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).

Church Dispensationally Considered

It is imperative in rightly dividing the word of truth that we understand what the Bible teaches about the church. The word “church” occurs...