaded that dissension among us will cease when we learn to "rightly divide the word of truth." I don't believe I need to consume time to suggest that the bible is divided into two parts, two covenants, two testaments. One of course, is called the Old Testament and the other the New Testament. It is necessary to point out and emphasize that we are not under the law, that is, we are not to be governed and guided by the Old Testament. Two verses of scripture will suffice to sustain my assertion. Turn with me in your Bible to the New Testament book of Galatians, chapter 3, verses 24-25. Here we read: "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."
While the majority of the religious world recognizes this Old Testament-New Testament division of the bible, the religious world does not seem to realize that the Bible is divided into three periods of time known as dispensations. There is, first of all the "Patriarchal" Dispensation. It began with Adam and lasted until the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. The Patriarchal Dispensation covered a period of about 2500 years. A great many good men of God lived during this dispensation or period of time. In dealing with the people who lived at that time, God used a principle that he has always used since man fell through disobedience in the Garden of Eden. He blessed all those who were obedient unto His commands and he punished all those who disobeyed. For your own study in this area please read Deuteronomy, chapter 28, verses 1-68.
Prominent among the men who lived before the giving of the law at Mount Sinai is Noah, the Preacher of Righteousness. You will recall that Cod, having decided to destroy man because of his meanness, commanded Noah to build an ark. You may also remember that Noah, through fear of God, yet "by faith prepared this ark and therefore saved his family. Now while Noah was saved by faith, it must be noted that he was NOT saved until his faith prompted him to do the things God commanded him to do. Thus God continued to bless the obedient and punish the disobedient throughout the Patriarchal Dispensation. Now here is a question for you to ponder. If Noah was saved in an ark made of Gopher wood, may we not also be saved in an ark? Since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and since he saved Noah in an ark of Gopher wood, why may we not expect salvation the same exact way? Friends, it doesn't take one as wise as Solomon to see that we are not living in the Patriarchal Dispensation. God hasn't predicated our salvation upon the building of an ark of Gopher wood or-any other kind of wood. The only thing that we have in common with Noah is that Noah was saved by faith when his faith moved him to do the things God told him to do. We are saved by faith when our faith moves us to do the things God tells us to do. Now look with me in your Bible to James 1:22. There it reads: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:24: "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:" My friends, when a man tells you there is nothing for you to do in order to be saved, he is simply trying to get you to "deceive your own self." He is simply trying to get you to be a foolish man, when he tells there is nothing you can do to be saved. (Matt. 7:26)
Yes friends, Noah was saved by faith. But he was saved by his works. Surely we must all agree that if he had failed to do what God told him to do he-would have been lost. We see then, how that a man's faith includes obedience to any command given him by God Almighty. Hence, James said, "But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20)"But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18) Let me impress upon you, that unless you do what the New Testament tells you to do, you cannot convince people that you have faith in Christ. Imagine a man telling people in this enlightened age that he has faith in Christ therefore he doesn't have to do anything in order to go to heaven! Ah! friends, the man that has faith is the only one that does have to do anything. The sinner doesn't have to do anything to get where he is going. He can go there without doing anything. But if one is to become a Christian, he must do something. Under the preaching of Peter and the other Apostles on the day of Pentecost, the people, and they were sinners, cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) Saul of Tarsus, on the road to Damascus came to realize his condition. He inquired, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" (Acts 9:6) Also, the Jailor at Philippi fell down before Paul and Silas and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) If I tell you today that you can be saved without doing anything, I am not preaching the same gospel that Peter and the other Apostles preached on Pentecost, for they told the people to "repent and be baptized." (Acts 2:38) If I tell you today that you can be saved without doing anything, I am not following the Lord Jesus Christ for he told Saul to go into the city and then sent Annanias to tell him to "arise and be baptized."(Acts 22:16) If I tell you today that you can be saved without doing anything, I am not preaching the gospel that Paul and Silas preached for they told the Jailor what to do in order to be saved. Please turn now in your Bible to the book of Acts, chapter 16, verses 30-34. Now follow along with me as we read this account of the conversion of the Philippian Jailer, noticing in particular that he had to DO something in order to be saved. Beginning at verse 30 we read: "And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household".
Leaving the Patriarchal Dispensation, which ended with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, we consider next the Jewish Dispensation, which began at that time. God had selected the Jews as His chosen people and at Mount Sinai gave them a law. They were to be governed and guided by that law. They were not to add to that law, nor were they to take from it anything the Lord God had said. "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." (Deut. 4:2) Thus it may be plainly seen that the Jews were not permitted to exercise their own ideas and opinions. When God spoke, they heard, and when God commanded, they obeyed. In Deuteronomy 5:32-33 we read: "Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess." Now in this Jewish Dispensation, God used the same principle of blessing and cursing, or blessing and punishing, which he used in the Patriarchal period of time. That is, He blessed the obedient and punished the disobedient. Hear these words from Deuteronomy 11, verses 26 through 28."Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known." And so, down through the fifteen hundred years of the Jewish Dispensation, God presumed to make certain demands upon the people. God exercised his right, as creator of the universe, to predicate certain blessings upon obedience to certain commands.
During the Jewish Dispensation, as in all other ages, God showered certain blessings upon the people unconditionally. That is, they receive the blessings without obeying any commands. Among these unconditional blessings, we might mention sunshine, rain, seed time and harvest. These and many other blessings God gave to the people. Note, if you please, the people received these blessings not only without obedience to any command of God but also without any faith in Him. But while God was giving to the people these unconditional blessings, he also promised them certain blessings "on condition." In other words, God commanded the Jews to do certain things in order to receive the promised blessings. As an example of this I read from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 55, verse 7: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God for he will abundantly pardon." Thus we see at once that the blessings promised, that is, mercy and pardon, are conditioned upon the man's forsaking his way and his thoughts. In those days, when a wicked man forsook his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and when they returned unto the Lord, they were simply manifesting a faith in the word of God. They were simply by faith laying hold upon the promise of God. My friends, it is simply a case of the God of Heaven making a promise to mankind and laying down the conditions upon which man might receive and enjoy the blessing.
In the Patriarchal Dispensation, every time a man received a blessing from God on account of his faith, it was after his faith had expressed itself in some overt act of obedience. Just so, in the Jewish Dispensation, every time a man received a blessing from God on account of his faith, it was after his faith expressed itself in some overt act of obedience. Even in this age or dispensation, when God blesses a man on account of his faith, it is always after the man's faith expresses itself in some overt act of obedience.
A few years before the Jewish Dispensation was to come to a close, God sent forth His son God into the world, to redeem mankind. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ walked and talked among men during the Jewish age. It was not the purpose of the Son of God to destroy the law, rather he came to fulfill it. Friends, Christ did fulfill the law. In the book of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 17 we read:"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." He took the law out of the way, nailing it to the cross as it states in Colossians 2:14. He took it out of the way because it was contrary to us. He took it out of the way in order that he might establish a better covenant, founded upon better promises.
When the law was taken out of the way by the death of Christ, there was ushered in another great dispensation of time. The Christian Dispensation. The Hebrew writer states in Hebrews 9:15-17:"And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives." The old covenant, the law of Moses was abolished upon the death of Christ. Therefore, all of man is now subject of the new testament of Christ. This is the last dispensation that will be upon this earth. But friends, time will not allow me to speak particularly of the Christian age this morning, as our time is about gone. The Lord willing, I shall appear on this program again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M., at which time I shall discuss for your consideration this last or Christian Dispensation. At that time, I shall give special attention to our salvation by faith as compared to the salvation-in other ages.
Remember, in the Patriarchal Dispensation, God blessed those who were obedient unto Him. Without exception he punished those who disregarded his word and thus disobeyed Him. Also, in the Jewish Dispensation, God blessed those who obeyed Him and punished those who disobeyed. As we discuss "What Is Truth?", I ask you to keep this great truth in mind when we come back next Sunday to study the Christian dispensation.
This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"