God chose to communicate with mankind by using words. Words have meaning. Words often have different meanings, both literal and figurative. The context always determines the meaning the user has in mind. If you say a specific word in the Bible means this, and I say it means that, we both cannot be right. However we can both be wrong! The translators of the original Hebrew and Greek into English have done an excellent job over the centuries. In other words the English reader can know God's meaning for man today.

The proper study of the Bible is a vital part of being a disciple of Christ or Christian. Paul, in writing to the young preacher Timothy wrote, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). The American Standard reads, ". . . handling aright the word of truth."

In order to "handle aright" the Word of Truth, we must understand God's division of the Bible into two major sections - The Old Testament and the New Testament or the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The term covenant better conveys the concept of God's covenants or contracts with mankind.

The Old Testament reveals God's covenant with one nation of people, Israel or the Jews. The inspired Psalmist expressed it this way, "He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord." (Psalm 47:19-20). It was a true Theocracy.

The New Testament or Covenant, on the other hand, reveals God's new covenant with all nations or mankind in general. Jesus in giving the Great Commission to His disciples, after His resurrection, spoke as follows: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20).

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. His mission was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He expressed the concept perfectly. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:17). The final revelation of God's Truth, then, was revealed by the Prince of Peace.

This means Christians are under the New Testament or Covenant and not the Old Testament. We are to conduct ourselves by the principles of the Prince of Peace and not by the Law of Moses. As Jesus expressed it in the Sermon on the Mount, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you,. . . " (Matthew 5:21-22).

This does not mean that the Old Testament is not to be studied or that it has no application to Christians for indeed it does. As the apostle Paul pointed out, "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4). The basic lesson of the Old Testament is that God always says what he means and means what He says!

Dale I. Royal, Elk City, OK