“Mail call!” The sound of those two words became music to my ears. I was in an eight-week United States Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program the summer before my senior year in college. Every day after the noon meal, the training instructor would announce mail call, and we would go to the mail room with great anticipation. What a treat it was to receive letters from my family and friends. The news from back home and the expressions of love and encouragement addressed directly to me were like “cold waters to a thirsty soul,” not to mention the blessings of care packages filled with cookies, chocolates, and other goodies.
I was one of several hundred trainees, yet there was never any confusion over whose letters or packages were whose. Not once did I arrive at the mail room to find someone else mistakenly ripping open one of my care packages and eating my cookies. Why? Because those who sent the letters and packages had carefully written the name and address of the recipient on each piece of mail. Each letter and package had on it the person’s name to whom it was addressed. Therefore, the mail room staff were able to “rightly” sort and deliver the mail to the proper people.
Our loving heavenly Father took care to properly address His Word so we could rightly divide the Word of Truth, knowing to whom it is addressed. One of the Biblical truths we must adhere to is, “Interpretation and application are always with respect to whom it is addressed.”
Without knowing this key to Biblical research, people may read the Scriptures as if the whole Bible is addressed directly to them. Yet the truth is that God addressed different sections of His Word to different groups of people. All of God’s Word is pure, profitable, and powerful. However, some sections of the Word may seem to contradict other sections unless we understand specifically to whom they are addressed.
Things that are addressed to us are specifically for us—like those care packages I received. I knew that their contents were mine to enjoy. Likewise, knowing to whom a passage of scripture is addressed helps us to rightly divide the Word and to confidently live the truths that apply to us.
What are the categories of people that the Word of God is addressed to? The answer is clearly given in I Corinthians.
I Corinthians 10:32:
Give none offence, neither to the Jews [Judeans], nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.
God sets forth three distinct categories of people: Judeans, Gentiles, and the Church of God. All of the Word of God is addressed to one or a combination of these three groups. Most of the Old Testament is addressed to Judeans (those of Israel). For example, in the Book of Exodus we see these verses that are clearly addressed to Israel.
Now these are the names of the children of Israel….
And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel….
Who are the Gentiles? The term “Gentiles” in I Corinthians 10:32 refers to the Gentile nations, anyone who is not Judean. In the Book of Joel, we see an example of how certain parts of the Word are specifically addressed to the Gentiles.
Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles….
And the “Church of God” refers to those in the Grace Administration who are born again of God’s spirit.
I Corinthians 1:2:
Unto the church of God….
These are the three different groups from God’s point of view: Judeans, Gentiles, and the Church of God. Three categories, no more and no less. How can only three groups cover everyone? Because after the initiation of the Church of God on the day of Pentecost, people from either a Judean or Gentile background could become born-again believers. However, once they were born again, then they were neither Judean nor Gentile, but a new creation in Christ. As the Word says in Galatians 3:28, in the Church of God, “There is neither Jew [Judean] nor Greek [Gentile], there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
As God’s children, we are all one in Christ Jesus and are no longer considered Judean or Gentile. We are now born-again saints and part of the Church of God. All Scripture is either addressed directly to us (the Church of God) or is for our learning. In Romans, we learn that those things that were written before the day of Pentecost are not addressed to us, but they were written for our learning. Romans was written after Pentecost, the day on which the Church of God began.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime [before the day of Pentecost] were written for our learning [teaching or instruction], that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Which parts of the Bible reveal those things that happened before the day of Pentecost? If your answer includes the Old Testament and the four Gospels, you are correct! So, are the Old Testament and the Gospels addressed directly to us? No, they are not; they were written for our learning. For example, the ten commandments are not addressed to us, but can we learn from them? Yes, absolutely.
We can gain important teaching and instruction from all that was written before the day of Pentecost. These scriptures can give us patient endurance, encouragement, and hope. This is why interpretation and application with respect to whom the Scriptures are addressed is worth our study and consideration….
This is an excerpt from the May/June 2007 issue of The Way Magazine.
Copyright© 2007 by The Way International. All rights reserved.
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