Monday, June 25, 2018

Israel vs. The Body of Christ (pt.2)

The Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4)

I. Purpose
As we saw in our study of the twofold purpose of God, the nation of Israel is God’s agent to reconcile the government of earth to Himself, but the Body of Christ is His agent to reconcile the heavens (Col. 1:16-20). Israel is God's earthly people. The Body of Christ is His heavenly people (Eph. 2:6-7; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:1-4). The Body of Christ (one new spiritual man) was God’s plan before the foundation of the world, but He kept it secret since the world began until He revealed it to the apostle Paul (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-13).

II. Origin
The Body of Christ is God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11), so technically it existed in the mind of God before the world began. There are a number of views concerning the historical beginning of the Body of Christ (Adam, Christ, Pentecost, mid-Acts with Paul’s salvation and ministry, Acts 28). This is an important issue because it has major doctrinal ramifications. We know it did not begin before the ascension of Christ, otherwise it would be a Headless Body (Eph. 1:20-22).

The most popular view among fundamentalists is that the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) was the birthday of the church. They believe that when the Holy Ghost was poured out on that day He began to form the spiritual Body of Christ. The church in Acts 2 did not begin in Acts 2. It was a prophesied Jewish church (Ps. 22:22 with Heb. 2:12; Matt. 16:18) that was looking for the kingdom to be established on the earth. Everything that happened in Acts 2 was in line with prophecy concerning Israel (Acts 2:16). Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, preached to Israel, calling on the nation to repent for killing their Messiah. The apostles were baptized with the Holy Ghost and did the signs and wonders of the kingdom they were preaching (“powers of the world to come,” Heb. 6:5). There is a difference between the prophesied baptism WITH the Holy Ghost for power (Acts 1:4-8) and the mystery baptism BY the Spirit into the Body of Christ for salvation. 

If we know how a person gets in the Body of Christ, we can know when it began historically. We get into the Body of Christ by believing the gospel that Christ revealed first to Paul (Eph. 3:6; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:11-12). The Body of Christ is made up of all believers in this present age of grace. It is neither Jew nor Gentile, but one new spiritual man (Gal. 3:27-28). All who are in the Body of Christ are in Christ, but not all who are in Christ are in the Body of Christ. Israel will be "in Christ" when they are saved under the New Covenant (Isa. 45:17). In the eternal state all things will be gathered together in Christ (Eph. 1:10), but there will still be a distinction between Israel and the Body of Christ. 

The age of grace began with a glorious appearing when the message of grace came down (Acts 9), and it will end with a glorious appearing when those who believed that message will be caught up (1 Thess. 4:17; Titus 2:13). It seems clear to me that Paul taught that this present age of grace began with his salvation and ministry (1 Cor. 3:10-11; 1 Tim. 1:12-16). 

III. Program

God deals with Israel according to covenants, but He deals with us under grace (Rom. 6:14). Of course, God has grace in His dealings with Israel (Jer. 31:2), but there is a difference between grace in a dispensation and a dispensation of grace. Most believers today would be surprised to learn what the apostle Paul taught concerning our relation to the law. Most churches are legalistic because they do not recognize Paul as the divinely appointed pattern and spokesman for the Body of Christ to follow. The Pauline epistles are the most neglected books of the Bible in the average church today.

The book of Romans is the foundational book of doctrine for this age of grace. In Romans Paul systematically lays out the wonderful truth that we are justified AND sanctified by faith without the deeds of the law (by the faith OF Christ, Rom. 3:22). Paul wrote Galatians to correct the legalism that was creeping into the churches of Galatia and shows plainly that we cannot mix law and grace. We are saved by grace and we are to live our Christin life under grace. All religious denominations teach that you must do certain works to either be saved and/or to stay right with God.

In Romans and Galatians, the apostle Paul plainly states that:
1. We are NOT JUSTIFIED by the law (Rom. 3:19-28; Gal. 2:16)
2. We are NOT UNDER the law in our walk (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18)
3. We ARE DEAD to the law (Rom. 7:1-4; Gal. 2:19)
4. We ARE DELIVERED from the law (Rom. 7:5-6; Gal. 5:1)

This is dispensational truth because it hasn’t always been this way. In time past, Israel was under the law. But now, in this present age, the Body of Christ is under grace. There was nothing wrong with the law, but it was an inferior system because of the weakness of the flesh (Rom. 7:7-14; 8:1-4). God has shown grace in every age, but this is the age of grace in which He is showing to a greater degree than ever (Rom. 5:20-21; 1 Tim. 1:14). We have a glorious standing in grace (Rom. 5:1-2). We are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). We are accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:6). We cannot earn God’s favor and blessings, we have it as a free gift through Jesus Christ.

IV. Destiny
We are predestinated to be glorified with Christ and to rule and reign with Him in heavenly places (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 2:6-7). We must be caught up before the 70th week of Daniel can begin (2 Thess. 2:6-7). Our rapture is imminent (Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5). 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Israel vs. The Body of Christ (pt.1)

One of the fundamental tenets of right division is understanding and maintaining the difference between Israel and the Church which is the Body of Christ. Our last three studies on the main division (prophecy vs. mystery), the twofold purpose of God (heaven and earth), and two ministries of Christ (earthly and heavenly) clearly prove this difference. In this study and the next, we are going to take a very basic overview of Israel and the Body of Christ.


I. Purpose
As we saw in our study of the twofold purpose of God, Israel is God’s agent to establish His kingdom on the earth (Ex. 19:5-6). The nations will come to worship God through their ministry (Isa. 2:1-5; Matt. 28:19-20). God spoke about this purpose through His prophets since the world began (Lk. 1:70; Acts 3:21).

II. Origin
When Adam fell he lost his dominion on the earth. God immediately promised a Savior who would redeem what Adam ruined (Gen. 3:15). As God progressively revealed His plan, it became more and more specific (Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, a virgin). Abraham is the father of the Hebrew people. There are a number of passages in the Bible that review Israel’s history, and they all begin with Abraham.

God took just 11 chapters to cover the first 2,000 years of human history (Gen. 1-11) and 39 books (Gen.12-Malachi) to cover the next 1,600 years. He took just 2 chapters in Genesis to tell us about creation, but 39 chapters to tell us all about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel, 12 tribes). The books of Exodus through Malachi are all about the nation that sprang forth from Abraham. The children of Israel became a nation when God redeemed them out of Egypt. Gentiles are only dealt with in their relation to Israel.

In Rom. 1:18-32 we find the Divine commentary on the history of mankind leading up to the call of Abraham. God gave up on the Gentile world at the Tower of Babel. In light of the events of Gen. 1-11, the covenant that God made with Abraham sets forth God’s plan and purpose for using a nation of His own creation to reconcile the EARTH back to Himself (Gen. 12:1-3).

III. Program
God deals with Israel by covenants. The covenants do not pertain to the Body of Christ (Rom. 9:1-5; Eph. 2:11-13). We are saved by the blood of the NT. There is a difference between a covenant and a testament. A covenant is basically an agreement or contract between men, or between men and God. It is usually based on certain conditions agreed upon. But sometimes, as between God and man, it is unconditional. God’s covenants with man originate with Him and are given in relation to the earth.

What are Israel’s covenants?
1) Abrahamic (Gen. 15:18) - everlasting
2) Law (Ex. 24:3-8; 34:27-28) - temporary
3) Land (Deut. 29:1) - temporary
4) Davidic (2 Sam. 7:12-17; 23:1-5) – everlasting
5) New (Jer. 31:31-32) - everlasting

The covenants build upon each other, the Abrahamic Covenant being foundational.

IV. Destiny
Israel failed. They rejected the Father throughout the OT, the Son in the Gospels, and the Holy Ghost in Acts. They fell when they stoned Stephen. They were diminished via a transition that is recorded in the book of Acts. They are now set aside in blindness. Individual Jews can be saved, but they are saved the same way as Gentiles and are baptized into one Body. When this age ends with the rapture, God will resume His dealings with Israel and fulfill all the prophecies and promises concerning them (reign on earth forever). We did NOT replace Israel. We are NOT spiritual Israel (Jer. 31:35-37; Rom. 11:25-29).

Monday, June 11, 2018

Two Ministries of Christ

The Lord Jesus Christ is foundational and central to all that God does, but there is a difference between His earthly ministry to Israel and the nations and His heavenly ministry to the Body of Christ.

Romans 15
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 

16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
17  I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. 

It’s imperative to understand that the earthly ministry of Christ was one of CONFIRMATION (to confirm what was already promised to the Jewish fathers) and not INAUGURATION (to reveal His secret purpose). Israel is God’s earthly people, and He promised them a land and world-wide kingdom over the nations. Christ plainly said that He was “not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). It wasn’t that He didn’t care about the Gentiles, but that according to His prophetic plan the Gentiles were to be blessed through Israel’s RISE and glory.

In this present age, as revealed through Paul’s ministry, the Gentiles are blessed through the FALL and diminishing of Israel (Rom. 11:12) and believing Jews and Gentiles are baptized by one Spirit into one spiritual body wherein there are no earthly distinctions (Gal. 3:27-28). Paul’s ministry was actually the ministry of Christ from heaven and concerns things that were kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25; Col. 1:21-29).

In order to follow Christ in this age, we must follow Paul as His appointed pattern (1 Tim. 1:16) and spokesman (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1). God used him to write 13 epistles by inspiration to the Body of Christ. These epistles are “wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:3). He wrote “commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37), for Christ was speaking through him (2 Cor. 13:3). Therefore, when we follow Paul we are following Christ.

Prophecy (Lk. 24:27, 44)
Mystery (Eph. 3:4)
Confirmation (Rom. 15:8)
Inauguration (Acts 26:16)
Primary Scriptures – Four Gospels
Exclusive Scriptures – Paul’s Epistles
Christ is the King of Israel (Jn. 1:49)
Christ is the Head of one Body (Eph. 1:22-23)
Dispensation of Law (Matt. 5:17)
Dispensation of Grace (Eph. 3:1-13)
Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23)
Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24)
Difference Jew and Gentile (Matt. 15:21-28)
No Difference Jew and Gentile (Gal. 3:28)
Sent 12 to Israel (Matt. 10:5-6)
Sent Paul to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13)
Signs Abound (Jn. 20:30-31)
Signs Ceased (1 Cor. 13:8-13)
Kingdom Commission (Mk. 16:15-18)
Grace Commission (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
Second Coming (Matt. 24:29-31)
Secret Coming (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Twofold Purpose of God

The main division in the word of God is between prophecy concerning Israel and her kingdom (spoken by the prophets since the world began, Acts 3:21) and the mystery of the Body of Christ (kept secret since the world began, Rom. 16:25). This main division reveals the twofold purpose of God. 

Perhaps a better way to say it is that God has one great purpose that will be fulfilled through a twofold plan for the ages. God’s one great purpose is to be glorified through the Lord Jesus Christ. The twofold plan through which He will accomplish this is implied in the very first verse of the Bible. God will be glorified in heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1). As the most high God, the Lord is the possessor of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:19, 22). There has been a rebellion in both, but Christ will reconcile all things in heaven and earth back to God (Matt. 28:18). The twofold plan concerns how God will reconcile the governments of both heaven and earth back to Himself (Col. 1:16-20). Israel is His vehicle to reconcile the government on the earth. The Body of Christ is His vehicle to reconcile the government in heavenly places.

From Gen. 1 until Paul’s ministry, God’s revelation concerned His plan for the earth. One of the spiritual blessings we have as members of the Body of Christ is that God has made known to us the mystery of His will concerning heaven (Eph. 1:8-12, note the words "purposed" v.9 and "purpose" v.11). The mystery of the Body of Christ was no afterthought or plan B! It was His "eternal purpose" that He kept hid in Himself until He revealed it through Paul (Eph. 3:11). It is a demonstration of His great wisdom (Eph. 1:8; 3:10; 1 Cor. 2:7).

Anti-dispensational preachers accuse us of teaching that God failed in trying to establish His kingdom through Israel. They claim Christ came to establish a spiritual kingdom and that His promises to Israel are fulfilled spiritually in the church. Those that spiritualize the plain words of scripture tell spiritual lies. Israel failed, not God! He knew they would fall, and He planned that through their fall He would reconcile the world to Himself (Rom. 11:11-15, 32-36). 

Some think the dispensation of the fulness of times (Eph. 1:10) refers to the kingdom age. I believe it is the eternal state after the creation of a new heaven and earth when the full purpose of what God revealed in time finally comes to fruition. Verse 10 summarizes the goal of God’s twofold purpose. Christ is central in all that God is doing. There is one family of God (Eph. 3:14-15), but there will be a distinction throughout eternity between the things in heaven and earth. Notice that the things in heaven and earth will all be gathered together "in Christ." All the redeemed are in Christ. A person can only be “in Adam” or “in Christ” (1 Cor. 15:22). Christ is the foundation and center of both programs (“chief corner stone” Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6). So, the fact people were in Christ before Paul (Rom. 16:7) does not prove the Body of Christ began before his ministry. What makes the Body of Christ distinct is that it is neither Jew nor Gentile, but one new man.  

1)     God’s purpose for heaven concerns the church which is the Body of Christ. We are His heavenly people (Phil. 3:20; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1-4). The Body was planned BEFORE foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) but kept secret since the world began until it was revealed through the apostle Paul (Rom. 16:25). To understand this program, we must study Paul’s epistles because that is where it is revealed (2 Tim. 1:8-13). We have been predestinated to be glorified with Christ and reign with Him eternally in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1).

2)     God’s purpose for the earth concerns the nation of Israel (Isa. 14:24-27). By Gen. 11 (the first 11 chapters cover 2,500 years), God gave up on the Gentile world (Rom. 1:18-32) and chose Abraham. He made an everlasting covenant to make of him a great nation and to give him and his seed a special land (Gen. 12). Israel is to be a light to the other nations. God also made an everlasting covenant with David concerning his throne and kingdom (2 Sam. 7). Christ will reign on the earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem over the whole world (Ex. 19:5-6; Jer. 23:5-6). This was prophesied FROM foundation of world (Matt. 25:34); it was spoken by the prophets since the world began. The rest of scripture concerns this program. Israel will reign with Christ on earth over the nations.

In keeping the Body of Christ a secret, God was especially keeping it a secret from Satan (1 Cor. 2:6-8). God ordained it "before the world" (v.7), but kept it secret from the "princes of this world." The rebellion against God's government began before He created Adam (and I personally believe that the creation of man was in response to that challenge and rebellion, Ps. 8:2). Satan and the angels that followed him operate primarily in heaven (Eph. 2:2; 6:12; Rev. 12:8). The heavens are not clean in God's sight (Job 15:15). That is why God did not say the firmament of heaven was good (Gen. 1:8). When God created Adam, He commissioned him to "subdue" the earth (Gen. 1:28) which basically means to conquer. He said that before the fall, so we know that He was not referring subduing wild plants and animals. There must have been enemies already in existence.

From Genesis 1 (v.2) up until the ministry of Paul, God's revelation concerned His purpose for reconciling the earth, and so that was Satan's focus. Satan usurped Adam’s dominion on the earth and became both the prince and god of this world. In having Christ crucified, Satan thought that he had defeated or at least hindered that purpose. What he didn't know was that "by the cross" (Eph. 2:16) God would form a new group of believers with the purpose of giving us the high privilege of reigning with Him in the heavenly places. We will replace Satan and his angels when they are finally cast out of heaven. This was His purpose ever since the rebellion of Lucifer that took place BEFORE the foundation of the world, but He had to keep it a secret until Satan deceived himself by crucifying Christ.

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