Sunday, April 30, 2023

Ephesians | Session 13 | 3:3-5

Today we take a closer look at Ephesians 3:3-5 where Paul discusses the mystery that was only revealed to him as he had mentioned "afore in a few words", various views on that statement regarding dispensational theology, and briefly conclude with who the "holy apostles and prophets" are with whom he says that he revealed it to.
Verses 3-4: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)  I have come to know that if you do not correctly understand the mystery as revealed to Paul, and its significance, you will never know how to rightly interpret or understand your Bible, and will walk in a constant state of confusion. Normally, it doesn't take me more than a few minutes to determine if someone understands it. 

The Twelve only received the mysteries of the kingdom according to Matthew 13:11. That is totally different from the mystery that Paul received that had been kept secret since the world began (Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:26). 

Notice the parenthetical (as I wrote afore in few words). He is most likely referring to Ephesians 1:9 and Ephesians 2:19, but, he could have also been looking back to Galatians 1:15-16. There are those who hold what is called an Acts 28 position which says that Paul did not have the mystery revealed to him during the Acts Period. Therefore, anything he wrote during that period did not contain it, i.e., Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and Thessalonians. Therefore, only Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon, Timothy, and Titus apply to the Body of Christ. Those who hold this position say that Paul preached the Kingdom Gospel in the Acts Period and the Grace Gospel after the Acts Period. 

Verse 5: Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;  Again, Paul is clearly saying that what he received was not what was given to the Twelve, or anyone else for that matter. And now it has been revealed through Paul to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:20). 

 Some commentators will refer to Peter at this point as having received the same revelation back in Acts 10:9-20 before going to Cornelius' house. Sure, Peter's vision was that the Gentiles were in, but that was not the same revelation that Paul had received that they would do so outside of the law and completely by grace. We know this because Peter preached the kingdom gospel to Cornelius and continued to do so for the rest of his life. Unlike the grace gospel, the kingdom gospel required baptism, repentance, and adherence to the law. They were not the same. "Things that are similar are not the same."

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Ephesians | Session 12 | 3:1-2

In our study today from Ephesians 3:1-2 we see Paul explaining that he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ because of the message that he taught regarding Jew and Gentile now being one in the Body of Christ because  of the dispensation of grace that had been given to him. We also take a closer look at dispensationalism, define it, and compare it to covenantalism.
Chapter 3 
Verse 1: For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,  For what cause? - The fact that he was teaching that Jew and Gentile are now one in Christ (verses 4-6). 

Interestingly, while Paul was physically a prisoner of Rome, he viewed himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ instead (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:8). 

He goes on to say that his imprisonment was for you Gentiles. And his mission as a prisoner was to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16). Guzik says that Paul knew that Jesus was the Lord of his life and not the Romans: he was Jesus' prisoner. 

Verse 2: If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:  This is a very important verse in that it mentions the very thing that our Reformed brethren deny: dispensationalism. The word simply mean administration, economy, or stewardship; and it was given by Revelation to Paul (verse 3). It is also used in 1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; and Colossians 1:25. 

Moses and Paul 
Interestingly, the character most similar to Paul in the Bible is Moses is that both received new revelation in Arabia (Galatians 4:25; Galatians 1:17) which was the beginning of a new dispensation: Law and Grace. 

Two Basic Methods 
It must be recognized that while God does not change, his ways of dealing with man has and these are called dispensations. There are basically two lenses today through which to interpret the Bible: Covenantalism and Dispensationalism. 

At the risk of oversimplifying both, the difference between the two is that Covenantalism interprets the Scriptures through the lens of covenants, i.e., Adamic (Gen 1-3), Noahic (Gen 6-9), Abrahamic (Gen 12), Mosaic (Exo 19), Davidic (2 Sam 7), and the New Covenant (Jer 31-34). On the other hand, Dispensationalism sees the Scripture through dispensations which are defined as a particular means by which God deals with man and creation during a given period in redemptive history. 

At first they might sounds pretty similar, but R.C. Sproll, of Ligonier Ministries further explains it this way when he said, "Dispensationalism differs from Reformed covenant theology in a number of ways, but the most significant is this idea of two peoples of God. Covenant theology affirms that there is one people of God and thus continuity between the people of God in the Old Testament and the people of God in the New Testament. Covenant theology is not, as some dispensationalists assert, “replacement theology” because in covenant theology, the church is not technically replacing Israel. The church is the organic continuation of the Old Testament people of God. The oneness of the people of God is evident by an examination of several New Testament texts, e.g., Romans 11." The immediate that I see with this summation is that Romans 11 is not dealing with the Body of Christ, but the blessings that the Gentiles received when the natural branches were broken off. 

Some distractors will say that Dispensationalism did not originate until the nineteenth century with John Nelson Darby and subsequently popularized by the Scofield Bible. However, I believe that the early church was dispensational to begin with, e.g., Dispensationalism Revisited. 

Again, Dispensationalism is a method of interpreting history that divides God’s work and purposes toward mankind into different periods of time. In the most popular view, there are seven dispensations which include: 

1. Innocence 
This period covers Genesis 1:28-30 to 2:15-17. It began with creation and ended when they they disobeyed by eating the forbidden fruit and were expelled from the garden. It lasted only until innocence was lost. 

2. Conscience 
This period covers Genesis 3:8 to 8:22. It began with the first sin and ended with the flood. So it covered Adam and Eve's eviction until the flood. It demonstrated what man will do if left to his own will and conscience. 

3. Human Government 
This period covers Genesis 9-11. It began post flood and ended at the Tower of Babel. It was during this time that God laid down the law of capital punishment and told man to scatter and fill the earth. They didn't and instead decided to built a tower to their solidarity and pride (Genesis 11:7-9). God stopped it by confusing their language and forcing them to scatter into language groups. 

4. Promise 
This period covers Genesis 12:1 to Exodus 19:25. It began with the promises made to Abraham and continued with the patriarchs (Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph) and end with the Jewish Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. 

5. Law 
The commonly accepted period covers Exodus 20 to Acts 2. The fifth dispensation is called the Dispensation of Law and lasted until it was suspended at the crucifixion for most, but I would argue that it was suspended after the rejection of the Kingdom by the nation instead. 

6. Grace 
The commonly accepted period for this sixth dispensation is Acts 2 to Revelation 20:3 and the Millennial Kingdom. However, I would argue that it began with the conversion of Paul in 1Timothey 1:15-16. I would also argue that it end at the rapture of the Church. 

The time in which we live was never in view in Old Testament prophesy. I refer to this period as the postponement because the clock stopping ticking between the 69th and 70th week (Daniel 9:24). 

Randy White makes some very good points about the dispensation in which we live. 1. It offers individual verses national salvation. 2. It is unrelated to the Kingdom. 3. Is has a Savior rather than a Messiah or King. 4. Its salvation does not require works and does not allow works because it is fully a gift of God. 5. It is available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. 

7. Millennial Kingdom
This period began at the Second Coming and ends with the Great White Throne Judgment. The old world is destroyed by fire, and the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21 and 22 will begin which some call an eighth dispensation (or ninth). 

To You-Ward 
Notice also that this dispensation of grace had been given to you-ward.  F.F. Bruce points out that this marks out his Gentile readers as the recipients of this grace. Again, Paul was the only apostle that could make this claim. He repeats it several times throughout his writings (cf. v.8; Romans 11:13; Romans 12:3; Romans 15:15-16; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Galatians 1:15-16; Galatians 2:8-9; Colossians 1:25; 1 Timothy 1:11; and 1 Timothy 2:7).

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Ephesians | Session 11 | 2:16-22

In our study today from Ephesians 2:16-22, we take a look at how by removing the enmity between Jew and Gentile, God has made one new man. Therefore the Jew and Gentile are now fellow citizens in the household of God. We also take a look at who the prophets and apostles are that he refers to.
Verse 16: And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  Now both Jew and Gentile make up one body called the Body of Christ. This is the result of us both being reconciled to God by the cross. The enmity having been slain (v.15). 

Verses 17-18: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.  Jesus came to preach the message of peace to those which were afar off (Gentile), and to them that were nigh (Jew). Now they both have access to the Father, unlike before when only the Jews had access. 

Verse 19: Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  He is still building off of what he had said in 2:11-12. In other words, now that the enmity has been removed and the Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners, they are now fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Contextually, this is clearly saying that Jew and Gentile have been made one in the Body of Christ. Why would he say that? - Because it wasn't true before that (Mat_15:21-28). Also, it is not saying that the church has now been made a part of Israel. Nope. Never. 

Incidentally, that is not what Romans 11 was saying either. The Body of Christ is not in view in that chapter but Gentiledom as a whole. 

Built Upon the Foundation 
Verses 20-22: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.  These verses can only mean one or two things. 1. The church was built upon the foundation that was laid by the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of the Twelve, or... 2. The church was built upon the foundation of some other prophets and apostles. Ephesians 3:4-5 says clearly that the Old Testament prophets and apostles did not know what Paul knew regarding the mystery, so it can not be talking about them. 

Who were these prophets and apostles? It would seem they are the ones who is going to speak of in Ephesians 4:11-13. If that is the case, these were grace apostles and prophets, who according to the text were appointed until we all come to the unity of faith. I am of the mind at the moment that these offices were discontinued after the completion of the Paulene epistles. That being the case, these were also the ones that he was referring to in 1 Corinthians 12:28 as well.

Ephesians | Session 10 | 2:10-15

In our study today from Ephesians 2:10-15, we find Paul describing how the Body of Christ is God's workmanship that was created in Christ and it was made possible when the law ordinances was removed making both Jew and Gentile one.  
His Workmanship 
Verse 10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  Every body knows verses 8-9, but not this one. His point is that, we, as the Body of Christ that is saved by grace through faith are his workmanship. We are his workmanship! He made us! We are the new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 2:14). As such, we were created in Christ Jesus the moment we trusted the Gospel and became the new man (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). The other similar approach to the verse is that the Body of Christ, the one new man, is what God is building today and that is his workmanship. Either one is correct in the one is singular and the other plural. 

Unto good works is what God is doing through us. They are not our works, but his that he does through us (Romans 3:12; Colossians 1:6). 

Now some will say the opposite, spring boarding off of 1 Corinthians 3:9-10, when Paul speaks of himself as a wise master builder, and we are doing the good work of building the church today by reaching the world for Christ with the gospel. Even so, it is God doing it through us. 

In Time Past 
Verses 11-12: Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  Now he turns his attention back to the Gentiles who in time past were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  This is the state of Gentiles prior to Christ. Why? - Because they were not included in the covenants that God had made with Israel. The only way for a Gentile to get into Israel's blessings were for them to be proselytized (Esther 8:17). Of course, this is no longer required today because of the blood of Christ that we will see in the next verse. 

The Error of Covenant Theology 
To me, these verses fly in the face of covenant theology that teaches there is only one people of God instead of Jew and Gentile. There was and is an obvious separation and that is what he is explaining in these verses. Again, we all approach the Scriptures with a filter that has been given to us. If you were raised or at least exposed to one form of hermeneutic, you have a filter that can hinder you from approaching Scripture with an open mind. Instead, we approach the Bible with a preconception and therefore just seek to prove it. In other words, we see what we want to see. 

Verse 13: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  Again, this verse is still speaking of the Gentiles who were far off, but have now been made nigh by the blood of Christ. In other words, our status has changed from being far to nigh because of Christ's work on the cross and the blood that he shed to that end. This is the gospel or reconciliation as shared by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

Understand that in time past, for a Gentile to be saved, they had to recognize that they were outside of the nation, and could only be brought in by proselytization via circumcision and keeping the law of Moses just like the nation. But not now. Now, both Jew and Gentile come to God the same way through faith alone, apart from the works of the law. As such, verse 14. 

Verse 14: For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Christ brought about peace between the Gentiles and God removing the middle wall of partition that was between us. Remember in the Old Testament that God separated his people from the rest (Exodus 11:7; Numbers 23:9). The only physical mention of this wall is the one that separated the court of women from the court of the Gentiles. Josephus mentions this wall as having been three cubits high. A cubit was the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger. That would make the wall about 4.5' tall and the penalty was death if crossed. Whether a spiritual wall or a physical wall, the point is that it is gone now and Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God in the same way through faith in Christ. 

Verse 15: Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  This is a continual thought from verse 14. Having abolished means to bring to nought or bring to an end. Christ did this in his flesh which is referring to the crucifixion. The enmity speaks of the cause of separation. 

What caused the separation between Jew and Gentile? - The law of commandments contained in the ordinances. Explain. The law actually placed a separation between the Jew and the Gentile. It actually served to alienate the nation of Israel from the rest. They were a set-apart people who saw themselves as the favorites of God in that they held the oracles of God (Romans 3:2). They had the only way to salvation and if you a Gentile wanted in, they had to become one of them. But when Christ came, by his death he abolished all of that and made in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.  

The law of commandments mentioned here is not a reference to moral law, but ceremonial, i.e., sacrifices, festivals, fasts, etc. cf. positive and negative commandments. It was the positive commandments that set Israel apart and caused occasion for the animosity between them and the Gentiles. 

For to make in himself one new man speaks of the two becoming one in the Body of Christ so making peace.

Ephesians | Session 9 | 2:6-9

Today we find ourselves in Ephesians 2:6-9 where the Apostle Paul declares that we have been raised with Christ to sit in heavenly places, so that one day he will show the exceeding riches of his grace toward us, and reminds us that our salvation was purely by grace and not anything that we could have done to deserve it.

Verse 6: And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: As such, we have been raised up together, and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is the position of the Body of Christ. The promises for Israel are earthly while those for the Body are heavenly. 

I see significance in the fact that he says that we are in heavenly places in Christ and not with Christ. We are in heavenly places now, but will some day by with him (Philippians 3:20). Les Feldick is very good at pointing out our place in Christ. The Body of Christ, Jew and Gentile, are now in Christ, but one day we will be with Christ. 

Verse 7: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Still building on the previous verse in some day in the future we will not only be in Christ but with Christ when he ultimately shows the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus

Verses 8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. We, the Body of Christ, are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, as such none of us have the right to boast. 

I do believe that the faith being referred to here goes back to Galatians 2:16 which is a reference to the faith of Jesus Christ.(Philippians 3:9). It is his faith that is the gift of God to all who believe in his death, burial, and resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

Grace is Not Exclusive 
It is also worthwhile to mention that grace is not exclusively to this dispensation. God has always shown grace since the beginning.