SEEMING ERRORS IN GOD’S PERFECT WORD IF IT IS NOT RIGHTLY DIVIDED
(Note to the reader: Since writing this paper I have written a paper on the supposed errors in the Bible that discusses a wider variety of topics than is discussed in this paper).
There are, of course, no errors in the Word of God. But if we do not rightly divide the Word of truth, there are passages that seem to be in error. These seeming errors are all understood only if one rightly divides the Word of truth. And “rightly dividing” means dividing one dispensation from another. If we are to do that, we must understand when the present dispensation began. I believe the dispensation of the mystery began after Israel was divorced at Acts 28. (Please see the paper on this web-site When Did The Church Begin? for the Scriptural evidence for that belief.)
I TIMOTHY 4:1-5 COMPARED WITH ACTS 21:21-26
In I Tim. 4:1-5 Paul wrote of those who speak “lies in hypocrisy; …commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth”. The Law of Moses did indeed command Israel to abstain from certain meats. We read in Lev. 11:26, “The carcasses of every beast which divideth the hoof, and is not clovenfooted, nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you; every one that toucheth them shall be unclean”.
One might mistakenly conclude that this seeming contradiction is made clear because Lev. 11 is an Old Testament law and that changed with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. But we read in Acts 21:20, “….Thou seest brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law“. The remainder of this chapter goes on to describe how Paul proved to the believing Jews that he too was observing the law of Moses.
We read in Acts 21:21, “…they (the thousands of Jews who were zealous of the law, vs. 20) are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs”. In verse 24 we read of the request made of Paul to disprove this false rumor, “Take them (the four men who had made a vow, vs. 23) and purify thyself with them, and be at charge with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law”. And in verse 26 we read that Paul did exactly what was requested in order to disprove the rumor that he had been teaching that Jews should not obey the Mosaic Law.
So in Acts 21 we learn that Paul and “thousands of Jews” were observing the law, which included abstinence from some meats, but in I Tim. 4:1 Paul was extremely critical of those who would command them to abstain from meats.
Once we see that what was true of the dispensation before Israel was divorced at Acts 28 (which included the Acts period) was not true of the dispensation after Acts 28, it is clear that there is no contradiction in these two passages. But we need to rightly divide the Word of truth in order to see that truth.
I TIMOTHY 5:14 COMPARED TO I CORINTHIANS 7:8
We read in I Tim. 5:14, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children….”. But we read in I Cor. 7:8, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I“, i.e. unmarried. And again in 7:38 we read, “so then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better“. It is not enough to say that Paul does not command the unmarried to remain so, because even if he did only recommend it, it is still a contradiction with what he tells the younger women in I Timothy. In other words, if we don’t see that these two passages were written in two different dispensations, we have a contradiction in the Word of God, which is, of course, not possible. Let us consider these two passages in their dispensational settings.
In the context of the verses quoted above we read in I Cor. 7:26 of the “present distress”. “I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress….”. The same Greek word translated “distress” in this verse is also used in Luke 21:23. To what were Paul and Luke referring when they wrote of “the present distress”? In Luke 21:7 we find the same questions being asked of the Lord as we read in Matthew 24, the questions having to do with end times. “….Master, when shall these things be: and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” The present distress then in Luke 21:7 is the same as that in Matt. 24, the end times distress, i.e. the great tribulation.
In Christ’s discourse in Matt. 24 (the parallel passage to Luke 21) we read in verse 23, “But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days, for there shall be great distress in the land…..”. Paul wrote I Corinthians during the Acts period. During the Acts period he was still looking for the return of Christ in his lifetime, which meant that he was still expecting to see the tribulation. During the tribulation it was better, according to Matt. 24:23 quoted above, for a woman not to be with child (“woe unto them that are with child”). But in the dispensation of the mystery Paul knew that the return of Christ was no longer imminent and that the great tribulation would not occur soon. That being the case, in the dispensation of the mystery it was better for the unmarried to marry and have children.
We can see therefore, that there is no contradiction in these two passages. But only if we see that I Timothy was not written in the same dispensation as was I Corinthians can we avoid this apparent contradiction.
THE TRIBULATION PERIOD AND I TIMOTHY 2:1-2
We read in I Tim. 2:1-2, “I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty”. But the tribulation will, of course, be a time of wars and great stress. Believers of the Acts period would not have expected, or even prayed for a “quiet and peaceable life” when they were expecting the tribulation. How can we understand this seeming contradiction between Matt. 24:29 and I Tim. 2:1-2?
The answer lies in the fact that after the end of the Acts period, when Israel had been set aside, the imminent return of Christ, and the tribulation that would precede it, was no longer what believers were looking for.
So in the dispensation that preceded the present dispensation the tribulation was imminent and a “quiet and peaceable life” was not the expected one. But in the dispensation of the mystery, the tribulation is no longer imminent because all prophecies concerning Israel have been put in abeyance with the divorcing of Israel. Therefore, in the present dispensation it is an appropriate prayer that we might live a quiet and peaceable life.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org