Who is Our Apostle? #4

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:” (Romans 11:13 KJV).

Behold, the verse that most have never noticed in the Bible!

Notice today’s Scripture in context: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

Scripture is clear that Paul’s Gentile apostleship is exalted while the nation Israel is fallen. There is no “kingdom of priests”—converted Israel—preaching salvation among the Gentiles in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Rather, the Holy Spirit is using the Apostle Paul to reach the Gentiles. Clearly, the prophetic program that operated prior to Paul (pre-Acts chapter 9) has been temporarily interrupted. To see Israel functioning as a kingdom of priests after our dispensation, we can look at Zechariah 8:20-23, Isaiah 60:1-3, and Isaiah 61:6. In the meantime, we know that the mystery program is operating—the Church the Body of Christ is being formed using believing Jews and believing Gentiles.

Notice Ephesians chapter 3: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [5] Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [6] That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:”

Certainly, Paul’s ministry and message are unique….

Our One Baptism!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13 KJV).

Behold, our one baptism!

If there is one controversial topic in Christendom, friend, it is the issue of water baptism. Someone once rightly called it, “religious TNT!” Throughout the centuries, and even today, church members of various groups argue about whose mode of water baptism is correct. Not long ago, somebody emailed me to complain about one of our Bible studies on water baptism. Of course, the individual did not care to hear what the Bible said; clearly, all that mattered to him was church tradition!

There are many misconceptions about water baptism. The chief one is that we Christians must be water baptized today in order to show that we have been buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life. That is nothing but religious tradition, and it will profit us nothing in eternity. In Ephesians 4:5, we read that there is one baptism” operating in the Dispensation of the Grace of God. According to 1 Corinthians 1:17, the Apostle Paul admitted, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel….” Clearly, the one baptism for today is not water baptism! Could there be a “baptism” other than water?! Horror of horrors! Religious people are shocked to discover the answer is “yes!”

Today’s Scripture talks about the one baptism that is valid in this the Dispensation of Grace. It is not water baptism either! The one and only baptism we need today is when the Holy Spirit takes us—after we believe the Gospel of the Grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)—and places us into the Church the Body of Christ. We have no reason to squabble or get confused about sprinkling, pouring, immersion, formulas, et cetera, because water baptism has absolutely nothing to do with us anyway! Horror of horrors!

Now, friends, do we believe the words of the Holy Spirit through Paul? Or, does religious tradition mean everything to us?

Our latest Bible Q&A: How did John’s converts ‘justify God?’

A Prayer Life Fallen Apart

Monday, June 12, 2017

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV).

Beloved, when your prayer life ceases, fret not!

An online Christian sister admitted on social media that she had just realized how her prayer life is “pretty close to useless.” Having learned more about how to study God’s Word dispensationally—how everything in Scripture is for us to read but not everything therein is to or about us—she recognizes how she has been praying inappropriately. I told her we have all been there at one time. It was good that she reached this point because most believers never do. Moreover, now that she has identified the problem, she can proceed to fixing it. The solution is there in God’s Word rightly divided, she just needs to study more and discover it!

As a Christian delves deeper into the Bible rightly divided, his or her prayer life increasingly disintegrates. Why? He or she has been praying primarily one of two ways. Firstly, praying like Israel. The primary model prayer of Christendom, of course, is the so-called “Lord’s Prayer,” Matthew 6:9-13—“Our Father which art in heaven….” Secondly, praying like heathen. Jesus Christ discussed that as well. Verse 7 says, “use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Friends, we should see how our Apostle Paul prayed. Since his salvation is our “pattern” (1 Timothy 1:15,16), then his ministry and life are also our patterns. If Paul knew what God was doing today, and he did according to Ephesians 3:2, then it is safe to assume that Paul prayed in-line with what God was doing today. As other members of the Body of Christ, we would do well to follow the four model Pauline prayers—Ephesians 1:16-23, Ephesians 3:14-21, Philippians 1:9-11, and Colossians 1:9-13.

Indeed, friends, we pray with whatever Bible understanding we have. We do it with understanding nonetheless—neither mindlessly repeating nor haphazardly snatching verses! As it becomes clear where and how we pray wrongly, we let the rightly-divided verses fix our thoughts and hearts. Once we are re-oriented by God’s grace (I speak from experience), we will not miss that old so-called “prayer life!” Onward to maturity! 🙂

The Heavenly Places #5

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Why does Ephesians conclude with this description of the war between good and evil?

It is not until we come to Paul’s ministry do we learn how God will cleanse the heavenly places. Ephesians highlights our eternal destiny as members of the Church the Body of Christ. Just as Father God will use Israel to accomplish His will in the Earth, so He will use us to achieve His will in the Heavens. He will exalt His Son, Jesus Christ, in both realms. Ephesians chapter 1: “[9] [Father God] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: [11] In whom also we have obtained an inheritance….”

One day, brethren, we will be displayed for all of the universe to see. All creatures will witness God’s wisdom fully manifested in outer space. We will participate in Jesus Christ’s exaltation in the heavenly places throughout eternity future. Ephesians chapter 2 declares: “[6] And [God] hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

As good as this all is, however, we are not there yet. The heavenly places are still so far away! Howbeit, one day, Jesus Christ will return to Earth—at the Rapture—to take His Body (us) beyond the sky. Until we get there, though, we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Knowing full well that we will replace him and his minions in the heavenly places, he fights us every chance he gets. We had better don all the armor of God, beloved, that “we stand against the wiles [schemes] of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-20)! 🙂

 

The Heavenly Places #4

Monday, June 5, 2017

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Why does Ephesians conclude with this description of the war between good and evil?

Parroting the misguided claims of so-called “Bible authorities,” critics complain about the King James’ italicized words. The phrase “heavenly places” is heavily derided because the original Greek does not have “places.” Thus, people refuse to quote the Authorized Version verbatim here—they prefer “heavenlies.” “Places” is needed to construct a complete English thought; therefore, our 1611 translators rightly inserted it. Upon removing “places,” we rob ourselves of an important link.

Revelation 12:7-9: “[7] And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, [8] And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Friend, did you notice “place” in verse 8? It means a “room, position, dwelling.” Satan and his fallen angels functioning in heaven today (today’s Scripture) will be tossed out onto the Earth halfway through the future seven-year Tribulation. (Recall the “Old Testament” references about God and Satan both working in the heavenly places, with God cleansing those regions of evil. The Revelation is the capstone.)

With the heavenly places vacated of evil beings, Father God installs us the Church the Body of Christ into those positions of power (refer to the “heavenly” references in Ephesians—1:3-12, 1:20-23, 2:6-7, 3:10-11). Colossians chapter 1: “[16] For by him [Christ Jesus] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:… [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth [using Israel], or things in heaven [using us the Body of Christ].”

Now, we wrap it up….

The Heavenly Places #3

Sunday, June 4, 2017

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Why does Ephesians conclude with this description of the war between good and evil?

The first reference to the “heavenly places” affirms that God has given us, the Church the Body of Christ, resources in them: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…” (Ephesians 1:3). The second mention is how God the Father, because of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, has given Christ power over all creatures and positions in creation: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,…” (Ephesians 1:20).

The third reference talks about how Father God, through Christ’s finished crosswork, has qualified us to share Christ’s authority in the “heavenly places:” “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:…” (Ephesians 2:6). The fourth mention identifies us as the objects of attention of the fallen angels currently polluting the “heavenly places:” “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,…” (Ephesians 3:10).

The final reference, today’s Scripture, reminds us that our battle is not between other people here on Earth, but rather invisible evil spirits functioning in the “heavenly places:” For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

Throughout the “Old Testament,” and for good reason, there is very little about God’s activity in the heavenly realm of creation. Those Scriptures are all about God forming the nation Israel, a group who will restore His authority in the Earth: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine (Exodus 19:5). When we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, however, the Bible switches to the “heavenly places….”

Our latest Bible Q&A:Could you explain, ‘From his shoulders and upward he was higher…?’

The Heavenly Places #1

Friday, June 2, 2017

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Why does Ephesians conclude with this description of the war between good and evil?

Paul’s epistle to Ephesus is literally a very “heavenly” book. Notice the following verses and phrase unique to Ephesians. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…” (Ephesians 1:3). “Which [mighty power] he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,…” (Ephesians 1:20). “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:…” (Ephesians 2:6). “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,…” (Ephesians 3:10).

As previously mentioned, “heavenly places” is a phrase found exclusively in the Book of Ephesians. It appears four times. The Greek word is epouranios (“above the sky”). On one occasion, it is rendered “high places” (cf. today’s Scripture). Ephesians lifts the minds and hearts of its readers to such lofty, dizzying heights. As the Book begins to wind down, however, something strange happens to its tone. There is a drastic shift to material that some call “dark” and “depressing.” Why would the Holy Spirit lead the Apostle Paul to end such a glorious Book about God’s workings in the “heavenly places” (previous paragraph) by referring to Satan’s wicked activities in them (today’s Scripture)?

From time immemorial, Bible commentators and readers have needlessly struggled with Ephesians’ so-called “out-of-place” reference to Satan’s behavior in the “heavenly places.” If they approached the Bible dispensationally, as 2 Timothy 2:15 commands us, there would be no difficulty. Like so many other Bible concepts, it would be unbelievably clear. Remember, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” In our upcoming studies, let us see how dispensational Bible study enables us to understand Ephesians’ handling of the “heavenly places….”