A few years ago I was preaching a series on "Dispensationalism" when an elder's wife came and said that those things were too theological for her. A young man at the same meeting came and said he had never heard of the term "Dispensations" before, even though he had been raised in an assembly. The "Brethren Movement," through its well-known leader, J. N. Darby, has played a significant role in systematizing and spreading Dispensationalism; yet many today in the movement would not be able to defend it or even know how to define it. Perhaps as you read this, you are saying to yourself, "So what? Doctrine isn't so important--it's loving your brother and being tolerant that is the key to Christian living." In many assemblies the amount of time, or lack thereof, given to the systematic teaching of the Word of God bears this out.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." To paraphrase, we need to be diligent in our Bible study so that when we stand before God to give an account, we may not be ashamed due to a careless handling of His precious Word. To this end, may I suggest three books for your study? These are study books. They could be used as a basis for a group study on the very foundation of the way we approach the Scriptures.

God revealed Himself in history. The events of history that are selected by God's Spirit are selected so we might understand the revelation of God and His purposes for mankind and the universe in general, thus answering the eternal questions: "Why am I here?" and "Where am I going?" There are two systems of interpretation of the Bible's history that are most prevalent today. One is called "Covenant Theology" and the other is "Dispensational Theology." These two systems are dramatically different. They differ in the goal of history and the fundamental way in which Scripture is viewed. A very fine book has been written to compare these two systems. Renald Showers gives an overview of Covenant Theology and shows its strengths and weaknesses. He devotes a larger part of the book to an examination of Dispensational Theology and demonstrates its superiority over Covenant Theology. There Really Is a Difference, the book's title, is a good description of the book's contents. It does make a difference which of these two systems you follow, for it greatly affects your understanding of God's ultimate goal in history and the way in which you view its history.

If in fact you are convinced by Renald Showers' book that Dispensational Theology is for you, then there is another book you must study. It is called Dispensationalism Today by Charles Ryrie. It has been around a while, but is still available. This is an excellent book on the definition, the origins, the hermeneutics, and distinctive features of Dispensationalism. When you get through with this book, you will be able to defend its precepts and understand its principles.

There is an aspect of Dispensationalism which concerns the future events of the Bible. As Charles Ryrie says in his book, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, "All dispensationalists are premillennialists, but not all premillennialists are dispensationalists." To understand this statement and to see the outworking of prophecy from a dispensational standpoint, this book is "must reading."

Why are any of these books important? Because if I am to open my Bible to study it, I must have a consistent interpretive guideline. It is the lack of this which is bringing much error into the church and is causing so much discouragement among God's people. May we be delivered from error as we "rightly divide the Word of Truth."