Monday, February 20, 2017

The Truth About Tithing

The far majority of Christians have been wrongly taught that they required to PAY tithes to the Lord. They are brainwashed to believe that if they faithfully tithe God will bless them, but if they don’t they are robbing God and He will curse them. Tithing is certainly biblical, but it is not dispensational truth for this present age. It was required under the law, but the Body of Christ is not under the law (Rom. 6:14; 7:4-6). 

The instructions for tithing are found in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I don’t know of anybody today who believes in tithing that actually follows the clear instruction of the law. Tithing is also mentioned in the books of Genesis, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Amos, Malachi, Matthew, Luke, and Hebrews (none of which are to us or about us). The apostle Paul never mentions tithing in his thirteen epistles to the Body of Christ. He taught grace giving, which is very different from tithing (2 Cor. 9:7). This simple truth clears up all the confusion about tithing. There are all kinds of questions people have about tithing. Do we tithe off the gross or net income? Do we tithe to the local church or may we tithe to any ministry? What if I owe tithes? All such questions are pointless in this age. 

Fundamental preachers that are at least somewhat dispensational, but teach tithing, try to use the references in Genesis (before the law) and the NT as proof that tithing is still required today. Do those references establish tithing as being for this age?

Gen. 14:18-20 (compare Heb. 7:2, 4, defines tithing as a tenth) – Abraham also made sacrifices before the law. Does that mean we should? He was the father of the Hebrews (v.13). This passage provides a prophetic picture of how the Hebrews will tithe in the Kingdom Age (Melchizedek a type of Christ, a King and Priest, see Zech. 6:12-13). 
Gen. 28:20-22 – Is this a pattern for us to follow today? Note the conditions! 
Matt. 23:23; Lk. 11:42 – Christ was sent to Israel (Rom. 15:8) and conducted His entire earthly ministry under the law (Matt. 5:17-20; 23:1-3). 
Heb. 7:1-12 – This epistle is written to the HEBREWS, not the Body of Christ (see 3:6, 14 for example). It is a transition book from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant (law will be written in their hearts). Christ the High Priest will receive tithes of those He commanded to pay tithes.  

Giving a tenth of your income to support the Lord’s work is certainly not a bad thing to do. Paul taught proportionate giving (give according as God has prospered), and giving a tenth is a good principle and starting point. But most preachers that preach tithing will use Abraham to establish the principle of giving a tenth to the Lord, but then they go to Malachi to bring people under the bondage of the law in an effort to motivate people to faithfully tithe by using GUILT and FEAR (Mal. 3:8-12). Consider some obvious facts about this oft abused passage in Malachi:
1. Note that Malachi prophesied TO ISRAEL (1:1). God said it was the NATION that robbed Him by not tithing. How could we rob God today when He never commanded us to tithe? 
2. Tithing was commanded under the law. According to the law covenant, God would bless Israel in their LAND for obedience, but He would curse them for disobedience (see Deut. 28).
3. The storehouse was certainly not a local church. It was literal chamber in the temple where they stored the grain, etc...
3. Opening the windows of heaven had to do with rain for their crops.
4. Rebuking the devourer had to do with removing pestilence, drought, etc...

To require tithing is LEGALISM (performance based acceptance). The Body of Christ is  already blessed with all spiritual blessings in HEAVENLY PLACES in Christ (Eph. 1:3) and we cannot be cursed by the law (Gal. 3:13). 

Let’s consider what the law actually said about tithing:

Under the law, only agricultural products were tithed, such as grain, fruit, and livestock (Lev. 27:30-34). Only that which was produced “of the land” of Israel was to be tithed. If a farmer wanted to redeem (buy back) his tithe he had to add the fifth part. For example, if he wanted to keep his tithe of grain worth $1,000, he had to pay the cash equivalent of $1,200. Those who did not have fields and livestock were not required to tithe! The tithe was to be the first tenth, the gross, of all their increase (Prov. 3:9-10). 

There was a tithe to be paid ANNUALLY to the Levites (Num. 18:20-24). It was like a tax because Israel was governed by the priesthood. 

There was a religious tithe to be paid for the Lord’s feasts and sacrifices, it had to be brought to Jerusalem (Deut. 12:5-7, 10-12, 17-19). This tithe was used to get to Jerusalem for the required feasts three times a year (Deut. 14:22-27). 

There was a third tithe to be paid every three years (Deut. 14:28-29; 26:21-15; Amos 4:4). We are now up to about 23% annually! 

The Levites were to tithe to the high priest (Num. 18:25-26; Neh. 10:38-39)

Only Levites could receive tithes of the people (Heb. 7:5). There is no example in the Bible of a pastor receiving tithes. 

Tithing is mentioned in association with Israel being revived by getting back to the LAW (2 Chron. 31; Neh. 10-13). 

In light of all this, why do most preachers teach people that they must pay tithes? They don’t rightly divide the word of truth. But perhaps the biggest reason is they think tithing is the best way to fund their religious machinery (staff, buildings, etc..). 

The fact that we are not under the tithing commandments today is no excuse for us to not faithfully give to support the Lord’s work. The apostle Paul taught the principle of grace giving in a number of passages. In fact, giving willingly to the Lord is a principle we see throughout the Bible. God is the greatest giver. Certainly His people ought to be givers! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ephesians 6:10-24

[10] Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 
[11] Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 
[12] For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 

As Paul concludes this great epistle, he warns us about the spiritual warfare we face as members of the Body of Christ. If we are going to serve God, we must fight the good fight of faith as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:3). We are not to be focused on fighting against flesh and blood enemies. Satan uses men (Eph. 4:14), but we must see beyond the people he uses and understand what he is doing in opposition to God’s purpose and plan. There is a vast spirit world that is invisible (Col. 1:16) to our physical eyes, but we can know the truth about it from the word of God. The principalities (territories of a prince), powers (authorities), and rulers (princes) that we fight against has to do with spiritual wickedness in high places. 

Satan always opposes what God is doing, and how he works is always in accordance with how God is working. When Christ was on the earth doing visible signs and wonders, Satan’s opposition was also visible. God is working spiritually, not visibly, in this present age. Therefore, Satan is also working spiritually and not visibly. Paul warns us again and again about spiritual deception (e.g. 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:13). If we fail to put on the whole armor of God, we will not be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (clever tricks designed to deceive). 

Ephesians opened with our spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and now it closes with our spiritual battle in high places. Israel is God’s earthly people. The Body of Christ is His heavenly people (Eph. 2:6). God gave Israel a piece of land and they had to fight flesh and blood enemies to possess and enjoy what was already theirs. Likewise, God has given us “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” and we must fight spiritual enemies to appropriate and enjoy what is already ours. Just as Israel was to fight their enemies by depending on the power of God, we must be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” if we are going to stand against our enemies. In the book of Exodus, God redeemed Israel out of Egypt. In the book of Joshua, He brought them into the land of promise. In between those books (book of Numbers) we see that Israel failed to possess their land at the first because of unbelief and therefore wandered in the wilderness. The book of Romans teaches us about our redemption by the blood of Christ. The book of Ephesians teaches us about the spiritual blessings God wants us to walk in and enjoy. In between those books we learn that it is possible for believers to not appropriate who they are in Christ because of unbelief and therefore wander in a spiritual wilderness (1 Corinthians and Galatians). 

[13] Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 
[14] Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 
[15] And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 
[16] Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 
[17] And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 
[18] Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 
[19] And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 
[20] For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Paul liked to use metaphors. I am sure that he was very familiar with the armor of a Roman soldier (he was probably being guarded by one as he wrote this epistle). In this passage he uses the pieces of the soldier’s armor metaphorically to teach about the spiritual qualities we must walk in each day if we are going to stand in the evil day. The picture is that of a soldier fully dressed in armor and standing ready to fight.

Notice how Paul called it the WHOLE armor of God. He mentions seven pieces (the number of perfection). If we leave off a piece, Satan will find that opening. It is God’s responsibility to provide the armor, but it is our responsibility to put it on. A spiritual war against spiritual enemies requires spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-6). To put on this spiritual armor is to put on Christ (Rom. 13:11-14). As to our standing, we put on Christ the moment of salvation. But as to our state, we must put on Christ by faith in our daily walk. We are to “stand” (mentioned 3 times) and “withstand” (to oppose and resist). 

1) Loins girt about with truth
The soldiers loins was girt about with a strong leather belt that held other pieces of his armor together. The truth is foundational to the whole armor of God. Christ is the truth (Jn. 14:6) and the scripture is the truth (Jn. 17:17). Satan is a liar (Jn. 8:44) and he deceives through counterfeit (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 14-15). We must be grounded in the truth (Eph. 4:11-15; 2 Tim. 3:13-17). If it were not possible for believers to be deceived, why did Paul say again and again “be not deceived”? We must be genuine and sincere in our Christian walk (Eph. 6:24; 2 Cor. 4:2). Satan can spot a fake. 

2) The breastplate of righteousness
The breastplate covered the vital organs of the heart and lungs. Without a breastplate the soldier would not last very long in the battle. We cannot stand against the devil and his army without righteousness. In another passage Paul refers to the “armour of righteousness” (2 Cor. 6:7). 
a) Positional - righteousness of Christ given to us by faith (Rom. 3:22)
b) Practical - righteousness of Christ through us (Rom. 6:12-18)

3) Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace
The right shoes was important for a soldier. Warfare was often hand to hand combat. The soldier’s shoes had nails in the heels to give him traction. The application is that we must be prepared to preach the gospel (Rom. 1:15-16; 10:15) no matter where we are. Paul was faithful to preach the gospel to kings and servants alike. Satan is working to keep the lost blinded to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4-6). We should pray about getting souls saved (1 Tim. 2:1-4), but let’s put feet to our prayers (1 Tim. 2:5-7)! It is the “gospel of peace” because it is the good news of how sinners can have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). 

4) The shield of faith
The soldier’s shield was large enough for him to hide behind when fiery darts were shot at him. Notice the priority of the shield, “Above all.” Faith is essential to operate all the other pieces. That it is why it is the central piece listed. Satan and his soldiers will shoot fiery darts of doubts, fears, lies, and many other evil things. Faith in God’s word will quench ALL the fiery darts! We are saved through faith, and we must walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). The shield is not our faith, but the object of our faith (Ps. 33:20; Prov. 30:5).

5) The helmet of salvation
Obviously the helmet was an absolute necessity for the soldier to protect the vital organ of his brain. Assurance of salvation is essential to being a good soldier of Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 1:5). By comparing scripture with scripture (1 Thess. 5:8-9), we learn that the helmet of salvation is the knowledge of our blessed hope. We are to be looking for Christ to come and catch us away to heaven before the prophesied tribulation period ever begins. Our rapture was a mystery revealed to Paul (1 Cor. 15:51) and is only found in his epistles (1 Thess. 4:13-18; Phil. 3:20-21). Many preachers today are teaching that the Church will go through some, or even all, of the tribulation period because they do not rightly divide the word of truth. 

6) The sword of the Spirit
This is our main offensive weapon. With this sharp sword we may cut spiritual enemies (Heb. 4:12; Ps. 149:6). That God promised to provide us with the sword of the Spirit proves that we still have the inspired word of God today. Satan hates the word of God and has attacked it from the beginning (Gen. 3:1). He wants to replace our sharp sword with something else. Most professing Christians today are using a butter knife (corrupt modern versions) instead of a two-edged sword (the pure King James Bible). Among those that use the sword of the Spirit, many do not know how to handle it (Heb. 5:11-14; 2 Tim. 2:15). With the sword of the Spirit we may:
a) Defeat temptation (Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Cor. 10:13)
b) Evangelize the lost 
c) Build believers up in the faith 

7) Praying always
We need constant communication with our Captain. Prayer is both a defensive and offensive weapon. Praying in the Spirit is not praying in some kind of unintelligible “prayer language.” All believers are “in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9, 14-16). The ministry of the Spirit has been emphasized throughout this epistle (1:13-14; 2:18, 22; 3:5, 16; 4:3, 30; 5:9, 18; 6:17-18). Real prayer is a spiritual labor that the world, flesh, and devil will oppose (Col. 4:12). We are to pray ALWAYS with ALL prayer and ALL perseverance for ALL saints. Paul requests specific prayer for boldness to speak the “mystery of the gospel.” In Colossians, he requested prayer to for boldness to speak the “mystery of Christ” (Col. 4:2-4). This corresponds with his twofold ministry (Col. 1:23-29). Satan hates these mysteries and is actively opposing those who labor to make them known. We need to pray for boldness to keep speaking the truth in the face of his fierce opposition. 

[21] But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: 
[22] Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.
[23] Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
[24] Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Tychicus was a faithful co-laborer with Paul (Acts 20:4; Col. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:12; Titus 3:12). That Paul requested the prayers of the saints at Ephesus, and that they were concerned for him, illustrates the great truth of this epistle: ALL THE SAINTS ARE IN ONE BODY. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ephesians 6:1-9

In the latter part of chapter five, the apostle Paul dealt with Christian marriage, and now in the beginning of chapter six he deals with the relationship between children and parents in the Christian home. I believe it is given in that order on purpose. The best thing we can do for our children is have a strong Christian marriage. It is very sad to think about the fact that most children today, even in churches, are being raised in homes that do not have both a godly father and mother. 

[1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 
[2] Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 
[3] That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 
[4] And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Children (vs.1-3)
The children were in the assembly with their parents because Paul speaks directly to them knowing that they would be present when this epistle was read publicly. Children must be trained to listen to the word of God with respect. Families should not be split up every time they come to church. It is good for the whole family to be together in the assembly. 

To obey “in the Lord” means to obey as unto Him, recognizing that He set them in authority over you. Disobedience to parents is SIN (characteristic of the last days, 2 Tim. 3:2). Of course, all authority is conditioned on God’s authority. 

It is not enough to go through the motions of obedience. You are to HONOR your parents. The Bible doesn’t say obey and honor them if you think they are worthy of it. You are to do it as unto the Lord. WHY (the favorite question of children)?
1) It pleases Him (Col. 3:20)
2) It is right
3) It will be well for you. It is the first commandment with a promise attached to it (Ex. 20:12). Notice that Spirit changed “the land which the LORD thy God give the thee” to “on the earth” since Paul wasn’t writing to Israel. 

Parents (v.4)
The fathers are addressed because they are the head of the home. The father and mother must work together as a team, but the father must take the lead in bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There is a negative and positive admonition here. 
1) Provoke not – by harshness and hypocrisy 
2) Bring them up – purposeful and active, not passive 
a) Nurture – discipline that builds and is motivated by love
b) Admonition – words of correction and instruction 

It should be the goal of Christian parents to lead their children to Christ and help them grow strong in a real relationship with the Lord (2 Tim. 3:15). Concerning the salvation of children, we must be very careful. The goal is not getting them to ask Jesus into their heart (where's that in the Bible?). They must know they are a sinner under the condemnation of God and trust Christ alone to be reconciled to Him. We must faithfully give them the gospel of Christ and trust God to use it in their hearts.   

[5] Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 
[6] Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 
[7] With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 
[8] Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. 
[9] And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

All believers have the same spiritual standing in Christ, but while on earth there are still distinctions that matter. That is why Paul, in this epistle that emphasizes the spiritual unity of the Body of Christ, is careful to exhort wives to submit to their husbands, children to obey their parents, and servants to obey their masters (standing, Eph. 1-3; state, Eph. 4-6).

Have you ever noticed all the scripture in Paul’s epistles in which he exhorts servants to be good servants and to serve their master as unto the Lord. He also exhorts masters to be good to their servants and to remember that they have a Master in Heaven (Col. 3:22-4:1; 1 Tim. 6:1-5; Titus 2:9-10; Phile.). Paul never tells servants to run away or masters to get rid of their servants. In the epistle of Philemon, Paul writes to a faithful believer who owned servants. He had led one of his run away servants (Onesimus) to Christ while in prison. Paul sent him back to his master with a letter in which he beseeched Philemon to receive Onesimus back. Since the fall of man slavery has existed in this world and it still exists today. Many people groups have been enslaved. Some historians have estimated that half the population of the Roman Empire was composed of slaves with no personal rights. No doubt the message of true liberty in Christ appealed to the servants that heard Paul and his co-laborers preach the gospel. Many servants trusted Christ and were in the churches that Paul wrote to. More than likely, they were tempted to use their newfound freedom in Christ as an excuse to disobey and defy their masters. 

The Bible uses the word "slave" once, and "slaves" once. It does not use the word "slavery". However it uses the word "servant" 460 times and "servants" 441 times. If you study all that the Bible says about this issue you will learn that there were some things about it that were different from what we might think with our modern and western mindset. 

According to the Law of Moses, God allowed Israel to have servants, but they were not to be mistreated (Lev. 25:39-46). This proves that having servants was not evil in and of itself, otherwise God would have prohibited it. We should not judge an institution by its abuses. For example, governments often abuse their authority: does this prove that the institution of government is evil? The word of God does teach that it is evil to "steal" a man and sell him as a slave (Deut. 24:7; 1 Tim. 1:10; Rev. 18:8-15). The Body of Christ is not a nation, we are all servants of the Lord and should not desire to own servants. 

The apostle Paul did not preach a social gospel. The church has not been called to make the world a better place to go to hell from! This world cannot and will not be a righteous and peaceful place until the Prince of Peace comes and establishes His righteous kingdom! This present evil world will come to an end when Christ comes again. We are called to get sinners saved out of this present evil world. Paul didn't try to overthrow the Roman government (Rom. 13:1). If Paul would have told servants to run away it would have been against the law, endangered the servants, and worst of all HINDERED the gospel. Paul considered the furtherance of the gospel to be much more important than his rights or even his life. For Paul, it was all about personal responsibility and not personal rights (1 Cor. 7:20-24). We have been BOUGHT with a price (1 Cor. 6:20) and we are to be servants of God (which is much better than being a servant of sin). By sending Onsesimus back to his master Paul knew that he was not obeying the Law of Moses (Duet. 23:15; Rom. 6:14).

Believing masters that were kind to their servants and treated them well would have a great opportunity to lead them to Christ (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1). Believing servants that diligently served their master well (even if mistreated) would be a powerful testimony for Christ (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-25). A saved servant has spiritual freedom and contentment in Christ and that is what matters most (1 Tim. 6:1-8). When the Lord comes all believers will be glorified with Him! 

We can apply the passages concerning masters and servants to employers and employees.

1) Obey your authority at work
2) Seek to please your authority 
3) Do not disrespect your authority
4) Do not steal from your employer
5) Be a faithful and honest worker
6) Serve your employer with singleness of heart, as unto Christ and not as men-pleasers
7) Whatever you do, do it heartily

1) Always keep in mind that you too are under authority
2) Do not threaten your workers
3) Give to your workers what is just and equal

Friday, February 3, 2017

Ephesians 5:22-33

[22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 
[23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 
[24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 
[25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 
[26] That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
[27] That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 
[28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 
[29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 
[30] For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 
[31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 
[32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 
[33] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Immediately after talking about being filled with the Spirit, the apostle Paul exhorts us concerning Christian marriage and the home (Eph. 5:22-6:4). This tells me several things:

We should not expect our spouse to fill the void in our heart and life that only God can fill. Too many enter marriage thinking it will bring the ultimate purpose and satisfaction. It is the most blessed of human relationships, but we were created first and foremost for God. 

The test of true spirituality is how we behave everyday in the home among those that know us best (not for just a few hours at church).

Our marriage and family must be built on the foundation of our relationship with God. We cannot consistently live up to God’s standard for the home without His Spirit. Think about it! Wives, you are to submit to your husbands in every thing as unto the Lord. Husbands, we are to love our wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. We are to nourish and cherish our wife as being part of our own body. 

Practical Applications:
1) Marriage is a ministry, each must submit to the needs of the other (v.21). The wife has a need to be loved, protected, and provided for. The husband has a need to be respected and followed. This is God’s design (two become one). Marriage is a divine and sacred institution. Nobody can improve on the plan of the Designer! 
2) We must focus on our RESPONSIBILITIES, not RIGHTS. Paul didn’t say, “Husbands, you have a right for your wife to be submitted to you so make sure she is!” 
3) Paul addresses the ones under authority first (wives, children, servants) knowing it is a great temptation of the flesh to resist authority.
4) Marriage must not be a performance based relationship (love gives without expecting).
5) KNOWING this passage will not give us a great marriage, OBEYING  it will.

Contrary to popular opinion, this passage does not teach that the church is the bride of Christ. In the doctrinal section of the epistle (chapters 1-3) Paul emphasized that the church is the BODY of Christ (1:22-23, 2:16, 3:6; 4:4). This passage is In the practical section of the epistle (chapters 4-6). Paul uses the relationship between Christ and His church (one body) to teach about the marriage relationship between believers. It is important to note the little (but very important) word, “AS”. Nowhere in the passage does he say that the church is the bride of Christ. In fact, the term “bride of Christ” is not in the Bible. 

The teaching is simply as follows:

I. Christ and His church are one body (1 Cor. 12:12-13)
a) Christ is the head of this body
b) The church is to submit to it’s Head
c) Christ loves the church as His own body, we are part of Him

II. In the marriage relationship the husband and wife are one flesh (v.31). 
a) The husband is the head of this one body
b) The wife should submit to her husband as she does to Christ
c) The husband should love his wife as his own body (nourish), she is part of him

“This is a great mystery” (v.32) – The mystery of the church is not that it is the bride of Christ (the “bride” is no mystery for it is in prophecy), but that it is the BODY of Christ (3:3-6). 

The traditional view among Christians is that the church of this present age is the “bride of Christ”. The Baptist Briders actually believe and teach that only members of the local Baptist church (that is just like theirs and supposedly can be traced back to John the Baptist) are in the bride of Christ! They claim that of you are saved you are in the family of God, but if you have not been water baptized in a church like theirs you are not in the bride of Christ. 

The apostle Paul is the divinely appointed spokesmen for this age, so if the Body of Christ is the bride of Christ we should expect to find him teaching that in his epistles. He does not teach that in Ephesians 5. What about other passages? 

Romans 7:1-6
Paul used marriage as an illustration to explain how we are free from the law. The woman is set free from her husband by death. A husband and wife are one flesh. Death dissolves that union. The application is that our old man is crucified with Christ and therefore we are free to be joined to Christ. Upon salvation we are spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:10-11) and are loosed from the flesh. The husband does not represent the law, but the flesh. The flesh was condemned by the law, but now that the flesh is dead, we are in Christ who fulfilled the law and that means we are dead to the law! Marriage is used in this passage for the purpose of illustration. This passage does not doctrinally teach that we are the bride of Christ. If it were to be taken literally that would mean that we were married to our flesh before salvation. Since we are one with the Lord, our relationship may be LIKENED to marriage. 

2 Corinthians 11:1-4
The false teachers that sought to influence the church at Corinth against Paul and his message boasted themselves as being the true messengers of God. Paul used the foolishness of boasting to make a point (vs.16-21). He declared his responsibility for them in vs.1-3. He had godly jealousy for them (they were his converts). He likened his responsibility to that of the one who espouses a bride to a bridegroom. In the Jewish culture this man had the responsibility to make sure the bride stayed pure during the betrothal. He knows that Satan can appear as an angel of light and that he has ministers that appear as apostles of Christ (vs.13-15) and his goal is to deceive and corrupt the church. Paul wanted the church to stay doctrinally and morally pure. The word “AS” in v.2 tells us that Paul is speaking figuratively. Paul also tells the same church that he is their father (1 Cor. 4:15). He told the churches at Galatia that he was their mother (Gal. 4:19). If this passage is doctrinally saying that the church is the bride of Christ it would mean that Paul himself is not in the bride. 

Because most Christians think we are the bride of Christ they wrongly read themselves into the bride spoken of in Revelation (19:1-11; 21:1-2, 9-14). The book of Revelation is a PROPHECY (1:3). It is based on OT prophecy and is the consummation of God's prophetic kingdom program concerning Israel and the nations. If people would lay aside preconceived ideas received by religious tradition and consider the following scriptural points, I believe they would understand who the bride of prophecy is:

1) Israel became the wife of God under the old covenant (Jer. 2:1-2)
2) She constantly committed adultery against Him with her idolatry (Jer. 3; Ezek. 16)
3) After much longsuffering, God gave her a bill of divorcement (Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8)
4) He promised to betroth her again as a virgin bride (Isa. 54:6-8; 62:1-5; Hos. 2:14-23)
5) Christ presented Himself to Israel as a Bridegroom, but was rejected by her (Jn. 1:31; 3:29)
6) When He comes again she will receive Him and be His bride and wife (Rev. 19:7-11)
7) This relationship will remain in the eternal state (Rev. 21:1-2, 9-14)

I am not suggesting that the Body of Christ will not have access to the new Jerusalem, but why do most Christian's believe that this city primarily belongs to us? The number twelve is stamped all over the city (there are 7 twelves in the description of the city). This number is not associated with the ONE body of Christ but the TWELVE tribes of Israel. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on the twelve gates of the city and the names of the twelve JEWISH apostles of the Lamb (Matt. 19:28) are on the twelve foundations. And yet Christians, in their usual selfish approach to the Bible, want to steal this city from Israel! It is the new JERUSALEM, not the new Atlanta! 

What’s the big deal? Am I being petty by making this an issue? If we are the bride of prophecy that would mean:
1) We will not be permanently joined to the Lord until the second coming (Rev. 19:7)
2) We must faithfully endure to the end to be part of His bride (Rev. 3:4-5; 19:8)
3) We make ourselves ready by our righteousness (Rev. 19:7-8)
4) We replaced Israel and God was not faithful to His promises to them 

Those who teach the Body of Christ is the bride of prophecy are guilty of replacement theology. 

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