One increasingly popular, and dangerous, website out there is ‘Now the End Begins’ by Geoffrey Gryder. It demonstrates well the terrible twists adherence to dispensationalists can get people in, much like the appallingly heretical www.doctrine.org by Don Sandahl. (I will say this for Geoffrey Gryder – at least he allows opposing comments, unlike those on doctrine.org which seem to disappear in the moderation process, and all that is left is oh so wise Sandahl answering questions or saying thankyou for people’s ‘oh-you’re-so-wonderful-and-clear-and-biblical’ comments – nauseating).
So, in his article ‘How Rightly Dividing your Bible is the key to resolving contradictions in Scripture’ Gryder demonstrated precisely why you should NOT approach scripture through the heretical and distorting prism of dispensationalism. Let’s go though what he says (and I will also include a few key points from this very similar article of his):
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
The Bible is, without a doubt, God’s perfect and preserved word as found in the King James Bible, however, taken from a surface level it would appear to contain many seeming contradictions that have puzzled many Bible students and teachers alike. But hidden in the Scriptures is the key for understanding how to resolve this pressing issue.
The Holy Spirit, writing through the Apostle Paul, gives Christians a tri-fold command (see above verse) for understanding the Bible. The first part of the command is that we are to STUDY the Bible. Secondly, not just to study by to approach it as a “workman” would labor at his job. Hard, diligent study with an open mind. Lastly, Paul tells us to “rightly divide” the word of truth, the Bible, and therein do we find our answer.
That bible verse is a favourite justification of dispensationalists for their bizarre doctrines. Instead of understanding it in context – that this is a phrase that means to accurately understand or teach the word of God, they take it to mean that the right way to understand the word is not as a whole, but to divide it up into little fragments and assign them to a particular ‘dispensation’ (for an excellent explanation of the true meaning of the Greek word involved, click this link here – it means to cut a straight road or path, not to cut into pieces). Let’s just say that I only wish dispensationalists really did study the bible ‘with an open mind’, but too often there is just lazy repeating of increasingly inane dispensationalist mantras. I won’t even go into the ridiculousness of the incredibly myopic ‘King James Version only’ position (if you need to defend a translation for using the Christian – or even pagan – term ‘Easter’ for the Jewish feast Passover, as KJV only advocates have to, you should know you have a serious problem if you have even an ounce of theological or historical common sense in you). So let’s find the alleged answer to the ‘many seeming contradictions’ in the bible:
Rightly dividing, is not, as our detractors would say, “cherry picking” the verses that we like and don’t like. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rightly dividing begins with the understanding that while the whole Bible is written for us, the whole Bible is not written to us. In the Bible, there are at any given time, three people groups that God can be addressing when He is speaking. He can be talking to the Jews and Israel, He can be addressing Christians and the Church, or He can be talking to the vast body of unsaved gentiles. Let me give you some examples to illustrate what I mean.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV) – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
This verse is written to the Jews specifically, and the land it is talking about is the Holy Land of Israel. Nothing replaces the Jews or Israel. As doctrine, it is not a promise by God to “heal America” if Christians repent and turn back to Him. It is not a promise we can claim in any other sense than a spiritual sense that God forgives sin and welcomes back sinners and nations who repent, like He did with Nineveh. Let me give you another one.
It is true enough that 2 Chronicles 7.14 in context is addressed to the Jews, the covenant people of God, but that does not have to mean that it cannot apply to other nations. There are two ways we can take this – the first is that the church is the extension of the covenant people of God into other nations – see for example Ephesians 2.12 & 19:
remember that at that time you [Gentiles] were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world….
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
But the second point, and I think it is the more fundamental one, is that we are looking at exactly the wrong thing if we focus solely on who in particular the original was addressed to. Instead, we should be looking at the character of the One who is addressing Israel – that it is in God’s nature to restore and heal any nation, Jew first, but also Gentile, who repents, humbles themself and seeks him. And in fact, for those of you who have seen any of the Transformation video documentaries, you will know that in fact there are ample examples of divine national or regional healing in response to such repentance happening around the world in recent times. Let’s look at the next example:
Mark 16:17,18 (KJV) – “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Because these verses appear in the New Testament, many Christians mistakenly believe that Jesus is talking to the Church when in reality He is not. We know this to be true because we are unable to successfully manifest these signs in our Christian life. Playing with a fully-loaded cottonmouth snake or drinking poison graphically powerfully illustrates why Mark 16 does not apply to the Christian Church in our dispensation. However, these verses did apply to Jewish disciples alive at that time and it will apply to the 144,000 Jews God raises up in the Tribulation after the Rapture of the Church.
And as a further comment from his other almost identical article, he says of this passage:
There is not a Christian on the face of the earth today that can perform or display signs 3-5 as written. Many a backwoods Pentecostal preacher has “taken up” a deadly snake only to be laid to rest shortly after. Same goes for the drinking of poison, obviously. And laying hands on the sick and seeing all recover? Nope, not a chance. And why not? Because it was not written to Christians in the Church Age, it was written to Jews looking for a Kingdom.
Now, how is that for an example of making the bible fit experience, rather than simply taking the bible at its word? Now, believe me, I am in some ways the last person to talk about the practice of the supernatural, but I do know enough to know that arrogant and presumptuous claims that ‘There is not a Christian on the face of the earth that can perform or display signs 3-5 as written’ are dangerous. Sure, so in hick-land in the USA Pentecostal preachers may run into issues, but has he talked to every missionary and every Christian in every remote tribal jungle, plus even in the West there have been at least some occasions when all of the sick prayed for recover. I’ve heard about them, I’ve not seen them, but I have seen some pretty amazing miracles of healing up close. But one extra question. On what basis can he quite categorically state that these verses weren’t written for Christians, but for Jews in the Tribulation? Is there any indication in the text that these are solely for a time far in the future? The answer is no. It is Jesus addressing his disciples, the apostles, whom Paul in Ephesians 2.20 named, along with the prophets, as the foundation of the church.
So, he goes on to declare to us:
Now these 3 people groups – Jews, Christians and Gentiles – appear throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and because of that, we always need to ask ourselves in whatever passage we are reading, who is God speaking to? Failing to first ask that question, and then answer it, will result in a misinterpretation of Scripture resulting in a wrong conclusion. Let me show you a powerful example of what I mean.
Hang on a minute, though. These three groups – Jews, Christians and Gentiles – is that really how the New Testament divides people up? The answer is, no! Jews and Gentiles can be Christians. Gentiles who believe become, as we have seen in Ephesians, fellow citizens with Israel of God’s people and commonwealth. There is really a two fold division in the New Testament – believers and unbelievers. Sure, it is true that unbelieving Jews still remain Jews, with all the advantages that Paul lists in Romans 9, for instance, but what the New Testament teaches about the church is really an extension of the common Jewish notion of the ‘remnant’. The ‘real Israel’, the remnant, are those Jews who believe, but what was new is that believing Gentiles are also part of the ‘real Israel’. There would be a day when Israel as a whole would come back and be grafted back in the vine, as Paul puts it in Romans 11, but the covenant promises of God were to all those who were Abraham’s children not by physical descent, but by faith. Anyway, let’s consider the rest of the argument:
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:4-6 (KJV)
This verse appears in the New Testament, and Christians will point to it as a warning that we can “lose our salvation” if we fall into sin. But is that true? The writings of the Apostle Paul indicate an opposing position.
“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, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13,14 (KJV)
Hebrews says that falling away from the truth is impossible to recover from, and Ephesians says that believers are sealed at the moment of salvation so they can never lose it. Well, which is it? It is for exactly this reason that people erroneously that the Bible contains contradictions and/or errors. But, rest assured, I am here to tell you that the Bible is 100% free of any error or contradiction of any kind.
I’m not going to go into detailed discussion of these two passages, but I do have two questions. Firstly, is Ephesians 1.13-14 really teaching security of salvation because it uses the term ‘sealed’? I suggest not, because seals can be broken. After all, the seal is the Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing the future redemption of the inheritance, but, as we have seen, Jesus is explicit that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can result in being excluded from forgiveness even in the age to come. But even if we disregard this aspect, Paul’s talking about what is the normal direction of salvation does not have to mean that it is irreversible in all cases, and in fact, Paul in other letters repeatedly talks about those who have abandoned the true faith to their own ruin. Secondly, the passage in Hebrews does not necessarily mean losing salvation, although it may. For instance, it could mean that if you walk away from Jesus for a time, you will lose your inheritance, at least for that portion of your life, much like the prodigal son lost his inheritance, even though he was welcomed back by his father. You can never be fully restored to that initial full repentance if you have backslidden and walked away. But even if the passage does mean salvation can be irrevocably lost, it is not saying that simply sinning will in itself mean losing salvation – it is specifically talking about those who ‘fall away’ from the faith, something that Paul also taught in passages such as 2 Timothy 2.12: ‘If we disown him, he will disown us.’ These are very simple and straightforward ways of avoiding contradiction. No, in fact, that is a bad way to phrase it, because it implies there is a contradiction, when in fact both Paul and letters such as Hebrews display a unity in how they portray salvation and the possibility of losing it. However, for many of those who are dispensationalist, they believe they can escape this alleged ‘contradiction’ only by means of the divisive doctrine of dispensationalist:
As doctrine, the book of Hebrews was written to, as you may have already guessed, Hebrews. Jewish believers. Most of the book is a 100% address to Jews reminding them of their common heritage through Abraham and Moses. It is also a prophetic book that will have huge impact for Jewish believers during the time of the Great Tribulation. From a spiritual perspective there is much that Hebrews offers us, and sheds valuable light on the nature and character of office of High Priest held by Jesus Christ for us right now. But the believers alive in the Tribulation will be saved by a combination of faith plus works, they will not be saved by grace through faith alone as we are now in the age of grace. Hebrews 6 will be their doctrine, and if they fall away during that time period, they will not be saved. Aren’t you glad that you will miss all that? Nothing a Christian can do in the age of grace will cause us to lose our salvation, because our doctrine tells us we have eternal security.
Here’s a big problem, though. If this letter was written during the dispensationalists ‘church age’, then what does it matter that it was written to Jews? They were still part of the church. What kind of writer or church leader (or God) is so capricious as to write a detailed exhortation in letter form to a church whilst really only reserving the teaching for a small seven year period thousands of years later when the church didn’t exist? Second problem – if that was the case, is there any hint at all in the letter to the Hebrews that really this teaching didn’t apply to those it was written to? This is not the place to examine the letter in detail, but the answer is simply ‘No, it does not’. It is as it appears to be – a letter of exhortation to a church, albeit a Jewish one, and thus if it is talking about losing salvation, it applies to the church age. There is not a hint that it is a ‘prophetic book’ in the sense that it is for some separate group of ‘Tribulation Saints’. Also there is a third major theological problem. Why would God suddenly chop and change his means of salvation from ‘faith alone’ to ‘faith and works’? All I will say on this is that in fact, nowhere in the New Testament teaches that salvation is by faith alone. That word was added in during the Reformation, but if you look at the key passages that are claimed to say this such as Ephesians 2.8-10, the word ‘alone’ appears nowhere. It does say that we aren’t saved by works, but by faith, but it makes it quite clear that we were ‘created’ to do good works. Now this was a letter by Paul the ‘apostle to the Gentiles’ to a church that was presumably largely Gentile, but the message is exactly the same as in, say James, a letter to a Jewish congregation, that similarly teaches that ‘Faith without works is dead’. So, when Gryder tells us that nothing a Christian can do to lose our salvation in the church age of grace, by asserting simply and flatly ‘because our doctrine tells us we have eternal security’ he gives us no Scripture to back it up, but as we have seen, Paul himself says otherwise. Disowning Christ will mean he disowns us, in exact according with the teaching of Jesus who said the same thing in the gospels – that those who acknowledge him he will acknowledge before the Father, but those that deny him before men, He will deny before the Father, and also that in the last days, only those who endure to the end and don’t fall away will be saved (Matthew 24). Thus we can see the complete inanity of the final exhortation about dealing with alleged ‘contradictions’ in Scripture:
So remember that when you see what appears to be a contradiction in Scripture, look and see who God is addressing, and you will know if it applies to you in a doctrinal sense, spiritual sense, or if it’s Paul’s writings, in both.
It sounds so reasonable, and in some cases it may be, and yet, and yet…. Why this distinction between ‘doctrinal sense’ and ‘spiritual sense’? Surely doctrine is spiritual? And why is it only in Paul’s writings that it could be both senses (if that is what he is saying, it’s not totally clear). No, the far better way of understanding Scripture is to look at the overall patterns, and this is what dispensationalism, for all its claims to the contrary, repeatedly and systematically fails to do and so ends up with contradictions galore, but disguised by a false cutting up of Scripture that in effect renders huge swathes of it null and void by their human traditions, just as the Pharisees of Jesus day rendered the command of God null and void by overlaying it with the interpretations of men. Flee this false teaching and come back to biblical truth if you want to find safety in the last days!