When a new convert comes into Christianity, which book in the Bible are they most often exhorted to read? It’s the gospel of John of course. If it’s not that it’s Matthew or all four gospels that are recommended. It’s not wrong to encourage people to read and study any book in the Bible, but with so much doctrinal disarray in Christendom, proper distinctions are rarely made between the Church of Jesus Christ and the congregation of Israel. Without this distinction, nothing but confusion and error results in the belief and practical application of Biblical doctrine.
Not all of the Bible is Written to Christians
This statement might alarm some of you who are unfamiliar with the different groups and administrational periods set forth in God’s Word, so let me explain what I mean when I say that not all the Bible is written to Christians.
Certainly the entirety of God’s Word is what it says it is, God’s Word to mankind. We can learn so much from every book in the Bible that the world cannot contain all that we could write in discussing it. That very claim is made in Bible about Jesus’ life.
John 2031 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
We need to learn all of God’s Word if we want the complete picture of what God wants us to know. But understanding it requires us to recognize which groups different parts of the Bible refer to. The best way I’ve heard this explained is in this way.
Suppose I wrote a letter to someone I know named Tim. In that letter I invite Tim and his entire family to a dinner at my house. I address the letter and it gets delivered — not to Tim — but to Tim’s next door neighbor. Even though it’s got Tim’s name on it, the reader skips over that, opens the letter and sees the invitation. Happily, the man informs his family that they are invited to dinner at my house that weekend.
When this neighbor of Tim’s shows up at my door with his family, I’m dumbfounded. “We are here for dinner!” announces the would-be guest. I say, “Sorry sir, but I invited Tim and his family to dinner, not you.” The would-be-guest leaves disappointed and hungry, all because he failed to recognize who the letter he opened was addressed to.
Now in real life, I probably would have let the neighbor and his family in, especially seeing that the people invited never got my letter. What would I do with all that food? I know I’m nowhere near as merciful and gracious as God is, but God has set down some rules and He follows them to every jot at tittle.
We can learn a lot from the Bible, no matter who it’s talking about or to, just as long as we recognize who it is talking about or speaking directly to. There are only certain parts of the Bible written to Christians in our day and time. We live in what the Bible calls “The administration of the grace of God.” This administration started on the day of Pentecost and ends with Christ’s return for the church prior to the unfolding of events recorded mainly in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The entire Old Testament is addressed, or concerns, Israel. There are many principles and truths that cross different administrations, such as loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself, but most everything else just concerns the people who live in the period of time the Bible is addressing at that time.
The Four Gospels Complete the Old Testament
Even though there is a sheet of paper between the last verse of the book of Malachi and the first verse of Matthew with the words, “New Testament” written on it, the gospels themselves complete the law which is the old covenant or testament. Jesus fulfills the law in the gospels, therefore the gospels should logically be placed in the Old Testament. Most scholars are aware of this and agree fully with this point. There is no logic behind placing the gospels in the New Testament because Jesus had to die, be resurrected and ascend into heaven before the new covenant went into force. The word testament means covenant. The New Testament began on the day of Pentecost and extends through the period we are living in right up to and including Christ’s return for his church.
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law. The book of Acts records the birth of the Christian church in Acts chapter 2:1-4 which started the Grace Administration in which we live. The book of Acts goes on to chronicle the events that happened during the transition of God’s plan from the administration of the Law into the administration of Grace. But what books do we Christians read and study to know what applies to us and to know what God has given us and expects from us? That’s the key questions Christians need to ask.
The Seven Church Epistles are Written Specifically to Christians in This Day and Time
The Pauline epistles, also called the 7 church epistles, are the full course of instruction from our Lord Jesus Christ for Christians in this Grace Administration. These epistles are always found in the same order in all the known manuscripts and they follow a pattern when read and understood in that order. Here’s how they are arranged.
II Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
The pattern is doctrine, reproof and correction.
Structure of the Seven Church Epistles
Romans — Doctrinal, our legal position in Christ
I and II Corinthians — Reproof of practical error from the failure to adhere to the doctrine in Romans
Galatians — Correction , steering people back to the truth in Romans
Ephesians — Doctrinal, our allotment in Christ
Philippians — Reproof of practical error for not heeding the doctrine in Ephesians
Colossians — Correction, steering people back to the truth in Ephesians
I and II Thessalonians — Doctrine, concerning the Lord’s return for and with his church
If you read the seven church epistles in this light, you will gain much more understanding of what God is revealing to the church
The next post I do will continue this discussion to compare what is written in the gospels to Israel to what is written to the church in these seven church epistles.