A BOOK THAT WILL BLESS YOU

13/07/2014 12:37

The Gentile Jesus by John Dudley Aldworth

THE GENTILE JESUS, by John Dudley Aldworth, published 2011, describes a watershed experience in the author's journey in understanding scripture. It is hereby reproduced below, free and available to you for downloading.The story behind is that some years ago "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15) led the author to realise that the Jew is absent from the pages of Paul's later epistles, and that Jesus is now the Saviour of the Gentiles and thus longer the Messiah to Israel. Today then it behooves us to know Him as He really is, The Gentile Jesus.

Sadly Christendom refuses to do so and in defiance of biblical truth still asserts Gentiles can be saved just like Jews even thought they are "strangers to the covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12). They wilfully ignore the Apostle Peter's statement in Acts 15:11 to the contrary that enlightened Jews even at that point believed they would be saved by grace "even as they", meaning the Gentiles, were.

Understanding the Lord's separate and very different ministry to Gentiles today as The Gentile Jesus  is vital truth for any believer seeking a closer walk with the Lord. Cionsequently it is vigorously opposed by Satan. But you can read about it for yourself in this online version brought to you courtesy of the Day of Christ Ministries website.

Important explanation: The journey into higher truth in Christ often requires us to be "forgetting the things that are behind" (Phil. 3:13) and The Gentile Jesus is itself an exercise in doing that. Since its publication, however, the author has been shown further light in the word and once again has had to leave behind once held earlier positions.

For example, he now sees the Day of Christ as the important next great event; he did not when he wrote The Gentile Jesus. Consequently he now no longer sees the "rapture" and Second Coming as imminent but, rather, is looking for the "appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13) as the next thing on God's agenda. He also sees a sharper distinction between the grace-plus-some-works doctrine of the Acts period and the "wholly-of-grace" teaching of the prison epistles that he did back then. Consequently he now adopts rather ctiticises the Acts 28 potition he opposed in the book.

Importantly, he now no longer belieives that merely receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour is an automatic passport to heaven, as so many think. "The soul that sinneth it shall die", and to reach glory, perfection in truth and an out-resurrection is needed as Paul made plain in Phil. 3:10-11. Such shedding of further light by the Lord has also changed his understanding in other areas as detailed in studies published on this website.

Nevertheless The Gentile Jesus  is reproduced here uncorrected, written just as the author saw matters some years ago. Its central truth remains of the utmost importance and the author's journey in understanding can be traced, in that the book takes the reader up to the very point of looking to the Lord's appearing. May the Lord shed further light on your own understanding as you read it. An attractively bound printed copy of The Gentile Jesus can be obtained as a gift by emailing or writing to the author for a $NZ15 donation to cover postage

 

 

 

THE GENTILE JESUS

 

 

 Christ as He really is

   to us today

 

 

          John Dudley Aldworth

 

 

 

 

Romans 3:29:

 

‘Is He God of the Jews only?

Is He not also of the Gentiles?

Yes, of the Gentiles also, seeing

 it is one God, which shall justify

 the circumcision by faith, and

 uncircumcision through faith’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s note:

 

This book is dedicated first to God who made it possible, then to my dear wife, Noemi.  Without her love, patience and support I could not have written it.

 

I also owe a huge debt of thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for bringing me to Himself, then shaping my writing skills though decades of work as a journalist and editor.

 

Thirdly, I thank those God used to bring me to know the importance of taking the King James Bible as God’s preserved  truth and learning to rightly divide it. Among these are Previn Puna, Murray Cobb, Paul Hyland. I also thank many friends and fellow grace Bible believers for their support and encouragement.

 

John Dudley Aldworth

January 2011

 

 

THE GENTILE JESUS

Christ as He really is to us today

 

Copyright © John Dudley Aldworth, 2011.

Published by

 

ISBN

 

Library of Congress Catalogue Card number

 

Printed in

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

    PREFACE                                                                       4

FOREWORD                                                                         5

   CHAPTERS

 

   1       ENTER THE GENTILE JESUS                                            7

2          CHANGED BY RESURRECTION                       16

3          MEETING JESUS AS HE IS TODAY                  25

4          WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?                         33

5          JESUS BORN AGAIN THE THIRD TIME          36

6           JESUS IN PAUL                                                    40

7          PAUL MADE A WALKING BIBLE                    44

8          THE BORN AGAIN JESUS                               51

   9           CHRIST CRUCIFIED EVIDENTLY SET

FORTH.                                                                  59

  10         THE HIGH COST OF FOLLOWING CHRIST     64

  11          DID PAUL REALLY DIE AT LYSTRA?              67         

  12         STANDING BY PAUL                                           71

  13         A CASE OF WRONG DIVISION                          78

  14          WHY PAUL SUFFERED SO MUCH                    82

  15         A COLOSSIAN BELIEVER’S STORY                 87

  16         SEEING THE MYSTERY IN PAUL’S FACE       91

  17         A SNAPSHOT OF GENTILE HISTORY               99

  18         FOR GOD SO LOVED THE GENTILES              117         

  19         THE GENTILITY OF JESUS                                 128

  20         A DIFFERENT JESUS                                            168

  21        BORN AGAIN OF THE GENTILE JESUS           184

  22        MADE ONE WITH THE GENTILE JESUS          194

  23        THE FULNESS OF HIS PRESENCE                     212

  24        THE GENTILE JESUS IN ACTION                      232

  25        THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES                          242

  26        THE GREAT HINDERER                                  251 

  27        THE RESTRAINER UNVEILED                           260  

  28         PAUL THE REJECTED APOSTLE                       272

  29        REMOVING PAUL FROM THE PICTURE         284

  30        FROM SERVANT TO LORD                                328

  31        THE BUT NOW LORD AND KING                     340

 

PREFACE

 

Heb. 4:12: “For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

 

1 Tim. 2:4: “… God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth”.

 

 

Truth is a battleground today. God is restoring a deeper, dispensational understanding of scripture to the Body of Christ but the enemy is resisting every step of the way. Battle is joined and it is vital to bring a quick, sharp sword to the fray.  For only a weapon that is finely-honed and is “two-edged” –cuts both ways –can truly pierce the heart.

 

For me, that sword is the King James Bible, rightly divided. Thus, the Authorised Version is used throughout this book. Standing head and shoulders above other Bibles, it is, I believe, the accurate, anointed, most used of God rendering of sacred truth in English. Time was when I would use any Bible version that took my fancy. Finally I stopped second-guessing it and accepted the KJB as God’s truth speaking to me. Immediately the shadows shrank back and scripture opened up.

 

Then God dropped the other shoe and I was introduced to right division (2 Tim. 2:15) through the Berean Bible Society.  In the light of dispensational truth the fog of confusion about the meaning of scripture was driven away, never to return.

I am indebted to and deeply thankful to God for those great pioneers in this field, Cornelius Stam, Charles Baker and Paul Sadler.

 

FOREWORD

 

We tend to forget that God, like us, has feelings. He knows what it is to be despised, abused and rejected more than we do. Who but God could suffer a humanity that for some 6,000 years has largely rejected, mocked and despised Him?

 

We do not grasp the depth of His pain nor how deeply wounded He has been. Nor do we understand how long it has been for Him – 6,000 years and counting. We do not realise that as we, when rejected, tend to seek solace elsewhere, so also do the Father and the Son when spurned by those they have loved.

 

God is love and, like any lover, seeks to be loved in return. Picture the scene then as it was nearly 2,000 years ago. The Messiah, rejected and crucified by His chosen nation Israel when He walked among them, is again spurned by them on his return to heaven.  Though He offers them forgiveness, they are unmoved by the outpouring of His Spirit. They refuse to believe the witness of His resurrection. As He prophesied they would, his Jewish people send a message (through Stephen) after Him, saying, “We will not have this man to rule over us” (Luke 19:14).

 

Heartbroken once again after 1500 years of blessing them, the Lord has to set the chosen nation aside. Sadly, now He turns to another people, the Gentiles, in the hope that wooing them will provoke Israel to jealousy and cause her one day to return to Him.

 

It is the writer’s conviction that in now going to the Gentiles the Lord ceases to be the Jewish Messiah He once was and, instead, becomes the Gentile Jesus - hence the title of this book.

Earlier, to be among his Hebrew people, the Lord had been born a Jew in Bethlehem. “Made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law” (Gal. 4:4), He was also born “King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2). His anguish was that “He came unto his own but his own received Him not” (John 1:11). 

 

Spurned then by Israel in his life, death and even after his resurrection, He now turns to the Gentiles and, in order to do so, as I assert, becomes a Gentile Himself. Granted, this change occurs in a spiritual or mystical way, yet it is also very real.

 

So real in fact that, after first having been evidenced in one prototype man, Paul, the metamorphosis that is the Gentile Jesus today, can now be experienced personally by anyone who truly believes Christ died for their sins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

ENTER THE

GENTILE JESUS

 

Not unreasonably, the author has been accused of stepping outside of scripture in the choosing the title of this book. And it is true that the words, The Gentile Jesus, nowhere appear in Holy Writ. However, the reader can be assured that, just as there good scriptural grounds for believing God is a Trinity, though that word is not found in the Bible, so there are many scriptures that point to the conclusion there is, and has to be, a Gentile Jesus.

 

Indeed one passage more than others appears, to set the scene for the Gentile Jesus to come on stage. It is found in Jn. 12: 20-27:

 

“And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew; and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

 

“And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified.

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit:

 

“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

 

“If any man serve Me, let him follow Me, and where I am, there also shall my servant be: if any man serve Me him will my Father honour.

 

“Now is my soul troubled and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour; but for this cause, came I unto this hour.”

 

“Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from, saying, I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.

 

“Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all; men unto me.”

 

 

Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Feast of Passover. Riding in on an ass, He was welcomed by a crowd strewing palm branches at his feet and crying: “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” ‘

 

Yet there is an ominous tone to this glad reception. We find it prophetically sounded long before in Ps. 118: 26-27: “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord” but also more darkly, “God is the Lord which hath showed us light; bind the sacrifice to the altar.”

 

Indeed that is what Israel ignorantly did: bind the sacrifice to the altar. No wonder that, facing this prospect, the Messiah says, “Now is my soul troubled and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour”. Bravely, however, the Lord resolves his inner conflict by submitting, in saying, “Father glorify thy name.”

 

‘SIR, WE WOULD

SEE JESUS’

 

But what, you might ask, gave Him encouragement to do so at this moment? I suggest it was learning from Philip and Andrew that “certain Greeks” wanted to “see Jesus”. Beyond the cross, beyond further rejection by Israel, beyond the setting aside the chosen nation that would follow, the Lord was assured that another people, the Gentiles, did want to see Him; that they wanted to know Him.  Dying on the cross then, would not just be to redeem the rebellious nation Israel that had put Him there; it would also be to save “all men”, meaning, primarily, the Gentiles.

 

Not that the Greeks did get to see Jesus at that critical hour before the crucifixion and here’s why. Firstly, the Lord was still at this time sent only to Israel. As He said in Matt 15:24: “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.

 

Secondly, as He explained in verses 24-26, without first dying He could only “abide alone”. His suffering and death was the precondition of his bringing forth much fruit. 

 

LIFTED UP TO BE’

GLORIFIED

 

Furthermore, the world had to be judged, the prince of this world cast out and the price of sin paid before full and free salvation could be offered to “all men” and the Lord thus “glorified”.

 

The Son of man then, was to be glorified by being “lifted up from the earth” to draw all men unto Him. Now many believe this “lifting up” to be glorified occurred on the cross and, certainly, the Lord’s death was a necessary step towards it.

 

After all, it was there at the cross that He was made sin for his people Israel. It was there that He was lifted up like Moses’ serpent of brass, so that all who looked on Him might be saved. As the Lord had already told Nicodemus:

 

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:14).

 

It was also there at the cross that God “made Him sin for us (us Gentiles as well as Jews, that is), who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). However, it was only years later that this occurrence would be revealed through the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:1-4).  

 

But despite the Messiah suffering for his people’s sins, Israel did not turn to the Lord as He hung on the cross. Rather they mocked and despised Him. Nor did the chosen nation repent at the later preaching of his resurrection. True, a few thousand repented of crucifying Him and were saved at Pentecost and subsequently, but the leaders, the mob and the bulk of the people were unmoved. They refused to admit their rebellion against the Lord and their sin in slaying Him.

 

In baying for his blood before Pilate they had said, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matt.27:25). Later, however, when his resurrection was being preached throughout Jerusalem, Israel’s leaders refused to repent and accused the apostles of intending “to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28).

 

ISRAEL’S CHANGE

OF HEART

 

This was in stark contrast to the repentance Israel had shown many centuries before in the wilderness. There they were confronted with their sin when the Lord sent fiery serpents among them which bit them. “And much people of Israel died” (Num. 21:6). Faced with this calamity Israel underwent a huge change of heart:

 

“Therefore the people came to Moses and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that He take away the serpents from us.

 

“And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole and it shall come to pass that every one when he is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall be healed.

 

 “And it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (Num. 21:7-9).

 

As already explained, Israel did not repent at her Messiah’s crucifixion. Indeed, as a nation she has yet to repent, even though her leaders knew and admitted after the resurrection that they were in “error” (Matt. 27:63-64) and that Jesus was indeed their Messiah. But their hearts were set hard and, rather than admit they were wrong, they tried to cover matters up by bribing the guards at the tomb to say his disciples had stolen his body away. Clearly the Lord was not “glorified” by his people Israel in any of this. Indeed He will only be glorified by them at his triumphant Second Coming.

 

GENTILES GLORY IN

HIS CROSS

 

For Gentiles, however, it is a different story. Because we are saved by the cross we Gentile believers “glory” in the cross. We see, but only because God revealed it through Paul, that it was “the princes of this world” (i.e. powerful evil spirits) that “crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). Like Paul we are learning to say:

 

“But God forbid that I should glory (boast), save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).

 

You see, as far as his being glorified among Gentiles is concerned, the Lord was only truly “lifted up from the earth” when God highly exalted Him and gave Him “a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).

 

Gentiles in far flung places did not hear of, much less believe in, a Saviour who died for their sins until the “Lord of glory” in heaven saved Saul and sent him out as Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13).

 

Back in Jn. 12:27, since it is “all men” that are to be drawn, and, as we later learn, “every knee” that should bow and

“every tongue” (Phil. 2:10-11) that should confess, then clearly the Messiah, the Jewish Jesus, is not in view here. Rather it is the God-man Saviour for all men, the Gentile Jesus. Not that anybody in Israel understood that then.

 

Sadly, at this point just before his death, the Lord knew that “much fruit” (Jn. 12:27) would not be forthcoming from the nation Israel any time soon. In fact, soon they would be demanding his blood; Israel’s leaders and mob would cry “crucify Him”. Worse, after his resurrection, the nation as a whole would refuse to receive his offered forgiveness for their crime.

 

So where would the “much fruit” come from? Plainly from the Gentiles, as intimated by that Greek cry, “Sir, we would see Jesus!” That plea touched the Lord at his heart, just as the vision of a Macedonian man pleading “Come over into Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9) moved the Apostle Paul to his most important and dangerous preaching mission. Can it be doubted the Lord just before the cross likewise resolved to die not only for Israel, but also for all men? That at this time He determined to become the Gentile Jesus?

 

BLINDED BY

HIS GLORY

 

Later in the Bible narrative the Lord, as the Gentile Jesus, stands forth more clearly. First though, even after his death, resurrection and exaltation, He must continue ministering to Israel. Accordingly, it is not until well after Stephen’s

stoning - by which Israel’s leaders finally rejected the risen Messiah - saying in effect “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14) - that the Gentile Jesus makes an appearance.

 

Stooping down now from heaven, the exalted Lord of glory arrests his main enemy on earth, that fierce persecutor of Jews trusting in Jesus, the Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. But it is not as Messiah that Jesus appears to Saul; it is as the Lord, the Gentile Jesus (see Acts 9:5). Blinded by the brightness of

his glory, a stunned Saul hears this Lord say that He is indeed Jesus and that He has appeared to make Saul a minister and witness and to send him to the Gentiles.

 

The details of this amazing commission are found in Acts 26:16-18. The Lord tells Saul He will make him a minister and witness of “these things which thou hast seen”. What had Saul seen? Why, the blinding light and glory of the Lord of all, the Almighty God of glory and grace, Jesus the man exalted in Heaven, the Gentile Jesus.

 

Clearly this Jesus that appears to Saul is not the Jewish Messiah, since He mentions neither Israel nor the Jews by name except to promise He will deliver Saul “from the people”.  Instead He speaks at length of the Gentiles “unto whom I now send thee”. Blinded as he is, Saul sees at once that this Lord of Light is no longer manifesting Himself as the God of Israel. Rather He is now appearing as the Lord of all, the “God of the Gentiles also” (Rom. 3:29), in fact the Gentile Jesus.

 

THINGS IN THE WHICH I

WILL APPEAR TO THEE

 

Elsewhere this book outlines how the Lord goes on to appear on several occasions to Saul (soon to be Paul) to

impart a new body of truth which he will in turn convey to the world. These truths are “the things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16). Importantly, it should be understood that on each of these occasions that punctuate the apostle’s lifetime, it is as the Lord of all glory and grace - the Gentile Jesus - that He appears to Paul. 

 

But it doesn’t stop there. This Gentile Jesus appears also to all those of us who come to believe in Him. Thus in 2 Cor. 4:4 we read that:

 

“God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

 

THE LIGHT OF THE

GLORIOUS GOSPEL

 

This light is the “light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God”. In the literal Greek it is the “brightness of the gospel of the glory of Christ”.

 

Remember that before going to the cross the Lord spoke of being glorified and said of his death that if a corn of wheat fell into the ground it would bring forth “much fruit”? Well, now, in the gospel of his glory, which through Paul, and since Paul, has been preached to the Gentiles, the Lord is indeed being glorified. Thus, as to fruit, Col 1:5-6 says:

 

“For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel which is come unto as in all the world and bringeth forth fruit, as it does also in you…”

 

The Lord also said that “I, if I be lifted will draw all men unto me.” Now through the Apostle Paul’s preaching the gospel of the glory of the Gentile Jesus is shining forth to draw all men unto Him. Among the Gentiles it indeed lifts Him up to draw men unto Him.

 

SHINING FORTH THE

GLORY OF HIS GRACE

 

The Gentile Jesus has been shining forth in the glory of the gospel of grace for nearly 1950 years now. Today, as in Paul’s time, He still takes centre stage in every heart that is quickened to receive Him.

 

It is his glory, and his glory alone, that we behold within; it is his Spirit that progressively changes us into the Gentile Jesus - the Lord that by faith we see. For God Himself has predestinated us “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). This process is beautifully summed up in 2 Cor. 3:18:

 

“But we all with open (unveiled) face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 

 

What is the glass, you might ask? For Paul it was the ongoing revelation of the Gentile Jesus in his heart, as throughout his lifetime the Lord in heaven revealed truth upon truth about Himself to his chosen apostle to the Gentiles.

 

For us today it is these same truths, recorded in Paul’s epistles in the King James Bible, preserved in English faithfully translated from the Greek words just as the Lord spoke them. 

 

 

 

2

 

CHANGED BY

RESURRECTION

 

So how did all this come about? The answer lies in the strange but true series of God-wrought changes that happened to Jesus Christ after his death for us on the cross. You see, there is very much more to it than Christ simply being raised physically from the dead, stupendous miracle though that is in itself.

 

This book seeks to show how He not only arose as a Man in an imperishable, eternal, spiritual body but was also quickened and justified in Spirit, spiritually circumcised and then created as the prototype of an entirely new creation. In becoming a life giving spirit to all men, I suggest that He was then born again at least twice, if not three times.

 

As much as words can express it, the Lord Himself, far from being raised only as the future, end time Messiah  to come to Israel at his Second Coming, was also exalted to be a Saviour to all men, a Gentile Jesus.

 

Explaining all this is no simple task because nowhere in scripture is all that happened to the Lord listed in one simple, easy to digest list. Rather the pieces must be gathered together from various scriptures, then understood in the light of which dispensation and which class of believers – whether Israel or the Body of Christ – they apply to. Such “right division of the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is vital if the Lord’s several but very different post-resurrection roles are to be understood.

True, the Lord was raised from the dead to be “Lord and Christ” to Israel - that is to be the future Lord of all the earth and Israel’s anointed king in the end time when He will inaugurate his Millennial Kingdom (Acts 2:36).

 

It is also true, that, amazingly, in the meantime He has also been elevated to the highest heaven to be Lord of all glory and grace to Gentiles.

 

Importantly, when the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead He most definitely was not born again as the earthly Jesus He had been before his death on the cross. At that time, as a man, He had been on probation before God as it were, living a life of righteousness later to be set to our account.

 

However, He was resurrected as the Lord of glory and power, the very attributes He had laid aside when He earlier made Himself “of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). As He told his disciples before leaving them, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).

 

You see, there is no way the Father was going to have Him re-live his personal humiliation at the hands of disbelieving Jews, or Gentiles for that matter. This is why Jesus did not come back to life as the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53, the one who in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John came to Israel humbly “riding on a donkey”.

 

Most certainly then our Lord did not rise from the dead to again be rejected, despised and crucified on earth. To the

contrary, He is now “Lord of all”, raised with all power to be Almighty God. In our time, as the gospel of grace goes to the Gentiles, He has made Himself “all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22) through the Apostle Paul. And when earth

does see Him again, He will no longer be the gentle Jesus, but a mighty warrior, come to execute judgement on unbelievers.

 

Despite now being again manifest as God, Jesus remained a man. As such He was raised up to be Messiah and Lord of all to Israel. And it was as a man that, as the apostle Peter announced, God raised Him up “to sit on David’s throne” (Acts 2:30).

 

WHY GOD TURNED

AWAY FROM ISRAEL

 

Sadly, however, Israel rejected this role of the risen Christ as vehemently as they had spurned the Son of Man when He walked among them before his death at their hands. So it was, that Israel as a nation, through its leaders, rejected Peter’s offer (Acts 2:38) to “repent and be (water) baptised for the forgiveness of sins”.

 

When they added to this the murder of Stephen, the Lord’s great martyr witness to Jerusalem, God responded by setting them aside. And from then on in the book of Acts we find God progressively turning away from Israel and toward the Gentiles, starting this process with the arrest of Saul (who became Paul), saving him by grace and mercy.

 

Also, as a man, and quite separately from his office as Israel’s Messiah, Jesus was raised to be the Saviour of all men. To accomplish this, our Lord underwent a huge change as a man in his death and resurrection. From being a law-abiding holy Jew, He was made an unholy sinful Gentile, thus bearing the sin of us all, both Jew and Gentile. More will be said later but this, in part, is how our Lord became the Gentile Jesus.

 

Importantly, it is only through Paul’s writings we learn the new truth that the Lord also rose up again so that he could become the Saviour of all men, the Gentile Jesus. This glorious truth was kept secret at the cross, also at his resurrection and even at his ascension.

 

THE HERE AND

NOW JESUS

 

Not until after Paul comes on the scene in mid-Acts, preaching a different gospel, do we learn that the Lord died for all men’s sins and rose again for their justification.

 

The Lord did this, as we now know, so that both Jews and Gentiles as individual believers could be “baptised into his death” and buried with Him and could also rise with Him to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). All this, of course, and much more, is part of the new and very different “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) given by the Lord to Paul to preach among the Gentiles.

 

Importantly, then, Jesus rose from the dead not only to be Israel’s Messiah in the far future, but also in our time, in the here and now, to be the Gentile Jesus, the Saviour of all men. It is true, of course, that the setting aside of Israel as a nation (Rom. 11:11) provided the legal grounds for God to turn to the Gentiles. However, I submit that the personal agent, who in love executed this new mission, was the Lord Himself, and that, as such, He can be rightly called the Gentile Jesus.

 

In using this title, the Gentile Jesus, the author would like to stress that in no way does this indicate anti-Semitic prejudice on his part. He has known Jews as close personal friends, has a fond regard for Israel, and fervently believes the Bible’s clear promise that in a future to come all Israel will be saved and her kingdom restored by the Lord.

Rather, his emphasis on the Gentile Jesus comes from a desire to make all individual believers, both Jew and Gentile, more aware of the rich inheritance that is theirs in this, the Dispensation of Grace. 

 

TAKING ISRAEL’S

THINGS IS THEFT

 

Sadly the glory of these riches has been dimmed for nearly 2,000 years due to the professing church’s failure to realise the Gentile blessings the Lord has given her. For far too long she has failed to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) and, consequently, has taken many things that God gave only to Israel, and tried to make them her own.

 

Bluntly put, this is theft, a deed as bad as opening your neighbour’s private mail. It is unblessed by God and therefore is the product of “another spirit”, one not of Jesus.

 

Proof of this is that for almost 2,000 years the church has been sadly ignorant of the “riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7) and the “glory of this mystery among the Gentiles” (Col. 1:27). Indeed, it has been so busy trying to still see Jesus as a Jewish Messiah it is still strangely unaware of the fact that in the current dispensation of grace He can only be directly known and experienced as the Gentile Jesus.

 

It is important for the purposes of this book to understand that although the Lord is now indeed a Gentile Jesus, this

in no way excludes the Jews as individuals. It simply means that, Israel having been set aside by God, the Lord is now the Saviour of all sinners, whether Jew or Gentile. As such

He is the Saviour of all Jews who today, individually put their trust in Him as the one who died for their sins.

 

Now God, being God, can neither die nor be resurrected. Thus, it is as a man that the Lord Jesus Christ both died and rose again. (For the record, the Lord proved his real, resurrected manhood in several post-resurrection appearances recorded in Acts in which He ate with his disciples, spoke to them and was touched by them).

 

We also need to know that while Christ only experienced resurrection once, the different facets, and the fullness of all it entailed, was only revealed by God subsequently. When that is understood we can go on to learn how Christ was raised to be a high priest and Lord and Christ (Messiah) to Israel and, quite differently, was raised to be the Lord of glory and grace, the Gentile Jesus, for the Gentiles.

 

Importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ now reigns as man become God and thus is the Lord of glory in heaven. As such He has been busy and active with the Father intervening in and interacting with humans on earth from early in the Acts period until now. And it is as this man that He has become the Gentile Jesus.

 

DRASTIC

INTERVENTION

 

To dispel some of the confusion abounding in the professing church today it should be stressed again that

Jesus was not raised again as a Messiah (the God-man-king of Israel and rightful king of the earth) just to be put on hold in that office until the Second Coming when He will come to earth again as Messiah to redeem Israel.

 

That is the picture some see: the resurrected Lord sat at the right hand of the Father waiting and inactive until God makes his enemies his footstool.

 

But to the contrary, the book of Acts reveals that while “sat on the throne” the Lord was – and I would submit still is - actively intervening in human affairs. In Acts, for example, He sprang Peter out of prison, slew King Herod and stooped down from heaven to appear in person to arrest and save Saul who became Paul. Today He lives in the hearts of all those who put their trust in Him and acts in mercy in their behalf.

 

Going back in time, it was long, long ago in our Gentile past when the Lord intervened so drastically that He reshaped the entire world, setting the boundaries we still live within to this day (Acts 17:26). I refer to the time when God “came down” to see what men (Gentiles all then, since Abraham had yet to be called and Israel formed) were doing.

 

IS THE LORD

JUDGING NOW?

 

The Lord did not like what He saw, and confused the then single language into different tongues, driving families of men apart and dispersing them over the face of the earth (Gen. 11:1-9). Now, in our time, we need to ask just who it is that turns nations upside down by the judgements of flood, famine and disaster in proportionate measure to their rejection of Him.

 

Who else could it be but the Lord, who while not counting men’s sins against them in that He has reconciled all men unto Himself, nevertheless allows both individuals, cities, societies and nations to reap what they sow.

 

Yes, the Lord is doing much more than passively waiting to be Israel’s King, and there is much more to the Lord’s resurrection than just placing Him at God’s right hand in heaven. It is this writer’s assertion that far from being a Messiah-on-hold, the Lord Christ Jesus is extremely active as a “born again” man.

 

So active, in fact, that to this day He continues to be born again, not as a Jew, as in his first coming, but as a Gentile man in each and every believer who, under grace, turns to Him for salvation.

 

Importantly, though, He is “born again” in the heart of the believer without the human limitations of an unregenerate Gentile man; that is without the hereditary blindness, indifference and enmity to the things of God that, sadly, is natural to Gentiles. Instead, He is born again in each heart as the “inner man” that is full of faith and love toward God, as indeed every man’s heart should be.  Importantly, the Lord is also born within us without the human limitations He was under when he walked on earth as “the Word made flesh”.

 

Back then, in fulfilment of prophecy, He was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities; He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). Back then He was “made under law”; but now He is “made higher than the heavens” (Heb.7:26). Back then He was sent “after the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” (Rom. 8:3); but now He is “made after the power of an endless life” (Heb.7:16). Back then He was made a Jew under the law; today in the dispensation of grace He is “born again” within each true believer as the limitless Lord of all glory and grace from heaven, who “filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).

 

Thus the Lord Jesus Christ is now God the Son (as a man), the Lord of All and the Life-Giving Spirit of glory, who having conquered sin and death, is now born afresh in each believing heart as the person He is now, the Gentile Jesus.

 

Thus He becomes the all powerful Christ who dwells by faith in the heart of every sinner who believes that Christ died for his or her sin. And His purpose in so living within us is, through us, to reach all men in general, but the Gentiles in particular.

 

Amazingly, this Lord of glory and grace, the Gentile Jesus, is also the “new man” of Eph. 4:24 “which, after God is created in righteousness and true holiness”. It is this “new man” we are to “put on” (Col. 3:10). And none need doubt that this new man is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, for Paul elsewhere instructs: “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14).

 

It is important to see that the Lord’s purpose in being personally born again within each believer is to so change those saved and unite them in one body, His Body, that the wonder of it will reach all men with a new gospel and a new programme of salvation. Furthermore, all this is being done in order to achieve an even greater purpose. You see, the Lord Jesus Christ only reaches the fullness of his expression as the Gentile Jesus by expressing Himself fully in his Body, the Church.

 

To bring this glorious feat about, the Father is pouring the Spirit of his Son into the collective unified hearts of believers to manifest the “fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13) in his Body, so that to the Father there may be “glory in the Church” (Eph. 3:21), which, of course, is his (Christ’s) Body. However, judging by the tattered, disparate state of the Body of Christ today, much remains to be done to bring this sublime purpose about – and that’s to put it mildly. A later chapter will explore the reasons for this and suggest some solutions.

 

 

 

3

 

MEETING JESUS

AS HE IS TODAY

 

If you are not a Jew, and perhaps just a Gentile sinner like me, then how do you meet Jesus today? We need to ask this question, because it is so often preached that we come to Jesus today just as Jewish sinners did when the Lord walked among them nearly 2,000 years ago.

 

Thus it is claimed by many that just as the woman with an issue of blood touched Jesus in the crowd and was healed, so too today, we can also touch the hem of his garment; For some, such “touching” today is just spiritual, but the more daring even claim it is a real physical contact with the real Messiah as He once walked the earth.

 

But, can we indeed, in this new and different Dispensation of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24) in which we live, come like the Jewish lepers, blind and lame of old to be healed with a physical touch of his hand? Should we expect so long after his death, burial and resurrection to hear his real, physical voice telling us our sins are forgiven?

 

Many would say yes, but those who have studied the progression of events in the Bible and learned to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), would say no.

 

Yet each year myriad church messages are proclaimed urging sick and sinners alike to come to Jesus to be healed and forgiven “just as they did back in the gospel days” (of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that is).

 

Sadly, such claims always create false hopes among believers that are not realised. They also arouse a hunger for the “real presence” of the physical Jesus that simply cannot be met. And, be it noted, all this is done in defiant rejection of the living way God has made through his grace for us collectively to receive “all the fullness of God” in Christ (Eph. 3:19). Granted, this is a spiritual, not physical, way of experiencing the Lord today, but it is real none the less.

 

It is often not realised that when on earth Jesus ministered to Jews who were called to be a “kingdom of priests and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). Now specific criteria are set down in the Old Testament for priests to meet. In Lev. 21:16:23, for example, none with a blemish, none blind, lame, crook-backed, with scurvy or scabs (i.e. leprous), broken footed or broken handed were to come near the altar that they “profane not my sanctuaries”.

 

Thus we learn that Messiah Jesus came to Israel to open the eyes of the blind, make the lame to walk, to heal lepers and straighten crooked backs, all so that the chosen nation could be made fit to take its place as a kingdom of priests.

 

That was then, but today Israel is set aside and the glorified Lord Jesus Christ is no longer creating a kingdom of priests on earth, nor calling anyone to be a priest down here below. Rather, true believers are learning that God has already made them “saints in light” and “translated them into the (heavenly) kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:12-13).

 

Since God has put prophecy and its fulfilment on earth in abeyance, Jesus is not being a Messiah to anybody today. Consequently, the Lord is not healing as He once did when on earth, nor can He be made to do so. Today when God heals it is purely by his mercy and his sovereign grace. He does so quietly, unobtrusively, to meet the needs of those who trust and serve Him. He does not do so to support a public so-called “healing” ministry, still less to put on a floor show, which is why wheelchair cases taken to such meetings return as they went, still in wheelchairs. If you doubt this, don’t argue with me. I know. I have been involved in scores of such and taken unhealed wheelchair cases home myself.  

 

IN TOUCH WITH

THE LORD?

 

We are talking of meeting Jesus. In our time, in this the dispensation of grace (Eph. 3:2), there is a right way and a wrong way to do so. For example, it is sheer self deception for Catholics to eat a wine-soaked wafer, say it becomes the “real” body and blood of the Lord each time a priest serves it and thus claim they meet the Lord Himself through communion. 

 

In reality, of course, the physical wine and the biscuit remain just as they are. But what about meeting the Lord where you can really find Him – in your heart and mind as you read and believe his words written direct to you as a Gentile in Paul’s epistles in the Bible? I am happy to say that this approach works every time.

 

Sadly, Pentecostals are little better than Catholics when they sing that “to get a touch from the Lord is so real” and mean that such a touch is physical. Charismatics “smell” the “perfume of his presence”, say they physically experience his warm flowing oil “anointing” them, and believe they can get a physical touch (usually from the hand of an evangelist) that really heals.

 

Perhaps a very small number of real healings take place in public “miracle” meetings and, for sure, strong emotional

feelings are aroused on such occasions.  Sadly, though, in my experience the vast majority attending such meetings depart physically unhealed and with their faith in Christ severely damaged.

 

But, you might ask, what draws the huge crowds that attend such occasions? Surely something must happen to attract such numbers? Indeed, it does. Lying, deceiving spirits arouse emotional sensations that convince the unschooled in God’s word rightly divided, that healing is really happening when it isn’t. Just ask any of the top healing evangelists, like Benny Hinn, for example, for a medically certified list of healings that include blind eyes made to see or withered limbs really restored to life. You’ll wait a long time for the answer. 

 

MIRACLES? WHERE’S

THE PROOF?

 

As a former Pentecostalist, I can assure you that practitioners of the “signs and wonders” ministry have few genuine miracles to show for their efforts. Nor do they themselves know which spirits operate in their meetings. Here’s the proof. When John Wimber of the Vineyard “Kingdom Power Now” movement ministered signs and wonders people swayed, jerked, fell to the floor, flapped, screamed or moaned. He maintained that such manifestations were evidence of the kingdom coming upon people to heal and deliver them. “This is all real evidence of Jesus really at work physically and spiritually healing people,” Wimber claimed.

 

Fast forward a few years and the “Holy Ghost bartender” Rodney Howard Brown was getting people “drunk with the Holy Ghost”. Again people, swayed, jerked, flapped, moaned, screamed and writhed on the floor, exactly as before. But this time it wasn’t “Jesus at work”, Rodney Howard Brown insisted. Rather it was demons coming out and manifesting themselves.

 

So which is it, Jesus or the Devil? Think carefully and I’m sure you will know the answer. Accused of letting demons run riot in his services, RHB glibly responded: “Ï don’t care whether it’s God or the Devil at work, at least something’s happening in my meetings; they’re not dead like yours!”

 

Thankfully, before long, RHB’s meetings were dead too. Almost as quickly as it came, the "power” went. Today, of course, both Wimber and RHB are long gone, the money they collected with them. Now few stand in their stead to supposedly minister healing to the millions who sadly suffer ongoing demonic oppression as a direct consequence of their earlier ministry.

 

However, those who take God at his word and know there has been a change of dispensation (from law with its signs and wonders to sustaining grace which - surprise, surprise - works all the time) have found a real answer: It is to simply believe Col. 1:13 which tells us the Father “…hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” That takes care of all the demons, all the evil, all oppressive thoughts in one King hit (pun intended).

 

A COUNTERFEIT

JESUS

 

So then, if it’s not safe to try and meet the “real” Jesus through lying signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9) - and it’s not - then how should we rightly encounter the Lord Jesus as He really is today?

 

The answer for a large sector of professing Christianity is to “spiritualise” the gospel accounts of how Jesus met and impacted people when He was on earth. That is, to believe that just as Jesus really made the blind to physically see, so now He can spiritually open our eyes. Just as He made the deaf to hear, He can spiritually make us listen. Similarly He can spiritually cure us of our leprosy, which is sin, and make us to “walk” when we spiritually stumble.

 

While admittedly better than invoking a supposedly physically “real”, but actually counterfeit presence of Jesus – and getting a demon instead - there are still serious problems with this approach. Firstly it limits Jesus to spiritually doing just what He did physically on earth when in fact He has gone on after his death, burial and resurrection to do so much, much more than that.

 

DOES THE LORD

REPEAT HISTORY?

 

Secondly, it assumes without any scriptural support whatever, that Jesus today wants to repeat today exactly what He did back then when nowhere does the Bible teach this is so.  Again the truth is that in the present Grace Age He super abounds in doing much more. Please consider why. On earth the Lord was geographically limited to Judah and as an earthly man to being in one place at one time. He made Himself of no reputation, was found in fashion as a man and humbled Himself as a servant, even unto to death (Phil. 2: 7-8).

 

Today by contrast He can go everywhere because as God He is omnipresent. Today as a man He is also infinite and Almighty God. Today He has been given a name above every name, and is exalted, not humbled. As such He is all powerful and freely pours out his grace on all who believe. Back in his earthly ministry, He was bound by the law; today He sits on the throne of grace and freely offers mercy and help to meet our need. 

 

Consequently, today believers are not under the law and God’s grace is unlimited. Here’s just a taste of how good it gets: the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 9:8 tells us:

 

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.”

 

If you’re one who loves and serves the Lord, then this is for you. What do you really need? Is it Bible understanding, patience, freedom from sin, money, health, a job, help, understanding, a spouse? If I read it aright, then God will make his grace abound to meet your every need in all things all of the time. What an assurance of his love for us! And again, if this promise is believed the faithful find that over time God does just what He says with no misfires and no disappointments.

 

Thirdly, trying to bring back the earthly Jesus today would subject Him again to the humiliation, hatred and rejection He endured as the Suffering Servant when on earth. But God has taken Him out of all that and placed Him at his right hand in glory, where no one will ever dare to argue with or humiliate Him again.

 

“Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 9-11).

 

What’s more, today in heaven the Lord’s power is unlimited. He has been “declared to be the Son of God with power” (Romans 1:4). Remember that as the Son of Man on earth, Jesus could “only do what the Father showed Him”, could only speak what the Father gave Him to say.

 

Today Christ, while still working in harmony with the Father, speaks fully and acts as God Almighty on his own authority. In fact the Father has given Him a “name above all other names”, precisely so that He can do just that (Phil. 9:10).

 

Worst of all, spiritualising the earthly Jesus today, in an attempt to bring Him back to life, as He was then,  not only flies in the face of history, but also obscures the present truth and power of God through grace. In reality Jesus is no longer physically on earth, but rather is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

 

If He can really be “here and now”, upon earth in bodily form to touch us physically, then the scriptural promise of his future Second Coming to earth as the Son of Man – that is as the physical Messiah restored to Israel – would be rendered unnecessary, because “He’s already here”.

 

The truth is that today in the dispensation of grace we personally experience the Gentile Jesus only when we “Let the word of Christ dwell richly” (Col. 3:16) in us and exercise faith and prayer. The watchword is that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:17). And what about the changes in the times and dispensations God has made since Jesus walked the earth? Haven’t they changed the way Jesus meets us?

 

Today we are under the dispensation of grace, not the dispensation of law, as the earthly Jesus was. Today it is the preaching of the cross under the gospel of the grace of God, not the preaching “the kingdom of heaven at hand” as it was under the gospel of the kingdom Jesus proclaimed as the Messiah to the Jews. Furthermore, Christ is no longer sent as He was, in the days of his earthly ministry, only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Today, He is sent to the Gentiles, indeed to all men, and so it is that now, we can only know Him in truth as the Saviour of all who believe, the Gentile Jesus.

4

 

WHAT DOES THE

BIBLE SAY?

 

A fresh look at the Bible, to see what it really says, is needed to understand how the Saviour came to the Gentiles after his death, burial and resurrection, and why, as I contend,  a new birth as a Gentile was necessary for Him to do so.

 

Too often our understanding of scripture is shaped not by what it says but by what others have taught us it means. Yet the scripture is its own teacher, if we would know it aright, guided, as we should be, by the Holy Spirit, according to the principle of right division (Tim. 2:15) and remembering that for us Gentiles the Apostle Paul is our teacher (2 Tim.7). So let us see what scripture actually says in the light of revelation on this important subject.

 

To begin with, look at Acts 13:32-33. Here Paul begins to unfold before a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles, in a synagogue far out from Jerusalem on Gentile soil, how the Lord has been “born again”, not as a Jew but as a Gentile. (Remember a Gentile by definition is one who is not a Jew). (Yes I know, the last time you read this portion of scripture it didn’t seem to say anything about Jesus as a Gentile. Perhaps we should read it again.)

 

First up, Paul declares in verse 32 the “glad tidings” that “the promise made to the fathers God hath fulfilled to “us, their children”.

 

“… in that He hath raised up Jesus from the dead, as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee.”

 

Turning to Psalm 2:7 we read the Old Testament scripture Paul is referring to:

 

“I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”

 

Begotten means born, and in both Psalm 2:7 and Acts 13:33 must mean “born again” since Jesus had already been born once as Mary’s holy child. This means that, actually, Jesus has been “born again” three times. To see why, note that in eternity past, before the foundation of the world, Christ was with God and was God (John 1:1).

 

So back then He was God the Son in Spirit, because, of course, God is a spirit. Then He was “born again”, as it were, as a man. He became the “Word made flesh”, to minister to Israel on earth. So mark that down as the time when Christ was “born again” for the first time.

 

Then notice that when on earth He Himself said He was sent “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24), i.e. not to Gentiles. What’s more He specifically instructed his disciples “to go not into the way of the Gentiles”. This being so, it is clear He was not born at this time to minister to the Gentiles, but only to the Jews or to their proselytes. So when was He “born again” to minister to the Gentiles, you might ask?  I’m glad you asked and we’ll come to the answer very shortly.

 

Meantime, sad to say, the Lord’s earthly ministry to his people Israel was rejected by them. He was crucified by their wicked hands. But God raised Him up and in his resurrection as a man He was born again, so to speak, as the Son of God.  (You see, it is one thing to be the Son of God because you are God. It is quite another to be the Son of God as a man, especially when as a man you have been made sin and paid for the sins of the whole world).

 

MADE THE

SON OF GOD

 

Being made the Son of God is without question what happened to the man Christ Jesus in his resurrection. Romans 1:3-4 says that:

 

“Jesus Christ was made of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.”

 

To reiterate, it is as a man Jesus was born again as the Son of God, in his resurrection.

 

Thus we see that scripture itemises two of what, I would submit are three, separate occasions in which the Lord was born again. There is still the third to come. To recap:

 

First then Christ (who was eternally pre-existent as God the Son) was “born again”, as it were, as a man, a Jew of the royal line of David.

 

Second of all, He was raised from death as a man to become the Messiah and Lord of all to the chosen people Israel (Acts 2: 36).

 

The third occasion, I would suggest, is when the Lord was born yet again, not only as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4) and the Lord of glory (2 Cor. 3:18) but also as a Gentile, the Gentile Jesus. Just how and when this may have occurred is the subject of the next chapter.

 

5

 

JESUS BORN AGAIN

THE THIRD TIME

 

If what is outlined above, and what follows, is correct, then it is truly amazing that the Lord of Heaven submits to being born again not once, not twice, but in all three times. And how could this third sacred rebirth of Christ be accomplished you ask? Well, scripture is clear that after the Lord’s birth as man on earth and his subsequent death, resurrection and ascension to heaven, to “sit at the right hand of the Father”, He was indeed born yet again.

 

This time, however, his rebirth was within a Jew raised among Gentiles, a Pharisee called Saul, who was also a Roman citizen and who was separated from birth to be the Lord’s Apostle to the Gentiles, and thus the mouthpiece of the Gentile Jesus.

 

To put it simply, Jesus poured Himself into Paul to live, breathe and exert Himself within this new apostle, to put Himself fully  on exhibition, as it were, in one person. Never before had God so poured Himself into a man, never before had He made Himself completely one with another human being. Yes, that’s right, another human being, because it was must not be forgotten that it is Jesus the man, who rose from, the dead, ascended and is now exalted as God Almighty.

 

No wonder Paul says He was “raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25) and exults in the “glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Jesus living in and through Paul was a historic first.

 

Let us see how this important event is set out in scripture. Gal. 1:15-16 says:

 

“When it pleased God …. to reveal his Son in me that I might preach Him among the heathen (Gentiles).

 

There’s a tendency to pass quickly over this verse, missing its huge and vital significance.  Preachers often, and quite wrongly, say that here Paul explains that Jesus had become “real in his heart”, in the same way we feel that God is real in our heart when we truly trust Him. It was, they argue, how Saul felt “called to the ministry”.

 

But such an approach ignores and belittles the stupendous truth that underlies this verse. It is that here, for the first time in all history, God the Son is revealed in a rotten, sinful man, like you and me.

 

That’s right, nowhere in the Bible until Gal. 1:15-16 are we told that God ever revealed his Son within a sinner. Yes, God breathed the “breath of life” into Adam and, yes, Jesus Himself was conceived of the Holy Ghost in Mary’s womb.

 

ONLY IN PAUL, NOT

THE TWELVE

 

However, both Adam (at that time) and Jesus were sinless. Saul/Paul wasn’t. Bear in mind that Jesus was and is the God-Man in His totality; He was not just the Son of God “revealed” in his own body; As a man through resurrection He is, and ever will be the Son of God, period.

 

Well, surely you say, the other apostles of Jesus, Peter,

John and James must have had the Son of God revealed in them too when they met Jesus in the gospels? No, not according to the Bible. Look, for example, at 1 John 1-2:

 

“That which was from the beginning, that which have heard, that which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life. (For the life was manifested and have seen it and bear witness and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us).”

 

Yes, John and the other apostles, heard the life of God, God the Son, saw Him, looked upon Him, handled Him but He was not revealed in them. The Apostle Peter confirms that he, James and John, had only an exterior experience of the Lord Jesus Christ even when He gave them a preview of his coming into his (earthly) kingdom glory on the Mt of Transfiguration (Reference: Matt: 17:1-5).

 

2 Peter 1:16:”For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto the powering and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

 

WHEN WAS THE LORD’S

PRAYER ANSWERED?

 

If the Son of God had been revealed in any of these men surely they would have said so. The fact is that He wasn’t.

 

But, I hear you ask, in John 17:23 didn’t Jesus pray that He might be “in them” that as the Father was in Him and He in the Father they “may be also one in us”? Yes, He did, but scripture does not record when or how this prayer to the Father was, or will be, answered. What we do know is that none of the twelve are recorded as saying that the Son of God was in them or was revealed in them.

 

You see, much that Christ promised Israel when He was on

earth has yet to be fulfilled, even now some 2,000 years later. He has yet to return to earth to be Israel’s Messiah, for example. His promise that “in the regeneration” the apostles who followed Him should “sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes” (Matt 19:28) also awaits fulfilment.

 

Doubtless, many of the Lord’s promises to those faithful to Him in Israel will be fulfilled only in the “regeneration”, when Israel as a nation will be “born again”. It is important to realise that all these promises and things Jesus prayed for his people Israel are the subject of prophecy - that is things spoken by God’s prophets “since the world began” (Acts 3:21). By contrast the revelation of new truth to Paul (particularly that of the Christ revealed within) is the subject of mystery – that which has been hidden since the world began:

 

“… Which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God … which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now (i.e. in Paul’s time and ours) revealed….” (Eph 3: 9 and 5).

 

Thus Paul is unique, in that he was the first sinful man in history within whom God revealed his Son.  Please note that in Gal 1:16 Paul says that “God revealed his Son in me”. This means much more than that Christ indwelt Paul by faith or that Paul let “the word of Christ dwell richly” (Col. 3:16) in him - the two ways by which believers experience the indwelling Christ today.

 

Rather it means that God revealed the fullness of Christ, as He now is, the Lord of glory and of all grace, the Gentile Jesus, both within and through the Apostle Paul. This is why Paul speaks of the “revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12) to him, meaning that Christ directly revealed Himself to Paul and in Paul personally. Nevertheless, doubtless, later on in his life, Paul also experienced knowing Christ within by faith and through the Lord’s word.

6

 

JESUS

IN PAUL

 

This personal revelation of Christ to him and through him is why Paul, more than any other man, was put on show as a living inpersonation (to coin a word) of the Gentile Jesus. Thus indwelt Paul was made, as we learn in 1 Cor. 4:9, “a spectacle unto the world, unto the angels and to men”.

 

This is why, in Gal. 3:1, Paul is speaking of himself when he says “Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified”; this is why  Paul had to (Acts 9:16) “suffer … great things”; this is why he says “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).

 

You see, the “revealing of God’s Son” in Paul, in fact, permeated Paul’s whole being to the extent that he could say, “it is no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20) and again, “since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me” ( 2 Cor. 13:3). He writes how the Galatians “received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (Gal. 4:14).

 

In Rom. 15: 15-19 the apostle plainly states that in preaching to the Gentiles, every word he spoke, every deed he did, every miracle he performed, was in fact done by Christ working through him and not by himself.

 

Furthermore, he describes the way Christ worked through him as “the grace that is given to me of God” (vs. 15). Read carefully what he has to say on the extent to which Christ “wrought by me” the things Paul did in his ministry. 

 

 

 

“For I will not dare to speak of those things which Christ hath

not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, so that from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”

 

What’s more, this “revealing of God’s Son” in Paul did not stop there. It carried on throughout his life from his arrest on the road to Damascus through to the time he was led out to be beheaded at Rome. In it all, through it all, the Gentile Jesus was - and, through Paul’s epistles, still is - exhibiting Himself to “the world, unto angels and to men”.

 

This why Paul’s preaching and teaching is so very important to us who believe, because, far from it just being Paul speaking about Christ; it is Christ speaking through Paul (1 Cor. 14:37). It is also why we should study carefully everything Paul did and said, and everything that happened to Paul, because, in fact, it is Jesus Christ saying and doing it through Paul.

 

Furthermore, it is God Himself who is determining the confrontations and conflicts that Christ in Paul undergoes specifically so that His Son as the Gentile Jesus can appear and be shown forth in the Apostle.

 

IN HIS

IMAGE

 

Yes, everything Paul says and does as recorded in the pages of scripture is an object lesson in God’s grace and his longsuffering toward men in general and us who believe in particular.

 

Importantly, everything Paul suffered, went through and learned had one goal in mind: to exhibit Christ, the Gentile Jesus, to a world of Gentiles which could not in any other

 

way learn about Him. Thus the Inter-Varsity Fellowship New Bible Dictionary (page 944), in describing the triumph and defeat, persecution and effective gospel proclamation of Paul’s Aegian ministry, says:

 

“The risen Christ used all these things to mould Paul into His image; and to speak through Paul His word to the Church”.

 

Inasmuch, as it was for the body of Christ that Paul suffered all that he did, it was for our sake too. It is also for our sake, as grace-saved believers, that every important thing Christ did on our behalf is re-exhibited and re-experienced in and through the man Paul.

 

Christ was born a Jew under the law, so was Paul. Christ was circumcised, so was Paul. Christ kept the law, so (in a legalistic sense) did Paul. Both were baptised. Both died, the Lord on the cross and Paul “daily”, and, as I believe, literally once by stoning.  Both suffered and were tortured. Both “rose again”, the Lord from his grave, Paul after his stoning. Both also ascended to heaven, the Lord in triumph and Paul when he was caught up to the third heaven. 

 

SEEING CHRIST

THROUGH PAUL

 

All that Christ has done has been set to our account. By faith it is ours. However, so that we that can better grasp it, every aspect of the great salvation Christ has won for us was fully worked out physically, mentally and spiritually in the life of Paul.

 

We can see and read it in him as we read the Bible’s account of his life. Gentiles living in the Apostle’s day, of course, could see it at first hand, as indeed they needed to see it, since there was as yet no scripture available to them setting forth the Lord’s ministry to Gentiles. (As detailed later, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Acts and most of Paul’s epistles had yet to be written when the Apostle did most of his work as an evangelist).

 

A SPECTACLE

OF SUFFERING

 

So we see that God revealed his Son fully in Paul, and for a most important purpose, as the apostle records in Gal. 1:16:

 

 “…that I might preach Him among the heathen (Gentiles)”.

 

Evidently, without the “spectacle” of Christ exhibiting in Paul his wounds, rejection, disappointments, longsuffering, resurrection and much more, the apostle’s preaching to the Gentiles might have been incomplete, ineffective.

 

This is an aspect of the Gentile Jesus, working in and through Paul that has yet to be recognised by the professing church for the important truth it contains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

 

PAUL MADE A

WALKING BIBLE

 

Few take account of it, but the fact is that the Apostle Paul preached the gospel to the Gentile world of his day without a Bible. The only scripture his hearers could use to “check him out” was the Old Testament. Even that, available in Greek as the Septuagint though it was, was such a rare and expensive book as to be completely beyond the reach of all but the very rich. And Paul preached mainly to slaves and poor men.

 

So when his hearers wanted to test the truth of Paul’s preaching to what could they turn? Neither the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, nor the Book of Acts were written or published until after Paul’s death.

 

The only scriptures available were the synagogue’s Tenach in Hebrew, the Greek Septuagint available in some libraries, and the epistles of Paul himself. The latter, however, were written only progressively over the course of the Apostle’s ministering life, many of them while the Apostle was in prison. Consequently, many Gentile believers may only have heard one or two of them read out loud and it is likely they would not even know of the others.

 

Granted, some Jewish hearers of Paul, like the “noble Bereans“ (Acts 17:11), searched the scriptures” – i.e. the Septuagint or the Hebrew synagogue scrolls - to “see whether

these things were so”. However, for the Gentiles, many of whom could not read or write anyway, more graphic proof was needed. And this, I suggest on the basis of scripture, was supplied by the Lord Jesus Christ, visibly and dramatically in the person and body of Paul through the tumultuous events that happened to him.

 

How sad then, that today when preachers want to explain how salvation through Christ impacts a person, they almost invariably turn to the gospel accounts of how the Lord ministered to Jews and not to the many examples in Acts of how Christ worked through Paul to save Gentiles.

 

And why do they largely ignore the truths of salvation so beautifully recorded in the apostle’s epistles? The reason is that they fail to distinguish between the Lord’s earthly ministry to Israel and his later ministry from heaven, through Paul, to save Gentiles

 

STRANGERS

FROM GOD

 

But, you might ask, why is it so very important to differentiate between the Lord’s Jewish ministry in the gospels and His very different salvation for all men, revealed to and through Paul? One reason is that the Jews were, when Jesus was on earth, already highly in God’s favour and bound to Him by a covenant relationship. Thus, they needed only to repent and be baptised to be saved. Gentiles, by contrast, were not in favour with God at that time; in fact they were quite literally “beyond the pale”. They were not in covenant with God, nor are they now.

 

This is why it takes much more to save a Gentile even today than it did a Jew in Jesus’ time on earth. Gentiles, you see, must be quickened out of spiritual death by being made one with the Lord’s death and resurrection. Mere repentance and water baptism won’t do the job.

 

Read the gospels carefully and you will find Jewish people

being “saved” there, years before Jesus went to the Cross. We thus conclude they were saved without knowing that He would die for their sins. That’s because God was covenant-bound to hear repentant Israelites and forgive their sins when they humbled themselves and prayed. 

 

By contrast today Gentiles can only be saved by the “preaching of the cross”.  Nor today, nearly 2,000 years later, are Gentiles in covenant with God now. Remember that in the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, Gentiles were at that time:

 

“…without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promises, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2: 12).

 

Historically, you see, Gentiles had no culture of seeking God, much less serving Him. They had been “given up” by God at the tower of Babel 1500 years before Paul’s time. What’s more this shunning of the Gentiles by God continued throughout the earthly ministry of Christ. For example, He was at pains to tell his disciples and a Gentile, Canaanite woman begging help for her bedevilled daughter, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24).

 

As noted earlier, in John 12:20-24, certain Greeks came to ask Philip, “Sir, we would see Jesus”. Guess what? They never did get to see Jesus, not in his lifetime on earth anyway.

 

Jesus explained to his disciples (but not to the Greeks because He did not meet them) that “except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth

much fruit.” The plain inference of his words is that it was not until well after his death and resurrection that Christ would be “seen” by Gentiles. Again I submit, on the solid evidence of scripture, that it is through Paul - and only

through Paul – that Christ has ever truly been seen by Gentiles and that, when He was so seen, it was the Gentile Jesus that they saw.

 

Many other verses in Paul’s epistles also set forth the truth of the Lord’s inpersonation in Paul. Here is a sampling:

 

Galatians 2:20: “… I live yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me”.

 

Galatians 4:19: “My little children of whom I travail in both again until Christ be formed in you”. 

 

CHRIST LIVES

WITHIN PAUL

 

Here Paul confirms again that Christ lives in him. His burden now, like a mother-soon-to-be, is to see Christ similarly born again in others.

 

2 Cor. 13:3: “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak but is mighty in you.”

 

An important proof of Christ having been born in and living in Paul is that Christ does indeed speak in and through Paul in the scriptures. In fact, this is said of no other apostle in the Bible. For example, Christ doesn’t do any speaking “in” John the Revelator. Rather, John received the message of the Book of Revelation when God sent it to him and signified it by his angel (Rev.1:1).

 

Again in 1 John 1:1 the Apostle John writes of “that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life”.  He writes of a message “which we have heard of Him” but nowhere claims Christ is speaking in or through him.

 

The Apostle Peter writes, testifying of the grace of God (1 Peter 5:12), and to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Peter 3:1) but nowhere claims Christ is speaking in him. Neither does James or Jude.

 

It is only Paul who plainly says Christ is “speaking in me”; only Paul who asserts (1 Cor. 14:3) that "if any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord”.

 

CHRIST SPEAKS

IN PAUL

 

Please note that Christ speaks in Paul, not just directly through him. Importantly then, it is only as we accept that Christ speaks uniquely in Paul, and that the dispensation of the grace of God was given in and through the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-2), and not through anyone else, that we Gentiles also experience the “to you-ward” ministry of Paul, by which Christ speaking in him, is “mighty” in us. In Rom.15:18-19 Paul speaks in similar vein of the things that Christ living in him has:

 

“…wrought to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God…”

 

Col. 2:29: “Ï labour according to His (Christ’s) working which worketh in me mightily.”

 

Col. 2:24: “(I) fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh.”

 

So we see, that Christ not only lives in Paul, but lives through Paul, speaks in him, works in him, writes through him, even suffers in and through him.

 

Again, please understand, that the Lord’s mission now, as

He indwells Saul and renames him Paul, is no longer to be the Saviour and Anointed King of Israel. Rather His purpose is to reveal Himself to the Gentile world through Paul, as the Lord of glory in heaven and Saviour of all men. In fact it is to be the Gentile Jesus.

 

And, to achieve this goal, almost everything must change. There has to be a different gospel - the gospel to the Gentiles, not the earlier gospel of the kingdom which was preached solely to the Jews. The new gospel of the grace of God is for all men, particularly for Gentiles. Old things, like the law and the dispensation of promise regarding a special nation, Israel and its land upon earth, must be set aside; new things like abounding grace and a new law of life in Christ must be brought in. A secret long hid in God - and thus called the Mystery - must be disclosed.

 

THE GREATEST

CHANGE OF ALL

 

What’s more a new place – the heavenlies or heavenly places – must be revealed to Jews and Gentiles, individually saved by grace, as their ultimate destination. This newly revealed realm is what the new people of God are to call home; whereas for the Jewish people, the land of Israel on earth, of course, remains their home.

 

To bring all this about for Gentile believers, God calls a temporary halt to fulfilment of his prophetic programme

(that is fulfilling “all things spoken by his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). In its place He brings in the Mystery programme – fulfilling that “which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” (Eph. 3:9).

 

But the greatest change of all takes place in the Lord Jesus

Himself. No more is He the God-become-man-on-earth;

instead the Lord becomes man-as-God-in-heaven. No longer is He God veiled in the likeness of sinful flesh, walking as a man among men.

 

Nor is He now a Jew walking among Jews on earth obeying the law. Perhaps an illustration will help to explain the great change that has occurred. The English Catholic statesman, Sir Thomas More, has been praised as a “man for all seasons”. But his ability to deftly adapt to changing religious and political circumstances is eclipsed by the feat of our Lord Jesus Christ accomplishes in transforming Himself from a Jewish Messiah into the heavenly God-man Saviour for all time and all peoples.

 

Truly in doing so He becomes every man’s Lord, the Gentile Jesus.

 

A LIFE GIVING

SPIRIT WITHIN

 

No more confined to a mortal, physical body, the man-made-God Jesus Christ now becomes a life-giving Spirit occupying the hearts of all who believe. And, now, He expresses Himself, not through the nation Israel, but through a spiritual body that joins men of all races unto and into Himself.

 

To indwell this body, to be Head of the Body of Christ, which is the true church of today, Jesus Himself has hugely changed. From the one-time Messiah and Suffering Servant He has indeed become the Gentile Jesus.

 

 

 

 

8

 

THE BORN

AGAIN JESUS

 

Earlier in chapter three it was asserted that Jesus was born again. This causes consternation for some, who doubt the Lord Himself was so re-born, thinking, as they do, of being born again as an experience only applicable to sinners being saved.

 

This chapter revisits the issue, asking the question: Was Jesus really born again after his death, burial and resurrection? The answer I again suggest is that, yes, He was and, if scripture is carefully studied, it is possible that, all told, He has been born again three times.

Consider the following scriptures:

 

Acts 2:29-32: “… David … being a prophet and know that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his lions, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ (Messiah) to sit upon his (that is David’s) throne. He, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ. … This Jesus hath God raised up whereof we are all witnesses.”’

 

Acts 2:36: “… therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”.

 

Importantly, Christ is said here to have been raised from the dead (i.e. born again) according to the word of the Lord given by prophecy through the mouth of David (Acts 2:30, 22).  Note that here the Lord is simply “raised” from the dead, not “raised again”, which is the phrase used in another, later scripture.

 

But, allow me to digress for a moment. An issue for some is whether being resurrected can truly equate to being born again? Or, to put it another way, are resurrection and regeneration the same in experience? I submit this is indeed the case, as adduced by the following scriptures:

 

Rom. 6:4: “…like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”.

 

Col. 2:12: Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God who raised from the dead. And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

 

Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour”.

 

UNDENIABLE

NEW LIFE

 

It is undeniable that a person resurrected from death of necessity begins a new life, since his old life had ceased. He is thus “born again”. Since we, undoubtedly begin a new life as “born again” babes in Christ upon being made one with Christ in his death and resurrection, it is only reasonable then to conclude that the Lord underwent the same experience.

 

After all He died not only for us, but as us. He was “made sin for us” and died a sinner’s death. He also rose and we with Him. Consequently, He had to be brought back to life to be “born again”, just as we, dead in trespasses and sins, also must be born again. As Titus 3:5 tells us the Father has washed us clean in the very regeneration (being born again)

and renewing of his Spirit, experienced by His Son. Glory to God our Saviour! Therefore Jesus indeed was born again.

 

Now without question Jesus was born (as a man) the first time from the womb of the Virgin Mary. Matt. 1:22-25 clearly proves that. But can we prove from scripture that, in being raised from the dead after His crucifixion, Jesus was also “born again”?

 

I submit that the scriptures below indeed teach that this is the case.

 

Heb. 1:5:  “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And again, I will be to Him a Father and He shall be to me a Son”.

 

Rom. 1:3-4: “…made of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.”

 

Heb. 1:5 is a re-quotation of Psalm 2:7 in which the Lord (the Father) says unto the Son: “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

  

BEGOTTEN OF

THE FATHER

 

Note that begetting means to “procreate, to be the father of” according to Collins New English Dictionary, which says that it is used particularly of Jesus Christ as the “begotten of the Father” (John 1:14-18, 3:16-18).

 

Very significantly - in the light of this book’s argument that the Gentile Jesus was uniquely revealed through Paul - the only other person in the New Testament said to have done

any “begetting” is Paul himself. Thus, in 1 Cor. 4:15 the Apostle tells the Corinthians: “I have begotten you through the gospel” and in Philem. 10 Paul tells Philemon about his son “Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds”. 

 

That the Heb. 1:5/Ps. 2:7 prophecy relates to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and not to his birth through Mary, is made clear by comparing Acts 4:24-28 and Acts 4:10.

 

Verses 25 and 26 refer directly to Psalm 2 and God speaking through David to ask: “Why did the heathen rage and the people imagine vain things?” When did they rage do I hear you ask? Why, when Israel and the Gentiles conspired and co-operated to put Christ to death. Thus in verses 27-28 we are told:

 

“For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”

 

The Lord’s death by murder at Israel’s hands is also clearly charged in Acts 2:23:

 

“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified.”

 

BEGOTTEN BY

RESURRECTION

 

Surely, it is the Lord’s resurrection that is described in Psalm 2:7 where God the Father says through prophecy, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Here as a man, Christ Jesus is raised from death to be born again as God’s Son. Thus we see that Jesus as a man, is born again; that is He is “born again” as the Son of God, not at his birth as Mary’s firstborn, but at his resurrection.

But that is not all. In Acts 2:31-32 the Apostle Peter tells Israel that in fulfilment of another Davidic prophecy (2 Sam. 7:12) God raised Christ to sit on his (David’s) throne.

 

Christ means Messiah and Jesus as Messiah was presented to Israel during his earthly ministry. Now, however, since being rejected and crucified by Israel, He has been raised from the dead to be the Gentile Jesus to Gentiles. And, when prophecy resumes one day in the future, He will again be Israel’s Messiah.

 

RAISED UP

WITH POWER

 

But there’s much more. Already raised as a man to be God’s Son (the first to be so since Adam) and raised again as Messiah to rule Israel, the Lord is also raised up as God’s Son with power. Power to do what, you ask? Why, power, surely, to forgive all sin, and so fully save all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile, from Satan, sin, death and the wrath to come. That is why in Rom. 1:4 Paul tells us that Jesus Christ was

 

“Declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead.”

 

The verb “declare” here is the Greek word horizo (from which we get horizon) According to Vine horizon means mark off by boundaries … usually of time and thus Christ is said to have been marked out as the Son of God by the fact of his resurrection.”[1] Right here then at the resurrection the man Christ Jesus is “begotten” or born again as the Son of God. Clearly then, from his resurrection onward, Christ had power as the Son of God that as a man He did not possess before. Certainly, He was limited in his earthly ministry;

limited to being a man, to being a servant, to humbling Himself unto death. He could do only what His Father told Him to do; say only what the Father gave Him to say. He

was limited to ministering only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). Gentiles were not then on the agenda. Now, however, through the rebirth of his resurrection, the full power of the Son of God’s holiness is proclaimed by the Father, and (in the next verse, verse 5) we read that this “born again” Son of God with power has commissioned the Apostle Paul.

 

Paul says, it is by Him, this born again Son of God, that “…we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name”. Paul says. Clearly then our faith now must be in this new, all-powerful man, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Gentile Jesus.

 

‘RAISED UP

JESUS AGAIN’

 

Acts 13:33 states: “… in that He (God) hath raised up Jesus again, as it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” Of course, you know that the word Jesus means Saviour; so what is being said here is that the Lord is resurrected again as a Saviour. Argue against the word “again” being in the Authorised Version translation (some say it is not in the original Greek), if you think you must, but I believe it is there for a divine purpose.

 

Consider: He had been born a Saviour to Israel but now, since Israel has been set aside, He is “raised up again” as a Saviour, not this time to Israel but as a Saviour to the whole world. The whole world - can you prove that’s true, you ask?  Yes, there is a scriptural proof. In Acts 13:33 Paul says that in raising Jesus again God has fulfilled His promise to the “fathers”. What was the promise? It is summarised in Psalm 2:7-8:

 

  • “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee (i.e. caused thee to be born again)
  • “Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

 

Notice He is being begotten specifically so that He can be given the “heathen”, that is Gentiles, for his inheritance. Put all this together and you have Jesus the man born again as the Son of God with power, “marked off” by his resurrection as the Son of God with power and also “born again” as the Saviour to the world. In other words, He is now the Gentile Jesus.

 

By my count, that means Jesus has been “born again” three times. Importantly, though, what is this power He has now? Surely, it is the power to potentially possess and rule all men and all heaven and earth. No wonder He is referred to as the “firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15) and the “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18).

 

JUSTIFIED WITHOUT

THE LAW

 

Keep in mind there is a twofold application of resurrection/born again truth. In keeping with the programme of prophecy the Lord is raised again as Messiah to Israel and in the end time will have the heathen for his possession and rule them with a rod of iron (Rev. 2:27, 12:5, 19:15). In the meantime, in our time, in the Age of Grace, under the mystery programme revealed to Paul, the Lord is raised up with power as the Gentile Jesus to forgive and save the whole world.

 

That is why in Acts 13:38 Paul makes the great declaration of the gospel of the grace of God that:

 

“… by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.”

 

Nothing like this was ever said to Israel; rather the Lord insisted his hearers should keep the commandments. Nothing like this was ever said to anybody in the Old Testament period either.

 

But what was the purpose of the Lord being “marked off in time” from the resurrection as the Son of God with power? Rom. 8:29 supplies the answer.

 

 “… for whom He did foreknow He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son that He (Christ) might be the first-born among many brethren.”

 

Col.1:15: “(Christ) Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.”

 

Gal.1:16: “To reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among the heathen…”

 

Acts 9:15: “… he (Saul) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.”

 

 

1 John 2:29: “… everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him”.

 

Yes, the Lord has been raised in power as the Gentile Jesus, just so that we can be conformed to his image, a process that begins in our lifetime so that we in turn can reflect something of his glory and glory to the dying, sin-stricken world around us.

 

9

 

CHRIST CRUCIFIED

‘EVIDENTLY SET FORTH’

 

Gal. 3:1: “O foolish Galatians who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.”

 

In the Greek “bewitched” means to have the evil eye put on one and “evidently” means to be “placarded”, or set forth like an eye-catching placard. Thus there is a play on words here, emphasising the importance of that which is seen and also what prevents it being seen.

 

I suggest that here Paul is alluding to the fact that he himself had been set forth as a “placard” of the crucified Christ. That is, that as well as preaching his gospel that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:1-4), Paul in his own body, was a picture of some of the things the Lord suffered.

 

 Paul’s scars and weals from many whippings and beatings proclaimed in his own body the physical abuse the Lord Himself had undergone.

 

Now the verse above says that before the very eyes of the Galatians Jesus Christ “hath been evidently set forth, “crucified among you”.

 

 If these words in scripture are taken to mean just what they say - and there is no good reason to do otherwise - then the Galatians with their own eyes saw something that truly, physically, depicted Jesus Christ crucified among them in a shockingly, realistic way.

 

Without being unnaturally forced, Paul’s words here cannot be made to mean they saw a vision or that his preaching by itself conjured up such a graphic image.

 

PAUL A MARKED

MAN FOR JESUS

 

Remember, the Galatians were not present at the Lord’s crucifixion. They had not seen Him physically suffer for their sins. They were not there in Jerusalem to see Him rise alive from the dead; they did not see Him pour out the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Pentecost.

 

Yet when Paul was with them they saw something that physically exhibited the Lord’s bodily sufferings at both Lystra and Philippi. What could that be, other than the terrible wounds suffered by Paul? That this is a reasonable interpretation is borne out by Gal. 6:17. Paul writes:

 

 “From henceforth let no man trouble me for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

 

Here, at least to my mind, Paul clearly states that his wounds from whippings were the “marks” of the Lord Jesus. Such clear physical proof should have caused the Galatians not only to accept Paul’s gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:32) but also to have accepted in person Paul as the gospel’s apostle and minister.

 

REAL WOUNDS

NOT ‘STIGMATA’

 

To the extent they were now failing to do so, in heeding the clamour of the Judaisers that they be circumcised, Paul reminds them of the real wounds he suffered in the cause of preaching Christ.

 

Of course, Gal. 6:17 does not mean Paul experienced the “stigmata” exhibited by Roman Catholic mystics. Wounds did not mystically appear in his flesh; rather the cuts were real, laid deep into his flesh by real whips.  Nor is there any record Paul ever bore the nail wounds made in Christ’s hands and feet by crucifixion.

 

Therefore, Paul was not speaking of some mystical, magical process by which Christ’s wounds appeared in his flesh. Rather Paul refers to the real wounds he received through beatings he suffered for his Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Support for this view, comes from the notes on Galatians by Hogg and Vine:

 

“It is probable the Apostle refers to the physical sufferings he had endured since he began to proclaim Jesus as Messiah and Lord [e.g. at Lystra and Philippi].

 

It is probable too that this reference to his scars was intended to set off the insistence of the Judaisers on a body mark which cost them nothing.

 

Over against the circumcision they demanded as proof of obedience to the law he set the indelible tokens sustained in his own body, of his loyalty to the Lord Jesus.

 

 As to the origin of the figure … the religious devotee branded himself with peculiar mark of the god whose cult he affected; so was Paul branded with the with the marks of his devotion to the Lord Jesus.

 

It is true such markings were forbidden by the law, Lev. 19:28, but then Paul had not inflicted these upon himself.” [2]

 

If our deduction is correct, we must ask why were such

horrific injuries from whippings and beatings needed as graphic evidence of “Christ crucified”?

 

Did not Paul clearly preach - “placard”, if you will - the gospel at Pisidia in Antioch, Derbe, Lystra and Iconium through the words he spoke? Yes, he did. But the record of Acts clearly shows also that vicious persecution accompanied him on both his first and second journeys to Galatia.

 

Could it be that the terrible bodily suffering Paul endured to bring the gospel to the Galatians was needful as supporting evidence? This appears to be the clear implication of such scriptures as Gal. 6:17 and 3:1.

 

Not that there was anything wrong with Paul’s gospel; it most certainly has the power to save. But it is one thing to be saved, another to subsequently continue in it, a third to grow in grace and a fourth to then stand in the fight for the gospel and its truth.

 

CONFIRMING

THEIR FAITH

 

Was God then, through Paul’s injuries, letting the Galatians know not only the wonderful blessings of salvation and grace but also what a tremendous fight they faced in standing for the truth? It may well be the case.

 

There can be no dispute that the Galatians needed much confirmation in the faith. This is why Paul made three preaching tours to these churches, the third being the “in between” visit recorded in Acts 14:21-23.

 

Evidently three visits were deemed necessary by God to “confirm the souls of the disciples and exhort them to continue in the

 

faith.” On top of that he also wrote the epistle to them.

 

And just what word was given Paul to confirm them? Surely it was the truth that it is through facing and enduring trouble that we enter the kingdom of God.

 

This is clearly stated in Acts 14:21-22 where we are specifically told how Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel, taught many and confirmed the souls of the disciples in Antioch in Pisidia, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, all churches in Galatia.

 

THE LESSON FOR THEM,

AND US TODAY

 

Verse 22 spells out the truth needed to consolidate these

believers, and to consolidate us today:

 

“Confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith and that we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God” Acts 14:22

 

Paul wanted the Galatians to fully experience God’s grace with all its blessings and benefits. He knew that to do so would require their full surrender to the Lord and his purpose for their lives, and also a willingness to endure severe opposition, trouble and personal rejection as the price of standing for the truth.

 

This then was the lesson that God through Paul was graphically outlining both for the Galatians and for us who read about it in the scriptures.

 

 

 

 

10

 

THE HIGH COST OF

FOLLOWING CHRIST

 

It is one thing to believe Christ died for our sins and to receive Him as a personal Lord and Saviour. It is quite another to decide to follow and obey Him in the face of the enemy come what may. A large company may believe at first, but the ranks thin dramatically when the true cost of being a Christian is encountered.  As the saying goes, when the going gets tough only the tough get going.

 

This is exactly what happened during the course of Paul’s three-tour ministry among the Galatians. Acts 14:1 tells us that at Iconium “a great multitude”, both Jews and Greeks, believed at Paul’s first preaching. But how many of those believers were numbered among the disciples whose souls Paul and Barnabas confirmed on their return visit in Acts 14:21-22? The answer is: not as many as there were at first.

 

Certainly at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, those who believed were left in no doubt, both of the high cost of discipleship, and of the Lord’s mighty power to deliver from peril those who truly follow Him. Trace both the gospel’s success and the rising tide of persecution it aroused in the three cities as outlined below:

 

At Antioch

 

The success:

 “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44).

 

 

The persecution:

“But when the Jews saw the multitudes they were filled with envy and spake against those things spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.” (Acts 13:45). “But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women and the chief men of the city and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them out of their coasts.” (Acts 13:50)

 

At Iconium

 

The success:

“… they went to the synagogue … and so spake … that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed” (Acts 14:1).

 

The persecution:

“But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and made their minds evil affected against the brethren … there was an assault made both of the Gentiles and also of the Jews to use them despitefully and to stone them (Acts 14:2,5).

 

At Lystra

 

The success:

“And when the people saw what Paul had done (he was used by the Lord to heal a cripple who had never walked) they said; ’The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men’ (Acts 14:11).

 

The persecution:

“There came Jews from Antioch and Iconium who persuaded the people and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead” (Acts 14:19).

 

What incredible bravery then for Paul and Barnabas to “return again” after this to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch to confirm disciples on their way back to Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:21-22).

 

And what an amazing sight for these Galatians to see: the apostle Paul apparently resurrected from death by stoning, and now walking among them.

Of course, by this time believers in all three Galatian cities, Lystra, Philippi and Iconium, knew of the miracle that had brought the apostle back from the dead. Indeed they had been talking about little else.

 

Now, however, they could see for themselves in his torn and scarred face the unmistakeable evidence of his having been stoned.  And not just his face: his back was branded with the marks of repeated whippings and beatings.

 

 In fact Paul was still stooped, bent with pain, half blind and terribly mutilated yet joyful to see again the believers won to Christ by his preaching of the gospel.

 

JOY LIKE

A RIVER

 

What made the greatest impact, however, was the joyous love and life that flowed out from Paul like a river. For a believer to see Paul again after his stoning, to talk to him, was to be instantly aware that Christ Himself was truly alive in Paul.

 

 Indeed the life of the resurrected Christ was so vibrantly apparent in the apostle there was no doubt among them that it was the Lord Himself who had raised Paul from death, or at least near death, and that now He was living triumphantly in and through him.

 

Now, as they gazed on Paul’s still livid wounds the truth was borne in on them that Paul himself was a living, breathing picture of the death their Saviour Jesus had suffered to save them. In a fearful yet wonderful way Paul was also a convincing portrayal of the Lord’s resurrection in that apparently he too had been raised from the dead.

 

11

 

DID PAUL REALLY

DIE AT LYSTRA?

 

Just how far did this portrayal in Paul of the Saviour’s sufferings go? The apostle himself wrote: “Was Paul crucified for you?” and the answer is, no.  The Saviour Himself had died for their sins and rose from the dead for their justification.

 

Nevertheless in a strange way Paul partly experienced some of the Lord’s sufferings in the persecution he received in the Galatian cities. What’s more, I believe, he also experienced a resurrection. And he himself wrote that “(I) rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24).

 

THE CLIMAX OF

PAUL’S SUFFERING

 

 In Galatia there was a climax to this suffering that came in the vicious assault at Lystra and the miracle that I believe followed. Acts 14:19-20 states:

 

“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

 

“Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up and came into the city; and the next day departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

 

The enraged Jews “supposed” Paul was dead. The disciples, I believe, did not “suppose”; they knew the apostle was dead. That is why they gathered around him out of love and compassion for his suffering to bring to them the gospel. After all, who could survive a stoning by Jews, experts at the task?

 

There is, of course, the view that Paul had been battered into unconsciousness but had not died as a result of the stoning. But that is far harder to prove from the account given in Acts than the alternative proposition, which accepts the scripture at face value, that he was miraculously restored to life.

 

Let us consider the facts. Stoning was a Jewish capital punishment, intended to take the recipient’s life. It is hard to believe these Jewish persecutors, who had probably already stoned others, would have botched the job. They not only stoned Paul but dragged him a considerable distanced outside the city walls. They were “supposing” him dead, but the Greek word so translated does not mean, and does not imply, guesswork. It merely means they thought him dead and gone. They did not think he was alive.

 

PAUL

ROSE UP

 

But Paul “rose up”. The Greek word here, anistemi, is used four times in the New Testament to mean rising from the dead, including its use in our text. Rom. 14:9 states: “To this end Christ both died and rose again”, 1 Thess. 4:14: “. that Jesus died and rose again”, Luke 16:31:”But though one rise from the dead…"

 

Given that anistemi is twice used elsewhere to mean die and rise again, it is reasonable to conclude it has the same meaning in Acts 14:19.  Furthermore, it is hard to see why the Lord would vividly represent Himself as crucified in the whipping, beatings and stoning imposed on Paul without also witnessing graphically through the Apostle of his resurrection.  Nor do I believe the veracity of the word of God is upheld by equivocating on the issue, as some do, and thus evading the plain statement of scripture that “he rose up”.

 

It has been suggested, for example, that Paul could not have risen from the dead because Heb. 9:27 states: “It is given unto men once to die and then the judgement.” Yet, during his earthly ministry our Lord raised several people from the dead, including a fast decomposing Lazarus. They were resurrected but, as was inevitable, later died again in the course of time, as indeed did Paul. Does not Heb. 9:27 apply to them too?

 

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown also assert that Paul was raised from the dead:

 

“…certainly the impression naturally left on the mind by the words is that the restoration was miraculous; and so the best interpreters understand the words. This is confirmed by what follows – (that Paul) came into the city.[3]

 

An objection raised by beloved dispensational author C. R. Stam [2], is that if Paul’s stoning coincided with Paul being “caught up” to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-2), as both he and I believe, then perhaps Paul himself did not know whether he had been resurrected. Pastor Stam comments:

 

“Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 12:1-2, if they refer to this experience, as we are inclined to agree they do, should rather keep us from coming to any definite conclusion in the matter, for he says, by the Spirit, “whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell.”[4]

With great respect to Pastor Stam, I beg to differ. Granted that, without doubt, Paul’s catching up is a type, or foreshadowing of his and our resurrection at the rapture to be with the Lord for ever, it is, by that very token, not a type of temporary restoration to life on earth.

 

Paul’s catching up occurred at the time he was “dead” and it is not uncommon for those who have had so-called “out of body” experiences - of which this writer is one - to be unsure whether one is out of the body or not.

 

HE ‘CAME INTO

THE CITY’

 

My point is that it was not during his catching up to the third heaven that Paul “rose up” it was when he revived in his body on earth. A pointer to Paul really being resurrected, not just returning to consciousness, is that he then “came into the city”.

 

It is hard to see how a battered, seriously injured man could easily do so unless he had been fully restored.

 

What’s more it would only fit the divine purpose of exhibiting the “likeness” of Christ’s death and resurrection through Paul, if his life was miraculously restored so that both the disciples and his enemies at Lystra could see it.

 

I submit therefore that the Gentile Jesus re-exhibited in the Apostle Paul part of the sufferings and a type of his – and our – resurrection to starkly illustrate the core of the gospel

He commissioned Paul to preach to the Gentiles – that Christ died for our sins and rose again, according to the scriptures.

 

 

12

 

STANDING

BY PAUL

 

Note in the verse we have been considering, Acts 14:20, that it is as the disciples “stood round about” Paul that he rose up. I believe the resurrection power of Christ Himself flowed through Paul causing him to live afresh and that this happened as these disciples threw in their lot with the apostle.

 

The phrase “stood round about” is telling. It is a very accurate translation of the word “comfort” a word much used by Paul to describe the love and power of “the God of all comfort” who

 

“… comforteth us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:4.

 

A comforter (Greek: parakletos) is one “called alongside” to give aid, support and encouragement; in a word to “comfort”. And this is exactly what the Galatian disciples did as they stood round Paul.

 

THEY BRAVELY

STOOD BY HIM

 

They bravely stood by him and gave him comfort to the end, at the very real risk of harm to their own lives. They stood by him to the death and beyond and then saw God Himself bring Paul back to life. They thus learned in a very real way that truly He is the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

 

If only this scene could be re-enacted today.  If only Christians in these last days would “stand round about” Paul today, by believing the message of grace and the mystery uniquely given to him by the Lord of glory.

 

If indeed believers would commit to Pauline truth and follow the Apostle as he followed Christ, then I believe the spiritual power that raised Paul from the dead would be released to raise Christianity up from the premature grave it is fast being buried in.

 

And we have the word of no less a person than God the Father for that. In Eph 1:18-20 He wants us to know:

 

“…the working of his mighty power , which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”

 

SEEING THE

BODY AS ONE

 

Paul must have experienced that power himself or he would be unqualified to write about it here in Eph. 1. I contend, of course, as outlined above, that that is exactly what he experienced when he “rose up” after being stoned at Lystra.

 

What’s more this mighty power was seen and felt by the disciples who stood with the Apostle at this time.

 

Ever wondered what the Body of Christ would look like in action if it really believed and moved as one? Well, there is a wonderful picture of what it could be like, right here in Acts 14:20 with the newly-won Lystrian disciples standing round about Paul, believing his message and trusting in the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

No arguments here about which church to belong to, what creed or belief system to adopt; these disciples simply stood with and around Paul. I pray God that so-called Christians would do so again today.

 

Paul’s injuries, I suggest, must have been fearful. Stoning is a bloody business and the stones would be hurled with the head as the main target. Is it going too far to suggest Paul’s face would have been terribly cut?

 

PAUL’S EYES

DAMAGED?

 

If Isaiah 52:14 says the Messiah Saviour’s face was “marred more than any man”, and it does, then Paul’s visage, brutally damaged in the stoning, may not have been far behind.

 

 I suggest that his eyes in particular were damaged, leaving him with a near blindness that was to afflict him for the rest of his life. So much so Paul offers his limited vision as proof of his identity when writing to the Galatians in Gal 6:11: He says:

 

                “Ye see how large a letter I have written with mine own hand.”

 

“Letter” here means not the whole epistle but the individual letters making up the words. Due to poor sight the apostle of necessity wrote his letters large. Nor is this the only evidence he had serious eye trouble. In Gal 4:15 Paul says the Galatians were so moved at injuries, especially to his eyes…

 

“… that if it had been possible ye would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.”

 

This they would have done in love and gratitude for the

“blessedness” Paul had imparted to them by preaching the gospel of the grace of God, how that Christ had died for their sins and adopted them as children, baptising by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.

 

Obviously, there would have been no need to even think of giving their eyes to Paul unless his own eyes were seriously damaged or diseased.

 

The blessedness known by the Galatians was made all the more so by the graphic proof of Christ’s death and resurrection marked and worked in the living flesh of the apostle who brought them the wonderful truth of salvation through Jesus who gave Himself for them.

 

WHY NOT OBEY

THE TRUTH?

 

This is why, years later, a stunned Paul asks the Galatians:

 

“Who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Gal. 3:1).

 

This is why he reminds them that he bears in his body “the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).

 

Thus there are several reasons why Paul’s wounds were put on such public display. Firstly, his injuries spoke of what it cost him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

 

Secondly, it spoke something of the suffering the Galatian believers themselves would undergo if they were to continue in “the faith” – that is the body of new truth revealed by Jesus Christ to Paul.

 

 

Thirdly, they were visible proof of the proposition “that we

must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God”.

 

Now, by “kingdom of God” did Paul mean the Gentile Galatians were to personally suffer to see the kingdom of heaven on earth established in Israel among the Jews? Not, at all.

 

Granted, that prospect - of establishing the Davidic kingdom in Israel with Messiah Jesus on the throne - is a prime goal of prophecy. But like the prophecy programme itself this earthly kingdom is “on hold” in the present dispensation of grace.

 

Thankfully, the “kingdom of God” we must enter today is located in the heavenlies at the right hand of God, where the Lord Jesus Christ is seated and we with Him (Eph. 2:6). 

 

This heavenly kingdom sends us forth as ambassadors of grace to this evil world and appoints ministers here below to the Church which is His Body. Thus in Paul the kingdom of God equates both to the church which is his Body and its heavenly home.

 

THE LESSONS OF

PAUL’S SUFFERING

 

Among the lessons the Lord is teaching through Paul’s sufferings are first, that as disciples (disciplined followers of and believers in the teachings of Paul), we must “continue in the faith”.

 

The second is that to see the Body of Christ, into which we have been baptised by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:3, 1 Cor. 12:13, Gal. 3:27), formed and brought to function as a visible, working, truthful, unified local assembly, we must face severe opposition. Thus we must enter the “here and now” form of the “kingdom”, the Body of Christ, through “much tribulation”.

 

Furthermore, Paul’s body, criss-crossed with scars and wounds, was physical evidence to the Galatians both of Christ’s crucifixion on their behalf and of the truth and power of the gospel in that Paul, despite such suffering, still shone with faith and zeal to preach it and to care for them as newly-won members of the Body of Christ.

 

DID PAUL CHOOSE

TO BE PUNISHED?

 

However, the question must be asked: Did Paul volunteer for such punishment? Was this a voluntary sacrificial act on his part? Hardly! Like any human being, indeed like the Lord Himself, he would have been less than human had he not shrank from such awful pain. As to his mission as a whole he was “constrained by the love of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:14); as to being beaten and whipped he considers he was “shamefully entreated” (1 Thess. 2:2).

 

Unlike the Lord, who prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane “Let this cup pass from me … nevertheless not my will be done but Thine”, Paul was not given opportunity to accept or decline suffering. He simply did not know beforehand when or where these brutal beatings would take place.

 

They were suddenly, and without mercy, inflicted upon him. Among other things, this puts the lie to long-held belief that voluntary suffering, such as whipping oneself, is either necessary or efficacious in the Christ life.

 

True, Paul was forewarned that in ministering for the Lord sufferings would be inevitable. But this does not imply He had a choice in the matter.  The risen Lord of glory clearly said in Acts 9:16:

                “For I will show him what great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

 

How did the Lord show Paul his sufferings? Answer: repeatedly over several years. Was Paul ever given a choice as to whether he should suffer or not? The answer is no. But could he choose how he responded to such mistreatment? Ah, yes indeed.

 

A HAPPY PRISONER

OF THE LORD

 

How moving it is to see that in the jail at Philippi, he and Silas could pray and sing praises to God despite the awful pain of having been beaten with rods and thrust into the stocks. 

 

Could it be that it was here that Paul first began to consider himself happy to be a prisoner of the Lord for the Gentiles (Eph 3:1, Phil. 1:18)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

 

A CASE OF WRONG

DIVISION?

 

So we see that Paul did not choose to suffer, but was delivered up by the Lord to be scourged. However, despite all evidence to the contrary, some think the apostle volunteered for such punishment.

 

Thus C. E. McLain of the Acts 28 dispensational persuasion, maintains that in the Acts period Paul’s sufferings were acts of personal self sacrifice that he could rightly “count as gain”. However, after Acts 28 “those things he once counted as gain, he now counted as dung”:

 

“In the Pentecostal Dispensation (the Acts period) the Apostle Paul lived a very sacrificial life.

 

Not only so but his personal sacrifices (1Cor. 4:10-13, 9:1-27, 10:23-31), not to mention his faithfulness in keeping without hypocrisy the holy feast days, his vows and other legal matters as a Jew, would be counted as gain before  - and rightly so in Paul’s thinking at that time.

 

However, when Israel (nationally) and her hopes and promises were placed in abeyance at Acts 28:28, those things he had counted as gain were now loss and counted as dung” (Phil. 3:7, 8, 13).[5]

 

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth and Brother McLain’s argument falls to the ground when we study what scripture actually says.

Granted, Paul did keep some Jewish feasts and vows in the Acts period when the gospel was being preached “to the Jew first but also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). But this was no more than the apostle “being all things to all men that he might win some” 1 Cor. 20-23. Paul thus became as a Jew to the Jews, “as under the law to them under the law. And this I do for the gospel’s sake …”

 

So it was for the gospel’s sake that Paul took vows, and kept temple feasts. All to open a door so the Jews could believe in Christ. No way did Paul fulfil Jewish ritual requirements as a sacrifice to make himself right with God. In fact for his personal salvation he relied like us on the gospel that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

 

So, we learn that he kept Jewish feasts, took vows, circumcised Timothy, spoke in tongues, did miracles, approved spiritual gifts and miracles and early on baptised some believers, all in a bid to “gain them, that are under the law” (1 Cor. 9:20), that is those of the circumcision.

 

THE LOSS OF

ALL THINGS

 

Surely long before Acts 28:28 Paul had already suffered “the loss of all things” for Christ and “counted them but dung” that he might win Christ, so it is simply wrong for Brother McLain to assert that this realisation came to Paul only at the end of the Book of Acts.

 

In fact in Phil. 3: 5-6 Paul outlines exactly what things he had counted dung: his Israelite birth, circumcision as a Jew, his being a Pharisee, his keeping of the law and his zeal in persecuting the Jewish church that believed in Jesus. (Please note he did not include his keeping of feasts and sacrificial vows in the list. He did those things only so that he could preach Christ to the Jews.)

 

Clearly then, to be “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13), Paul had to set aside his Jewish religious status and I submit he did so at the outset of his ministry.

 

But what of Paul’s sufferings?  Were they voluntary; were they necessary to make a way to preach the gospel to the Jews? Brother McLain asserts by quoting 1Cor. 4:10-13, 9:1-27, 10:23-31 that the sufferings outlined here were Paul’s “personal sacrifices” to gain merit.

 

DELIVERED

UNTO DEATH

 

Actually he couldn’t be more wrong about that. Perhaps he didn’t study what the scriptures he refers to actually say:

 

2 Cor. 4:10-13:”Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body …. for we, which live, are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”

 

This is no voluntary personal sacrifice. Rather this “dying of Jesus” was imposed on Paul. “We are delivered unto death”, he writes. And what was the purpose for it? To reveal the life of Christ in Paul so that others would believe.

 

If words mean anything, then only through such suffering and dying in the whip-scarred actual flesh of Paul and his fellow gospel workers could the full life of the Lord Jesus Christ be fully seen.

 

Note too that Paul says this dying was always” occurring in his life. Did it stop at Acts 28? Do the prison epistles teach faith and obedience to Christ is all and personal suffering unnecessary, as Brother McLain implies? Far from it. Many verses from Paul’s post-Acts 28 prison epistles testify that his sufferings continued.

 

GIVEN UNTO US

TO SUFFER TOO

 

 What’s more, he teaches that it is given to believers to suffer too. Please study the following scriptures:

 

Col. 1:24: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake which is the church.”

 

Phil. 1:29-30: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for his sake. Having the same conflict, which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”

 

1 Tim. 4:10: “… we labour and suffer reproach because we trust in the living God who is the Saviour of all men, specially of they that believe.”

 

2 Tim. 2:12: “Ïf we suffer we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him He will also deny us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

 

WHY PAUL SUFFERED

SO MUCH

 

Clearly, then, while Paul’s ritual Jewish obedience for the sake of the gospel certainly ceased at Acts 28:28 (since he had finally abandoned the Jews in order to minister to Gentiles), his personal sacrifices and sufferings continued and for the following very good reasons:

 

  • Suffering was the very hallmark of Paul’s ministry. The risen glorified Lord told Ananias that He would show Paul “how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

 

  • Paul’s sufferings were not to make himself right with God, nor to atone for his former persecution of the saints. Fact is he was already “saved by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9) and through Christ’s death counted “holy, unblameable and complete in Christ” (Col. 1:22).

 

  • Paul’s sufferings were not for himself, nor to avoid the need for faith obedience, since he believed God’s great grace message more than anyone else. Rather Paul’s sufferings were to make the life of Christ evident to others.

 

  • Paul’s sufferings were also very definitely necessary for the Body of Christ to be formed.  Col. 1:24 sets out this important truth:

 

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up

 

 

that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my

flesh for his body’s sake which is the church.”

 

This verse does not mean that in his death the Lord left some suffering undone, nor that the atonement He wrought on the cross is somehow incomplete, nor that Paul had to undergo vicarious suffering to make up for something that was lacking. Yet some think this is so. Worse still they believe they know the very things needed to “fill up that which is behind”.

 

Thus they would add extra requirements to the simple “believe and receive” gospel of the grace of God. Such add-ons include water baptism, harrowing self repentance, keeping the Sabbath, tithing, signing covenants, fasting from certain foods and celibacy for ministers.

 

This despite Paul’s injunction that we are “saved by grace through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). But all this is wrong. Jesus paid for our sin once for all, broke its power on the cross, and it is through this we are fully saved in Him. Thus Col. 2:10 says: “And ye are complete in Him.”

 

THE HEART OF

THE MYSTERY

 

Rather Paul’s sufferings are for another reason, one for which the Lord did not suffer and die when on earth and for which He cannot suffer now since He is in heaven.

 

That cause is the Body of Christ, its formation, maturing and perfection. You see, while Christ died for our sins; His sufferings on the cross do not in fact “perfect” believers (that is, they do not fully work out in them all that Christ has done), neither do they bring them into the “unity of the faith”, nor cause them to “grow up into Him (Christ the Head) in all things”

 

Bringing this unity about, is according to Eph.4:11, the work of ministers, starting with apostles, then prophets (in Paul’s time) and continuing with pastors and teachers in our time.

 

This is why Paul wrote to the Colossians in Col. I: 24 that he could “rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake which is the church.”

 

Paul’s special burden then, the thing for which he continued to suffer after Acts 28, was the unifying and edifying (building up in faith and love) of the Body of Christ.

 

Unknown in the Old Testament, absent from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, unmentioned in Acts, the body of Christ lies at the very heart of the Mystery that Christ gave Paul to preach.

 

Col 1:27:  “God would make known (to his saints) what is the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”.

 

 

THE MYSTERY

ITSELF

 

In verses 24 and 26 Paul tells us that the Body of Christ, “his body”, is itself the mystery … “even the mystery”. It is often overlooked but the very reason for our salvation, and the indwelling of Christ by faith that should follow, is the formation of the Body of Christ. It is the new creation, God’s supreme, eternal purpose.

 

Thus the Mystery is that the Lord, in this, the dispensation of grace, is saving people into a Body spiritually joined to Him in heaven so that in time to come that Body will rule and reign with Him in Heaven. Importantly, this Body is charged with making known “unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places … the manifold wisdom of God.” (Eph. 3:10)

 

And all this is the “Mystery of His will, according to his good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself” (Eph. 1:9) and it is made known only unto us, grace-saved believers.

 

RELENTLESS

ANTAGONISM

 

But what a battle it involves! Paul encountered troubles enough preaching the gospel of the grace of God. However, the intensity of the opposition doubled when he taught the necessity of unity in the Body of Christ.

 

In fact the relentless antagonism he faced then continues unabated today with organised denominations usurping the Body’s role and the Body itself being torn in 38,000 (and counting) different doctrinal directions.

 

Talk about confusion and tribulation. That is why we grace believers are left to pick up the burden once shouldered by Paul and suffer “for His Body’s sake” just as the apostle did.

 

  • Paul’s sufferings are also an example for us, since the same sufferings occur to all saints who will “live godly” (2 Tim. 3:12), present their bodies “ä living sacrifice unto God” and “trust in the living God who is the Saviour of all men, specially of they that believe” (1 Tim. 4:10).

 

  • Paul’s sufferings, like those of all who follow him, are necessary if we are to …

 

 

A.  Enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22); “if we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12);

 

B. Be counted worthy of the kingdom.  “…persecutions that ye endure ... that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which ye also suffer” (2 Thess. 1:4-5)

 

C. Live godly in Christ. “Yea, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

 

Please note, it is not those who will strive to live godly in their own strength - and thus have “a form of godliness” (2 Tim.3:5) - who suffer persecution. Oh, no! It is only those who try to live godly in Christ Jesus who so suffer. 

 

MILLION-DOLLAR

SPELL BINDERS

 

For example, the Pope tries to live godly and certainly has a form of godliness, but clearly he doesn’t suffer persecution as Paul did.

 

Supernatural showman Benny Hinn receives an income of multiplied millions of dollars a year, though there is scant medically proven evidence of his healing anyone at his huge crusades. Nevertheless, with a personal jet aircraft and other expensive assets, he lives a lifestyle that befits his wealth status. Frankly, neither he, nor Joyce Meyer with a reputed personal income of $US90 million a year, seem to be suffering much loss, still less the loss of all things.

 

But Paul did lose all things and count them but dung because he lived godly in Christ Jesus. And today all who seek to likewise live godly in Christ will also suffer persecution and loss.

15

 

A COLOSSIAN

BELIEVER’S STORY

 

Imagine that you are a Greek living in Colosse in Paul’s time. You have never seen the Apostle Paul nor read any book in the Bible. Indeed there is no Bible as such for you to read. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, along with Acts and several epistles of Paul have yet to be written.  Even if they had been written you could not read them because as an uneducated slave you cannot read or write.

 

So you believe only what you hear from others of the gospel of grace. How that God sent his Son from heaven to be born a man, live a holy life, then die for all men’s sin.

 

You hear that He saves from guilt and fear and fills the heart with peace and joy. You hear that, if you become one in Spirit with Christ, you are also raised spiritually to his seat in heavenly places. You are told that He can change you to be like Him so that one day, body, soul and spirit, you will live with Him there.

 

But how can you be sure all this is true? It is only what you have heard from others. A visiting teacher, Epaphras, says this new gospel of grace he preaches is according to the scriptures and talks of the ancient Hebrew Old Testament. But neither you nor Epaphras has seen this book, nor are you likely to. Sure, the preaching of Epaphras warms your heart, and, when you pray to the Lord Jesus He answers, but you long for the confirmation of another witness.

 

Then Epaphras tells you about the Apostle Paul, the Roman Jew, who knows the Lord Jesus better than anyone else and who knows Hebrew scriptures like the back of his hand.

 

Paul, he explains, is the only man on earth to whom the Lord appeared in person after his ascension to heaven. Christ Jesus came down from glory to appear in person to make Paul an apostle.

 

What’s more He has kept appearing to Paul and in Paul over the years to reveal more and more truth to him, Epaphras says. Truth that includes the full gospel of the grace of God and the Mystery of how He, the Lord, is saving Gentiles and Jews into one body, his own Body, the Body of Christ.

 

THEN COMES

TROUBLE

 

So important is this truth, according to Epaphras, that in the Greek cities where Paul preached he was viciously beaten and whipped many times, just for speaking the truth.

 

Sometimes it was the Jews who lashed him, sometimes it was the Gentiles. Once he was stoned at Lystra. Yet Paul went back to the very places where he was cruelly treated to preach the gospel again and encourage new believers in Christ, you learn.

 

Epaphras explains that it was during Paul’s  two-year stay at Ephesus that he and other Greeks from surrounding cities were converted. Among them were Archippus, Philemon and Appia from Colosse. They in turn told others and those others told you, Epaphras explains.

 

And then comes trouble. Jews, who believe in Jesus but also in eating only certain foods and gathering on a set day, the sabbath,  suddenly appear in Colosse.

 

These men believe you must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. They have messages from angels and teach a different way of pleasing God and getting to heaven. Understandably you are confused. These Jews know the Old Testament scriptures. They say one thing, Paul apparently another. Who is right?

 

Ah, if only I could meet Paul, you say. To hear from him what the Lord actually said when he revealed Himself to Paul personally. If only I could see the marks in his body where he was hurt. To see his face, battered from the stoning, to see how it now shines with joy despite what its own has been through.

 

HIS FACE SHINING

WITH JOY

 

Surely despite his disfigurement his face would shine with the light of the truth and joy he preaches?  Those who have met Paul confirm that indeed it is so, but, it seems, Paul is never likely to return to Galatia. Almost certainly he will never come to Colosse. You hear the Apostle is in prison, again suffering for the faith he has preached.

 

And now Epaphras, the faithful teacher, leaves Colosse. There is no one else as skilled in the word as he. So to whom you can turn? You try to hold fast your faith in the words you have heard but it’s hard when the new teachers say they are untrue and say Paul is destroying the law of Moses.

 

Then comes an amazing letter from Paul. Though in prison

the Apostle writes, understanding exactly what you are going through. As it is read you know the words you are hearing are not just from Paul; they come through him from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

 

They tell of the wonderful things God has already done through Christ for those who believe in Him. They speak of truth so loving it leaves the dry commandments of the Jewish teachers for dead.

 

A LETTER THAT

TOUCHES THE HEART

 

You can never forget such words. They burn with joy in your heart. And as to seeing the Apostle, well, he really wishes you could, and that he could see you too. He longs that you should actually see his face, damaged as it is in the flesh. 

 

That fact that you can’t, causes him to burn with conflict in his heart. And so he writes in this wonderful letter (Col. 2:1-5):

 

“For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you and for those at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father and of Christ., in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

 

“And this I say lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though, I be absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.”

 

 

 

 

 

16

 

SEEING THE MYSTERY

IN PAUL’S FACE

 

What was missing when, for reasons of geography, believers in Paul’s day could not meet the Apostle in person? When they could not see his face in the flesh as the Galatians had? The answer, according to Paul, is a great deal.

 

Why should Paul’s heart be torn apart just because some believers hadn’t seen his physical face? The answer, according to his own words, is that unless he saw them and they saw him face to face, their hearts might not comforted (it means, made strong round about) as he desired. It seems that comfort would only come when their hearts were:

 

“ …being knit together in love and unto all riches of the full understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God and of the Father and of Christ.”

 

I suggest that there was something in Paul’s face that when obedient believers saw it convinced them, without a spoken word, that not only had Christ died for their sins but, further, He had risen again. Risen, what’s more, to be fully revealed in them, and also among them, as members of the Body. Thus they were to know in their hearts, and in their gathering together as the Body, the fullness of Christ in all his heavenly glory. And that, I submit, is what they could see in some mystical but very real way in the Apostle’s countenance. In the three verses above, in Col. 1:27, Paul makes clear his whole desire is to impart to the Colossians - and to other believers who had not seen his face - the most important truth God wanted them to know, which is:

 

            “…this Mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you (plural), the hope of glory.”

 

Why is it “hope, and not actual realisation you ask? It’s because the full revealing of the glorious Christ through the “Church which is his Body” depends on the Body’s members being knit together in love “…unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding and the acknowledgement of the mystery …”

 

So how could Paul’s face help in this process? The answer, I believe, is that uniquely in Paul’s disfigured face the Lord of glory wrote a message of the power of both his resurrection and also his manifestation in and through the Body of Christ.

 

This is why Paul writes six verses above in Col. 1:24 of rejoicing in his sufferings for the Colossians, saying:

 

“ … I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake which is the church.”

 

CHRIST SUFFERED

THROUGH PAUL

 

As pointed out earlier, it was not just Paul who suffered, but that Christ also suffered through Paul. In the above verse Paul stresses such affliction was for the sake of His (Christ’s) Body.

 

In short, Paul’s afflictions and sufferings were necessary in order to see Christ fully revealed in His body - that is, revealed among all those who have been saved on earth by believing in his death for them. That full revelation lies, of course, at the very heart of the mystery.

 

Sad to say, some 2,000 years later, the Body still remains largely fragmented; unconvinced of the Pauline truth. Certainly it is not fully knit together in love, still less standing in the “full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2) of the Mystery.

 

Nor is there likely to be a great improvement until the Body comes to the place of fully acknowledging the “mystery of God, the Father and of Christ”. That, in turn, requires acknowledgement of the unique revelation given to Paul. Only when God’s “but now” word to us is fully received by faith that Body members with Paul will fully (Phil. 3:10-11):

 

            “…know Him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

 

Clearly when the Apostle wrote of his anguish that some could not see his face in the flesh, and of his own need to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, he did not have in mind the historical sufferings of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the grave.

 

KNOWING THE POWER

TO OVERCOME

 

Paul already “knew” all about them. What he didn’t fully know, but was determined to know better, was the spiritual power of the risen ascended Lord in overcoming them. In other words, Paul was determined to know Christ as He really is now, the great Life Giver and Conqueror over sin, unbelief, death, guilt and hell.

 

 And, if Paul, with all his marvellous Christ-given spiritual

insight, did not fully know the Lord back then, then we must confess that still less do we. Both individually and collectively we have yet to come to really know, still less realise, the great potential power of Christ’s resurrection in us, the Body of Christ. This power is hard to describe, difficult to put into words. However, for those alive in Paul’s day I contend that it could be glimpsed in the face of the Apostle himself.

 

You see it is his Body, the Body of Christ, that today Christ is conforming to his death, so that we, his Body, can know the glory of being found in his resurrection.  God’s plan is that what really happened to Christ on the cross and in his resurrection from the tomb should be re-enacted among those saved by grace.

 

CHRIST SUFFERS

WITH AND IN US

 

The difference is that in this new dying and rising again Christ does not suffer alone; rather He suffers with and in and through us, just as He also rises in new life within us. He is fully identified with us. The question our hearts must answer is: are we fully identified with Him? Are we willing to allow the Lord to so permeate our being so that we, like Paul, can say: “I live, yet not I, but Christ that liveth in me” (Gal.2:20)?

 

For Paul the tension of this inner conflict was extreme. For us it is diminished by the intrusion of personal and family concerns and the business of daily life. But the Apostle had already suffered the loss of all these to more truly live for Christ.

 

And Paul’s face, despite its injuries, was a beautiful picture of the glory and joy he found in Christ as a result of the

death and resurrection that had taken place within him. It was a promise of what could happen both to the individual believer and the collective Body of Christ. It was a promise of glory to be realised both now and in the life to come.

 

SO WHERE WAS PAUL

WHEN HE WAS STONED?

 

In the light of what has been shared, it is appropriate to return to Paul’s stoning at Lystra and again ask what happened to him there. The short answer is that he died and was taken up to be in heaven. Soon after the first stones were hurled he slumped into unconsciousness and was mercifully unaware of the brutal battering as it proceeded.

 

Those who rightly divide the word of truth believe that the apostle describes in 2 Cor. 12: 1-5 what he actually experienced during this vicious attack. This passage reads:

 

“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

 

“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body I cannot tell: God knoweth); such an one caught up to the third heaven

 

“And I knew such a man (whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth).

 

“How that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

 

“Of such a one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory but in mine infirmities.”

 

There can be little doubt that these verses teach that Paul was caught up to heaven in an apparent foretaste of what the rapture will be for all the Grace Age saints, when the Lord returns for us.

 

However, it is important to note that Paul was the first grace-saved saint to have this experience.  Furthermore his being caught up, is but one of several “in me first” experiences that Paul during his lifetime was taken through by the Lord, the Gentile Jesus.

 

The purpose of such exercises is clearly set out in 1 Tim. 1:16. It is to “shew forth” - or clearly demonstrate and manifest so that all who are about to believe can see - the new pattern of salvation, sanctification and final, bodily, redemption that is now ours under grace. The verse reads:

 

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to all them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.”

 

Mercy and longsuffering are wonderful words that show the depth of the Lord’s love, in that He saved and forgave Saul, his most formidable opponent on earth. Certainly, none after Saul need hesitate to come to receive the Lord’s forgiveness and pardon.

 

Those dead in sin, who are quickened by grace together with Him, find that He has also “…forgiven them all trespasses” (Col. 2:13). However, there is more to Saul’s salvation, and his ministry as the Apostle Paul, that is both an example for us to see and a pattern to follow.

 

Notice that Saul obtained mercy so that through him the Gentile Jesus might show forth a pattern of longsuffering. The Greek word for pattern, hupotosis, means an outline, a sketch, an ensample, a template, if you will. The detailed content of individual lives may differ but our being saved and identified with Christ will conform to the pattern.

 

 And Paul’s life of love and service is a true example for us to follow. But it is also true that the experiences the apostle underwent were a real and evident exhibition of the things in which we are called to be identified with our Lord, the Gentile Jesus. The key to understanding this is the phrase, “in me first”. It was in Saul first that the Lord showed forth - so that all could see it - his abundant love, grace and forgiveness.  It was also in Paul first that the Gentile Jesus exhibited the need to be identified with Him in his death.

 

We have already considered the verses which teach that Paul bore the marks of some of the Lord’s suffering in his own body – “in me”. We have also seen evidence that suggest Paul actually died during his stoning at Lystra. Who better then than the Apostle of grace, the Apostle to the Gentiles, to write that “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) and to speak of knowing “the fellowship of his sufferings and being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3: 10)?

 

THE PATTERN

 IN PAUL

 

Did Paul suffer as much as Jesus? No. Do we suffer as much as Lord in dying for us? No. Nevertheless, in our suffering, the Lord suffers also. It is the fellowship of “his sufferings”. As Heb. 4:15 tells us He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”. In suffering with us the Lord shows forth his own longsuffering.

 

Come to think of it, wasn’t it because of the Lord’s longsuffering with his saints that Saul the sinner met Christ the Saviour in the first place? Weren’t His first words, “Saul, Saul why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4)?

 

But the “in me first” dealings of the Lord with Paul to evidently set forth the means of salvation don’t stop there. As already discussed, in Paul was “shown forth” a type - a pattern if you will - of the Lord’s resurrection, in that at Lystra the apostle “rose up” (Acts 14:20) after being stoned (as I believe) to death.

 

At the same time the apostle was also caught up to the third heaven (the heavenlies) in a clear foretaste of the rapture. What we are seeing here is that in real life incidents Christ the Gentile Jesus exhibited in Paul the wonderful truth that we are to be identified with Him in his death, in his resurrection and in his and our rapture. 

 

PAUL A WALKING

BILLBOARD OF TRUTH

 

But, why in Paul first, you ask? Because, as said earlier, the four gospels and Acts along with most of Paul’s epistles had yet to be written. To bridge the gap, as it were, Paul was made a visible billboard of truth, a walking selection of scriptures, if you will, to show forth the new way of salvation by grace through faith.

 

At its core, of course, is our need to be identified with all that Christ has done and undergone for us from his death through his resurrection and ascension to his exaltation in the heavenlies and his and our ultimate glorification.

 

How better to get this across to those about to believe than to graphically depict it in the life, face, body and person of the Apostle of Grace himself, Paul. Remember, many of these dear saints could neither read nor write but they could see and hear and believe. How wonderful then, that in all these things the Lord made Paul not merely the writer of his wonderful letters, but also “a living epistle” of the things He has done to save us?

 

 

17

 

A SNAPSHOT OF

GENTILE HISTORY

 

To understand why it was necessary for the Lord Jesus Christ to become the Gentile Jesus we must look far into the past. Why did the Lord pour Himself afresh into another human being so shortly after having lived his own life as a Jew, having been born the son of Mary?

 

Why did He have to live on earth again, as it were, within the body and being of the apostle Paul in order to reach the Gentiles? Come to that why did He think it necessary to be “born again” within the person of every believer for nearly the last 2,000 years?

 

The reason, in a nutshell, is that Gentiles were, and are, so very different from Jews, in almost every way. They have a different genetic inheritance, a different culture, a much poorer experience of God, if any at all, and a markedly different history.

 

Not to put too fine a point on it, Gentiles by nature have for thousands of years been the ones who rejected God and, in turn, were rejected by God Himself. Their culture, to this day, is basically one of deliberately refusing to know God.

 

Is it not true that God is ruled out of science, ignored in government, lampooned in literature and the arts, scarcely mentioned in the media, rejected by intellectuals, preached against in universities, and, in terms of human self-improvement, largely replaced by sport? All this is the product of the prevailing Gentile mindset that denies God as Creator and sees no need for a Redeemer to save from sin.

 

Indeed why should Gentiles believe in God when they “know” through science that all works of nature, including themselves, happened without divine cause or intervention and they believe that, by taking thought and improving technology, they can save themselves? Why indeed, except that when they put it to the test and try and put the world right, they invariably fail?

 

HAWKING ‘MAKES

GOD REDUNDANT’

 

British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said it for Gentiles in general when he pronounced God was entirely redundant in the processes necessary to form multi universes. The atheist scientist effectively served notice on God, saying “Your services are no longer required”. [6]

 

Obviously he hadn’t read God’s response in 1 Tim. 6:20, penned nearly 2,000 years ago, which, way back then, advised against the “oppositions of science falsely so called”. By the way, is it coincidence or divine intervention that Hawking suffers from a neuromuscular dystrophy that leaves him almost completely paralysed?

 

But it is not just our generation that repeatedly tells God He is not needed. It has been the credo of mankind in every one of the last 6,000 years. The Bible’s own diagnosis of the Gentile heart condition stretches from now back to the dawn of time:

 

Psalm 14:1-3: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.

They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy, there is not one that doeth good, no not one.”

 

Psalm 2:1-3: “Why do the heathen (i.e. Gentiles) rage and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us.”

 

Eph. 4:17:18: (Paul writing to the Ephesians believers): “This I say therefore and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart, who being past all feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness to work uncleanness with all greediness but ye have not so learned Christ.”

 

Rom. 1:21: “Because that when they knew God they glorified Him not neither were thankful but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened.”

 

GIVEN UP

BY GOD

 

A dark indictment, indeed! So set against God were Gentiles in the past that three times in Rom. 1 (verses 24, 26, 28) we read that God “gave them up”, “gave them over” to “uncleanness”, to “vile affections”, to a “reprobate mind”.

 

Author and Berean Bible Society founder Pastor Cornelius Stam concludes that it was 4,000 years ago at Babel (see Gen. 11) that God finally “gave up” the Gentiles. The Lord came down from heaven to confuse man’s language and disperse them across the earth.

Then God turned from them, and called one man, Abraham, to form from him a miraculously separate, chosen nation, Israel. From then on through the Bible for some 2,000 years God concentrated on Israel alone, leaving Gentiles out in the cold.

 

THE DEPTHS OF

DEPRAVITY

 

Thus abandoned by God, the Gentiles sank to the depths of depravity. They raged against God, hated God and abused, murdered and ate each other. They worshipped every devil in hell. Why? Because in judgement God gave them up to fully carry out the vilest desires of their hearts. The end result is the wickedness that Gentiles are by nature today. It is starkly depicted in Rom. 1:29-32:

 

“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

“Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

“Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful;

“Who knowing the judgement of God that they which do such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

 

 

Well, so much for the Gentiles. What about the Jews? Throughout the Old Testament prophets God sharply rebuked Israel for turning away from Him who had brought them out of slavery in Egypt. Despite their rebellion God so loved Israel He sent his Son Jesus to them, yet they would not receive Him.

 

Thus, faced with their hypocrisy and hatred of Himself the Lord could only describe most of Israel as “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers. How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33).

 

But please note this: neither the Old Testament prophets, nor the Lord, ever uttered such a damning diatribe against the Jews, as is recorded of Gentiles in Rom. 1:29-32 quoted above. For sure, the Jews were rebuked for not believing God’s word to them, failing to keep covenant; in short, failing to be the people God had chosen them to be. Yet even their betrayal and murder of Messiah Jesus did not put them beyond God’s forgiveness. All who repented of this sin and were water baptised received “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Sadly comparatively few did.

 

CRUNCH TIME

FOR ISRAEL

 

Nevertheless, crunch time came for Israel when her leaders stoned the Lord’s faithful witness Stephen, rejecting the witness of the Holy Spirit through him that Jesus was the “Just One”, the Messiah (Acts 7:52).

 

 Just two chapters later in Acts 9 the risen glorified Lord Jesus stoops from heaven to arrest and save his fiercest persecutor on earth, Saul. He then commissions him as Paul his apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9 and 26).  And thus begins a whole new chapter in human history.

 

Somewhere between these two events – Stephen’s stoning and the commissioning of Saul – a line is drawn marking the fall and the (temporary) setting aside of Israel from God’s purposes. Charles Baker, calls this fault line the “boundary” between our present dispensation and that which held sway before. [7]

This line in the sand marks off the end of the law dispensation from the new dispensation of grace by which we are saved today. Somewhere between Acts 7 and 9 Israel falls and the clock of prophecy - concerning God’s work through Israel to establish his kingdom on earth - stops ticking.

 

Instead God sets in motion his Mystery programme, hid since before the foundation of the world, but now revealed in and through the apostle Paul (see Rom. 11: 11, Eph. 3:1-3).

 

But why does God now show favour to Gentiles after shunning them for so long? It is because at this time, with their rejection of Christ complete, and their rebellion against Him at a climax, Israel is deemed by God to now be as deep in unbelief as the Gentiles. Rom. 11: 32 spells out His verdict:

 

            “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all.”

 

Yes, in failing to believe God, Israelites were now no better than the darkest heathen. They now need God’s mercy as much as South Pacific cannibals or the Amazon tribes that to this day bury young children alive.

 

Yet, despite their dark deeds against God, there is by nature there still an important difference between what Jews on one hand, are in the sight of God, and what Gentiles are on the other.  You see, Jews have been judged for rebelling, not believing and, worst of all, rejecting their Messiah. Notice that all these are things they do, or don’t do.

 

By contrast Gentiles in Rom. 1:29-32 are damned for what they are and have become by nature. It is Gentiles, not Jews, who are told they are alienated from God’s life of God through the darkness of ignorance. It is Gentiles, not Jews, who are “past all feeling”.

 

Granted both Jew and Gentile are under sin but what good would it have been for God to send prophets and the Messiah to the Jews if they were “past all feeling”. Come to that what good would it have been for God in times past to send prophets to the Gentiles since they were “past all feeling”?

 

ALIENATED FROM GOD

BY IGNORANCE WITHIN

 

This is how God, through the apostle Paul, describes the heart condition of Gentiles both in times past and now:

 

Eph. 4:18-19: “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from God by the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

 

Notice, it is the blindness of “their heart”, not individual hearts, but their collective, inherited God-hating nature, that, short of God’s intervention by quickening and salvation, alienates Gentiles from God.

 

Now, as He turns to the Gentiles how can God break through such empty-minded, blind-hearted, deeply set revulsion against Him? Hardened by thousands of years of alienation, the Gentile heart seems impregnable, concreted into rejection of Him by habit, culture and persistent practice.

 

Will the kingdom gospel the Lord Jesus and his disciples once preached to the Jews do it? Hardly! “God’s kingdom coming to the Jews – so what?” would be the Gentile

response. Will Peter’s message to the Jews at Pentecost be enough? Peter explained then how God had sent his Son, Messiah to Israel, how the Jews had wickedly killed Him, then announced that God had now raised Him up once more to sit on David’s throne.

 

Jesus was now made “Lord and Christ” to Israel (Acts 2:30, 36). The Jews, said Peter, could now be saved if they repented and were water baptised. Had that been preached to Gentiles at the time – and it wasn’t, carefully check Acts chapters 2 and 3 – this, I believe, would have been the typical Gentile response:  “Well, if that’s what Jews want to believe, let ‘em; ‘nothing to do with us. We’ve got our own religion.”

 

DEAD IN TRESPASSES

AND SINS

 

Yet it is precisely this Israelite gospel, with just a bit of grace thrown in, that is widely preached to the world today by a largely apostate Christendom. Accompanied by Jewish sacramental rites like water baptism, stone altars, priests in  frocks, Pentecostal “tongues” and alleged signs and miracles, it is largely a meal of warmed up leftovers from Judaism. In effect, this message is telling Gentiles that to be saved they must become like Jews.

 

Small wonder then, so few (Gentiles) get truly saved today. If this Jewish gospel was not enough to save Israel as a nation, how can it penetrate the harder Gentile heart now?

 

It can’t, and here’s why. Gentiles are dead, dead in sins and trespasses that today stretch back 4,000 years and are the very bedrock of the Gentile nature and culture today.  Now when you’re dead, you can’t hear, can’t know, can’t believe and can’t respond.

 

So before a Gentile can even hear the gospel preached, much less respond to it, he must be made alive, “quickened”. Thus Eph. 2:1, 4 and 5 clearly tell Gentiles (see Eph. 2:11 for proof only Gentiles are addressed here):

 

“You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins. God, for his great love wherewith He loved us hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved).”

 

Fact is, that after Christ’s own resurrection, the next person in scripture to be both spiritually quickened, and then later raised physically from the dead, was Paul (see Acts 14:19), after he had been stoned to death.

 

RAISED UP TO

NEW LIFE

 

And who raised Paul up to continuing life but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, whom God had already had “revealed” in Paul so that he could preach Him to the Gentiles and who, in being so revealed, had already “quickened” the apostle?

 

In John 5:19-25 the Lord Jesus is at pains to show the Jews who hated Him that He was and is the Son of God and God Himself.  Verse 21 is significant:

 

“For, as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.”

 

In verses 20 the Lord foretells that the Father will show Him (the Son) greater works than these (than healing the impotent man, verses 6, 7, 8). In verse 25, He says:

 

“The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear shall live.”

 

So just when does the Lord quicken the dead. Did He do it in his lifetime on earth? Yes. Did He do it when He raised up Paul after the stoning? Yes. Does God do it in every Gentile today who hears Paul’s gospel and is thus caused to believe? Yes.

 

QUICKENED FROM

THE DEAD

 

“And you hath He (God) quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith He loved us, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved) …” (Eph. 2:1, 4, 5).

 

The answer then, is that in going to the Gentiles with the Father’s wonderful new gospel of the grace, God quickens Gentiles from the dead, Paul judicially being counted a Gentile for this purpose.

 

But there is more to it than this. While the Father spiritually quickens us together with Christ it is the Lord Himself who will call forth and quicken our dead bodies from our graves.

 

“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16).

 

It is also the Lord who will also call forth from their graves the bodies of believing Israel now buried in the dust of the earth.

 

“Marvel not at this for the hour is coming and now is in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and they that hear shall live” (Jn:5:28,29a).

 

Col. 2:13 says that God both quickens Gentiles both from being “dead in sins”  and the “uncircumcision of your flesh” that before the Age of Grace made us as Gentiles enemies of God and unacceptable to Him.

 

Gentiles were both dead - that is dead toward God - and uncircumcised, that is cut off from God. By contrast Jews believed in God (Jesus said so) and by being circumcised had showed at least some desire to obey Him.

 

Who then could bring Gentiles to life in God? Who could “circumcise” them to make acceptable to a holy God? Answer: God the Father Himself achieves this by quickening us together with “Him”. And the “Him” of course is “Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col 2:6).

 

No longer the earthly Jesus, the rejected Messiah to Israel, this “Christ Jesus the Lord” is the risen Anointed Saviour that God the Father has made Lord of all heaven and earth, thus including all men, placing Him far above all principality and power and giving Him a name above every other name. In other words the Gentile Jesus.

 

CIRCUMCISED

IN CHRIST

 

“In whom (Christ) ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11).

 

You mean that when He was a baby Messiah Jesus was circumcised for us Gentile believers, I hear you ask? No, I don’t. Col 2:11 clearly teaches that the circumcision that saves us Gentiles is “a circumcision made without hands”, that is it is spiritual.

 

It is the spiritual circumcision the Lord Jesus Christ underwent as the Father quickened Him and raised Him from death. Remember that Christ in his death on the cross was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).  Now this body of the sins of the flesh, our sins, is cut away from the Lord in the “circumcision of Christ”.

 

It is important to understand that this operation, like our baptism into Christ, like our being quickened, like our being joined to Christ, like Christ’s death to pay for our sin is all spiritual in our experience. It is all part of a complex spiritual operation simultaneously carried out in us by God the Father upon our believing the gospel. The proof of this is found in Col 2:12:

 

“… buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him, through the faith of the operation of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

 

FAITH IN WHAT ONLY

GOD CAN DO

 

What is the “faith of the operation of God”? It is two things:

 

Firstly, it is the faith of God the Father Himself, that in raising and quickening His Son, He would also raise and quicken Gentiles who receive Him as Saviour. The Father thus believed that His work would bring into being the “Gentile Jesus” who saves believers today. (Remember that Jesus means Saviour and Christ means the Anointed One.)

 

So the Lord’s name means the Saviour Anointed by God – the one who is able to save Gentiles out of death from all their sin.

 

Secondly, it is our faith in what Father has done. Thus to be saved we must also believe that on the cross the Father made Jesus “to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21) and that in his death Jesus spiritually bore all our sin.

 

We must believe also that in doing so the Lord Jesus took upon Himself our sinful Gentile nature, rotten to the core as it is, thus making Him truly the “Gentile Jesus”.

 

Then we must also grasp by faith that in spiritually cutting away this vile body of the sins of our flesh from the Lord the Father was at the same time cutting it away from us also. Also we should believe from the heart that having done all that “God raised Him from the dead” (Rom. 10:10:9)

 

What an incredible privilege, what amazing grace! That God should take filthy sinful, God-hating Gentiles like us and make us alive by making us one with His Dear Son. One in His death, burial and resurrection, one with Him in Spirit, even making us one with Him as “members of his body, of his flesh and of his bone” (Eph. 5:30).

 

Please note that no such wonderful grace was ever offered to Israel in its 1500-year history. God never promised to quicken them together with his Son, never promised to make them a member of His Body, never said he would raise the chosen nation “together with Him” when He resurrected Christ.

 

NOW FOR EVEN

BETTER NEWS

 

Amazingly, for Gentiles there is even better news. Talking of the need to keep one’s body pure for the Lord, Paul writes that, "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor.6:17). That means those who believe have already been joined in spirit to the Lord, their spirit and his Spirit having become one. 

 

Again, no such thing was ever said to Israel. Rather the Lord had to tell his disciples, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of” (Luke 9:55). He had to tell Peter: “Get thee behind me Satan”. (Matt. 16:23).

 

True, the Lord told the Samarian woman at the well: “Whosoever shall drink of the water I shall give him shall not see thirst” (John 4:14) but this must be understood in the light of the later statement (John 7:37):

 

“In the last day, that great day of the feast Jesus stood and cried, “If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of the belly shall flow rivers of living of water.

(But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive, for the Holy Spirit was not given, for Jesus was not yet glorified.).”

 

Here we learn that important things Jesus promised in his earthly ministry were yet future in fulfilment. They were also conditional upon belief on Him. In this case the Spirit was not “given” to believers in Israel until Pentecost after the Lord’s death burial and resurrection.

 

Note that the Spirit thus given was the Holy Spirit promised in prophecy, the Spirit that God promised Israelite believers would be poured out on all flesh “ ...and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17).

 

ISRAEL’S GREAT DAY

YET TO COME

 

The same Holy Spirit is promised as part of God’s yet future restoration of Israel when He will:

 

“ … gather you out of all countries and bring you into your own land … then will I sprinkle you from all your filthiness … a new heart will I give you … a new spirit will I put within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and keep my judgements.”

That of course has yet to happen and when it does it will be a fulfilment of prophecy and once again law will be in force. Meanwhile in the intervening Day of Grace specially

 

 provided by God for us Gentiles (and any Jews who want to join in), law has been abolished by Christ and prophecy put on hold with the fall of Israel.

 

So today “grace reigns” (Rom. 5:21) and as part of the mystery programme “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your (our) hearts crying Abba Father” (Gal. 4:6).

 

Clearly then there is a huge different between the Holy Spirit of Old Testament prophecy, concerned as it is with establishing the kingdom of heaven on earth through Israel and her Messiah, and the Spirit of the man Christ Jesus, ascended, exalted above all and for our sake made by the Father into the Gentile Jesus, who dwells in our hearts by faith.

 

MUDDLING UP THE

SPIRIT’S MINISTRIES

 

Sadly, most Christian teaching today muddles together these two very different ministries of the Spirit, operating as they do in two very different dispensations.

 

Such teachers create huge confusion, causing millions to falsely believe they can recover the signs and wonders witnessed to Israel in the past when God has long since set both them and Israel aside.

 

Worse, by doing so, they are also blinding millions to the true work of the Spirit of God’s Son, the Gentile Jesus, in believers today.

 

The end result, of course, is disappointment and widespread unbelief. What else can happen when a vain appeal is made to the Holy Spirit’s former work in an earlier dispensation that has now been set aside by God?

 

THE SPIRIT

OF HIS SON

 

By contrast in the dispensation of grace “…all the promises of God are yea and in Him Amen unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Cor. 1:20). Every promise in the teaching of Paul, every promise of what the Spirit of his Son (the Gentile Jesus) will do in the heart of anyone who truly believes comes with a 100 per cent, sure fire, guarantee that it will work every time. No fizzers, no misfires, no mistakes.

 

But, I hear someone ask, “It’s the same Holy Spirit doing the same thing all the way through Bible isn’t it?” Well, no, it’s not. Like the Father and the Son the Spirit expresses Himself in different modes and ways at different times and seasons.

 

NAME’S THE SAME,

FUNCTION DIFFERS

 

Sometimes He is the Spirit of the Father, sometimes the Spirit of the Son, sometimes He is the Holy Spirit in his own right as it were. Yet He is always holy, always the same person. It’s the same with us. Once John Aldworth was single and was still John Aldworth when he married. But now he became a husband and was no longer a bachelor. Once childless he became a father and has been called such ever since. Name’s the same but the functions differ, you see.

 

Likewise when we Gentiles receive the Spirit it is the Spirit

of His Son that comes into our hearts. However, it is the Spirit of the Father that He grants to those who ask Him, that gives them “… wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17). 

 

And, just as the Spirit’s ministry differs markedly towards Gentiles in grace, so does the manner of our salvation.

 

It is true that “through the fall (of Israel) salvation is come unto the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:11). However, this salvation is very different to that offered the Jewish people by Messiah Jesus. Back when He was on earth He preached the gospel of the kingdom of heaven and hearers were required to receive Him as Messiah, repent of sin, be water baptised and to follow Him by selling all that they had and giving to the poor.

 

Note the emphasis on things the Jews had to do. By contrast note that in the very different “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) to the Gentiles it is all about what God does or has done.

 

Thus in Eph. 2:1 believers are told: “And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

 

A DREADFUL

PICTURE

 

Clearly, if you are dead then only God can quicken you, bring you to life. Under grace that is just what God has to do to break through the death state sin has reduced Gentiles to. So, while Jews in time past were merely told to repent and believe on Messiah, Gentiles are told they need to be quickened from being dead in sin.

 

Just how deep the natural difference is between Jew and Gentiles is spelt out further a few verses down in Eph. 2:11-13. Stressing that salvation is now under grace and not by works, “for we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus…”. Paul calls on Gentiles to:

 

“Remember therefore 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.”

 

What a dreadful picture! Gentiles by nature were (and still are until they believe the gospel) without Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world.

 

This was never true of Israel in the past; always they could have hope in God, God’s own Son, the Holy One, the Messiah, was sent to them and their high point of faith was always that “God is with us”

 

GOD’S PRESERVATION OF

THE JEWISH PEOPLE

 

Even now, although they are set aside, fallen and have been cast away (Rom. 11:12-15), God still preserves the Jewish people in a world that hates them, keeping them for his great future purposes for them in the kingdom dispensation to come.

 

In the meantime, just as He once sent his Son to Israel to be her Messiah, God because of his great love for Gentiles has now sent to us his Son, the Gentile Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

FOR GOD SO LOVED

THE GENTILES

 

Notorious God-haters that we are, the last thing we Gentiles should expect is that God should love us. Yet amazingly God has never stopped loving us, even though He “gave us up” at Babel 4,000 years ago.

 

Although He set us aside in favour of the chosen nation Israel 2,500 years ago, God didn’t forget us entirely. He always intended Israel to be “a light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 49:6, Acts 13:47).

 

Though Israel fell down on the job of converting the world, God still sent Jesus to confirm his covenant promises to them so that “… the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:9. In keeping with Israel’s purpose to declare God to the world, the Old Testament prophets had long ago declared that Messiah should “… rise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust” (Rom. 15:12)

 

Sadly, that purpose was not fulfilled when our Lord was on earth.  Israel refused to accept her Messiah, let alone go to the Gentiles in his name. So any hope of Gentiles putting their trust in the Messiah was postponed to the future when as the King of Israel He will establish his 1,000-year reign on earth.

 

Then something wonderful happened. God “for the great love wherewith He loved us” could wait no longer to go to the Gentiles, it seems. So setting aside Israel for her unbelief (Rom. 11: 20), He Himself went in Israel’s place to save the Gentiles. Thus we read:

 

Eph. 2:4-5: “But God … for his great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins … hath quickened us together with Christ.”

 

Titus 2:11: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”

 

Acts 15:14: “How God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name”.

 

1 Tim. 2:3-4: “…God our Saviour who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

 

1 Tim.1:16: “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.”

 

UNSCRAMBLING

1 TIM. 3:16

 

Yes, God in the person of the ascended, glorified and exalted Lord Jesus came down from heaven into the world again. 1 Tim. 3:16 describes this descent, which occurred when the Lord stooped down from heaven to arrest and save Saul, his arch enemy on earth. The verse, believed to be part of a hymn, reads:

 

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

 

It is a pity that 1Tim. 1:16 is often taken to refer to the Lord’s earthly life. For example, Alford[8] takes it that “God was manifested in the flesh” when Jesus Christ was born of Mary.  “Justified in the Spirit”, then refers to Jesus receiving the Holy

Spirit at his baptism, and to his subsequent temptation in the wilderness. “Seen of angels” is seen by Alford as the angelic ministry to Jesus after his temptation.  “Preached unto the Gentiles” refers to the apostles’ preaching which began during the Lord’s earthly ministry while being “received up into glory” is seen as the Lord’s ascension.

 

A different scheme, but little better, is asserted by C.K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles (Oxford, 5963, pp 65 f.). He takes “manifested in the flesh” to refer to the incarnation, “justified in the Spirit” to the resurrection, “seen by angels” to the ascension, “preached unto the Gentiles” to the church’s mission, “believed on in the world” to the success of that mission and “taken up in glory” to Jesus’ final exaltation at his parousia (appearing).

 

Sadly, both interpretations miss the mark by failing to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). 1 Tim. 3:16 describes the Lord’s ministry to Gentiles, not his earlier mission to Israel. That being the case, “God manifested in the flesh” refers to the Lord’s saving of Saul by appearing to him and revealing Himself within him.

 

THE GENTILE

HOPE OF GLORY

 

As Paul puts it, “God… called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me that I might preach Him among the heathen” (Gal. 1:16). Certainly, Paul, like every other saved believer since, was “justified in the Spirit. In fact our spirits have been made one with his Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17) and we have been “justified freely by his grace” (Rom. 3:24).

 

The revelation of the Gentile Jesus in Paul and each believer is nothing less than “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col.1:27) and it is certainly something “seen of angels” (Eph. 3:10).

 

Indeed, it is precisely “this mystery among the Gentiles, Christ in you, the hope of glory” which, from Paul’s time until now, has been “preached among the Gentiles”. In fact Paul’s mission was specifically to “make all men see the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world, hath been hid in God, who created all things by Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:9).

 

Indisputably, the great truths of salvation by grace, complete justification through Christ’s death and resurrection, the glory of his indwelling in us and our translation into his heavenly kingdom have been “preached unto the Gentiles” from Paul’s conversion forward until now and thus “believed on in the world”. By contrast, the earthly ministry of the Messiah and his preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven on earth was not received widely in Israel, let alone in the world at that time.

 

MADE INTO THE

IMAGE OF THE SON

 

But who or what is it that has been “received up into glory”? It cannot be the Lord’s own personal ascension into the heavenlies, since the whole purpose of 1 Tim. 3:16 is to explain “the mystery of godliness”, that is the quality of being “like God”.  Now Christ Himself is not “like God”; though a man, He is God. But we are like God, or at least, we are in the process of being made like unto God.

 

We are “predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Rom. 8:30 sees us as already glorified positionally, and Eph 2: 6 says that God “hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”.

 

Therefore, it is us, Gentiles saved by grace, fellow-believers with Paul, who are “received up into glory”. And this is exactly what other scriptures confirm. For example, God

 

“hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” Col. 1:13.

 

BACK TO THE

GARDEN OF EDEN

 

Thus, it was for “his great love for us” that God intervened through the Lord Jesus Christ and, in turn, through Paul to save us Gentiles. And to accomplish this purpose the man Christ Jesus was not only born again but also “made” again to accomplish this new mission. Thus we read:

 

1 Cor. 15: 45: “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”

 

In making the “man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5) the “last Adam” God goes all the way back to the very root of mankind’s problem: the fall in the Garden of Eden. Here is where original sin entered into the heart of every man and woman.

 

To deal once for all with sin, God now makes “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5)

 both the “last Adam” and the “quickening spirit” for all men. Thus He becomes the Saviour of all men, the Spirit that quickens our spirits now and who will later:

 

            “Change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body. (Phil. 3:21).

 

You see, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Gentile Jesus, now does so very much more for us Gentiles (and any individual Jews who believe) than He ever could as the Jewish Jesus, that is the Messiah to Israel.

 

For example, “He was made sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21), He was “made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), his very blood was made to cleanse our sin and His Spirit was made anew just to quicken us. And in the course of all this He Himself was made a new man, the firstborn of the new creation. Thus we are told He is “the firstborn of every creature, the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:15, 18)

 

Why is such huge change necessary? Why must Christ be remade and changed? And why must we also be changed to be like Him? The answer is that in order to go to be with God in heaven we must become a completely new spiritual creature.

 

BAPTISED INTO

CHRIST HIMSELF

 

For us Gentiles that requires not only quickening our spirit and cutting away the uncircumcision of our flesh through the circumcision made without hands but also our being baptised by the Holy Spirit into Christ and Christ Himself filling us.

 

Sealing and sanctification by the Spirit as well as being made to sit in the heavenlies in Christ and being changed into the image of Christ is also necessary. (See 2 Cor. 3:18, Rom. 6:3, 1 Cor. 12:13, Eph. 2:1, Col. 2:11 and13).

 

Did you know that Adam, even before his fall, would not have qualified as fit to go to God as he was?

 

True he was innocent and the son of God but Adam was still on probation, as it were, when he fell. He was innocent only in that he had not sinned. He had yet to demonstrate righteousness by determining to do the right thing by his own choice.

 

We are told that Jesus Himself only became “perfect” as a man through his sufferings and choosing to obey. Thus Heb.5:8-9 tells us, “though He were a Son He learned obedience by the things that He suffered and, being made perfect, became the author of salvation unto all them that obey Him”.

 

THE FIRST GENTILE

TO GO TO GOD

 

Arguably, Enoch was the first Gentile to go to be with God and live; at least Heb. 11:5-6 makes clear that he was translated by faith that he should not see death. Importantly, Enoch “had this testimony that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please God”.

 

Jesus pleased God his Father by learning obedience as a man; Enoch pleased God by his faith and “walking with God”. Both were changed and went to heaven. Adam did not please God when he ate the forbidden fruit, and we can assume he did not have faith since he is not listed in the Heb. 11 hall of fame for faith heroes. Nor was he changed. It is therefore highly unlikely he got to heaven.

 

Another reason, I submit, that Adam couldn’t have made to heaven, even in his innocence, is that, according to 1 Cor. 15:44-47, he was a living soul in a natural body and 1 Cor. 15:50 plainly teaches “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” which is in the heavenlies.

 

GOD AS

OUR MAKER

 

Paul teaches that our natural, earthy body, must be “sown” in death so that “as we have borne the image of the earthy we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (vs. 49).  The fact is our whole being must be made anew even as the Lord Jesus Christ has been made anew in order to save us.

 

Now we don’t often think of God as our Maker but that is certainly who He is (read Job 4:17, 32:22, 35:10, Psalm 95:6).

God made heaven and earth and all they contain and He made us. He did so, of course through, Christ. “For by Him (Christ) were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in the earth” (Col. 1:16) Surprisingly, God the Father is also the “maker” of the “Gentile Jesus”, the Anointed Saviour who, as God, is sent unto us Gentiles in this the Age of Grace.

 

Stranger still scripture asserts that the Lord Jesus after his ascension was made or re-made in more than one new role as God pulled out all the stops to save Gentiles. For example God “made” the Lord the firstborn of the new creation (Col.1:15). a fact that surprises some people. They see “made” as a strange word to use of our Lord when “born” or “begotten” would seem more natural.

 

MADE OF A WOMAN

MADE UNDER THE LAW

 

Yet such “making by God” was also involved in our Lord’s birth as a human being. Naturally speaking, He was delivered by his mother Mary as her firstborn baby, yet, undeniably, He was also “made” as such by God. As to His natural birth in Luke 2:7 we are told:

 

”And she (Mary) brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.”

 

Yet in Gal. 4:3 we read:

 

“But when the fullness of time was come God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law.”

 

Yes, Christ Jesus, the Messiah Saviour to Israel, was specially made of a woman, specially made under the law, specially made to be what He was in his earthly ministry, a Jewish Messiah sent to the Jews. Don’t take my word for it, take the apostle Paul’s. In Rom.15:8 he writes:

 

“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.”

 

So, during his earthly ministry the God-made Jewish Jesus was not sent to the Gentiles but to the Jews. He said so Himself: Matt. 15:24: “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” He told the Syro-Phoenician woman seeking healing from Him for her daughter. Only when she submitted herself to the present programme of God – for Messiah to go to the Jews – did she then receive the “crumbs fallen from the table”.

 

According to the Bible, Jesus on earth ministered to but two Gentiles, a Roman Centurion who had built a synagogue for the Jews and the Syro-Phoenician woman mentioned above.

 

MADE AS THE

JEWISH JESUS

 

The letter to the Hebrews spells out just how God made his Son the “Jewish Jesus”. Perhaps, if we understand the lengths God went to make his Son a perfectly fitting “Jewish Jesus”, it will be easier for us to understand the even greater lengths He went to make his Son the “Gentile Jesus”. Consider then the following scriptures:

 

            Heb. 1:4: “Being made so much better than the angels … “

 

Heb. 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death …”

 

Heb. 2:16-17: “… it behoved Him to be made like unto his brethren that He might be a merciful high priest in all things pertaining to God to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”

Heb. 5:5-6: “…glorified not Himself to be made an high priest … Thou are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek.”

 

Heb. 7:3: (of Melchisedek, prophetically referring to Messiah) “… but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually”.

 

Heb. 7:15-16: “…after the similitude of Melchisedek there ariseth another priest, who is made not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.”

 

 

Now if God made Christ the Jewish Jesus, it follows that God would also make Christ a Gentile Jesus to minister to the Gentiles. And that is exactly what we find in scripture.

 

1 Cor. 1:30: “…Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

 

You see something happened to the Lord after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension to heaven. He was made by God into the redeemer and sanctifier of Gentiles; He was made the source of all their wisdom and righteousness.

 

REMADE AS THE

GENTILE JESUS

 

Just as the Father shaped the Jewish Jesus in Mary’s womb so that He would be a Jew made under the law so that He could fully obey God and fulfil our righteousness, so later God remade the ascended Lord as the Gentile Jesus.

 

But if one scripture isn’t enough to prove the point, then here are some others:

 

Rom. 1:3 “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.”

 

Note that it is “our Lord”, the Gentile Jesus for all men,

that is in focus here, not the Jewish Messiah made “like unto his brethren” and “made an high priest”, as in the verses from Hebrews above. Yes, Jesus was born of royal Jewish blood but in his great mercy the Father also made Him of David’s seed according to the flesh for us Gentiles. And He was declared the Son of God with power for us all.

 

Remember, and never forget, that to save us Gentiles our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gentile Jesus was:

 

made of a woman, made under the law (Gal. 4:3-4)

 

made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 

    5:21).

 

 …made a curse for us … cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree (Gal. 3:13).

 

made in the likeness of men  (Phil: 2:7)

 

made (as the last Adam) a quickening (spirit) for us (1 Cor. 15:45)

 

made unto us wisdom, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

 

Yes, obedient to the Father as He always is, God the Son, even after humbling Himself to suffer death on our behalf, was willing as the man Christ Jesus to yet again be changed, remade afresh, so that for us Gentiles He might become our Saviour, our Righteousness, our Redeemer, our Sanctifier and our Wisdom.

 

What a gift of love from the Father! The total saving package, the Gentile Jesus!

19

 

THE GENTILITY

OF JESUS

 

Gentility! Now there’s a word for you. The Collins New English Dictionary defines this noun as graceful or easy demeanour (behaviour); politeness.[9] And that’s exactly how Jesus behaves towards Gentile sinners today, with great mercy and graciousness.

 

Yes, Jesus has gentility, but He should not be described as genteel, which means to pretend to be refined, that is to have supposed qualities of high birth and breeding you do not actually possess.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth, as far as Jesus Christ is concerned. As the Son of God He has the highest birth of all but, like a true gentleman, does not flaunt it; rather He is the gracious Saviour, the Friend of Sinners.

 

Today, importantly, He is the friend of all sinners, not just of the lost sheep of the house of Israel to which He was once restricted when ministering as the Jewish Messiah.

 

Importantly, though “gentility” is a quality Jesus also has simply because He is now a Gentile. That’s right, in the current Dispensation of the Grace of God (Eph 3:2), Jesus is no longer the Jewish Messiah He once was on earth.

 

Instead, I sincerely suggest, He has become the Gentile Jesus and thus become the Saviour of all men, both Jew

 

[1] Collins New English Dictionary,,Collins London and Glasgow, p 431.

and Gentile. If this thought seems strange to you, it can only be because most preachers have so emphasised preaching Jesus as He was to the Jews, you have forgotten his huge current ministry to the Gentiles.  But the truth that saves you and I today does not come from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but from Paul’s epistles. And, evidently, Paul struggled to get the truth of Jesus’ gentility across in his day. In Rom. 3:29-30 he asks plaintively:

 

“Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision through faith and uncircumcision through faith”.

 

GOD REALLY MADE

JESUS A GENTILE

 

Like or not, effectively God has made Jesus a Gentile, however shocking that idea may seem to those who still seek to appropriate Him as Israel’s Saviour.

 

Tradition still encourages many to seek to be saved by the Messiah Jesus, who presented Himself to Israel. However, in truth neither Jews nor Gentiles can be saved by the Messiah of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John today. Simply put, this is because Jesus isn’t being a Messiah to anyone today. Let us see why.

 

Firstly, Gentiles simply cannot be saved as Jews were in the Lord’s upon earth because, as Gentiles, they simply do not qualify to do so. You had to be a Jew in covenant relationship with God to be saved under the Messiah’s ministry to Israel. Gentiles were excluded.

 

As the Lord plainly said “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). Even on the day of Pentecost, after the Lord’s resurrection, it was still as the Jewish Jesus that He poured out the Holy Spirit on Jews who received His forgiveness at that time. Proof is found in Peter’s apostolic pronouncement:

 

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

 

THIS SAME

JESUS’

 

The Jewish Jesus crucified by Israel is the same Jesus who rose from the dead and was then “made” the favoured nation’s Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). It is also “this same Jesus” who was taken up into heaven as His 11 apostles gazed upon his ascension (Acts 1:11).

 

Now, there was no secret about any of this; it had all been prophesied beforehand in the Old Testament scriptures: that Christ, the Messiah, Israel’s anointed King, should suffer, die and rise again the third day. Jesus Himself had told his disciples so (Matt. 16:21).

 

Something that was secret during all this time, however, was the Mystery, a body of truth revealed only by Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory to and through the Apostle Paul. And, in the Mystery, we meet Jesus in a different role. In Rom. 16:25-26a Paul talks of the need to be “stablished” by God:

 

“...according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest …”

 

So, just who or what does the Mystery reveal Jesus Christ to be, that He wasn’t before as Messiah to Israel? Whatever his new role, office or changed form is, it has been kept secret since the world began until now, here in Rom. 16:25, it is stated for the first time by Paul. It is in short that now the Messiah of Israel has been transformed into the Gentile Jesus. That is, Jesus has become the Saviour of all men. He was a Jew, bound to keep Moses’ Law and thus unable to eat pork or dine with a Gentile.

 

Now He has been made one flesh with all men, and thus with Gentiles in particular. How else could He save us from sin? How else could He dwell within us by faith, to the point that, “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17)?

 

MADE IN OUR

FLESH FOR US

 

But where and when was He made flesh with us Gentiles, you ask? Why, on the cross. This, according to the gospel to the Gentiles preached by the Apostle Paul, is where He was “made for sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is where He humbled Himself to become obedient to death.

 

This is where, sent by his Father “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin”, He “condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). The question is whose flesh? Was it just Jewish flesh?  Heb. 2:16 states that, “He took on Him not the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham”. That’s fine for the Jews, who are told in vs 14 that:

 

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood He likewise partook of the same that through death He might destroy him that that hath the power of death, that is, the devil.”

 

So, the Lord partook of our flesh and blood on the cross. It’s just that nobody knew it at the time because God did not reveal it then. In fact God did not reveal the truth that Christ died for anybody’s sins until He did so through Paul.

Peter and the eleven knew nothing of it in early Acts.  In

fact they did not know, until they learned it from Paul (the author of Hebrews), that the Lord had died both for Israel’s sin and their sins as Jews on the cross. Much less did they know He had also died for Gentiles.

 

Thank God, the message that Jesus did partake of our Gentile flesh and blood sounds out loud and clear in Paul’s later epistles. In Col. 1:221-22 we learn that we Gentiles were: “…reconciled in the body of his flesh through death…” In Eph. 2:13 we learn we have been made “nigh by the blood of Christ”. He was also “made sin for us” (2. Cor. 5:21).

 

RECONCILED AS ONE

IN HIS BODY

 

In Eph. 2:15 we are clearly told He “abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments … to make in Himself of twain (the two, that is Jew and Gentile) one new man”. There is no realistic way He could do that without taking our flesh and blood into Himself. And verse 16 lends further support to this view:

 

“And that, He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby”.

 

There can be no argument that the “one body” in this verse is the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, it has a twofold aspect. First, there is the physical body of the Lord and personally I believe that it was in this body that the Lord partook of our physical Gentile nature.  Secondly, there is the “church which is his body”, the mystical Body of Christ into which all grace-saved believers are baptised by the Spirit (Eph. 1:22-23, 1 Cor. 12:13).

 

Yes, we Gentiles have been baptised along with individual grace-saved Jews into this joint one body, the Body of Christ, but, remember, we were reconciled on the cross where the real flesh and blood body of the Lord was crucified for us.

 

SEED OF THE

WOMAN

 

That the Lord really did take our fleshly human nature into Himself bodily and mixed or “reconciled” it with His own Jewish flesh, then sanctified it in his resurrection is further proved by Paul’s insistence in Eph. 5: 30 that now “…we are members of his flesh and of his bones.”

 

 Yes, he is speaking of us being made one with our Lord in heaven but there is no need to spiritualise away the literal meaning. The point of the passage is that just as Adam was made one flesh with his wife, So Christ is made one flesh with us, the church which is his body.

 

It is no mistake that the Lord is described as the “last Adam” in 1 Cor. 15:45. Since He is “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15) He carried the genes of all humanity within Himself when He went to the cross. According to Arthur Custance[10] the Lord’s body formed in Mary’s virgin womb was a true replica of the genome of the pre-fall Adam.

It is also true that God sent forth his Son “made in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” (Rom. 8:3). So, in two ways, one at his conception, the other at the cross, we have been made “one flesh” with Him. Consequently, it can be truly said that Jesus carried the entire human gene code, including our Gentiles genes, within Himself when He died on the cross.

 

And this is how our Lord acquired his “gentility”. Of course, it was a secret hid in God until He revealed it to the Apostle Paul. Today as the “last Adam”, as the “last Adam”

the Gentile Jesus has been glorified with “a name above every name” and exalted in heavenly places “far above all principality, power and might” (Eph. 1:20-21).

 

How glad we should be that, “if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12) as Lord of all glory and Lord of all grace in “his heavenly kingdom) (2 Tim: 4:18).

 

To avoid confusion we should understand that his glory as Lord of eternity differs markedly from his majesty He will have on earth during his millennial reign. Just as the noon sun outshines the moon his heavenly glory is much brighter; it is also eternal.

 

Nevertheless for 1,000 years He will be manifested in earthly glory to Israel and the world as Israel’s Messiah and the Son of Man, reclaiming Adam’s fallen position as the Lord of creation. Peter referred to this in Acts 2:36 when he said that in exalting Jesus, God “hath made Him both Lord and Christ”.  (Messiah means the Anointed King of Israel. Lord means Lord of the earth and of creation here below.)

 

Through the Jewish Jesus mankind will regain the dominion forfeited by Adam. However, the Lord’s rule here below is future, temporary and limited to earth’s sphere. By contrast, we who join Him in the heavenlies in the rapture, will rule and reign with Him in the heavens for eternity (2 Tim. 2:12 and 1 Thess. 4:17).

 

THE LORD’S

DUAL MISSION

 

“Gentility”, then, describes the Gentile nature Jesus now manifests, as a result of changes He underwent in his birth, death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus died as a man and also rose from the dead as a man. However, while He died only as a Jewish man, He arose again as both a Jewish and a Gentile man, so to speak, though still one person. This dual aspect is seen in that, first, He was resurrected as “Lord and Christ (Messiah, Anointed One)” (Acts 2:36) to Israel. Then, secondly, He was “declared the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1:4) and as “the last Adam made a quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).

 

Note that in the KJB “spirit” has no capital S. This signifies that, in the current Dispensation of the Grace of God, the Gentile Jesus quickens us by his human, that is, Gentile, spirit. This it is He expressed His gentility in and through us.

 

MADE THE ‘LAST

ADAM’ FOR US

 

How thankful we should be that Jesus was made the “last Adam” for our sake. For, in becoming such He goes to the heart of what is wrong with the whole human race and fixes it for all eternity for the saved who find new life in Him.

 

Again, the distinction between prophecy and Mystery, between our Lord’s earthly and heavenly ministries should be observed. In his heavenly ministry today Jesus as the Last Adam, is made a quickening spirit for sinners saved by grace and who will go to heaven.

 

Earlier, and as the Word, He was “made flesh to dwell among us” (John 1:14). In both cases the One who made Him so is God Himself.

 

Thus it was God the Father who made his Son of a woman, made Him under the law (Gal. 4:4) and later made Him a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). As to our Lord’s ministry in grace, any doubt about God being the Lord’s maker in this sense is dispelled by reading 2 Cor. 5:2:

 

“For He (God) hath made Him (Christ) to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”.

 

It should be noted that while the KJB always uses the word made to describe how God has changed the nature and function of his Son Jesus, other bibles such as Revised Version and the NIV, frequently translate the Greek word ginomai as “becoming”. For example in Gal. 3:13 the KJB says: “Christ was made a curse for us. The NIV[11], however, says: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”

 

SUBMISSION, THE KEY

TO BEING CHANGED

 

The difference is important because if Jesus just “became” a curse for us the implication is that He somehow brought the curse on Himself. But, no, He was “made sin for us who knew no sin” (KJB 2 Cor. 5:21). The word made implies that

Jesus was made to do something against his natural, human

will and that, indeed, is the case.

 

At Gethsemane He prayed “O my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). As a sinless man, the Lord did not want to be made sin, nor be made a curse, yet in obedience to the Father He was made both.

 

For us, of course, it is a different matter. As sinners we must be changed and hugely so if we are ever to become fit to live with God in heaven. And the key to being changed is that we, like Jesus, should submit ourselves totally to what God has made Jesus Christ to be for us and live as the new creation He has made us to be by putting us in Christ.

 

Here is what Christ has been made for us and for his people Israel.  He has been:

 

Made of the seed of the David according to the flesh (Rom. 1:31)

 

Made sin for us who knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21)

 

Made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13)

 

Made of a woman, made of the law, so we could be adopted as sons (Gal. 4:4)

 

Made a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45)

 

Made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30)

 

Made after the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:16)

Made higher than the heavens (Heb 7:26)

 

Made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a much more excellent name than they (Heb. 1:4)

 

Being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him (Heb. 5:9)

 

Made like unto his brethren that in all things He might be a merciful and faithful high priest (Heb. 2:17).

 

One the other hand, we have been:

 

Made accepted in the beloved (Eph 1:6)

 

Made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 2:6)

 

Made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). 

 

Made free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2)

 

Made free by Christ (Gal. 5:1)

 

Made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12)

 

MADE AND

REMADE

 

Now, why is it that the thought of God making both his Son and, in turn, us undergo various changes, strikes us as peculiar? After all, God created or made heaven and earth and then made us. Christ Himself made all things; “without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). So, perhaps it is not strange to our Lord, that He should be made and indeed remade. And God is very much in the making and remaking business. He was creating and making from the beginning of Genesis onward, and is still at work now, transforming us into the likeness of his Son, so that we fully take our place as members of his new creation.

 

So that we become part of the new creation, Jesus Himself is the “firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15). He is the “first among many brethren”; the prototype, if you will, of the sinless glory and perfection we will each become in Him through his grace. In Him does “all fullness dwell” (Col. 1:19) and, again, that fullness is actually Jesus’s gentility – his ability to be all things to all men. Thus we read of his ability to fill “all things” (Eph. 4:10) and to “subdue all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).

 

Of course, being the “firstborn of every creature” doesn’t mean Jesus is a creature. Our Lord, being God, was begotten of God in eternity before creation began. In any case, as Col.1:16 states, “all things” were created by Christ. The important meaning then is that the Lord always goes before.

 

He went before the physical creation, as the Word (John 1:1-3) by whom God created the worlds (ages) and all things in them and, by whom, God appeared to the patriarchs. In the same way

 

GENTILE JESUS IS

THE IMAGE OF GOD

 

He now goes before the new, spiritual, invisible creation. Thus Paul having told us in vs. 16 that God’s Son having created all things “in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible”, now stresses that “He is before all things and by Him all things consist” (vs.17).

 

Verse 15 teaches that the man Christ Jesus, the Gentile Jesus, is the very image of the invisible God. Imagine that, a Gentile found in the image of God. Of course, He was the image of God when, as the Word who created all things, He was incarnated as the image of God in the days of his flesh. Today, as we speak, however, He is the image of God as “the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence” (Col. 1:18).

 

Far from being a created being, as the JWs assert, the God- begotten man, the Last Adam, the Gentile Jesus, was “wrought”: (i.e. worked, or made) to be the fullness of God. Eph. 1:19-23 describes this amazing feat:

 

“… His (God’s) mighty power which He wrought (worked) in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

 

“And hath put all things under his feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”

 

To understand this working of God we should first remember that the Word, in being “made flesh”, was also made the “last Adam”; that is the body fashioned by God for Him in Mary’s womb was a true reincarnation of Adam before he sinned and fell.  Though “made in the likeness of sinful flesh” He was in fact “without sin” and knew no sin.

 

MADE THE HEAD OF

A NEW CREATION

 

Then He was made sin for us, died for our sin and then was resurrected by God in the most mighty display of God’s power ever. What God wrought here was to make the man Christ Jesus head of a whole new creation by placing Him far above all invisible created beings and powers, putting them under his feet.

 

Placed at the right hand of God Himself in the heavenlies the man Christ Jesus, the Gentile Jesus, has also been wrought in such a way that, firstly He contains all the fullness of God within his body (see Col. 2:9: “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”); secondly that He has been made thus in such a way that can make all saved believers “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).

 

He is now the “all” that “filleth all in all”.  That is, He fills all saved believers with all of Himself, He in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.

 

What a stupendous height for man to reach, what a stupendous feat for God to perform!  More than that, He has been “made higher than the heavens” and “made so much better

than the angels as He hath by inheritance obtained a much more excellent name than they (Heb. 1:4).  Think of it – a man, a real man, made higher than the heavens and better than the sinless angels who have never disobeyed God.

 

But that is not all. The truly stupendous miracle is that in doing so God has also made us, if we are in Christ, everything that He is and has become.

 

This is because, like the Gentile Jesus, we too have received a position far above the heavens. In Eph. 2:6 it is written that:

 

“(God) hath raised us up together (with Christ, that is) and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  

 

OUR INHERITANCE

IN GLORY

 

Importantly, just as Jesus received his “excellent name” by inheritance, so we too receive our exalted position in Him by inheritance. That is why as we are told in Col 1:12, we should be:

 

“Giving thanks to the Father who hath made us meet be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”

 

The inheritance is a subject worthy of a book of its own but briefly we should understand the following. First that the Gentile Jesus commissioned Saul (soon to become Paul) to open Gentile eyes:

 

“ …that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in M

 

Now the great thing about inheritance is that is not dependent on worth, moral status or holiness, but upon relationship. This truth is set forth in several scriptures but, notably, in Rom. 8:16-17 where we are told the Spirit witnesses to us that we are children of God, “and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”

 

Gal 4:7 adds that if the Spirit of Christ has been sent forth into my heart, then I am no longer a servant but a son “and if a son then an heir of God through Christ.”

 

Eph. 3:6 gives the glad news of the Mystery that Gentiles are “fellow heirs and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ.” Emphatically, this does not mean that Gentiles are hereby plugged into Israel or made part of the favoured nation’s special salvation. Fact is, Israel had been set aside already by God when Paul penned this letter.

 

No, this passage teaches that the Mystery has been made known specifically so that Gentiles “should be fellow heirs”. That is, joint heirs and joint members of the joint body (so the Greek), “the Church which is his Body” (Eph. 1:22-23).

 

JOINT HEIRS

WITH CHRIST

 

Importantly, Gentiles are joint heirs with Christ and joint members of the Body again with Christ who is the Head. (Surely the head has to be admitted as a member of the body, doesn’t it?).

 

Yes, both Gentiles and Jews are saved by the same gospel today and baptised together into the one body (Eph. 4:4). But, importantly, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ but all are one”.

 

Surely the key truth the Spirit would have us learn here is that we are made joint heirs and joint body members with and in Christ, the Gentile Jesus. Finally in Titus 3:7 we are told that the purpose of our salvation is…

 

“…that being justified by his grace we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

 

Now if all that is true, and it is, then no wonder that in 2 Cor. 5:16 we are told that “from henceforth know we no man after the flesh (that is, the old Adamic, sinful nature we are by nature)”.

 

Nor are we to know Christ “after the flesh”, that is as He was when He walked among men as the Messiah nor should we now know Him as He was when He was made sin for us.

 

Instead we are to know Him as He now is the Head of the new creation, the Gentile Jesus, the quickening Spirit that lives after the “power of an endless life”.

 

FLESH OF

HIS FLESH

 

The important key is to find ourselves in this new Christ, not outside of Him trying to get in, as seems to be the case with much popular Christian experience today. Songs such as “Hold me closer” ignore the scriptural fact that true believers have already been baptised into Christ (Rom. 6:3, 1 Cor. 12:13); indeed have been made “bone of his bone, flesh of

his flesh” (Eph. 5:30). Now, you can’t get than closer than that. So, how foolish to be asking God to do something He says He has already done.

 

In 2 Cor. 5:17 Paul is emphatic “… that if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”  He goes on in verse 18 to stress that in this new creation “all things are of God who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”

 

This can only mean that in this new creation, we as members of the Body of Christ, have nothing to do to secure our position other than to believe that God Himself has already done all things necessary to reconcile us unto Himself through Christ – and to tell others about it.

 

To progress as a Christian, to grow in grace, nothing is as important as realising more and more in our own experience that God has done all that is necessary – and more – to make us fit to be with Him both now and through all eternity.

 

DELIVERED INTO

HIS KINGDOM

 

It’s a done deal, and all made possible through the tremendous work God has done in raising the Last Adam, the Gentile Jesus, as a Saviour for all men and making Him King of the new creation.  This is why in Col.1:13 we are told that:

 

“(God) hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated into the kingdom of his dear Son.”

 

Not only has our Lord, the man Christ Jesus, been made into the great God He is today but He has also made Himself to be otherwise than He was in order to save us. For example He has:

 

Made Himself of no reputation, after being made in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7)

Made peace through the blood of his cross (Col.1:20)

 

Made many righteousness by the obedience of one (Rom. 5:19)

 

We also learn that In Christ all shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22), that we are made nigh by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13) and that we have been made partakers of Christ (Heb. 3:14).

 

An important question is just when these many makings, if not re-makings, of the resurrected Jesus took place? Thankfully we are not left without answers. The scriptures teach that these transformations took place first the birth, then the death and resurrection of Jesus and subsequently at his resurrection, ascension and exaltation.

 

As I understand it, yet further change will occur to the Lord at his full glorification. Amazingly, we who trust in his grace have already been made to take part in each and every post-resurrection change as it happened to the Lord. Note the progress of events in the following scriptures:

 

 The change at his resurrection:

 

 Rom. 1:3-4 clearly states:

 

Jesus Christ our Lord made of the seed of David according to the flesh (was) declared the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.”

 

First we see that the Lord was made of the seed of David according to the flesh. And here again made is the operative word. Then during or after being raised by God He was “declared” to be the Son of God with power.

 

This declaration marks an important watershed in the life of the man Christ Jesus. According to Vine[12], horizo, the Greek word translated declare, means to mark off a boundary, to signify, to determine a new time. [8]

 

Thus the resurrection marks the end of one form of existence and the beginning of another, as far Jesus is

concerned. As a man, He is declared now to be the Son of God with power through resurrection, having been raised by God to Himself be the Spirit of Holiness. It would not be stretching the meaning too far to suggest the verse also means that Jesus was made the Son of God with power?

 

Importantly, when God raised Jesus from the dead He did not simply bring our Lord back to life as the man Jesus He had been on earth, nor did He simply reinstate Christ as God. (Christ as a spirit before his birth always was God, nor did He cease to be God as He walked the earth as the man Jesus. Nor is there any question but that He is God now. His deity remained, remains, unchanged throughout.) But now as man Jesus is declared the Son of God with power through resurrection and by the spirit of holiness.

 

The change at our spiritual resurrection:

 

Eph. 2:5-6: “(God) hath quickened us together with Christ and hath raised us up together (with Christ) and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

 

Col. 3:1: “If ye then be risen with Christ seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”

 

The change at our physical resurrection:

 

1 Cor. 15: 51/52: “… we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.

 

The change at his ascension:

 

Eph. 4:7-11 and Col. 2:15 set out the basic truth of the Lord’s ascension which is his victory over Satan and all the powers of darkness. Col. 2:15 sums up the conquest saying:

 

“…having spoiled principalities and powers He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

 

The change at our ascension

 

Can it really be said that like the Lord we have ascended to heaven? Many would hold that such a change, necessarily involving our going to heaven as it does, awaits our death and personal resurrection; that in no way can it be said that in this life we have “ascended” with Christ. 

 

But the teaching of scripture is as we have been baptised into the Lord’s death by being baptised into Jesus Christ Himself (Rom. 6:3), and that as we have been “planted together (with Him) in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:5), so too we have ascended with Christ.

 

MADE ONE WITH HIM

IN HIS ASCENSION

 

If scripture be the guide then it is undeniably true that the Lord Himself ascended to heaven; several scriptures plainly say so (John 6:62, 20:17, Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51). It is also undeniably true then that we have been made one with Christ, baptised into his death, burial and resurrection.

 

 I would suggest that we have also been made on with Him in his ascension. If this is not so, then we must ask why Paul; writes in Eph. 2:6 that God:

 

“…hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

 

Please be assured that all this is something God has already accomplished. He has already lifted up us together with Christ and made sit together with Christ in heavenly places. Please note too that all this takes place by virtue of us being “in Christ”.

 

Given that that is so, isn’t it amazing that so very few church messages are devoted to the very important subject of how one can be sure one is in Christ?

 

But I digress. The essential truth of the above verse as that we are already ascended with Christ to the heavenly places where He sits at the right hand of God, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:21).

 

Of course, this triumph stemmed entirely from God’s action in resurrecting his beloved Son and declaring (or making) the man Christ Jesus the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:3) as we learned earlier. One might well say that by doing so God declared Jesus Christ the winner in the ages-long conflict with Satan and his dark spirit minions. That Jesus earned the right to victory through his death on the cross is undisputable, yet He had to be declared the winner by that great umpire, God Himself.

 

THE COSMIC

CONQUEROR

 

Thus, from being the humble suffering servant sent to Israel but rejected as the nation’s Messiah, the man now made the Gentile Jesus is transformed into the ultimate cosmic conqueror. And in his conquest we have a part. In Rom. 8: 36-37 Paul writes of all the trouble and persecution saints may face but concludes that “… in all these things we “are more than conquerors”.

 

Nothing, he says, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. This is God’s victory for us, for in Rom. 8:31 and 33, the apostle writes that “If God be for us who can be against us? … Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect. It is God that justifieth.”

 

Eph. 4:7-12 hugely expands the picture:

 

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.

 

“(Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heaven that He might fill all things.)

 

“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ.”

 

THE GIVER OF

ALL GRACE

 

Already a victor, the man Christ Jesus is now made a giver of gifts and the most important gift He has to give to every saved believer is, of course, grace. In some circles the importance of the grace given in verse seven is overlooked in the rush to find if one has been given one of the “important” ascension gift ministries, apostle, prophet, teacher or pastor. But actually grace is what you need to be everything God purposed you to be.

 

Grace is the greatest gift of all. By it we are freely saved, freely forgiven, fully justified and given both Christ’s righteousness and an inheritance with Him and the Father in glory. As Paul writes in 2 Cor. 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.”

 

Also unrecognised by many is the importance of the past tense of the verb “gave” in verse 8. Yes, in time past the Lord gave apostles and prophets as ascension gift ministries that in the current dispensation of grace, but He is not doing so now.  Yes, Peter and Paul were apostles and Agabus a prophet, for example. But with the closing of the transitional Acts period we see the emergence of only one apostle appointed for the duration of the current dispensation of grace. He is Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13).

 

As to prophets, their ministry also ceased at the end of Acts, God having halted the programme of prophecy (concerned as it is with the favoured nation and the setting up of Christ’s kingdom on earth) when He set Israel aside (Rom. 11:15).

 

MYSTERY BRINGS THE

GRACE OF GOD TO MEN

 

Instead today it is the programme of the Mystery (Eph. 3:1-3) which brings the grace of God to all men who will receive it. Thus we are left today with ministries of the evangelist, pastor and teacher, the teaching of the one apostle of grace to all men, Paul, have been in written in scripture for our learning.

 

That said, it is vital to grasp is main purpose of the Lord’s ascension - that “He might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10). In the light of that the ascension gift ministries are only a means to an end. Evangelists, pastors and teachers are only raised to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry. It is the saints as a whole who build the Body of Christ. The aim is to bring every believer into “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13).

 

Only then will the Body of Christ achieve its goal of becoming “a perfect man”. Only then will final outcome of the Lord’s ascension be seen, when He as the ascended Christ, the Gentile Jesus, fills the church which is his body to the fullest extent.

 

BLESSINGS

FROM ABOVE

 

Granted this is a lofty position that we can occupy by faith, but then it is by grace through faith, that we are saved in the first place. So for us, this is not a bridge too far. And when we do take God at his word and simply believe that He has made sit together up there in Christ the change it works in us is stupendous.

 

We start to experience greater spiritual blessing than we have ever known. Paul who was the first to experience such wonders himself could not refrain from bursting into thanks and praise for them. In Eph. 1:3 he writes:

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

 

What are some of these blessings? Knowing we have been chosen in Him (i.e. Christ) before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4); knowing we are adopted as God’s children (Eph. 1:5), experiencing what it is to be “accepted in the beloved”, that is in Christ, (Eph. 1:6).

 

Then there is “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). We also receive an inheritance and are told by God the greatest secret of his will (Eph. 1:11 and 9). There is more but space does not permit.

 

But, I hear you ask, how can you say we sinful, though saved, human beings have ascended with Christ when John 3:13 flatly says that “…no man hath ascended up to heaven.”  The answer is that in John 3 Jesus is talking to the Israelite ruler Nicodemus before his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. He wasn’t talking to us.

 

At that time it was true, as Jesus said, that no man had ascended to heaven “but He that came down from heaven, even the “Son of man which is in heaven.” Talk about being bowled a curly one; it’s no wonder Nicodemus doesn’t get to speak again until John 7:50 when he defends Jesus against the Pharisees. Quite simply he was gobsmacked. Here’s why: First up, in John 3:13 the Lord says no man hath ascended up to heaven and since He said it that would have to be true.

 

Nicodemus had to do a double-take on his Tanach (Old Testament) lessons to remember that while Enoch walked with God and God “took” him (Gen. 5:24) and that Elijah “went up” by a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings 2:11) neither of them are said to have actually “ascended”.

 

Secondly, Jesus flummoxed the Pharisee by explaining that He had come down from heaven to earth (as the Son of Man) but at the same time, as God the Son, was still present in heaven.

 

Then it dawned on Nicodemus that as God, He, Jesus, was omnipresent, that is able to be everywhere at once. These points were a lot to for Nicodemus to swallow but evidently he came to believe that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, for we later learn that He brought spices to embalm the Lord’s body.

 

Meanwhile the lesson for us from all this is one of timing. Before Jesus was born a man no man had ascended to

heaven. That is, no man had ascended in triumph having conquered the devil, the powers of darkness, death and hell. Until Jesus no man ascended up to heaven as of right because, as a man, only the Lord lived a life of pure holiness and complete obedience to God, humbling Himself even to the death of the cross. Eph. 4:10 is emphatic that the Lord “…descended first into the lower parts of the earth and that He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens…”

 

WE ASCENDED

WITH CHRIST

 

Yes, Christ ascended triumphant, a conqueror on high, men but importantly He did not do so alone. Eph. 4:8 clearly states that “He led captivity captive”. It is suggested that, as part of his conquest, He took with Him both the dead Old Testament saints located in “the lower parts of the earth”.

 

That paradise was relocated to heaven, is indicated in 2 Cor. 12:4 where Paul writes that he “was caught up into Paradise” as part of his “out of the body” experience. It seems that the Lord took Paradise – the “captivity” under the earth where saved Old Testament saints awaited release –up to the “third heaven” 2 Cor. 12:2 as He ascended.

 

Clearly no man prior to the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven in such triumph, and none has since. And, it is only by God’s grace through faith that sinners from Paul’s time onwards go to heaven when they die. The record is clear that none did so prior to the Lord’s own ascension.

 

Certainly none have reached heaven since then, except by believing the gospel and thus being made one with Christ in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension (see Rom. 6:3—5, 1 Cor. 12:13, Eph 4:7-10 and Col. 3:1).

 

And, as sinners, we can be made one with Jesus Christ only because He was made sin for us. He really became like us, a sinful man, allowing us as sinners to join Him on equal terms on the bottom rung of the ladder that stretches upward from death on the cross to reach far above the highest heavens.

 

So, if we die with Him on the cross we can also ascend to be with Him in heaven.  We can also take part in his triumph over the forces of darkness (Col. 2:15) because Col. 1:13 assures us that if we are in Christ, then already:

 

“(God) hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son”.

 

JESUS AROSE A

GENTILE MAN

 

In all this, we must remember that it is as a man, a man for all men, and therefore a Gentile man, that Jesus arose and ascended in triumph. If we believe his own words in John 3:13, then, He was the first to do so. But He was not, and will never be, the last. In Him we too have ascended, at least in spirit, to occupy by faith our new homeland in heaven with and in Him.

 

The change at his exaltation

 

For years the chorus “He is exalted on high” was top of the Pentecostal pops. It was sung over and over again and with good reason. The truth is the man Christ Jesus was exalted, is exalted and ever will be exalted. We have already seen how God raised the Him and “set Him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power and might, and dominion” (Eph. 120-21). But Phil. 2:7-11 describes the further steps God took to honour his Son. God took the man Christ Jesus yet higher because of the awful depth to which the Son had humbled Himself in order to obey God his Father. We are told He:

 

“…made Himself of no reputation, took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man he humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.”

 

Look carefully at verses 9, 10 and 11 and you see an amazing thing. Not only is Jesus the man highly exalted; He has also been given a name above every other name. Think about that. Does it mean that the man Christ Jesus has been given a name that higher than that of God Himself? Given that God was in Christ and Christ in God and that the two are one (John 14:11 and 21) I believe that, yes, it does. Let’s read carefully:

 

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth.

 

“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

 

How can God further exalt Jesus when He has already raised Him “higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26) and when, in any case, the heavens are the “work of his (Jesus’) hands” (Heb. 1:10)? How can He give Him a name that is above every name when the name of God Himself is necessarily included in that description?

 

The answer is that with God all things are possible and that the man Christ Jesus, the Gentile Jesus, is now Himself Lord God Almighty. His name is the only name by which God now will be approached, or can be known, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.

 

 As John records (John 1:18): “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him”.

 

Today rebellious men may refuse to bow to the Lord here upon earth and in this life only mention his name as a swear word. But in the day of Christ’s appearing and vengeance (2 Thess. 7-8) they will both bow and confess in abject terror. 

 

HIS BRETHREN WERE

MADE TO BOW

 

If that seems somewhat unreal, consider the story of Joseph who dreamed that his brothers and even his father and mother would bow down to him. Like our Lord, Joseph was hated of his brethren who, barely restrained from slaying him, sold him as a slave into Egypt.

 

But God was with Joseph, as He was and is with Jesus, and in time Joseph became master of Egypt, especially of its corn. Genesis records that when his traitorous brethren were compelled to bow to Joseph to get corn they eventually did so seven times.

 

And that is but a glimpse of how deep every man will have to bow the knee to Jesus and how earnestly confess his name in time of judgement to come. Of course, such subjection is due to Him and Him alone. We, as saved sinners, are not exalted as Jesus is – we do not deserve to be. However we most definitely do share in his glory as we shall see.

 

Our change into his glory

 

In John 17:5 the Lord, having finished on earth the work He had been sent to do, prayed: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”

God responded first by glorifying Jesus on the cross, then in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). He also glorified the Lord in subsequent miracles, such as the healing of the man lame from his birth in Acts 3:13. That was all in fulfilment of prophecy and to do with our Lord’s ministry to Israel as Messiah.

 

However, a different kind of glory occurred later that had nothing to do with Israel or the Lord’s ministry on earth. In Acts 13:48 we read:

 

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

 

Here we see the gospel of the grace of God being preached to the Gentiles and Jesus as the Word being glorified because they believe it. Later in Acts 21:20 leaders of the Jewish Jerusalem church are moved to glorify God for the same reason – that Jesus, the Gentile Jesus, is now going to the Gentiles and saving them.

 

GLORIFIED

WITH CHRIST

 

Moving on down the glory trail we learn in Rom. 8:17 that as children of God – and already attested as such by the witness of the Spirit – we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. But there is an important proviso. It is:

 

            “…if so be we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him”.

 

As with Jesus so with us: first the suffering then the glory. Importantly, here is the first teaching to Gentiles that they will be glorified with Christ in his heavenly kingdom. 2 Tim. 2:12 says: “If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him”.  . For Israel, of course, it is different. She will be glorified in her Redeemer in time to come when He comes to save her at his Second Coming. While that is in the future, Gentiles can get their glory with the Lord here and now in this, the current dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:1-1).

 

Amazingly God has arranged a way of on-the-job training that allows us to experience glorification with our Lord, the Gentile Jesus, on a progressive, step-by-step basis.  The process is set out for us in 2 Cor. 3:17-18:

 

“Now the Lord is that Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

 

Qualifying for this course involves choosing to know in a deeper way just who the Lord really is today and what He is doing in us and in the heavenlies. Suffering is not specifically required to see his glory but dedicated Bible study certainly is.

 

SEEING CHRIST

AS HE IS TODAY

 

Thus in the verse above the “glass” we should look into is the Word of God, the scriptures and them rightly divided (2 Tim. 2:15). They will show us Jesus Christ as He is today, the Gentile Jesus reigning on the throne of grace in the heavenlies and also occupying our hearts by faith.

 

Of course, you can choose to study or not because “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty”. Your choice will determine whether you “behold the glory of the Lord” or not.

 

If you make a sincere effort to know the Lord through the scriptures by hearing good Bible teaching and studying the word rightly divided for yourself, perhaps with the help of

good dispensational study books, the result is sure to be that not only will you see the glory of the Lord but also that you yourself will be “changed from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

 

Furthermore, knowing the Lord in his high, exalted heavenly station produces deep change with us. The process proceeds throughout our lifetime and climaxes when we leave this body to be “with the Lord” or are caught up still alive in the rapture.

 

Until then, however, we are dead and our “life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3), awaiting his Appearing. Yes, amazingly, there is a yet higher level of glory to come, both for the Lord and for us. Paul writes in verse 4:

 

“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear we shall appear with Him in glory.”

 

GLORY IS BEING

MADE LIKE HIM

 

What is this glory? It is to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom: 8:29) in our soul and spirit and then for the Lord Himself to “change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21. Then we shall indeed find ourselves in glory, preserved blameless in our whole body, soul and spirit, just as Paul prayed we should be in 2 Thess. 5:23.

 

That glory, of course, is yet to fully come. Meanwhile we can by faith realise that from God’s viewpoint we have already been glorified. Rom. 8:39-30 sets out our position in this regard:

 

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the first

among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”

 

In God’s mind we have already been glorified, have already been made to sit with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6). This is our position and by grace through faith we can appropriate it.

 

Since God has already accomplished this change, nothing can alter it. Sadly though, through lack of faith, our sin-prone present state down here on earth often belies our high heavenly calling.

 

QUICKENED BY THE

UPWARD CALL

 

We have already touched on the pinnacle of God’s high calling for us – to be glorified with Christ and in the image of Christ with a glorious body like his, to live with Him and in Him in the heavenly places where God rules. Perhaps now it is time to go back now and see how the Gentile Jesus, not Jesus the Messiah to Israel, has made it possible for Gentiles so dead in sin to be changed and lifted up to occupy such a lofty state of glory.

 

Let’s go back in fact to the beginning. Remember that when Adam sinned he ceased to be a living soul and became dead to God by nature. Since the fall, spiritual death is the natural state into which all humans have been born. Jesus is the only exception. Now death, by definition, is separation from God, which means that our whole being, body, soul and spirit is cut off from God by sin.

 

Thank God that Jesus died on the cross, rose again and was exalted so that our spirit could be “quickened” (Eph. 2:1), that is “made alive”, and that our souls are saved as we progressively yield our lives in obedience to Jesus. As to our bodies, they await his final quickening to make them alive at our resurrection. That is the programme of salvation through the last Adam, the Gentile Jesus.

 

MADE THE LAST

ADAM FOR US

 

Again, it is right to describe Him as Gentile Jesus, because being made the last Adam, the man Jesus necessarily took upon Himself the very genetic and spiritual nature of the first man and father of us all, the fallen Adam, in order to put it to death on the cross. “He was made sin for us, (He) who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21).

 

The First Adam, of course, was also Gentile, in that as progenitor of the human race he wasn’t an Israelite since, obviously, Abraham the father of the Hebrew nation had yet to be born. Importantly, to be the “last Adam” the man Jesus first had to be born innocent and genetically and spiritually pure just as the first Adam was before the fall.  But how could this come about?

 

Custance explains the miracle of Jesus’ unique birth, how that God Himself “fathered” His Son in the flesh by supernaturally fertilising the “seed of the woman”, (Gen. 3:15). He details how Adam’s original uncorrupted genetic blueprint was contained in Eve’s germ plasma, the “seed of the woman”, and passed intact down many generations until brought to life, still untainted,  in the womb of Mary.

 

Meanwhile, of course, from Adam until now, the rest of us human beings are born of “corruptible seed”, that is the original genetic blueprint corrupted by the sinful sperm of

fallen Adam and his male progeny. Thus Custance writes:

 

“God, in his creative wisdom, set the stage for man’s redemption, the redemption of his body as well as his spirit, first by creating an Adam who was potentially immortal, encompassing in himself both seeds both male and female and then by separating Eve out of him and entrusting to her one of the two seeds, fashioning for her a body specially designed to preserve that seed intact and uncorrupted through each successive generation.

 

Here faith leads to understanding as we observe how the supernatural acts upon and complements the natural. We are able to see, in a measure, how the Virgin Birth came to be the means by whereby God recovered in the stream of truly human life a Second Adam to redeem the children of the First Adam.”[13]

 

 

HE TOOK UPON

HIM OUR GENES

 

Here it is important to understand that, as the father of the human race, Adam was the First Gentile, given that the Latin words gens means nations, or all nations and that there were no Jews or Hebrews as such, nor indeed separate nations, until the call of Abraham.

All mankind were Gentiles, so to speak. It follows then, that when Jesus was made the Second Adam, He also became the Second Gentile, so to speak, in order to save the human race as a whole and thus Gentiles (non-Jewish persons) in particular. It is as such that I submit He is rightly called the Gentile Jesus.

 

As is outlined in another chapter, since his birth and death, Jesus the resurrected man has been both anointed and exalted as “Lord of all”, the “Holy One”, the Lord of glory and grace. That means He has been exalted on high as the one new man for all men (and women) whether Jew or Gentile). Importantly, as such He is essentially Gentile not Jewish, and thus the Gentile Jesus.

 

The significance and importance of all this cannot be over stated. To see it more clearly take another look at the word “gentility”. The root of this word, and that of the word “Gentiles”, is the Latin word “gens”, a nation, which in its plural means “all nations”.

 

 Jesus not only partook of death for us, He also in every real sense became us; He literally took upon Himself our genes. So in dying for our sin Jesus on the cross also became a Gentile, a “man of all nations”, so that He could reconcile us to God.

 

It is true, of course, that He also died as a Jew in order to save Israel but, let us Gentiles never forget that for us He became a Gentile on the cross. As Heb. 2:9 says: “… that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man”.  As a necessary consequence He was also raised up as a Gentile man, the Gentile Jesus.

 

Now we can understand more of the very real way in which the Lord created within Himself “one new man” (Eph. 2:15) – a man that is also Gentile in character since Jesus Himself is and must be representative of all humanity.  In doing so Jesus - as the head of the body to the church which is his body - necessarily in Himself again became the Gentile Jesus.

But He didn’t stop there. Eph. 2:17 tells us this “one new man”, that is Gentile Jesus, the head of the church, “came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to them that were nigh.”

 

Yes, believer, it is the Gentile Jesus Himself who today preaches through Paul the gospel of grace and peace through his blood that saves today. The important truth we must realise now is that Jesus in this, the Dispensation of the Grace of God towards Gentiles (Acts 20:24), is no longer being a Messiah to anybody.

 

Today a Jewish person must be saved by believing the same gospel of grace that saves the Gentile. It is Jesus the Gentile who is Jesus to both Jew and Gentile now. Of course, this has not always been so. In fact Gentiles were deliberately shut out by the Lord for more than 1500 years after their rebellion against Him at the tower of Babel.

 

In fact, after Babel the Lord rejected everybody except Abraham, the one man He called out to become the father of Israel, a separate nation unto God. Three times in Rom. 1:24, 26 and 28 we are told that God “gave them up”, withdrawing Himself and his eternal salvation from all peoples but the chosen nation. Eph 2: 11:13 starkly depicts the severity of this separation:

 

“…ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh … 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. But now in Christ Jesus ye who were sometimes far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

 

What hope can there be for people who are without hope, without God and without Christ? Answer: none. For over 1500 years Israel was the only instrument of salvation and Gentiles were shut out by “the middle wall of partition” (Eph. 2:14), “excluded from the covenants of promise”. Back then the only way a Gentile could be “saved” was by becoming a Jew through circumcision, water baptism and obedience to law. Not surprisingly few chose the option.

 

Yes, prophecy is clear that Israel herself was to be light and salvation to the Gentiles. First, however, the favoured nation had to be saved herself, and it was to this end Jesus Christ (the Saviour Messiah) was born among and ministered to the Jews. Sadly both He and his message of repentance were rejected, and as a consequence God set Israel aside. Thus we are told in Rom. 11:11 that “through their (Israel’s) fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles …”

 

SALVATION IS COME

TO THE GENTILES

 

Note carefully the tense; “salvation is come to the Gentiles”; meaning that it came in Paul’s time and, dispensationally speaking, is still with us. With us, that is, as long as Gentile faith in Christ’s and his saving blood remains. Rom. 11:20-23 warns that unless we continue by faith in God’s goodness we, like Israel, will be “cut off”.

 

Of course, not all Gentiles believe in Christ.  Those that don’t are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), they are “lost”; to them the gospel is “hid” because “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3). And God is angry with their ungodliness, unrighteousness and refusal to believe the truth (Rom. 1:18).

Nevertheless, He offers them reconciliation, “not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19) - a wonderful offer of salvation Gentiles were excluded from until the new message of grace given through Paul. As for the future, well, when the age of grace closes, so will this wonderful offer of salvation for Gentiles. The Lord will return as Israel’s Messiah and Gentiles then must repent and be water baptised to be saved through the chosen nation. For those who won’t, Jesus will then be anything but gentle. Psalm 2:12 warns future kings of the earth who rebel against God to “kiss the Son lest He be angry”.  How angry? Well, verse 9 predicts the Son will “break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel”.

 

Will Jesus be all gentility then? I don’t think so. 2 Thess. 1:7-8 plainly states that He will be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.”

 

Thank God that “but now” in Christ we are made nigh by the blood of Christ. This, of course, is all thanks to the “gentility” of Jesus. It is only because He as a man was willing to be made a Gentile that the reconciliation we enjoy now is available. You see while the word “Gentile” means “one who is not a Jew” it also means “belonging to the nations at large, as distinguished from the Jews” (Collins Dictionary). So ungodly are Gentiles by nature that “gentilism” means “heathenism, paganism; the worship of false gods” and “gentilish” means to be “heathenish, pagan”.

 

So for Jesus to make salvation available to us Gentiles, He had to take upon Himself our pagan, heathen, God-rejecting nature and take it to the cross. At the same time He had to also bear the sinful, self righteous character of the Jewish people.

 

More than that He had to create within Himself a new wholly holy human being that embraced both Jew and Gentile in “one new man” (Eph.2:15):

 

“Having abolished in his flesh the law of commandments in ordinances … for to make in Himself of twain (two) one new man, so making peace". And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby”.

 

Few realise the huge extent of this miracle the Lord worked while dying in agony on the cross. Within Himself He created a new man, the Gentile Jesus, so that He could reconcile men of all races, both Jew and Gentile to God. Thus the Jewish Messiah Himself became a Gentile. He had to, or there could be not salvation for Gentiles. More than that, the Lord became “in Himself” the new man, the Gentile Jesus, that in 1 Cor. 15:45 is described as “the last Adam (who) was made a quickening spirit”.

 

CHURCH IN BONDAGE

TO JEWISH RITUAL

 

How sad today that most of Christendom is still in bondage to the idea that it is only as the Jewish Messiah Jesus can save today. That is why the purely Jewish rite of water baptism is so widely preached and practised.

 

That is also why churches have altars and priests have (Jewish) vestments: it is why most messages are preached from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and not Paul’s epistles where the commandments and teachings of the Gentile Jesus are found. That is why the emphasis is largely upon repentance and self reformation rather than on reconciliation and salvation by grace through faith alone. The effect is to take believers back to works as the means of sanctification, thus making the full atonement and completed work of righteousness done by the Gentile Jesus on the cross of no avail.

 

 

 

20

 

A DIFFERENT

JESUS  

 

Just how really different is the Jesus who saves now from heaven from the Jesus who once walked the earth in his flesh? This question goes to the heart of what this book is about.

 

In short, Jesus today is so different from the Messiah He was on earth, that his very flesh, his nature and his office have undergone radically change. However, his identity as Jesus, the Saviour, remains. What’s more the way He manifests Himself outwardly is now entirely different.

 

 As to his role, He is no longer a servant but the Lord God Himself in all his glory, power and might. On earth He was judged by men, but, at our future calling home in the “rapture”, He will be Judge of our life and service for Him here below. As to His location, whereas once it was the earth, now it is above the highest heavens.

 

That is but a brief introduction to some of the changes that make the Gentile Jesus so different from the Jesus who in the days of flesh ministered to Israel. But let us go deeper and see why.

 

First though, allow me to ask: Which Jesus saved you, dear reader? Was it the Jewish Jesus, rejected and despised by Israel as her Messiah as He trod the dusty roads of Judea to preach the gospel of his kingdom on earth to come? Or was it the risen, ascended, exalted glorified Lord Jesus given a name above every name “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil: 2:10)? If you are truly saved, I am sure you will agree that your Saviour is the Jesus who died on the cross to save you from your sins. 

 

He died for the sins of all men but, you see, this was a hidden truth in the days of the Lord’s earthly ministry. In fact it was unknown, even by the eleven apostles, until they learned of it from the Apostle Paul. 

 

Only when the risen glorified Jesus Himself revealed it to the Apostle to the Gentiles did it become a truth by which Gentiles – and Jews – could be saved. Check the Bible and see for yourself that the first mention of Christ dying for Gentile sins does not occur until 1 Cor. 15:3. Thus, it is the post-resurrection, ascended Lord, the Gentile Jesus, who saves now.

 

SAVIOUR OF THE

GENTILES

 

As others have pointed out, Jesus is not being a Messiah to anybody today. He is now the Saviour of all men, but particularly of Gentiles. This must be so since He commissioned Paul as an apostle especially for Gentiles and sent him out with the new gospel of the grace of God which is able to save all men.

 

 Furthermore, salvation is no longer of the Jews,  Israel has been set aside, and so salvation today is purely by grace and freely to all men both Jew and Gentile as individuals. Jesus today then is the Saviour of all men, the Gentile Jesus.

 

But, you say, isn’t “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and for ever” (Heb.13:8)? Yes, He is, if you are a Hebrew looking for the Messiah to return again to establish his kingdom on

earth.  If you are a Gentile, however, then you simply don’t have a part in that programme. But doesn’t the verse have some application to us Gentiles, you ask? Yes, it does; it teaches that Jesus in his personal identity is indeed the same for ever.

 

However, the appearance, form and manner in which He manifests Himself can and does change as does the office and ministry He has exercised at different times. What’s more, further great changes in both the ministry and form of Jesus have yet to take place.

 

THE LORD’S

HEAVENLY BODY

 

Take, for example, the matter of the Lord’s flesh. Prior to his birth as a babe at Bethlehem He was the pre-incarnate Christ, God the Son, the Word, and the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

 

Since God is a Spirit (Jn. 4:24) Christ was also Spirit though He manifested aspects of Himself in tangible form to men – often as an angel, also as the pillar of cloud to the encamped Israelites and as the Captain of the Lord’s Host to Joshua.

 

Then the Word was made flesh. Phil. 2:7 says He was “made in the likeness of men”, Heb 10:5 says it was “a body Thou hast prepared Me”, Rom. 8:3 says “God sending his own Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”.

 

However, it was in a different body again that the Lord appeared to his disciples after rising from the grave. That body had “flesh and bones”; Jesus said it was “I myself” (Luke 24:39) and did eat before them (Luke 24:43).

 

This body could also “vanish out of their sight” (Luke 24:31) and pass through solid walls and shut doors (Jn. 20:19). Everlasting or immortal as it undoubtedly was, it was also, it seems, “earthly”.  By that I mean it seems it was purposely fitted for life on earth.

 

Consider: in this flesh the Lord made Himself recognisable to those who loved Him, asked for food so that He could eat.  He also lit a fire and cooked fish (Jn. 21:9).

 

JESUS WILL RETURN

IN THE SAME BODY

 

In this body He departed from the eleven apostles, ascending from the Mount of Olives out of their sight. As He did so, two men in white assured the Apostles “this same Jesus … shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

 

In other words this is the body, this is the flesh, in which the Lord will return to destroy the wicked, save Israel and, subsequently, rule and reign physically with the saints on earth for a 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4).

 

But is this the same body as that the Lord now inhabits in heaven? Is it the same body that the Apostle Paul in Phil. 3:21 describes as “his glorious body”, or the body of his glory? Surely not, for, speaking the words of Christ, the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 5:16, clearly commands that:

 

“…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.”

 

That means that we, as grace-saved saints, bound for our eternal home in the heavenlies, are commanded not to know Christ after the flesh. Indeed the Apostle’s words imply that because of the changes that have occurred to Lord’s outward form, in reality Christ can now no longer be known “after the flesh”, that is in the body and form He had upon earth and while on earth after his resurrection. Nevertheless this body must be that of a man, since we are told in 1Tim.1:5 there is one mediator between God and men, “the man Christ Jesus”.

 

THE BODY OF

HIS GLORY

 

So what body does the Lord now have, seated as He is, at the right hand of the Father in the heavenlies? As already stated from Phil 3:21, it is a “glorious body”.  The literal Greek here reads: “The body of the glory of Him”, just as it also speaks in 1 Cor. 4:4 of “the brightness of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”.  Similarly the adjective “glorious” in the KJB is used to describe the “church of his glory” (Eph. 5:27), the “power of his glory” (Col. 1:11) and in 1 Tim. 11 “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God”.

 

Glory then is the exalted state of being in which the Lord lives in heaven today. He has fully entered into his glory there, which is why his body is the body of his glory and we, who receive the heavenly call, are saved by the gospel of his glory, form the church of his glory and will one day receive a body like unto the body of his glory.

 

Meanwhile down here on earth the Lord has yet to enter into his glory, because the prophesied kingdom in which He will receive it has been put on hold. True, in Luke 24:26 Jesus Himself said: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” But note how carefully He phrased this statement, so that it is not stated either when or where He will enter into his glory.

 

However, in Acts 3:20-21 the Apostle Peter makes it clear the Lord’s appearing in his glory on earth awaits “the times of the restitution of all things”.

 

Meanwhile, of course, the Lord is shining forth to all men the good news of his glory in heaven. And He is calling those saved here below by his grace to press upward on the journey to join Him there. This is the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” that Paul speaks of in Phil. 3:14. It is our destiny in glory and one that should constantly engage our hearts and minds. Sadly though, the Apostle writes with tears of those “enemies of the cross of Christ … whose glory is in their shame … who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-19).

 

OUR TALK SHOULD BE

ALL ABOUT HEAVEN

 

With Paul we have to ask: Why is it that so many churches and muddle minded believers can only see the earthly ministry of the Lord? Why do they only want earthly benefits from his salvation and usually greet with a yawn the wonderful truths of grace and the heavenly calling?

 

Our conversation, that is our talk, the Apostle insists, should be all about heaven because that is where we are going; indeed that is where our home is, where we have already been made part of the Lord’s kingdom and glory (Col. 1:13).  In the King James Bible the word “conversation” really means “way of life”. Our whole way of life should be centred on heaven where the Lord is. “Conversation” translates the Greek word politeuma, which means “citizenship”, the condition or life of a citizen. And part of that citizenship – state of being – is that we will have a body of glory like the Lord’s body. Phil. 3:20-21 maps out our road to glory like this:

 

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look

for the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working where He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.”

 

If you are truly saved and have been taught by Jesus, then you will know that is in heaven that you belong, not down here on earth, but up there in glory with Him and in a body like his.

 

What is the essential difference between this heavenly body of the Lord’s and that He exhibited on earth after his resurrection? It is that it is spiritual, not fleshly, not earthly, still less earthy. Of course, that does not make the Lord’s body of glory less real.

 

TEMPORARY HUSK OR

SPIRITUAL BODY?

 

To the contrary, since it is eternal and unchangeable, it is far more real and permanent than this temporary husk we inhabit on earth. The Apostle Paul speaking by revelation speaks of this spiritual body in 1 Cor. 15: 44-51. Because of its importance the whole passage is quoted:

 

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, the first man, Adam, was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

 

“Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earth, such are they also that are earthy: and is the heavenly such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

 

“Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit

the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

 

A spiritual body has very different characteristics to a physical one, even a resurrected physical one. In contrast to our “vile body”, our body of sin, such a spiritual body is, of course, sinless and holy and eternal. After all only the Lord Jesus could live in a human body like our sinful body and yet not sin; everyone else has failed dismally.

 

The Lord’s heavenly, spiritual body, then is a body in God’s class of being and unlimited in its ability to reflect or shine forth the fully glory of God. This is important to see, because, like the Lord, but not the same extent, we too shall shine forth God’s glory. John Newton had it right when he wrote, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun”.

 

SHINING FORTH

HIS GLORY

 

Talking of shining forth, isn’t that what God did in your heart when you got saved? This is explained in one of my favourite verses is 2 Cor. 4:6:

 

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

 

Importantly, the Lord’s own personal body of glory is the prototype for the body we each shall receive. Like his own body, it will be able to live comfortably in heaven in God’s presence, while also fully shining forth the glory of the Lord.

 

For example, it is because Christ already has this body of glory, so different to the one made after the likeness of men and in which He lived and rose again on earth, that He is able to shine forth in our hearts as evidenced in 2 Cor. 4:6 and 3:18. No wonder the Apostle Paul could scarcely wait to go to heaven; he knew just how good it would be to live in glory. In Phil.1:23 he writes of “having a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better.” Meantime he urges us in Col. 3:1 to “seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on earth.” We would all be much happier in this life if we did.

 

THE GLORY

YET TO COME

 

The Lord’s present heavenly body is truly glorious; so is the gospel of his glory; He is seated in glory and is the Lord of glory from glory. Yet, believe it or not, there is yet greater glory to come both for Him and for us.

 

We are given a clear indication of this in Col. 3:3-4:

 

“For ye are dead and you life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then ye shall also appear with Him in glory.”

 

Yes, there is an appearing of Christ in his full glory still to come. Of course, it is not that Christ does not already possess this glory; He does. In Him already “dwells the fullness of the godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).  However, this glory is not fully manifested, as it one day will be, both in heaven and on earth.

 

Right now His glory and ours is hid in “heavenly places”, that is in the heavenlies, “far above all heavens” (Eph. 4:10). It is here that the Lord has been “received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16) and we with Him. “(He) hath raised us up together (with Christ), and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2: 5-6).

 

The heavenlies are also the throne room of the Lord’s

kingdom and we have been “translated” into that kingdom (Col. 1:13). Before he died the Apostle was very clear that it was to that kingdom in the heavenlies he would go at death. “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom,” he wrote in 2 Tim. 4:18.

 

But for this we must wait – and that takes patience. As Pastor Ricky Kurth says, the greatest need of Christians living on earth in these troubled times is to be “strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Col. 1:11).

 

WHAT TO DO

WHILE WE WAIT

 

 Patience, he asserts,  is needed to put up with the world’s wickedness, the abortions, etc, patience in knowing the Second Coming of Christ will right the world’s wrongs, patience as televangelists dilute and pollute the gospel, patience as Bible teachers muddle the minds of the saints by their failure to rightly divide the words. Above all, we need patience with each other, he concludes.

 

It is wisely said that the secret of being patient is to do something worthwhile in the meantime. And that is just what grace would have us do as we wait, eagerly looking for the Lord’s appearing. We cannot put the world right – that is the Lord’s job when He returns to earth – but we can by his grace put on his righteousness and learn to live aright before He comes.

 

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).

 

 

It’s blessed to hope for his appearing. And looking for his

appearing is good reason to by grace live our lives for Him in the here and now. It’s truly godly to believe that perhaps sooner than we think the Lord will be revealed in all his glory, destroying all rebellion against Him both in heaven and on earth.

 

At present his Godhood is hid as it were, just as our life is also hid with Him in God. To date there has been only a partial unveiling of the Lord’s splendour and the good news is that the best is yet to come. 

 

Yes He has shined in his glory in our hearts; yes by faith we can see Him in his glory in the heavenlies; yes, by faith we believe - because God’s word says so - that we have already been made to sit with Him in heavenly places. But the fullness of all He fully is and what we hope to be in Him has yet to be revealed.

 

CHRIST REVEALED

PROGRESSIVELY

 

Can I share a thought that has been a great personal blessing to me? It is that just as there is a progressive revelation of God’s truth through the Bible story, so also there is a progressive revelation of the glory, power and majesty and Godhood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which much of it yet to come.

 

For example, when the Lord from heaven first appeared to the rebel Saul it was as a blinding light. Then the glory of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ was revealed in his heart, as it is in ours who believe. As we now look into the Lord’s face, reflected as it is in His Word, we too become changed into his glory.

 

And then we learn of the greater glory that will be the Lord’s when every knee will bow to Him and every tongue

confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Meanwhile our hearts yearn to be fully seated with Him in the glory He has at the right hand of the Almighty in the heavenlies.

 

But there is even more to come. Verse 13 above speaks of the Lord appearing as “the great God and Saviour”. When that happens He will be revealed, made manifest, to every creature in heaven and earth in the fullness of all that He is as God. It won’t just be a matter of the truth of his being the great God becoming known; every creature will be personally shown the fullness of His Majesty.

 

THE LORD’S

APPEARING

 

Amazingly the triune God has already poured all the fullness of Who He is, the Godhead, into the man Jesus Christ bodily (Col. 2:9) and we struggle indeed to grasp all that this means - the fullness of the Godhead living within a man? Now God would invite us to take hold by faith of something even greater.

 

It is that sooner than we think the fullness of the Godhead bodily will fully shine forth out of the Great God Jesus Christ giving us, rest, peace, joy and glory with Him in heaven. At the same time the Lord of glory will destroy all that is wicked in the lower heavens and on earth “with the spirit of his mouth and the brightness of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8).

 

This, the Apostle Paul calls the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the full appearing of Jesus Christ as Lord of all, first in heaven and then on earth at his Second Coming. Can we grasp by faith what it fully means?

 

May I suggest that 1 Tim. 6:14-16 sets out the astounding truth that when the Lord is fully manifest as God Almighty He will also, like God the Father Himself,  become unapproachable by man. Let us consider this amazing portion of scripture:

 

“That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

“Which in his times He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords;

 

“Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen”.

 

There is a lovely melody to the chorus: “In his time, in his time; He makes all things beautiful in his time.” But the real key is that the beauty spoken of is in the Lord Himself. And that beauty is his sovereignty. Only in “his time” - the time He sovereignly chooses - will He show Himself forth as the one and only Potentate (the sole Ruler of all), the King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

CLOTHED IN GOD’S

FULL MAJESTY

 

And when He does so appear, He, as the man Christ Jesus, will be clothed in the full majesty of God Almighty. Already He is the only man to have immortality - not just deathlessness but the glorious life that is his as God and will be ours when our dying, our mortality “is swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:4). Again He is the only man “dwelling in the light to which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see”.

 

On the face of it, of course, this would seem to be a contradiction: If Christ, though also God, be a man then how can He dwell in light that can neither be seen nor approached by man? It is to avoid this apparent contradiction that most commentators suggest that verses 15-16 refer to the Father and not to Christ. Yet both the literal Greek and the KJB translation clearly indicate it is the Lord Himself who is in view. To suggest that only God the Father has immortality and not his Son would be to make Christ less than God, a creature, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses do.

 

To say that only the Father has power to decide what time the Lord shall be unveiled as King of kings and Lord of lords and not Christ Himself is to deny the fullness of the Father’s exaltation of his Son, the man Christ Jesus.

 

As already outlined, God the Father has indeed highly exalted his Son giving Him a name above every name and making Him, as a man, God Almighty Himself (Phil. 2:9-11).  More than that God the Father has put the Lord Jesus Christ first before everything. He is the “firstborn of every creature” (Col.1:15). God says: “Ï will make Him my firstborn, higher than the than the kings of the earth (Ps. 89:27).

 

IMAGE OF THE

INVISIBLE GOD

 

In Col 1:15-19 we are told that:

 

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.

 

“Änd He is before all things and by Him all things consist. And He is the Head of the Body, the Church: Who is the Beginning, the firstborn from the dead: that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.”

 

Jesus Christ the Man has been made God Almighty so that, at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, that to Him first should all praise worship and confession be given, that to Him should all glory honour and power be given to the glory of God the Father. Therefore to take any honour from the Son, to dilute his full Deity by even an iota, is to dishonour the Father.

 

TWO PROBLEMS

SOLVED

 

However, there are two problems. Firstly, how can it be said, as 1 Tim. 6:16 asserts, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Potentate, when surely the Father is the ultimate authority and ruler?

 

I suggest that the answer is that that the Being of the triune God as a whole, that is the Godhead, is now vested in and living in the Man Christ Jesus bodily. “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2: 9). That being so it means Christ (with the Father and the Spirit) is the Potentate.

 

Ultimately, however, the Father’s supremacy over all will be fully acknowledged.  “For He must reign until, till He hath put his enemies under his feet … And when all things shall be subdued to Him, then shall the Son also be subject unto Him that put all things under Him” (1 Cor. 15:25, 28).

 

Secondly, there is the problem of the light. How can the man Christ Jesus be dwelling in light which no man can approach unto? And if He is, how can we ever approach Him? Thanks be to God, scripture makes clear there is a solution to the conundrum. As Col. 1:12 says we should be:

 

“Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated into the kingdom of his dear Son.”

 

The truth here is that we have already been made fit by the Father to dwell in light that is otherwise inaccessible to man. This is because we have been “translated” into the kingdom of his dear Son.  This amazing feat has occurred because we are already in Christ, baptised into Him, his death, burial and resurrection, by the Holy Spirit.

 

However, we are acceptable to God, admissible to the light He dwells in, only because we are “…the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal, 3:25-26).

 

‘HE WHICH IS

OF GOD’

 

Did you notice those two little words “of God”? Then here’s a clincher in the words of Jesus Himself that proves that both He, and we, are able, by faith and grace, to both see and dwell in the otherwise unapproachable light that surrounds God: Jn. 6:46:  “Not that any hath seen the Father, save he which is of God; he hath seen the Father.”

 

Nearly 2,000 years ago, when Jesus spoke those words during his earthly ministry, only He had seen God. Since then through his death, burial, ascension and exaltation the way has been opened for all those made one with Christ by the Holy Spirit to both see and live with Christ in the glorious light of his presence in the heavenlies above.

 

We can do so even now by faith in his grace. Hallelujah!

21

 

BORN AGAIN OF THE

GENTILE JESUS

Stand by for a stark statement: To be born again in this the dispensation of grace means to be born again of the Spirit of the Gentile (that is, the universal) Jesus.

 

This means that, today in the Age of Grace, you are not born of the Spirit of Messiah, the earthly Jesus, who is the subject of Prophecy, but you are born again of the Spirit of the Lord of all glory and grace from heaven, who is the person at the centre of the Mystery.

 

[Let me explain that: Prophecy comprises “…all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts3:21).  The Mystery, by contrast, comprises the revelation made unto the Apostle Paul, “…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” (Eph.3:5)].

 

Today, we are born again of the “Spirit of his Son” (Gal. 4:6). This Spirit, sent forth by the Father into our hearts, is the “quickening Spirit” of the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). It is the Spirit of the Son who fully obeyed the Father in living as a man on earth, then gave his life for us in dying.

 

As man, He has now been raised by the Father to the heights of glory and power. This is the very Spirit of Jesus Christ Himself, as He works to call out and save a special people from among the Gentiles. Thus this really is the Spirit of the Gentile Jesus.

 

But, one person asks, why make such a distinction? Surely being born again of the Spirit is the same now as it was when Jesus walked and ministered on earth to Israel?

 

Another maintains that, surely it is the same Holy Spirit, whether before the Cross or afterwards, the same today as when poured out on the day of Pentecost?

 

A third asserts that  the Spirit today is the same person who both brooded over the dark waters in Genesis 1 and is born again in the believer in the dispensation of grace (Eph. 3: 1-3) today? The short answer to all three questions, of course, is yes and no, as will be explained later.

 

ALWAYS THE SAME

HOLY SPIRIT?

 

In the ensuing argument this scripture is sure to be quoted: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), with the implication that, if Christ is always the same, then so must the Holy Spirit. And again, the answer is yes and no. Let us see why.

 

First, in the spirit of meekness (which comes from the Holy Spirit by the way), let us all acknowledge that we have much to learn, both individually and collectively. We must always be open to widen our understanding by studying all that scripture has to say on a subject. It is also vital to grasp the changes God makes in the way God, in three Persons, deals with men.

 

Thus we must appreciate that things differ from one dispensation to another. And we must make a distinction between the programme of Prophecy concerning Israel and the very different programme of Mystery concerning the Body of Christ. Both are programmes designed and

executed by God, of course, but one concerns God’s work on earth focussed through the nation Israel; the other God’s work among all men, but especially the Gentiles, and focussed on taking them to heaven.

 

Failure to observe such distinctions leads to utter confusion. So let us see if some “rightly divided” (2 Tim. 2:15) Bible truth can dispel misunderstanding on this important subject.

 

GOD’S CHANGING

MINISTRY

 

To begin with, God Himself does not change as a person. It is the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit in all dispensations and for all eternity. However, the way this wonderful God expresses Himself, his truth and his ministry in three Persons changes markedly in man’s history from the creation until now.

 

That said, it is clear, that the Holy Spirit Himself does not change as a But, we must ask, what essentially is his person and what is the one consistent function that identifies Him in every dispensation and through God’s different dealings with men?

 

That requires a twofold answer. First, then the Spirit is always holy, never in any way party to sin, untruth or compromise. He is the essence of holiness. That is his personality. Secondly, the Holy Spirit’s function is to always search the deep things of God and reveal them to spiritual men. Thus He takes of the things of the Christ and reveals them to believers just as the Lord in John 14:26 said He would.

 

Likewise Paul tells believers that in this the dispensation of

grace the Spirit takes of the deep things of God and reveals them to us. And what today are the deep things of God? They are “things that God hath prepared for them that love Him”, even the “hidden wisdom which God hath ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-10). In verses 9 and 10 we are told:

 

“ … Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

 

“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yea the deep things of God. “

 

THE DEEP THINGS

OF GOD

 

Surely one such “deep thing” is the revelation to us Gentiles, since Saul’s conversion, of the ministry of his risen, ascended, glorified Son. This truth was revealed first in the apostle Paul, then, as we too believe, it is revealed in each one of us.

 

And what is the deep thing most on God’s heart now in this dispensation of grace? Surely it is the revelation of Jesus Christ through the Mystery, something Christendom has largely contrived to leave out of both its preaching and practice.

 

In Eph. 1:9 Paul says that we who have been chosen in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world have been adopted, made accepted in the beloved, had made known unto us “the Mystery” (secret) of his will, his dearest and eternal purpose.

 

The Mystery, among other things, is that in time to come He will gather all things (in heaven and in earth) together in Christ. This of course is the ultimate uniting of the Body of Christ, the revelation of the fullness of Christ.

 

But back to the Spirit’s function. This changes from time to time in the Bible story because the Spirit is both witness to and executor of whatever purpose and programme God in his wisdom decides to implement at the time of his choosing. As such the Spirit exercises a ministry that changes in its expression according to each new and different purpose progressively revealed by God.

 

WHAT IT MEANS

 TO US TODAY

 

If we turn to Rom. 16:25, we are told that there is only one way God has chosen to “stablish” believers saved by grace. It is through:

 

“…my gospel (Paul’s gospel of grace) and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery”.

 

Arguably, for most of Christendom, this is the most un-preached verse in the Bible. Yet read the next verse and you find such preaching is unequivocally commanded by God the Father Himself. It is God’s absolute commandment Jesus Christ should be preached according to the revelation of the Mystery, yet a rebellious, professing church by and large ignores it.

 

And the price of such disobedience is widespread confusion, unbelief and doctrinal difference. Small wonder that in many Christian lives there is failure to apprehend and successfully live by the precious promises of God’s all sufficient grace.

 

Small wonder, too, that the overall impression given to the

world by organised Christianity, from Catholicism through supposedly Bible-based churches to Pentecostalism at the other extreme, is the same miserable story; that in short, Christianity doesn’t work.

 

Yet those who have put their trust in God’s word, rightly divided - and thus put to the test what He is saying now through Paul’s epistles - have found that not only does God mean exactly what He says; He also does exactly what He says. For example, they find He truly is:

 

“…able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

                                                                      

THE SPIRIT OF THE

GLORIFED JESUS

 

They also find that it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ glorified (according to the revelation of the Mystery) that has shone in their hearts. Now clearly, Christ glorified is quite different to Christ despised and not glorified, as He was in the days of humiliation and rejection by Israel during his earthly ministry. This is set out in the following scriptures:

 

John 1:11: “He came unto his own and his own received Him not”. Is. 53:3: “…we hid as it were our faces from Him; he was despised and we esteemed Him not.”

 

2 Cor. 4:6: For God … hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

 

2 Cor. 4:4: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of glorious gospel of Christ (or gospel of the glory of Christ), who is the image of God should shine unto them.”

 

The glory mentioned here is the glory which Jesus in John 17:4-5 asked the Father to give Him now that His work on earth was done. Note that it is the “glory which I had with thee before the world was”.

 

Paul is at pains in 2 Cor. 3:7-18 to show that the glory of the Spirit’s ministry now is quite different to that glory which faded away on Moses face at the giving of the law. It is the glory which Father and Son shared before the world began, which is why in scripture after scripture we are told that the Mystery was hid in God a time before the “beginning” of the world (Eph. 3:9). 

 

Only now is the glory which existed back then being revealed through the risen glorified Christ – the Gentile Jesus. This also explains why we were “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) and why the “revelation of the Mystery … was kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25).

 

Clearly then, this heavenly glory is not the same glory with which the Lord was briefly transformed on the Mount of Transfiguration in pre-glimpse of the triumph that will be his at the Second Coming when he returns to rule and reign on earth.

 

Rather it is the glory of Christ ruling and reigning in heaven as He does now at the right hand of the Father and as such is at the very heart of the mystery. It is also a very important part of the Spirit’s ministry to us today. This truth is set out for us in 2 Cor. 3:16-1.

 

THE VEIL

‘DONE AWAY’

 

Here we learn that the “veil” which blinds whenever the law of Moses is read is “untaken away” in the Old Testament, so Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who believe the law applies today, please take note.

 

Notice that the veil is only done away “in Christ” – that is through his death burial and resurrection in which He died for our sins, buried them and rose again for our justification (1 Cor. 15:1-4, Romans 4:25).

 

It follows then, that to have the “veil” done away in us we must first be “in Christ”, that is, baptised into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. And this of course is expressly the Spirit’s work; it is the Spirit that baptises into Christ, that is, into his death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4). The Spirit also makes us a member of the One Body, the Body of Christ, and makes us drink into “One Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). Who is that Spirit? According to Gal. 4:6 it is the Spirit of His Son that the Father hath sent into our hearts crying Abba Father.

 

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN

HIS GLORY MINISTRY

 

Back in 2 Cor. 3:17 we also learn that “…the Lord is that Spirit (i.e. the Spirit that does away with the veil) and that “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”

 

 So then, it is the Spirit of God’s Son Himself that today ministers to us the glories, blessings and grace that are “in Christ” as He sits beside the Father in the glory of the heavenlies. Further proof is supplied in these two verses:

 

2 Cor. 3:8: “How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?”

 

2 Cor. 3:18: “But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory … by the Spirit of the Lord.”

 

Now is that enough glory for you? Is it enough that the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is changing you from glory to glory into the very image of Himself? Surely it’s more than enough, surely it’s far more than we could ever deserve or expect.

 

Yet this glorification is indeed what the Spirit of Christ is doing in this, the dispensation of grace, putting us in Christ, revealing Christ in us, then changing us to be like Himself. What glory, what grace!

 

How wonderful to be born again by the ministration of the Spirit under grace. How very different – and far, far better – it is for us Gentiles who receive it, than was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Jews at Pentecost.

 

True, that gave the apostles power to witness and provided a temporary, short lasting instalment of new covenant obedience from the heart in those that received it. But it soon passed away, and is now on hold until the:

 

“...restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).

 

In its place has come, not the “baptism with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 1:5), but the far greater baptism by the Spirit into Christ (Rom. 6:3, 1 Cor. 12:13). Through the revelation of the Mystery has come the Spirit’s ministry to show forth in us the glory Christ has attained to in heaven (2 Cor. 3:8).

 

Yet this is but the start of the Spirit of the Lord’s ministry in revealing to us, and in and through us, the Lord of all glory and grace – the Gentile Jesus

 

This chapter began by talking about being born again of the

 

 

Spirit of the Gentile Jesus. Let us examine what the Bible says about that. An oft quoted verse is Titus 3:5-6:

 

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

 

Notice that this verse describes how we can be born again but “not by works of righteousness”. Since water baptism was a necessary “work” under the law, the “washing” mentioned here cannot mean being sprinkled or being dipped in the tank. Here all the regeneration necessary is done by the Spirit’s “ministration of righteousness” (2 Cor. 3: 8) and by being renewed in spirit by the Spirit of God’s Son.

 

But, I hear you insist, isn’t this the same Holy Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost? No, it is not. The next verse, Titus 3:6, states that God shed this regeneration and renewing of Spirit on us “abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour”.

 

“Regeneration”, of course, means to be “born again”. So it is by the Spirit of his Son that we are born again today. That is why in Gal.4:6 we learn that “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father”:

 

Now, just as the Holy Spirit’s ministry changes to reflect the ministry of the glorified Son in heaven, so does that of the Son Himself. This means that our Saviour today is not the Saviour Messiah who was trusted by only a few thousand Jews (out of three million when He came to earth to minister to Israel

 

Rather, He it is the Saviour who died was buried and rose again to much later be revealed and proclaimed by the

 apostle Paul as the “… Saviour of all men, especially those who believe” (1 Tim.4:10).  In other words, He is the Gentile Jesus.

22

 

MADE ONE WITH

THE GENTILE JESUS

 

By now it should be clear that if there’s one thing God is good at it is making things. He is a creator, fabricator and re-shaper by trade, and making things anew is his especial business.

 

As outlined previously, God the Father invested hugely in remaking His resurrected Son Jesus into a Saviour for all men - the Gentile Jesus. Now we shall see how God proposes to put this investment to use to produce a glorious return – in us.

 

You see, the divine refashioning process does not stop with Jesus Christ - far from it. We Gentile believers also become material to be worked and reworked by that heavenly company, the Divine Artificers, Father and Son and Co.

 

This chapter deals with the amazing changes both the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ work in us believers to conform each one of us to the image of Christ, to reshape us into the image of the Gentile Jesus. Through their work we each become a new creature, and living by a new life. We also find ourselves made part of a new home - two new homes in fact - one on earth and the other in heaven.

 

You might say the sky’s the limit when it comes to how far this incredible transformation can go. But that’s just not true. Since God is infinite and knows no end there can be no limitations in Him at all. So the sky is really just the beginning, not the end. In fact we have the highest place above the heavens for our home, the widest far flung reach of glory throughout the universe to explore and we have all of eternity to learn more of, and to be changed to be like, our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. But already, believe it or not, we are “complete in Him” (Col 2:10). 

 

THERE’S JUST

ONE SNAG

 

There’s just one snag to this quantum leap change into glory set before us. It is that deep down few of us really welcome the radical upheaval necessary to accomplish it. Most of us would prefer to be saved and go to heaven just the way we are, even if it is impossible to do so.

 

Like Pinnochio, the wooden puppet carved by the old carpenter Guiseppe, we are thrilled to be brought to new life in Christ but cry “ouch” when the wood chips fly as the master maker wields his chisel to reshape us for heaven.

 

Thankfully, there’s a simple answer to our dilemma. It is simply to give in and trust Him to do what’s He says He’s going to do, since He’s going to do it anyway. In other words, sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

At times it may have all the comfort of a tooth extraction or scraping by with the wheel rim overhanging a precipice. But there will also be times of sheer exhilaration as God takes the wheel, increases speed and brings about greater change and more satisfying experiences in Him than you ever thought possible.

 

Faith in his word is the key and that’s where we go now – to see just what God says in scripture about the whole process of making us fit to be with Him for ever.

 

First up in Rom. 6:18 and 22 we are twice told that we believers have been “made free from sin”. Strange then, isn’t it, that many Christians don’t feel free from sin? Rather sin is a cloak they carry, hoping that one day it will be lifted from their shoulders.

 

By contrast Christian, the hero of John Bunyan’s wonderful story “Pilgrim’s Progress”, found the burden of sin rolled from his shoulders the moment he looked at the cross and believed Christ had died for his sin.

 

Why then is our experience different? Could it be that we have failed to take notice of the statement in Rom. 6:17:

 

“…ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you. Being then made free from sin ye became the servants of righteousness.”

 

MADE FREE

FROM SIN

 

There is no doubt that God did, and does, make us free from sin but, note carefully, He does so only when we “obey from the heart” the doctrine delivered unto us.

 

The question must be asked: What was the doctrine delivered unto these Roman believers? Was it the “repent and be baptised for the remission of sins” message Peter proclaimed to his Jewish hearers at Pentecost in Acts 2:38?

 

Was it the gospel of the kingdom (of heaven on earth that is) preached to Israel first by John the Baptist, then the Messiah and his disciples before the chosen nation rejected and crucified Him?

 

No, it was through Paul’s “preaching of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18) that the Romans had believed. This was the teaching, brought only to and through the Apostle Paul, that Christ’s death on the cross - his burial and resurrection - completely saved from sin.

 

Not only that, but, by being made one with Christ - by being baptised by Holy Spirit into his death, burial and resurrection - believers are brought into resurrection life and made to sit in the heavenlies in and with Christ at the right hand of God (Rom. 6:3-4, 1 Cor. 12:13, Eph 12:5-6).

 

That is why Paul could say in Rom. 6:18, that “being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”

 

Obeying from the heart the gospel that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3), had truly set these Romans free from sin. Now, to keep themselves that way, Paul urges them not to let sin reign in their mortal body (vs 12) but to “yield yourselves unto God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:12-13).

 

NOT UNDER LAW

BUT UNDER GRACE

 

The key to doing this is found in Rom. 6:14: “For sin shall not have dominion over you for ye are not under the law but under grace.”

 

Only those who believe they are saved by grace alone, set free from sin by God by grace alone and kept from sinning by grace alone, make some headway in battling for control over sin. And, they do so by “obeying from the heart” the doctrine of grace and yielding themselves and their members unto God for his service.

 

Practically speaking, that means being about the business of God, studying the Bible, believing what you read and

 

letting it change your life. It means prayer, fellowshipping with like-minded believers and witnessing to the unsaved. In a word, it means seeking to please God our Saviour.

 

Thankfully, we have not only been “made free from sin” but also we have been “made to drink into one spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). Here the word “made” has a double meaning. Firstly, it is true, that we ourselves have been “made” or re-made, if you will; that is we have been re-created. We have been made “a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17) and in this new creature there is an inbuilt desire for and capacity to receive the Spirit of Christ.

 

DRINKING INTO

ONE SPIRIT

 

Indeed, we have been wonderfully and precisely made “to drink into one Spirit”. Without this special inner renewal, wrought by the Spirit Himself, we would have neither the desire, nor the ability, nor the capacity to “drink into one Spirit”. Just ask an unsaved man if he wants to drink deeply of the Spirit of God. He will tell he would far rather drink something else.

 

Secondly, we have been “made” to “drink into one Spirit” in the sense that we have been compelled to so drink. God has so re-arranged the desires of our heart that now we cannot be satisfied with anything other than the One Spirit, which is the Spirit of his Son.

 

As a recreated new creature in Christ, we naturally yearn for more of His Spirit, the One Spirit., Indeed, we feel uncomfortable, out of place, and definitely not “at home”, with any other spirit. What a contrast to our previous condition as unsaved sinners! Back then, as Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 13:1 we were:

 

                “…Gentiles carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.”

 

Yes, carried away by evil spirits to worship dumb idols that cannot speak, spirits so powerful we were unable to resist them.

 

What are the dumb idols, you ask? Well choose from the following: Carved sticks, shaped stones, sport and its temporary heroes, possessions, obsessions, the worship of wealth. Above all, of course, the big self package made up of “I, me, and me myself”.  Dumb idols, all of them, because they cannot speak to our deepest need – which is to hear God, to know Him, to find our place in Him and to hear Him speak.

 

TRUSTING IN THE

RIGHT SPIRIT

 

Evil spirits are powerful, keep billions from God and work overtime to entice the saved from continuing to trust in God. How good to know then than that God has “made” us to “drink into one Spirit”, the right Spirit, the Spirit of his Son, so that we will choke or dry up from thirst when we try to even sip another.

 

As a former charismatic Baptist and then Pentecostalist minister, I know just how seductive religious spirits can be.

 

Years ago I fell big time for the excited feelings produced by charismatic ecstatic worship. Soon I found myself always seeking for “a new high” through supposed “fillings” of the Holy Ghost or other supernatural experiences.

 

Like others I thought it was great to be “hooked on the Holy Ghost”. Just one problem, the spirit enticing me wasn’t the Holy Ghost. The very fact there was more than one of them proved that, although at the time I was too obsessed with what I thought I wanted to see that.

 

ONE FIX IS

NEVER ENOUGH

 

Actually, living and longing for a new outpouring, a deeper quick-fix infilling, a fresh touch from the Lord, is a sure sign of spiritual sickness. In reality it’s an addiction. Get hooked as deeply on the spirit of Pentecostalism as I was and, just like a junkie, you find one fix is never enough. It creates a raging thirst for more. Soon you find yourself praying, “Lord, I’m so dry. Fill me up. Gimme a tank full”. And because He loves you and wants you to known the truth, He won’t.

 

A sure sign such sensations are not produced by the Spirit of God, still less the One Spirit of 1 Cor. 12:13, is that the spiritual highs become less and less and, when they do occur, are less satisfying. Instead there is prolonged drought. Soon Bible study and prayer cease because  without the “anointing” there’s no power to witness. In the end many dried out, tongues-speaking fanatics simply give up and go back to the world.

 

Despite such dreadful results, Pentecostalism and charismatic experience have swept the world like a plague. Scratch any new church on the block and it’s almost certain to be Pentecostal.

 

Driven by Satanic spirits that tantalise with spiritual excitement but eventually leave worshippers dry as dust, such churches are a magnet for those seeking instant spiritual gratification.

Who needs painstaking Bible study, prayer for grace to walk in God’s ways, the quietness of meditation on his word, when you can have a sudden overwhelming spiritual feeling you are told is “God’s presence”?

 

 

A long time charismatic pastor, asked what he found most difficult in his ministry, answered: “The long dry periods when I don’t feel God at all.”

 

Before it gets that way for you, ask what spirit is leading you and where it is taking you. The Spirit of God will cause you to say and to know Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12:3). He will open the word of God to you. He will speak from its pages. He will lead you on to know the Lord as the Gentile Jesus – the Saviour specially made by God the Father to save and sanctify you and I as Gentiles.

 

FINDING YOUR ‘ALL

IN ALL’ IN HIM

 

He will cause you to rely on his, that is the Spirit’s, work in making you one with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, so that you find your all in all in Him. He would bring you to know “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25).

 

 He longs to “stablish” you by the gospel of the grace of God, Paul’s gospel (Rom. 16:25), and to make you to “see the fellowship of the mystery” (Eph. 3:9). But all this will only happen if you allow Him to lead into Bible truth and “believe from the heart” the form of doctrine delivered to you in its pages through the apostle Paul.

 

Real spiritual satisfaction lies in knowing and experiencing all the truths outlined in the paragraph above. We have

 

been “made to drink into One Spirit” so that we should be fully satisfied by and in Christ. Therefore we should always be rejoicing and fully satisfied at who He is in us and who we are in Him.

 

Importantly the “One Spirit”, is the Spirit of the God’s Son, the exalted Lord, the Gentile Jesus. Please note it is One Spirit, not two, three or four. Beware of any churches, or preachers who talk of different spirits. It is a required article of faith that the One Spirit is not divided. Thus Eph 4:4 says: There is one body and One Spirit”.

 

Thus far, we have seen that God has made us free from sin and made us to drink into One Spirit. Now we will see that Lord has also made us “one new man” and a temple for the habitation of the Spirit while here on earth. Going further, God, by placing us in Christ in the heavenlies has also made us “members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30).

 

MADE INTO

ONE NEW MAN

 

God has already solved the problem of differences between Jews and Gentiles in grace. That is made crystal clear in Eph. 2:14-16:

 

“For He is our peace who hath made both one and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us,

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, to make in Himself of twain one new man.

“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby”.

 

Yes, the Lord has made one new man of both Jew and Gentile. The great pity is that much Christian teaching and the Jews themselves have not. How sad it is to hear preachers proclaim that the church today is “spiritual Israel” when it is nothing of the sort. How wrong for Gentiles to steal the things scripture says belong to the Jews and the Jews alone.

 

Rom. 9:4 starkly says that to the Israelites “pertaineth the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the service of God and the promises.”

 

It is also true that tongues, prophecies, the spiritual gifts of 1 Cor. 12 and the “baptism with the Holy Ghost” of Acts 1:5 also belong to the Jews, being part of God’s programme of prophecy – the things spoken by the prophets since the world began – that is concerned with Israel and establishing the kingdom of heaven on earth through her as a chosen nation.

 

Of course with the fall of Israel (Rom.11:12) that programme has been put on hold along with the spiritual gifts, baptism with the Holy Spirit, covenants and much else associated with it.

 

SPIRITUAL GIFTS

PUT ON HOLD

 

Quite simply, spiritual power gifts, Pentecostal baptism with the Spirit, the law or covenants are not now, in this the dispensation of grace (Eph. 3:3), available for anybody, Jew or Gentile, to appropriate, since God has set them aside. So for Gentiles to try to recover such gifts to the Jews for themselves is little better than plain theft.

 

Worse still the widespread obsession to be Jewish and to have all things Jewish, comes at the expense of failing to grasp the wonderful things of grace and of the mystery. You can’t have both.

 

If we Gentiles will stop fixing to become Jews, when as Gentiles we can’t, then God has much blessing to pour out on us today. (And, by the way, the same blessings are also available for every individual Jew who believes).

 

Today God does not want Jews to be Jews or Gentiles to be Gentiles, for that matter, but both to become the one new man made by Christ. Not that we have a choice; the Lord has already made us one new man. To put it bluntly, we are either in the one new man, or out of God’s will altogether.

 

‘MADE NIGH’ BY

CHRIST’S BLOOD

 

Not only have we been made into one new man but also we have been “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

 

It is important to see that both these creative acts of God go together. We are only made nigh by the blood of Christ because the Lord has made us, both Jew and Gentile, into one new man and reconciled “us both unto God in one body by the cross”.

 

Furthermore we are only made nigh by the blood of Christ and made into one new man because the Lord Himself, the Gentile Jesus, has “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. (Eph. 2:15).

 

How do we buy into this truth that the Lord has done this in Himself, has made us into one new man by abolishing the enmity in his own flesh and that we are now part of Him, a new creature - one new man?

 

We do so by realising that we are not Jews nor should worship as Jews, much less borrow Jewish spiritual gifts or rituals. 

 

Nor are we to live as unsaved Gentiles but to be a new creature. That is we are part of the one new man and must believe and act as such.

 

These days the Lord isn’t into temples made by man. In fact He finished with them back in the gospels, telling the Jews their house was left to them “desolate” (Matt. 23:38). Then in AD70 He drove the point home, deploying a Roman army to destroy Jerusalem temple altogether, leaving “not one stone upon another”.

 

And if the Jews are not to have a temple made of stone, then neither should the Gentiles. That’s made clear in Acts 17:24 where Paul tells the Athenians unequivocally that the “Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” Perhaps that’s something that should be pondered by those who place such a high priority on building physical church buildings.

 

BUILT INTO

THE TEMPLE

 

Nevertheless God is still in the (temple) building business. On earth Jesus was a carpenter (general builder) and as the ascended glorified Lord today He continues the trade.

 

However, it’s spiritual temples, not physical structures, the Lord is building today. We read of two such temples in Eph. 2:19-22. The first (outlined in verses 19-21) is the overall “holy temple in the Lord” that today comprises the worldwide Body of Christ and to which both Jew and Gentile have equal, individual access.

 

The second (verse 22) is the church at Ephesus. While also part of the global spiritual temple this building is the specific local assembly. Eph. 2:22: “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”.

 

What is the key to this temple? It is in understanding, firstly, that it is the Lord that builds us into the temple, and not we ourselves. That is, He has chosen us, rather than we have chosen Him.

 

(Of course, there comes a time when persuaded of our sin and the prospect of richly deserved judgement we cry out for mercy and ask the Lord to save us. And, graciously He does so. But let us be clear; it is God’s prerogative to save whom He will. Rom. 9:18: “Therefore He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on whom He will have compassion.” And to “harden” those He chooses to harden.)

 

Secondly, we need to know that the Lord has already built us into His spiritual temple, the Body of Christ as it has pleased Him. It is not something we have to do or bring about. It is much better to let God build your life with Him and with those that love his word and look for his appearing than to pick and choose the church of your choice for other reasons.  

 

Thirdly, we must realise this is a joint body in which Jew and Gentile are saved together. Lastly, we must understand that we are built together only in Him, the Gentile Jesus.

 

DO YOU MIND

BEING RE-MADE?

 

As mentioned earlier, each believer has also been “made” a new creature. So may I ask: Is it is a problem to you to be made a new creature, or to be remade where deemed necessary by God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ?

 

If your answer is, yes, then perhaps some questions are in order. For example, you could ask yourself: Do I accept my Maker’s right to make and remake me as He sees fit? If not, then perhaps you should ask yourself: Am I really His? Does my life belong to Him, or myself?

 

I Cor. 6:19: “Ye are not your own …, ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit.”

 

2 Cor. 5:15: “He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him which died for them and rose again”.

 

We like to think we are the masters of our destiny and, certainly, we are responsible to work, care for our families, be honest and pay our bills. That means we must study or train for a career and work hard. The Apostle Paul insists we should not be “disorderly, working not at all, being busybodies”. 

 

Rather, he commands such idlers “that with quietness they work and eat their own bread” (2 Thess. 3:11-12). That said, however, our life, purpose and our goals are shaped by the Lord.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

 

DO WE HAVE

A CHOICE?

 

However, as to determining who and what we will be, to the truly saved there is really no choice in the matter. We must submit to God’s will and find our identity in the purpose for which He has already chosen us. Yes, God has chosen, called us, saved us, baptised us by the Spirit into Christ, and counted us righteous before Him.

 

To our way of thinking, these are all good things we need and we are grateful He has done them. However, it is a shock to some believers to learn that God does not stop there.

 

Just as He has “quickened us together with Christ … and raised us up and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 2:5-6), so He has also made each of us “a new creature” or new “thing”. (2 Cor. 5:17). That’s right, He’s already done it (and is doing it) without even pausing to say “By your leave”.  That is because God is sovereign, and it is as a sovereign God that He saves us.

 

But, I hear you protest, “I don’t want to be a thing, still less to be made one. And I object to being calling a thing.” Well, I dare say you do, but perhaps a bit of scripture will help to explain:

 

1 Cor. 1:26:”For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.

 

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

 

“And base things of the world and things which are not, to bring to nought the things which are”.

 

JUST ‘A THING’

FOR JESUS

 

Like it or not, in God’s sight, people are things and in Eph. 1:22 we read (God) “hath put all things under his (Christ’s) feet. What’s more the Bible repeatedly says that God has made “all things”. Prov. 16:4: "The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil”.

 

So then, perhaps it’s better to be a thing made by the Lord than nothing at all. In reality, that’s the only choice we

have. We are either things made by Him or we are nothing at all. Is: 40: 17: “All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity.”

 

Sorry about that but 0 plus 0 stills adds up to 0 at the end of the day. I can only be a something if I am made such by the Lord; otherwise I’m a nothing.

 

Rom. 9:20-21 spells out the attitude we should have towards the Lord’s work in our life: one of complete acceptance and trust in Him to always do what is right:

 

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?”

 

Of course, rebellion is so deeply embedded in sinful human nature that the very thought of submitting to God’s sovereignty is anathema to most people. But if we will “trust and obey”, as the hymn says, there is much blessing in submitting to the Lord’s word and will. For example, Rom. 28 teaches:

 

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to his purpose.”

 

TRADED IN FOR

A NEW MODEL

 

You see you can’t be saved unless you are called: and you can only be called according to God’s purpose, not your own. Insist on going your own rebellious way and strife, conflict and calamity will be your lot. Submit to God’s calling and purpose and He will make all things – and that means both you and other people – work together for good for you because you are now part and parcel of his purpose.

Part of His working all things for good is a complete remodelling of each believer. Again, it is not a matter of you or I choosing what will be changed or when. Phil.3:21 promises that the Lord “will change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself”.

 

That sounds as though our present body, tired and worn out as it probably is when we die, is traded in for a new, far model. And, indeed that is exactly what happens.

 

In the meantime, of course, God is already at work changing our spirit and soul into the Lord’s image and as chosen believers we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). We are on a train journey to join Jesus in the heavens and there will be no stops along the line nor will be allowed to step off until we arrive.

 

Even our TA (time of arrival) has already been determined and we are assured that by journey’s end we will have been completely changed. We are predestinated us to re-made in the image of his Son and this task will be unfailingly performed. If we object or rebel along the way, then we have to reckon with a sovereign God, who has “power to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).

 

A WORK IN

PROGRESS

 

Of course, you already know that God is both a creator and a maker of things. So, it should be no surprise then that God's first business is remaking, remodelling, reshaping and renewing us along with heaven and earth. Your real problem is that you mistakenly think the Lord requires your consent before picking up scalpel, saw and drill to go to work on you. He doesn’t. As your Maker He has the right to do as He sees fit.

For nearly all of us, however, it’s very much the case that God has not finished with us yet.

 

Nor has the Lord finished shaping some parts of the universe it seems. I was stunned once to see a close-up photograph of a satellite that orbits a remote moon in the solar system. 

 

AN UNFINISHED PIECE

OF CREATION

 

Simply two or three lumps of different coloured and stratified rock, it looked as though it had been pushed together by a child. Certainly, it is not mixed or moulded, still less shaped into a ball. This unfinished piece work has been left in outer space just to show that some heavenly bodies, like believers on earth, are still ä work in progress”.

 

Let us thank God that like the Apostle Paul we can be: “…confident of this very thing that He that hath begun a good work will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

 

The day he writes of is the day when our body will be changed to become like His, when we will be caught up to be with Him for ever in our heavenly home. Alleluia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23

 

THE FULNESS OF

HIS PRESENCE

 

To experience the fullness of the Lord’s presence in their lives is something many Christians desire. Sadly, however, many fail to achieve this goal because they seek the presence of the earthly Jesus, the Messiah sent to Israel, rather than the glorified heavenly Son of God, the Gentile Jesus.

 

It is commonly taught that Jesus today is experienced only through the presence of the Holy Spirit, and, it is true, that we have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell within in us. It is He that leads us on in knowing and following the Lord.

 

But, as explained in the chapter “Born again of the Spirit” it is actually only when God the Father sends “the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying “Abba Father”, that we experience the presence of Jesus Himself.

 

Actually, the Spirit of the Gentile Jesus has been sent into our hearts so that we might love and worship the Father, and that we might be drawn into a far deeper, permanent and ongoing experience of the presence of the Lord Himself. Most certainly, his Spirit has not come into our hearts to recover spiritual gifts and powers God set aside nearly 2,000 years ago.

 

A deeper experience of the Lord is achieved in two ways: Firstly by the forming of Christ within each individual believer; secondly, by the forming of believers into the collective Body of Christ on earth. And, it is only when both of these formations are complete that we can experience the fullness of his presence.

 

Sadly, rather than “doing the hard yards”, of continuing Bible study, prayer, fellowship  and practical realisation of the truths of grace in our lives - which is the true path to experiencing more of the Lord - many saved believers try to take a “short cut”. This they do by falling for Pentecostal and charismatic experiences in which excited emotions are said to be the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.

 

THE UNAVAILABLE

MESSIAH

 

Many people also believe they will experience “more of Jesus” if they are water baptised. Others try to recapture the presence of the Lord by seeking a repeat performance of the experiences people received in contact with Him as when He ministered as the earthly Messiah. It can safely be said that the bulk of Christianity seeks to recapitulate the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost and the subsequent associated experiences recorded in early Acts.

 

May I say that in doing so, I believe they make a serious mistake. Quite simply, Jesus, as the earthly Messiah, is not available today to do things He once did during his exclusive ministry to the nation Israel. Today He is only available, only accessible, only reaching forth to save, as the Lord of all glory and grace, the exalted Lord of heaven, the God-man I call the Gentile Jesus.

 

It is worth repeating the fact, set out elsewhere in this book, that today, in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God (Eph. 3:1-3), grace-saved believers are specifically told by the

 

Apostle Paul that we are not (repeat, not) to know Christ after the flesh. That is we are not to know to try to know the Lord in person as He was on earth prior to his death, resurrection and exaltation on high. Instead we are to know Him as He really is now, the glorified Christ who has reconciled us to God and who dwells in our hearts by faith.

 

To try to bring back the God-man Jesus as He once was, the rejected Messiah to Israel on earth, is an impossibility. The Lord has moved on. Today He is a different exalted being, ministering a new gospel from a different sphere (heaven not earth).

 

KNOWING THE LORD

AS HE IS NOW

 

To ignore the Lord of glory and pray to Him as once was, despised and rejected on earth, is a serious error. In fact it is to miss out on knowing the Lord as He really is and, consequently, on experiencing the truth of his presence.

 

Analogies are at best analogies, but suppose you wanted to really get to know the author of this book. How could you possibly know him as he once was long ago: young, unmarried, a truck driver and trainee journalist many years ago? 

 

In truth you could only come to know him as he now is, much older, married, a father of four, and retired from regular employment. And it would be better for you to meet him this way. He could advise you not to copy the many mistakes of his youth, for example, and just maybe over the years he has learned a thing or two of value.

 

In a similar way, you need to know Jesus as He now is, the Lord of glory who saves from heaven, not the rejected Messiah sent only to Jews, and not to Gentiles, nearly 2,000 years ago.

 

ANOTHER

SPIRIT

 

But let us suppose you persist in addressing the Jesus you find in the gospels and ignoring the Lord as He really is now in heaven. Let us presume that you wilfully ignore Paul’s instruction not to know Christ after the flesh. In such a case I would strongly urge you to beware lest you receive “another spirit”, as the Apostle warns you may in 2 Cor. 11:3-4:

 

“I fear…lest…your minds be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preach another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit which ye have not received, or another gospel which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”

 

And that, of course, is exactly what happened to the Corinthians. Instead of taking to heart the vital truths of the new creation in Christ spelled out by Paul in his letters to them, and thus learning to grow in grace, these carnal Christians opted for dubious spiritual experiences instead - experiences which led them into believing another gospel and receiving another Jesus.

 

Exactly the same mistake is being made in our time as countless millions of people sincerely wanting to trust Christ are told to pray for the baptism with the Holy Spirit and repeated “re-fillings” of the Spirit as the way to fellowship with Jesus.

 

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, to begin with the baptism with the Holy Spirit was a one-time event that occurred only to the “found” sheep of Israel. [Perhaps you

recall that Messiah Jesus was sent “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24)]. Once saved, of course, they became “found”. But as Gentiles we are not sheep of Israel, either lost or found. Therefore this baptism does apply to us. Rather, in pouring out this baptism, Jesus was prophetically fulfilling the Jewish feast of Pentecost and the only recipients were the “little flock” of Jews (see Luke 12:32) and those added to it under the preaching of Peter.

 

No Gentiles, other than proselytes (converts to Judaism), were present on the day of Pentecost, and, by the way, no church began there. Rather the “little flock” movement was added to and grew mightily. (If you don’t believe me, please check Acts chapter 2 for yourself. There is no mention of Gentiles; Peter addresses only Jews and the “whole house of Israel” and there is no record whatsoever of any church beginning at all.)

 

Importantly, the church of Jesus Christ into which we are now saved in this the age of grace began much later in mid-Acts with the arrest and saving of Saul and his commissioning as the apostle to the Gentiles. In this church we are saved by believing the gospel that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:4) not by repenting and being water baptised. And this truth came later through Paul; Peter knew nothing of it on the day of Pentecost, or he would have said so.

 

BAPTISED INTO

CHRIST

 

Today, instead of Christ (the Messiah) baptising repentant Jews with the Holy Ghost (see Acts 1:5 and 2:33), believers are being baptised by the Holy Spirit into the Spirit and Body of Christ, that is into the Gentile Jesus, who is our Saviour and Redeemer today. Thus 1 Cor. 12:13 tells us:

 

“For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been made to drink into one Spirit.”

 

You see, God has changed the dispensation from law to grace, from Prophecy to Mystery, from the Messiah to Israel to the Christ sent to the Gentiles (the Gentile Jesus), from 12 apostles to Israel to the one apostle to the Gentiles, Paul (Rom. 11:11).

 

God has moved on, bringing in a whole new way of reaching and saving people through the gospel of the grace of God and revelation of the Mystery. Failure to realise this condemns countless millions, who vaguely believe Jesus died for their sins but feel they need to repent be water baptised and be baptised with the Holy Spirit, to the futility of trying to make God repeat what He long ago ceased to do.

 

WATER BAPTISM

NOT REQUIRED

 

Paul preached a new gospel, the gospel of the grace of God, not the gospel of the kingdom as preached by Jesus and his disciples (Matt 10:7), nor the gospel to the Jews (the circumcision) preached by Peter in early Acts. That latter, of course, while witnessing to the resurrection of Messiah still offered the kingdom to Israel (see Acts 2:38 and 3:19) that before the cross had been proclaimed “at hand”.

 

The gospel of the grace of God does not require water baptism to be saved nor does it prescribe or command such baptism. Both of these provisions were given to Jews so that they could be made a part of Israel’s future resurrection into the kingdom in which Christ will reign on earth for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4).

 

Those saved by the gospel of the grace of God have a different destiny. They will reign with the glorified Christ in heaven. We are saved in a different way, too. Today we are saved “by grace through faith, and that not of your self; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

 

WORKS A BIG

NO-NO NOW

 

So all works are out, and that includes water baptism and anything supposedly done as a result of an alleged baptism with the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, prophecies, supposed gifts of healing - in short all things that are done by man. In grace “all things are of God” (2 Cor. 5:18) and are done by God through Jesus Christ - reconciling us for example (2 Cor. 5:19).

 

 So, only those things given and done by God through grace are valid today. And please note, boasting is excluded too. Sorry about that, but there’s no room today to proclaim what mighty things we have done for God, as some do. Rather we can talk only of what mighty things God has done for us.

 

To be blunt, if you believe you have been baptised with the Holy Ghost and believe that your church began on the day of Pentecost, you have been deceived. You have failed to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15) and, as a consequence, are blinded to the important truth of the Mystery God revealed through Paul especially for you. It is not the Spirit of God’s Son, the resurrected, anointed glorified Lord you have received, but “another spirit” (2 Cor. 11:4). It follows that you have also received “another gospel” and “another Jesus”.

 

Now the key to avoiding such deception is to first lay hold of the grace process by which God is ministering Jesus to believers today. We all want to experience more of the Lord but there is a right and wrong way to seek a closer experience of our Saviour.

 

The right way is through grace and that means through the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:2) and the Mystery (Eph. 3:3-4).

 

ONLY BY GRACE

THROUGH FAITH

 

For it is only by grace through faith that Christ, the Gentile Jesus as He is now, can be formed within each believer’s heart. And it is only by grace through faith that the presence of the Lord can be realised in a fellowship of believers – that blessed fellowship the Bible calls the Body of Christ.

 

At a personal level, the important key to this transformation, both individual and corporate, is the decision to live for Christ, not for oneself. Thus 2 Cor. 5:15 urges that they which live through Christ:

 

“...should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him which died for them and rose again.”

 

The Galatians had gone back to the law in a vain attempt to please Christ by what they could do, rather than fully believing in what He had for them (Gal. 5:4).

 

They were being “zealously affected” – i.e. emotionally excited – by the Judaisers, who were urging them to get circumcised and perhaps do other things, like keeping the Sabbath, to get a supposed “further blessing” from God.    Paul had to tell them they had totally lost the plot, dropped the ball, and “fallen from grace”. They had become babies. In Gal. 4:19 he wrote to them as:

“My little children of whom, I travail again in birth until Christ be formed in you”.

 

Now, travailing was a painful process for Paul. It involved praying and agonising in faith; it was like giving birth all over again. And it was not just the Galatians he had to do it for. It was for all of us who believe.

 

Thus, in the verse we now consider the apostle implies that his sufferings were not only for individual believers but also for the church as a whole, the body of Christ:

 

Col. 1:24: [I Paul]…now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.”

 

Yes, there is a suffering that Paul, and we who follow him as witnesses, must undergo. The purpose of such pain is that other saved believers might experience the wonder of Christ dwelling within. What’s more further affliction will occur when we try to see the same ideal realised in the fellowship of believers.

 

PAUL’S TRAVAIL

FOR BELIEIVERS

 

Note that in the case of individual believers it is the apostle that “travails” again, that “suffers for you”. Paul agonised to see Christ formed in each believer. In Acts 20 he describes how he far he went in ministry to see Christ formed in believers:

 

Verse 31: “Therefore watch and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears”.

 

Verse 27: “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God”.

 

Verse 20:”I kept back nothing that was profitable to you but have shewed and have taught publickly and from house to house.”

 

On top of that there were the persecutions Paul endured. Probably, the depth of suffering the apostle underwent to see Christ formed in the saved was greater than anybody else has undergone since. Be that as it may, we should also be prepared to suffer rejection opposition and persecution, if that is what it takes in our time to see believers become truly established in Christ.

 

Sadly, today most churches ministers and believers, far from suffering for the Body of Christ, are not even prepared to make a stand for Paul’s gospel “and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery”, which Rom. 16:25 teaches are the only two things that can “stablish” a believer. And why would they, when it is unpopular?

 

LET’S FOLLOW

THE CROWD

 

But surely, you say, the vast crowds flocking to the big churches to take part in rituals they do, hear messages about what the earthly Jesus does and undergo counterfeit experiences supposedly of the Holy Spirit, can’t all be wrong, can they?. Sorry, but right and truth are rarely in the majority. Wasn’t the vast majority of Israel wrong to have rejected their Messiah? And today isn’t the bulk of the church wrong in rejecting the revelation of grace and the mystery through Paul?

 

And isn’t it an insult both to the Son and his loving Father, to persist in trying to make Him re-enact his now long gone ministry on earth when He has presented Himself in a new role, as a Saviour fitted for the whole world, one able to take up residence in every believing heart, whether of Jew or Gentile; when in fact He has become the Gentile Jesus?

 

But, of course, it is much more acceptable and far more popular to preach a mixed message confusing the earthly Messiah to Israel with the Gentile Jesus, the heavenly Christ sent to the Gentiles than to properly stress the difference.  It is so much easier to muddle law with grace, and Prophecy with Mystery, than to “rightly divide” between the two.

 

THE HOPE

OF GLORY

 

To speak bluntly, such refusal to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is heresy, if not full blown apostasy.  At the very least, it’s a dreadful short selling of true Christianity. Because it is only when Paul’s unique gospel and the heart of the Mystery is preached as such, and believed, that Christ can be fully formed within a saved person. The following scriptures make this plain:

 

Col 1:26-27: “... the mystery, which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.”

 

Notice that the heart of the Mystery, the glory of its riches, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. In other words, it is the “Gentile Jesus”, not the spurned Jewish Messiah, who is manifested in the hearts of believers today. Thus Christ today is the risen, ascended, glorified Lord now specifically sent to be “Christ in you (Gentiles)”.

 

Importantly, this is the only Christ that is being formed within believers today. That is to say, Jesus is not being Messiah to anyone now. Nor, when He was on earth did He promise his followers that He would be personally formed within them. The bottom line is that the thought of Christ being formed within anyone was a mystery totally hid from all generations and ages until it was revealed to Paul years after Christ’s suffering on the cross, his resurrection and ascension to heaven.  So, how could anything Christ said or ministered to Israel before the cross, help Christ to be formed in anyone today?

 

STEPS TOWARDS

THE FULL GLORY

 

Of course, just knowing that Christ within is the glory of the Mystery does not bring it about in the heart of the believer. More is needed. Thankfully, the steps by which a believer may see this miracle take place in his or her heart are fully set out in Paul’s gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.  Thus we learn that:

 

God hath shined in our hearts 2 Cor. 4:6: “To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

 

We have received the adoption of sons: Gal. 4:6: “Because ye are sons God hath sent forth the spirit of His Son into your hearts crying Abba Father.”

 

We have been strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man: Eph. 3:17: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”

 

We now know that Christ has ascended up far above all heavens Eph. 4:10: “That He might fill all things”.

 

We know too that God gave [Christ] as head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:23) which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”

 

No wonder, Christ within is said to be the hope of glory. Fact is, it is glory now within, with the absolute promise of more glory to come. The mystery (in the Agatha Christie sense) is why believers so struggle against seeing Christ fully formed within. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to trade a feeble, blind, deaf sinful self for the all-knowing power and glory of the Holy One?

 

FORMING THE

BODY OF CHRIST

 

If travailing is necessary to see Christ formed within each believer, then, apparently, even more suffering is needed to see the body of Christ formed among believers collectively. Thus, as already noted, the apostle says in Col. 1:24 that he, Paul, as a minister of the gospel:

 

“…now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for the body’s sake which is the church”.

 

What does this imply? Clearly, that while Christ’s sufferings on the Cross paid for our sin and reconciled us unto God as individuals, something more is required, something left undone in the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection, that must be completed in order to see Christ formed as a unified, thinking, feeling, organic body of those living on earth who believe in Him. What’s more such a body must have local expression in each city or place where believers gather as the Body of Christ.

 

History amply records, however, that whenever believers are gathered locally as the body of Christ to fellowship

 

around the great truths of Pauline grace and the revelation of the mystery, trouble in form or other is sure to follow. Typically there are unnecessary arguments about doctrine, wars about words which divide and split the congregation. If not, there are power struggles and rival assemblies are set up.

 

Should these measures fail him then the devil resorts to other tricks. Accidents, business problems, illnesses trouble the saints; some succumb to temptations of the flesh, others battle addiction; some are lured into social action or politics. Still others are drawn to attend better organised, larger churches where there is “just enough of Jesus to keep you going” but not enough to rightly divide the word or to preach “Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16: 25) as the Father commanded (Rom. 16:26).

 

EMBROILED IN

CONFLICT

 

More than 1900 years ago Paul warned the Ephesians they would also be embroiled in such conflict. In Acts 20:29 he says:

 

“For I know this that, after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them”.

 

What is it these “wolves” said that was so effective? Why, just what is preached and practised by so many churches and so-called Christians today: in a nutshell it is do-it-yourself Christianity.

 

You see it is so much easier to “make things happen for the Lord”, than to simply receive his righteousness in place of your sin, and trust his grace to meet your every need. To make it “happen” we run soup kitchens, fix ourselves up with the aid of psychological self programmes, rely on our own ability or invoke the help of supposedly spiritually gifted ministers.

 

We’ll do anything, it seems, rather than simply pray to the Lord with our requests and trust Him for the answers.

 

THE DEADLY

‘DOING’ ISSUE

 

For over 1900 years a deadly war has been fought over this issue with Paul and Christ on one side, and human selfishness and organised religion on the other. At issue is who does what. Paul proclaims a “done” gospel. Man substitutes a “doing” gospel. So when it comes to forming the body of Christ this is the question: is Christ calling out from the Gentiles a people for Himself and forming them into the Body of Christ? Or is man in his puny strength but with the best of intentions trying to bring it about?

 

In Christendom the weight of numbers has long been on the side of the do-it-yourself camp, and the major denominations are locked in a let’s all get-it-together ecumenical quickstep.  Increasingly, other big churches are dancing to the same beat and joining up to sing from same hymn book - often literally.

 

Strangely, strict adherence to Pauline truth is never the criterion for getting together. In fact such a requirement never even makes it on to the ecumenical discussion agenda because it would be too divisive. So with the truth of God’s Word removed as an issue, the way is paved for  the joining of these huge denominations on the basis of truth all can agree on, whether it is found in the Bible or not.

 

It’s the same with church attendance. Ask a believer his or her criteria for choosing which church to attend and you can be sure it won’t be purity of doctrine or sticking to biblical truth. Usually it revolves around whether the kids find the Sunday school or youth group groovy, the pastor has glam appeal or whether the music is loud enough.

 

Scarcely ever do wannabe worshipers ask if Paul’s gospel is proclaimed or whether “Jesus Christ is preached according to the revelation of the mystery … according to the commandment of the everlasting God” (Rom. 16:25-26).  Rarely is serious Bible study in demand and, as for dispensationally “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), better you don’t mention it at all.

 

WHY SATAN HATES

GRACE SO MUCH

 

All this goes to show that clearly there are some things Satan hates more than others.

 

One is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) with its stress on preaching of the cross because that gets people truly saved.

 

A second is right division which means, in case you missed it earlier, distinguishing between the earthly Messiah and the later glorified resurrected Lord who comes to us as the Gentile Jesus. This is because truly understanding and believing that important difference ensures that Christ will indeed dwell within.

 

 A third is preaching and believing the mystery and its teaching of the mystical body of Christ, because when that is truly believed and obeyed from the heart the result is formation of the Body of Christ on earth.

 

The devil will do anything to stop the Gentile Jesus being formed as Christ in a believer’s heart today. That is why for centuries he worked overtime to keep the precious truth of the Bible from reaching ordinary people. Scripture was kept in Latin, soon an obscure language only the educated could understand. That is why he forbad public reading of the Bible in Catholic churches. That is why countless copies of the Bible in the native tongue of peoples were burned, sometimes along with the translators who had produced them.

 

As to the formation of the Body of Christ, surely it was to prevent this taking place that Satan drove the Roman Catholic Church to murder an estimated more than 40 million people during its more than 1,000-year murderous reign.

 

 These victims were condemned for no greater crime than seeking to know God either through the scriptures or through more simple heart worship than offered by the blasphemy of the mass, the futility of water baptism and the false forgiveness of sin confession to a priest.

 

SEVENFOLD KEY

TO UNITY

 

But why does Satan hate the Body of Christ so fiercely? Simply because were all truly saved believers to be truly united under the seven-fold doctrinal unity of faith set out in Eph. 4:3-6 this could result in a stronger presence of the Gentile Jesus on earth.  The saints would be so collectively infused with Christ, so "taught by Jesus” (Eph. 4:21), that grace would radiate to all they came in contact with, and thanks would redound to God.

 

Yes, all the fullness of Him, He in whom “dwells of all the

fullness of the godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9) waits to fill the body of Christ on earth with every spiritual blessing and grace that is in heaven (Eph 1:3).

 

Would that his Almighty power were released in such a dazzling display of holy splendour that myriads were saved. Then life on earth would be loosed from the grip of the world, the flesh and the devil.

 

Unified local expressions of the Body of Christ could display such love and grace one to another and to those outside that social problems, beyond solution by government or police, would melt like snow in spring. Truly it would be heaven on earth - if only there was true obedience to the faith among the called.  If only.

 

THE PURPOSE OF

HIS DEATH

 

Yet it was for this very purpose, the forming of the Body of Christ, that the Lord died, rose again and was glorified by the Father as Lord of all. Again, don’t take my word for it. Study the following scriptures:

 

Rom. 1:4-5: “…The Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead, by whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.”

 

2 Cor. 10:6: “And having in a readiness to avenge all disobedience when your obedience is complete.”

 

Eph. 3:8-9: “… grace given that I might preach among the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ. And to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God …”

 

Col 1:27-28: “…Christ in you the hope of glory, whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present very man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

 

Titus 2:11-13: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that denying unworldliness and ungodly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world,

 

“Looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

 

If all men were indeed to see the mystery, know Christ as Lord, experience the fullness of Him that filleth all in all then the Gentile Jesus would indeed appear on earth in the submitted, united lives of those who fully believe Him.

 

This world would be a much more blessed place. As it is, Satan’s power is already rolled back in the life of everyone who is truly saved by grace, and not only in them, but also in their families, friends and workmates as well. This is because:

 

Col. 1:12-13: “…the Father…hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light ... Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son”.

 

Arguably, the church of saints saved by grace came closer in Paul’s time to manifesting a worldwide Body of Christ than it has since then.

 

STILL TURNING

AWAY

 

Yet Paul faced the fiercest opposition possible from a devil determined to prevent this coming to pass. Beaten, whipped, even stoned, in the Gentile cities to which he preached he was then argued with, despised, disobeyed and rejected in several of the churches his preaching had raised.  With sadness he writes to Timothy in 1 Tim. 1:15:

 

“This thou knowest that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me, of whom are Phygellus and  Hermogenes”.

 

Today the bulk of the church has also “turned away” from Paul and in doing so has missed out on the glorious opportunity to become the vehicle to take God’s grace to all people on earth. Split into denominations, divided by doctrinal confusion, unsure which Bible to read or which gospel or apostle to follow, Christianity presents a disparate, splintered, unfaithful image to the world.

 

Doctrines of devils abound and the biggest Christian denominations are those most steeped in them.

 

How important then, that the handful of true believers who love the Lord’s ministry to Gentiles through Paul should heed the chosen apostle’s advice to Timothy and all those who stand for the revelation of the mystery in this dark hour:

 

“Thou therefore my son be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and the things thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit unto faithful men who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2).

 

For those that practise the obedience of the faith and rely on the Lord’s grace there is the sure and certain promise that “we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30).

 

As such we can never be lost either now or in the future. And, come what may, if we remain faithful we will be found more and more in Him, the Gentile Jesus.

 

 

24

 

THE GENTILE JESUS

IN ACTION

 

Some 450 years ago a brave man determined to face death rather than recant his faith in the power of Jesus to save him. In doing so he was handed a severe challenge by his friends: Could Jesus save him in the awful pain of being burnt at the stake? The outcome is an outstanding example of how the Lord Jesus Christ, the Gentile Jesus, has continued to act in the lives of his people to this day. 

                                                       

Thomas Haukes was one of six Englishmen condemned in February 1555 to be burnt at the stake. His “crime”: refusing to repent of decrying the mass for the blasphemous biscuit worship it is.

 

A reign of terror had been instigated by the Catholic Queen, “Bloody Mary”, against all who refused to become Catholics. Aided by Bishops Bonner and Gardner, she was determined to stamp out salvation by grace through faith in Christ’s death for sin on the basis of the word alone.

 

Thomas’s friends, terrified at the prospect of the sharp pain he would suffer, sought hard to persuade him to avoid such a death. However, he refused to recant. Finding him determined they asked him to show them, when in the midst of the flames, by a token of whether a man trusting in Christ could endure the flames or not.

 

This went to the question of the hour: Was Jesus really in the host, the wafer and wine, offered in the mass? Or was the Jesus of the martyrs, the Saviour who could only be known by believing the promises concerning Him in the Bible, really the true God?   If so, could He, the Jesus of Paul’s epistles, the Jesus of grace - the Gentile Jesus, if you will - show up and save his martyrs when the flames took hold? Could He take away their pain in the ordeal or supernaturally cause them to endure it?

 

To resolve this issue Thomas Haukes was asked to give them a sign and he agreed that, if the agony of the fire might be suffered, then he would lift up his hands toward heaven before he died.

 

BOUND TO

THE STAKE

 

Come the 10th of June, 1555, Thomas was led to the stake and mildly and patiently prepared himself for the fire. A strong chain was put around his waist binding him to the stake, but he spoke strongly to the great crowd around him. Thomas urged them to reject papism and personally put their faith in the Lord Jesus as Saviour. According to John Foxe, he then poured out his soul to God in prayer before the fire was kindled. Foxe’s account goes on:

 

“When he had long continued in it and his speech was taken away by the violence of the flame, his skin drawn together, and his fingers consumed by the fire, so that it was thought he had gone, suddenly, and contrary to all expectation, this good man, being mindful of his promise, reached up his hands burning in flames over his head to the living God and, with great rejoicings, as it seemed, struck or clapped them together three times. A great shout followed this wonderful circumstance and then this blessed martyr of Christ, sinking down in the fire, gave up his spirit, June 10, 1555.” [14]

 

John Foxe records of this violent period that often the Lord

filled his martyred saints with the joy of his presence to

sweeten the pains of death. One man sang in the flames and said he felt as comfortable as if he were in his own bed at home. But the Lord did more than ease the pain of his suffering saints He also punished those that afflicted them. The chief persecutors of martyrs for the truth in those dark times were struck down by God.

 

STRUCK DOWN

IN JUDGEMENT

 

One informer, responsible for sending several Protestant believers to their deaths, did so by repeatedly giving false evidence, saying, “May I rot before I die if this be not true.” Not long after God took him at his word; disease struck him down, and he became so putrid with rottenness within none would go near him.

 

The Bible says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Clearly, the verse is clearly talking of the Lord, the Gentile Jesus. As the Lord of glory, He can be anything but “gentle Jesus meek and mild” when dealing with his enemies. Verse 30 clearly states that vengeance belongs to the Lord and the He will recompense (repay).

 

Fact is, that while showing mercy on all who call on Him to save them, the Lord severely judges both those nations that reject Him, and the individuals who persecute his saints.

 

Thus, within six days of a prayer by a martyred saint, England saw the hateful Queen Mary die. Soon after her key instruments of terror Bishops Gardiner and Bonner were also struck down and died by the hand of God.

 

Here’s how it happened. John Corneford of Wortham with four others was sentenced to be burnt at the stake. These

 

brave martyrs were accused of teaching there was no “real presence” in wafer or wine and condemning as idolatry the Catholic practice of bowing to images.

 

When sentence was about to be read Corneford forestalled the proceedings by pronouncing an excommunication of his own, saying in the power of the Spirit of the Son:

 

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the most mighty God and the power of his Holy Spirit and the authority of his holy catholic and apostolic church we do hereby give into the hands of Satan to be destroyed the bodies of all those blasphemers and heretics that maintain any error against his most holy Word or do condemn his most holy Truth for heresy, to the maintenance of any false church or foreign religion, so that by this thy just judgment, O most mighty God, against thy adversaries, thy true religion may be known to the they great glory and our comfort and to the edifying of all our nation. Good Lord, so be it.” [15]

 

Yes, these martyrs knew a Jesus who could save them, comfort them and punish their enemies. And this is the Gentile Jesus that scripture teaches. Sadly today, many see Jesus sat merely passively beside the Father’s throne with the Holy Spirit doing all the work on earth in his place.

 

As a further consequence of this misunderstanding many believe they are the ones who must bring the kingdom of heaven to earth by claiming and proclaiming miracles. This though real healings are conspicuously absent from their meetings.

 

The truth is that God is still sovereign and that, as the Gentile Jesus, He does intervene in a myriad miraculous ways to preserve, defend and bless those who love Him. But those who would seek to copy Him and do miracles of

 

their own should note that the Lord never puts on a floor show just to thrill the crowd or fill the pockets of a preacher.

 

However, real deliverance by his Spirit is nothing less than the Lord clearly promised through Paul:

 

Rom. 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors.”

 

We like Paul can be confident that the Lord will be with us when we are up against it. As the Apostle says in 2 Tim. 18:

 

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom”.

 

However, while there is recognition that the Lord can and does do miracles, it is not widely understood that He does so as the Gentile Jesus, not the rejected Messiah who along with his great acts of kindness was rejected by Israel in the days of his earthly ministry. Let us see the difference:

 

IS JESUS STILL

PREACHING TODAY?

 

The Bible says that after setting Israel aside (see Rom. 11 and Acts 28) the Lord Jesus Himself went forth to actively call out and save for Himself a Gentile people. Here are some scriptural examples of the Gentile Jesus doing just that:

 

Eph. 2:17: “And (He) came and preached to you who were afar off and to them that were nigh.”

 

If these words mean what they say – and who is to say otherwise? – then after his death, burial, resurrection, ascension and glorification Christ Jesus the Lord personally came and personally preached peace both to the Gentiles and to such Jews as would believe Him.

 

But, I hear you say, surely He didn’t come Himself, rather He sent Paul? But here we have Paul himself saying – and God saying through him – that Christ Jesus Himself came and preached to “you who were afar off”.

 

True, Christ sent Paul to the Gentiles. He is on record as both saying and doing so, commissioning the apostle in Acts 26:17: “Delivering from the people (that is the Jews) and from the Gentiles unto whom I now send thee”. But that doesn’t mean that Christ did not accompany Paul on the journey.

 

WITH PAUL ALL

THE WAY    

 

To the contrary, all the evidence supports the conclusion that He did. Here is a sampling of such scriptural proof:

 

Acts 26:16 (Christ to Paul): “…a witness of those things, in the which I will appear unto thee.”

 

Here the Lord promises to personally appear to Paul in the very things He wants the apostle to be witness of to the Gentiles.

 

And in Acts 27:23 He does just that. The Lord appears with a promise of life to Paul on the tempest-tossed ship that is carrying him prisoner to Rome. Such is the fury of the storm all aboard despair of survival. But, encouraging the crew and passengers, Paul urges them to eat, vowing no man will die, and declaring: “For there stood by me this night the angel of God whose I am and whom I serve.”  Who was this angel? Why Christ Himself, surely, appearing to rescue Paul just as He had promised He would.

Is there certain proof it was Christ preaching through Paul and not just the apostle himself? Absolutely there is:

 

‘THE LORD STOOD

 BY ME’

 

At his trial before Roman emperor Nero, all men deserted Paul, but later he wrote to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:16-17):

 

“Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me that by me the preaching might be fully known and that all the Gentiles might hear.”

 

Further in 2 Cor. 13:3 Paul warns the Corinthians that if he visits them again he …

 

“…will not spare, since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you".

 

In other words, they will know it is the Lord Himself who speaks through Paul when they feel the power of the Lord’s personal rebuke directly impact. And it is not just through Paul’s spoken words that the Lord speaks. In 1 Cor. 14:37 the Lord Jesus speaking through the apostle lays down this test for anyone who claim to be spiritual, that is to have the authority to speak on God’s behalf:

 

“If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”

 

Earlier it was noted how Jesus Himself personally appeared in and through Paul as the apostle suffered beatings, a stoning and other abuse as he ministered among the Galatians. He was stoned to death and raised to life again and in his body bore “the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17.

 

Paul was himself a living picture of the Lord’s sufferings; so much so that he could say in Gal. 3:1 that before the very of the eyes of the Galatians “Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you.”

 

The Galatians so pitied Paul’s severe facial injuries, which had evidently affected his eyesight, that he records that if it had been possible “ye would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me” (Gal. 4:15).

 

In all this the Gentile Jesus was active in the lives and sufferings of his saints, showing them how his grace is truly all sufficient. This is the great lesson first learned by the apostle Paul. In 2 Cor. 12:7-10 he records how he three times asked the Lord to remove the “thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me”.

 

There is good reason to suppose Paul was left with severe facial and eye damage as a result of his stoning, a condition which remained deeply painful and troubling as time went on. It was a weakness the Galatians did not despise (Gal. 4:14) but that left Paul partially sighted.

 

ALL SUFFICIENT

GRACE

 

Thus he describes in Gal. 6:11 (so the Greek) with what large letters he writes to them in his own hand. Elsewhere, we learn it was Paul’s practice to sign off every letter with a few words in his own handwriting to prove it was truly from him.

 

Clearly after ministering in Galatia, it was necessary for him to use an amanuensis (dictation secretary, if you will) to write down the letters he dictated. This was necessary because of his seriously reduced sight.

 

The important point is that the Lord supplied the amanuensis (secretary, if you will) by his grace, as he

supplied all the apostle’s other needs. Thus Paul learned by practical experience everything necessary to complete his ministry.

 

And we need to learn to do the same. In 2 Cor. 9:8, where the context is talking of giving to the Lord’s work as “a cheerful giver”, God Himself invites us to sow bountifully by giving and promises He will reward us with ample provision for needs.

 

My wife and I have personally proved the truth of this verse on numerous occasions; in fact God makes his grace abound to us continually as we seek to serve Him. What baffles us is why so many believers seem determined to try and get by without it. The verse reads:

 

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

 

Often we hear Christians say: “It’s hard to trust God. As to giving I don’t have enough to give, otherwise I would. We’re really struggling.”

 

THE MULTIPLIER

OF YOUR SEED

 

The truth is that in giving and receiving grace you have to start somewhere.  Give of what you’ve got, if necessary give of what you feel you haven’t got, because in 2 Cor. 9:10 the Apostle Paul describes God as “He that ministereth seed to the sower”. He then goes on to pray that God will:

 

“…both minister bread for your food and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”

 

We live in a world where real hunger and complaints of not

having enough abound on every side. In New Zealand such complaints come largely from those refuse to shift for themselves and rely on having Nanny State provide for their needs. Our welfare system provides a Domestic Purposes Benefit for single girls who make having a baby a career option and a generous sickness benefit for any who plead sickness or mental or physical disability. If you undergo mental health treatment you get an extra state benefit on top for that.

 

In Third World countries like the Philippines it’s a different story. There is no welfare state, so begging money from others, particularly from family members working overseas and foreigners who come by, is a preferred option, even among believers.

 

ABOUNDING GRACE

TO MEET ALL NEED

 

Yet despite such efforts, real poverty abounds. So what is the answer? In a word: faith. Faith by saved believers that if they put serving the Lord first in their life, make his purpose theirs and themselves become givers, God will supply all their real needs.

 

Read 2 Cor. 9:8 again and note just how wonderful God’s promise is. It’s not just that He will make all grace abound to you; He will also ensure that you also always have all sufficiency in all things.

 

The only condition is that all this is done so that you can abound to every good work. Well, you’d have to be mad not to want to abound in good works with grace as good as that. Yet, sadly, many believers seem to prefer their problems to the solution of 2 Cor. 9-8.

 

25

 

LIVING IN THE TIMES

OF THE GENTILES

 

Walk into some churches and you really have to ask what the time is. Not what time of day, that is, but what the times are. This is because, contrary to popular Christian opinion, we are not living in the times of the restoration of Israel. Now is not the time for the kingdom of heaven to be stablished on earth. Today we are not living in the times of the Jews but in the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24).

 

This is important to understand, because unless you know what the time is on God’s clock you will live carelessly. It’s also vital to know the “times” God says you are living in. You never would live carelessly, you say. Love the Lord and want to obey Him, you say. Especially careful to obey the actual commands of Jesus, you know, the verses pickled out in red letters in my reference Bible, you say.

 

But my dear friend are you especially careful to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) and can you rightly “discern the times”? Eccl. 8:5 says that “a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment”.

 

Let’s face it, there would be chaos if we ignored the clock and set our own time. Imagine getting up at noon for breakfast and turning up for the day’s work at 2pm. Yet each year in New Zealand some people forget to advance their clocks for the start of daylight saving and arrive an hour early for church. And at winter’s onset they turn up an hour late for the service, having forgotten to adjust their clocks for the end of daylight saving. They do this despite prominent announcements on TV, radio and in the newspapers advising them to reset their clocks.

 

May I ask what time your clock is set to? Are you living in accord with the heavenly time table or following Old Nick’s Almanac, the devil’s time that the world and organised religion runs by.

 

True, the world does not have much time for God, but, you see, despite that, God has time for the world. Enough time to send his only begotten Son to walk among men, enough love so that when Christ died on the cross for our sins God was in Him “reconciling the world unto Himself not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). Since the Lord’s death and resurrection God has also had enough time for the world to ensure that Paul’s gospel of the grace of God is “preached to every creature under heaven” (Col.1: 23).

 

LIVING ON BORROWED

TIME

 

As individuals we are either living on borrowed time – that is time borrowed from God, because as sinners we are under sentence of death and that sentence may be executed at any time, or we are saved and living in and by God’s grace. And if we are living in grace – and we should be because this is the age of grace which began with the raising up of Paul and will continue until God rings down the curtain on the present dispensation – then we should know the times we are living in.

 

Trouble is we humans find it hard to tell the time on God’s clock. We always have.  Way back in the pre-flood days of Genesis 6 God had at least three clocks ticking away to tell a wicked world just when time would be up and judgment

would fall. One was the 120 years He marked off in Gen. 6:3 as a limit for the Holy Spirit to continue to strive with sinful man. God said it, the Holy Spirit recorded it and men should have taken notice. The second was the prophecy given to mankind in the name “Methuselah” given to the son of Enoch. Methuselah means “When he is dead it shall be sent”. And “it”, in this case, meant the deluge.

 

Methuselah lived 969 years to the day when the flood was poured out on the earth. Check that for yourself by noting that in Gen. 5:27 all the days of Methuselah were 969 years. Then separately add together the187 years Methuselah lived before begetting his son Lamech (Gen. 5:26), the 182 years Lamech lived before begetting Noah (Gen. 5:28) and the 600 years Noah lived before the flood came (Gen.7:6). The answer is 969. Now in the ante-deluvian world everybody knew everybody, and especially the big names of the patriarchs descended from Adam. Most of them, including Adam, were still around when God sounded the first warnings of the flood.

 

The third clock men were given to be warned of judgment to come was in the sky. Gen. 1:6-7 tells us God set the sun, moon and stars in the firmament of the heaven for signs and for seasons and days and years. This celestial calendar would have been of little use had it not forewarned of the flood. I for one believe it did. The zodiac and its symbols are derived from this great timepiece in the night sky and the symbol of Aquarius is that of a water carrier, ominously depicted with a pitcher of water ready to pour out.

 

Again, Pharisees in Jesus’s day should have known it was time for the Messiah to be manifest to Israel. All the signs

were there; a special star even showed up right on time to

 

denote his arrival. What’s more, in his ministry Israel’s Messiah and coming King, did the miracles and showed the gentleness and forgiveness to sinners the prophets had said He would. The very Spirit of God testified of the times of Messiah but they wouldn’t listen. They took no heed of the signs. So in Matt 16:3 Jesus has to tell them:

 

“O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky but cannot discern the signs of the times.”

 

Today we live in a sign-less dispensation, the dispensation of grace (Eph. 3:2). That means no great prophetic fulfillments; signs or wonders occur in our times - despite the vain efforts of would-be charismatic miracle workers to demonstrate otherwise. That’s not to say that God does not heal today; I for one know that He does, for I have been healed more than once. But it is to say that such blessings are private manifestations of his grace, love tokens He decides to give or withhold according to his sovereign will.

 

Such blessings of his grace and mercy are not for public display, nor should they be used to win converts. If the gospel of grace does not win converts then nothing else will, for their minds have been blinded by Satan. Nor in this dispensation are national or global events signs of the end though they have been taken as such in almost every generation.

 

TELLING THE

TIME TODAY

 

So, if there are no signs now, then how do we know what time it is on God’s clock? The answer, as with most questions, is to turn to the word of God, the Bible. In the most reliable version, the King James Bible, we find that God has marked off the clock into different times and dispensations. What’s more he has liberally scattered important marks marking off one time and dispensation from another.

Some of these distinguishing marks are the words “but now”, “from henceforth”, “now”, “times past”, “in ages to come” and so forth. Then there are the different “times”.

 

Would it surprise you to learn that today the Gentile Jesus Himself is the great time clock setter and time keeper? It shouldn’t; He’s also the Creator of all things and the one who up holds everything by the word of his power. And it is Jesus who, when on in earth in the days of his humiliation by Israel, that foretold in Luke 21:24:

 

“..Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

 

And when will these times of the Gentiles end? Luke 21:25 tells us it will be when:

 

“…there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars and upon the earth    distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring.”

 

In other words, they will end at the Lord’s second coming to earth, when He comes to reign as Israel’s king. Until then the times of the Gentiles will prevail and Jerusalem will be trodden down.

 

THE BARRED

GATEWAY

 

The most iconic picture of Jerusalem – the view of the city wall and the blocked up Golden Gate with the Al Aqsa mosque behind it – shows that Jesus meant exactly what He said. Blocked by the Moslem ruler Suleiman the Magnificent in the 12th century the barred gateway that leads into the Holy of Holies in the temple is a picture painted in stone clearly showing that the “times of Gentiles” are still in force.

 

“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive to all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

 

Of course, “the times of the Gentiles” could have ended when Jesus came the first time, had Israel accepted Him as their Messiah, had they repented of crucifying Him, had they even accepted the forgiveness offered in early Acts by the risen Lord for their crucifying Him. But they did not and, as Jesus had already predicted, the rebellious Jews “were led away captive into all nations” and the “times of the Gentiles” marched on.

 

They are still marching on today, but the sad truth is that they need never have begun at all. You see, the “times of the Gentiles” were not begun by Gentiles but by Israel. They began, in fact, as God’s angry judgment on Israel for the favoured nation’s persistent rebellion against Him. 

 

Gentiles might take pride in the fact that huge empires have held sway during “the times of the Gentiles” but the truth is they have only existed by default. Had God’s people Israel obeyed Him they would not have been taken into captivity in Old Testament times and the “times of the Gentiles” would not have begun.

 

And, had they received Jesus as their Messiah as their King during his earthly ministry, God would have called a halt to “the times of the Gentiles”. Had He done so, the Messiah would have set up his kingdom on earth and, through Israel, would have ruled the world. Gentiles then definitely would have been “the tail and not the head” (Deut. 28:13 and 44). But it was not to be.

 

Just when did the times of the Gentiles begin? Why, back at the end of the chosen people’s “kingdom age”, when God

sent both Israel and Judah consecutively into captivity. Judah was the last to fall with her Nebuchadnezzar-appointed king Zedekiah completing the long list of rulers who “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord”.

 

“…he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart from turning to the Lord God of Israel. Moreover all the chief priests and the people transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem.”

 

“And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because He had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.

 

“But they mocked the messengers of God and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:13-16).

 

God had had enough and in his wrath sent the king of the Chaldees to kill and destroy Jerusalem. Neither young, nor old, young man or maiden were spared, the temple was plundered of its golden treasures, then destroyed along with all the palaces. Those that escaped the sword were taken slaves to Babylon to serve for the 70 years God had specified through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah (2 Chron. 36:22).

 

The effect of the times of the Gentiles, now begun, is seen in verse 23, when stirred in his spirit by the Lord, Cyrus king of Persia proclaims:

 

“Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

 

Who is God blessing now? An unsaved Gentile king says in scripture that cannot be broken that God has given him all the kingdoms of the earth and even charged him with building God’s temple.

 

 What a comedown for Israel! Talk about being laid in the dust. The only place now found for the nation, which God would have made “the head”, is to grovel at the feet of Gentiles who should have been the “tail”. Note that it is the spirit of a heathen emperor that God stirs to build anew the temple, a Gentile not a Jew. It is to Cyrus the commission to build the temple is given, not to an Israelite.

 

From then on, all the way down to today, God’s Jewish people have been “trodden down of the Gentiles”, as Jesus Himself so aptly put it. Rebellions, such as that of the Maccabees, did not regain lost self rule for either Israel or Judah. Submission to Greeks was replaced by submission to Romans. Gentile domination so enraged the Jews, they hoped Jesus would indeed be their king to fight and throw off the Roman yoke. But, far from doing that, He urged them “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:21). And in Luke 21:24 He bluntly stated that “…Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”.

 

1948 THE TURNING

POINT?

 

Much has been made of the setting up of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948. Some see it as a fulfillment of the Lord’s parable of the fig tree in Matt. 24:32-33, saying that the Lord’s Second Coming must occur within a generation of this event’s occurrence. Well, more than 40 years (arguably a generation’s life span) has passed and still there has been no Second Coming. This causes some to wrongly think we are already in the Tribulation.

The important time line, however, is that of the “time of the Gentiles”. These times will indeed run until they are “fulfilled” and, as yet, there is no sign of Jerusalem being returned to Jewish control. Indeed, even though modern-day “Israel” seized Jerusalem in the Six-day War, it soon relinquished it. Today, the temple site is firmly under Moslem control with the Al-Aqsa mosque dominating the skyline and Jews relegated to a small praying area at the “Wailing Wall”. Nor dare “Israel”, or America or Britain for that matter, act to try to change the situation, for fear of igniting World War III. The Gentiles treading down Jerusalem today are Arab Muslims and, for “Israel”, that is probably the unkindest cut of all.

 

Only the Lord Himself can bring these times to an end and He will only do so at his Second Coming to earth as the Son of Man. Meanwhile, as the Gentile Jesus,  He is still today offering free forgiveness and pardon through his blood to every individual on the planet who will trust his death to pay for their sins, whether Jew or Gentile.

 

Yes, we are Gentiles living in the “times of the Gentiles” but that is no credit to us, nor can we claim any privilege because of it. It is entirely a situation of God’s ordaining. Nor does it give us Gentiles any right to look down on the Jews, who are still God’s chosen people and will be restored to favour by Him in time to come. Rather, we should thank God for his grace to save us all, both Jew and Gentile in the present dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:3).

 

A last point: The fact the “times of the Gentiles” continue today should in no way be seen to contradict the Bible’s clear teaching that the Mystery, the Rapture, and the gospel of the grace of God, are all part of the un-prophesied dealings of God. In the current dispensation of the grace of God, no prophecy is being fulfilled. Thus it will only be after this dispensation closes that the “times of the Gentiles” will be “fulfilled”, as Jesus prophesied.

26

 

THE GREAT

HINDERER

 

What is it that withholdeth and who is the great letter (or hinderer) of 2 Thess. 2:6-7?  Simple questions but disconcertingly among Bible students, scholars and commentators there are a myriad answers.

 

However, if we look carefully at all scripture has to say on this subject, I believe the Holy Spirit points to a clear, if hitherto largely ignored, answer. First, however, let’s look at the whole passage concerning the Day of Christ and see why it cannot come until there is first a falling away and the man of sin, the son of perdition, be revealed.

 

2 Thess. 2: 3-11: “Let no man deceive you by any means for that day shall not come, except there come a falling way first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.

 

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

 

Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I told you these things.

 

And now ye know what witholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

 

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he that letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

 

And then shall that Wicked be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power lies and lying wonders.

 

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not a love for the truth, that they might be saved.

 

And for this cause shall God send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”

 

Bible believers take the word of God literally, unless told by scripture to do otherwise and please note there is no such instruction here. Secondly, they rightly divide the word, recognising that here Paul is warning Thessalonian Gentiles saved by grace in the dispensation of grace (Eph. 3:1-4) against being troubled by end time events they will not be here to see, seeing they will have already been raptured to be with the Lord (2 Thess. 1:8 and 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

 

Already the apostle has been at pains in 1 Thess. 5:4 to teach these dear brethren that they will not be among those overtaken by destruction when the day of the Lord comes “as a thief in the night”. He cinches home his argument in verse 9, saying:

 

“God hath not appointed us (that is, grace age saved believers) unto wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

The only reason then, for his reinforcing this teaching in 2 Thess. 2 is that the Thessalonians were troubled by those trying to persuade them to jump out of the security of being saved by grace in this, the dispensation of grace, into the danger of anticipating too soon the tribulation and the Day of Lord in ages to come. In short they were saying the Day of the Lord had already come, just as many today falsely maintain we are living in a time when prophecies in the

Book of Revelation are being fulfilled. On the other hand others in Paul’s time were asserting “the resurrection is already past, overthrowing the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:18).

 

TIMING IS

EVERYTHING

 

Timing is everything in understanding the Bible. As New Zealanders say about rugby, it’s not just a matter of life and death; it’s more important than that. If you do not receive “a love of the truth”, and truth which has been rightly divided at that, then God will arrange for you to believe a lie (2 Thess. 2:11-12).

 

You see, loving God’s truth for its own sake is an acid test of whether you are a believer bound for heaven, or just a fellow traveller in Christian circles for what you can get out of it. If the latter, then your heart will be set on social acceptance, position, money a career or some other earthly thing. Certainly your catch cry won’t be “nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”.

 

If we continue to rightly divide the word of truth we will see that the whole teaching of 2 Thess. 2:3-11 is to Gentiles, not Messianic Jews. Thus it is not about future temples yet to be erected in Jerusalem, nor about the Second Coming of the Lord to earth to judge the earth and save Israel. It’s focus is on the church which is His Body, we as members of it, and the fact that God has appointed something to withhold the man of sin from being revealed and someone to let (that is, hinder) the mystery of iniquity from working its full quota of evil until every last chosen member has been saved and secured in the Body of Christ, which is God’s temple and church today.

 

In our present (not future, since we won’t be here) trouble let us take comfort from God’s sure promise in 2 Thess. 1:6-7 that God will recompense those that trouble us and that we shall be at rest with Paul when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven taking vengeance in flaming fire on them that obey not the gospel of Christ.

 

Again, timing is the key, as it often is in understanding difficult scripture passages. So just what is the right order of events that closes the dispensation of grace and brings in tribulation and the Day of the Lord?

 

I believe 2 Thess. 2:3 is often misunderstood. Many read into it something that isn’t there. Paul does not say that the falling away will be sudden, nor that that the man of sin will be revealed immediately after the falling away. Nor does he say the Day of the Lord will immediately follow these two events. Yet many set out a timetable of rapid, immediately successive occurrences for these events, ignoring the thrust of Paul’s message that the day of Christ is not at hand (i.e. about to come suddenly upon the Thessalonians).

 

APOSTASY THEN

AND NOW

 

So if not sudden, then ongoing and perhaps intensifying events must be in view. Among them are the working of the mystery of iniquity and the hidden opposing work and self exaltation of the yet-to-be-fully-revealed man of sin, who, I believe, is very active behind the scenes today, just as he was in Paul’s time.

 

Thankfully, there is also the ongoing, preventing, hindering work of that which withholdeth and he that letteth or hindereth (a meaning of let is to hinder; thus in tennis a ball that hits the net is “a let ball”). Both play a valuable role in preventing the working of the mystery of iniquity and of the man of sin reaching their climax in the full unveiling of the son of perdition.

 

One more thing should be said before unveiling the identity if he that hindereth. The respected dispensational pioneer authors Cornelius Stam and Charles Baker maintain that the “falling away” is the departure of the grace age saints in the rapture. The Greek word in question is apostasia, from which our word apostasy derives. I greatly respect their view. However, I find it hard to see how a “catching up” can be made a “falling away”. Yes, the root meaning of apostasia is “departure” but that begs the question of departure to or from what.

 

It is true, of course, that the grace dispensation does indeed end when the Body of Christ is caught up to be with the Lord in heaven. It is what leads up to that blessed event that is at issue.

 

FALLING AWAY

FROM THE FAITH

 

I tend therefore to concur with the widely-held view that falling away means falling away from the faith. Actually, in the Greek of Paul’s time apostasia meant political rebellion. And in 1 Tim: 4:1-3 the Spirit of Christ “speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith”.

 

Surely, that is being fulfilled in our day, particularly in the western world where they are departing from the faith by the million almost daily. And in 2 Tim. 3:13 Paul warns that this burgeoning apostasy would come, saying that among so-called “Christians”:

 

“…evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

 

How very real that is becoming now. You only have to read the headlines to find child abuse, fornication and adultery rife in the “church”. And the same is true of spiritual adultery.

 

Ministers refuse to “rightly divide the word of truth”. They adulterate the pure gospel of the grace of God with works-based gospel of the kingdom preached by the Lord to Israel and they confuse the suspended programme of prophecy with the mystery programme God is actually running with today.

 

In doing so they become seduced and deceived themselves, then in turn preach their confusion to believers who should know be taught to know better but sadly aren’t.

 

JUDAISM IS

THE FUEL

 

But, some argue, hasn’t there been opposition to the truth and apostasy right through from Paul’s day to ours? Sure has.  But just as the mystery of iniquity and the man of sin have been long at work, but are not yet fully revealed, so also there has long been a falling away, which has yet to reach its fullness. 

 

But just what is this mystery of iniquity and how does it work in the church which is his body? The answer, in a word, is Judaism with its vehement rejection of the apostle Paul and the truth revealed from heaven to him by Jesus Christ. Judaisers were the bitterest opponents of Paul’s ministry in the 1st century just as they implacably oppose the truth of grace today.

 

Of the revelation of the Wicked One, the respected Bible scholar Bengel writes:

 

”Judaism infecting Christianity is the fuel; the mystery of iniquity is the spark. It is one and the same impurity manifesting itself over many generations.” [16]

 

In terms of timing we must also take into account both God’s sovereignty and his long suffering. Since God is sovereign it is He, and not man - no matter how wicked man becomes - who will determine just when the day of grace ends and the day of judgement begins.

 

Similarly, it was God alone who chose the day and hour to close the door of the ark on Noah and the animals and cause the rain to fall. And it was God who after the stoning of Stephen sovereignly decided to set Israel aside and raise up the Apostle Paul to go to the Gentiles with the gospel of the grace of God.

 

WHEN INIQUITY’S

CUP IS FULL

 

To us the world’s growing evil and the church’s plunge into self-imposed darkness looks so bad we think the end must be nigh. But God in long suffering takes a longer view. The cup of iniquity has to be full, very full, before He acts in judgement. 

 

It was so in the case of the Flood. God warned man his wickedness would result in the Deluge. He gave his warning through the longest lived man the earth has ever seen. Methuselah, whose name means: “When he is dead it (i.e. the deluge) shall be sent”. His birth and the meaning of his name was the stuff of legend in his lifetime; so everybody knew that God’s judgement on sin, the flood, was coming. In fact Methuselah lived for 969 years (Gen. 5:27). Then the rain fell. Millions of human beings were born as Methuselah lived on for hundreds of years and mankind indulged in the grossest and deepest wickedness despite the warning. Toward the end God said the imagination of man’s heart “was only evil continually”. Yet, having said that, in mercy He still waited another 120 years for men to repent (Gen. 6:3), before unleashing the flood. 

 

So, is that relevant to our time? Well, it could be very soon. For all we know the dispensation of the grace of God could end tomorrow. Then those left behind by the rapture would find themselves in the “days of the Son of Man”.  And didn’t the Son of man Himself say: "But as the days of Noe were so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37).

 

THE TRIGGER OF

 JUDGEMENT

 

From all this we learn that the trigger unleashing God’s judgement is pulled when human iniquity reaches its fullness and God decides enough is enough.. Thus in Gen. 15:13-16 God tells Abram his seed (children) shall be “be a stranger in a land that is not theirs … and they shall afflict them four hundred years….But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”

 

But again, even when mankind’s iniquity is as full as full can be, God alone sovereignly decides when and how judgment will fall. Until then He waits in long suffering, showing mercy. In Ex. 34:6 we are told:

 

“The Lord God is merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth”. However, while He “keeps mercy for thousands, forgiving, iniquity and transgression and sin,” He will “by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the children’s children into the third and fourth generation.” 

 

Consider further the case of the Amorites. They were Canaanites and God told Abraham He would not send Israel to conquer and expel them out of the land until the cup of their evil was full. And that took time, some 400 years in fact. We should remember that once the Canaanites had sought to serve God.

 

Evidence of that is that the Canaanite King of Jerusalem was called Melchizedek – the King of Righteousness”. He, you remember, as priest of the Most High God, brought forth bread and wine unto Abraham upon his return from battle.

 

In Hebrews we learn that Jesus Christ has been made a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Evidently then, the Canaanites once worshipped the true God in some manner. But, of course, man’s besetting sin is apostasy and so over time there was “a falling away”.

 

BUT HOW FULL

IS FULL?

 

Finally judgement came in onslaught and death as Israel conquered Canaan. It is almost exactly the same end time scenario we face now. God is long suffering, but who can know when his patience will run out with a world and professing church so intent on rebelling against Him?

 

This Christ-rejecting world’s cup of iniquity is getting fuller day by day. But how full is full? Only God knows, but when for Him that cup finally overflows, then the last member making up the “fullness of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25) will have been saved, and this dispensation of grace will end.

 

 

 

27

 

THE RESTRAINER

UNVEILED

 

That said (and sorry for the diversion) let us ask again: Who is the one who will let, what is that which withholds?  First, let us understand that let and withhold translate the same Greek word katecho which means to restrain. Nevertheless in verse 6 it is what withholdeth, while in verse 7 it is he who letteth (or restrains).

 

Many are the suggestions as to who, or what, this restraint is. The most common suggestion is that it is the Holy Spirit who will be “taken out of the way” to remove his restraining influence. Yet this cannot be because the Holy Spirit was given to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgement” (John 16:8) and He will be still be here to do so in the tribulation and during the Day of the Lord.

 

Furthermore, there is no verse in the Bible that says the Lord having given Him will “take Him out of the way.”

 

Others seriously believe that in 2 Thess.2:7 Paul suggests the Roman Empire is a restrainer and Caesar a restrainer in particular. They therefore suggest the governments of today also exercise restraint for good. Well, hardly.

 

Wasn’t it Rome that beheaded Paul and crucified the Lord? And governments today, by giving in to the worst excesses of the people they govern, in fact encourage godlessness, Christ rejection, drug addiction, drunkenness, wanton promiscuous sex and promote the delusions of science falsely so called.

Besides, surely the withholder of 2 Thess. 2:6 must do his withholding in the church, since it is there in the “temple of God” (2 Thess. 2:4 compared with 1 Cor. 3:16) that the man of sin “opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or worshipped.”

 

In my view, this temple is not just a future temple of stone yet to be built in Jerusalem. Rather the “temple of God” Paul writes of, is the present church which is the Body of Christ, as the following verses teach:

 

“Know ye not ye are the temple of God …’ (1 Cor. 3:16), “the habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22), “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

 

THE ARCH ENEMY

AT WORK

 

Returning to our passage in 2nd.Thessalonians we find that in verse 3 Paul is talking of the man of sin being revealed as a future event. However, the present tense is in use throughout vs.4 where we are told of the man of sin, the son of perdition presently at work:

 

“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God”

 

Clearly this arch enemy was already at work in Paul’s time as indeed he is in ours. Today he is still showing himself off in the temple of God - which is both our individual body and the “church which is the Lord’s body” - trying to manifest himself as God.

 

Can I suggest we each must do battle with this enemy in our own heart where, as the great “Ï, me, myself and what I want”, he often takes the Lord’s place on the throne of our desires.

 

Similarly in the local Bible believing fellowship huge divisions and diversions take place simply because people determine to want this or believe that, regardless in many cases, of what the scriptures actually say and put these selfish desires ahead of the Lord’s will and purpose and the collective good of the Body of Christ.

 

IS THE CHURCH

THE RESTRAINER?

 

Yet others say it is the church itself which is the restrainer, Granted, this is nearer the truth. Yet it would be hard to argue that the professing church is withstanding evil in the world today. Rather it is condoning, even advocating it.

 

Is there an organised denomination standing fast in the mystery and the faith as taught by Paul? Personally I’m still looking for one, so if you find one, please, let me know. 

 

Again, wasn’t it the mainstream denominations in New Zealand, who fought to legalise homosexuality, refused to really battle abortion, were silent in the face of the anti-smacking law and who recognise Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and humanism as “other ways of grace and part of God working in the world”?

 

Even among Bible believers, disunity and disagreement are rife. Is the professing church restraining the mystery of iniquity? You must be joking. Nor can it be said the true Body of Christ, the dedicated grace believers, are winning out in the world battle for truth. Their numbers and influence are simply too small for that.

 

Strangely, no one suggests the Lord Jesus Christ Himself might be the restrainer yet this is undoubtedly even closer to the truth. Could it be then that the Gentile Jesus really is the restrainer of 2 Thess. 2:6-7? Well, in a manner of speaking, yes, but to see why, you have to understand how the Gentile Jesus has been manifesting Himself to believers for most of the last 2,000 years.

 

PAUL THE REAL

RESTRAINER

 

He has been doing so largely through one man, and one man only, the Apostle Paul.  All the truth and teaching that makes up “the faith” by which we Gentiles are saved and in which we must stand as called believers is that given personally by Jesus to Paul. It is written down in the thirteen epistles of Paul, making up more than a third of the New Testament. 

 

All the great men of God, teachers, evangelists and martyrs who have stood for the real truth of Christianity in the last 1950-odd years have been those taught by Jesus through Paul. And in case you think I’m making that up, please turn to Eph. 4:19-21 where Paul, talking of Gentiles who have become alienated from the life of God because of the darkness that is in them charges believers at Ephesus:

 

“But ye have not so learned Christ, if so be ye have heard Him and been taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus”.

 

How would the Ephesian believers hear Christ and be taught by Him? Answer: Only through Paul. As Dr Schofield, author of the Schofield Reference Bible notes, has said, the Lord’s doctrinal instructions for the Body of Christ are found only in the epistles of Paul. This is why in 1 Cor. 14:37 Paul lays down a challenge that nearly 2,000 years later is still the test of whether anybody claiming to be a prophet or spiritual is truly speaking for the Lord:

 

“Ïf any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”

 

JESUS SPEAKS

THROUGH PAUL

 

But there’s more. Not only are Paul’s writings wholly the commandments of Christ, the words he spoke are as well. When the apostle testified of the truth of Christ the words he spoke were backed by the power of the Spirit – it truly was Jesus speaking through him. The Corinthians well knew how powerful those words could be, even though they complained that Paul’s presence was weak and his manner of speech “contemptible” (2 Cor. 10:10).

 

That is why Paul in 2 Cor. 13:2-3 warned that if he had to come again to rebuke sin he “would not spare”, but hoped his letter would avoid the need for him to use “sharpness” when present (vs. 10). Such power came from Christ speaking directly through Paul. Thus the apostle wrote:

 

“… if I come again I will not spare, since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me which to you-ward is not weak but mighty in you.”

 

The truth is that throughout Paul’s ministry it was, and is, a case of Christ speaking through him. He explains in 1 Cor. 2:3:

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

 

Yes, the Gentile Jesus poured Himself into Paul to the point that the apostle could write:

 

 “Ït is not I that live, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20).

 

In Paul Gentiles saw Jesus. In hearing him they heard the Gentile Jesus. Today in Paul’s epistles we read a message straight from the Gentile Jesus Himself. Thankfully some recognise this. The Inter-Varsity Fellowship New Bible Dictionary, describing the triumph and defeat, persecution and preaching by  Paul in his Aegian ministry, says:

 

“The risen Christ used all these things to mould Paul into His image and to speak through Paul His word to the Church”. [17]

 

THE MERCILESS

ATTACK ON PAUL

 

Just as Jesus was hated by all but a handful of people in the nation Israel when He came to them as their Messiah, so similarly Paul in turn was attacked by both saved Jews and Gentiles.  Worst of all Judaisers (Jewish believers in Jesus as Messiah but dedicated to keeping the Law of Moses, who despised both grace and its salvation for Gentiles) mercilessly attacked Paul in almost every Gentile city he went to. Why? Because in all human reality Paul was a true walking, talking manifestation of the Gentile Jesus.

 

Even in Paul’s lifetime, the truth Jesus commissioned him to bring to the Gentiles (see Acts 26: 16-18) was being firmly rejected even by those Paul himself had won to the Lord. Sadly he writes to Timothy (2 Tim. 1:15):

 

“This thou knowest, that all they that are in Asia be turned away from me.”

 

“This thou knowest, that all they that are in Asia be turned away from me.”

Nearly 2,000 years have passed since then and today the situation is even worse. In chapter three the apostle warned:

 

“This know, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy

 

Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

 

For of this sort are they which creep into houses and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts. Ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

 

Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses so do these also resists the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.”

 

We live in the last days and now the rot has penetrated to the core. It comes as a shock to some to realise that in the above passage Paul is not just writing about the world – though certainly much of his description would apply to our society today – but is primarily describing the state of the professing church.

 

Thus, in verse eight Paul says such men “of corrupt minds” are “reprobate concerning the faith”.  That is, they do not pass the test of being in the faith, which is being certain that “Christ is in you” (2 Cor. 13:5). Vine[18] says reprobates become such by refusing "to have God in their knowledge”. In 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul says he keeps his body in subjection lest, when he has preached to others, he himself should become a “castaway”, or reprobate. Reprobates then are believers fallen from grace, who now have corrupt minds and deny the power of godliness. Jannes and Jambres, it is believed, were magicians of Pharoah’s court who confronted Moses. Today reprobates like them are energised by a spiritual power that often attracts huge numbers to their meetings. But their power is of Satan, not God. Their power and their message won’t get anybody into heaven.

 

Satan is the god of this present evil world and gives no quarter to the truth. By now the professing church has been so thoroughly infiltrated by the power of darkness it is all to all intents and purposes part of the world system. The question today then is: How and in what then can grace-saved believers “stand fast” as Paul urges them to do. The answer is found in the same verse that throws down the challenge in the first place, 2 Thess. 2:15:

 

“Therefore brethren stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught whether by our word or our epistle.”

 

“Traditions” get a bad press in many Christian circles, being identified with outdated religious practices and modes.  Who wants to go back to boring, purely Bible-based meetings without the razzamatazz of entertainment, “top of the pops” singing, false miracles, and exciting emotional experiences? Well, I do for one and here’s why:

 

Only in the “traditions” that came through Paul’s spoken words and writings can we find the truth God has for us today. Only by continuing to believe Paul’s gospel, fellowshipping with the apostle in his unfolding of the mystery and being strong in the grace he has brought to us from our Saviour Christ can we withstand the deceiving onslaught of the enemy. Religious, denominational, even small group or even personal traditions simply don’t cut it. What is in view here is a tradition straight from God and Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Vine writes of this verse that “tradition” is used of Christian doctrine, “where the Apostle’s use of the word constitutes a denial that what he preached originated with himself and (also constitutes) a claim for its divine authority.” [19]

Thus what Paul says, what Paul has written, is indeed Christ speaking in and through him to us. And as the Apostle urges Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:13, we should:

 

“Hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus”.

 

This is why Timothy was told to stay at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3) to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine”. This is why the Apostle tells us in 1 Tim. 1:16 that he was saved so that “Jesus Christ might shew forth all long suffering for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him (that is Christ) to life everlasting.”

 

Yes, Paul is the pattern. He is also the person that is the very pattern of how the Gentile Jesus saves today. Paul is also the dispenser of the dispensation of grace and “a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (1Tim. 2:7).   The fact is that God gave the great news of free grace and the truth of the mystery to Paul, and to Paul alone, to minister to us. Quite simply, without Paul there would be no saving gospel of grace today, no way for Gentiles to be saved or go to heaven, no hope of a rapture, no direct experience of the power or love of God in our hearts and lives.

 

Hopefully by now you are beginning to realise it is Paul himself who is the hinderer of 2 Thess. 2: 6-7. What is the withholder then? Why, surely the revelation of the mystery and grace doctrine the Lord Jesus gave him to give to us Gentiles. But, I hear you say, surely you mean the teaching, the new truth Paul brought, rather than the apostle himself is the hinderer, don’t you? No I don’t. I mean both. You

cannot accept the truth of Paul’s message without accepting him for the great sacrifice he made to bring it.

 

You cannot love the Gentile Jesus, without loving the man He poured Himself into to fully flesh out this new gospel and truth. Why the Lord even kept Paul in prison for several years, just so that he could write his epistles, the letters of love from Christ to you and I! No wonder that in scripture God Himself ordained, proclaimed and repeatedly endorsed the unique apostleship and ministry of Paul. Consider the following verses:

 

Eph. 3:1: “I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward. How that by revelation (i.e. personal appearance) He made known unto me the mystery, whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.”

 

Eph. 3:6-7: “…His promise by Christ in the gospel, whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, given unto me by the effectual working of his power. “.

 

Eph. 3:8-9: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints is this grace given that I might preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

 

Was Paul a boaster? No. His statements about how God called and chose him, gifted him, empowered him and gave him a unique ministry are no more and no less than required to satisfy any true seeker after God that Paul is the apostle for this age and that the gospel of salvation to the Gentiles has come through him and no other. You see, God foreknew the huge attack that would be made against Paul down most of the last 2,000 years and anticipated it by repeatedly pronouncing and magnifying in scripture the office He gave him. Notice, it is not Paul the man that is magnified but his office (Rom. 11:13). So when Paul “boasts”, he is not boasting of himself but of his sufferings, his office, of the power and importance of Jesus, the Gentile Jesus, working through him. In fact so wholly was Paul was given over to Christ working through him that he says he “dare not” speak of anything else. Thus he writes in Rom. 15:18:

 

“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentile obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”

 

Importantly, it was the resurrected Jesus Christ who lived in Paul, and Paul was crucified with Him. Thus the Apostle writes in Gal. 6:14:

 

“But God forbid that I should boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.”

 

We find more on Paul’s unique ministry and its importance to the saved in this dispensation in the following scriptures:

 

Rom. 15:15-16: “… as putting you in mind because of the grace that is given to me of God, 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.”

 

Gal 1:1: “Paul, an apostle (not of men, neither by man) but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.”

Col. 1:23: “… the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am made a minister.

 

Col. 1:25 “…for his body’s sake, which is the church, whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God which is given me, to fulfil the word of God".

 

Col. 129: “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working which worketh mightily in me.”

 

Clearly, if it were possible to accept the truth Christ personally revealed to Paul without accepting the office and person of Paul along with it then there would have been no need for God to have recorded the scriptures set out above. The truth is you cannot receive the message without receiving the messenger who brings it as well. But sinners, being rebels against God at heart, always try to do so. Jesus when on earth cried (Matt. 23:37): “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee.”

 

In verse 34 the Lord promised to send to rebellious Israel “…prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some ye them ye shall scourge in you synagogues and persecute them from city to city.”

 

Who was He speaking of? Stephen was stoned to death, Peter was beaten imprisoned and crucified and James was beheaded. Then there is Paul, scourged, persecuted from city to city, stoned, beaten and finally beheaded. In Paul’s case the prophecy is directly applicable because Paul witnessed to Israel and was persecuted by Jews throughout his Gentile ministry, even though it was through him that the Mystery programme was brought in, bringing prophecy to a temporary halt.

 

So bad was Jewish oppression against Paul one might almost think the Apostle found it a relief by contrast to be imprisoned in a Gentile jail, safe from their violence. Certainly no man, perhaps apart from the Lord Himself, suffered more.

 

28

 

PAUL THE REJECTED

APOSTLE

 

Though Paul is now in glory his suffering continues on earth. Today his writings, his truth are rejected and spurned. Not one major denomination or widely followed school of Christian thought bases its theology first and foremost on the teachings of Paul. Nearly all prefer to follow a humanly derived system of interpreting Biblical truth based on a humanly devised philosophical approach.

 

The Roman Catholic Church, for example, relies on the teachings of Augustine and the logical philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. The reformed church and other Calvinists look to Augustine and Calvin, himself a doctor of philosophy. Other movements base their theology on particular experiences or rites. Pentecostalists seek to recover the supernatural experiences of early Acts, and Baptists see things in terms of immersion and social service.

 

Dispensationalists, it seems, are alone in attempting to see Bible truth strictly through the lens of the revelation given by the Lord to Paul and according to the principles of right division. And even among dispensationalists there is still a tendency to seek to “harmonise” the whole biblical revelation instead of seeing it, as it is, a series of progressive revelations of truth God, punctuated by sharp changes in his dealings with men.

 

In all this the invariable mistake is to fail to realise that in raising up Paul and imparting to the Apostle the truth contained in his epistles, God was opening a new book and, temporarily at least, shutting an old one. So instead of “rightly dividing the word of truth”, as workmen in the word are commanded to do in 2 Tim. 2:15, an arbitrary human system of (mis)interpreting the word has been brought in to replace the divine injunction.

 

It is a biblical fact that through Paul the gospel of grace was “proclaimed to every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:23). Titus 2:11 confirms this saying: “The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”  Please note this huge oral dissemination of the gospel occurred before the Apostle’s death prior to AD 70. It was achieved despite a fierce onslaught against it by the Judaisers and in the face of strong opposition from Gentiles themselves.

 

POWER OF THE

SPOKEN WORD

 

Importantly, the world was told of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection, long before the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, or the book of Acts were written. Tens of thousands were converted without the benefit of these books or the epistles of Paul, for that matter, because, for the most part, he had yet to write them.

 

True there was the Old Testament in Hebrew, the Tenach, and the Septuagint, the Greek version of it. But in Paul’s world there were very few who had access to either. The inescapable truth is that untold thousands were saved and the world was impacted first by the words Paul spoke, rather than what he later wrote.

 

It is hard to overstate the importance of this understanding. The gospel that saves today is not found either in the four

gospels or the Old Testament. It is only found in Paul’s sayings as recorded in the Book of Acts and in his epistles. Any understanding of what God is doing and what He wants preached today must start with the sayings and writings of Paul and nowhere else.

 

That is the bedrock by which we are saved and on which we stand. As far as doctrine (that is, essential truth you must believe to be saved and go to heaven) is concerned all the rest, as the hymn writer put it, may well prove to be “sinking sand”.

 

The rest of the Bible is to be looked at only through the lens of the Pauline revelation because as the Apostle writes in 2 Cor. 5:17-18: “Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. And all things are of God who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ…” And “all things” means just that: “all things”.

 

WHY THE OLD

 TESTAMENT?

 

But I hear you ask: Why then has God given us a Bible with an Old Testament written largely about and to the nation Israel, why the Jewish epistles (Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, James, 1, 2, 3 John and Jude), why the Book of Revelation?

 

The answer is for our edification. All scripture is “for us” but not all scripture is “to us” or “about us”. Yes, we need to know what God has done and said in “time past”, and what He will do in the future. However, we must be saved by trusting in what God is saying and doing now. Eph. 2:11-13 sets out the difference. The grace believer’s correct attitude to the things of the Old Testament is to see them as either examples to follow or cautions to learn from.

 

As to the gospels, it is noteworthy Paul never refers to them in his writings, for the very good reason they had not been written yet. Such truth about the Lord’s birth, life, death and ministry the Apostle needed to know were revealed to him direct by the Lord Jesus Christ, such as his teaching on communion, for example. More than that was not needed for the gospel (of the grace of God) to be preached to every creature under heaven.

 

Of course, the gospels wonderfully tell us of the loving, merciful character of our Lord, provide important further detail about his rejection by Israel and His death, burial and resurrection. But the essential truth a believer needs to get saved today can be found in Paul’s epistles alone. Why then were the gospels written and added to the Bible, you ask? Answer: to give insight into the Lord’s loving character and to confute doubters and critics. Also to provide a textbook on the Lord's life and ministry to Israel when that nation is saved and restored in the age to come.

 

LEFT OVERS OR

A FRESH MEAL?

 

At the risk of labouring the point, neither the gospels nor the Old Testament are essential doctrine today for believers saved by grace and members of the Body of Christ. But Paul’s epistles are. So why, may I ask, does the vast majority of Christian preaching today, especially that we see on television, take its texts from either the Old Testament or the gospels?

 

The answer: Because much of what is preached today is but warmed over Judaism. Such messages are but heated up “leftovers” from the meals God set before Israel in the Old Testament and to which Jesus so pointedly invited the Jews of his day to “come and eat”. But because these invitations

were rejected the meals were taken away. Israel is set aside and individual Jews, like individual Gentiles, must now be saved by the grace gospel, if they are to be saved at all.

 

The reality is that there are now few God-ordained doctrinal leftovers from the Lord’s earthly ministry for us to feed on. Instead today the Lord is serving up a much more appetising banquet to all men, not just Jews, through the free grace message given to Paul.

 

You see, God has always been in the food business. He created the very plants and animals of this earth so we could eat them. He gives every creature its appropriate food “in due season”. But for nearly 2,000 years and still right now the soup de jour in God’s cookery book is grace. Thus Paul writes in Col. 4:6: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt”. 

 

THE RECIPE FOR

BIBLE GOO

 

Grace is the only meal God is serving up to believers now.  But look at what most churches and all but a small handful of preachers are feeding them instead. Any decent restaurant would be ashamed to serve it but there it is, listed on the religious specials board and many a church’s a la carte menu. It’s called "Bible Goulash", an insipid, gruel-like, unappetising, mixture of things that should never have been combined in the first place.

 

Suppose you do the following. Reserve your breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast, and marmalade, cereal or fruit, and place it uneaten in a food processor. Add lunch of curried fish or roast beef sandwiches and add a dinner of pork and vegetables followed by apple pie. Pour in all the teas,

 

coffee and other drinks, snacks and nibbles consumed during the day and blend, thoroughly.

 

Now pour the insipid goo that results on to plates and serve. Nobody in their right mind would eat it, not even the dog. Yet that is exactly what the professing church has served up as spiritual food to believers from Paul’s day until now. Talk about unappetising! No wonder, increasingly, the world doesn’t want to know about Christ. If his food looks and tastes that bad, who would?

 

Let me explain what I mean. In a sense the Bible really is God’s cookery book. In it He has set down at various times what we humans should and shouldn’t eat. Back in the Garden of Eden it was veggies and fruit only. Then after the flood meat was on the menu too.

 

PIGGY WAS OFF

THE MENU

 

When the nation Israel was separated unto God so was her food. Piggy was off the menu along with ostrich, rabbits and other animals which did not divide the hoof. Other things were in and from then on kosher food regulations were mandatory until God abolished them for believers in the Acts period. Peter, you remember, was told in a dream to rise, kill and eat … wait for it … unclean animals.

 

Now elders of the Jerusalem church officially removed kosher food restrictions for Gentile believers in Acts 15 and Paul officially proclaims for all believers now in 1 Tim. 4:4 that:

 

“Every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.”

 

Of course that should mean Bible reading and thanksgiving at every meal, at least for believers. But how can believers, or anybody else for that matter, give thanks for the spiritual food being served up in most churches? They’ve taken the “breakfast” of Old Testament doctrine, whisked it up it with the “lunch” of the teaching to the nation Israel both by the prophets and through Messiah Jesus, then blended both with the “supper” of Paul’s quite different revelation of saving grace to the Gentiles. Aaargh!

 

The main excuse for doing so, of course, is tradition - the tradition of the church fathers, the tradition of our church”, the tradition of the Catholic way, the Calvinist way, the “middle” Anglican way. Then there are the non-conformist, neo-evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal traditions, not to mention a swathe of mind-bending, spirit-warping cults also pushing their respective theological barrows.

 

POPULAR AS PORK

IN A SYNAGOGUE

 

Trouble is there’s a multiplicity of wrong traditions. That is why in today’s professing church Paul is still about as popular as a pork chop in a synagogue, if you’ll pardon the expression. The Roman Catholic church still officially pronounces anathema (damnation) on any who dare to believe Paul’s teaching that we are “saved by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).   

 

And, though many pay lip service to the truth that we are saved by grace and faith alone, their churches still have rituals and practices that belie it in practice.

 

A grace preacher once laboured long to convince a congregation of free grace, free justification through faith and Christ’s righteousness through faith in his death. But always the message was rejected because the hearers objected to Paul. The opening salvo was: “We don’t worship Paul, we worship Jesus.”  “As do I,” said the preacher.

 

The next was: “But we obey Jesus, not Paul - you know, Jesus’s commandments are the ones we should obey, those verses in red letters in the gospels”. “But you don’t obey them. When did you sell all that you have, give it all to the poor and obey the whole Law of Moses? Each of these is commandments of Jesus in the gospels,” the preacher countered.

 

Then it got more serious. “You say we are saved by grace through faith and not of works but Jesus set the example by being water baptised and we’re following Him. If Paul has a different gospel, that’s because Paul’s got it wrong,” the hearers argued.

 

ACCUSED OF

HERESY

 

In vain the preacher pointed out that in 1 Cor. 14:37 Paul states by the will of God that: “The things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord”.

 

The last straw was an accusation of heresy. The preacher was putting Paul above Jesus, his critics said, preaching a different gospel to that Jesus preached on earth when “as everybody knows, there is only one gospel in the Bible.”

 

“You must learn to see that it is the same God, the same Jesus and same gospel right through the Bible, brother,” an elder reproved.

 

“So you would reject all the scriptures that say the contrary?” responded the preacher. That said, he picked up a Bible, tore out Paul’s letters from Romans through to Philemon, and handed the mutilated copy to the elder.

 

“There now you’ve got a safe Bible brother, one that won’t upset your theology”, he said. “Of course, it won’t save anybody either but that won’t matter will it?”

 

A PAUL-LESS

BIBLE?

 

After centuries of abuse the vilification against Paul is now reaching a climax. A saved friend troubled by serious sin in his past once went to an Anglican priest for “confession”. When he told the cleric he was a Pauline grace believer, the priest’s response was: “I would have thought you’d already got into enough trouble in your life. Why do you invite more disaster by following him?”

 

Already it is largely a thing of the past to preach exegetically direct from Pauline scripture recognising it is the word of God to us and for us Gentiles today. Instead topical preaching from the Old Testament or the gospels is in fashion in many churches.  And, in new versions, the Bible itself has been altered and revamped. Contentious words and important gospel verses have been omitted to suit modern non-Pauline tastes.

 

Would it be a great surprise if in the not too distant future a Bible is produced that omits Paul’s writings entirely on the pretence of proclaiming the “only true gospel of Christ, is as found in the gospels and Old Testament,” as many are already asserting? Don’t be too quick to dismiss the thought as absurd. I can almost see it happening.

 

Certainly for centuries the Roman Catholic Church held it a sin worthy of death for anyone to read and believe the writings of Paul.  That is why they so brutally and bloodily withheld the Bible from ordinary people. To this day the Roman Catholic Church abhors the King James Bible and has been a major mover in bringing the flood of corrupt Bible versions to market in recent years.

 

And, who knows, one day, a politically correct, Paul-less Bible could be brought out in a bid to make Christianity more acceptable to those who oppose it? Certainly it would be acceptable to those who slanderously attack Paul as a chauvinist pig and the inventor of a new gospel.  Should such a Bible become as popular as the NIV (New International Version), for example, what better way could there be of taking out of the way “he who letteth (hindereth)” (2 Thess. 2:7)?

 

THE CHRISTIAN TIDE

IS GOING OUT

 

And it is not just that the lamp of Pauline truth is burning dimmer in our day; the tide is going out on Christianity in general. In the western world church attendance is not just dwindling; in some countries it has all but vanished. In Britain, for example, whereas 50 per cent of the population attended church a century ago, less than 5 per cent do so now. And, if the trend continues, it is estimated that less than 1 per cent of Britons will attend church by 2016. Even the Catholic Church struggles to find priests, except in the Third World where it is deemed a lucrative career option.

 

While church growth optimists quote exciting service attendance figures in African nations and other countries, a close look reveals a different picture. In the Third World church is often seen as the means to a hand out and when the money dries up all too often so does interest in the gospel. What’s more such growth is shallow, largely Pentecostal, big on emotional experiences and sets a high priority on encounters with spirits. Bible study, still less “rightly divided” Bible study, does not appear to be a priority.

 

The fact is that without the light of Paul’s gospel, his doctrinal teaching, the mystery and the unveiling of the new dispensation of grace, the professing church has sunk down, like Eutychus, into a dead, defunct Judaism. This acknowledges Jesus as the Jewish Messiah but knows little of Him as the Gentile Jesus who died for their sins and now sanctifies them.

 

LIGHT IN THE

DARKNESS

 

Sadly, the darkness has only grown deeper in the professing organised church as the centuries go by. Believers in the “word of his grace” were being shunned and persecuted in the 2nd century. By the 3rd century it was a spectacle sport for nominal professing “Christians” to watch them burnt or tortured to death in the arena.

 

For, when the Roman Caesars ceased persecuting Christians as a whole, the organised, professing Judaised church took over as the presiding inquisition. Thus the emerging Roman Catholic Church was quick to condemn the pure grace teachings of Paul as anathema and force many true Christians to pay with their lives for believing them.

 

Today the battle is no less bloody, no less fierce. At the hands of Muslims, Hindus and other pagans Christians still suffer and die daily. There is still deep-seated opposition by

much of the professing church to the clear cut presentation

of the truth that “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” (Eph. 2:8-9). As to the Mystery, well, when did you last hear a message preached on the subject, outside of grace bible believing assemblies?

 

The Mystery, along with most of the Apostle Paul’s doctrinal teaching, is ignored in the big pulpits of today. Thus the great Deceiver is busy deceiving, using his favourite and most effective weapon, that of studied indifference to the truth.

 

The hour is indeed dark but the good news is that the night is far spent. Let us hold on a little longer, shedding the light of God’s grace as best we can, seeking to make know the fellowship of the Mystery even to those who don’t want to know it. For soon, tomorrow or the day after for all we know, the Hinderer, the Apostle Paul and his teachings will be totally taken out of the way. And here is how I personally think it may happen:

 

Paul and his grace will be removed not so much by violence and persecution but by indifference and neglect at the very hands of those who claim to hold it dear. Judaised Christianity is on the move and many are marching with it.

 

Why hold to grace with all its cost, and the small handful who believe it, when there is a big, vibrant church down the road throbbing to the beat of racy music, preaching another Jesus, moved by another spirit and heeding another gospel. After all they’re still Christian aren’t they? They must be doing something right; look at the crowd they’re pulling?

 

As the British poet T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem The Hollow Men, “This is how the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” And, these days, for the “world”, just read “professing church”.

 

 

29

 

REMOVING PAUL FROM

THE PICTURE

 

If you doubt the awful effect of removing Paul from the picture, as Christendom has largely done, then a brief study of the Dark Ages should convince you of the necessity of keeping him in the loop.

 

Between 300AD and the 1950s the Roman Catholic Church murdered between 40 million and 60 million people whose only sin was not to believe that the Pope was the next thing to God on earth and that a wafer and cup of wine really became the actual flesh and blood of Christ. The Roman pontiffs blasphemously called themselves the “Vicar of Christ” on earth and allegedly were sometimes addressed as “Our Lord God the Pope”.

 

Like it or not, blasphemously adoring the “Host” has been, and still is, the supreme act of Roman worship. To deny that the “Host” should be worshipped was a sin worthy of death. So was studying the Bible for oneself, being convinced in one’s own heart of what it means as opposed to being told by the church what to believe, recognising Paul’s distinct ministry (as opposed to Peter’s) and believing the distinctive gospel of grace Paul taught and wrote.

 

Of course the rot had already taken hold in Paul’s lifetime. The Gentile churches he established turned against both his person and the doctrine he taught. At the end, on trial for his life, he sadly writes that “all men forsook me”. Later back in his prison cell awaiting execution he records that “only Luke is with me” (2 Tim. 4:16 and 11).

 

But worse was to come. Less than 40 years after Paul’s death by execution at Rome, rebellion against the Apostle of Grace was almost complete. Two generations after its birth the church which Paul established had all but vanished from sight. The organisation that emerged to call itself the Christian or Catholic Church seemed to have forgotten almost everything the Apostle taught. Evidence of this is found in The Didache, a first century handbook of then church order and practice.

 

GENTILES FIXING

 TO BE JEWS

                  

Entitled in Greek “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” it announces itself in the first line as “The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles”. Mentioned by early church father Eusebius, the Didache is a treatise, possibly a catechism, of practice in the post-Pauline Early Church. Its three main sections deal with commandments, rituals such as water baptism and the Eucharist, then prescribe church organisation.

 

So Jewish is the content the Didache’s first section entitled “The Two Ways”, is thought by some to have been taken from a Jewish tract of the same name. And while the writer warns “Christians” not to fast or pray with Jews, yet his exhortation to fast twice and pray three times weekly is exactly modeled on Jewish practice. Effectively ‘Christians” were being told to fix to become Jews.

 

The Catholic Encyclopaedia 1913 comments: “Beyond doubt we must look upon the writer as living at a time when Jewish influence was still very important in the church.” And that’s to put it mildly. Amazingly The Two Ways – one of life, the other death -  does not even mention Jesus much less the fact He died to pay for our sins but contains commandments against murder, adultery, corrupting boys (evidently that was a problem even then among clergy), sexual promiscuity, magic, theft, sorcery, abortion, infanticide, perjury, hypocrisy, perjury, greed, arrogance and much more. The stress is on detailed, dedicated obedience as the only path to righteousness. The following is a sample:

 

“See that no one causes you to err from this way of the Teaching since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able. And concerning food, bear what you are able but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly careful; for it is the service of dead gods.”

 

THE APOSTASY OF

IGNORING PAUL

 

The Didache’s second section consists of a primer on rituals. Fasting is prescribed for at least three days before water baptism which is conferred “in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost”, though there is no biblical example of any apostle using such a formula. “Christians” must not pray with Jews but must recite the so-called Lord’s Prayer three times daily. Didache prescribes set prayers for the “eucharist”, which are basically Jewish and which make no mention of the redemptive death of Christ.

 

 However, later scholars claimed the Didache’s prescription for the cup and the bread as an historical early model for the later Catholic mass. The book also lays down rules for judging itinerant apostles and prophets. If an apostle stays two days he should be received “as the Lord”; if he stays three he is deemed a charlatan.

 

Scholars largely agree that the Didache is the earliest extant Christian document apart from the scriptures. Sadly, many also wrongly contend the book is a genuine sample of the Paul and Barnabas’s teaching to Gentile believers. But that cannot be. There is no mention of faith, the gospel of the grace of God, the mystery, the Body of Christ, the rapture; indeed neither forgiveness nor salvation by grace seem to be on the Didache’s radar screen.

 

Mahlon H. Smith[20] thinks the handbook was written by a Hellenised Jewish believer in Jesus as Messiah in the late 1st century. I think the author could be more simply described as a “Judaiser”” – that is one obsessed with persuading Gentiles to believe in Jesus as Messiah and to prove themselves worthy to be saved by obeying Moses’ law. It is just such men who viciously persecuted Paul, dogging his steps throughout his ministry.

 

While it is commonly held to be a valuable insight into the “early Christian church”, I submit the Didache is actually a detailed picture of an apostate Jewish-Gentile church which has abandoned Paul and embraced the teachings of the Judaisers. This church had replaced the gospel of grace, faith in Christ’s death and righteousness by faith with ritual law obedience.

 

A WORKBOOK

OF JUDAISM

 

Granted, the Gentiles the Didache addresses may not have been circumcised but clearly in almost every other way they are following the practices of the Messianic Jewish church. In short, the Didache spells out how Gentiles should practice Judaism. Paul’s revelation of the Gentile Jesus has been eclipsed by Jewish legalism; indeed the very person of the Lord of all grace and glory – the Gentile

Jesus – has been replaced by a Jewish Jesus who, it seems, because He was wrongly slain and rejected by Israel, must now be appeased by strenuous obedience to the law of Moses.

 

DEAD AND DUSTY

RITUALS

 

Thus less than 40 years after Paul’s execution at Rome the light of grace has all but gone out. Yes, there exists a widespread, organised church calling itself Christian. However, like whited sepulchers it is full of dead men’s bones.  Judaism’s dead and dusty rituals of Judaism have been adapted for Gentiles, obliterating the message of Christ’s completed work of salvation.

 

It’s as though Paul had never existed, never proclaimed the dispensation of the grace of God, never taught complete forgiveness and justification through the blood of Christ. In fact “Jesus Christ” is mentioned by name only in prayers for the “eucharist”, which must be preceded by confession of sin. Only those baptised in water may take part.

 

BY WHAT

AUTHORITY?

 

Today Catholics claim the Didache’s formula for communion is an early form of their “mass”, saying the elements are offered as an actual sacrifice to God, not merely received as inefficacious emblems of the remembrance of Christ’s death. Catholics also claim the Didache’s prescription of penance and good works as necessary to save the soul, as a historic precedent for their current practices.

 

Didache instructs assemblies of believers to appoint bishops to rule them. The bishops decide what the doctrine is and their decision is absolute and binding - no appeal to scripture, no freedom to make up one’s own mind.  Scripture is not even mentioned, much less held as the ultimate “authority it is for all true believers. Which raises the question: By what authority are all this procedures and rules laid down for unquestioning obedience? The Didache’s answer is that its rules and procedures are the teaching of the 12 apostles to Gentiles. (Funny that, I thought the Bible teaches there is only one Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, see (Rom. 11:13)). 

 

According to Mahlon H. Smith[21], this claim of apostolic authority apparently gave the Didache wide influence in the Greek churches. Clement of Alexandria (2nd c. Ce.) and later Egyptian Christian writers cited portions of it as scripture. At a local level the book holds that authority rests with bishops, deacons and itinerant prophets and teachers.

 

THE PARTING

OF THE WAYS

 

Actually there is no rightful authority for the book or its claims at all. The “12 apostles” appointed by the earthly Jesus issued no such set of instructions as found in the Didache. Significantly, The Didache does not record the actual instructions the Jerusalem apostles really did send to Gentile converts. They, of course, are found in the Bible in Acts 15:19-29. They were simply:

 

“That ye abstain from meats offered to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; from which if ye keep yourselves ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”

 

“Farewell” means farewell. In Acts 15:29-30 the Jerusalem apostles say “goodbye” to the Gentile believers and finally

 

[1] Mahlon H. Smith, New Advent website.

dismiss them. From that time forward the Jerusalem church leaders effectively have nothing more to do with the Gentile believers, evidently commending them to “…our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:25).

 

This was more than just a temporary parting; it was permanent for the foreseeable future. The Jewish churches would remain Jewish and, as becomes clear later on, major on keeping the law (see Acts 21:20-22). The Gentile churches would go their own way under grace, with a different gospel, a different apostle, and rules the Jerusalem leaders cut down to four simple demands in place of the 613 commandments of the Law of Moses.

 

It was a strategic and doctrinal division between Jewish believers in Messiah on one hand and Gentile believers in Paul’s gospel grace on the other.

 

 This “parting of the ways” is further described in Gal. 2:1-10, where Paul gives us his account of the Jerusalem council and its crucial decision to set Gentile believers free from any necessity to obey Moses’ law – a decision that “seemed good to us and to the Holy Ghost”  (Acts 15:28). .  In Gal. 2:9 the Apostle writes:

 

“… when James, Cephas (Peter) and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen (Gentiles) and they unto the circumcision (Jews).”

 

Scripture makes clear that from Acts 15 onward the Jerusalem church of Messianic believers, headed by Peter, James and John, no longer exercised authority or jurisdiction over the Gentile believers, saved as they were by the very different gospel of grace preached by Paul.

 

There is no appeal to, nor edict from the Jerusalem church found in the remainder of Acts, or indeed in any of Paul’s epistles after Galatians. True, the Gentile churches did send a gift of money to help “the poor saints at Jerusalem” who by then were suffering famine. But the big break between the Jewish and Pauline Gentile churches took place at the Jerusalem conference. Paul writes that it was after seeing that:

 

“…the gospel of uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter” …

 

…that Barnabas and Paul shook hands with Peter James and John thus making a binding agreement that Barnabas and Paul should go to the Gentiles and that Peter, James, John and the other Jewish apostles should restrict their ministry to the Jews.

 

Some 50 years later it is simply a lie for the Didache writer to claim authority from the 12 apostles when the Holy Spirit had long before terminated their ministry to Gentiles.

 

A FALSE CLAIM

TO AUTHORITY

 

The Wikipaedia entry on the Didache suggests that the work’s original title was “The Teaching of the Apostles to the Gentiles” and speculates that those apostles were Paul and Barnabas. The writer comments:

 

“If the Didache is a sample of their teaching then it must be dated no later than AD 49 because that was when they (i.e. Paul and Barnabas) went their separate ways. The most probably date is AD 44 or 47. In either case those dates are earlier than anything in the New Testament.”

 

It would be hard to imagine getting anything more wrong. There is no evidence in the Didache to suggest anything of Paul and Barnabas’ teaching. Yet from chapter 13 onwards, Acts sets out the two apostles’ teaching. And the theme, core and crux of it, is grace. For example, in Acts 13:39 Paul proclaims the wonderful truth about the resurrected Christ that:

 

“And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses”. And in verse 43 we are told:

 

“…many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”

 

To talk of being justified from all things by Christ and continuing in grace (and by implication, by grace alone), is totally foreign to the spirit and content of Didache.

 

Not surprisingly, the book mentions neither Barnabas nor Paul and in doing so lays bare the crux of the authority issue. For scripture records Barnabas along with Timothy and Sosthenes as co-authors with Paul of three of his apostolic letters to churches.

 

But where in the Bible are the letters from the 12 apostles to the Gentiles? Answer: There are none, except, as mentioned earlier, the letter freeing Gentiles from the Mosaic Law and sent by James and the elders to the Gentiles churches, as described in Acts 15: 23-30.

 

Thankfully, men guided by God refused to give the Didache and other spurious works a place in the canon of our preserved Bible. However, to this day, the Didache is cited as justification for church tradition and practice, particularly by the Roman Catholic and other Episcopal churches. This despite the fact the work has no apostolic authority and, indeed, defies rightful apostolic authority.

We have already seen that, in Acts 15 and Gal.2 the Jerusalem apostles and elders rescinded any authority they have had, or thought they had, over Gentile believers. This was because they “perceived” (Gal.2:9) the grace that was given to Paul. Note well by the way, that grace (as a gospel, as a dispensation) was given to Paul but not to Barnabas though he was Paul’s fellow worker. Acts 12:23 tells us that when Barnabas, sent by the Jerusalem church, came to Antioch he only “saw” the grace of God; he was not the minister of it; at that time the Lord was.

 

Sure, Barnabas became Paul’s helper and fellow preacher, but in Gal 1:13 we learn that when Judaisers “from James” came and forced a separation in eating between Jew and Gentile in the Antioch church Barnabas “also was carried away with their dissimulation”.

 

THE STAND ALONE

APOSTLE

 

From then on Paul then stands alone as the God called and appointed single apostle to the Gentiles. Many scriptures can be cited to attest to this fact but suffice it to say that again and again in his letters, particularly in the opening verses, Paul says this is so. Thus in 1 Cor. 1:1 we read: “Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God.” In Gal 1:1: “Paul an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” And only Paul could say, as he does in Rom. 11:13:

 

“For Ï speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the Apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.”

 

The importance of Paul’s calling and commissioning by God Himself cannot be overstated.  Not only was he an

 

Apostle by the will of God the Father; he was personally saved, interviewed and commissioned as Apostle to the Gentiles by the risen, glorified Lord Jesus Christ, who made him “a minister and witness of things he then saw and of things to come” (Acts 26:16-18). I believe the Lord Himself gave Paul the new gospel of the grace of God and that God the Father unfolded to the Apostle the Mystery.

 

And it was God the Father Himself who commanded that from then on Jesus Christ should be preached “according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began”, but now revealed through Paul to be “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:25-26). And if Jesus Christ is to be preached according to the revelation of the mystery, which unveils Him as the Gentile Jesus, then surely He is no longer to be preached according to the understanding the 12 apostles had of Him as Israel’s Messiah.

 

WHY THE CHURCH

‘FORGOT’ PAUL

 

Fact is that, once Paul had been raised up and the Jerusalem apostles had validated his ministry to the Gentiles, the Jerusalem apostles no longer had any authority to minister to the world at large. They had voluntarily sworn to limit their ministry to the Jews, and in fact did just that. That left only one man – apart from the Gentile Jesus Himself, of course – who was authorised by God to teach doctrine and lay down church procedure. That man was – and still is - since the dispensation of the grace of God is still in force – the Apostle Paul.

 

Yet, stunningly, the Didache does not even mention the apostle’s name. There can be no doubt, of course, that the writer of Didache must have known of Paul and that the Gentile churches he writes to had been founded by Paul;

 

almost certainly he would have read some of the Apostle’s

epistles. He would have known that for most of the 1st century Paul’s letters were in fact the only anointed scriptures of God then available to tell Gentiles of the gospel of grace, Christ’s death for our sin and righteousness by faith. (This is because the four gospels, Acts, the Jewish epistles and Revelation were only written years after Paul’s death).

 

One thing only explains the Didache’s amazing silence about Paul and his ministry. It is that by the end of the 1st century Judaisers had obliterated from Christendom at large his name, teachings and done their best to bury the revelation of the grace of God as a separate dispensation.

 

It cannot be that the author of this book did not know about Paul and the wonder of salvation by grace but, clearly, he didn’t want to know about it, still less tell others about it. (Just like so many so-called Christians today, really.)

 

BACK TO THE DAY

OF PENTECOST

 

Shunning the written teachings of Paul in his epistles, the Didache’s compiler points church attenders back to the earthly ministry of Christ and to Judaism, that strange mixture of belief in Jesus as Messiah and obedience to the Moses' law. To do so, of course, he of necessity had to ignore, if not deny, any knowledge of all that God both said and did through the Apostle Paul. But, surely, you say, nobody would do such a thing today? With nineteen centuries gone by, surely today no-one would deliberately ignore the dispensation of grace and the unveiling of the mystery through Paul, would they? 

Well nobody but practically all the major denominations,

 

who believe the church began with Peter on the Day of  Pentecost. As a necessary consequence, therefore, these churches believe that almost anything that began exclusively with Paul can be safely ignored when it comes to teaching doctrine. Yes, Paul is preached but only when what he says can be found to “agree” with the earlier teachings of the Old Testament, Jesus the Messiah and his Jewish apostles. For the most part, of course, Pauline truth, being a separate revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ, does not easily fit in, and, consequently, is left out of the picture.

 

IS GOD SILENT

TODAY?

 

Custance correctly asserts that after the miracles done by Jesus in his earthly ministry, signs and wonders done by the apostles’ ceased by the end of the book of Acts. According to Custance the reason for this was that in response to Israel’s final rejection of her Messiah, God chose to be silent for the next 2,000 years. He writes:

 

“Slowly a divine silence settled over the world as God’s active covenant relationship with Israel was once more held in abeyance.  This silence … has already lasted for nearly two thousand years.”[22]

 

What, silence when grace was being loudly proclaimed to the whole world? Silence when the Apostle Paul was proclaiming, and through scripture still is proclaiming, the best good news mankind has ever heard in our entire sad history? Silence, when the completely finished work of Christ is being proclaimed and saved Gentile sinners have been “reconciled through the body of his flesh through death” and “presented holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight” (Col. 121-22)?

 

Interestingly, Custance cites as a test of whether God is silent or not, the absence or presence of divine miracles. These, he attests, were present during our Lord’s earthly ministry and were continued by the apostles before they died out by the end of the book of Acts. When they ceased it was because God was now silent, he avers. Today Custance sees in the supposed Pentecostal recovery of signs and wonders an indication that God may be “beginning to speak again”. He writes that “tongues”:

 

“…coupled with the increase in healings … may surely be taken as an evidence that signs and wonders are beginning once more to be displayed as public manifestations of the reality of God’s power and presence.”[23]

 

Sorry to disagree, but as a former Pentecostalist who, thanks to God, saw the error of his ways, I must protest. To be blunt such signs are not a sign of the Lord’s presence but rather that of the Devil’s (2 Thess. 2:9). Today we live in a sign-less dispensation in which we are called upon walk by faith and not by sight. As Paul said:

 

“For the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom but we preach Christ crucified.” (1 Cor. 1:22).

 

 A WRONG

 ASSUMPTION

 

To the easily persuaded tongues may sound impressive and “miracles” in which those prayed for fall to the floor or are supposedly healed may seem convincing, but these are things done “through the flesh” not through the Spirit of God, as is supposed. I know. I used to be one who did them. The fact is that genuine public healings and other miracles such as those done by the Apostles Peter and Paul ceased by the end of the Acts period. This is not to deny that God pours a daily stream of blessing on those that love Him and adore his grace. Such impartations of his love certainly

include health, financial provision, answers to prayer and other blessed surprises. Importantly, though they are never put on public display, never draw a crowd, are never done for money, and are not executed by man but solely by the Lord, the Gentile Jesus, Himself.

 

As an astute Bible student, Mr Custance knows very well that Israel was set aside after Stephen’s stoning. But he fails to see that through the Apostle Paul a new dispensation was brought in (Eph. 3:1-3) along with a new gospel, the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24), a new work of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), a different Jesus (the Gentile Jesus) and a new church, the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23).  And because he, like most of Christendom, begins the church of today at the Day of Pentecost, he expects a resumption of the signs that accompanied the outpouring of the Spirit then when God “breaks his silence again”.

 

NOT SAVED BY

SEEING MIRACLES

 

It is important to note the vast majority of Paul’s converts were not saved as a result of miracles, although such did occur to validate the Apostle’s ministry. Believers such as the Colossians and Thessalonians were not saved through miracles but through the preaching of the word as 1 Thess. 2:13 makes clear:

 

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe”.

 

It is tragic that for more than 2,000 years Christendom has striven to produce miracles matching those of Jesus and the

apostles and has dismally failed. Pentecostalists today insist that speaking in tongues, supposed prophecies and alleged healings are the order of the day but cannot produce one miracle such as the healing of a withered arm, making the paralysed to walk, still less raising the dead. Claiming to do so is a sad deception for all involved.

 

As to God’s supposed “silence”, in fact the Gentile Jesus through the Apostle Paul has sent his word of grace to the Gentiles so loudly for nearly 2,000 years through that even today only the spiritually deaf fail to hear it.

 

So, why would a saved 1st century Messianic Jew, such as the Didache’s author, so set his face against such good news? Why would he come to hate the very word grace and still more the name of Paul? Why would he turn back to the Law when the Apostle Peter himself had said that neither he, nor the other apostles, nor their forefathers, had been able to obey it and urged that Israel seek to be “saved by grace even as the Gentiles (Acts 15:11)? Answer: Because of racial prejudice and because the Devil drove him to do so.

 

AUTHORITY

TO BAPTISE

 

And why not?  If such fanatics for the law could hound Paul throughout his ministry and pollute and corrupt church after church that the Apostle founded, why would they not only forge false letters claiming to be from Paul (2 Thess. 2:1) but also produce a false book of doctrine, claiming it was the teaching of the 12, when it wasn’t?

 

It is no accident that water baptism is at the very core of the Didache’s false teaching, just as it at the heart of wrong doctrine throughout most of Christendom now, some 1900 odd years later.

 

Yet a careful student of the Bible would ask: Where is the rightly divided scriptural authority for anyone to water baptise a convert now? The short answer is that one is hard pressed to find one. Let us see why.

 

To begin with let us see the strong authority that existed for water baptism at the time when it was in order and ordained of God.

 

John 1:6: “There was a man sent of God, whose name was John.  The same came for a witness to bear witness of the Light.”

 

In John 1:33 John himself “bears record”, saying: “He that sent to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost.”

 

Mark 1:4:”John did baptise in the wilderness and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

 

So John the Baptist was sent by God Himself to water baptise repenting, sin-confessing Israelites to prepare them for the coming of the Lamb of God, their Messiah. Jesus, of course, was baptised of John and, subsequently, sent forth his own disciples and apostles to preach repentance and baptism for the remission of sins.

 

Luke 24:47: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

 

Mark 16:15-16: “…preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

 

Matt. 28:19: “Go ye (the eleven disciples) therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”

 

Clearly then the 11 apostles (later brought up to 12 by the addition of Matthias) were commissioned by God Himself, the risen, empowered Son of God, Jesus, to baptise. No wonder Peter in Acts 2:38 could confidently tell those seeking forgiveness from the sin of having murdered their Messiah to:

 

“Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

 

From the apostles the authority to baptise was next conferred on seven deacons (Acts 6:5-6), among them the martyr Stephen and also Philip, who in Acts 8 goes to Samaria and baptises believers there. However, the power to give the Holy Ghost” evidently remained with the apostles because not until they had personally laid hands on the new Samaritan believers did they receive the Spirit. In Acts 10:48 we see the authority still lay with the apostles, for here after the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first Gentile converts to the Lord, Peter “commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord”.

 

HOW GOD CLEANSED

THE GENTILES

 

It is important to see a change in God’s dealings with men occurs in the house of Cornelius at Caesarea, the Roman military base. Roman Gentiles, not Gentiles who are Jewish proselytes, are saved here for the first time in the New Testament. Earlier, of course, Peter was told in a vision that God had “cleansed” the Gentiles (Acts 10:15 and 11:9). Much later Peter learns from Paul that the Gentiles were cleansed by Jesus’s blood when He died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3).

 

Now in Acts 10:44 this cleansing is evidenced by the outpouring of the Spirit upon Cornelius and his fellow

Gentiles before they were water baptised, not afterwards. This of course raises the question: If God had already cleansed them and baptism was commanded for Jews for the remission of sins – i.e. to “wash sins away” as Ananias put it to Paul in Acts 22:16 – then why, in the case of Gentiles who had already been cleansed, was it necessary at all?

 

Perhaps, it wasn’t but Peter commanded it anyway, evidently authorising the six fellow Jews who accompanied him to Cornelius’ house to perform the ceremony. It is the last time in scripture that one of the 12 apostles of the earthly Jesus commands any Gentile in the matter of water baptism.

 

Among the Jews, however, scriptural evidence suggests that authority to baptise was further delegated by the apostles to disciples scattered abroad on Stephen’s persecution, because, in Acts 22:16, we find Ananias telling the newly saved Saul (soon to become Paul):

 

“Änd now, why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptised and wash away thy sins calling upon the name of the Lord.”

 

THE LORD’S HAND

WAS WITH THEM

 

Then, far out in Gentile territory an even greater change occurs. Acts 11:10 records that for the first time ever, at Antioch in Syria, Gentiles in large numbers “believed and turned to the Lord". This resulted from the witness of Jewish believers scattered abroad from Jerusalem and, we are told, the “hand of the Lord was with them”.

 

Now many Bible verses make clear that the “hand of God” is shorthand for God Himself at work, and without the need of human assistance at that. Note carefully that the only instruments needed to see hundreds, perhaps thousands, saved at Antioch are the witness of the scattered Jewish believers to Christ’s resurrection and the grace of the Lord Himself.  No apostolic commandment to repent and baptise was required or given. In fact nobody got baptised at all; nor are we told that anybody repented or confessed their sins.

 

Surely, if God had wanted sin confession and water baptism to continue, as salvation spread from the Jews to Gentiles, then here in Acts 11 was the place to say so. Instead God and scripture are eloquently silent. The acid question, of course, is how unclean Gentiles could be saved, dirty as they were, without either confessing their sin or being baptised to wash it away. Doubtless this was a key issue worrying elders of the Jerusalem church, which is why they sent Barnabas to find out just what was going on at Antioch.

 

WHAT BARNABAS

FOUND

 

And what did Barnabas find when he arrived?  Acts 11:23-24 records that:

 

“…when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad and exhorted them all that with purpose of the heart they would cleave to the Lord.

 

“For he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, and much people was added to the Lord.”

 

Contrary to the popular view, which sees water baptism as an integral part of early church practice and therefore still appropriate today, Barnabas at Antioch saw only grace and was glad. He saw no baptisms, no sin confessions but knew the Gentiles were truly saved and wondered therefore how

on earth they had received forgiveness of sin. The fact is, of course, they hadn’t received from earth at all but from the Lord of glory, the Gentile Jesus, in heaven.  This, he was brought to realise, could have come about only by the Lord’s grace. Therefore, in officially approving their conversion and urging them to cleave to the Lord, Barnabas, as representative of the Jerusalem church, was pronouncing to these Gentiles the official absolution for their sin.

 

Now, importantly, scripture describes him as being “a good man full of the Holy Ghost and of faith”? I dare say he was, but why did the Holy Spirit think it necessary for the scriptural record to say so?

 

I submit that the answer is, that whenever men and women, whether Jew or Gentile, are pronounced fully forgiven of their sins the pronouncer must be a man filled with the Holy Ghost and thus, at least at that time, sinless himself.

 

Check scripture out and you will find that in the New Testament no man who is not full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost ever gets to pronounce forgiveness or absolution of sins on God’s behalf.

 

POWER TO OFFICIALLY

REMIT SIN

 

 Today, as ordinary saints still striving to be filled with the Spirit, and thus still sinning in part, we can only forgive those who sin against us. Barnabas, by contrast, had power to officially remit sin on God’s behalf.  For us to understand why that is so, it is important to know more of who he was and what he did at Antioch.

 

In Acts 4:36 Joses, a Levite (a priest) from Cyprus sells his

 

land and lays the price of it at the feet of the apostles in Jerusalem. At this time, both he and they are still under the law. Joses makes such an impression the apostles rename him Barnabas, “son of consolation”. Then, when the Jerusalem church learns Gentiles are being saved “en masse” at Antioch, Barnabas is chosen as the apostles’ official representative to find out what is going on.

 

Surprisingly, on his arrival, Barnabas doesn’t ask whether the Gentiles have repented, confessed or have been water baptised in order to ensure their proper conversion. Surely, after being baptised himself and seeing thousands of other Jews baptised at Jerusalem upon confession of sin, you would expect him to require the same to be done at Antioch?  But there is no record of sin confession or water baptism at Antioch, and no question by Barnabas as to why not. Is this because Barnabas had come to know that Gentiles could be saved by grace without fulfilling the law’s demands? If so, how did he know?  Perhaps he had learned from Peter’s vision in which God taught that apostle that the Gentiles were already “cleansed” (Acts 11:9).

 

SEEING GRACE

‘AT WORK’

 

But how did Barnabas recognise grace when he saw it? The answer is that he had seen it already in the salvation of Saul. Acts 9:27-28 says that it was Barnabas who took the newly saved Saul, who was already vehemently preaching Christ (as Messiah), and brought him to the apostles and “declared how Saul had “seen the Lord in the way…”

 

Clearly Saul must have told Barnabas how the Lord had saved him on the Damascus road and had commissioned him as apostle to the Gentiles without his having to repent, confess his sin or be water baptised. You see, that is how

Saul got saved by grace, the first sinner in human history to do so. In 1 Tim. 12-14 Paul explains how, although “a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious … Christ Jesus … counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry”. But just how was this accomplished? Paul explains that it was by:

 

“…the grace of our Lord, (which) was exceeding abundant with faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus”.

 

It’s important to note that Saul got baptised after being saved, not before. Thus repentance, sin confession and water baptism contributed nothing to his conversion or salvation – he had already been saved by grace!

 

And so, that’s how Barnabas knew grace when he saw it again at Antioch. He concluded that as grace had saved Saul; so now it was saving Gentiles at Antioch. What’s more, such grace came as a free gift without the Jewish requirements of sin confession and water baptism.

 

NO BAPTISM WITH

THE HOLY SPIRIT?

 

True, the Antioch Gentiles had “repented”, but only in the sense of having a change of heart, believing now in Christ the Saviour as the Lord, instead of not knowing or believing Him as they had until then. Repenting, in the sense of confessing sin and being water baptised to be washed clean of it, as Peter commanded his hearers to do on the day of Pentecost, evidently was not required.

 

Nor, interestingly, is there any record that the Gentiles at Antioch received the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” that in Acts 1 the risen Messiah Jesus promised would happen to his Jewish apostles at Pentecost.

 

I suggest, therefore, that at Antioch, rather than an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them ( as in the baptism with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2), the saved Greeks  were baptised by the Spirit into the Body of Christ and “being made to drink into One Spirit” (1Cor. 12:13). This, of course, is a very different procedure and clearly marked by Christ through Paul as the one and only valid baptism in this the dispensation of grace (Eph. 4:5).

 

Proof, that all this made Barnabas himself a believer in grace, is found in that after seeing Gentiles turning en masse to the Lord at Antioch, he journeys to Tarsus find Saul – the only man he knew that had also been saved by grace. The purpose:  so that together they can teach these new converts for a whole year.  And what would they teach them? Why, grace surely, the new salvation by which sinners are counted worthy despite their sin.

 

THE GRACE OF

OUR LORD

 

Grace then, we now learn from Paul’s conversion and the mass saving of Gentiles at Antioch, is what happens when the Lord Himself, the Gentile Jesus, personally intervenes to save individual believers, showing them mercy and “counting them faithful” (1 Tim. 1:12) despite their sin.

 

And this He does this without requiring repentance, sin confession or water baptism! What a change from what Peter and the eleven had been preaching at Pentecost not long before!

 

Thus prepared by previous exposure to what God was now doing, Barnabas was “full of faith”, faith that by grace the Lord could both save a fierce rebel against God like Saul and myriads of Gentiles as well.

 

Importantly, in exhorting the Antioch converts that with “purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23), Barnabas officially recognises God’s full forgiveness of their sin.

 

AN OFFICIAL

ABSOLUTION

 

That is, as an official representative of the Jerusalem Church, with full “apostolic authority” delegated to him by Peter and the eleven, he pronounced their “full absolution”.

 

Yes, as a witness before God, Barnabas officially says Yea and Amen to all that God is doing by grace at Antioch. In my view, by doing so, he dispensationally does away with all need for sin confession and water baptism for Gentiles from then on and right through to now. In my view, he also removes the right, and the need, for anyone after him to claim the right and power to “absolve sins”.

 

Now, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the mass of those who call themselves Christians today could learn to do the same? God is still saving by grace through faith alone these days and it is “not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet without exception the big churches and denominations of today refuse to take God at his word and insist on adding repentance, sin confession and water baptism to the free grace recipe.

 

Worse still, in liturgical churches, men dressed up like mother but who like to be called father, stand forth at every service to officially pronounce “the absolution and forgiveness of sins”. By what right, you might ask?   Are they “good men” like Barnabas?

 

Granted, many are sincere but are they always full of the Holy Ghost and of faith? Hardly! Reports of abuse by Catholic clergy and the defrocking of Anglican vicars for other sins put the lie to that. What’s more, they cannot claim apostolic authority from Peter or the eleven other apostles of the Lord to forgive sin. Barnabas, the official Jerusalem Church representative, ended the need to do so.

 

FULL OF THE

HOLY GHOST?

 

By the way, just what does it mean to be “full of the Holy Ghost”? Pentecostals pray constantly to be filled (and refilled) with the Holy Spirit, clearly proving by doing so that they are not continually filled with the Spirit.  Indeed nobody has lived in a continuing state of being filled with the Spirit since apostolic times.  This is why Paul in Eph. 5:18 urges us Gentiles to:

 

            “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess but be filled with the Spirit”.

 

Good advice, especially for those growing up in the binge drinking culture of New Zealand. But just how do you become filled with the Spirit? As a Pentecostal I used to think it was achieved through praying in tongues and deep (that is, prolonged) spiritual worship. You had to create the right atmosphere, shut off the mind and give yourself to the music. These days, of course, it’s more a matter of giving yourself to the beat. In any case, singing (or shouting) the same simple chorus over and over should do the trick.

 

Never mind what the words mean - they won’t be truly scriptural anyway - it’s the feeling that counts. And, if that doesn’t work, try repentance, harrowing over your sin, stamping out bad habits, learning better ones - doing all this in your own strength, of course. The last resort may be to go up to the front and to have hands laid on you for a “refilling”. As one popular chorus line puts it, “Just fill me up”. You might as well say “Give me a tank full, get me gassed up”, just as you would for your car at the petrol station.

 

Sorry to seem a party pooper, but being filled with the Spirit isn’t just an emotional high or a psyched up experience. In reality it’s the hard slog of yielding yourself daily to the Lord and making more room for Him to dwell in your heart by faith.

 

As Pastor Cornelius Stam has wisely pointed out, in the above verse Paul does not speak of being filled with the Spirit as an easily attainable or continuing state. Rather, it is a goal to be aimed at.

 

How do you know when you are full of the Spirit? Answer: When every sin has been dealt with, when every thought and imagination has been brought into captivity to Christ, when your acceptance of the truth of God’s word is complete and you have come to perfectly obey it. And not before! 

 

A PAINSTAKING

BUSINESS

 

The truth is we are by nature captive to the law of sin (Rom. 7:23) and only “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” can truly set us free (Rom. 8:2). This is achieved by the painstaking business of yielding one’s members servants to righteousness, not sin. Then by not living after the flesh, but “through the Spirit mortifying the deeds of the body”, we should live for the Lord (Rom. 8:13).

 

Thankfully, we can come “boldly to the throne of grace to ask for help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). Yes, being full of the Spirit is a goal to aim at. It is probably safe to say that today no-one this side of death fully achieves it.

Barnabas, however, is a different case. During the Pentecostal period of early Acts he, along with the apostles and other disciples, received a filling with the Spirit that was lasting. This is evidenced by the fact that for months the converted Pentecostal saints “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and in breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42). It is also shown by the fact that many months later Barnabas is still “full of the Holy Ghost” when he reaches Antioch. Today by contrast experiencing fullness of the Spirit is fleeting at best.

 

Not only this, but Barnabas is also described as “a good man” and “full of faith”. What does it mean to be a good man? Why, just what it says. Because he was full of the Spirit Barnabas was a good man, week in week out, for well over a year, in fact until God closed down the Pentecostal programme in the face of Israel’s continued obstinate rebellion. Prepared by news from Peter and Paul about God’s new way of salvation by grace, Barnabas was also “full of faith” - faith that such a gospel would save Gentiles wherever it was preached.

 

SPIRIT-FILLED

SIN ABSOLUTION

 

Let us now see if the “full of the Spirit” requirement applies to others recorded in the Bible as proclaiming full forgiveness of sin on God’s behalf.

 

Certainly, it applied on the day of Pentecost when the Apostle Peter commanded Israelites (convicted of their sin in slaying the Lord) to “Repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). The record is clear in Acts 2:4 that Peter and the other 11 apostles were “all filled with the Holy Ghost”.

John the Baptist also proclaimed a baptism for the remission of sins. Mark 1:4 states: “John did baptise in the wilderness and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”  Those who were baptised confessed their sins and it is clear that John preached that when they had done so and had been baptised their sins would be remitted, or forgiven. He thus pronounced the forgiveness – or to use church jargon – the absolution of their sins. But was he authorised to do so? The Bible is clear that John, like Peter and Barnabas, was filled with the Holy Ghost. In fact an angel of the Lord appeared to John’s father Zecharias to prophesy this very thing, saying in Luke 1:15: “… he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb”.

 

Who else in the New Testament proclaims forgiveness of sins? Jesus Himself, of course, and what a rumpus He sparked off when He did so in Mark 2:3-12. The Master was preaching in a crowded house when four men uncovered the roof and lowered a paralysed man through it. Mark 2:5 details what happened next:

 

“When Jesus saw their faith He said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?”

 

It was a good question then and it’s still a good question now. Who indeed can forgive sins but God only? The answer today is that Roman Catholic priests from the pope downwards say they can, both after mass and following confession.

 

Anglican vicars too proclaim the absolution of sins at the end of the communion service.  But again, are these men truly filled with the Spirit? No! Like us, they exhibit too much sin for that. And if they are not so filled, do they have any right, any scriptural authority today, to pronounce absolution of sin? We will examine that question further in a minute.

 

Meanwhile let us see how Messiah Jesus handles the challenge thrown at Him in our text above. Verses 9-12 tell the story:

 

“And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned among themselves, He said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether it is easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and take up thy bed and walk?

 

“But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins (He saith to the sick of the palsy,), I say unto thee, Arise and take up they bed and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed; and went forth before them all; insomuch they were all amazed, and glorified God saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”

 

Notice that the Lord said the Son of man had power “on earth” to forgive sins. Does that imply He does not have power to forgive in Heaven? No, because Col. 3:13 makes clear that “Christ forgave us”.  However, in the dispensation of grace, it is God Himself we mainly find forgiving our sin for Jesus’s sake, not the Lord Himself.

 

Such forgiveness, of course, came in after the Lord’s death, burial, resurrection, when as Jesus the Man He was lifted up high above the heavens and then revealed through the Apostle Paul to us. 

 

RECONCILED BY

THE FATHER

 

It is through Him, the Gentile Jesus, that God the Father has for more than 1900 years been “reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto Him” (2 Cor. 5:19). And it is through Christ, the Gentile Jesus (not the Son of man on earth), that the dead in sin are “quickened together with Him”, by God the Father, God having “forgiven them all trespasses” (Col. 2:13). So, the scribes had it right; only God can forgive sin. However, Christ, the Gentile Jesus, is essential to the forgiving process. As Eph. 4:32 puts it we should be forgiving one another:

 

            “..even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”.

 

That Christ, the Gentile Jesus, Himself is today filled with the Spirit is surely beyond doubt. Col. 2:9 puts the matter beyond question, stating: “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”.

 

And that obviously includes the fullness of the Spirit. It remains then to be proved that the Son of man was filled with the Spirit during his ministry on earth? In John 3:34 John the Baptist testifies this of Jesus:

 

“…He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God; for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.”

 

And the Holy Spirit Himself clinches the matter in Luke 4:1 saying that at the outset of his ministry on earth:

 

“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.”

 

So, we have learned that John the Baptist, Jesus as the Son of man and as the Gentile Jesus together with Peter and Barnabas were all filled with the Spirit and were given authority to forgive sin or proclaim forgiveness of sins on behalf of God. But was anyone else given this authority?

 

DID PAUL OFFICIALLY

‘ABSOLVE’ SIN?

 

Yes, 10 others. In John 20:22-23 the risen Lord Jesus stands in the midst of 11 disciples (including Peter), breathes on them, and says: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained.” So the 11 received power to forgive sins on God’s behalf and later so did Matthias who was added to the number.

But what is said about the Apostle Paul? Did he have power to officially remit, forgive or absolve sins? Well, if he did, it appears to have been limited. Now, granted, in 2 Cor. 2:10, Paul talks of his forgiving sins, “in the person of Christ”.

 

However, the sin in question is that of a brother who had sinned against the Corinthian Church by having sex with his father’s wife and thus, in a sense, sinned also against Paul, the church’s founder. Paul urges the Corinthians to forgive the erring, now repentant brother, and says that “To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also.”

 

That doesn’t sound like a full on, apostolic absolution of sin to me. Rather, elsewhere in his apostles, Paul; is at pains to proclaim that it is in Christ that “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).  In Col. 2:13 he writes to the Colossians of God’s love for them, saying:

 

‘And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

 

Since God had already fully forgiven these believers and they enjoyed full forgiveness in Christ, any apostolic absolution of sins by Paul would be entirely unnecessary and redundant.

 

It is impossible to understand scripture aright without noting the important changes God makes in the way He saves men. Many such changes take place in the Book of Acts but Christendom largely ignores them, preferring to imagine that the church’s apparent practice in the early chapters still applies today.

 

It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t, because God hugely changed his dealings with men in this period. For example, Acts 11:23 is the last time in Acts or Paul’s epistles that a Jew “filled with the Holy Ghost”, in this case Barnabas, pronounces full absolution of sin. After this edict no further official absolution is needed. Here’s why:

 

Four chapters later in Acts 15 the Apostle Peter as Christ’s appointed spokesman on earth, officially announces a change in the way of salvation and forgiveness of sin.

 

As already noted, Peter was “filled with the Spirit”. Not only that, he was also chief of the Lord’s apostles and the one to whom Messiah Jesus personally gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, with power to bind and loose (Matt. 16:19).

 

As such in Acts 15:10-11 he makes the important admission that neither he and the other apostles, nor other saved Jewish believers in Messiah Jesus, nor their “fathers” were able to “bear” - that is, obey - the Law of Moses. He then makes the following sea change pronouncement:

 

“But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus we (Jews) shall be saved even as they (the Gentiles). “

 

So now Jews too are to be saved by grace just like the Gentiles, without the need to first repent, confess their sin, or get water baptised. Fact is that from Acts 15 onward neither Jew nor Gentile as individuals need an official pronouncement of forgiveness of sins over them, since God by grace has already forgiven them.

 

How wonderful it would have been then had both Jew and Gentile fully joined as one in the grace-saved Body of Christ. But it was not to be. While the Jerusalem council agreed Gentiles should be spared the need to be circumcised or to obey Moses’ law, they stood firm on retaining both practices as far as Jews were concerned.

 

Indeed, it is hard to escape the impression that while Peter would have followed Paul wholeheartedly into grace, the other Jewish believers at Jerusalem, now largely led by the legalistic James, rejected grace and insisted on following the law. Thus in Acts 21:20 when Paul brings the Gentile offering to help the poor (Jewish) saints” at Jerusalem, the elders are quick to point out:

 

“Thou seest brother how many thousands of Jews there are which believe: and they are all zealous of the law.”

 

So zealous in fact, that they persuaded Paul to take a Jewish temple vow, with four other “believers”, be at charges with them and after seven days make an offering. Thankfully God stepped in to prevent this blasphemy against grace, through a riot in which Paul was arrested and thus the ritual was never completed. Notably, James and the elders are not on record as having thanked Paul for the Gentile gift nor, after the riot, did they show up to support him when he was on trial before the Sanhedrin.

 

THE DANGER OF

TRADITION

 

So why, I hear you ask, do we read of Gentiles being baptised later in the Acts record? I believe this is because baptism, in the light of the Apostles’ instruction to do so for the remission of sin, became a tradition. Scattered by persecution and far from Jerusalem, Jewish disciples took it upon themselves to baptise others. An example might be the baptism of Saul after receiving his sight at the hands of Ananias (Acts 9:18). But let us be clear, scripture records no official water baptism or pronouncement of remission of sins by any apostle after the Acts 15 conference, though we do read of Paul baptising a few at Corinth, an action he later looked back on with regret.

 

So, it is true that some baptisms occurred but, curiously, scripture does not in most cases explain who did the baptising, nor do these instances contain teaching or pronouncement about remission of sins. In Acts 16:15 Lydia is baptised at Philippi; in verse 33 the Philippian jailer and his house are baptised. In Acts 18:8 the synagogue ruler Crispus, his house and many Corinthians are baptised and in Acts 19:4-5 at Paul’s suggestion certain Jews are re-baptised in the name of Jesus to identify with their Messiah.

 

WHY PAUL STOPPED

WATER BAPTISING

 

The latter is the last mention in Acts of water baptism and with it the practice seems to have ceased. Certainly, if at this time water baptism was still mandatory for sin remission, then why at Ephesus is it not mentioned in connection with the large numbers of Gentiles who were converted? Acts 19:19-20 tells us that occult books to the value of 50,000 pieces of silver were burnt as practitioners of the curious arts turned to the Lord. “So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed.” I believe that what the Holy Spirit would teach us here is that the word mightily prevailed, not water baptism!

 

Indeed, when Paul writes to the Corinthian church during his two-year stay in Ephesus, water baptism is definitely off his agenda. So much so he delivers a doctrinal teaching

that, if the Christian church had obeyed it, as it should have done, it would have consigned water baptism and sin remission earned by it to the garbage can of history then and there. Sadly, however, the church disobeyed Paul in this, as it has continued to disobey and rebel against the Apostle of Grace over many things down the centuries until now. The crucial passage is 1 Cor.1:13-18:

 

“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God I baptised none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptised in my own name.

 

“And I baptised also the household of Stephanas; besides I know not whether I baptised any other.

 

“For Christ sent me not to baptise but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

 

Here, I believe, is evidence the Apostle Paul has been receiving on-the-job instruction from Christ. The teaching comes through the very problems and opposition the Apostle encounters in his ministry. (In much the same way the Lord seeks to teach us from his word by drawing attention to certain truths through difficulties that occur in our lives). Clearly the lesson here is that Paul is not to baptise. Here’s why:

 

THE PROBLEM

WITH BAPTISM

 

Firstly, it causes divisions. Can’t you just hear some carnal Corinthian telling his fellow saint: “I was baptised by Paul. That’s the best baptism of all. Who were you baptised by?”

 

Secondly, Paul, belatedly, but better late than never, now realises he has no authority to water baptise; in fact it is out of order for him to do so. In doing so he recalls the epoch-shaking day when the Lord arrested him by his mercy and saved him by his grace on the Damascus road. Water baptism wasn’t needed then for the Lord to save him; nor is it needed now, he learns. Thus Paul realises that right from the beginning he had no authority to baptise. Verse 17 clinches the matter:

 

“For Christ sent me not to baptise but to preach the gospel”.

 

Thus Paul now sees more clearly the significance of what the risen Christ didn’t say when He commissioned him as an apostle. In Acts 26:14-18 Paul recounts his commission and we would do well to do the same. In verse 16 the Lord sets a time line on the Apostle’s ministry; he is to be “a minister and witness of those things which thou hast seen” (i.e. Jesus’s personal appearance to Saul as the Lord of all grace and glory), secondly of those things “in the which, I will appear unto thee”.

 

JESUS ONLY ALL

THE WAY

 

All the way it was meant to be only Jesus and what Paul learned and would learn of Christ, the risen Gentile Jesus. He was to minister nothing but the gospel of grace of God and the mystery, revealed to him personally by the Lord and the Father (Gal 1:11-12 and Eph. 3:3); he was not to preach or practice anything the Lord did not reveal to him.

 

Specifically, that means he was not to minister things the Lord had commanded Peter and his other earlier apostles to do, such as to command water baptism. Paul’s apostleship was strictly limited to what the Lord, and only the Lord and God His Father, told him. Thus Gal. 1:1 states:

 

“Paul, an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)”.

 

Thirdly, water baptism hinders the effective preaching of the gospel.  Far from being a witness that brings others to believe in the word, as some suggest, it “muddies the waters”, if you’ll pardon the pun.  This is why Paul, in 1 Cor. 1:17, says: “Christ sent me not to baptise but to preach the gospel”.  Thus we learn Paul was “sent not to baptise … lest the cross of Christ be made of none effect.”

 

RESILING FROM

GRACE

 

From all this it appears that only twice in his ministry did Paul step outside his God-ordained apostolic boundaries. Once it was by following, without thinking, the Jewish baptism tradition. Secondly, it was when out of love for his fellow Jews he put grace aside to follow a Jewish temple ritual, as mentioned above. In both cases the Lord quickly curtailed the apostle’s digression.

 

Both times Paul resiled from grace and reverted to a form of Jewish law obedience. (Yes, baptism was commanded by the law; just read Deuteronomy). In both instances Paul unwittingly set a pattern the Devil has used with huge success over the last 1950 years to lead would-be believers away from full reliance on God’s grace.

 

A HERESY NOT FOUND

IN THE BIBLE

 

Thus, instead of just trusting the Lord’s life of righteousness on our behalf, and his completed atonement on Calvary, many people today undergo water baptism. They supposedly experience either baptismal regeneration - a heresy nowhere taught in scripture - or a presumed “personal cleansing”. Both ideas are an insult, of course, implying, as they do, that God Himself somehow fell down on the job of cleansing believers through Christ’s death alone. What a blasphemy!

 

Rituals such as the “sacrifice of the mass” and other offerings also abound in Christendom. For example, Mormon temple ceremonies purport to make advanced converts “like unto God” while spiritual “sacrifices” are made in Roman Catholic other mainline churches to appease God when Christ has already done all the appeasing necessary.

 

Pilgrimages and penances, works that the gullible do instead of believing that God has done all that is necessary, still abound. 

 

Today, if there’s any remission of sin or washing of believers to be done, then it is God Himself who does it – or, to be more accurate, has already done it. Thus in 1 Cor. 6.11 the Apostle Paul, having detailed 10 sins which exclude the unrighteous from the kingdom of God, is inspired to write:

 

“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

 

The Corinthians had been adulterers, effeminate, fornicators, idolaters, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and extortioners. Now they are washed clean. How? Not by water baptism, not by abstaining from foods, not by going to church, not by Mosiac law obedience in any form, but by the Spirit of our God.

 

Yes, baptism today is by the Spirit of God into Christ Himself, into his death, burial, resurrection and ascension, so that we are made members of his body and are found “complete” in Him (1 Cor. 12:13, Rom. 6:3, Col. 2:10).

 

Importantly, salvation today is:

 

“...by grace through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

 

But boast these latter day Judaisers do. Try to fellowship with Roman Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Methodists and others as I have and immediately you run into the wall of what they or the church does or has done.

 

Rarely, if ever, is the talk about “how Jesus saved me”. No, it is whether you have been water baptised, what foods you do or don’t eat, and their rituals and church, which, they insist, you should go to. Bible truth, grace and the saving blood Christ don’t enter the conversation one time, unless you introduce them. Not that they want to know about if you do.

 

LEFTOVERS FROM

A STALE FEAST

 

We need to understand that today water baptism, sin confession, repentance and penances are but lying leftovers from a stale feast of Judaism that God buried long ago. God has set Israel aside in this dispensation along with her water baptism, penance, sin confession, ritual sacrifice and works of self righteousness.

 

Today the only sacrifice the Lord requires is our sacrifice of ourselves, that is the giving our lives over wholly to his purpose. As to our cleansing today, in this the dispensation of grace, this has already been wholly accomplished through the Lord’s blood.

 

So the big message is indeed that only God Himself can fully and finally forgive all sin; and that only God Himself can wash us totally clean. What’s more, He has already done so, as the Apostle Paul makes clear in 1 Cor. 6:11.

 

WHEN DID GOD

SET JUDAISM ASIDE?

 

But, you may ask, just when did God definitely set aside Judaism with its repentance and water baptism for the remission of sins? We have already considered Acts 11 where we noted Gentiles were saved without repentance or

water baptism and seen that in Acts 15 the Apostle Peter wanted to see Israel saved by grace alone. However, in neither chapter was there detailed teaching from God to explain how and why. It is only when we come to study carefully the watershed chapter of Acts 13 that the reason is revealed.

 

Note first, that in this chapter Paul and Barnabas are separated by the Holy Ghost unto a new ministry to Gentiles. In turn that ministry unfolds as Paul preaches to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentile God-fearers in a synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. Acts 13:38-39 is the crux of his message:

 

“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren that through this man (Christ Jesus, the Gentile Jesus), is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

 

“And by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.”

 

Short it may be, but Paul has just said a mouthful. Notice that both forgiveness of sins and full justification are stated to come direct from Jesus Christ Himself, not delivered through an intermediary. Note too, that no sin confession, repentance or water baptism is said to be required to receive them. So, right here, in the middle of the book of Acts, is sounded the death knell of Judaism, along with all its entire flesh-pleasing works. How infinitely sad that, when the Apostle Paul and the Spirit of God have thus brought it to an end, the bulk of Christianity has kept it going now for more than 1950 years.

 

HOW DID DIDACHE

COME ABOUT?

 

The big question then, unanswered in most church history books, is how the pseudo-Christian Church portrayed in the Didache came to be so widespread and powerful, having usurped the place of the truly called and truly saved Body of Christ? A second question is just what did happen to the handful of believers who clung loyally to Paul and his message in the face of such apostasy and defection?

 

To answer the last question first: the true believers went underground, quite literally. Soon they were living in the catacombs. Hiding from persecution not only at the hands of the Roman Government and the Jews but later also from the powerful Judaised Gentile Church. Soon it became a religious crime to believe the letters of Paul rather than the teaching of the emergent super church.

 

What then followed was incredible but perhaps inevitable. When the tides of pagan persecution of Christians waned, the official “church” waged an inquisition of its own, whipping, killing and burning believers who would not toe the official line.

 

Did Paul foreknow this would happen, you ask? Yes he did and said and wrote so repeatedly in his lifetime. Why else in his farewell speech to elders of the Ephesian church would he have said (Acts 20:28-31):

 

”Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost That made you overseers to feed the church of God which He hath purchased with his own blood.”

 

“For I know this, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

 

“There watch and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone day and night with tears.”?

 

What an amazing statement! The Apostle has just said that for three years, night and day – that’s for nearly 1100 consecutive 24-hour periods – he warned everyone, whose attention he could engage, that apostasy and departure from the truth was coming, driven by wolves attacking from within and without. It seems too fantastic to be true, yet surely Paul was not a man given to boastful exaggeration.

 

If his words be doubted, then recall that the Apostle is making this assertion in his farewell speech, as he departs, certain he will not see their faces again. Surely he would be careful not to leave them with wrong perception of the future. Sadly, all too soon Paul’s woeful prediction began to come true.  Just a few years later the Apostle has to write to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3-4):

 

“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith; so do.”.

 

In verse 6 he laments that some “having swerved, have turned aside unto vain jangling”. Then, not long after that, he writes in 2 Tim. 1:15:

 

“This thou knowest, that all those that be in Asia have turned away be turned way from me, of whom are Phygellus and Hermogones.”

 

In verses 14-18 Paul warns of strife about words which would subvert the hearers, profane and vain babblings which would increase unto more ungodliness and again names Phygellus and Hermogones as speaking a word “which will eat as doth a canker (cancer).” The mistake of these men was to assert the resurrection was already past, thus over-throwing the faith of some. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Apostle Paul then takes a long look down the centuries and in 2 Tim. 3:1-9 warns that in the “last days perilous times will come”.

 

I believe we are living in such days right now. Certainly the characteristics of people today are fully listed in these verses. They are indeed lovers of their own selves and of pleasure, not lovers of God. Certainly they have a “form of godliness but deny the power thereof” and, undeniably, “they are ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”.

 

However, the real shock comes when one grasps that in the verse above the Apostle Paul is not talking about the state of the world, although all he says can certainly be applied to the corrupt society that surrounds us. No, shock, horror, he is talking about the state of the professing Christian Church!

30

 

FROM SERVANT

TO LORD

 

As this book repeatedly asserts, the professing church has for so long wrongly taught that the Jesus who saves today is the same Jesus of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that few believers now realise that Jesus has an entirely separate ministry to Gentiles; that there is indeed a Gentile Jesus.

 

But saving the Gentiles through his Son is a plan God had in mind all along. He had his prophets speak and write of it, even predict that when the nation Israel itself fell down on the job - as indeed it did - then God the Son Himself would be “a light to the Gentiles”. The difference is that whereas the prophets foresaw the Gentiles being drawn to the light through Israel’s rise (Is. 60:3), God in his mercy and grace has now sent His Son to save them because of Israel’s fall (Rom. 11:11).

 

That Israel’s Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles was prophesied in the Old Testament, promised at his birth and then again at his temple dedication. The intention, of course, was that this would be achieved with Christ at the head of a restored Israel, with 144,000 on fire evangelists taking the good news of his kingdom on earth to every creature in every nation.

 

But, as already explained, Israel rejected Jesus as her king, the prophesied kingdom of Messiah was put on hold, the nation was set aside and God - now counting all men in unbelief - in mercy raised up a new Apostle, Paul, to preach a message of grace to all men, Jew and Gentile alike.

 

And it is through this new gospel preached by this new apostle that a new Jesus, the Gentile Jesus, manifests Himself as “the light to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). So much for the synopsis; let us study the scriptures to see if these things are so.

 

We pick up the trail in Is. 42:19 where the Lord Himself complained bitterly of the shortcomings of his “servant” Israel: “Who is blind, but my servant, or deaf, as my messenger that I sent?”

 

A LIGHT TO

THE GENTILES

 

Israel was not only failing to declare God’s glory to the nations, she herself had also become deaf and blind to the Lord who sent her. The chosen nation had become “a people robbed and spoiled and none delivereth … none sayeth, restore” (Is. 42:22). The Lord had a twofold response: First He promised to “redeem Israel” (Is. 43:1) as a nation. Second, He announced that another specially chosen “servant” would carry out his will, especially in ministering to the Gentiles. In Is. 42:1 we read:

 

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth, I have put my Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles.

 

Clearly the “servant” in part of this prophecy is Jesus the Messiah. He is God’s elect upon whom He puts his Spirit.  And, in Matt. 12:16-21, when Messiah Jesus charges the crowds He has just healed not to make Him known, He does so to fulfil Is. 42: 2: “He (my servant) shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.”  But note well, in Is. 42:1 a colon separates this earthly ministry of the Lord from that which He will have when He “brings for the judgement to the Gentiles”.  The full verse reads:

 

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold: mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles.”

 

This distinction is further marked in Is. 49:6 where the Lord says:

 

“...It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be my salvation to the end of the earth.”

 

So who is this Lord who upholds his servant? Don’t be too quick to decide; let the scriptures unveil his identity. In Is. 49:5 He is said to be: “…the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring again Jacob to Him. Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of my Lord, and my God shall be my strength.” Here this Lord’s servant is clearly the Messiah, who after his earthly ministry also came to be called Lord through his ascension and exaltation.

 

THREE CHANGES IN

THE LORD’S MINISTRY

 

As we study the scriptures we will find three themes concerning differences in the Lord’s ministry. One was, as we have already seen, that only the Servant would be what Israel should have been to the Gentiles but wasn’t. Another is that such ministry to Gentiles would only happen when the Servant ceased to be a servant and was made Lord, seated at the right hand of the Almighty. Peter proclaimed this at Pentecost when he told the Jews: “...God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). These words were spoken nearly 2,000 years ago. Yet today the earth still awaits the arrival of her rightful King, who has yet to be unveiled in his glory as Messiah to Israel. At present then, the programme of his earthly rule through the chosen nation Israel is on hold, as God instead reaches out to save all men individually by his grace. One day Gentiles will indeed be reached by a gospel-preaching Israel but not now.

 

A third ministry change took place when Jesus became our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gentile Jesus. This took place when our Lord, having been exalted far above the highest heavens, left the splendour of that glory to stoop to earth for the second time.

 

This time, however, He was not made of a woman, born as a man. Instead he arrested his bitterest enemy on earth, Saul and commissioned him his apostle to the Gentiles. Then, as this book has already asserted, the Lord of glory poured Himself into Saul and sent him forth to preach grace. 

 

‘THE LORD SAID

 TO MY LORD’

 

At this point it is important to see that the Lord’s ministry to the Gentiles is entirely separate from his ministry to Israel.

 

So separate, in fact, that, while hinted at in the Old Testament prophetic scriptures and alluded to by Christ Himself in his earthly ministry, this personal ministry of the risen, exalted Lord, is only revealed and brought into view by the personal revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle Paul Gentiles (Gal. 1:12).

 

 Thus, it is part of the Mystery, “which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men” (Eph 3:5) and hence, not part

 

 

of Prophecy which is the sum of “all things spoken by the

prophets “since the world began” (Acts 3:21).

As to the second ministry change mentioned above, just how is it that the Servant becomes Lord? Well, veiled in enigmatic Old Testament prophecy is the thought that it is the Lord Himself who sends Himself in the form of his servant. Yes, you read that right, there was no mistake.

 

Thus in Is. 49:5-6 we see the Lord talking to his Servant whom He will send to re-gather Israel. And it is this Servant who, in the future dispensation of the kingdom, will Himself be Lord - that is He will be the King of creation, the King of the earth. If that seems strange, then it is no less so in Ps. 110:1 which reads:

 

“The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion, rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.”

 

Using this verse, Jesus the Messiah so tied in knots his critics among the Pharisees (Matt 22:41-46) that they despaired of arguing with Him. From then on they dare not ask Him questions. Here is what He had asked them:

 

“What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He? They say unto Him, The Son of David. He saith unto them: “How then doth David in Spirit call Him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord' … etc.”.

 

Why were they so gobsmacked? Firstly, because they could not admit Jesus was Christ, the Messiah. Secondly, the thought that He, Jesus, was also Lord, that He was the Old Testament Jehovah was more than they could bear. Thirdly, the inference that He, as the Old Testament Jehovah, bearing the unspeakable name of God, had actually sent Himself to them in the form of Jesus, the Messiah was too far out to even be considered.

I can hear them saying, “God sending God to be man so that He can be God? Blasphemy, better shut up already!”

 

And yet, truly, that is the picture the messianic prophecies of Isaiah and the Psalms paint: The Lord sending Himself, as it were, to be Israel’s Servant Messiah and, as a separate, later exercise, commissioning Him quite separately, and under the new dispensation of the grace of God, to be the light unto the Gentiles.

 

MY LORD AND

MY GOD

 

Now, not even the Messiah’s own disciples realised that He was Lord during his earthly lifetime. Understandably they called Him Lord - their personal Lord that is - as a courtesy title. After all, it was the common term of respect for a distinguished teacher, for the respected rabbis of their day. 

 

However, by this they did not mean Lord, as in Lord of all (Acts 10:36), the Lord of heaven, the Almighty God. After all, only with a huge struggle had they themselves come to believe He was the Messiah, the Son of God.

 

Granted, Thomas took their understanding a step further when he worshipped the risen Christ as “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). But it is only, after seeing the heavenly vision and being told “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou uncommon" (Acts 10:15), that Peter was able to tell the Gentiles gathered in Cornelius’ house that “Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all”.

 

Later, of course, when Peter had learned, from the Apostle Paul, much more about the risen Lord and his exaltation by the Father, he told the Jerusalem council:

 

“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (the Gentiles).”

 

The question remains: Why didn’t the Jesus’s disciples realise He was Lord of all as He lived and walked on earth among them?  The reason is that in the days of his flesh Jesus was the Servant sent to suffer and die. It was not then that He was to be revealed as Lord of all. That only came later after his resurrection when He was “made both Lord and Christ” to Israel (Acts 2:36).

 

And, it is yet later again, and at the ushering in of the dispensation of grace, that as a man, the Lord is “declared to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4).  Of course, this took place in heaven where the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father, and signalled the inauguration of the Lord’s heavenly ministry in grace and the setting up of his heavenly kingdom in which we are saved today.

 

Importantly, then it was as the risen, exalted heavenly Lord of glory for all men, the Gentile Jesus, that Jesus met Saul on the Damascus road to commission him as an apostle and send him to the Gentiles to:

 

“...open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me.”

 

And what had happened to Saul just before this announcement? Why:

 

“At midday O king I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the ground I heard a voice speaking …” (Acts 26:13-14).

 

What better way for the Gentile Jesus to launch his ministry as the “light to the Gentiles” than to appear in blaze of the most brilliant light to the soon-to-be-apostle? And this light was a real, physical occurrence, not a purely spiritual manifestation, not a metaphor, not a figment of Saul’s imagination.

 

Right here, as the Lord of all men, not just Jews, the Gentile Jesus launches his ministry as the “light to the Gentiles”. And the light shed by the Lord in this ministry to the Gentiles is so real that on this occasion first time out it blinds a rebellious sinner for a full three days.

 

As already intimated in the foreword, God is an ardent lover, keen to save the souls of men, and when rebuffed by one object of his love, seeks another. To my mind this explains why at the stoning of Stephen our Lord ceased presenting Himself as Messiah to Israel and in doing ceased to be the chosen nation’s Suffering Servant.

 

Long before, when speaking prophetically as the “Servant Israel” (vs 3) the Lord had said through the mouth of Isaiah: “…I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought: yet surely my judgement is with the Lord and my work with my God” (Is. 49:4-6). And the Lord’s response then to David’s Lord was:

 

“It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles” (Is. 49:6).

 

Yes, Jesus, when on earth, was a servant. He “took upon Him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7) and in Rom. 15:8 the Apostle Paul declares: “Now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister (servant) of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers”.)

 

So, it was as a servant and the kingly Messiah to come that the Lord’s apostles knew Him. That was how they recognised Him when appeared to them after his resurrection. And this was the Jesus they knew, still in his unglorified form, that they fare-welled at his ascension in Acts 1:9-12. We read that while the eleven apostles looked on…

 

“…He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel.

 

‘Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This SAME JESUS which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.”

 

Pastor Stam[24] poses important questions about this verse: “Why did the shining ones ask the eleven this question?” he asks. “Why should they not stand gazing up into heaven? Had not their blessed Lord just ascended there? Why did the shining ones ask the disciples this question and then draw their attention back to earth again?”

 

Stam answers that the eleven apostles’ gaze was directed back to earth because it is to earth – and on that very spot, the Mount of Olives – that the Messiah is prophesied to return to set up his  kingdom on earth. Zech. 14:4 teaches:

 

“And his feet shall stand that day upon the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the east…”

 

Stam quotes Jer.23:5 as one of many passages which teach the Millennial Kingdom will be on the earth: “… a King shall reign and prosper and shall execute judgement and justice in the earth.” Evidently then the eleven needed to turn their eyes earthward, because it is on earth the signs heralding the Lord’s bodily return at his Second Coming will appear.

 

In sharp contrast believers in this present dispensation of grace are instructed to look up to heaven from whence the Lord will come to catch them away (Phil. 3:20). Pastor Stam writes:

 

:           “We too look for our Lord to come, but not to earth, on the Mount of Olives. We look for ‘the Lord Himself’ to ‘descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God’ and when He does so come, ‘we which are alive and remain shall be CAUGHT UP … TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR’ (1 Thess. 4: 16 and 17). [1]

 

Then he tosses in this bombshell:

           

            “Nor do we look for ‘THIS SAME JESUS’ that the eleven looked for. True, He will be the same as to identity, but not as to manifestation. The angel referred to the manner of His appearing when he said, ‘This same Jesus shall so come in like manner…[25]

 

            “To us the Apostle Paul says: ‘Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh; Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now, henceforth know we Him (i.e. Christ after the flesh) no more’ (2 Cor. 5:16).”

 

It is highly doubtful that Paul ever saw the Jesus that the eleven apostles knew as their Lord on earth. It is this Jesus whom he describes as “Christ after the flesh”.  But we do know that Saul personally encountered the ascended, exalted Jesus at least twice after the Lord’s resurrection and, arguably, more often. What the apostle definitely did not see on these occasions was “this same Jesus” the eleven were promised would return to earth.

 

What is also certain is that it was after seeing the very different Jesus, the Lord of glory - the Gentile Jesus - appear to him from heaven on the road to Damascus,  that Paul determined to know the earthly Messiah, the Jesus “after the flesh” no more.  We can also be sure Saul was not present when the eleven disciples beheld “this same Jesus” ascend into heaven.

 

What’s more, the eleven certainly could not have “steadfastly looked” on the Jesus that appeared to Saul on near Damascus some time later. That sight would have blinded them, as it blinded Saul for three days.

 

It is obvious then, that the Lord who revealed Himself from heaven to Saul to commission him as an Apostle, and who blazed with a light “above the brightness of the (midday) sun” Acts 26:13), was a very different Jesus to the one the eleven apostles saw ascend from the Mount of Olives.

 

LORD OF GLORY

AND GRACE

 

Why such a difference? The answer is that when on earth, though resurrected, Jesus was not yet exalted and glorified. However, when God “highly exalted Him” (Phil, 2:9), He became the Lord of all glory and grace, stationed above the highest heaven and clothed in the brightest light of God Himself. It is as this Jesus, that He showed Himself to Saul.

 

It is as this Gentile Jesus that He is now the Saviour of all men. Thus we learn that Saul was privileged to see the Lord as nobody else on earth has seen Him either before or since. (In fact, the Lord has not been seen on earth like this since that time, because, as Paul firmly states: “Last of all He was seen of me, as one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8). And last means last.

 

Again, the Jesus Saul saw could not have been seen before

that event because this is the first and only time He has revealed Himself on earth as Christ Jesus, glorified and exalted by God as a man. It is true, of course, that as the pre-existent Son of God, Christ, as God and a Spirit, had his own glory with the Father in time and eternity past. Thus in John 17:5 Jesus prays:

 

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”

How was this prayer answered? I suggest that it was, and still is, being answered progressively

 

Firstly, the Lord was glorified on the cross when, as the Son of Man He was “lifted up”.  That is why, when Judas “went out” from the last supper, Jesus said: “Now is the Son of Man glorified” (John 13:32).

 

Secondly, in Rom. 6:4, we are told “Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father”. In other words Christ was glorified in his resurrection. 

 

Thirdly, Jesus was also glorified in his ascension when “God gave Him glory” (1 Pet. 1:21).

 

Fourthly, the man Christ Jesus is now glorified as He shines forth as the image of God in the gospel of his glory and grace (2 Cor. 4:4).

 

Fifthly, there will come a time, as yet in the future, when the man Christ Jesus, will shine forth in a glorious appearing for us in heaven exhibiting his full glory as God. By faith we should be eagerly anticipating this event by:

 

“Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the God and our Saviour Jesus Christ …” (Titus 2:13)

 

 

31

 

THE BUT NOW

LORD AND KING

 

Timing, as political candidates know well, is everything. And that is nowhere more true than in rightly understanding what the Bible says about the Lord Jesus Christ and who He is today.

 

When we “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), consistently keeping that which belongs to “times past” separate from that which belongs to “but now”, then the grace, that fully saves and fully supplies every need, shines forth bright as the noonday sun. You see in “times past” Gentiles were “without Christ … strangers from the covenants of promise … having no hope and without God in the world”. In God’s “but now” programme, however, we have been “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (see Eph. 2:11-13) and now the Mystery is made known to us by the Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle Paul.

 

For example, we will be careful to leave any aspect of law obedience (circumcision, sabbath keeping, water baptism) where it belongs in “times past”, instead rejoicing in the free, full salvation and sanctification we receive by grace under God’s “but now” programme.

 

After all today “we are not under the law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). Also, we will recognise that now the things which Paul writes in his epistles are the “but now” Lord’s commandments (1 Cor. 14:37) we should obey, not the “times past” requirements of Moses’ law nor yet many of the Lord’s instructions to his Jewish people in the gospels, issued as they were when both He and they were as yet “under the law”.

 

Furthermore, as grace-saved saints, we are members of the Body of Christ, and not the (temporarily) set aside nation Israel. Our destiny and home is in the heavenlies, not in coming back to earth with the Lord’s Old Testament saints at his Second Coming.

 

The truth is that only by right division of the scripture can we find out who we are really are today and thus when and where we fit into God’s programme of salvation. Only by carefully distinguishing the different timings of the Bible can we grasp who Jesus Christ is today as distinct from He was in times past in his earthly ministry, and thus mature to experience “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).

 

As you have already guessed, this final chapter is all about timing. Why? Because timing provides an undeniable argument from scripture for the huge changes have taken place in the way God deals with men under this the dispensation of the grace of God. Timing also lies at the heart of this book’s assertion that the Lord today truly is the Gentile Jesus.

 

SO NOW Y’ALL

HEAR THIS

 

Take the little word now.  As schoolchildren most of us had to learn the hard way what this word meant. “Sit down now. Stop talking now. Open your books now.” In my case the teacher often had to remind me, sometimes painfully, that “now means now”, not earlier and not later. When it comes to scripture it seems many Christians have a similar problem. They simply don’t see that when the word now appears, it means now; that is, in our time.

 

It means God is dealing with us under the dispensation of grace; it means the mystery is now revealed through the Apostle to us Gentiles. It does not mean back then in the Lord’s earthly ministry to Israel. Now means we are not in “times past”, we are not under the programme of prophecy but under the Mystery. It means we have no part in something preached or given exclusively to Israel. As we know in our personal lives, and sometimes with regret, there is a big difference between then and now.

 

In fact a power of truth is packed into the way the Holy Spirit uses the word now in the writings of the Apostle Paul.  Consider, for example, the phrase “but now”: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off have been made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).                                                                 

 

The “ye” spoken of here are Ephesian Gentile believers. They are now in Christ Jesus - the words consistently used by the Apostle Paul to denote the Anointed Saviour of all men, the Lord we could well call the Gentile Jesus. Thus “but now” denotes a sudden, decisive change. Paul urges us to remember that prior to being in Christ we were:

 

“…in time past Gentiles in the flesh … 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.”

 

It doesn’t get much worse than that. For Gentiles times past meant bad news six times over. Bad enough we were Gentiles, and not Jews, when for 1500 years God favoured only Israel with his presence and blessing. Worse, we were also “in the flesh”, that is without God’s Spirit.  We were also without Christ and without God in the world. We were aliens (shunned outsiders) from the citizenship of Israel and cut off from having hope in any of the promises in God. He had no covenant (agreement) with us that He would save or help us. 

Surely, it wasn’t as bad as that, you say. Surely God made some provision to save Gentiles back then? Yes, He did. If they were desperate enough they could be proselytised, circumcised, baptised and keep all 613 commandments of the Law of Moses to become Jews – if the Jews would have them, that is.

 

‘WITHOUT CHRIST

 IN THE WORLD’

 

Did you get the key point? In times past – the period stretching from the call of Abraham to the sending forth of the Apostle Paul with the new gospel of grace for all men – we Gentiles were without Christ.  There was no anointed preacher of good news for us; we had no Saviour, no God and no hope in the world. We could only live miserably and die in darkness.

 

That is why it is unwise for us Gentiles to trust in Old Testament promises made exclusively to Israel and foolish to ignore the much better promises specifically given to us in grace through the writings of the Apostle Paul. In fact it is an insult to the Lord to do so. He suffered and died for our sins, ascended on high, then revealed Himself in Paul specifically to bring grace to us.

 

To say, as many do, that they prefer the stories and promises of the Old Testament and the words of Jesus in the Gospels to the blessings of grace in Paul is to treat Christ’s great sacrifice and provision as unnecessary. Surely there can be no greater insult to God than to devalue the worth of the Lord’s atonement for us? The Holy Spirit has punctuated scripture with time marks clearly pointing us to grace and the great blessings the Lord has for us Gentiles now. We despise the riches of his grace at our peril.

“But now are we made nigh in Christ Jesus”. And this only because Christ has come to us as the Gentile Jesus, the Saviour the world in its heart was longing for during the long centuries when Israel was God’s favoured nation. We could even say that, in coming Himself and sending out the Apostle Paul with the good news that we could now be saved through his blood, Jesus has become our “But Now Lord”.

 

THE ‘BUT

NOW’ CALL

 

The two words “but now” ring out the glad message of grace in several places in Paul’s epistles. When reading these verses, however, it is important to keep in mind that it is only because of what Christ has done that these blessings have come upon us Gentiles. For example, after telling us in vs 20 that “…by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified” Rom. 3:21 trumpets the good news that:

 

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.”

 

Where’s the Gentile Jesus in that, you ask? Why, right there in the next five verses:

 

  • This righteousness of God is “by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (vs.22).
  • All those that have sinned are now “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (vs 24).
  • “To declare I say at this time his (God’s) righteousness that He might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus” (vs26).

 

 

In these verses and those below “but now” marks a definite inauguration and departure point. Thus the righteousness of God was not manifested in times past but now it most definitely is.

 

  • “For ye were sometimes darkness but now ye are light; walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).

 

  • But now being made free from sin and become servants to God ye have fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom. 6:22).

 

  • “…the mystery, which was kept secret, since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith”( Rom. 16:25-26).

 

Equally important is the rarer use of “yet now” as in 2 Cor. 5:16, for example, where Paul writes:

 

“…Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now, henceforth know we Him no more.”

 

This is both a statement of fact and a commandment. We do not, and are not, to know Christ after the flesh - that is as He was in the days of his earthly humiliation. Instead we are to know Him as He is now, the risen Lord of glory and the Gentile Jesus.

 

THE BUT

NOW KING

 

So my teacher had it right; now means now, as in “right now” and “at this time”, as the Apostle writes in Rom. 3:26. Often, however, we read the Bible’s “now” as though it means “this being the case”, when importantly for right division and correct understanding, it means “at the present time”.

 

A case in point is 1 Tim. 1:17 where the beautiful KJB translation is:

 

 

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

 

Paul, it seems, breaks off here from what he has just written to voice his praise to God. Nor does the verse seem to have a ready connection to what follows. However, the literal Greek reads: “To the now King eternal, invisible, incorruptible, the only wise God, be glory and honour for ever. Amen.” 

 

Undoubtedly both translations are correct but is there more to what is written than meets the eye?  If verse 17 is connected to the thought in the previous verse, instead of being separated as it is, the meaning might be this:

 

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long suffering for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting, unto (Him) the now King, eternal, invisible, etc”.

 

As the verse stands one is left to wonder whether the King is the Father or God the Son, and it may be this is the reason no ellipsis has been supplied to connect the two verses. However, there need be no doubt about the issue. The King here is the man Christ Jesus, elevated to royalty upon completion of his earthly work by his Father. (Importantly, He is here made King as a man; as God, of course, He has always been king).

 

Proof of this is found in 1 Tim. 6:14-16 where again there has been confusion as to who is the mentioned King:

 

“… until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in his times He shall show, who is the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.”

 

The antecedent of the “He” in verse 15 is the “Lord Jesus Christ” in verse 14 and “Christ Jesus” in verse 13. Therefore what the Lord Jesus Christ will “show in his times” is his own “appearing” and, therefore, the divine attributes detailed in verses 15 and 16 are all descriptive of Him.

 

THE ONLY

POTENTATE

 

He is indeed the only Potentate and in Rev. 17:14, 19:16 clearly Jesus Christ is described as the “King of kings and Lord of lords”. That He now has immortality as a man is also undeniable. The main objection for some is that in 1 Tim. 6:14-16 He is said to now live in “light which no man can approach unto, nor can see.” That, they say, can only be true of God, not of Christ as man.

 

But now, Christ is the firstborn from the dead and as the image of God He is the firstborn of every (new) creature (Col. 1:15). “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17) and already “The Father hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). So, if we have been made fit to enter the pure light of God’s presence, then surely the man Christ Jesus is entitled to be there too!  There should be no question about it. However, there is reluctance on the part of some to recognise all the honour, power, glory and honour that have already been bestowed on the man Christ Jesus - with yet more to come.

 

Returning to 1 Tim. 1:17, may I suggest that the Lord is rightly described as the now King, because, as a man, that is the position the Father has given Him. The Gentile Jesus has been made Lord and King as part of God’s exaltation of Him after his death, burial resurrection and ascension? As God, of course, He always was and is and ever will be king. As man, however, He was only exalted after ascending to heaven.

 

Importantly, He still awaits the full appearance of his kingdom in glory. God has highly exalted Him, and already given Him “a name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). He is already a king, for Paul at the end of his life was certain he would be preserved unto the Lord’s “heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18). However, the Lord has yet to appear – and we with Him – in glory (Col. 3:4). When He does appear in full kingdom glory in heaven we, who have suffered with Him down here on earth, “shall reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12).

 

Meantime, we who have come to believe on Him unto life ever lasting, should be "looking” unto “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God…” Indeed this is just what we are told to do in Titus 2:13:

 

“Looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity…”

 

Yes, the But Now Lord is our Saviour today and already He is our King in the heavenlies. Soon He will appear for us in his glory, and when He does, we shall be changed, for He “shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (or the body of his glory) …” (Phil. 3:21).

 

All glory and praise therefore, now and forever, to the But Now Lord and the Now King, to the glory of God the Father!

 

 

End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Macdonald Publishing Co, McLean, Virginia 22101, p. 284. Used by permission.

 

[2] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Notes on Galatians by Hogg and Vine,) p. 344. Used by permission.

3 Jamieson, Fausset,  Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, © Zondervan, p. 1105.

[4]  Stam C.R., Acts Dispensationally Considered  I & II, Berean Bible Society, p. 235.

 

[5] Writing on the Right Division/2 Timothy 2:15 website

[6]  Hawking, Stephen and Mlodinow, Leonard, The Grand Design, Transworld Publishers Ltd.

[7] Baker, Charles F., A Dispensational Theology @ Grace Publications, 1994, p. 501.Used by permission.

 

[8]

Alford H., The Greek New Testament, (London, 1865), III p. 334.

 

[9] Collins New English Dictionary, p. 431.

[10]

 Custance, Arthur C., The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, Zondervan 1977, p 189ff. Used by permission, Zondervan Corporation.

 

[11]  Scripture quotation taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version  © 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission

[12]

    Ibid. p. 55

 

[13]  Custance, Arthur C., The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, © Zondervan 1977, p. 192.

[14] Foxe, John, Foxe’s Book of Martyr, reprint © Zondervan 1974. p. 226 ff.

 

[15] Foxe’s Book of Martyrs reprint © Zondervan p 280.

 

[16] [Bengel] quoted in Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary on the While Bible © Zondervan p 1345.

 

[17]  The Inter-Varsity Fellowship New Bible Dictionary © The Inter-Varsity Fellowship 1962 p.  944.  

 

[18] [1] Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Word, s Macdonald Publishing, p. 965.

[19]

Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Word, s Macdonald Publishing, p. 1171.

 

[20] Mahlon H. Smith writing on the (New Advent website)

[21] Mahlon H. Smith writing on the (New Advent website)

 

[22] Custance, Arthur C., The Hidden Things of God’s Revelation, © Zondervan     Corporation 1977 p. 57. Used by permission , Zondervan Corporation.

 

[23] Custance, Arthur C., The Hidden Things of God’s Revelation, © Zondervan Corporation 1977, p. 63.

 

[24] Stam, C.R. The Pastoral Epistles of Paul © Berean Bible Society (Chapter V – Titus 2:12-15), p.283.

[25] Stam, C.R., The Pastoral Epistles of Paul, (chapter V., Titus 2:12-15). P. 283