It is Right to Divide What is Different

By Justin Johnson

Similarities in the Bible are found before the differences. It is easy to find similarities. Doing a simple concordance search can reveal many similar words, verses, and themes.

However, it takes more careful study to identify the differences. Rightly dividing the Bible requires recognizing the differences in God’s instructions.

Those who cannot see the dividing lines in your Bible will think God’s instructions are the same for everyone on every page.

Different baptisms become the same baptism. Different gospels become the same gospel. Some even go so far as to call the entire Bible “the gospel” as if all parts are equally sufficient to save someone.

This type of overgeneralization may feel spiritual, but it hinders dispensational Bible study which requires a more careful analysis of God’s instructions.

A Simple Difference

One difference is sufficient to show that not all is the same. There are hundreds of differences in God’s instructions in your Bible. (Differences are not mistakes.)

Genesis 17 requires that all of God’s people be circumcised, else be cut off from God’s covenant (Gen 17:14).

Galatians 5:6 says that circumcision does not avail anything. So, which is it? You can’t teach both at the same time.

Leviticus 11:2 restricts the meat that could be eaten by law abiding Jews. However, Paul says in 1 Tim 4:2 that nothing is to be refused and even calls abstaining from meats a doctrine of devils!

This is quite a difference in God-inspired instructions. If we are to know which one is for our participation we must know where, why, and how to rightly divide.

Peter and Paul

Peter was a circumcised pork abstaining Jew in Jerusalem in Acts 3 when he preached a message of prophetic fulfillment to Israel.

Paul was sent to uncircumcised, lobster eating Gentiles in Greece and Rome (Acts 9:15).

Peter and Paul’s audiences were different, but there is more than this. The content of their messages was different as well.

Peter presented a message of repentance that was spoken by prophets since the world began.

“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” – Acts 3:21

“Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” – Acts 3:24

Paul’s gospel spoke about a mystery of Christ kept secret since the world began, though purposed “before the world began,” (2 Tim 1:9).

“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began” – Romans 16:25

One was spoken, the other was kept secret. Things that are different are not the same.

Separate What is Different

We have identified easily significant differences in Peter and Paul’s ministries. It is right to divide what is different. A good place to make a right division in our Bible would be between Peter and Paul (Gal 2:7).

Peter and Paul both taught Jesus. They both taught him as the Son of God. They both witnessed that he had resurrected. They both preached a gospel, exhibited faith, and were promised salvation.

But they taught Christ differently: one according to prophecy and another according to a mystery. One taught prophetic fulfillment to Israel, the other taught a mystery to all men.

There are surely elements that are the same throughout the Bible. These themes are important when studying God’s eternal purpose (Eph 1:10), but careful students of the Bible cannot overlook the differences in God’s progressive revelations.

There is no reason to run from the differences in the Bible. When we identify them and separate them, then the Bible will open up.

These differences are the key to understanding how to rightly divide the Bible. Right division is necessary to clearly identify which of God’s instructions are for our participation, and what God is doing in our world today.

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Published: October 13, 2012
Last Modified: December 27, 2017
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