I received the following question:

I have talked with a friend about the right division of the Bible. I agree in a lot of ways, but I still don’t have a super strong grip on what it all entails.

Well, it regards when God moved from working with Israel to working with believers from all nations equally, as He does today. His work with Israel may not be the same as His work today, and different rules may apply. For example, every Israelite was born into a relationship with God just based on the fact that he was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We, however, not being Israelites, are not born in any such relationship. We have only the relationship of creatures to their Creator, and nothing more, to begin with. Of course, when we believe, a much greater relationship is begun.

Now keeping this in mind, it would be possible for an Israelite to decide not to believe in God. This would break the relationship that he already had, that he started out with by birth. He would lose the relationship he had by being an Israelite. However, if I chose not to believe in God, I would lose no such thing. I never really had a relationship with Him in the first place, so I would not lose privileges I already had.

The bottom line of this is that many lines of teaching in the Scripture regarding an Israelite’s relationship with God, and what happens when an Israelite turns from God, may not apply at all to us today. An Israelite would lose his position when he refused to believe. We have no position to begin with, so all we can do is gain one by believing.

You need to understand which books were written after the Acts 28:28 dividing line, and which were written before. Those that were written before had Israel primarily in view. As such, they contain teaching that we can learn from, but we cannot directly apply everything in them to ourselves. This is the idea of “right division.”

The books of the New Testament break down like this:

Books of history: regarding periods before Acts 28:28 (it doesn’t matter when they were written so much, just when they were written about):

Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Acts

Books (letters) written before Acts 28:28:

Romans
I Corinthians
II Corinthians
Galatians
I Thessalonians
II Thessalonians
Hebrews
James
I John
II John
III John
Jude
Revelation

Books written after Acts 28:28:

Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
I Timothy
II Timothy
Titus
Philemon
I Peter
II Peter

-Of these, only Ephesians and Colossians were written directly to believers of today:

Philippians was written to Acts period believers, encouraging them to accept God’s new plan.
I and II Timothy and Titus were written to two men who had believed during the Acts period, who were now acting as leaders after Acts 28:28
Philemon was written to an Acts period believer post Acts 28:28.
I and II Peter were written specifically to Israelite believers in our period.

Keeping in mind who was being written to and when will aid immensely in understanding all these books. If you fail to take this into consideration, you will end up trying to “mix truths” from both sides of the line. I am not saying we cannot learn from all these books…we absolutely can, and Paul assures Timothy of this post-Acts 28:28. But when an Acts period book teaches the opposite of a post-Acts period book, we have to go with God’s later revelation, rather than His earlier one, because the earlier one was for the Acts period, which has now passed away.

That is quite complicated, and I just gave you kind of a brief skeleton of the idea. Let me know if you have any questions.

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