Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” To “rightly divide” the word, in essence, means to correctly handle it. How we handle God’s word has tremendous effect upon our eternal destinies. Will we be like those who twist the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16)? Will we remove or neglect parts of His revelation to us, and risk the removal of our names from the book of life (Revelation 22:19)? Or will we possess good and honest hearts that receive the word and bring forth fruit for eternal life (Luke 8:15)?
One of the rudimentary principles involved in “rightly dividing” God’s word is recognizing where it is divided – that is, to understand the difference between the Old Testament and the New. I suppose all of our Bibles have uninspired title pages that indicate this two-fold division; however, this distinction is not merely a categorization of man. On the contrary, it is stated in so many God-inspired words. In Matthew 26:28, Christ said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Hebrews 9:15 refers to our Lord Jesus Christ as “the mediator of the new testament.” If there is a “new testament,” then, by implication there must be an old testament; the new covenant made the first covenant old (Hebrews 8:13). Hebrews 10:9 says of God’s New Testament, “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.” The Old Testament contains prophecies of its replacement. Jeremiah 31:31-34 is one of the clearest indications of this, a passage that the writer of Hebrews quotes in chapter 8 and verse 8 to prove his point about the new and better covenant of Christ now in force.
When did this replacing of the Old Testament take place? Well, it did not take place gradually, bit by bit. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). Thus, Christ would fulfill all things first then the law would pass. Christ would have to die before His last will and testament would take effect. Hebrews 9:16-17 declares, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.”
After His resurrection, Christ explained the fulfillment of the Old Testament to His disciples as recorded in Luke 24:44-47:
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
It is the New Testament, the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), that we are amenable to today. While the Old Testament is profitable for our learning and encouragement (Romans 15:4), it is not the law by which God will judge those living today (Colossians 2:14-16). The “everlasting gospel” will be the standard by which we are judged (Revelation 14:6).