According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary:
DOCTRINE, noun [Latin , to teach.]
- In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence, a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles. The doctrines of Plato are the principles which he taught. Hence a doctrine may be true or false; it may be a mere tenet or opinion.
- The act of teaching. He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in his doctrine Mark 4:2.
- Learning; knowledge. Whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Isaiah 28:9.
- The truths of the gospel in general. That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. Titus 2:1.
- Instruction and confirmation in the truths of the gospel. 2 Timothy 3:10.
There are many doctrines in the Bible and, as a Christian, you must determine which ones apply to you today. To do this properly, you use the principles of right division.
Some doctrines or instructions are eternal. It doesn’t matter what group is being addressed or in what timeframe it was given because it is eternally true. God’s attributes are an example of an eternal doctrine. God is a triune being consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are one and each fulfills His particular purpose. This truth never changes.
Some instructions are “dispensational” and only applicable to certain people at certain times. Dispensational truths can be suspended or changed based on God’s instructions. When this happens, the new instruction supersedes all previous instruction and the outcome of those promises. An example of this is the instruction Noah received to build an Ark to save his family from God’s wrath. This command was only given to Noah – it is not a command for us today. This example is a simple view of what right division principles bring to the student of God to help determine which doctrines are for us today.
Principles of Right Division
Miles Coverdale, who gave us our first complete English translation of the Bible, had the following words in the flyleaf of his Bible concerning the laws of interpretation:
“It shall greatly helpe ye to understande Scripture, if thou mark not only what is spoken, or wrytten, but of whom, and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstance, considering what goeth before, and what followeth”.Miles Coverdale
Many books have been written attempting to explain how to get at the real meaning of scripture. Theologians call the study of this subject, hermeneutics. However, the Bible itself explains the internal laws – or principles – of Biblical Interpretation. Below are eight principles contained in the Divine Library. If you follow these principles, you will allow the Holy Spirit to enable you to be the honest workman to discover the proper interpretation of the Word.
#1 All Scripture is of Equal Authority
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Timothy 3:16). Since all Scripture is inspired of God (God breathed) all Scripture is of equal authority.
#2 All Scripture is Inspired by God and Preserved
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:16-17). These verses shows that the Word of God completely furnishes the Bible student with all he needs.
#3 Study Approval Comes from God
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Three things stand out in this verse. (a) “Approved unto God”. This is your frame of mind as you approach the Word. You desire His approval as you read and study. (b) “A workman”. You have to work at it. (c) “Rightly dividing the Word of truth”. This indicates there must be careful attention to context so that each truth is placed in its proper place. Otherwise, Scriptures may appear contradictory.
#4 No Private Interpretation
“No prophesy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (II Peter 1:20). We must consider all the Scriptures on a subject to arrive at the proper interpretation. This is to say that ‘a text without its context is a pretext’.
#5 The Mystery Completed the Word of God
“…the dispensation of God which is given me (Paul) for you to fulfil (complete, fill to the full so no more can be added) the Word of God; even the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but is now manifest to His saints” (Col. 1:25,26). This ‘mystery’ was given to the Apostle Paul as the body of truth to complete the Word of God. Thus, there are no revelations from God since that time. This fact should cause the serious student of Biblical chronology to re-think the internal evidence of each book of the Bible as to when it was written, rather than accepting the traditions of men.
#6 Every Authority is Under Authority. God’s Word is the Final Authority
“…I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say to this man, ‘Go’, and he goeth, and to another ‘Come’, and he cometh; and to my servent, ‘Do this’, and he doeth it…”. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled and said to them that followed, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith [as this Roman centurion has shown], no, not in Israel” Matthew 8:8-10. Law #6 simply stated, is that all authority must be under authority. The Word of God is the final authority.
#7 Faith Comes from God’s Word
“Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). Faith must rest on the Word of God, and not upon the tradition of men, our experiences, etc.
#8 Compare Scripture with Scripture
“That you approve things that are (more) excellent” (Philippians 1:10). Literally, “to test the things that differ”. We “test the things that differ” by comparing Scripture with Scripture.
This website is dedicated to help the workman of God learn Scripture with these principles in mind. When you follow the right division of Scripture, it solves any conflict of doctrine and solidifies your faith in Scripture. Viewing the Bible chronologically really helps the Bible student learn the doctrines in each time period. God dealt with mankind differently through individuals and then nations. Review the chart “An Overview of God’s Revealed Plan and Hidden Purpose in the Ages“.