Why are there such extreme variations in how theologians, denominations, religious leaders, and average people interpret specific passages? We don’t wonder why children don’t understand adult language. A child’s short attention span, restricted knowledge, and limited vocabulary as compared to adults prohibit his comprehension. (I think of the children in the Peanuts cartoon depicted as hearing WahWhaWha—BlahBlahBlah when adults speak.) Why then are we surprised that mere human beings have difficulty understanding God, Who is a Spiritual being (See John 4:24) with all-knowledge, thinking, and understanding beyond that of mankind (See Isaiah 55:9). If it were not for His gracious gift of the Bible, giving a spiritual life and the indwelling Holy Spirit to all believers, natural man would remain completely unable to comprehend God (See 1 Corinthians 2:14).
As an avid student of God’s Word for the past 45 years, I have found that Christian’s major blocks to knowing biblical truths are:
- Ignorance of Satan’s strategies
- Not knowing the plan of God for history as revealed in Scripture
- The human condition (pride and desire for self-rule).
Let us consider the first of these blocks; ignorance of Satan’s strategies.
SATAN—The Enemy of God
The fact that Satan tirelessly to prevent anyone from reading the Bible is far above all of his other tactics. Examples of this are plentiful throughout history.
The Apostle Paul’s final speech to Church elders in Ephesus (Acts 20:17) warned them that apostate elders would soon arise from within their ranks to gain a following to themselves rather than to Christ.
Therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears (Acts 20:28-31; emphasis added).
Indeed, a session of self-appointed vicars (priests) did spring up very soon after Paul’s death ca. 67 AD.
Satan them succeeded in isolating the Scriptures behind the dying language of Latin, which the “Holy” (sic) Roman Catholic Church forbid its members from reading. That is, even if they could read Latin and could also find one of the very few books of the Bible that were available for almost one thousand years. (Many Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries were put to death by that ungodly religion for printing and disseminating the Bible in German and English.)
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
Satan has continued his attack against God’s Word throughout all ages.
- His attack began in the Garden when he subtly asked Eve,
Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” And, he lied to her when he replied, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:3-4)
- The attack continues every time the Gospel is proclaimed.
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand [it], then the wicked [one] comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside (Matthew 13:19).
Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved (Luke 8:12).
- Satan’s current attack began in The Age of Enlightenment. There was increased interest in the philosophy of reason motivated by skepticism at that time. Just as Satan had appealed to Eve on the basis of human reason and the lust for knowledge, he challenged Bible-believing Christians to question the source of God’s Word. He challenged the fact of the Bible’s Revelation, Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority over man.
- The last half of the 17th and all of the 18th century, all fundamentals of the Christian faith were under vicious attack, especially against any suggestion of Supernatural occurrences such as Miracles. Any consideration of Divine Revelation, Inspiration, and Illumination of Scripture was being intellectually ridiculed by those outside of “the faith.” Biblical criticism has unceasingly attacked the very foundation of the Protestant faith.
Bible-believing Christians are still being attacked today for daring to accept the Bible as the Word of the living God. Satan confronts us with disbelief, skepticism, and self-importance in our opinion. This kind of thinking spawns Man’s independence from God, as well as deceives us into thinking we possess the ability to discover all truth through reason alone.
Next, let us examine the second block; that of not knowing God’s plan for human history as it is revealed in Scripture. We will start by seeing an overview of the plan as manifested through the nation of Israel and The Church. This will result in our having a picture, which is similar to the one that is on the box top of a puzzle. To understand Scripture correctly, one must see the eternity-time-eternity continuum from God’s perspective, like how looking at the picture on a puzzle box reveals how the finished picture should look. The following are some of the boundaries of God’s progressively unfolding communication to all of mankind, specifically to those who become believers.
God is the One and the only Author of Scripture. All 66 books of the Bible were written by about 40 men whom God called that were holy (set apart) and to whom His message was given by the Holy Spirit. Their teachings complement each other and are not contradictory when objectively compared. The words themselves, not the men, were spiritually inspired by God the Holy Spirit.
All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
God’s plan was delivered to humanity in two distinctly different divisions: The Old Covenant (the Old Testament) and the New Covenant (The New Testament). The old English word Testament (customarily defined as the last will and testament) does not properly convey the meaning of the Hebrew word for covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two parties, or from one party to another without any condition on the second party’s part). God made a series of covenants with or to,
- Adam: That he would live forever in innocence (would not die) conditioned on his obedience to God’s one and only command. (See Genesis 2:15-17 and 3:22.)
- Noah: That He would deliver him and all his family unconditionally when He destroyed all living things by flood (See Genesis 6:17-18 and 7:23.). God later made another unconditional covenant to Noah (and all living things) never again to destroy them by a flood; Genesis 9:9-17.
- Abraham (later repeated to Isaac and Jacob): The unconditional promise to them that,
“I will make you into a great nation (Israel) and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3; see also Genesis 15:1-18.).
- Moses: The conditional promise that if the nation would obey His Law,
“Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth [is] mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6a).
- David: That Jesus Christ would unconditionally come through his seed to the nation of Israel to establish God’s kingdom on earth, and it would be an eternal kingdom.
When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be my son. . . And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever. (See 2 Samuel 7:12-13 and 16-17; and Psalm 89:3.)
The Old Covenant is described in Scripture to consist of The Law and the Prophets in Romans 3:21; The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms by Jesus in Luke 24:44; as Moses and the Prophets in Luke 16:29; as the oracles of God in Romans 3:2 and Acts 7:38; as the Old Covenant in 2 Corinthians 3:14; and simply as the Scriptures in many other passages.
The core of the Old Covenant is the unconditional covenant God made to Abraham that established the nation of Israel. This promise was later expanded to include the unconditional promise of our Savior through the seed of David as well as an eternal kingdom. According to the Old Covenant, the Seed by Whom man could obtain Salvation for his soul and receive an eternal spiritual life was fulfilled in the death, burial, and resurrection of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.
The distinctive characteristic of the Old Covenant was that it was administered by The Law, both before God gave Israel the written law and until it was fulfilled by Christ’s sacrificial death.
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed [is] everyone who hangs on a tree”) Galatians 3:13; see also Hebrews 9:15).
- The Law is most often referred to as the Ten Commandments, the Law of Moses, or the Mosaic Law. It is generally considered to be the entire Covenant God made with Israel as a nation. Theologians have divided it into three parts—commandments, judgments, and ordinances. Biblically they are referred to in total as The Commandments (orders or decrees), or as The Law (Romans 7:9–12). Together they make up a conditional covenant wherein God commits Himself to make Israel into a special nation above all other nations and to bless them if they will obey His covenant (the whole law).
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth [is] mine (Exodus 19:5).
- The three divisions of the law are distinct:
1) The Ten Commandments establish spiritual and moral absolutes for Israel (Exodus 20:1–17).
2) The Judgments codified laws governing individuals’ interpersonal relationships; such as personal injury issues, servant/master relationships, private property rights, crimes against humanity (treatment of widows, the poor, orphans), usury, bribes, false testimony, etc. (Exodus 21:1–24:11).
3) The Ordinances governed the religious system—the tabernacle, the ark, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the Holy day such as the Sabbath, and many other ceremonial procedures. (Exodus 24:12–31:18).
The New Covenant, in sharp contrast to the Old Covenant, is not administered by The Law, but instead is administered by the Holy Spirit. Some church leaders today incorrectly refer to the New Covenant as being administered by grace since grace is contrasted with the law in several passages. However, those particular passages are not about the agency of management of a historical period (i.e., Israel or the Church). The verses in the New Covenant, that contrast grace to law, compare man’s attempt to gain justification and salvation by his own works of the law to instead, his faith-acceptance of God’s promise of His gift of righteousness and freedom from the bondage of sin.
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt (Romans 4:4).
Therefore [it is] of faith that [it might be] according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (Roman 4:16).
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14).
And if by grace, then [it is] no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace; But if [it is] of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work (Romans 11:6).
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness [comes] through the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).
Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Timothy 1:9).
IMPORTANT: Grace is not an attribute or power; nor is it limited to any time period. It is the means by which God bridges the gap between a corrupted, fallen, unrighteous, and totally unworthy man and His Holy, righteous character. The Law, the principle of law, the provision of His Word to man, and especially His Son’s sacrificial death on the cross are all grace. Grace has always been God’s way of dealing with humanity; otherwise, humanity could have never survived after the Fall.
The New Covenant was initially promised to Israel alone.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
When the nation of Israel rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah, God interrupted its history and grafted in the time of the Gentiles (The Church). The Age of the Church was never prophesized or even mentioned in the Old Covenant (including the Gospels) until Jesus mentioned it at the last supper in connection with His imminent sacrificial death.
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28; see also 1 Corinthians 11:25).
The Church of the New Covenant began with a bang on the day of Pentecost, exactly fifty days following the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit made a dramatic display of sound and fire before indwelling approximately 120 disciples who had gathered at Mount Olivet (Olives) for this promised occurrence (Acts 1:4-5 and 15, and 2:1–4). These disciples suddenly began to speak in languages other than their own native tongues, which were recognized by “devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” They said, “And how hear we every man in our own tongue (language), wherein we were born?” (See Acts 2:4–12.)
This display was as dramatic as when God gave The Law to Israel (Exodus 19:18-19 and 2 Corinthians 3:7–11). The New Covenant was taking the place of the Old, and the Mount of Olives was a fitting location. God later explained the Gentiles as being a wild olive branch grafted into the olive tree trunk that represented Israel (Romans 11:17). The history of the nation of Israel did not end at this point; it was just interrupted for the time of the Gentiles (The Church). After that time comes to an end, The Church will be removed from the earth and Israel’s final seven years before God’s promise of an everlasting Kingdom will be fulfilled.
With the coming of the New Covenant, the Old became obsolete.
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).
In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13).
Understanding the Part Each of the Two Covenants Plays Is Essential in Understanding God’s Word.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
With this clear knowledge, we can now proceed to interpret God’s Word correctly. We can easily see that there are two primary partitions in Scripture; the Old and the New Covenant. God’s message to Israel did not end with the book of Malachi but continued through the book of John. The Gospels were also addressed to the nation of Israel as His special people. (See Deuteronomy 7:6.)
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” (Matthew 2:4-6; cp Micah 5:2)
The salvation message was to be preached to the Jews first.
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5).
And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet (Matthew 10:14).
Blessed [is] the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people (Luke 1:68).
From this man’s seed, according to [the] promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus—after John had first preached before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel (Acts 13:23-24).
Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first  (Acts 13:46a).
If the people of Israel rejected the offer of Christ being their Savior, the Gospel was to be preached next to the Gentiles
But since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46b; see also 13:51, 26:20, and Romans 1:16).
Jesus first introduced the fact that the mission of the twelve disciples was to the entire world, not just to the Jews in the last two verses of the book of Matthew.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age. Amen (Matthew 28:19-20).
Knowing When the Two Covenants Start and End and to Whom They Are Directed, Is Essential to Christians in Understanding How We Should Live.
For instance: what portion, if any, of The Law given to Israel, pertains to us? If we are not “under The Law” does any of it apply to our lives now, and if so, which parts? Major denominations are divided over this fairly simple issue. Some discard the Old Covenant totally; others drag pieces of it into their religious positions that simply do not apply. Still others claim that the Church is just a replacement for Israel and, therefore, God will not literally fulfill His promises in history. Without knowing (or just carelessly overlooking these distinctions), almost all of mainstream Christianity wrongly interprets key passages in Scripture.
Let me be clear, Israel is not The Church, and The Church is not Israel. Before ANY accurate interpretation of Scripture can be determined, we MUST know who is speaking to whom about what, where, when, and why. I pray that this study helps explain the two covenants and some of their distinctions. Even more importantly, I pray that the reader has a better understanding of how these covenants affect his or her life.
We are now ready to explore the third and very personal problem of how man’s fallen nature can act as a block to his understanding of biblical truths. Scripture makes it clear that man wants to be autonomous, not being told what to do or think, even if it is for his own good. (Emphasis has been added in the following verses.)
A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart (Proverbs 18:2).
In those days [there was] no king in Israel; everyone did [what was] right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
Even Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit did not speak from their own authority but allowed God the Father to direct their words and actions.
For I have not spoken on My own [authority]; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak (John 12:49).
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own [authority]; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works (John 14:10).
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own [authority], but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come (John 16:13).
Sadly, many Christians today are more influenced by the wisdom of the world than by God’s Word. The false science of humanistic psychology has become the standard for much of modern man’s thoughts and opinions. When psychology is combined with irrational emotions, rational analysis is clouded or discarded altogether. Instead, their thinking allows the world’s opinions and their own feelings to be the authority for their positions. God has warned us about this danger.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8). [Comment: “The tradition of men” and “the basic principles of the world” refer to secular thinking.]
They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them (1 John 4:5). [Comment: “The world” refers to all of the thinking that man formulates apart from the Word of God. And every believer should know who controls all of the sources of worldly information—Satan.]
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them (2 Corinthians 4:3–4).
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).
Besides Satan’s influence of misinformation, another severe hindrance to understanding God’s word is human pride. Pride is part of the character of the natural man, which of course controls the unbeliever and every believer when he is out of fellowship with God.
A proud [and] haughty [man] ”Scoffer” [is] his name; he acts with arrogant pride (Proverbs 21:24).
Pride [goes] before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
For all that [is] in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:16).
I pray that each of you will allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate these verses for your maximum understanding of God’s Word. The reader who has been open to seeing how any believer can be blocked by one or more of Satan’s strategies, and is committed to learning God’s Word, is ready for …rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15b).
May God add His blessing to this exposition of His Word.
J. Richard Fugate, June 2016
 These men competed among themselves for power within the Church until in 313 AD, when the Roman Empire legally recognized Christianity as a valid religion. Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire by the decree of the Emperor Theodosius I. Soon thereafter, the catholic (universal) church (Roman Catholicism) became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This eventually led to and a period called the Middle Ages by the 5th Century.
False teachers have continued to draw ignorant believers to themselves and their “other” gospels ever since. (Sadly, many converts to the Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness religions, as well as other cults are known to come from recognized Christian churches.)
For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).
 See the Foundation for Biblical Research’s Bible-Based Hermeneutics for a treatise concerning the proper approach for determining the most-precise meaning of Scripture.
 Jesus Christ is identified as being that Seed (singular) in Galatians 3:16 and 19.
 This action did not nullify the moral laws given to humanity through Israel; it only nullified the ceremonial and spiritual aspects specified to the nation Israel, such as the Aaronic priesthood, the Holy days and their ceremonies, and animal sacrifices.
 Paul and Barnabas were addressing the Jewish leaders and people from the synagogue at Antioch.