Why do some Christians believe that we need to focus on the Gospels for direction and guidance in life? While others concentrate on the Pauline Epistles and still others proclaim that we are required to follow the Old Testament law.
I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
God has declared that He magnified His Word above His name. Not this aspect or that aspect but the whole thing.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
There is a clear and definite profit to knowing the Word and Will of God.
2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God. Inspiration literally means God breathed. There have been many writers of God's Word but there is only one author, and that is God Himself.
If, over the course of time, I write many letters addressed to different people those letters will have specific information to the individuals to whom I have sent the letters. Yet, if you were to bring all of these letters together into one book you would be able to see general information that would pertain across the board.
A letter I write to you would have specific information and statements that pertain directly to you. But it can also supply general information about my nature and character and events of the time. John Adams wrote many letters to his wife Abigail while he was away in Philadelphia working in the Continental Congress. He would speak of the debate they engaged in concerning independence as well as his thoughts on freedom, equality, and the burden that was to come in fighting a war with Britain. Yet his letters also contained information and directions about their personal financial matters, and his undying commitment to his wife and children, and even his great longing to once again be with her physically.
There is no doubt that John Adam's letters can teach me about our country's fight for freedom and independence in the early stages of the American Revolution. But his physical attraction to his wife Abigail is information that pertained specifically to her and should not be transferred to myself.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
I can learn from everything God has placed in scripture but I must be careful not to take specific and personal information He has addressed to another as direction and specifics concerning my life.
What then, if anything, is addressed specifically to me that I must understand and apply to my life?
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
The word dispensation is the Greek word oikonomia and is accurately translated administration.
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
The word fellowship is also the word oikonomia in the critical Greek text. What is the administration of grace or the administration of the mystery? They are one and the same administration.
Throughout the Bible there have been different administrations, or periods of time, that God has marked off. We have been living under the Obama Administration these last six years. In two more years we will begin a new administration as another American President comes to the office. There is no doubt that the Bush Administration that preceded the Obama Administration was conducted in a manner that viewed the rules and laws differently. Just as there is a marked difference between the Bush and Obama Administrations there is a marked difference between these periods of time in the Bible known as administrations.
The administration that God gave to Paul is called the Administration of Grace and it is based upon the gospel of grace that Paul preached.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
Paul taught the gospel of grace which explained and detailed the Administration of Grace. The reason Ephesians 3:9 called it the administration of the mystery is because it had been hidden by God, within Himself, for all time until He revealed it to the Apostle Paul.
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,...
And to make all men see what is the fellowship [administration] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ [the words by Jesus Christ appear in no critical Greek text]:
God had kept the Administration of Grace a secret throughout all time.
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
The gospel of grace that Paul preached concerned the mystery which had been kept secret since the world began.
Whereof I [Paul] am made a minister, according to the dispensation [oikonomia/administration] of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
God had kept this administration a secret throughout all ages and generations so that His adversary would not know it or interfere with its arrival.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
If the adversary and his devil spirits had known what God had planned for the Administration of Grace then he never would have crucified Jesus Christ. The adversary would rather have dealt with Jesus Christ on a continuing basis than have a multitude of people walking around with what Colossians describes as "Christ in you".
Unto me [Paul], who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
The riches of the glory of Christ in you were unsearchable throughout the entire Bible until God revealed this information to the Apostle Paul and sent him to preach and teach the gospel of grace to the Gentiles.
That means if you read and study all the books of the Bible from Genesis through the Gospel of John you will not be able to read about the Administration of Grace. That also means you cannot find this mystery of the Administration of Grace in the early chapters of the book of Acts because it was not yet revealed to the Apostle Paul.
1 Timothy 1:11-13
According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
In the early part of the book of Acts Paul is known by the name Saul and he is persecuting those from Israel who followed Jesus as the Messiah. It was he who was a witness at the stoning of Stephen in Acts chapter 7.
1 Timothy 1:14-15
And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
The Greek word translated "chief" here is protos and can be translated chief or first. How you translate this word must apply to the context. Translated incorrectly and you can change the meaning of the context.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first [protos] and great commandment.
Here in Matthew you could translate protos as chief or first and the context still tells you that the most important commandment of the Mosaic Law is to love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind.
Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
But here in Mark if you translate protos as chief you change the meaning of what the verses are saying. The brothers are listed in order, first, second, third, and so on. It is not declaring that one brother was more important than any of the other brothers. In Timothy we have the same issue of changing the meaning depending upon which word we use in English for the Greek word protos.
1 Timothy 1:15
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Is Timothy saying Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom Paul was the biggest sinner? Or is this verse declaring that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and Paul was the first one to receive this salvation?
Paul stated some of his sins in verse 13, "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious". Are these the biggest sin's a person could commit? If so, then Timothy is in direct opposition to what Jesus said in Matthew 22 about the first [protos] sin concerning loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
But it's the context that gives us the accurate understanding as to whether we should translate protos as first or chief in 1 Timothy 1:15.
1 Timothy 1:16
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first [again the word protos] Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
Paul is the pattern. The Greek word translated pattern is hupotyposis and means an outline, an example, a pattern. Paul was the pattern of a sinner that received grace and mercy from God through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ. Paul was the first one to receive this salvation because he had been chosen by God to carry forth the gospel of grace, the revelation pertaining to the Administration of Grace.
What God has provided for believers in the Administration of Grace has never before been available to believers in the previous administrations or ages. Nor will it be available to those who believe in the administrations still to come.
But contrariwise, when they [the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem of Acts 15] saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
Peter was sent to preach the gospel of the kingdom to the Jews and Paul was sent to preach the gospel of grace to the Gentiles. Two different gospels to two different peoples.
By simple logic then, where will I find the gospel of grace? Will it be in the words in red that Bible publishers took it upon themselves to emphasize by using red ink? Will it be in the General Epistles that are written by Peter, John, Jude, and James? Or will I find the gospel of grace, that applies to the Administration of Grace, in the epistles of Romans through Philemon that God inspired the Apostle Paul to write?
1 Corinthians 4:15
For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
There are things to be learned from the entire Word of God, just as there is learning in the letters that John Adams wrote to Abigail. But there are portions of God's Word that are addressed specifically to those who have believed during this age, this Administration of Grace.
If we are going to stand with God and walk with Him then we are going to need those words which God has specifically spoken that pertain to us. Words that provide instruction and understanding about the riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you.