Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Chapter Three - The Dispensation of the Mystery

The word "dispensation" is used four times in the Bible (1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; 3:2; Colossians 1:25). A dispensation is simply a dealing out or dispensing of something. God dispensed grace to Paul to make known the mystery. Just as the law was dispensed through Moses (John 1:17), so the mystery was dispensed through Paul. This mystery fulfilled or completed the word of God (Colossians 1:25). Although the book of Revelation is placed as the last book of the Bible it is the consummation of OT prophecy and was probably written much earlier than most teachers claim. We are not told to rightly divide the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15) until Paul fulfilled the word of God with his last inspired epistle which, chronologically, was possibly the last book of the Bible that was written. 

The dispensation of the mystery was not given to John the Baptist, Jesus (in His earthly ministry), or the twelve apostles. One of the keys to understanding the Bible is to understand the distinctiveness of Paul’s apostleship and message.

7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. 
(2 Timothy 2:7)

God gave us three chapters about Paul’s conversion (Acts 9; 22; 26) as well as several other passages (Galatians 1:13-23; Philippians 3:4-8; 1 Timothy 1:12-16). Paul referred to the importance of his ministry in nearly every epistle that he wrote.
Let me encourage you to carefully read the following references: Romans 11:13; 15:16; 16:25; I Corinthians 3:10; 4:16-17; 9:1,17; 11:1; 14:37; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4; 13:3; Galatians 1:1,11-12, 2:5-9; Ephesians 3:1-12; 6:18-20; Philippians 3:17; 4:9; Colossians 1:24-29; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:11-16; 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11-13,15; 2:2,7; 3:10; Titus 1:3.
Paul was not an egomaniac (Ephesians 3:8)! He wrote by inspiration of God! Clearly, the Lord has placed an emphasis on the distinct apostleship and ministry of Paul because he is the spokesman for the body of Christ to follow in this age.

Most Bible students have never asked themselves the important question, “Why Paul?” The twelve apostles had already been commissioned by Christ to go "into all the world” (Mark 16:15). Well, they did not go, but Paul did! What brought about this change? It was the continued rejection of Christ by the leaders of Israel and the revelation of the mystery. In the kingdom commission the apostles were told to begin at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8). According to prophecy, the Gentiles are to be blessed through Israel and Jerusalem will be the capitol city in the Kingdom Age. Because Jerusalem did not repent there was no need for them to go “into all the world." When Paul explained his ministry to the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15; Galatians 2:1-10), they agreed that he would go to the heathen with his gospel while they continued to go to the circumcision.

The commission given to the twelve apostles was postponed but will be fulfilled in the tribulation period.

14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)

This verse also proves that the gospel of the kingdom is different than Paul’s gospel. Paul said that his gospel went into all the world, yet the end did not come!

6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; (Colossians 1:6, 23)

The apostle Paul plainly stated that he was not one of the twelve apostles:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
(1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

Paul said that Christ was seen of "the twelve", but when the twelve apostles saw the resurrected Christ, Judas was dead and Paul was not even saved yet. He must have considered Matthias to be one of the twelve apostles. Matthias was not officially chosen until Acts 1 but he saw the resurrected Christ with the eleven before Acts 1.

Some Bible teachers claim that Paul was God’s choice to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth apostle and that Peter was acting "in the flesh" and out of God's will when he led in appointing Matthias as the replacement. I think the following points prove that Matthias was the divinely appointed replacement for Judas:
1. It was prophesied that another would take the place of Judas (Psalm 109:8) and Paul's special ministry was not prophesied.
2. There had to be twelve apostles in order for the kingdom to be offered to Israel (Matthew 19:28).
3. Peter and the other apostles had the authority to act in the place of Christ (Matthew 16:19; 18:18-19).
4. They prayed about it and were promised to receive what they asked for (Matthew 21:22).
5. They cast lots (Acts 1:26), which was scriptural way for the Jews to discern God's will (Proverbs 16:33).
6. Paul did not meet the qualifications (Acts 1:21-22).
7. The apostles were “filled with the Holy Ghost” just a few days later (Acts 2:4).
8. Matthias was “numbered with the eleven apostles”, and the Holy Spirit stated that Peter stood up “with the eleven” (Acts 2:14).
9. Paul was not appointed through men, but by God Himself (Galatians 1:1).

There are differences between the ministries of Paul and the twelve. Paul plainly and purposely distinguishes himself from them (Galatians 1:11-12,17; 2:2,9). While there were other apostles to the body of Christ (such as Barnabas; Acts 14:14), Paul was "the apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13).

1. The twelve were chosen by Christ on earth. Israel is God’s earthly people. Paul was chosen by Christ from heaven. The body of Christ is God’s heavenly people.

6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6)

6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:6)

2. The twelve were appointed to lead Israel. Paul was appointed to lead the body of Christ.

28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)

24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: (Colossians 1:24-26)

3. The twelve represent Israel (twelve tribes; Matthew 19:28). Paul represents the one body of Christ. He was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews", and yet he was also a Roman citizen (Philippians 3:5; Acts 22:27-28). So, in a sense, we could say that he was a Jew and Gentile in one body!

4. The twelve only knew Christ on earth. Even when Christ ascended back to heaven, a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9). Paul only knew Christ from heaven (Acts 26:16).

5. The twelve were sent to proclaim and offer the kingdom of heaven to Israel (Matthew 10:5-7; Acts 3:19-21). Paul was sent to preach the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

6. The ministry of the twelve was based on covenants and prophecy (Acts 3:24-25). After Israel is blessed, the Gentiles receive blessings through them. The ministry of Paul was based on a mystery. The Gentiles are blessed through the fall of Israel (Romans 11:11) and there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body (Galatians 3:27-28).

7. Under the kingdom commission water baptism was required and signs were the evidence of salvation. Under Paul’s commission he was not sent to baptize and he said early in his ministry that signs would cease.

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:15-18)

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)

There are other differences that we could point out but I think that these seven are sufficient to prove the distinctiveness of Paul’s apostleship from that of the twelve. These distinctions do not mean that everything Paul preached and did in his ministry was different for there are also connections between them.

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