THE MYSTERY AND THE ONE
NEW MAN - Four part series
By John Aldworth
Published 25 June 2014
Eph. 2:14-15: 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; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace.
Col. 2:13-14: And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He (God the Father) quickened together with Him (Christ Jesus), having forgiven you all trespasses. Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
Probably few scriptures are more misinterpreted, denied or misunderstood than those quoted above. Yet both contain vital truth for grace-saved believers. Briefly put, the first says the wall of partition between us Gentiles and God has been torn down by Christ. And the second says that because Christ nailed the law to the cross then right from the very get go God hath already forgiven us all trespasses. In fact He did so while we were still dead in trespasses and sins.
And here’s the rub. These gracious, loving truths, addressed by God through the Apostle Paul direct to the despairing hearts of helpless Gentile sinners, are far too strong for most of Christendom to handle. In fact they tear away the very foundations on which the major denominations rest.
Tune in to the religious channels on the box and you will find preacher after preacher explaining the plain meaning of these verses away. For example, almost all the major players in Christendom insist that the “middle wall of partition” broken down by Christ in Eph. 2:14-15 is that between Jew and Gentile. But it’s not. And Seventh Day Adventists constantly deny that Christ nailed the law to his cross, as Col. 2:13-14 asserts, in order to urge keeping of the Saturday Sabbath. But we are not to let an SDA, or any other man for that matter, judge us in such a matter (Col. 2:16). We will keep whatever day we want or better still none at all, just as God has told us to do (Col. 2:16).
But let me ask: Why is there such vehement opposition to such plain biblical truth? Because the teaching of the verses above lies at the very heart of the mystery, the body of truth about a whole new way of salvation that God is implementing today. And the crux of it is that today this truth is primarily for Gentiles, as distinct from earlier revelations (in the Old Testament, the gospels and Acts) which were primarily for Jews. So, let’s look closer at what God’s word actually says on these matters. For example, who really is the one new man? Popular teaching, as said earlier, holds he is a new being formed by Christ bringing together both Gentile and Jew in one body. But this cannot be the case because Col. 3:10-11 clearly states that in the one new man there is…
… neither Greek, nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all and in all.
This by the way is the only place in the Apostle Paul’s prison epistles that the word “Jew” occurs and it is mentioned here only to show that he is absent. Such truth is hard to stomach for those who insist Christians today are saved under the New Covenant and receive the blessings of Abraham. It also pulls the rug from underneath those who insist the “church” today is “spiritual Israel”. But it isn’t, neither are we, as Gentiles, today blessed by Abraham, nor are we under covenants God made with Israel.
With apologies to the reformers for so adapting their “sola” credo, let me say that today the faithful, as Gentiles, are saved by God alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ alone, based on Pauline scripture alone and are so saved only to the glory of God alone.
Actually, scripture teaches that the “one new man” is but yet another name for the “church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Far from being merely a joint body of Jew and Gentiles this lofty state of being is in fact an entirely new creation. This is made clear in Col. 3:10 which teaches that the “one new man” is …
… renewed in knowledge after, after the image of Him (Christ) who created him.
What is the real answer to sin, the mess the world is in, the mess most of Christianity is in and the many shortcomings of even the most sincere believers? It is not to try harder, turn over a new leaf or get an extra filling supposedly of the 'Holy Spirit', still less try to become a Jew by following God’s promises to them in the Old Testament, the gospels and Acts. No, the real answer, God’s answer, to mankind’s dilemma is a whole new creation.
If we would but see it, our “old man” (Col. 3:9) has been “put off”, in that our old Adamic nature has been “crucified with Christ that the body of sin might be destroyed” (Rom. 6:6). By that one act God has made clear that today He is through with trying to put right the old nature of our race that through Adam’s sin fell into death at the start of history. That is to say, that after 4000 plus years of trying by the law, his word, his spirit and other means to rectify our “flesh”, God‘s “final solution” is to crucify it.
Yes, God has destroyed the old human creation through Christ’s cross. Which is why Eph. 2:10 and Col. 3:9-10 announce the great good news that salvation is now by way of being made a new creature in Christ. By the way, note that this new creation is viewed as partial and conditional in Paul’s pre-Acts 28 letters but seen as a full body and an accomplished fact in his prison epistles.
For example, 2 Cor. 5:17 says that “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature”. And it's a big "if". This verse clearly implies that the new creation at this stage in God’s progressive revelation of Himself was being achieved only at an individual level, or person by person, whenever an individual believed and obeyed. In sharp contrast in Col. 3:9-10 it is "ye", plural, that is the whole body of believers that collectively “have put on the one new man”. This is further confirmed by Eph. 2:10 which teaches that we (that is saints saved by grace through faith) in the plural are “his workmanship”.
So who are the “twain”, or two, that in Eph. 2: 15 are said to be made into “one new man”? It is important to correctly identify them. Again popular teaching has it that the twain are Jew and Gentile now made one, but verses 15 and 16 do not say so. They say that Christ 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. And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.
The key to understanding this passage is the phrase, by the cross. It was there that the “twain” were made one. So does this mean there were two bodies on the cross when Jesus died? Yes, it does. One was the body of Christ Himself, who in dying was “made sin for us, (He) who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). This means that the Lord Himself, body, soul and spirit was in his “flesh” made a sinner for our sake. Consequently in resurrection his body had to be brought back to life along with his soul and his spirit had to be justified (1 Tim. 3:16). Importantly, having been made sin for us the Lord’s own body had to be reconciled to God through his own death and resurrection. His then is the first body on the cross. The second is the body of our flesh, our sinful Adamic nature, described as the “old man” in Col. 3:9 and Rom. 6:6.
These then are the two bodies made one in Christ’s flesh on the cross. They are joined in Christ’s death as in his agony, Christ worked to “…make in Himself of twain one new man” (Eph. 2:15). Of course, it is true that historically at that time we Gentiles we were “afar off” (Eph. 2:17). And we stayed afar off until the Apostle Paul testified of Christ’s ransom and wonderful salvation for Gentiles “in due time” (1 Tim. 2:6). Paul’s testimony thus comprises the revelation of the mystery and unfolding of the full dispensation of the grace of God as set out in his prison epistles. Essentially it is the truth of how God’s saving grace now abounds to Gentiles quite apart from, and without reference to, the nation Israel or to Christ’s ministry to them.
We Gentiles should rejoice in this distinction, for in it and through it, God is gloriously proving that He is “… God of the Gentiles also” (Rom. 3:29). And believers today must learn to know God as He really is now – the God of the Gentiles not the God of Israel as He once was. Consider an example: In John 4:22 Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that “salvation is of the Jews” but today that is no longer the case. After the Lord’s earthly ministry closed God brought in the dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery (Eph. 3:1-4) through the Apostle Paul. Prior to that He had sent his salvation in the person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28, Eph. 2:17).
Thus today salvation is of the Gentiles, not the Jews, and God is the God of the Gentiles not of Israel because Israel has been cast off (Rom. 11:11-14) and as a result of the Acts 28:28 pronouncement has been fully set aside. Today God treats all men, whether Jew or Gentiles, as sinners that need to be saved by being made part of his new creation in Christ Jesus.
Hence the huge importance of the Lord on the cross, in his death, and in his resurrection making of “twain” one new man. He did this by taking the rotten, sinful nature of fallen man (the flesh of both Jew and Gentile) into his own flesh, thus making his own body sinful too. This He did so that He might “reconcile both (our sinful flesh and his flesh ‘made sin for us’) unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16) by being joined to Christ and being one with Him first in sin, then in death and finally in resurrection.
It is crucial to see that the making of peace and reconciliation here is between God and sinful mankind as a whole with Christ taking our place on the cross as a sinner. It is not between Jews and Gentiles nor between Israel and the church “which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23), despite much teaching and popular belief to the contrary. Thism not to say there is not a true joining of Jew and Gentile in scripture. There is. However, it is found not in Eph. 2:14-15 but in Rom. 10:12 and 11:32, which say:
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon Him. (And) For God hath concluded them all (i.e. both Jew and Gentile, as shown in the context) in unbelief, that He might have mercy on all.
In times past Gentiles as a race were “afar off” from the reconciliation of Eph. 2:16 simply because it had not taken place or been proclaimed yet and, in any case, they were not (and still are not) part of either the new or the old covenant God made with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). In short, as Eph. 2:12 teaches, they were without God, Christ and hope in the world as long as God maintained his special relationship with Israelites.
But after the setting aside of Israel, begun in Romans 11 and culminating in the sending of salvation to the Gentiles in Acts 28:28, God moved to unveil the masterstroke of his grace. Turning to minister to the Gentiles, very largely shut out from his saving power for more than 1500 years, He not only made them “nigh by the blood of Christ”, but also united them as a collective body with the actual body of Jesus Christ, through the Lord’s death and resurrection.
In this stupendous miracle God acted for all men, whether Jew or Gentile, for as Rom. 3:23 teaches us “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. What’s more in setting aside Israel and the dispersion in Acts 28:26-28 and sending salvation to the Gentiles God chose to view mankind from then on as “dead in trespasses and sins” as a whole and thus ripe for his elective “quickening” ( Eph. 2:1, and 5).
Importantly, not only did Christ pay for our sin; He also took the sinful nature of mankind into his own holy flesh thus making Himself sinful also, then put both to death on the cross. At the same time He “… abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances”. This, of course, was the law that no-one, apart from Himself, either Jew or Gentile, ever succeeded in obeying.
That done, He died, having committed his dead body and soul, and ours (now made one with his), into the hands of the Father. And the Father, as Eph. 2:4-5 explains, “… for the great love wherewith He loved us (us Gentiles, that is) … quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved)”.
This glorious union of ourselves with Him first in sin, then in death and and then gloriously in resurrection is the “twain made one new man”, not some supposed reconciliation between Jew and Gentiles, though of course both Jew and Gentile azs individuals are embraced equally in this wonderful salvation.
Of course, this stupendous truth is supported by other scripture, in fact lots of it. But we will cite just one: that commonly misinterpreted verse, Eph. 3:6 which explains “the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men” (verses 4-5):
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I (Paul) was made a minister …”
Thanks to God’s grace today we Gentiles are fellowheirs with Christ - not with Israel - of all the heavenly glory he has won through his death and resurrection. We are not, emphatically not, fellowheirs with Israel of the earthly glory God has promised them. To the contrary we are joint heirs with Christ, which is why the Father has blessed us “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). What’s more we are “of the same body”, meaning the slain and resurrected and glorified body of Christ. Again emphatically, we are not of the same body as the nation Israel, nor are we “fellowheirs” with the Israelitish “church of God” which flourished in the Acts period and to which some Gentiles were added, but which is now superseded by the “one new man”.
Today we are “members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30). We are members of the church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). To take our place in this wonderful “one new man” we must recognize that Israel, with its covenant promises, earthly destiny and future glory here below, is not only off God’s radar screen in this present grace dispensation but should also be off ours.
Let’s rejoice instead in the certain scriptural fact that Gentiles are, thanks to God’s gracious and quickening intervention in our lives, made one with Christ in spirit and body. “This far better thing” is further referred to in Titus 2:11 where scripture describes it as...
“The grace of God that bringeth salvation (which) hath appeared unto all men”.
By John Aldworth
Published 12 July 2014
Col. 2:13: And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He QUICKENED TOGETHER WITH HIM, having forgiven you all trespasses.
A burden of proof necessarily falls on anyone who sees a different meaning in scripture to that which is commonly held. Consequently this further study into the mystery and the ‘one new man’ is undertaken to see if whether what I have come to see as the true meaning of this important passage is backed up and confirmed by other scripture. And the good news is that it really is.
The issue is this: Whereas most commentators and teachers see the meaning of Eph. 2:16 almost exclusively as the combining of Jew and Gentiles in one body in Christ, I believe that instead it describes the reconciliation of all men to God through a new creation made in the flesh of Jesus Christ.
Eph. 2:13-16 declares that Christ abolished in his flesh “the enmity of commandments” in order to “make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace”. The question is: Are the “twain” Jew and Gentile or are they, as I suggest, our sinful flesh (that is our old Adamic nature) on the one hand and the holy flesh (nature) of Jesus which was made sin for us on the other? Furthermore is the one new man a wholly new creation or is he merely a melding of saved Jews and Gentiles in the old creation?
I believe it is of the utmost importance to correctly discern the truth of this passage because if the joining of Jew and Gentile is the primary meaning, as so many hold, then such making of one from these ‘twain’ would fall far short of making the ‘one new man’ eternally righteous and holy in God – for that is what scripture holds him to be.
Scripture must be interpreted in the light of scripture and “every word must be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim.5:19). It must also be “rightly divided” (2 Tim. 2:15), its context considered and the basic reporter’s questions of who, what, where when, to whom and why applied.
In studying the Bible in this way we find a relevant scripture about the “new man” and the “old man” right there in the same chapter. For Eph. 2:22-24 says:
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. And be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind: And that ye put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Unlike Adam, who was created only in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27), this new man is created after God Himself. That means he is much, much more than merely an image or likeness. An image is only an outward resemblance. At best it is skin deep. And a likeness is only like the object it is derived from; it is not that actual object. But the new man essentially is that object. He is a creation “after God”, which means that he is a recreation of God Himself, since only God Himself is completely righteous and truly and altogether holy. You see, the new man is not a creature made in God’s image and shaped in untested innocence as Adam was. To the contrary, the ‘one new man’ is created in the thoroughly tested and proven righteousness and holiness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. In fact our Lord was put to the test in his earthly life precisely to ensure this could be so. Did He not “do all things well” when living as a man on earth? Scripture says He did. What’s more, even the people of his day said He did (Mark 7:37). So perfect was He that He could turn to the Pharisees and Sadducees, his accusers and ask: “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (John 8:46).
We must therefore ask: Could a joining of Jew and Gentile believers in one body produce such a holy new being? The answer is: No. This is because both Jew and Gentile are sinners by nature; Rom.3:9 and 23 say so. Now, if it’s hard to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as the saying has it, surely it’s even more impossible to make one holy man by joining two sets of sinners who may be forgiven but are not yet redeemed from living in the old creation. Beside, and very importantly, Ephesians chapter two nowhere actually says Jew and Gentile have been joined together in Christ.
Fact is that the word ‘Jew’ is found only once in all of Paul’s prison epistles, in Col. 3: 10-11 which tells us that there is “neither Greek nor Jew … in the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him”. Essentially then the word “Jew” is only mentioned once in Paul’s later epistles to show that in the new dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery, the Jew is not there.
But the Gentile is there, over and over again. Gentiles are directly addressed in Eph. 2:11 and 12, Eph. 3:1-2, 6, 8; 4:17, and spoken of in Col. 1:27, 1 Tim. 2:7, 3:16 and 2 Tim. 1:11. Now admittedly Col. 3:10-11 says that there is neither “Jew nor Greek” in the new man. This I take to be a cultural reference, meaning that in the “new man” there is no one who is either Jew or Greek by nature but that all are renewed, changed in nature by Christ because they are part of his new creation. The meaning of the word Gentile then, as used in the Apostle Paul’s prison epistles. really means “every man” as found three times in Col. 1:26-28:
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generation, 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; Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom: that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Whereunto I also labour striving according to his working which worketh in me mightily.
Here Paul is explaining the mystery that Christ has revealed to him for us Gentiles. In doing so he defines the word Gentile as “every man”. Which means two things: Firstly, that now the glorious gospel of Christ (that is, the gospel of his appearing, Titus 2:13) is now preached and open to every man. Secondly, just as in “time past” – i.e. the period from Abraham to the revelation of the mystery to Paul – Gentiles, in order to be saved, had to be baptized into Israel and thus effectively become Jews, so now in the new dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery (Eph. 3:1-4) Jews effectively must become Gentiles in order to be saved “by grace through faith and not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
But, I hear someone say, doesn’t Eph. 2:12-13 say that Gentiles were in “time past” aliens from the commonwealth of Israel but now have been brought “nigh by the blood of Christ”? Yes, it does. But I would submit that it is not “Israel” that Gentiles are now brought “nigh” to but, far more importantly, to the persons of Christ and God the Father they were “without” and cut off from in times past. What good would it do to be joined unto Israel if you were not also made one with God the Father and his Son?
In any case Israel as a nation, ‘fell’ and was “cast away’ several years before Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, their setting aside being reported in Rom. 11:11-12 and Acts 28:26-28. So Israel was not in existence, spiritually speaking, and from God’s standpoint, when Paul penned Ephesians chapter two. What’s more salvation was sent away from Israel and the Jews to the Gentiles in Acts 28:28. All of which means that neither Israel nor Jews as such were available to be joined to Gentiles in Ephesians chapter two. God’s word does not contradict itself.
But let’s consider another scripture, Col. 2:13, which from a different viewpoint, describes this same process of our sinful flesh being made one with Christ’s flesh when He was “made sin for us”. Now, 2 Cor. 5:21 states the wonderful truth that the Father “… hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” but doesn’t explain how this wonderful transaction actually took place. However, Eph. 2: 15-16 and Col. 2:11-13 do:
In whom (Christ) also 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. Buried with Him in baptism wherein ye are also risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him 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.
That the same divine process of reconciliation for Gentiles into the “one body” made of “twain is spoken of here, is proved by the fact that Col. 2:14 pronounces the same abolition or blotting out of commandments “that was against us” as described in Eph. 2:15. Therefore both the Eph. 2:15-16 and Col. 2:11-13 passages outline the important teaching that our sinful flesh was made one with Christ’s flesh when He was made sin for us. Furthermore, Col. 2:13 clearly teaches that we were “quickened together with Him” (that is, Christ). Logically speaking, if you need to be quickened, then necessarily you must be dead before that operation can begin.
In fact, “having been made sin for us” Christ, after his death on the cross, was just as “dead in trespasses and sins“, (Eph. 2:1.5), as we Gentiles were, collectively and individually, prior to God saving us. Here then is another clear proof that Christ took our sinful, old man, Adamic nature unto his own holy flesh in fact doing so to the point that it killed Him.
Here indeed He made “in Himself of twain one new man”. But that new man, the one made of “twain”, lay “dead in trespasses and sins” until the Father raised Him from the dead. And because Christ had made our sinful flesh one with his flesh made sin for us, the Father could not then raise Christ from the dead without raising us as well. But this was only revealed to the Apostle Paul long after the event. Which is why it is only when we reach Col. 2:12 in the progressive unveiling of truth in scripture that we learn for the first time that we are “risen with Him”.
Which is why, in Eph. 2:16, it is stated that Christ created this “one new man” that He “might reconcile both unto God in one body, having slain the enmity (between God and sinful man, that is) thereby. It is also why in Col. 2:13 we are told that we have been “quickened together with Him” and in Col. 2:12 that we are “risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God.”
Now, of course, God is a God of great faith and I venture to suggest it must have taken all the faith He had to raise Christ, and we with Him, from the grave of sin and death. It also took faith far beyond our human comprehension for Christ to make in Himself of twain (that is his flesh made sin for us on the one hand and our own sinful flesh on the other) one new man”. But indeed He did and Col. 1:21-22 sets out the glorious result of His stupendous feat in doing so:
And you that were sometime enemies and alienated in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of his flesh through death to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.”
Notice here that very clearly the enmity and the alienation is between us Gentile sinners and God, just as it is in Eph. 2: 12 and 15. It is not between Gentile and Jew, nor between Israel and the Church. And note that we as enemies are “reconciled in the body of his flesh through death”, clearly proving that it was at the cross that this great miracle of transformation took place.
It should be understood that firstly Christ Himself needed to make peace with the Father, to be reconciled to Him. As said before God is too holy to look upon sin, which is why He turned away when his Son was made sin for us on the cross. You see, in his death our Lord had to make peace with his Father for Himself because, as a sinner (in that He was made sin for us), he had become repugnant to his Father. This He did by offering the blood that He shed on the cross. But He did not offer it for Himself alone but also for us.
Thus it was not just with Christ (having been made sin for us) that the Father made peace (Col. 1: 20) “through the blood of his cross”. In doing so He also made peace with us. The verse goes on to say that through this peace He (the Father) went on to “by Him (Christ) to reconcile all things to Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in heaven or things in earth”.
And those “all things” include us as “those in heaven”, that is those in the heavenly calling who are destined to dwell in heaven and also those who are “things in earth”, that is they will be resurrected to live with Christ on earth. It is important to see that Christ’s blood is the propitiation for both, our Lord having made peace for Himself and all the saved with the Father who is of holier eyes than to even look upon sin.
©John Aldworth July 2014
THE MYSTERY AND THE
ONE NEW MAN - Part Three
By John Aldworth
Published August 19, 2014
Are we, as grace-saved believers living in the dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery (Eph. 3:1-4) still grafted into “the good olive tree” (Rom. 11:24)? This was a question posed to me just recently. Fact is many would say that today we are still made part of Israel or, going further, that we are “spiritual Israel”, a doctrine held by Seventh Day Adventists and many others.
But this cannot be because the nation Israel was set aside as a vehicle for God’s purposes at the close of Pentecostal dispensation at the end of the Acts period, as recorded in Acts 28:27-28 when salvation was sent to the Gentiles. What’s more that “casting away of them” is irrevocable until the “fullness of the Gentiles be come in” and God receives Israel back to Himself through resurrection (Rom. 11:12-15). And that resurrection to God’s favour will occur only when the prophesied “times of refreshing” and “restitution of all things” take place in the next dispensation on God’s agenda, the Day of Christ. See this website’s studies for more on this glorious truth.
God’s purpose now is that “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25) and for that to happen, as stated, Israel has been set aside.
Sadly, failure to recognise such important changes to God’s redemptive programme causes many to ask ill-informed questions. Such as: Are believers still grafted into Israel’s olive tree? Is Abraham still our father? Is Christ still our Passover? Are we still under the New Covenant? Are we still made part of the commonwealth of Israel? Are we destined to dwell in the New Jerusalem which will come down to earth from heaven? Do we still today receive the blessings of Abraham come upon the Gentiles?
If we “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), then the correct scriptural answer to all the above questions is: No. Why? Because, although all these statements might be true for a Gentile believer added to the “church of God” in the Acts period, they have long since been superseded by the far greater blessings given Gentiles who are “made one” with Christ in the revelation of the mystery outlined in Paul’s prison epistles – Ephesians to Philemon.
Take the matter of the olive tree. In Rom. 11:17 1st century Gentile believers are told that branches of Israel’s olive tree have been broken off so that they, viewed collectively as a “wild olive tree”, could be “graffed in”. Thus grafted in they partook of the “root and fatness of the olive tree”, which was Israel at that time. Importantly, Gentiles at this time were warned not to boast against the natural branches because, if they did, “thou bearest not the root, but the root thee” (vs. 18).
Today many hold that believers are still saved by being grafted into Israel’s olive tree. Accordingly, they believe that the professing church of today began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, that the tongues, spiritual gifts and miracles of the Acts period continue, and that water baptism and confirmation by laying on of hands are still necessary. They also insist that “we are all children of Abraham” and consequently receive “the blessing of Abraham come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:14), “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”.
But allow me to ask: Would you rather be grafted into Israel, or into Christ? That is, would you prefer to be made part of a nation God has pronounced blind and even dead (Rom. 11:7 and Acts 28:27), or would you prefer to be “made accepted in the Beloved (which is his Son)” by the Father Himself (Eph. 1:6)? The choice, of course, is hypothetical since today there is no “Israel of God” for you to be added to.
Nor is Jesus Christ being a Messiah to anyone today. In Rom. 15:8 the Apostle Paul infallibly proclaims, “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”. He was such a minister when on earth and subsequently in early Acts but, evidently, had ceased to be such by the time Paul penned Romans. Which means that at some point during the Acts period itself Jesus Christ had ceased to be Messiah to Israel
The truth is that today grace-saved believers have a far better redemption than being made part of Israel. In the “sound words” given by the Lord to Paul the prisoner and recorded for us in his “prison epistles” (Ephesians to Philemon) we learn that we Gentiles have been “made nigh” to both Christ and God by the blood of Christ, and not to the commonwealth of Israel or the covenants of promise, as held in the all too common misinterpretation of Eph. 2:12-15.
As explained in earlier studies in this series, when Christ Jesus made “in Himself of twain one new man … that He might reconcile both unto God” (Eph. 2:15-16), He was not joining Jew and Gentile as such (although as grace believers both can be included as individuals in the transaction) but, far more importantly, joining the sinful flesh of all mankind with his own holy flesh thus making Himself sin for us.
This He did so that through His death and resurrection He could reconcile both Himself and us sinners together to the Father, having joined our flesh to his. It is in this way He made peace both for Himself and us, and, most importantly, with God the Father Himself (Eph. 2: 15).
Yes, in the “present truth”, revealed as the mystery to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-14), every saved and chosen believer today, whether Jew or Gentile, is made “one flesh” with Christ Jesus Himself through the Lord’s death on cross, that death being both his and ours. This is our “grafting in” today. And it is not into Israel but consists of our being made one with Christ Himself.
Accordingly, Col. 1:27 speaks of making all men see the “riches of the glory of this mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” and Eph. 5:30 declares that believers truly saved by grace are “members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones”.
Fact is, that in the Bible’s progressive unfolding of God’s acts and purposes, there is not now, nor has there been for some 1950 years, any Israel as a nation or “olive tree”, as an umbrella of salvation, for any Gentile to be “graffed” into.
©John Aldworth, August 2014
THE MYSTERY AND THE
ONE NEW MAN - Part Four
By John Aldworth
Published Sept. 4 2014
It was in AD62 that the Lord announced through the Apostle Paul that “salvation is sent to the Gentiles” (Acts 28:28). And with that final, infallible apostolic pronouncement Israel as a spiritual entity for God’s present purposes was set aside.
Up to that time, you see, Israel’s setting aside had been a partial and piecemeal process. John the Baptist had warned at the start that the “axe is laid to the root of the trees” and that every tree which did not bear fruit “is hewn down and cast into the fire” (Matt. 3:10). Many Israelites were “chaff” which would be burned up with unquenchable fire, he said.
Then Christ Himself stated, in the parable of the Lord of the vineyard, that the kingdom would be taken from them – Israel, that is - (Matt. 21:33ff) and given to “a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof”. I submit that that nation is the “one new man” of Eph. 2:17, and while not excluding Jews as individual believers, it is of course predominantly and characteristically Gentile. The Lord also warned Israel the Jerusalem temple would be destroyed and much of the nation’s people with it.
The theme of Israel’s doom, because of her refusal to receive her Messiah, was picked up next by the Apostle Paul. In Acts 13: 40:41, for example, he had a stark message for Jews in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. They were reluctant to believe that “…by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses” as Paul proclaimed. Therefore he told them:
Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
Taken from Hab. 1:5, this prophecy was highly appropriate for his Pisidian Jewish hearers, for it begins: “Behold ye among the heathen …” Paul in the Acts period was the minister of the gospel of God to Jews dispersed through the Roman Empire who for sure were “among the heathen”. As he explains in Rom. 1:16 this “gospel of Christ” at that time was “… to the Jew first but also to the Greek”.
Now what was it that Paul’s Jewish hearers at Pisidia were to beware of, that had been spoken of in the prophets? Surely it was the recurrent prophecy first recorded in Isaiah 6:9 that Paul also cited in his final spoken words to Jewry in Rome, as recorded in Acts 28:26-27:
Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people and say, Hearing ye shall hear and not understand; and seeing ye shall see and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted and I should heal them. Be it known unto you therefore that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles and they will hear it.
Closing one’s ears, eyes and heart to God is always a sure path to destruction. The prophecy cited above is recorded in seven different places in scripture, with the final citing of it in Acts 28: 26-27. Now seven is the complete number of God, and in this case signifies completion of God’s setting aside of Israel. The earlier citations of it spell out step by step Israel’s progression towards ultimate doom. For example, in Ezek. 12:2-3, the warning to the “rebellious house” that they have “eyes to see, and see not, and ears to hear, but hear not” is accompanied by a prophetic act in which Ezekiel makes an outward show of gathering his belongings ready to move. And he does so in a way that pantomimes how the conquered pack their “stuff” as “they that go forth into captivity”.
The same prophecy of doom was cited by Christ in Matt. 13:14-15, Mark 4:12 and Luke 8:10 as the reason for his speaking to the Jews in parables. And in John 12:37-40, the Apostle John declares that it is in fulfilment of the truth of this prophecy that the Israelites could not then believe in Jesus, despite seeing his many miracles during his time of ministry to Israel.
Later in Rom. 11:5-8, the Apostle Paul cites the prophecy again when he explains that, apart from a remnant left “according to the election of grace”, Israel did not obtain her salvation at Messiah’s visitation. The reason? Because, according to the prophecy, they were “blinded”, God having given them “the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear”.
Paul goes on to describe this “blinding” as the “fall” of Israel, through which “salvation is come to the Gentiles for to provoke them (i.e. Israel) to jealousy”. Note however, that at this time in the Acts period, it was a fall only in part. Some, a handful of Israelites, believed. They were the Jews who, hearing of the saving of a small, selected company of Gentiles under the Apostle Paul’s ministry at this time, were “provoked unto jealousy” to repent and receive Christ for themselves. However, the nation as a whole continued to reject their Messiah and refused to believe He had risen from the dead. And Gentiles for the most part at that time had yet to learn of salvation through Christ for them.
Thus it was not until Acts 28:28 that we learn that salvation is (fully) sent to the Gentiles and that “they will hear it”. Meantime Israel is fully and finally set aside until her restoration in an end time yet to come. Importantly, as stated in this writer’s book, The Gentile Jesus, available free on request, “salvation”, as cited in this verse, is less an occurrence than a person. And that person is Christ Jesus, sent as Saviour to the Gentiles, as clearly taught in Acts 28:28, Eph. 2:17 and Eph. 4:21.
So we see that, step by step through the Acts period, the “kingdom”, which scripturally equates to salvation, was being taken from Israel and given to a “nation bringing forth fruits”. Israel’s period of probation, her time of opportunity to repent, ended in Acts 28:28 and her refusal to acknowledge her Messiah bore fruit in the judgement of 70AD, when a Roman army besieged Jerusalem, tore down the temple, destroyed the city, killed a third of the nation and took most of the rest into captivity as slaves. All just as the prophets, Jesus and Paul had warned.
Now all this has been said to make clear that today there is no “Israel” for any believer to be “graffed” into. Consequently there is likewise no provision today for Gentiles to be saved in order to provoke Israel to jealousy. Furthermore, believers today cannot be saved under the provisions of the New Covenant, since that blessing of God, like the Old Covenant, was and will be made exclusively with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31) both of which houses were brought to an end in the 1st century.
Neither are we seed of the “faithful Abraham”, with our faith counted for righteousness: rather we are saved through the “faith of Christ, the righteousness which is by (the) faith of God” (Phil. 3:9)
Nor is Abraham our father since Eph. 4:6 makes plain there is “one God and Father of all”, thus excluding Abraham. Importantly, in 1 Cor. 5:7 Gentiles saved into the then Israelite “church of God” were told by the Apostle Paul they were “unleavened bread". “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”, he said. But it is vital to realise that the Pentecostal dispensation of Acts has closed and that Christ is not being a Messiah nor a Passover for anyone today.
To the contrary, in Eph. 1:7 the Apostle Paul states that “… we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”. Now the “riches of his grace” in scripture is code to describe the grace God lavishes on all who believe, but particularly upon Gentiles in this the dispensation of grace, in which sinners are saved by grace without works (Eph. 2:8-9).
This grace is part of the “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” given by the Father to the “faithful in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) and the only condition for receiving it is that one believe. And even that faith is the gift of God as Eph. 2:8 clearly states.
In fact such faith comes as a result of God the Father quickening us out of our state of being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1 and 5). Verse five specifically describes this “quickening” as the very act of being “saved by grace”. The following comparisons make clear the huge difference between being saved by grace as set out here in Ephesians and the earlier forms of salvation offered during Messiah’s earthly ministry and after his resurrection in the Acts period.
- Messiah called on Israel to “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). The Apostle Peter preached a murder indictment in Acts 2:23) and called on Israelites to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). By contrast Eph. 2:8-9 says that “For by grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast”. Now clearly repenting and water baptism are works done by man. Being saved by grace, however, is God’s work and God’s alone.
- In Rom. 11:17 the Apostle Paul says that as “a wild olive tree” Gentiles added to the Israelite “Church of God” in the Acts period were “graffed in” among the “branches”, that is the saved elect of Israel at that time. But in sharp contrast in Eph. 2:15-16 the Apostle Paul tells Gentiles believers saved by grace that they have been made part of the “one new man” Christ made in Himself. That “one new man” consists of Christ Himself and grace saved believers whom God hath made one with Him, who by this means have become “members of his body, of his flesh of his bones” (Eph. 5:30).
- In the Acts period God judicially “concluded them all (both Jew and Gentile, that is) in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32). Since then, in God’s view, man evidently has sunk deeper in his refusal to acknowledge Christ, for in Eph. 2:1 and 5 God concludes all men as being “dead in trespasses and sins", so that He can offer salvation by grace to all.
Bear in mind the present self-proclaimed state of Israel in the Middle East is not the “Israel of God”, scripturally and practically speaking. Culturally Jewish it may be, but it is a political entity with no faith in the one true God of the Bible. Fact is the “Israel of God” was taken out of God’s present purposes at the end of Acts. And it’s past time grace-saved believers recognised that fact and, to be blunt, “got over” her having been setting aside.
©John Aldworth, August 2014