Monday, November 19, 2018

Dispensational Salvation

One of the most important things about right division is that it enables us to understand and clearly present the only gospel by which sinners are saved in this present age (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Yet, one of the biggest problems that people have with right division concerns the issue of salvation in different ages because the common and traditional view is that salvation is the same for all people in all ages. Most professing Christians believe there is only one gospel in the Bible, not because they personally studied the matter, but because that is what they have always heard.

The common cliché is that "People in the Old Testament were saved by looking toward the cross and people in the New Testament are saved by looking back to the cross." How can that be true when the twelve apostles weren't even looking toward the cross! The fact that they had been preaching the gospel (Lk. 9:1-6) for three years BEFORE Christ began to speak to them about His death, burial, and resurrection, and that they did not understand or believe it (Lk. 18:31-34), PROVES that there are different gospels in the Bible.

There is much confusion on this issue, and I have to say that some of the blame is to be laid at the feet of dispensational teachers who make it sound like salvation is by works in other dispensations. God has never and will never accept the works of sinful flesh (Jn. 6:63; Rom. 7:18; 8:8).

I am going to give you five points that I hope will help you to better understand the dispensational truth of the word of God concerning salvation.

1. The basis of salvation in every age is the blood of Christ.
The death and resurrection of Christ is the only basis upon which God can save a sinner in any age. It was planned before the world began and prophesied in the OT. However, it was not understood or preached as good news until after it was accomplished (1 Cor. 2:8). Its full meaning was a mystery revealed through Paul’s gospel (Gal. 1:11-12). The cross-work of Christ is the secret to God’s dealings with sinners in every age, but it was not fully revealed until this present age. By faith, the OT saints obeyed the commandments of the law and brought the required sacrifices for their sins. Through forbearance God allowed the blood of bulls and of goats (that cannot take away sins, Heb. 10:4) to cover sins because He knew the blood of Christ would be shed for the remission of sins (Rom. 3:25).

2. The condition for salvation in every age is essentially faith.
Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). The eleventh chapter of Hebrews demonstrates that men before the law and under the law obtained a good report from God by faith. Why did God accept the sacrifice of Abel? He brought it by faith (Heb. 11:4).

3. The object of faith in every age is the word of God.
Faith is not just believing. Everybody believes in something, but not everybody has faith (2 Thess. 3:2). Faith is believing the word of God (Rom. 4:3-5; 10:17).

4. The content of faith is not the same in every age because God has not given man the same message in every age.
God has not always told men not to do any works but to simply trust the finished work of Christ alone for salvation as He does in this age (Rom. 4:5). In time past, He required works of men to prove their faith, and He will do so again after this age. If God requires works, real faith will seek to do those works (Jam. 2:14-26), but the works in and of themselves have never and will never save a sinner. A man’s faith must be proven. Why doesn’t God require us to do works to prove our faith in this age? We are justified by "the faith of Christ" (Gal. 2:16; 3:22-23) and His faith is perfect and proven!

The word “gospel” means good news from God. As good as God is, do you really think that he has only had one message of good news throughout the ages? For example, here are four gospel messages in the Bible that are not the same gospel we are to preach in this age:
1.) Preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8)
2.) Preached to Israel in the wilderness (Heb. 3:7-4:2)
3.) Kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 24:14)
4.) Everlasting (Rev. 14:6-7)

5. The results of faith are not the same in every age because God has not given believers in every age the same position, blessings, and destiny. There is doctrine revealed in Paul’s epistles concerning the position, blessings, and destiny of the Body of Christ that we do not find in the OT, Gospels, or Hebrews through Revelation and we must not try to force things that are different to be the same. This information is only found in Paul’s epistles because he is the one to whom the glorified Christ from Heaven revealed it. Christ committed these truths to Paul to make it known. Our position as members of the Body of Christ means that nothing can separate us from the love of God (compare Rom. 8:35-39 with John 15:10 and Jude 21). We are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13) and therefore would never have to pray, "take not thy holy spirit from me" as David did (Ps. 51:11). The Spirit of the Lord will never depart from us as He did from King Saul (compare 1 Sam. 16:14 with Eph. 4:30). We are never told to endure unto the end (Matt. 24:13), but rather that Christ will confirm us unto the end (1 Cor. 1:8). Our blessings are spiritual and in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3), not material blessings on earth (Deut. 28). We did not obtain our blessings by keeping the commandments of the law but by being in Christ. The Body of Christ is destined to reign with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6-7). It is Israel that is destined to reign on the earth (Ex. 19:5-6; Rev. 5:10).

Monday, November 12, 2018

Eph. 1:13 vs. Jam.1:18

One of the most important things about right division is that it enables us to understand and clearly present the only gospel by which sinners are saved in this present age of grace. The "word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15) can refer to the scripture in general (Ps. 119:43; 2 Cor. 6:7), or to the gospel in particular.

The gospel of the grace of God is "the word of truth" by which we are saved today (Eph. 1:13), but the gospel of the kingdom is "the word of truth" by which Israel will be saved in the future (Jam. 1:18). Failure to rightly divide these messages leads to confusion and false doctrine.

Let's compare the word of truth in Ephesians with the word of truth in James.

1. Paul wrote to those who were uncircumcised Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-12), but James wrote to the twelve tribes of Israel (Jam. 1:1).

2. The gospel that Paul preached had to do with a mystery hid from the prophets (Eph. 3:1-6; 6:19-20), but the gospel Peter, James, and John preached was a prophesied message (1 Pet. 1:9-13; 23-25).

3. Paul taught that salvation is by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9, justification by the faith OF Christ), but James taught that a man is not justified until he proves his faith by his works (Jam. 1:21-27; 2:14-26).

4. Paul taught that believers are sealed with the Spirit the moment they believe the gospel (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30 = eternal security), but James taught that believers must endure faithfully to the end (Jam. 1:12; 5:7-11).

Things that are different are not the same!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Things that Differ

In spite of the fact that the word of God plainly tells believers in this present age to follow the apostle Paul (e.g. 1 Cor. 11:1), many professing Christians resent that idea when presented with it and claim to follow the whole Bible instead. That is not even possible because God’s word has different things to say to different people living under different dispensations. Even a casual reading of the Bible reveals that there are different instructions given concerning the same issues! For example, concerning the simple matter of what we are to eat, are you going to follow the instructions God gave Adam, Noah, Moses, or Paul?

All of the Bible is the word of God and is therefore profitable FOR us (2 Tim. 3:16), but it is not all written TO us (2 Tim. 2:15). We need to read and study the whole Bible. When we come across something that does not line up with what the apostle Paul taught in his epistles, we are to follow what CHRIST said through Paul directly to us in this present age (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13).

All of the truth in the Bible is good, but there are things that are more excellent for us in this present age of grace (Phil. 1:9-11). The law revealed through Moses for Israel was more excellent than what all of the other nations lived by (Rom. 2:17-20). However, under grace we have something more excellent than the law (Phil. 3:1-10)!

Here is a list of 23 examples that prove you cannot follow everything the Bible says, and that it must be rightly divided to be understood. 

COMPARE (1 Cor. 2:13)

1) Gospel - Matt. 4:23; 17:22-23; 24:14 with Acts 20:24; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Col. 1:5-6

2) Audience – Matt. 10:5-7; Lk. 24:47; Acts 11:19 with Acts 26:17; 1 Tim. 2:4

3) Salvation - Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38 with Acts 16:30-31; Eph. 2:8-9

4) Justification - Jam. 2:24 with Rom. 3:28; 4:5

5) Righteousness - Deut. 6:24-25; Lk. 1:6; Rev. 19:8 with Phil. 3:4-10

6) Forgiveness - Matt. 6:14-15 with Eph. 4:32

7) Acceptance - Acts 10:35 with Titus 3:5; Eph. 1:6

8) Love of God - Jn. 15:10; Jude 21 with Rom. 8:38-39

9) Security - Matt. 24:13 with 1 Cor. 1:8

10) Sealed with Spirit - 1 Sam. 16:14; Ps. 51:11 with Eph. 4:30

11) Blessings - Deut. 28:1-5 with Eph. 1:3

12) Coming of the Lord - Matt.24:15 (signs) with Phil. 3:20 (no signs)

13) Law - Matt. 23:1-3 with Rom. 6:14

14) Diet - Lev. 11:46-47 with 1 Tim. 4:1-6

15) Circumcision - Gen. 17:9-14 with Gal. 5:2

16) Holy days - Lev. 23:1-3 with Gal. 4:8-11; Col. 2:16

17) Water Baptism - Matt. 28:19 with 1 Cor. 1:17

18) Signs - Mk. 16:17-18 with 1 Cor. 13:8-13

19) Teachers - 1 Jn. 2:27 with Eph. 4:11

20) Prayer - Matt. 21:22 with 2 Cor. 12:8-9

21) Provision - Acts 4:34-35 with 1 Thess. 4:11-12

22) Riches - Matt. 19:21-24; Jam. 5:1 with 1 Tim. 6:17-19

23) Giving - Mal. 3:6-10 with 2 Cor. 9:7

Monday, October 29, 2018

Following the Apostle Paul

"Brethren, be followers together of me..."

In His earthly ministry, Christ said to His disciples, “Follow me.” The only other man in the Bible who exhorts people to follow his example and teaching is the apostle Paul.

One of the most important truths that believers need to learn is that Paul is the divinely appointed pattern and spokesman and for the Body of Christ to follow in this present age of grace (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1; Phil. 3:17-21; 4:9). Sadly, very few churches today recognize Paul’s authority (2 Tim. 1:15).

When I say that we are to follow Paul, I am simply quoting scripture. I am not exalting a man or making more out of Paul than the scripture does. I am certainly not putting Christ and Paul on the same level. We know that Paul was the “chief of sinners” saved by grace, while Christ is the sinless Son of God and the Savior of sinners. We know that Paul was nothing in himself while Christ is everything for “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” But it was to Paul that the glorified Lord committed the revelation of His message and program for this present dispensation.

It is not the person but the office of Paul that we magnify (Rom. 11:15). We are not to follow Paul as a man (1 Cor. 1:10-17). We are to follow the doctrine that Christ revealed through Paul (1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:10-14).

Many resent the idea that we are to follow Paul. They boast that they follow the whole Bible. That is not even possible because God’s word has different things to say to different people living under different dispensations. There are different instructions in the Bible concerning the same issues! All of the Bible is for us, but it is not all written to us. 

We should read and study the whole Bible. When we come across something that does not line up with what Christ said to us through the apostle Paul in this present age of grace, we must consider what Paul said first (2 Tim. 2:7). Of course, there are things that never change throughout the Bible. 

We are not pitting the words of Moses, Jesus Christ, or Peter against Paul. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is therefore the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). But the word of God must be rightly divided if it is going to be understood (2 Tim. 2:15).

Monday, October 22, 2018

Mysteries in the Bible

The word of God was given by progressive revelation over a period of about 1,500 years. God did not reveal and dispense everything at once. New revelation that brought about changes in God’s dealings with man is dispensational truth.

Moses, who wrote the five books of the Law, knew that God had secret things that He had yet to reveal (Deut. 29:29). God knows how to keep a secret! Nobody, not even the devil himself (Ezek. 28:3), can know the secrets of the Lord until He reveals them (Prov. 25:2-3; Rom. 11:33). 

Proverbs 25:
2 It is the glory of God to CONCEAL a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
3 The HEAVEN for height, and the EARTH for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.

Those who think they can find out God’s secrets before He reveals them rob Him of glory. The secrets of the Lord concern both His purpose for heaven and earth. 

One of the main reasons God has kept secrets is because of the adversary (1 Cor. 2:6-10). God’s mysteries are revealed after apparent failure. God never fails, but man always does.

The words “mystery” and “mysteries” are found 27 times in the Bible (3 in the Gospels, 20 Paul's epistles, and 4 in Revelation). A mystery is not something we can never know, but a secret we cannot know until God reveals it in His word, and then to us personally by His Spirit. God reveals mysteries because He wants us to know them.

I. There are mysteries that concern the prophetic kingdom program of Israel that Christ revealed to His disciples ON EARTH (Matt. 13:10-11, 34-35; Rev. 10:7).

II. Satan has a mystery that works in opposition to what God is doing (2 Thess. 2:7; Rev. 2:18-29; 17:1-7).

III. There are mysteries concerning this present age that were revealed through the apostle Paul FROM HEAVEN (1 Cor. 4:1-2).

1) Body of Christ (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-12) – What this age is about
2) Israel’s blindness (Rom. 11:25) – How this age began
3) Rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-52) – How this age will end
4) God’s will (Eph. 1:8-12) – Our role in the eternal state
5) Gospel (Eph. 6:19-20) – How to get in the Body of Christ
6) Godliness (1 Tim. 3:16) – How to live as a member of Body of Christ
7) Iniquity (2 Thess. 2:7) – How Satan opposes the mystery of godliness

Monday, October 15, 2018

Magnifying Paul's Office

The apostle Paul had something to say about the importance of his message and ministry in basically every epistle that he wrote. He was not an egomaniac because he wrote by inspiration of God. Paul gave all glory to God and knew that he was nothing as a man (Rom. 7:18):
  • I am the least of the apostles (1 Cor. 15:9-10)
  • I am less than the least of all saints (Eph. 3:8)
  • I am the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)
Yet, he knew that God, by His exceeding abundant grace, had given him a special ministry.

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
(Rom. 11:13)

Why do so many preachers try to minimize what God has magnified (Ps. 138:2)? What good is God’s name if He cannot keep His word? How many preachers in the world today believe that God inspired and perfectly preserved His words? Among those that believe that, how many recognize Paul as the pattern and spokesman for the Body of Christ to follow in this present age of grace?

Do we make too much out of Paul? I have been accused of that for simply pointing out what GOD said about him! Let’s consider what the word of God says about his ministry. 

1) Apostle (Gal. 1:1)
That God inspired Paul to write much scripture in defense of his apostleship proves the importance of it. His apostleship was under constant attack largely because of the distinctiveness of his message and ministry. Apostles were men chosen by the Lord and personally SENT OUT by Him with a message and signs to confirm it (2 Cor. 12:12). While on earth Christ sent twelve apostles to the twelve tribes of Israel. From heaven, He sent Paul (and other apostles) to the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:7-12). With the completion of the word of God there is no longer a need for apostles. Paul was the last one to see the Lord (1 Cor. 15:8).

Christ sent him as the apostle to the Gentiles and the Body of Christ (Acts 26:16-18). Paul went to the Jew first during the transition period because God used him to get a remnant out of Israel before He set the action aside in judicial blindness. There are some who say that will not follow Paul because they follow the Lord. You can’t follow the Lord if you don’t follow the apostle that He sent to you (Jn. 13:20).

2) Preacher (1 Tim. 2:3-7)
As a preacher, Paul faithfully heralded the gospel that Christ revealed to him and committed to his trust (2 Tim. 4:16-17; Titus 1:1-3). Christ sent Paul to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17), and His unsearchable riches (Eph. 3:8). He was the greatest evangelist the world has ever known (Col. 1:6, 23).

3) Teacher (2 Tim. 1:11)
As a teacher, Paul faithfully taught the doctrines that Christ revealed through him for the Body of Christ in this present age and trained faithful men to teach others also (1 Cor. 4:15-17; 2 Tim. 2:2).

4) Minister (Col. 1:21-29)
He was minister to every creature with the gospel, and to the church with the mystery. Paul was not a Christian celebrity, but a humble servant of the Lord (1 Thess. 2:6)! He did not abuse his great authority (2 Cor. 1:24).

5) Ambassador (Eph. 6:19-20)
Ambassadors are sent to a foreign land (our conversation is in heaven) in a time of peace (today is the day of salvation) to represent their king. Ambassadors are messengers (Prov. 13:17). Christ revealed the mystery of the gospel to Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Gal. 1:11-12), and he became a prisoner (of the Lord) by faithfully fulfilling his ministry. We too are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).

6) Pattern (1 Tim. 1:12-16)
This present age began when Christ saved the chief of sinner by exceeding abundant grace (not in experience but in longsuffering and grace). He is also our example in how to walk and serve the Lord (Phil. 3:17; 4:9).

7) Masterbuilder (1 Cor. 3:10-11)
Paul laid the foundation for this present age by preaching Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Rom. 16:25). Christ is the foundation (both programs).

8) Steward (1 Cor. 4:1-2)
Christ revealed the great mystery (i.e. secret) of the Body of Christ as well as other corresponding mysteries to Paul and he was a faithful steward of those mysteries. 

9) Spokesman (1 Cor. 14:37)
Paul did not actually use the word "spokesman," but it is a Bible word for someone who speaks for another (Ex. 4:16). Paul was God's mouthpiece to the Gentiles and the Body of Christ. God took Moses up on a mount and revealed the Law through him for Israel. After his conversion, Paul went out into the wilderness (likely on the same mount) for three years to receive revelations for this present age for the Body of Christ (Gal. 1:15-20). Paul's thirteen epistles are the word of God.

Paul was careful to give God all the glory for what HE did in and through him. We are not magnifying a man, but the office that God gave him. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Paul was not one of the Twelve Apostles

Some Bible teachers claim that Paul was God’s choice to replace Judas Iscariot, and that Peter was out of God's will when he led in appointing Matthias as the replacement (Acts 1:15-26). The Bible says NO such thing! 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 (Ps. 109:8), but Paul's special ministry had to do with a mystery hid from the prophets (Col. 1:24-27).
2)     There had to be twelve apostles in order for the kingdom to be offered to Israel in the early Acts period (Matt. 19:28).
3)     Peter and the other apostles had the authority to act in the stead of Christ (Matt. 16:19; 18:18-19).
4)     They prayed about it, and Christ promised to give them whatsoever they asked (Matt. 21:22).
5)     Some think that they cast lots was a wrong thing to do (Acts 1:26), but that was a scriptural way for the Jews to discern God's will (Prov. 16:33).
6)     Paul did not even meet the qualifications to be one of the twelve (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 (Gal. 1:1).

There are clear differences between the ministries of Paul and the twelve apostles. Paul plainly and purposely distinguished himself from them (Gal. 1-2). While there were other apostles to the Body of Christ (such as Barnabas, Acts 14:14), Paul was "THE apostle of the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:13).

1)     The twelve were chosen by Christ on earth. Israel is God’s earthly people (Deut. 7:6). Paul was chosen by Christ from heaven. The Body of Christ is God’s heavenly people (Eph. 2:6).
2)     The twelve were appointed to lead Israel (Matt. 19:28). Paul was appointed to lead the Body of Christ (Col. 1:24-27).
3)     The twelve represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Paul represents the one Body of Christ. He was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews", and yet he was also a Roman citizen (Phil. 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 (Matt. 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 (Rom. 11:11) and there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body (Gal. 3:27-28). 
7)     Under the kingdom commission water baptism was required and signs were the evidence of salvation (Mk. 16:15-18). Under Paul’s commission he was not sent to baptize, and he said early in his ministry that signs would cease (1 Cor. 1:17; 13:8-10).

Monday, October 1, 2018

Dangerous Gospel Cliches

One of the primary activities of Satan in this age is to blind the minds of the lost to the light of the glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:1-4). Sadly, he is very successful in this work. How does he do it? It is not so much by trying to get rid of the gospel altogether, but by promoting counterfeits in its place (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15). When any works of man whatsoever are added to the finished work of Christ, the gospel has been perverted (Gal. 1:6-12). It is sad but true that many professing Christians actually help Satan hide the gospel from the lost by failing to clearly present the gospel as it is written in the scripture (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

The best way to spot a counterfeit is to know the real thing very well. In this present Age of Grace there is only one proper response to the gospel of the grace of God. Sinners must simply BELIEVE the gospel, trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ alone for salvation (Rom. 3:19-28; 4:4-5; 11:6; Eph. 1:13; 2:8-9).

There are false gospels that are easy to spot because they plainly require works for salvation. However, the goal in counterfeiting something is to make it look as close as possible to the real thing. The closer it is to the truth, the more deceptive and dangerous it is. It amazes me how Christians settle for being "close to the truth" on many vital issues. We are supposed to approve the things that are excellent, not "close to the truth" (Phil. 1:9-10).

The most clever way Satan counterfeits the gospel is not by denying the cross of Christ and the necessity of faith, but by disguising works as faith.

"Ask Jesus into your heart." 
On the surface this may sound like an innocent statement, but that’s exactly what makes it so deceptive and dangerous. In salvation, it is God that invites the sinner to believe the gospel, not the sinner that invites God to do anything. The idea that people get from this cliché is that they need Jesus to come into their heart to help make them a better person, but in salvation we are made a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). 

The verse that is commonly used to support this cliché is Rev. 3:20, but it is:
1. Not even a verse on salvation
2. Not talking about the door of a heart
3. Not in the context of this present age

Another verse is Eph. 3:17, but Paul is speaking to believers in the context. Christ lives in every believer, but He wants to dwell (make Himself at home) in our hearts. This doesn't come by asking, but by faith. 

This cliché is usually used in the context of trying to get sinners to walk the aisle and say the sinners prayer at the altar. Where is any of that in the scripture? You don’t have to walk an aisle, repeat a prayer, or kneel at an altar to be saved. You must simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved (Acts 16:31). You might pray out of a believing heart when you get saved, but you aren’t saved by praying. The flesh is religious and has no problem repeating a prayer to get a ticket to heaven! 

"Give your life to the Lord."
Salvation is in receiving the gift of God, not giving a gift to God! This cliché confuses salvation with service. Those who have been saved by grace should willingly offer themselves to serve the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:5).

"Turn from your sins and accept Christ." 
The clear implication of this cliché is that you must clean yourself up before God will accept you. No sinner has the capability of turning away from his sins, that is why he needs to be saved! Repentance is simply a change of mind. A sinner repents when they believe the gospel because they change their mind about sin in that they want to be saved, and they change their mind about what they were trusting in that they are now trusting Christ. The apostle Paul did not emphasize repentance like John the Baptist and the apostle Peter did when they preached the gospel of the kingdom to Israel. By the way, Christ does not need OUR acceptance!

"Make Jesus the Lord of your life." 
This is a favorite cliché of Calvinists. They also like to say, “If He is not Lord of all then He is not Lord at all!” This is known as Lordship Salvation. It is largely based on the discipleship requirements in the Gospels. First of all, Jesus Christ is the Lord and He doesn’t need us to make Him Lord. Submitting more and more to the Lordship of Christ in every area of our life is something Christians should do, but it is something that we will never completely apprehend in this life! 

We just need to give the gospel and beseech sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). If we believe in the power of the gospel we won't use wisdom of words, gimmicks, programs, or tricks of any sort (1 Cor. 1:17-18; 1 Thess. 2:4; Rom. 1:16).

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Bride of Christ

Revelation 19:6-11
[6] And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. [7] Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. [8] And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
 [9] And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. [10] And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. [11] And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

Although the term “Bride of Christ” is not actually in the Bible, Christ is called a Bridegroom (Jn. 3:29) and the Bible does refer to His bride and wife. The big question is, who is the bride? The far majority of Christians believe that the church is the bride of Christ, but there are different views concerning who that would include. Some say it includes all believers since the cross or the Day of Pentecost. Others say it includes all believers since Adam. There are even some who say it only includes believers who have been water baptized in a certain way into a certain church (Baptist Briders). 

The church that God is building in this present age (the Body of Christ is made up of all who believe the gospel of the grace of God revealed through the apostle Paul, Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:6) is likened to a bride and wife by way of illustration, but it is a great blunder to jump to the conclusion that we are the bride and wife spoken of in prophecy. 

1) When and where will this marriage take place (v.11)? 
It is clear in the context that the marriage will take place on earth upon the second coming of Christ. The marriage is associated with LAND (Isa. 62:1-5). The context contrasts the whore (Babylon) with the pure wife (New Jerusalem). Tradition says that it will take place in heaven upon the rapture, but there is not a verse of scripture that supports that view. The reason that God uses the figure of marriage in regard to His relationship with His people is that marriage is a union. Upon the second coming of Christ, the believing remnant of Israel (those who faithfully endure) will be regathered and joined to their land, and they will be joined to their Messiah and King (Heb. 3:6, 14). If we are the bride in this passage that would mean that we are going through the tribulation period and that we are not joined to Christ until the second coming! Paul taught that we are permanently joined to the Lord the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13; Rom. 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 11:1-3). 

2) How will the wife make herself ready (v.8)? 
She is called a wife before the marriage because betrothal in Israel was so binding that a bride could be also called a wife before the consummation of the marriage (Matt. 1:18-20). She is ready for the marriage because she is clothed in clean and white linen. How did she get that garment (Rev. 3:1-6; 6:9-11; 7:9-17)? The godly remnant in Israel proved their faith by their works in that they overcame the beast and stayed true to Christ. The white garment represents the “righteousness of saints.” How could any of this possibly apply to the Body of Christ? We will be raptured BEFORE the 70th week of Daniel. The prophecy of the 70th week cannot be fulfilled until this parenthetical mystery age closes with th mystery of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-52). We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ upon salvation and we are complete in Him (Phil. 3:9; Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10). 

3) Is this passage the subject of the mystery or prophecy? 
The book of Revelation is called a prophecy five times. It is the culmination of the prophetic kingdom program of Israel. Everything in it is based on what was spoken by the prophets since the world began, but the Body of Christ is a great mystery that was hid in God and kept secret since the world began until it was revealed to the apostle Paul (Rom. 16:25). 

Contrary to popular opinion, Eph. 5:22-32 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, 2:1-16, 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. 

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). Being the BODY of Christ is a greater position than being the bride. Israel is spoken of many times as being a woman, but we are one new MAN. 

Basic outline of the prophetic doctrine concerning the bride

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; Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13)
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, she is still called a bride because the millennial reign was the marriage supper (Rev. 21:1-2, 9-21). 

Monday, September 17, 2018

What is Satan Doing Today?

Satan is not in hell today, and neither is he down at the bar trying to get people drunk. So, what is he doing? 

God took the wise in his own craftiness (Job 5:13; 1 Cor. 3:19) by causing Satan to defeat himself when he had Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:8). The mystery of the Body of Christ (formed on basis of the cross, Eph. 2:16) is a great demonstration of the wisdom of God (Eph. 3:9-10). 

Those who saw Christ on the cross considered Him to be a victim, but there was an unseen spiritual battle raging and we know through the word of God that He was actually the VICTOR (Isa. 50:5-8; Col. 2:15).

Through the cross and the revelation of the mystery God made a FOOL out of Satan and he is very angry about it because he prides himself on being wise. So, what do you think is his focus of attack in this present age? It is on the “preaching of the cross” and “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.” Knowing who God is and what He is doing is the most important thing to know, but knowing who Satan is and what he is doing is the next most important thing. We can’t know what Satan is doing if we don’t know what God is doing because Satan is all about opposing what God is doing. The Devil gets blamed for many things he is not responsible for (so does the Lord). If we don’t know what he is really up to it will give him a great advantage over us (2 Cor. 2:11). 

I think we can sum up Satan's activities today under three main categories.

1) Politics – Christ called Satan “the prince of this world” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). There are invisible principalities and powers working through the visible world leaders (Eph. 6:12). Satan is at work preparing the nations for his reign in the coming tribulation period. The world (including the USA) is primed and ready to accept his counterfeit Christ (2 Thess. 2:3-12).

2) Religion
– The apostle Paul called Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and warned that he transforms himself as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Satan is the god of all the world’s religions including the so-called Christian religion of Catholicism. So, the liberals are actually right when they say that all religions have the same god, but he is not the true and living God! God has a mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16). Satan has a mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:7) that is at work now and will culminate in the tribulation period when the world worships him as God.

One of Satan’s primary activities today is seeking to blind the lost to glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:1-6). He does this through religions that preach counterfeit gospels. He has counterfeit apostles, ministers, and churches that propagate counterfeit gospels (2 Cor. 11:1-4, 13-15). For example, the Catholics preach “another Jesus” and the Charismatics “another spirit.” Both preach “another gospel.” How can we identify a perverted gospel? When any human works are added to the finished work of Christ as requirement to receive salvation, it is a perverted gospel (Gal. 1:6-12). Satan will even use BIBLICAL gospels that are for other dispensations. For example, he enjoys hearing preachers misuse Acts 2:38 as the plan of salvation for today!

3) Church – Those that believe the gospel of Christ are delivered from the power of darkness and become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12-13). We are in the light, but we must grow as we learn to walk in the light (Eph. 5:8). Satan is working to keep the saints blinded to who we are in Christ (which is why Paul prayed what he did in Eph. 1:15-23) and thereby hinder us from walking worthy of our high and holy calling as members of the Body of Christ. Spiritual understanding precedes and produces a fruitful WALK (Col. 1:9-10). Satan knows this, and therefore he is after our MIND (2 Cor. 11:3). By faith we must put on the new man and the whole armour of God in our daily walk (Eph. 4:17-32; 6:10-20). Failing to do so is to give place to the devil and allow him to set up a strong hold in our mind and life (Eph. 4:27; 2 Cor. 10:4-5). 

When Christ was physically on the earth offering the visible kingdom to Israel, Satan used visible means to oppose it (much devil possession). In this present age Christ is working on this earth spiritually through His spiritual Body and so Satan’s attack is spiritual. Our spiritual weapon by which we can fight the devil is the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17; 2 Tim. 3:16). We must believe and rightly divide the word, or Satan can even use the sword against us!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Ambassadors for Christ

2 Cor. 5:14-21
(14) For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
(15) And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
(16) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
(17) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
(18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
(19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
(20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
(21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

This passage contains the Lord’s commission to the Body of Christ in this present age (v.19b). Many commentators claim that only the ministers of Christ are ambassadors for Christ. According to the context, it is ALL who are “IN Christ” (v.17) that are “ambassadors FOR Christ” (v.20). All who have been reconciled have been given the ministry of reconciliation (v.18). What a privilege to be in Christ! With great privilege comes great responsibility. Those who are in Christ have a work to do for Christ! As ambassadors for Christ we have a message that He has committed to us to take to the world.

The Lord Jesus Christ raised up the apostle Paul to be a pattern and spokesman for the church in this present age, and we are told to follow him in doctrine and practice (1 Cor. 4:16-17; Phil. 4:9). There has never been a greater example in the work of evangelism than the apostle Paul. He was a faithful ambassador (Eph. 6:18-20). There are some who seem to follow Paul doctrinally but not practically. In other words, they know about the mystery of the Body of Christ but they aren’t doing much to help build it! May God help us to have and maintain the right balance between doctrine and practice. We may not be able to take missionary journeys like Paul, but we can all be faithful ambassadors for Christ in the opportunities that God gives us. 

An ambassador is one that is sent to another country to represent his home country. All believers are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), and this world is not our home (Col. 3:1-4). While we live in this world we must represent Christ. Consider four things about ambassadors:

1. They are SENT to a foreign land in a time of peace – The “day of his wrath” (Rev. 6:17) has been postponed. When Israel blasphemed the Holy Ghost in Acts 7 the stage was set for God to pour out His wrath. However, God poured out exceeding abundant grace by saving the leader in the rebellion against Him and revealing to him the great mystery of the Body of Christ! We are living in the “day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

2. They REPRESENT their king and homeland – We are here in “Christ’s stead." Christ is working in the world, but it is through the members of His Body, the church. We should desire for Christ to be made manifest in our life (2 Cor. 4:10-11). We are not to be a worldly people but a heavenly people. We must open our mouth and speak the truth but our life must also back up what we say!

3. An important message is COMMITTED to them (ambassador = messenger, see Prov. 13:17; Isa. 18:2) – Paul said, “we were allowed of God to be put in TRUST with the gospel” (1 Thess. 2:4).

4. They are BROUGHT HOME before war is declared – God will take the Body of Christ off the earth in the mystery of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-52) before the prophesied 70th week of Daniel begins. We are looking for Christ from heaven (Phil. 3:20-21), not the antichrist from earth.

I. Our Message
We have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” which means that it is our responsibility to preach the “word of reconciliation” which has been “committed unto us." Who better to give the message of reconciliation than those who have been reconciled? Reconciliation is to bring two disputing parties together. Lost sinners are “enemies of God” (Rom. 5:10). God is holy and therefore must judge sin. God Himself has done a work that enables Him to bring lost sinners into a right relationship with Him.

How did he make Reconciliation? – The answer is found in v.19 and 21.
1. "God was in Christ" – When Christ shed His blood on the cross it was the pure blood of God (Acts 20:28; Col. 1:14-22)!
2. "reconciling the world unto himself" – He did a work through His death, burial, and resurrection that made it possible for the world to be saved. Christ died for ALL (v.14). This offer did not begin until AFTER the fall of Israel (Rom. 11:15). God will not accept man’s attempts at reconciliation (religion). He has been sinned against and He alone sets the terms for reconciliation.
3. "not imputing their trespasses unto them" – The word impute means to put on the account of. God took the sin of the world off it's account and put it on Himself (v.21)!
4. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" - Christ had no sin, but on the cross He was made to be sin for us so that He could die for our sins (v.18; Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-22). 
5. "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" – Those who receive the offer of reconciliation by faith have the righteousness of Christ imputed to their account. We have no righteousness (Rom. 3:10), but in Christ we are made righteous. Reconciliation is based on imputation. The doctrine of imputation is illustrated in Phile. 17-18.

What happens to those who are reconciled (vs.16-17)? God has made reconciliation possible for the world but it is not applied to a lost sinner unless he receives Christ by faith. Reconciliation is not automatic, otherwise there would be no need for us to “beseech” sinners to “be reconciled to God." Those who are reconciled to are made a “new creature." The moment of salvation we are baptized by the Spirit into Christ and are made members of His spiritual body (1 Cor. 12:13). Our identity is in Him and therefore the old things of the flesh are passed away and all things are new! The Body of Christ is ONE new man. In Christ, the fleshly distinction of Jew and Gentile are done away because we are ONE in Him (Gal. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:16). Under the kingdom commission (Matt. 28:18-20), the distinction between Israel and the nations is in effect. In this age we should not look at people as being Jew or Gentile, but as either being in Christ or not. We don’t know Christ as the King of the Jews, but as the Head of the Body.

II. Our Ministry
There is one primary ministry in the present age and all believers are to take part in it (v.18b). It's about the “WORD of reconciliation." Our ministry is based on God’s word. God is not dealing with the world right now as He will in the future tribulation period. Remember that now is NOT the “day of his wrath” but the “day of salvation." God desires to BESEECH sinners through us to be reconciled to Him. To “beseech” is to ask with urgency. We are to let sinners know that reconciliation to God is available and simply “pray” them (ask them) to believe the gospel. It is not our responsibility to save them, but it is our responsibility to go tell them how to be saved.

God does not want us to make the church worldly in order to draw the lost to our building. The local church is about saved people learning the word of God so we can know the Lord and serve  according to His will. We are to go out into the world to reach the lost. We have the Holy Spirit and the gospel of the grace of God, and that is all we need to be an ambassador for Christ!

We are not to water down the message and make it all about just going to heaven when we die. The message is “be ye reconciled to God.” Everybody wants to go to heaven, but not everybody wants to be reconciled to God!

III. Our Motive
What will motivate us to be faithful ambassadors for Christ? The fear of God is a good motive (vs.9-11). However, the love of Christ is the greatest motivation (vs.14-15)! Not our love, but HIS love! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Born Again (John 3:1-12)

The exact phrase “born again” is used just three times in the Bible: twice by Christ in His conversation with Nicodemus (Jn. 3:3, 7), and once by the apostle Peter in his first epistle (1 Pet. 1:23). It is a common phrase in the religious world but most people who use it are ignorant of what it really means in the doctrinal context of how Christ and Peter used it.

Who was Jesus and Peter talking to when they spoke of being born again? They were speaking to Israel (Rom. 15:8; see "fathers" in 1 Pet. 1:18). Christ from heaven revealed the mystery of the Body of Christ to the apostle Paul (Eph. 3) and used Him to write thirteen epistles that contain specific doctrines for this age of grace (Rom. 11:13; 2 Tim. 2:7). Have you ever noticed that Paul never used the term born again? I am not saying there are no spiritual applications for us in John or 1 Peter, but that the doctrinal interpretation concerns ISRAEL.

v.1 – The first three words connect us back to the end of the previous chapter (Jn. 2:23-25). There were many that believed Jesus was “of God” because of His miracles, but did not truly believe He was the Son of God (Jn. 7:31). The Pharisees were one the major sects among the Jews. They were religious fundamentalists and self-righteous hypocrites. They loved the traditions of their fathers more than the truth of God. There were few among the Pharisees that believed on Christ. It seems that Nicodemus eventually became a disciple (Jn. 19:38-39).

v.2 - Nicodemus is mentioned in three passages (Jn. 3, 7, 19) and each time it is pointed out that he came to Jesus by night. He was interested in what Jesus had to say but he came to Him secretly because of his position as a ruler of the Jews (7:45-52; 12:42-43). Nicodemus believed that Jesus was from God and that God was with Him, but he did not yet believe that He was God. By the way, he was wrong to think that a man can only do miracles if God is with him (2 Thess. 2:9).

v.3 – Christ cut to the chase because He already knew what Nicodemus really wanted to know (Jn. 2:24-25). Nicodemus was evidently thinking about the kingdom that God promised Israel (miracles were signs of the kingdom). By this statement He is telling Nicodemus that his religious works are not sufficient. In order to SEE the kingdom of God, a man must be born again. Being a Jew would not get him into the kingdom (Matt. 3:9). There is a distinction between the kingdom of heaven (limited to earth) and the kingdom of God (broader, includes spiritual realm), but sometimes they are used interchangeably because the kingdom of heaven will be the kingdom of God established on the earth (e.g. Lk. 13:28-29). The Body of Christ is spiritually translated into the kingdom of God upon salvation (Col. 1:13), but we have yet to SEE it (1 Cor. 15:50).

v.4 – Nicodemus is thinking as a natural man (1 Cor. 2:14). 

vs.5-7 – In these three verses Christ explains what He means by being born again. Every man is born of the flesh, but he must be also born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. The water in v.5 is not a reference to water baptism, but to physical birth (v.6 explains v.5). Water is not of the Spirit and therefore could not possibly produce a spiritual birth. Or, the water could possibly also be a reference to the word of God (Jam. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). The bottom line is there is absolutely nothing that a man can do in his flesh to be born again of the Spirit (Jn. 1:11-13; 6:63).

Nicodemus, being a ruler of the Jews, represented his people. The “Ye” in v.7 refers to ISRAEL. They were born as a nation when God delivered them out of Egypt and put them under the old covenant (Ex. 4:22). They failed under that covenant (because of their flesh) and in their apostasy God testified to them, “ye are not my people” (Hos. 1). Israel will be born again as a nation when God delivers them from the antichrist and brings them under a new covenant (Isa. 66:8; 1 Pet. 1:3; 2:9-10). John refers to being born of God in his epistles. When Israel is born again they will be filled with the Holy Ghost and God’s law will be written in their hearts.

v.8 – Christ used the wind to illustrate being born of the Spirit. Just as you cannot see the wind or control it, so it is with being born of the Spirit. You cannot see the wind, but you can hear it and see it’s effects. Again, a man cannot bring about this birth by the efforts of the flesh.

vs.9-12 – Once again, Nicodemus is thinking naturally. Christ rebuked him for being a master of Israel (Rabbi) and not knowing these things (by the way, it is interesting to contrast the abrupt way Christ deals with Nicodemus with the patient way He deals with the Samaritan woman). This means that what Christ is talking about can be found in the OT scriptures (Isa. 66:8; Ezek. 36:24-28; 37:9-14). What Christ teaches in this passage concerns the “earthly things” of Israel’s prophetic program.

The gospel of the grace of God was not revealed in the earthly ministry of Christ. He revealed it later to Paul from heaven (Gal. 1:11-12). Most think it is preached in the Gospel of John because of the emphasis on believing (Jn. 20:30-31). They had to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (e.g. Matt. 16:16; Jn. 1:49; 11:27), not that He would die on the cross for our sins (see Lk. 18:31-34). It is the JEWS that require a sign (compare Jn. 20:30-31 with 1 Cor. 1:22). People have a tendency to read Paul’s gospel back into John (e.g. 3:16). It is one thing to use some verses in John by way of spiritual application, but when you teach people that the doctrine in the Gospel of John is for this present age, it presents real problems (see Jn. 5:28-29 and 15:1-10 for example).

The apostle Paul taught that we are regenerated by the Spirit of God when we trust Christ (Titus 3:5-7). Regeneration is not reformation of the flesh (Rom. 7:18; 8:8), but a new life in Christ. We are made a new creature. We become children of God by faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28).

Monday, August 20, 2018

Abundant Life

In John 10 Christ teaches about the Good Shepherd and His sheep. As you read through the passage please keep in mind that in His earthly ministry Christ was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). That is why He instructed His apostles to “go not in the way of the Gentiles.” The psalmist called the Lord the “Shepherd of Israel” (Ps. 80:1). Nearly all references in the Bible that liken God’s people to sheep concern His earthly people, the nation of Israel.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (Jn. 10:10)

The celebrity preachers love to use this verse to support their prosperity gospel. They preach that Christ came not only to give us eternal life, but an abundant life of physical health and material wealth. They handle the word of God deceitfully (2 Cor. 4:2) because they try to steal the earthly promises of Israel. Plus, they don't give the whole truth. To enter the kingdom, the little flock of believing Israel first had to sell all and follow Christ through the valley of the shadow of death. They had to take up their cross and follow Him, but they will be greatly rewarded in the kingdom (Matt. 19:27-29). What Christ promises in v.10 is the fulfillment of prophecies like Ps. 23 and Isa. 61:4-7.

The church today is not required to sell all, but we should be cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9:7). We have not been given earthly promises, but we do have a great inheritance awaiting us in glory. We will reign eternally in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1), and we have the opportunity to receive eternal rewards for faithful service in this life. We do not have to wait for the rapture to enjoy an abundant life!

The apostle Paul said more about the abundant life than all other writers combined:
"abundantly" 8 times
"abundant" 9 times
"abound" 16 times
"abounded" 5 times
"abounding" 2 times
"aboundeth" 2 times
Total = 42 references

ABUND'ANT, a. Plentiful; in great quantity; fully sufficient; as an abundant supply. In scripture, abounding; having in great quantity; overflowing with. (Webster's 1828 Dictionary)

The apostle Paul talks about believers abounding in spiritual things. We are God’s heavenly people (Eph. 2:6; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1-4). God has abounded toward us that we might abound in our walk with Him (Eph. 1:7-8; 3:20-21; Titus 3:4-7). What word better describes your Christian walk: barely or abundantly? Are we abounding more and more in our Christian walk (1 Thess. 4:1)?

The three major characteristics of the Christian life are faith, hope, and charity (1 Cor. 13:13). Paul mentions these three together many times in his epistles. We should abound in faith (Col. 2:6-7), hope (Rom. 15:13), and love (Phil. 1:9; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Thess. 1:3). There are other things we are to abound in, such as labor (1 Cor. 15:10, 58) and giving (2 Cor. 8:7; 9:8).

Christ has delivered us from the bondage of the law and religion. The grace life is an abundant life (Gal. 5:22-23)!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Practical Hyperdispensationalism

I am sure you are familiar with the term, “Hyper-dispensationalism.” It is a big word, but it is not difficult to understand. The Greek prefix, “hyper” means excessive and going beyond what is right and acceptable. Some prefer the Latin prefix, “ultra.” Dispensationalism is the divine method of Bible study (2 Tim. 2:15). It is the understanding that although God doesn’t change in His person, He does change in His dealings with man throughout the ages. Man is always prone to extremes, so it is certainly possible to go to unscriptural extremes and be guilty of wrongly dividing the word of truth.

Doctrinally speaking, the issue of when you believe this present dispensation began is typically one of the main ways people judge whether or not they think someone is a hyper-dispensationalist. The problem is that what may seem hyper in comparison to your traditional view may not be hyper at all in the word of God (1 Thess. 5:21). I believe that this present dispensation began with Paul’s salvation and ministry. Many dispensationalists, who hold to the more traditional view that it started on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), would accuse me of teaching hyper-dispensationalism.

What is a biblical dispensation? It is basically a dispensing of divine revelation that brings about significant changes in God’s dealings with man. How can a dispensation begin before the revelations that make it a distinct dispensation are dispensed (Col. 1:24-27)? We are living in the Dispensation of the Mystery which was planned by God before the world began but kept secret until He first revealed it through the apostle Paul. What took place in Acts 2 was according to PROPHECY. Furthermore, the gospel that we must believe in order to be baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ was first revealed to Paul. The apostle Peter was not preaching the gospel of the grace of God on the Day of Pentecost (compare Acts 2:38 with 1 Cor. 1:17)!

Doctrinal hyper-dispensationalism does exist, and it is a legitimate problem (e.g. the Acts 28 position). However, my purpose in this post is to warn you about the danger of falling into what we might call practical hyper-dispensationalism. It is possible to not be hyper in our doctrine, but to be hyper in how we act concerning our doctrine.

According to Phil. 4:5, Christians are to be known for their moderation. What is moderation? It is the avoidance of excess or extremes. It’s a good testimony to live a balanced Christian life. This is not easy because the flesh is ever prone to excess and extremes. Finding and maintaining the right balance in the Christian life is very important but it is also very difficult. Thankfully, “the Lord is at hand.” Some say this means that the coming of the Lord for us is imminent (3:20), while others say it means Christ is always near. Well, both are true! He lives in us and we can live a balanced Christian life through His strength. He is coming soon to glorify us into His image. We will never struggle again in that glorious day!

Extremism is not only the danger of being excessive in a bad thing for there is also the subtle danger of taking a good thing too far. Eating is good but eating to an extreme is bad. Consider this bit of practical wisdom from Proverbs: “Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” (Prov. 25:16). We can apply this proverb to our spiritual diet. The word of God is our spiritual food. David said that the word of God is "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”

Now, please don't misunderstand me, we certainly need to be filled with the word of God (Col. 3:16)! But the word of God is not only to be taken in, it is also to be exercised out in our daily life (1 Tim. 4:6-7). We are to "work out" our own salvation (Phil. 2:12). Knowledge without charity puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1-3). Paul said that without charity we are nothing even if we understand all mysteries and have all knowledge (1 Cor. 13:2). We must not study the Bible just to gain knowledge. We must study the Bible to know God in a real relationship and serve Him according to His will.

We are guilty of practical hyper-dispensationalism when:

We neglect the scripture that is not written directly TO us 

Those of us who have come to understand that the apostle Paul was given the distinct revelations for this present dispensation need to be careful not to overemphasize his epistles to the point of neglecting the rest of scripture. Recognizing that Paul is the divinely appointed pattern and spokesman for this age is very important and we should emphasize the doctrines revealed through him for today. However, it is possible to take it too far. Romans through Philemon is indeed the word of God, but so is Genesis through Acts and Hebrews through Revelation.

We should follow Paul’s example in this matter. His epistles contain many quotes and allusions to the OT scripture. He said that the things which were written aforetime were written for our learning (Rom. 15:4) and admonition (1 Cor. 10:11). Someone might say, “Well, he said that in his Acts epistles.” In his last inspired epistle, he said that ALL scripture is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16). All dispensationalists at least give lip service to this fact. Even the most extreme dispensationalists would say we should study the whole Bible, but if in practice they rarely preach spiritual applications or teach doctrine other than dispensational truth, they are acting like a hyper-dispensationalist.

God preserved the whole Bible for a reason (Prov. 30:5; Matt. 4:4). Paul’s epistles are not the only place to find doctrine for this age (virgin birth, hell, God). There are spiritual applications for us throughout the whole Bible. Right division has helped me to enjoy the rest of the Bible more than ever before because now I understand it better. Paul said that we are not stablished without "the scriptures of the prophets" (Rom. 16:25-26)? Read and study the WHOLE Bible!

We cannot fellowship with those who do not see everything the way we do

There are some who glory in the truth of the ONE BODY but can’t seem to get along with anybody who doesn’t agree with them on every detail of how they understand dispensational truth. They treat Christians who are not as enlightened as they like they are second-class members of the Body of Christ. Isn’t it ironic that there are so many cliques and schisms in the “grace movement” (1 Cor. 1:10-13)? Those who lament the error of denominationalism are too often denominational in their attitude and conduct. The basis of our fellowship is clearly laid out in Eph. 4:1-6. 

I am certainly not saying we should be ecumenical. We should take a strong stand for truth, and there is a time to separate from apostates and heretics, but we should not break fellowship over things like whether or not you believe the twelve apostles are in the Body of Christ. Be careful not to develop a critical spirit towards all believers who don’t see everything the way you do (knit-picking everything you hear). By the way, the mainstream dispensationalists typically won’t fellowship with us, so they can also be guilty of practical hyper-dispensationalism.

We ignore the practical applications of the doctrine we profess to believe

Being “under grace” is not just a doctrinal statement: it is a spiritual reality that ought to change the way we live (Rom. 6:14-18; Titus 2:1, 11-15). After laying a doctrinal foundation, the apostle Paul always made practical applications to our daily walk. If you think that preaching biblical separation and exhorting the saints to live godly in this present world is legalism, then you are acting like a hyper-dispensationalist. I thank God for showing me the grace message, not because it freed me from the responsibility to live right, but that it taught me the right way to go about it! What did it do for Paul (1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 4:9)? 

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Distinctiveness of the Apostle Paul

In rightly dividing the word of truth, it is absolutely imperative that we rightly divide Paul’s ministry from that of the twelve apostles. Yet, mainstream and watered-down dispensationalists insist that there is no difference between the ministries of Peter and Paul and claim that it is "hyper-dispensationalism" to believe that there is. They have evidently never asked themselves the important question, “Why Paul?” If his apostleship, message, and ministry was the same as the twelve apostles, what was the point of Christ saving him in the manner he did, away from Jerusalem, and away from the twelve?

The twelve apostles had already been commissioned by Christ to go into all the world (Mk. 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, their fall, and the revelation of the mystery.

In the kingdom commission, the apostles were told to begin at Jerusalem because, according to prophecy, the Gentiles are to be blessed through Israel, and Jerusalem will be the capitol city in the Kingdom Age. Due to the fact that the nation of Israel did not repent of killing their Messiah, there was no need for them to go to the nations. When Paul explained his ministry to the apostles in Jerusalem (in Acts 15, about 15 years after conversion), 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 it will be fulfilled in the future tribulation period (Matt. 24:14).

Paul’s ministry was so different that some to this very day claim that he was a false apostle. Even lost people can see the difference between Peter and Paul! 

It is not an exaggeration to say that Paul’s conversion is one of the most significant events in the Bible:
1. It is more fully described and more often referred to than any other conversion
2. It is more fully described and more often referred to than any other personal experience in the Bible outside the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
3. The majority of three chapters in Acts are taken up with the account of it (9, 22, 26)
4. So aware was Paul himself of the significance of his conversion that he refers to it repeatedly in his epistles (1 Cor. 15; Gal. 1; Phil. 3; 1 Tim. 1). Paul was not an egomaniac (Eph. 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.

Paul is distinct from the twelve apostles in his:

I. Conversion (1 Tim. 1:12-16)
The sudden and glorious appearance of Christ to Saul of Tarsus was totally off the prophetic script! He had blasphemed the Holy Ghost (Acts 7) and therefore could not be saved under the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 12:31-32). Everything was ripe and ready for God’s wrath to poured out (Acts 7:56), but instead He poured out exceeding abundant grace by saving the leader of the rebellion against Him and sending him out with the message of reconciliation that He might build one NEW man, the church which is His Body. Paul was the first one to hear and believe the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).

II. Apostleship (Gal. 1-2)
All of the apostles (sent ones) saw the Lord and were personally sent out by Him with a message and ministry (with "signs of an apostle"). Paul clearly distinguishes his apostleship from that of the twelve (Rom. 11:13; 1 Cor. 15:5). He was not even qualified to be one of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:15-26), and there are many differences between his apostleship and theirs (I will list differences in a later lesson).

III. Message (Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:1-13)
Paul received an abundance of revelations (2 Cor. 12:7) directly from the Lord. The gospel of the grace of God, the church which is the Body of Christ, the rapture, and many other things were revealed to him first. He was the first one to glory in the cross and preach it as GOOD NEWS. It is Paul alone who taught that we are justified by the faith OF Christ. It is Paul alone who says, “ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

IV. Commission
When we simply compare how Christ sent out the twelve apostles with how He sent out Paul, it should be obvious that they were not sent under the same commission.

1. Sent from Christ on earth vs. from heaven (Acts 22:19)
2. Begin in Jerusalem vs. depart from Jerusalem (Acts 22:21)
3. Gospel of the kingdom vs. gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24)
4. Go baptize vs. sent not to baptize (1 Cor. 1:17)
5. Teach the law vs. not under the law (Rom. 6:14)

V. Ministry
Having a different apostleship, message, and commission obviously means that Paul had a different ministry. He was "made a minister" to every creature with the gospel of the grace of God, and to the church which is the Body of Christ with the mystery (Col. 1:24-29). The apostle Paul never offered the kingdom to Israel (1 Thess. 2:14-16, one of his earliest epistles). He only went to the Jew first during the transition period of Acts while God was getting a remnant out of Israel before He officially set the nation aside in judicial blindness.

Are there some similarities between Peter and Paul? Yes, but for every similarity I can show you a significant difference. Why does this matter? We cannot follow the ministries of both Peter and Paul at the same time in light of the significant differences. Who are we to follow? We are to follow Paul because He is divinely appointed pattern and spokesman for this present Age of Grace (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 4:9). This is the answer for all of the "isms" and "scisms" that abound in the professing church today. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Dispensational Layout of the Bible

The Bible is one Book made up of many different books. It has unity and diversity, just as its Author who is one God in three persons (1 Jn. 5:7). God used about 40 different writers (various backgrounds and locations) over a period of about 1,500 years to write the 66 books of the Bible. These books cover about 7,000 years of human history and give glimpses into eternity past and future. The Bible is not everything God knows, but it is everything God wants us to know about Him and His plan and purposes. The revelation was given progressively. That 66 books make up one book without error or contradiction proves that the Bible is given by inspiration of God.

There are 1,189 chapters, 31,101 verses, and 791,328 words in the King James Bible. Not only did God inspire and preserve His words so that we have a perfect copy of it today in our own language, He led men in the proper arrangement of its books as well the chapter and verse divisions so that the Bible is laid out in a divine order perfectly designed for our edification. Chapter and verse divisions greatly enhance our ability to search the scriptures. In this computer age searching the scripture is easier than it has ever been and yet it is also more neglected.

The Bible is a big book, an inexhaustible gold mine of divine revelation. We could spend a lifetime studying it in detail and never learn it all, but we should seek to learn as much as possible. The purpose of learning the Bible is not just knowledge, but the knowledge of God. The Bible is God’s perfect revelation of Himself to man. God preserved the whole Bible for us because we need all of it (2 Tim. 3:16).

It is important in Bible study to have a basic overview of the Bible in our heart and mind because it will greatly help us in studying it in detail. Sometimes we can't see the forest for of the trees. It is best to start with a panoramic view of the whole Bible before we examine its books, chapters, verses, and words. A key in Bible study is to understand the larger context. In other words, a verse must be studied in light of the surrounding passage, the passage in light of the chapter, the chapter in light of the book, the book in light of the testament, and the testament in light of the whole Bible.

There is unity in the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16):
It reveals one God – Gen. 1:1; Rev. 22:21
It reveals one main purpose – the glory of God
It reveals one main theme – the person and work of Christ (Jn. 5:39)
It reveals one main goal – the establishment of God’s kingdom on the earth
It reveals one plan of redemption – by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22)
It reveals one set of moral principles - God’s moral principles never change
It reveals one main enemy – Gen. 3:1; Rev. 12:9
It reveals a harmonious unfolding of progressive revelation – changes, no real contradictions

There are divisions in the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15):
Failure to acknowledge the divisions God put in His word is the root cause of all manner of heresies. The most obvious division is between the OT (39) and NT (27). However, it is not correct to say that the whole OT was the Law and the whole NT is grace, or that the OT was for the Jews and the NT is for the church (only Rom. – Phil. was written TO the Body of Christ).

The main division is not between the OT and NT but between the prophetic kingdom program of God’s earthly people (Israel) and the mystery program of His heavenly people (Body of Christ). The burden and emphasis of the prophecy spoken to Israel is the King and His kingdom. Prophecy concerns that which was SPOKEN since the world began through all the prophets (Acts 3:19-21). The burden and emphasis of the mystery revealed through the apostle Paul is the spiritual organism, the Body of Christ. The mystery concerns that which was kept SECRET since the world began (Rom. 16:25). The things that were SPOKEN by the prophets since the world began cannot be the same things that were kept SECRET and hid from the prophets since the world began.

Twofold Division:
1. Prophecy: Earth - from the foundation of the world - Christ the King - Israel over the Gentiles
2. Mystery: Heaven - before the foundation of the world - Christ the Head of one Body - neither Jew nor Gentile

Threefold Division:
1. Time past – Genesis through Acts (difference between Jew and Gentile)
2. But now – Romans through Philemon (no difference)
3. Ages to Come – Hebrews through Revelation (difference resumed)

Six-fold Division (the King and His Kingdom):
1) OT – promised and prophesied
2) Gospels –presented and rejected
3) Acts – re-offered and rejected, transition
4) Pauline Epistles –postponed, mystery of one Body revealed
5) Hebrew Epistles – resumed and proclaimed
6) Revelation – established

Eight-fold Division (not time periods, some overlapping, transitions)
1) Innocence (Gen. 1-3)
2) Conscience (Gen. 4-8)
3) Human Government (Gen. 9-11)
4) Promise (Gen. 12 – Ex. 19)
5) Law (Ex. 20 – Acts)
6) Mystery (Rom. – Phile.)
7) Kingdom (Heb. – Rev.)
8) Fulness of Times (Rev. 21-22)

Paul wrote the last book of the Bible (Col. 1:25). Hebrews through Revelation were placed after Paul’s epistles because they deal with things to come after this present age.

Dispensational Salvation

One of the most important things about right division is that it enables us to understand and clearly present the only gospel by which sinn...