It might seem a strange coincidence of sorts, but today in my own personal reading I came across a writer who attempted to get a great deal of mileage out of a verse that I cited yesterday in my own sermonette, 2 Timothy 2:15, which reads: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The author’s point in repeating this verse over and over again like a mantra was to defend a particular view of dispensationalism by which dividing the Word of God means interpreting it according to a mindset that pits verses against each other and which seeks in vain to seek various divine economies that make it wrong to do what God has commanded consistently throughout the scriptures. The author in question is so much of an antinomian that he states that the righteous works of obedience to God’s law that were clearly commanded in the past are not only not commanded, but specifically forbidden for Christians to obey.
We invite the author of this book and those who think likewise to consider the following verses that occur in the very same passage that Paul wrote to the verse cited above and misinterpreted by that author: “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”” Just after talking about rightly dividing the Bible, Paul speaks of departing from iniquity–and thereby living in obedience to God’s laws and ways, things that the author views as not only not commanded but strictly forbidden to believers.
Those who write books that so obviously contradict the meaning of the Bible for their own heretical doctrines would do well not to use Paul in their quest to encourage disobedience to God’s laws and ways. As Peter himself said in the 60’s AD, something that was true in the first century and remains true today, in 2 Peter 3:14-18: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Just as was the case while Paul was alive and brethren were seeking to understand his writings, there were those who from the beginning have twisted Paul’s words to try to create a difference between the Gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by the twelve apostles and that preached by Paul, where no such difference exists. Those who try to pit Paul and the twelve against each other as belonging to different dispensations twist Paul’s words to their own destruction as they do the rest of the scriptures. We are warned in the pages of scripture as to precisely this error, a striking example of how it is that the heresies of the past never truly die, they simply change their names and are applied by false teachers continually anew to deceive new people who share their longing to be free from accountability to obeying God’s clear commands.
Similarly, those who would posit a massive discontinuity between different covenants or dispensations in the heretical pattern of Marcion and likeminded false teachers have always run afoul of writings by James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ Himself, who wrote passages like James 2:14-26, which speak eloquently of the need for works that demonstrate our faith: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 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. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Similarly, James spoke in another place, the following statement in James 1:16-17: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Nor is James alone in pointing out the changelessness of God in His dispensation of grace, for as the author of Hebrews said in Hebrews 13:8-9: “ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.” For did not even David know of old what he recorded in Psalm 32:1-2: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” And let us not forget the words of Jesus Christ concerning dispensations of the law in His own ministry, in Matthew 5:17-20: “ “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Similarly, those who would pit scriptures against others and deny the truth that the scripture cannot be broken bring judgment upon themselves.
But let us not be arrogant in such matters. The Bible everywhere warns us that those who seek to be teachers of God’s word will be held accountable to a higher standard. And as this includes those who would seek to write systematic works of heretical dispensationalism, so to it includes all of those who speak from the pulpit or who write about God’s words in blog entries where they seek to instruct others about some sort of biblical matter. For Paul, immediately after writing about false teachers and their heretical practices, gave the following words of caution to servants of God in 2 Timothy 2:23-26: “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” And so too, we who point out the continued applicability of God’s laws and ways to believers hope that those who are caught up in the snare of the devil in rebellion and disobedience will repent of their wicked ways and enter into repentance and salvation. For truly we all must struggle in this life to overcome snares of various kinds, and therefore our hope is that as many as possible may escape false doctrines that lead people to disobey God and His ways.