Monday, May 22, 2017

Clearing up Misconceptions

I believe and teach that this present dispensation began with the ministry of the apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-13). The following are the most common misconceptions people have about those who hold to this view.

1) We make too much of Paul 
We do not exalt Paul as a man or make more out of him than the scripture does (he rebuked the carnal Corinthians for that). We certainly don't put Christ and Paul on the same level. We know that Paul was the “chief of sinners” saved by grace, while Jesus Christ is the holy Son of God and the Savior of sinners. We know that Paul was nothing in himself while Christ is everything. But it was to Paul that the glorified Lord committed the revelation of His message and program for this present dispensation, not the twelve apostles (Matt. 19:28; Gal. 2:9). It is not the person (“less than the least of all saints”), but the position of Paul that we magnify (Rom. 11:15). We follow Christ in this age by following the pattern and spokesman that He sent to us (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1). Paul wrote the words of Christ. By inspiration of God he told us to follow him and he emphasized the importance of his distinct message and ministry. Why doesn’t anyone have a problem with the fact that Israel was to follow Moses? 

2) We only study Paul’s epistles and can’t get a blessing from the rest of the Bible
We certainly emphasize Paul’s epistles because we know that they were written directly to us in this present age of grace, but we believe, read, and study the whole Bible (2 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). There are moral principles and spiritual applications for us throughout the scripture. I get more of a blessing from the OT than before I learned how to rightly divide because now I understand it better. 

3) We believe that we have liberty to walk after the flesh 
The apostle Paul taught that we are dead to the law, delivered from the law, and not under the law. But he also taught that we are to walk in the Spirit and live godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-15; Rom. 6:1-2, 14-15; Eph. 2:8-10). We have liberty FROM sin, not TO sin! There are commandments under grace (1 Thess. 4:1-2). Paul taught 9 of 10 commandments (Rom. 13:8-14, we are not under the sabbath). 

4) We are not evangelistic or missions-minded 
Paul was the greatest evangelist the world has ever known! People think this because of our teaching on the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-18, etc...). But nobody really follows the kingdom commission today (begin in Jerusalem, work the signs of the kingdom, etc...). Paul talked about going to “all the world,” “all nations,” and “every creature.” We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21). 

5) We do not recognize the importance of the local church 
We emphasize the importance of the one spiritual church which is the Body of Christ (salvation), but we certainly recognize the importance of the local church for the work of the ministry (service). Paul started local churches and wrote to churches. He gives us the proper order of the local church (1 Cor. 7:17, “And so ordain I in all churches”). 

6) We don’t believe in baptism 
Actually, we believe baptism is very important. Every believer in this present age is baptized by the Holy Spirit the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). There are many baptisms in the scripture, but only one that makes us members of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:5). On the issue of water baptism, we follow Paul. He never required or commanded water baptism, so we don’t either. 

7) We believe people are saved by works in other dispensations 
Works, in and of themselves, cannot save a sinner in any dispensation! However, the Bible clearly teaches that in other dispensations salvation is by faith that works (Heb. 11; Jam 2): works being an  an expression of faith (Acts 2:38). Faith is believing what God said, and in other dispensations God has told man to do certain works (Matt. 24:13). In this present age, we are saved by faith plus NOTHING. To try and do works for salvation today proves that you haven't truly believed the gospel of the grace of God!

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Mystery of Godliness


1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The epistles to Timothy and Titus are commonly referred to as the Pastoral Epistles because they were written to pastors in regard to the work of the ministry. The emphasis in 1 Timothy and Titus is on the proper order, doctrine, and practice of the church, but in 2 Timothy it is on the apostasy of the professing church. Someone said that in 1 Timothy we see the church in rule, but in 2 Timothy we see it in ruin. 

In 1 Tim. 3 we learn that there are only two offices in the local church (v.1, 10). The qualifications for both offices make it clear that only elders (spiritually mature men) are qualified to serve as bishops (overseer) and deacons (servants, assistants to the bishops). A man that is not grounded in sound doctrine for this present age of grace is not fit to serve as deacon (v.9). He must know the mystery of the faith and he must hold to it with a pure conscience. "The faith" refers to the body of doctrine that Christ revealed through Paul's epistles for the edification of the Body of Christ. 

Most teachers say that the mystery mentioned in v.16 is the incarnation, but he did not say, "great is the mystery of God being manifest in the flesh" (that was prophesied, Isa. 7:14; 9:6). It is the mystery of GODLINESS. Sinners like us could not be godly without Christ being baptized into our humanity and us being baptized into His Body, thereby being made one with Him. Our spiritual union with Christ is the mystery of godliness. 

The context is godliness. The qualifications for the offices of bishop and deacon provide a good description of godliness. In v.15 he talked about how we are to behave ourselves in the church. That the first word in v.16 is "And" shows that v.16 is an expansion of the thought in v.15. In chapter 4 he shows that we are not made godly by the efforts of the flesh and continues to teach about godliness. Those who teach that we can be made godly by things like abstaining from meats have departed from "the faith" which was stated in 3:16. 

If v.16 was only a statement about Christ, why would he list things out of order?  Christ was not preached unto the Gentiles and believed on in the world before He was received up into glory. Since Christ and His church are one (Eph. 5:22-33), what is said in v.16 applies to both Christ and His spiritual Body. By the way, the modern versions change “God” to “He" and thereby totally mess up a great verse. 

How v.16 applies to Christ:
1. God was manifest in the flesh – Jn. 1:1-3, 14
2. Justified in the Spirit – Lk. 7:29
3. Seen of angels – Matt. 4:11
4. Preached unto the Gentiles – Acts 13:46-47
5. Believed on in the world – Col. 1:6
6. Received up into glory – Mk. 16:19

How v.16 applies to the Church:
1. God was manifest in the flesh - 2 Cor. 4:10-11; Gal. 2:20
2. Justified in the Spirit - 1 Cor. 6:11
3. Seen of angels - Eph. 3:10
4. Preached unto the Gentiles - Rom. 16:25-27
5. Believed on in the world - Rom. 16:26
6. Received up into glory - Col. 3:1-4

Verse 16 presents a series of contrasts:
Flesh vs. Spirit
Angels vs. Gentiles
World vs. Glory

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pentecost was not the Birthday of the Church


Acts 2 is one of the most misunderstood and abused chapters in the Bible. For example, the Charismatics try to use this chapter as a basis to teach that believers should seek "the-baptism-of-the-Holy-Ghost" with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues (2:4). Then there is the so-called “Church of Christ” and other groups that try to use this chapter to teach a sinner cannot be saved without water baptism (2:38). Of course, none of them follow vs.44-45! Of all the different groups that claim to follow Acts 2, none of  them follow all of it.

The reason for all this confusion is a failure to obey the divine rule of Bible study given in 2 Tim. 2:15. When we rightly divide the word of truth we understand that the present mystery dispensation in which we are living was not even revealed in Acts 2. Even if the Church which is the Body of Christ began in Acts 2 (as many claim), nobody knew about it at that time because it was a mystery revealed through Paul (Eph. 3:1-12) and he was not even saved until Acts 9. The basis upon which God is building the Body of Christ is the cross of Christ (Eph. 2:14-17), but that does not mean it began or was revealed at the time of the cross. What takes place in Acts 2 concerns the nation of Israel and their prophetic kingdom program (2:5, 14, 22, 36).

Most fundamental and dispensational Bible teachers believe that the church which is the Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost on the basis that the disciples were baptized with the Holy Ghost and were called a church. They teach that when the Holy Ghost was first poured out in Acts 2 that the Body of Christ began to be formed. Most Christians that are taught this never search the scriptures for themselves to see whether it is so. They don't ask themselves questions such as, "Is there only one Spirit baptism in the Bible?" or, "Is there only one church in the Bible?"
 
The truth is that the Body of Christ did not begin on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. There is both a Spirit baptism and a church in OT prophecy related to the kingdom that God promised Israel. If words mean anything, this cannot be the same Spirit baptism and church that was kept secret from the prophets until it was first revealed through Paul!

There are a number of scriptural objections against the Body of Christ beginning on Pentecost.

I. There was already a church in existence before Pentecost (Acts 1:4, 15; 2:1). A church is simply a called out assembly. There was a "little flock" of believing Jews that were called out of unbelieving Israel (Lk. 12:32). The 3,000 Jews that repented and were baptized were ADDED to a church (Acts 2:41, 47). How could they be added to a church that did not already exist? Therefore, Acts 2 does not record the birthday of any church. It does record how Christ empowered His disciples by pouring out the Holy Ghost upon them and how 3,000 Jews repented from killing their Messiah and were added to that holy nation (Matt. 21:43; 1 Pet. 2:9). The church in the early chapters of Acts was spoken of in OT prophecy (compare Ps. 22:22 with Heb. 2:12). The church that Christ spoke of in His earthly ministry concerned the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19; 18:17).

II. What happened in Acts 2 was according to PROPHECY (Acts 2:16-17; 3:24). The Body of Christ was a mystery which “was kept SECRET since the world began” (Rom. 16:25). The prophesied “last days” of Israel could not be at the same time the first days of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ was a mystery hid from the prophets (Eph. 3:6).
 
III. Pentecost (means fiftieth, fifty days after the feast of firstfruits) was a Jewish feast day. The seven Jewish feasts (Lev. 23) provide a prophetic picture in relation to God's dealings with Israel. Some claim the two loaves mixed with leaven that were waved before the Lord on Pentecost is a picture of Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Christ. Paul said the Body of Christ is "one bread," not two loaves (1 Cor. 10:17). The two loaves represent the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah being united in the kingdom (Ezek. 37).

IV. There were NO uncircumcised Gentiles present or welcome. Peter did not address any uncircumcised Gentiles (2:14, 22, 36). If Peter understood the truth of Body of Christ in Acts 2, explain his attitude nearly ten years later toward the Gentile household of Cornelius (Acts 10:28-29). There will be Gentiles in the kingdom (Matt. 25:31-46), but they will not be in one spiritual body with Israel!

V. Peter preached the same gospel to Israel that John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the twelve preached before the cross. The gospel of the kingdom required repentance and water baptism for the remission of sins (Mk. 1:4; Acts 2:36-40). Israel will receive remission of sins as a nation at the Second Coming of Christ (Acts 3:19-21). We know that Peter was not preaching the same gospel that Paul later preached because Paul received his gospel by revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Peter preached the cross, but he preached it as BAD news! He preached the cross as a murder indictment on Israel and called on them to repent for killing their Messiah.
 
VI. The baptism "with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 1:4-5) is NOT the same thing as baptism "by the Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). There are many different baptisms in the Bible. There are two different baptisms that involve the Holy Spirit.

With the Holy Ghost                                
1) Outward manifestations (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6)                
2) For power (Lk. 24:49; Jn. 14:12)                                 
3) According to prophecy (Isa. 32:1, 15-18; 44:3; Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:28; Zech. 12:10)                 
4) Christ baptizes with Holy Ghost (Matt. 3:11)                     

By the Spirit
1) No outward manifestations (Rom. 6:3, only know it by doctrine)
2) For salvation (Gal. 3:26-28)
3) A mystery (the body a mystery, so the baptism into the body a mystery)
4) The Spirit baptizes into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13)

VII. In the early chapters of Acts, the manner in which the disciples were living was a foretaste of the kingdom (Heb. 6:5). Christ required His disciples to sell all that they had and give it to the poor (Lk. 12:32-33). This proved that they believed the kingdom was at hand. Since the kingdom was about to be set up they did not need houses and lands (Acts 2:42-45; 4:32-35). The Body of Christ is instructed by Paul to do our own work that we might not lack and to provide for our own house (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:8), which is certainly different than selling all and having all things common.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Meditation

1 Timothy 4:6, 15 

[6] If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

[15] Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

We often talk about the need to read and study the word of God, but rarely do we talk about the need to meditate upon it. If we read the Bible, but fail to meditate upon it, we will not receive proper nourishment. What if you only ate food but never digested it? Meditation is to the inner man what digestion is to the outer man. Of course, exercise is also a vital part of good health (1 Tim. 4:7). These admonitions are not just for ministers, but all believers (v.12).

The words “meditate” and “meditation” are used 20 times in the Bible, mostly in the Psalms. Meditation is to think deeply and dwell upon something to the point it is in your heart (Ps. 19:14). There are other verses that refer to meditation without using the word.

Isaiah 26:3
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I. The Object of Meditation 
A. God – Ps. 63:6; 104:33-34; Isa. 26:3 
B. God’s word – Ps. 119:15,23,48,78,97,99,148
C. God’s works – Ps. 77:11-12; 143:5

Note: I am NOT talking about the kind of mysticism that is being taught in churches today (“how to hear the voice of God,” “sit and listen”). God reveals Himself through His written word. 

II. The Benefits of Meditation 
A. Good Success – Josh. 1:8 
B. Spiritual Strength – Ps. 1:1-3; 1 Tim. 4:15
C. Peace – Isa. 26:3

III. The Hindrances to Meditation 
A. Busyness – Lk. 10:38-41
B. Media – constant noise 
C. Laziness – many don’t seem to want to THINK, mental and spiritual laziness 


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