The Pauline Legacy — Our Heritage

In the dispensation of the Grace of God, there is little understanding of its significance on the part of fundamental Christian believers. There is one particularly evident reason for this lack of comprehension: ignorance of the identification and ministry of the Apostle Paul. Unless one recognizes the distinctive message committed to Paul, one is left in darkness and confusion as to his spiritual standing, purpose, and destiny as a child of God.

Fact: While ministering in His fleshly presence on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ addressed and instructed none but the nation of Israel (Rom. 15:8; Matt. 15:24).

Fact: Saul of Tarsus (archenemy of Christ and persecutor of His church) was saved and appointed to become Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 15:15,16; 11:13; I Tim. 1:12,13; 2:7; II Tim. 1:11).

Fact: Paul became the exclusive dispenser of a secret revelation given to him by the heavenly seated Christ (Eph. 3:1-9; Gal. 1:11,12; II Cor. 12:2-4). The only way Christ speaks from heaven is through the Apostle Paul.

Fact: Under Paul’s ministry the Church which is the Body of Christ was established according to the revelation of the mystery (Rom. 16:25,26; Col. 1:23b-27).

Fact: The Church which is the Body of Christ is composed of both Jew and Gentile, the law as a wall of partition between Jew and Gentile having been taken out of the way (Rom. 10:4; 6:14).

As our apostle, Paul makes two statements that clearly steer us in the direction of discernment in understanding Scripture. (A)—”All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). (B)—”Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Tim. 2:15).

All Scripture is written for our enlightenment but not all Scripture is written to us nor about us. We must study all Scripture in the light of Paul’s epistles. Only in the letters of Paul do we find direct instruction as members of the Body of Christ.

Paul’s distinctive message and ministry must be recognized in order for believers in this dispensation of Grace to know their relationship with God. Once this is accomplished, we find that our identification with our apostle is manifold. He is much more to us (as members of the Body of Christ) than our apostle. He is our example (Phil. 3:17), he is our minister (Col. 1:25), he is a father figure and instructor (I Cor. 4:14-16).

The letters of Paul are directed to believers who have been saved under the Gospel of the Grace of God in the dispensation of the Grace of God. Paul calls this gospel “my gospel” (Acts 20:24; Rom. 2:16; Rom. 16:25; II Tim. 2:8). As our mentor, Paul enlightens us regarding our spiritual relationship and responsibility. We are to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1). “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without” (Col. 4:5). Paul prays for us, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17).

Our apostle urges us to totally dedicate ourselves in the service of Christ (Rom. 12:1). He affirms that we will “suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29; II Tim. 3:12). We are assured of enablement to perform the ministry to which we are appointed: “For the love of Christ constraineth us….” “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me” (II Cor. 5:14; Phil. 4:13).

As the believing remnant in this dispensation of God’s grace, we are to engage in the “Ministry of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:18,19), speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God (Eph. 2:8,9), and redeeming the time (Eph. 5:16) until we receive our final and glorious inheritance (Col. 3:4). “And so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thes. 4:17).

The Stam Connection

“To make all men see what is the dispensation of the Mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).

It would be impossible to adequately describe the effect that a knowledge of the Mystery has had on my life. Knowing that I cannot put my feelings into words, I shall nevertheless try to explain a bit of what the emotional and/or psychological and/or spiritual effect has been to date.

More than a quarter of a century ago I purchased a book entitled Things That Differ which was written by one Cornelius R. Stam who, as I understand, is still living at the age of 92.

In July of 1995 (a little over a year after my heart surgery), while preparing for a trip to Durango, and being somewhat hurried with last minute details, I picked this book off the shelf and stuck it in my briefcase—in anticipation of any opportunities I might have to read during this time away from my office.

One morning in Durango I opened the book (a hard cover of 279 pages) and saw that I had written my own name on the inside of the front cover—and below my name was the clearly written date: September 1972. This means that some 23 years before I had purchased and carefully read this book which had since been on my bookshelf virtually untouched for that period of time. In opening the book, I saw that I had (with my red pen) written many notes with their page numbers, inside both the front and back covers. I know I had read the book “carefully” since red and yellow highlighting and underlinings were found liberally distributed through the entire book from front to back.

At this point, I shall make no attempt to discuss in detail the Lord’s leading in my life, nor to discuss the rather extensive reading and study I had done during those intervening 23 years. However, I hasten to say here (to the glory of God and with eternal thanksgiving to God) that He had most graciously and abundantly been preparing me for the additional and wonderful surprise of 1995.

On July 19, 1995, I printed in red ink (inside the back cover) these words: “I’m beginning to see what I have never seen before like I have never seen before!” Near these words, I had also printed (perhaps on the same day) the following: “In reading Things That Differ I’m absolutely astounded!”

I’m well aware that from reading what I have just stated, some very legitimate questions can arise: Really, what was so different? What was so astounding? Did you learn some new doctrine? What did you learn that you did not already know? In answer, I would emphasize that my purpose here is not to discuss any particular Biblical doctrine nor any particular Biblical issues (per se), but, rather (as stated above) to try to give some reasonable indication or impression of what it was like to me, personally—that is, the new reading of my already-well-marked book: Things That Differ.

Let me say, further (and happily) that what I was reading was neither inconsistent with, nor in conflict with most of what I had already known and believed. In fact, for the most part, it was strongly confirming and supportive of my already-formed (over 50 years) deep doctrinal convictions concerning the Scriptures and the Christian life.

At this point, I hear someone saying, “Come on, Dave, why don’t you quit stalling and tell us plainly what it was like?” I will try to do that in just a moment, but first, I must say a word about what it was not like.

It was not like anything psychic, mystical, or supernatural. It was nothing like signs and wonders. It was not like God speaking directly to me, nor was it an “inner light” revelation. I did not hear strange voices or have dream-like inner visions.

It was more like an experience of “whereas I was blind, now I can see.” What was formerly vague and indefinite is now becoming clear—the way one would think and hope things should be. Apparently unresolvable issues and differences which have long gripped the evangelical church can be easily resolved by direct reference to the sacred page. Issues and conflicts which have long divided the denominational churches, as well as evangelical believers in general, can now be easily resolved by a proper interpretation and understanding of the Bible.

For me, it was sort of an “AH HA” experience—one pleasant surprise after another—something like “At last it all makes sense.” Something like fresh springs of living water to a parched throat. Something like scales falling off my eyes.

Someone has said: “The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

No new version—no new words—no new landscapes. The same marvellous Word of God—the same familiar passages—but somehow a thrilling new voyage of discovery.

The Abiding Evidences of Salvation

Your faith in Christ Jesus,
The love which ye have to all the saints,
The hope which is laid up for you in heaven
(Col. 1:4,5).

Evidently Paul had never yet seen the Colossian Christians when he wrote to them (Col. 2:1). He had only heard of their conversion to Christ (Col. 1:4,5).

But what had he heard that had convinced him that they were genuinely saved? Our opening passage gives us the answer:

“We heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven….”

But was this sufficient evidence that God had worked in their hearts? Would it be evidence enough today?

Some answer: “No. We must have the gift of the Holy Spirit and speak with tongues, or work miracles.” And this writer must admit that this once was conclusive evidence of salvation. Our Lord’s great commission to the eleven clearly states:

“And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out devils [demons], they shall speak with new tongues;

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17,18).

This is the clear Word of God on the subject, and too many confused fundamentalists and evangelicals run in circles trying to explain it away.

When Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, “the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the Word” (Acts 10:44). But how did Peter and his companions know that those of Cornelius’ household had received the Spirit? Verse 46 provides the answer: “For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” It was this that settled the matter for Peter according to his own testimony in Acts 11:17:

“Forasmuch, then, as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God?”

And it was this that settled the matter for the apostles and elders in Judaea too, for we read in the next verse:

“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”

Ah, but there has been a change in dispensations since that time. In I Corinthians 13:8 we read:

“Whether there be tongues, they shall cease….”

In this same part of I Corinthians we read of other signs1 that were to be done away, but the closing verse of I Corinthians says:

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love].”

These, then, are the abiding characteristics of the true Church in this present dispensation.

The problem with our Pentecostal friends and confused fundamentalists in general, is not that they are not Scriptural in their teachings, but that they are not dispensational; they have failed to “rightly divide the Word of truth.”

The first of these three “abiding” characteristics is faith. This is of primary importance, for, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). And faith produces hope . In a world of hopelessness and fear, the believer may “abound in hope.” And this hope is no mere wish, for it is founded on the Word of God, “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” (Heb. 6:19). It is the enjoyment, here and now, by faith, of the blessings which are ours in Christ and shall some day be fully realized.

And hope, in turn, produces love. The very passage we are studying speaks of “the love which ye have to all the saints, for [because of]2 the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” The blessings which are ours in Christ draw us—certainly should draw us—closer together. The closer we are drawn to our blessed Lord, the closer we are drawn to each other.

Faith, hope and love, then, are the three abiding evidences of salvation. Any local church where these three characteristics abound is a full church, even if it is composed of only a few members. Any believer possessing these three characteristics in abundant measure experiences a full Christian life.

Water baptism was once required for salvation, and miraculous signs were the evidences of salvation (Mark 16:16-18; Acts 1:8; 2:38), but let us not create confusion and division by efforts to continue on in a dispensation which God has replaced by something better.

The simplest believer in this dispensation of grace is complete in Christ (Col. 2:10), crucified (Gal. 2:20), resurrected (Col. 2:13), and seated in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6), IN CHRIST. And the genuineness of conversion to Christ is attested by “faith, hope, love, these three,” rather than by miraculous signs or demonstrations.

Shall we then seek to restore what God has “done away”? Shall we say, Let us be baptized with water as a testimony and seek the signs for spiritual renewal, even after God has provided something better? Shall we retreat from the substance to the shadows? No! God says: “When that which is perfect [i.e., complete]3 is come, then that which is in part shall be done away….And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three…” (I Cor. 13:10-13).

These three abiding evidences of salvation are brought together in I Corinthians 13:13; Gal. 5:5,6; I Thes. 1:3; 5:8; II Thes. 1:3; Heb. 6:10-12 and many other places in Paul’s epistles. Why not look them up, study them prayerfully, and rejoice in the riches of God’s grace.


  1. In Mark 16:17, et al, these miraculous demonstrations are called “signs,” because they confirmed the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus. They were signs of the validity of His claims.
  2. This is the sense in the Greek.
  3. Referring to the full “revelation of the mystery.”

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Berean Searchlight – December 2000

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That Which Was Lacking

“I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied” (I Cor. 16:17).

Sad, was it not, that the Corinthian church, undoubtedly the largest of all the churches founded by Paul, had been so ungenerous and insensitive, even to Paul’s personal needs, that he had to labor at tentmaking in order to minister among them. They did not even provide for the Apostle’s meager needs. Thus, sadly, he writes:

“And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself” (II Cor. 11:9).

It was no different where the work of the Lord in general was concerned, for whereas the churches of Macedonia had, out of “great trial of affliction” and “deep poverty,” given “to their power” and had desired to give “beyond their power,” the Apostle had to exhort the Corinthian believers to “perform” their promises to help “the poor saints at Jerusalem” and to “prove the sincerity of [their] love” (II Cor. 8:8,11).

Those who suppose that men of God should remind believers to live godly lives, to labor for Christ and to witness for Him, but that for some reason they should not remind them of their responsibility to contribute of their means — these should read Paul’s letters to the believers at Corinth and see how much the Apostle has to say about this matter.

It seems that others were always bearing the Corinthians’ financial responsibilities for them, so that he had to write from Philippi with a touch of reproof, that he was glad for the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, since: “that which was lacking on your part they have supplied” (I Cor. 16:17).

In many ways the Church of today is like the Corinthian church of Paul’s day. This is surely so where financial stewardship is concerned. Again, it is invariably the faithful few who supply “that which is lacking” on the part of the many. These few will be richly rewarded, but it is our desire, as it was Paul’s, that greater numbers of the many may join the few, both to lighten the burden of the few and to help reach the teeming millions of lost and bewildered souls who so sorely need a clear presentation of “the gospel of the grace of God.”

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

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What’s For Supper? — First Steps in Understanding How to Understand the Bible

As suppertime approaches at our house, I often wander into the kitchen while Barbara, my wife, is cooking our dinner, and I’m usually hungry. My question is often, “What’s for supper?”

In this study we’re going to ask the same question, but this time we’re going to ask the Bible—`What’s for supper?’—and we’re going to see that God has given several different instructions in the Bible at different times about the food that He allowed His people to eat.

Our goal is not just to learn about God’s instructions about food in the Bible, but to get an understanding of how to understand the Bible. What we’ll learn about food is applicable to many other questions we could ask of the Bible.

We’ve known Christians who “study” the Bible by standing the book up on its spine, then carefully letting go and letting it fall open to any page at random. Then, with their eyes closed, they run their finger down the page. When it seems like its the right moment, they open their eyes and read the verse their finger landed on. That becomes their verse for the day, or their verse for guidance, or their inspiration for the moment.

That’s one method of Bible “study” that’s sure to leave a Christian in a state of total confusion.

God wants us to have an understanding of His Word. The Apostle Paul often prayed for the believers that he was writing to, and one of his repeated prayers is that God would “enlighten the eyes of their understanding,” or that they would attain to “the full assurance of understanding.” If we don’t understand the Word of God, how can we believe it?

This study is about one of the most basic principles of Bible study. It is about starting to understand how to understand the Bible. We’ll start by looking at five men, five leading men in the Bible, and seeing what God said to them about food. The study is very simple, yet the implications are really profound in helping us to understand how to understand the Bible!


The first man we need to look at is the first man, Adam. When God created Adam, He told him what he was allowed to eat:

“And God said, `See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food'” (Gen. 1:29).

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were vegetarians. God commanded that their food was to be the herbs and fruits, no meat. And this same instruction was repeated in the next chapter:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, `Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'” (Gen. 2:16-17).

This instruction about food was very serious, since it was precisely in this area that Adam sinned and plunged the entire human race into sin. He ate from the tree that he was told not to eat from!

I remember well the first time these verses came to my attention. I was in a Bible study group, meeting in someone’s living room. I was a very new Christian, and I almost went into shock. God commanded that man should be a vegetarian, and I loved pizza—pepperoni, sausage, double cheese, mushrooms. Now I thought I’d have to give up my favorite food…and I never knew that Christians were supposed to be vegetarians!

But someone in the Bible study group, older in the faith and wiser in the study of God’s Word, said that I should wait until I had read everything the Bible says about food before I gave up my pizzas. So, before we give up pizza, let’s read on….


The next man we need to look at is Noah. There were about 1500 years between Adam and Noah. In Genesis 9 we read about Noah, after the great flood, receiving instructions from God concerning the food that he was allowed to eat:

“So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: `Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood'” (Gen. 9:1-4).

Here God changes the menu for mankind. “Every living thing that moves shall be food for you…even as the green herbs.” God had spoken of the “beasts of the earth…birds of the air…fish of the sea,” and then He says to Noah that all these are to be his food, along with the herbs, that is the vegetables and grains. For the first 1500 years of the human race, God’s instructions were that man was to be a vegetarian, now, after the great flood, God changes the instructions and adds meat, fowl, fish to the basic vegetable and grain menu.

I breathed a sigh of relief, after 1500 years, now pizza was OK. But there’s more….


The next man we need to look at is Moses, the Law-giver of Israel. In Leviticus 11, God gave Moses and Aaron a complete chapter of some 47 verses detailing which animals the Israelites could eat, and which were “unclean” and forbidden.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, `Speak to the children of Israel, saying, These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth'” (Lev. 11:1-2).

Among the forbidden animals was the swine (Lev. 11:7) or pig, so pork was unclean. Forget about sausage or pepperoni pizza! The chapter lists the seafood that was allowed—fish with scales, and the seafood that was unclean—lobsters, shrimp, clams. The birds that were unclean—eagles, vultures, buzzards, even the insects that were allowed—the grasshopper, cricket and locust were kosher and allowed to be eaten!

The chapter ends with this instruction:

“This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, To distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten” (Lev. 11:46-47).

Before we move on further, let’s review….

To Adam God said that his food was to be herbs and fruits. This instruction was in effect for about 1500 years.

Then to Noah God commanded that he and his descendants could eat every moving living thing: animals, fish and birds, meat, fowl and fish, along with the herbs. This instruction lasted about 1000 years.

In the Law of Moses God again changed His instructions concerning food—at least for the nation of Israel—now only certain animals, fish and birds were allowed to be eaten, the rest were unclean and not allowed for the Israelites to eat.

This instruction—the Law of Moses with its kosher and non-kosher food—was in effect all throughout the rest of the Old Testament, and all throughout the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and on into the early chapters of the Book of Acts. This brings us to the next man we need to study, Peter.


In Acts 10 and 11 Peter received a startling revelation from the Lord concerning food. One day Peter was hungry at about noon time. So while lunch was being prepared, Peter was up on a rooftop praying when he received a vision from the Lord.

“…Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, `Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’

“But Peter said, `Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’

“And a voice spoke to him again the second time, `What God has cleansed you must not call common'” (Acts 10:9-16).

Something like a great white sheet descended from heaven in this vision and in the sheet Peter saw all kinds of animals, creeping things—insects, lizards, etc., and birds. Some were kosher, but apparently many, perhaps most, were not kosher. God’s instruction to Peter was, “Rise, kill and eat.” Peter was now allowed to eat any kind of meat, or fowl or insect, or other living thing. Peter, though, protests and says to God, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything unclean or common.”

From this statement we learn that Peter has kept the kosher laws all his life. When the Lord was with the twelve apostles for those three years of His earthly ministry, the Lord and the twelve apostles never ate anything that wasn’t kosher. And in Acts 10 more than a year after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord into heaven, Peter still was keeping the Law of Moses. He had never eaten anything in disobedience to Leviticus 11 which had been written by Moses about 1500 years before.

But now again, God was changing the command regarding food. Now God says to Peter, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” Now these animals, birds and fish that were once “unclean” have now been cleansed. Again, let’s review….

God commanded Adam that he could eat herbs and fruits only. This instruction stood for some 1500 years.

Then God commanded Noah that he could eat any kind of moving living thing along with the vegetables. This instruction stood for about 1000 years.

Then God told Moses that only certain animals, birds and seafood were allowed to be eaten by the Israelites. Moses’ law stayed in effect for some 1500 years until the middle of the Book of Acts.

Which now brings us to the last man we want to look at, the Apostle Paul.


What Peter didn’t know in Acts 10, but we do, is that a new dispensation had begun in Acts 9. One chapter before Peter’s vision, something even more startling happened one day on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. The Lord Jesus Christ saved a man who later called himself, the “chief of sinners,” and appointed him to become the Apostle Paul. And the Lord Jesus began to reveal to Paul a dispensation called the “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2).

Just as Moses was the Law-giver for Israel, and his dispensation included instructions about food, so also Paul became the “dispenser” of the dispensation of the grace of God, and his dispensation also included instructions about food:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer” (I Tim. 4:1-5).

Paul warns Timothy that in the latter times there will be teachers who will command the Christians to “abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving.” Paul says that this will be evidence of a departure from the faith, for in the dispensation of the grace of God, “Every creature of God is good [meat, fowl, or seafood] and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.”

Today, for us living under grace (Rom. 6:14) and in this dispensation given to Paul by the Lord from heaven (Eph. 3:2), all animals, birds, and seafood are allowed to be eaten as food. Nothing is forbidden. For the past 2000 years, ever since the dispensation of grace began in Acts 9 with the salvation of this new apostle, godly people have been permitted to eat sausage and pepperoni pizzas with double cheese and mushrooms!


Back to our purpose in this study …how do these things we have seen about God’s food laws in the Bible help us to understand how to understand the Bible?

First, we need to realize when we’re studying the Bible, that God has given different commands to different people at different times all through the Word of God. In regard to food, God gave one initial instruction to Adam and his descendants, then changed the instruction when He spoke to Noah. Then again a new set of instructions for Moses, that were completely changed when he called the Apostle Paul and revealed the dispensation of grace to him for us today.

The instructions would even seem to contradict each other…to Adam: herbs and fruits only, then to Noah: any living thing—animal, bird or fish—then to Moses: only some living things, then for us: “every creature of God is good [for food].”

Unless we realize that God has different instructions for different people at different times, we would have to conclude that the Bible is full of contradictions.

Second: When we study the Bible, we need to be careful to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15) to be sure that we are applying God’s instructions for us today, and not God’s instructions to someone living in another dispensation. Just dropping the Bible open and randomly putting our finger down on any verse is not “rightly dividing the Word of truth!” and is a good way to become very confused about how to understand the Bible.

Of course, the instructions about food are only part of the Word of God. But many other teachings in the Bible also have to be studied “dispensationally.” For instance, the Lord’s teaching about prayer for us in the dispensation of grace is vastly different from what He gave the twelve apostles during His earthly ministry in Israel.

To Israel the Lord said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” And, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (John 15:7 and Matt. 21:22).

Many today have tried to “claim” these prayer promises, only to be sadly disappointed when they didn’t work—they didn’t get “what you desire” or “whatever things you ask.” Some have even lost their faith in the Bible at this point. They tried the “prayer promises for Israel” and found that they didn’t work, and so concluded that the Bible isn’t true.

What they failed to realize is that God’s instructions to different people living at different times have changed, about food and about prayer and about many other things. When we want to know what to eat, or how to pray, under grace, we turn to the letters of the Apostle Paul. And when we do, we learn that even the Apostle Paul did not get everything that he asked for—see II Corinthians 12:8-9 for one good example, and there are a number of others.

Third, we see that a Bible teacher may be “biblical” and “scriptural” but he will be wrong if he is not “dispensational.”

Biblical, in the sense that he is quoting Bible verses and passages, and teaching some portion of the Word of God and applying it to believers today. And scriptural, in the sense that he is quoting Scripture to prove his point. But if he is not dispensational, he will be teaching wrong doctrine for believers today.

Example: A preacher could easily preach that we should be vegetarians today—he could find several verses to base this doctrine on in the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis where the Lord commanded Adam to be a vegetarian. The preacher would be biblical and scriptural, but he would be wrong, because he wouldn’t be rightly dividing the Word of truth. Yes, Genesis is God’s Word, but not God’s Word to us today!

We live in a time of great confusion even among Bible believers and Bible teachers. In some neighborhoods there’s almost a church on every corner, and they’re all preaching something different, yet they all have their verses in the Bible to prove that they are right and the others are wrong! And because they disagree about how to understand the Bible, and how to apply the Bible to us today, they are divided into thousands of different denominations and groups. We have seen in our simple study about foods in the Bible how it would be very easy to become confused—and then become divided from other Christians.

One church may be following Adam’s instructions in Genesis 1 and 2. Another may focus on Noah’s, or Moses’, or Peter’s, or Paul’s—they would all have verses to prove that they were right, yet they would all disagree with each other, and none would be able to eat with the others!

We’ve been focusing on only this one area, foods, but the same principle applies to many doctrines in the Bible: salvation, eternal security, prayer, speaking in tongues, healings and healers, the Lord’s coming again, and many other areas of teaching. All of these areas of doctrine must be studied, not only biblically and scripturally, but also dispensationally—”rightly dividing the Word of truth”—if we really want to understand what God’s instructions are for us today.

Here is the simple answer to all the confusion that we find today in the Body of Christ, and the only way of having unity among all the members of the Body of Christ. We need to realize that the Lord Jesus Christ saved a new apostle, the Apostle Paul, for a special purpose, to reveal to him a new program called the “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2). Here is the key that opens up the Scriptures to our understanding.


Does this mean that we only read Paul’s Letters in the Bible? Some, who first hear about studying the Bible dispensationally, draw the false conclusion that we should only be reading or studying Paul’s letters today. Paul himself wrote to Pastor Timothy:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness…” (II Tim. 3:16).

The whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the inspired, God-breathed, Word of God. We are commanded to study the entire Bible because there are principles in every part of the Bible that teach us doctrine, or reprove us when we are disobedient. The whole Bible is profitable for our study and learning. But the way to get the profit out of the Bible is to study the Bible the way God said to study it, “rightly divided” (II Tim. 2:15), recognizing that the Lord Jesus revealed from heaven the dispensation of grace to the Apostle Paul for us today. If we forget this basic principle, the more we study the Bible, the more confused we will become!

This has been a very simple study in the Bible, that began with a simple question, “What’s for supper?” Yet the principle that we’ve discovered is profound in helping us to start to understand how to understand the Bible.

As we have surveyed God’s different instructions to different people at different times throughout the Bible, the answer to the question—What’s for supper?—has seemed to be obvious, yet, sad to say, most Christians today have never seen this principle in the Bible. We hope that our study together has been profitable to you…that you have not only seen something new, or clearer in the Bible, but also will apply this simple Bible principle in your continuing study of God’s Word, and that you will want to share it with others.

Berean Searchlight – November 2000

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Berean Searchlight – October 2000

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Why Did God Create the Devil?

God did create the devil, but not as he is today. The Bible, which is the Word of God, so states; and that is sufficient and final. Where is the man or woman into whose mind has not come the question, Why?

According to the Bible, the devil is a being, a person, a spirit. He is not a myth. He is a real individual. There is one and only one devil, though there are many demons. He is spoken of as the Serpent, the Dragon, Beelzebub, and Satan. He cannot be described as an evil influence or force. There is only one Book that contains his true history and that Book is the Bible. The devil of the Bible is a personal devil. He is at the head of all evil forces. For all that is in the world which is not of the Father, Satan is responsible directly or indirectly; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life. He is likewise the supreme director of all religious systems condemned by the Bible, and many of these systems he carries on in the name of God and Christ. He is a clever counterfeiter.

The devil is accused of the crime of deceiving the whole world. One who can deceive the whole world must be very wise and cunning, altogether too much for the genius, strength, and wisdom of any mortal. He is declared to be a slanderer, an adversary seeking whom he may devour, a liar, and a murderer from the beginning. Satan beguiled Eve through his subtlety. The Christian is warned and instructed concerning his devices and wiles, and fiery darts. Only those who are in the safe-keeping of the One who conquered Satan in life and death, protected by the spiritual armour which He provides, can stand against the world ruler of darkness in the heavenlies. Only the shield of faith will quench his fiery darts. No offensive weapon will prevail against him except the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God; “it is written,” and continual prayer. Thus fortified against this adversary, the Christian is instructed to resist him steadfastly in the faith.

The devil is the god of this age. He is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. As the god of this age, he blinds the minds of them that believe not, lest the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God should shine unto them. He is the prince of this world, in charge of all of the evil forces, as well as demon spirits. The Man Christ Jesus, by His death, “destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil” (Heb. 2:14). And by His death and resurrection, the Son of God “spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15).

The most insidious assaults made by Satan against God and His righteousness and His Church are accomplished by transforming himself into an angel of light. He holds such complete sway over his deceived religious subjects that he causes them to pose as servants of Christ, as ministers of righteousness, and sends them forth in the name of Christianity to preach another Jesus and another gospel. Such are false apostles and deceitful workers, and those who follow their pernicious ways are many. They operate in so-called Christian pulpits (II Cor. 11:13-15).

The devil is responsible for all the sin, sickness, sorrow, suffering, crime, poverty and death on this earth. Everlasting fire is prepared for the devil and his angels. Unregenerate men do his bidding. He is worshipped by millions. He uses his damnable religious opiates to deceive many in the lost world. He has the upper hand in society, commerce, politics, education, and religion. The daily newspapers of all lands are almost exclusively under his control. His servants in schools, colleges, and seminaries are damning and blighting most of those who are under their instruction. He has brought sects, divisions, enmity, strife, skepticism, unbelief, and worldliness into the Church of Jesus Christ. The terrible darkness, the awful degradation, the unspeakable depravity of the heathen world is the result of his work. Today more than three-fourths of the world’s inhabitants are pagan worshippers, while divorces, violence, lust, covetousness, selfishness, self-righteousness, intellectual and religious pride, suicides, murder, and other crimes characterize the ungodly age, which God designates as this present evil age, even in so-called Christian lands.

Men are truly lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God and evil seducers are waxing worse and worse.

We may summon all the optimism imaginable to make things look bright, but the fact remains that this world is in a sad predicament. The asylums, prisons and hospitals are filled with suffering humanity; to say nothing of the suffering and dying brute creation. God’s Book describes the present order as a groaning creation and plainly states that the whole world lieth in the evil one (Rom. 8:22; I John 5:19). But you say that things have always been this way on this earth. Certainly, only not quite so much of it.

Surely Satan would have everything very much his own way so far as this age is concerned, shall all end today. But the curtain is not going down just yet. This is the day of Satan’s power. This is man’s day. The age is fast heading toward Satan’s man, that lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall consign to the lake of fire when, at His coming, He locks up the devil as His prisoner.

The devil has certainly brought God’s creation to a state of chaos and in some cases he has marred the Creator’s masterpiece, created in His own image, almost beyond recognition. So far as visible results up to the present moment are concerned, the devil has waged a successful warfare against righteousness and truth, although millions of the human race ruined by his pernicious and fiendish work have been redeemed from his power and curse.

Now back to the question. The mystery is, why would God, who could hinder, defeat and destroy this great enemy, permit him to continue in his treacherous and damnable work? We are surrounded by so many mysteries that we cannot refrain from asking this question many times. Why this world? Why man? What is it all about? Why this groaning, suffering world of creatures? Why is there a devil?

Why has God permitted the devil to rebel, slander and oppose Him all these centuries? God has an ultimate purpose. He surely has a purpose now. He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, and though we cannot understand His ways which are past finding out, we know Him well enough to know that it is all for the glory of His Son, by whom and for whom all things were created.

The God of the Bible is omniscient. Therefore, He knew the end from the beginning. He foresaw this present evil age and knew that violence was going to fill the earth and that man deceived by Satan was going to be plunged into great wickedness. He could have destroyed Satan before he played havoc with His handiwork; but it was not His will to do so. We can only submit to the will of the infallible God, and see through a glass darkly for the present.

God created all things by Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:9). The Word which became flesh created all things; therefore He must have created the Anointed Cherub, and then became flesh for the purpose of destroying this fallen being and his power over humanity. Lucifer fell because of rebellion and transgression. He fell through pride. He fell from heaven (Luke 10:18; Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:14-18). He was corrupted by reason of his wisdom and beauty. He was not satisfied with the highest place God could give a heavenly creature. He wanted the Creator’s place. He was going to be like the Most High God. The Anointed Cherub was perfect in the day that he was created, and therefore was not created as a sinful creature. All sin entered through the “I wills” of this being. Again why? Why did not God create him so he could not sin?

We do not know the full history of this wicked one, but we have the record of his origin, course, and destiny. We know that every experience with fallen man with which he is accredited in the Bible corresponds with his dealings with us today, and only those who heed the warnings and take the precautions set forth in that Book can understand his tricks and overcome his power. He was met and conquered in the wilderness by the Son of God, who is the only hope and strength of any individual in his conflict with this mighty foe.

Because the Anointed Cherub in heaven said to God, “I Will,” the true Anointed, God in human form, drank the cup in the Garden when He said, “Thy will be done,” and finished the work at Calvary. Because Lucifer wanted to be like the Most High God, the Most High God has been made in the likeness of sinful man to defeat the fallen one.

Why did not God make man so strong that he could withstand the temptation of the Serpent? We know that had Eve and Adam used the shield of faith and been obedient to His will, sin would never have entered into the world, by Adam. Must we say that God permitted Adam to sin in order that He might carry out His will? While we know that on the Cross, the Son of God was delivered according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; that He was slain from before the foundation of the world, yet these words are very plain: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man” (James 1:13; Acts 2:23; I Pet. 1:18-20).

To be sure, it is all a mystery; but in the dispensation of the fulness of times God shall “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, in Him” (Eph. 1:10).

Down through the eternal ages God is going to put on exhibition some sinners saved by grace: “That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). The Father has ordained that His well-beloved Son, the Son of His love, should in all things have the preeminence. He is before all things and by Him all things consist. He has been appointed heir of all things. For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the Cross. He suffered humiliation, rejection, and death to redeem, by God’s infinite grace, a world of sinners in despair and utter ruin. Nothing but the grace of God can redeem a single member of the human race. There is no cure for man’s spiritual disease except the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. No flesh shall ever glory in God’s presence. Saved by grace must be the plea of every one who shall enjoy that inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away.

“They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” That is God’s verdict (Rom. 8:8). Man must be justified without a cause (Rom. 3:24). In the flesh, or in the natural man, there dwelleth no good thing (Rom. 7:18). Man’s natural righteousness is an offense to God. Self-righteousness is sin and must be pardoned by God’s grace before the individual can be acceptable to God. Grace has been described in many terms, but none of them are adequate to express the full meaning and force of the over-abounding grace of the God of all grace. One writer has defined grace as meaning to bestow a valuable gift upon someone who is bankrupt. We often hear the expression: “God helps those who help themselves.” That is not grace. God bestows His divine power upon the impotent and helpless sinner who realizes his own weakness and despair and seeks the mercy, pardon and strength of God. When God, who is rich in mercy for the great love wherewith He loved us, forgives and empowers the undeserving sinner through Jesus Christ, who by the grace of God tasted death for every man, that is grace. Unmerited favor? Yes and more.

Man without a fall, without sin, would not need restoration; therefore, he would not need grace. For His own glory, God permitted the human race to be plunged into spiritual bankruptcy. But His permission relieves neither Satan nor man of responsibility. No sin, no grace. Grace is for sinners. All are sinners; all need grace. No grace, no salvation; only eternal separation from God.

The bankruptcy was brought by Satan. He beguiled Eve through his subtlety. Then Adam sinned, and by one man sin entered into the world, and all have sinned. If Satan had not fallen through sin, man would never have sinned, for he never would have had the suggestion of sin. Man could have remained sinless and righteous, even when tempted by the devil, but he did not. Satan could have remained sinless and obedient, but he did not. God could have created Satan and man so neither could have sinned, but He did not. You may have God’s righteousness as a free gift of His grace and through the Lord Jesus Christ have the divine image restored. Perhaps, you will not? Why not? That’s the question. One answer is, Satan (II Cor. 4:3-4). You will never will to be saved until you have the desire.

If you will fall in with God’s present plan, submit to His will and turn the government of your life over to the Son of God, you will share His glory ages after He has consigned Satan to the lake of fire. Then and only then will He let you into all of the secrets that you need to know, and answer all the whys that He thinks you ought to know.

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Begin With the End in Mind

Without proper motivation, it is hard to go on.  If  we ask ourselves why we are doing something and we don’t have an answer, it is hard to keep giving our best efforts to the task at hand.

Unfortunately, when many churches are asked why they bother to do what they do, they often do not have an answer.  Likewise, when many believers are asked what difference their faith makes in a practical sense, they, too, are at a loss for words.

Before the church can answer these questions of “why,” individual believers must first come up with an answer as to what difference it makes to be a Christian and specifically, a grace believer.

At times, we can become like David, vexed and frustrated at the pride and wealth of the wicked:

“For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.  They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.  Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.  Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.  They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.  They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.  Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.  And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?  Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.  Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.  For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.  If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.  When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (Psa. 73:3-17).

Notice how David was able to cope with these thoughts.  As long as he considered the “present tense” of things, he could easily be discouraged.  The same is true of us today.  At the present time, the world system does seem to be winning.  But like David, our answer lies in considering not the “now,” but the end.  Notice verse 17, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.”

Understanding the end is essential in maintaining a proper perspective—both of the wicked and of ourselves.  Without understanding our end (and theirs), it is all too easy to become discouraged and distracted.  Perhaps this is why Paul writes in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  We faint or become weary and quit when we lose sight of our goal.

When we forget what it’s all about, it is easy to get caught up in the world’s definition of success.  Soon we start thinking that success is measured by material things, by power, or by fame.  Then, as we start to measure ourselves by these things, we begin to compare our measure of things, power, or fame with that of the world, and most believers will always come up short—especially those involved in ministry.  But when we “begin with the end in mind” (to borrow the words of Steven Covey) we can make proper decisions in the meantime.

Today most people seem obsessed with the idea of preparing for retirement.  They fret, worry, plan, and save for their “golden years.”  They understand that they only have a limited window of opportunity to maximize their investments for retirement.  They realize that retirement age will be upon them before they know it; but unfortunately, they fail to give much thought to what comes after retirement.

Actually, we have quite a long time to prepare for retirement.  On average, we probably will have twice as long to prepare for retirement than we do for retirement itself.  Unfortunately, many people do not start to think about retirement until they are in their 30’s or 40’s.  The longer they wait to prepare, the greater their sense of urgency.

With the recognition of the need to prepare for a relatively short earthly retirement, it is sad that we do not recognize the need to prepare and invest for spiritual things.  For this earthly retirement, we have about 40 years to prepare for 20.  But for our heavenly retirement, what is 85 years compared to eternity?  What about the person saved later in life?  The Apostle Paul was just such a person.  He had invested the first third or half of his life in the wrong things.  He looks back and realizes that all of his life before Christ was nothing more than spiritual “junk bonds”—worthless (Phil. 3:7-8).

But after his conversion, the Apostle Paul maintained a sharply focused life (Phil. 3:10; Acts 20:24).  In his epistles he urges us to have the same focus and dedication in pursuing our spiritual aims (I Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:13-14).  He says that we shall reap IF we faint not (Gal. 6:9).

Like physical investments, our spiritual investments must be made for the long haul.  Longfellow is quoted as saying, “Many men do not allow their principles to take root, but pull them up every now and then, as children do flowers they have planted, to see if they are growing.”  Some folks approach their spiritual investments the same way.  Rather than allowing their spiritual fruit to abound to their account (Phil. 4:17), they make withdrawals and wander from the path of wise spiritual investments.

Investing for retirement requires sacrifice.  We have to understand the principle of delayed gratification.  At times, this sacrifice will seem especially burdensome.  If we forget why we are doing what we are doing during such times, we will be tempted to abandon our plan.  The same is true spiritually.  If we ever forget the true end of all things we will be tempted to start living for the “now.”

Many people suddenly find themselves at retirement age and are filled with regret and remorse because they did not make preparation for this final chapter of their life.  If failing to prepare for this creates regret, imagine how the person feels who finds himself in eternity—saved, but spiritually bankrupt because he just never got around to making those spiritual investments.  Like the person who didn’t plan for retirement, he had good intentions—he always intended to get ready, he always planned to do something, but time kept marching on and before he knew it, it was too late.

Notice what Paul says in I Timothy 6:17-19, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  Notice his words—“laying up in store”—this speaks of spiritual investments.

Distractions are a constant source of temptation to any investor.  In this life, there is always that new car, a bigger house, or an extended vacation to tempt the investor to divert his retirement funds.  Would he enjoy these things?  Most probably, he would.  But he would pay the price later on.  Likewise, the world constantly tempts us to divert from our spiritual investments.  Satan is always sending us spiritual junk mail and ringing our telephone with his latest offer of temporal pleasure.  If we do not remain focused on our goal, if we do not remember the end of all things, we can easily give in to Satan’s schemes.

What can we do to remain focused and on track spiritually?  Well, one key is to understand—really understand, the relevance of the mystery to God’s plan for today.  We read in Ephesians 1:3 that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.  Notice where the sphere of our blessings is found—in the heavenlies.  Nowhere in Paul’s epistles are we said to be blessed with all blessings in the here and now.  We understand that, as the old song goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.  My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue.”  If we fail to understand that we have a heavenly hope, not an earthly hope, we will more easily be sucked into the whirlpool of this world system.  There we will find ourselves trying to measure spiritual things with a materialistic yardstick—and that just doesn’t work!

In this era of economic prosperity, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing our material and economic standing with others.  And human nature being what it is, we usually compare ourselves to those who are much better off, than we do to those who are not so blessed.

However, by understanding the dispensation of the grace of God, that message given to Paul and passed on to us, we can begin to learn how to have spiritual discernment.  We can learn how to “redeem the time”—to make the most of our opportunities today in making our spiritual investments for tomorrow (Eph. 5:16).  We understand that we are not to expect material blessing during this present age—at least not as a result or indicator of true spirituality.

We understand that the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  As Paul said in II Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

An “eternal weight of glory!”  This is the end that we should have in mind!