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Rightly Dividing: Staying True To The Pattern

 February 07, 2010

We must rightly divide --stay true to the meaning of -- the word of God in order to understand, obey, and please God. The writings that we call the Old Testament books contain the universal laws of God, as well as specific laws given to the offspring of Israel. These are different, but in both, we see a shadow, outline, silhouette, or pattern for the life that would be lived under Jesus Christ. The universal laws continue, while the specific laws for the Israelites have ceased. All that was written is profitable to study, and we can learn much from studying the Old Testament writings, as well as the New. After all, it is one continuous account, and not two separate accountings of what God is doing with this world and its inhabitants.

Bernie Parsons

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Rightly Dividing:

Staying True To the Pattern


By Bernie Parsons


Presented to Globe church of Christ on 02-07-2010



In the last lesson, we looked at the concept of “rightly dividing the word of truth”, in which we found that the phrase describes staying true to the lines of the pattern or template. Today, I want to take a deeper look at that concept.


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


Our ideas and opinions are of no use in gaining God’s approval. What He approves is our actually listening to, and obeying, Him. Therefore, it behooves us to seek His word and will, try our best to understand it, and then do the things that we understand that He wants us to do. What does He want? How can we know what to do? The answer is in the Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Yes, I said both.


Colossians 2:14 "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."


The physical aspects of religion under the Law of Moses were important for their time and function, but the apostle Paul says that these were merely a shadow of things to come. What is a shadow but a vague outline, or silhouette, of the real thing? It may be slightly recognizable, but the real details are lacking.


The body is of Christ - a simple statement, and a simple concept.


Romans 12:5 "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."


What is important to God – our physical bodies, and our self-righteousness? Is He impressed that we think that making up rules about the body equates to righteousness? Or, is it important to Him that we recognize Jesus as our head, and that we worship God in spirit and in truth?


Colossians 2:8 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:"


We are only complete in Jesus, because we are His body and He is our head. A body is directed by the head, and we, as Christians, are directed by our Lord, Jesus Christ. That is what is real.


The Law of Moses was preparing the Israelites, and the world, for the arrival of Jesus in the flesh, and His subsequent death, burial, and resurrection. Apostle Paul called it a schoolmaster, or a schoolteacher, educating us about what was to be in the future.


Galatians 3:23 "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."


The law provided a pattern for what was to come, but was not the actual, real law for all of us. What that means is that we can find God’s thinking in the Law of Moses, but we don’t live by everything contained in it. Much of it was intended for the Israelites, and only until Christ came.


Hebrews 8:4 "For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

The new covenant foretold by Jeremiah

6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises."


Hebrews 10:1 "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.

3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.

4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.

7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;

9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.

10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."


The basic attributes of God are eternal and unchanging. We see that when we examine how He dealt with the Israelites and with the Christians.


Deuteronomy 5:6 "I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:

9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.

13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:

14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

17 Thou shalt not kill.

18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

19 Neither shalt thou steal.

20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.

21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

22 These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me."


Of all of these, you will see that Jesus and the apostles preached and practiced all of these, other than keeping the Sabbath day holy, as we examined in a separate lesson.


James 2:10 "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment."


We also studied recently that we do not live by the Law of Moses, but by the law of freedom in Christ Jesus. However, in the Law of Moses we see the pattern of God’s love for us, and our love for one another. What we think of as laws or rules is actually God telling us how He thinks and behaves, and therefore, how we must think and behave.


1 Peter 1:15 "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."


Which is a quotation from the Old Testament writings:


Leviticus 11:45 "For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy."


When we study the Old Testament writings – and we should – we need to be able to differentiate between laws and ordinances specifically for the Israelites, and those that are the universal laws of God.


2 Timothy 3:15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”


Romans 15:4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”


Some laws were for the preservation of Israel, and some were the eternal law of God.


1 Peter 1:22 "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."


The word of God lives and abides forever.

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