The New Testament
A Simple Overview

by Andrew Maclarty


Rightly Dividing is the key to understanding God's word. Unless we 'rightly divide' we will never come to a clear understanding of His revelation. Our view will be restricted by the circumstance of the immediate context. Our joy will be dulled by passages that seem to contradict precious truths we have learned in other scriptures. We fail to grasp the full picture because we apply to all dispensations teaching which belongs only to one dispensation.

Peace with God

We do not need to understand 'rightly dividing' to have peace with God. His salvation is for all who believe, and in its simplest form means: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." These words were spoken by God's apostle Paul to a man who was about to kill himself, and are the briefest statement of the gospel in scripture. Though very short, this statement is profound: it contains all that is necessary for a person beginning a lifetime's study of God's word, and all necessary for a person falling out of an aeroplane.

Why do we need to rightly divide?

God's word is one harmonious whole, yet His revelation proceeds in stages, or dispensations. He reveals Himself and His purpose to various people and at various times. At one time He gave His law to Israel, and left the other nations to go in ignorance. Now He is calling individuals from among the nations, and not dealing directly with Israel. His word, the Bible, was given through many people over a period of around sixteen centuries.

Two Gospels

Many of God's saints, reading through the book of the Acts (which records the early days of Christian faith) have failed to see that for a period after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus there were in fact two gospels. Though quite distinct these gospels overlap in time, but not in scope. Each gospel was addressed to a specific people and could not be applied to or accepted by others without confusion and loss. These gospels are named by the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:7 - one is for Israel and one for the nations.

The common fundamental in both gospels - Jesus saves!

Christ crucified is the basis of all salvation, whether of Jews or Gentiles. In Acts four, Peter declares to his hearers: "There is no salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given amongst men, whereby we must be saved."

The first gospel was preached by Peter and the apostles soon after the ascension of the Lord Jesus. It had in view the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham and to David, and the setting up of the Kingdom of God. This was the expectation of not only the apostles, but of Israel also. It was nothing less than restoration of the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon, with Jesus, the true Son of David, ruling the whole earth in righteousness.

The establishment of that kingdom needed Israel to repent. The fulfillment of God's promises given to Israel through Moses depended on Israel returning to the very letter of the law. This was not a new gospel, but an old, with new factors added. They yet await the fulfillment of God's promises concerning the restoration of the kingdom of God.

The Transition

The gospel second in time but not in importance is that preached by the apostle Paul. It is addressed not to the chosen nation but to individuals among other nations - those who had no part in the promises made to Israel. Until this time God had left the nations to go in their own ways, condoning the times of ignorance. Then, early in his ministry Paul declares that in Christ is being announced the pardon of sins, and from all from which they could not be justified in the law of Moses, in Him Ďall who are believing are being justified.í After this statement there can be no going back to the law. Later Paul explains the reason for the failure of the law - it was weak through the flesh.

The Body of Christ

Paul tells those whom God has called among the nations - You are the Body of Christ. In Ephesians he calls them 'the church which is His body.' Unlike Israel they have no allotment on earth: their allotment is 'among the celestials.' The body of Christ are His ambassadors on earth, they make known the gospel of the grace of God, not the gospel of the kingdom. Their message is one of entreaty, 'be reconciled to God!'

At the trial of the Lord Jesus the mob cried they had no king but Caesar. After Pentecost the kingdom is again offered to them, and again rejected. Following the murder of Stephen in Acts 7 our attention is drawn to Saul. He was to become a pattern for all who are to believe - for the grace of our Lord overwhelmed. After his conversion on the Damascus road Saul began preaching Jesus as Lord, and is the only one in the Acts to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God. Three missionary journeys are made by him, and on each is seen the progressive dawning of the gospel of the grace of God. Works are displaced by faith: law is replaced by grace and the new birth is replaced by the new creation.

On his first journey Paul sidelines the law when preaching at Antioch. In the second he declares: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. On the third he writes to the Corinthians: If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.' The law could not justify for it was weak through the flesh, and the new birth is not radical enough for the gospel of the grace of God.

Two Allotments

Once we recognize there are two gospels in Scripture we can then see how they relate to the two classes of humanity ĖJews and Gentiles. Israel's expectation was an earthly kingdom, and this is now recognized as the coming millennium when Jesus, Israel's Messiah, reigns on earth. Then will they have the law written on their hearts, and will be God's righteous nation on earth, a kingdom of priests. During this pe-riod the righteous of past generations, such as Abraham, Moses and David will be raised to life and will have their allotment in the land. Christ will not reign for 'ever and ever,' for we read: "He must reign until.." (1 Cor. 15:25) The scripture here takes us far beyond the end of Revelation to the point when God is All in all. 1Cor.15:28.

Paul is the only one in scripture to speak of life Ďamong the celestials.í In Ephesians he raises the scope of revelation and declares that God's saints are blessed among the celestials (in heavenly places). Israel had the monopoly of blessing on earth, so those chosen among the nations have a celestial (heavenly) destiny. At the resurrection the dead in Christ will be roused with a spiritual body, and those who remain alive will be changed in an instant. Then, fitted with a spiritual body, His church will be equipped for the ministry of reconciliation 'among the celestials.'

Jesus is coming again - to the air for His saints - and to the earth for Israel

When Jesus returns He comes to the air to call His saints who form the church which is His body. Until Paul declared it to the Thessalonians this had been an absolute secret. They did not have the expectation of Israel that Messiah would return and set up the kingdom of God on earth. They are snatched away to meet the Lord in the air, and at that point the present secret economy ends. Jesus subsequently returns to earth as prophesied in Zech. 14:4, when His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. He will be revealed to Israel as their long awaited Messiah, and take His place as the true son of David, the King of Israel and the Desire of all nations. His advent will bring the kingdom of God on earth when Israel will be the priestly nation and approach to God will be through them. The prophecies spoken by the Lord Jesus in Matthew belong to the time leading to this event.

God All in all

Many sincere people have been taught that the completion of Godís purpose is found in Revelation - a book that deals with the fulfillment of Godís promises to Israel and the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth. These mistaken views are held partly because early translators changed the Greek word eon (Ďageí) into the Latin aeternus (eternity), and partly because they fail to rightly divide the word of truth, seeing only part of Godís purpose.

What Paul reveals in 1Cor.15:28 far transcends anything said in Revelation. God has saved some Jews, now He is saving some Gentiles (the body of Christ). In the next eon - the Millennium - He will save all Jews (Rom.11:26) and at the end of the eons He will save all Gentiles (Col.1:20) then all celestial beings. Thus, at the end of the long eons God will be All in all. (1Cor.15:28; Eph.1:10; Col.1:20).

Andrew Maclarty

The Word of Truth Rightly Divided

To Israel To the Nations
Gospel of the Kingdom of God Gospel of the Grace of God
Jesus Christ is
Shepherd and King
Christ Jesus is
Saviour and Head
Declares Pardon and Forgiveness
Declares Justification and Reconciliation
Preached . . .
To the lost sheep of the house of Israel
Preached . . .
For faith-obedience among all nations
Theme . . .
Theme . . .
Be Reconciled
Scope . . .
None save the Jews only
Scope ...
All who believe
Method . . .
Method . . .
Justifying Factor
Justifying Factor
Godís Own Righteousness
Israel is A Royal Priesthood
We are Ambassadors of Christ.
Security ..
He that endures to the end shall be saved.
Security ..
No condemnation to them in Christ Jesus

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© A. Maclarty - Grace and Truth Magazine