Monthly Archives: July 2014

Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts 2?

DID THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST BEGIN IN ACTS 2?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Nearly everyone in Christendom is convinced that Acts chapter 2 is “the birthday of the Church the Body of Christ.” Does this overwhelming consensus agree with God’s Word, or is this just a denominational viewpoint courtesy of religious tradition? Let us search the Scriptures to see what Almighty God has to say about this often-confused topic.

Firstly, remember, whenever you see the word “church” in the Bible, it does not necessarily refer to the Church the Body of Christ. “Church” simply means “a called-out assembly.” There are three “churches” in Scripture: the Mosaic Church, the Messianic Church, and the Mystery Church.

The Mosaic Church is mentioned in Acts 7:38, when the Prophet Stephen refers to the nation Israel as “the church in the wilderness.” The LORD had just called out Israel from Egyptian bondage. Certainly, that “church” had nothing to do with the Body of Christ—it was the nation Israel, a separate and distinct entity. This Mosaic Church derives its name from Moses, the man whom God used to lead Israel from Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land.

The Greek word ecclesia (often translated “church”) is correctly translated “assembly” in Acts 19:32. The King James translators did not use the word “church” here because it was not a group of believers, but rather a mob of pagan worshippers who were angry with the Apostle Paul after he spoke against their mythological goddess Diana. Again, “church” does not always mean “a group of believers;” likewise, “church” in the Bible does not always refer to the Church the Body of Christ. The context determines the definition of the term.

Religious tradition has made such a mess of Matthew 16:18. Let us read it as it appears in the King James Bible (Jesus Christ is speaking to Peter): “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Church the Body of Christ. Continue reading in verse 19, “I will give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven….” The Lord Jesus Christ has just appointed Peter as the head of the “Messianic Church.” The “rock” is the fact that Jesus is Messiah/Christ (Peter’s profession in verse 16). Again, this is not the Body of Christ because the Messianic Church is comprised of those Jews who have trusted Jesus as their Messiah, Christ, the Son of the living God—this includes those believers from John the Baptist’s ministry and Christ’s earthly ministry (see Matthew 16:15-17). According to Luke 12:32, the Messianic Church is also known as the “little flock,” the believing segment of the nation Israel that will inherit the earthly kingdom promised in the Old Testament.

When the book of Acts opens, this Messianic Church still exists. In Acts chapter 2, Peter is the chief speaker (remember, he is the head of the Messianic Church and the keys of Israel’s kingdom have been given to him). Do not be confused when Acts 2:47 says “the church”—it is the mishandling of this verse that contributes to the erroneous idea that this is the Church the Body of Christ. Acts chapter 2 is not a reference to the Body of Christ; remember that this is the Messianic Church, what Jesus Christ promised to build back in Matthew 16:18.

Here are 12 reasons why the “church” in Acts chapter 2 is not the Church the Body of Christ:

1. ACTS 2 INVOLVES JESUS CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY.

The Bible says in Hebrews 2:3-4: “[3] How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; [4] God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” According to the Holy Spirit speaking through the writer of the book of Hebrews—it is a Jewish book!—the early Acts period is a continuation of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (which was also Jewish; Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Romans 15:8). Read Acts 1:4-5: “[4] And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. [5] For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Jesus Christ was referring to John the Baptist’s words in Matthew 3:11: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” In His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ promised to send the Holy Ghost (see John 14:16-18; John 15:26; John 16:7)—this promise was fulfilled to Israel in Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2 is linked to Jesus’ earthly ministry, which was confined to Israel (see Acts 2:22).

 2. ACTS 2 INVOLVES ISRAEL ONLY.

The chief speaker of Acts chapter 2 is the Apostle Peter, an apostle of Israel (Matthew 10:1-7; Matthew 19:28; Galatians 2:9). Peter was sent to minister to the nation Israel (Matthew 10:5-7). Undoubtedly, Peter’s audience in Acts chapter 2 is Jews only, the nation Israel (Acts 2:5,14,22,29,36). On four occasions, Peter says that he is speaking to, “Ye men of Judaea (verse 14), “ye men of Israel(verse 22), “men and brethren (verse 29), and “the whole house of Israel (verse 36). The Holy Ghost is leading the Apostle Peter to speak (verse 4), and the Holy Ghost is well aware that He is speaking to the nation Israel. Indeed, Acts chapter 2 is to Israel and about Israel. The Church the Body of Christ is made up of neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:28; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:11-18; Colossians 3:11); therefore, the Body of Christ is separate from the nation Israel and not related to Acts chapter 2. It is apparently clear that we are still in Jewish-Gentile distinction of “time past” of Ephesians 2:11-12 here in Acts chapter 2. Some may argue that the term “all that are afar off” in Acts 2:39 refers to Gentiles, but they are incorrect because the context does not allow this definition. Actually, we find this term in Daniel 9:7 and it refers to scattered Jews around the world. It has no reference to Gentiles, either in Daniel 9:7 or Acts 2:39.

3. ACTS 2 INVOLVES PENTECOST, A JEWISH FEAST DAY.

Acts 2:1 says “when the day of Pentecost was fully come.” This is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The Body of Christ is separate from Israel’s prophetic program (see Romans 16:25-26). Also, Pentecost is one of the three major Jewish feasts (Leviticus 23:15-16). We members of the Church the Body of Christ are not bound by the laws and feast days of Judaism (Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16), so this further proves that the group of believers in Acts chapter 2 is not the Church the Body of Christ. The Spirit of God would never lead a member of the Church the Body of Christ to be under the law (2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:18).

4. ACTS 2 INVOLVES PROPHECY, NOT MYSTERY.

According to what the Holy Ghost through Peter said in Acts 2:16-21, the events of Acts chapter 2 are fulfilled Old Testament prophecy: [16] But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; [17] And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: [18] And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: [19] And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: [20] The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: [21] And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The Prophet Joel (2:28-32) prophesied the supernatural events of Acts chapter 2 in relation to Israel’s restoration—we do not have these signs, miracles, and wonders in the Body of Christ and the Dispensation of Grace. The strange astronomical phenomena recorded in Joel and Acts chapter 2 will be fulfilled after our dispensation (see Matthew 24:29-30; Mark 13:24-26; Luke 21:25-28; Revelation 6:12-14). Again, the Body of Christ has no relation to the Old Testament because the “mystery” (our Dispensation of Grace) was “kept secret since the world began” (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:5; Colossians 1:26). The risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed our mystery dispensation first and only to the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:1-9; Colossians 1:25-29). We do not find ourselves outside of Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon.

5. ACTS 2 INVOLVES “THE LAST DAYS.”

We return to Acts 2:17: [16] But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; [17] And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” Notice the expression “in the last days” in verse 17. Acts chapter 2 does not record the first days of anything—there is no “church birthday” here. Acts chapter involves “the last days.” The “last days” of what? Israel’s prophetic program was winding down in Acts chapter 2, but God interrupted that program in Acts chapter 7 to introduce the mystery program (our Dispensation of Grace).

6. ACTS 2 INVOLVES JESUS CHRIST BEING RAISED TO SIT ON DAVID’S THRONE.

When the Apostle Peter preached in Acts chapter 2, notice what the Holy Spirit said through him in verses 29-31: “[29] Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. [30] Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; [31] He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” We have no relation to David’s throne; we are Gentiles saved apart from the nation Israel (Romans 11:11-12). When the Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to write to us, he wrote that Jesus Christ was raised “for our justification” (Romans 4:25)—he made no reference to David’s throne like Peter did.

7. ACTS 2 INVOLVES A GOSPEL THAT IS NOT VALID TODAY.

The Apostle Peter preached in Acts 2:38 when his audience asked how to be saved: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized 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.” This is certainly a works-religion gospel, and it was valid in Israel’s program—it is problematic when people try to apply it to us because it does not belong in our dispensation. After all, Jesus Christ had said in Mark 16:16 that faith and water baptism were necessary for salvation in Israel’s program. Peter is in perfect accordance with his commission. Israel will not receive forgiveness of sins until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19). Jews must repent (change their mind about who Jesus Christ really was) and be water baptized in order to receive forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved, Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Unlike Peter’s ministry, in Paul’s ministry, there was no reference to water baptism or repentance. We receive the Holy Spirit by trusting the Gospel of the Grace of God—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:24-25)—and God the Father seals us with the Holy Spirit instantly (Ephesians 1:12-14). Romans 4:1-8 makes it abundantly clear that no works save us. Acts chapter 2 does not apply to us because its Gospel message does not apply to us—it is a false gospel for us and we should reject it as such (Galatians 1:6-12).

8. ACTS 2 INVOLVES ISRAEL’S APOSTLES AND ISRAEL’S TEMPLE.

According to some of the closing verses of Acts chapter 2, these believers continued in “the apostles’ doctrine” and were “with one accord in the temple” (verses 42,46). The “apostles” in this case are Peter, James, John, and the other nine apostles from Christ’s earthly ministry—these apostles of Israel were never sent to minister to the Church the Body of Christ (recall Matthew 10:5-7; Galatians 2:9). Furthermore, temple worship has no relation to us the Church the Body of Christ because we are not under the demands of the Mosaic Law (Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 5:1-5). We believers are the Temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), and God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24).

9. ACTS 2 INVOLVES A PRE-EXISTING GROUP OF BELIEVERS.

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). The Bible says that there was a pre-existing group of believers in Acts chapter 2. It is not a new Body of Christ; Acts chapter 2 was simply a continuation of the Messianic Church that we discussed earlier. Again, there is no “birthday” of anything in Acts chapter 2.

 10. ACTS 2 INVOLVES SIGNS, MIRACLES, AND WONDERS.

Read Acts 2:43: “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” Is there “fear” in local churches today because of miraculous demonstrations? “The Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22a). Mark 16:15-20 talks about how signs were to follow those that believe in Israel’s program, and Acts chapter 2 is a confirmation (see Hebrews 2:3-4). These miracles belong with Israel, and they do not apply to us. We have something better than miracles—we have the completed Word of God, the Holy Bible (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

 11. ACTS 2 INVOLVES COMMUNAL LIVING.

Did you ever notice the communal living found in Acts 2:44-45? Who does this today, except perhaps the cults? “[44] And all that believed were together, and had all things common; [45] And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” These Jewish believers sold everything they had and gave the money they received to the twelve apostles for distribution to the poor (in perfect accordance with what Jesus said in Matthew 19:21-24 and Luke 12:31-34)! This was selfless, spontaneous living for the good of their fellow Jewish believers. Do you know of any Christian today who has sold all his or her possessions and given the money to a preacher or a local church? I seriously doubt it, so yet again, the Bible proves that Acts chapter 2 has nothing to do with the Church the Body of Christ.

12. ACTS 2 INVOLVES LEGALISM.

As we stated earlier, the Spirit of God would never lead a member of the Church the Body of Christ to be under the law (2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:18). Yet, legalism abounds in Acts chapter 2—repentance and water baptism for salvation and forgiveness (verse 38) and obeying the apostles’ doctrine in the Temple (verse 42,46). Jesus said that Israel’s 12 apostles were to preach and teach the Law (Matthew 5:17-20). We have no relation to legalism because Paul says that we are under grace, not law (Romans 6:14-15).

CONCLUSION

Despite what the denominationalists and religionists claim, the Church the Body of Christ did not begin in Acts chapter 2. To say that it did is to ignore all of the verses that we briefly outlined in this study. Acts chapter 2 is not our pattern; we must ignore the modern-day cries to “go back to Pentecost to get the Holy Ghost and the fire.” If we want to have God’s power and learn God’s information to us, we must go to Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon. We must leave Acts chapter 2 in Israel’s program where it belongs, or we will confuse everyone and ourselves, and make our Christian lives vain and miserable. So, when did the Church the Body of Christ begin? Please see our study below dedicated to answering that very question!

 

Also see:
» When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?
» How are Gentiles saved outside of our dispensation?
(LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What is “the Dispensation of Grace?”

When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?

WHEN DID THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST BEGIN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Was it Acts 2? Acts 9? Acts 13? Acts 18? Acts 28? Or later?

Nearly everyone in Christendom is convinced that Acts chapter 2 is “the birthday of the Church the Body of Christ” (at the end of this article, we have a link to our study specially dedicated to refuting the “Acts 2” position, which is beyond the scope of this discussion). While there seems to be an anti-Acts-2 consensus within the so-called “grace movement,” there is often little clarity as to when the Church the Body of Christ did begin; that is, among grace believers, there is an overwhelming agreement that the Body of Christ did not begin in Acts chapter 2, but very few of these Christians can actually state with certainty when it did begin. Hence, the general term “mid-Acts dispensationalism” is applied, for some hold an “Acts 9” view, others believe in an “Acts 13” view, and still others an “Acts 18” view. There are even some who hold to “Acts 28” view, or something beyond Acts 28. It is very sad that many grace Christians seem to be guilty of being just as fragmented as the denominationalists they often deride. “When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?” is such a simple question with a simple answer, but it seems like very few are aware that God already settled the matter almost 2,000 years ago. Beloved, we grace believers must not allow denominationalism to divide us, lest we discredit ourselves and the message we so fervently claim to believe!

It is of utmost importance to our discussion to remember that the term “the Church the Body of Christ” is never found outside of Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. James, Peter, and John never mentioned it in their epistles. In fact, Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry (recorded in Matthew through John) never mentioned it (the overwhelming Scriptural testimony is that Matthew 16:18 is not the Body of Christ).

In his epistles, the Apostle Paul made over 20 references to “the Church the Body of Christ” by name (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 12:4,5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12,13,14,15,27; Ephesians 1:22,23; Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 4:4,12,16; Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 5:23,30; Colossians 1:18,24; Colossians 2:19; Colossians 3:15). Save Paul, no other Bible writer uses the term “the Church the Body of Christ.” Since only Paul uses that term, he seems to know more about it than anyone else in Scripture, so should we not allow Paul to tell us when it began? Rather than blindly agreeing with a grace preacher or a grace church’s doctrinal statement, we need to believe what the Holy Spirit through Paul taught and believed concerning the beginning of the Church the Body of Christ.

1. PAUL’S SALVATION IS OUR “PATTERN”

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15-16: “[15] This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. [16] Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

Notice the four very important words in the passage quoted above:

  • “chief” — The word “chief” means “first, primary” (such as in Acts 14:12). For any “Greekophile,” the Greek word translated “chief” in 1 Timothy 1:16 is protos, meaning “beginning or foremost.” It does not mean “worst” as commonly thought.
  • “first” — Means just what it says; it is the “earliest.”
  • “pattern” — A “pattern” is “an example for others to follow.”
  • “hereafter”“Hereafter” is an adverb meaning, “from now on.”

These four terms are four different ways of saying the same thing—something new began with Paul. Paul was the “chief,” the “first,” the “pattern to them which should hereafter [that is, after Paul] believe on him [Jesus Christ] to life everlasting.” When Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,” he was not saying that he was the worst of all sinners. In the context (look again at the four key terms highlighted above), what he meant was that he was the first of all sinners Jesus Christ saved. Yet, how could that be? What about the 12 apostles? Were they not sinners saved by God years prior to Paul? Yes, they were, but the manner by which Paul was saved, and the purpose to which Paul was saved, were different than those before him. Jesus Christ saved Paul and those after him with a special plan in mind.

The Scriptures could not be plainer that something new began with Paul’s salvation in Acts 9. Paul was the “first.” The first of what? The only sensible answer is the first member of the Church the Body of Christ (the only other group of believers God has in His Word is the redeemed nation Israel, and Israel is fallen at this point; the Church the Body of Christ had to be created in order to save Saul of Tarsus and make him Paul the Apostle). Paul was the first individual to be saved apart from Israel’s program. There had to have been a new program in Acts 9, otherwise Paul could not be saved unto eternal life (more on this later). The Holy Spirit said that Paul’s salvation is our “pattern.” Are we members of the nation Israel? No. Do we belong to Israel’s program? No. According to the Holy Spirit, and according to Paul himself, Paul was saved the same way we are—apart from Israel (1 Corinthians 15:8; Galatians 1:15) and apart from her program (1 Timothy 1:13-16 cf. Matthew 12:31-32; Romans 11:11-13; 1 Corinthians 1:17 cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 6:14-15 cf. Matthew 5:17-19; et cetera).

2. PAUL COULD NOT BE SAVED IN ISRAEL’S PROGRAM

In Galatians 1:15-16, Paul writes, “[15] But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, [16] To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:…” In 1 Corinthians 15:8, Paul wrote, “And last of all he [the resurrected Jesus Christ] was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” Paul was not a part of Israel or her program. God “killed” Israel, as one would take the life of a pregnant woman, and He delivered her unborn child, in this case, Saul of Tarsus (Paul). (Look at the “stillborn” birth Job longed for in Job 3:16, “Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been….”).

The Lord Jesus said to the nation Israel in Matthew 12:31-32: “[31] Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. [32] And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

Saul/Paul encouraged the murder of Stephen, and he was guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Ghost. After all, Jewish Saul was leading the world’s rebellion against Jesus Christ (see Acts 7:57-60; Acts 8:1-4; Acts 9:1-5; Acts 22:3-7; Acts 26:9-11; et cetera). Paul wrote that he was a “blasphemer” in 1 Timothy 1:13. Paul was saved, but he blasphemed against the Holy Spirit! So, how was Paul saved, and yet, how could it not break Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:31-32? Paul could not be saved in Israel’s program, for it would contradict Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:31-32; nevertheless, God opened our Dispensation of Grace, a program separate from Israel’s program, in Acts 9, and saved Saul/Paul. Saul/the Apostle Paul could only be saved if God interrupted Israel’s program with a new program, and if he was placed into a new group of believers. Paul was saved in our dispensation, not in Israel’s program; he was saved in the Church the Body of Christ, not in the nation Israel. Certainly, a new dispensation was in effect in Acts 9.

3. NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JEW AND GENTILE IN PAUL’S MINISTRY, WHETHER DURING ACTS OR POST-ACTS

When understanding the beginning of the Church the Body of Christ, we need to determine what the Church the Body of Christ is. From Paul’s epistles, we learn that it is a spiritual, invisible body of believers in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, who have trusted exclusively in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins (Paul’s Gospel, the Gospel of Grace of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Consider the following verses found in Paul’s epistles:

  • Romans 3:22: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Written during Acts.)
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13: “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.” (Written during Acts.)
  • Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Written during Acts.)
  • Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Written during Acts.)
  • Ephesians 2:11-17: “[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] 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: [13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. [14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; [15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; [16] And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: [17] And came and preached peace to you which were afar off [Gentiles], and to them that were nigh [Jews].” (Written after Acts.)
  • Colossians 3:10-11: “[10] And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: [11] Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Written after Acts.)

The distinction between Jew and Gentile (“Greek” delineated the prominent Gentile nationality of that day, as in the Graeco-Roman Empire) was abolished with Paul’s ministry: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference (Romans 3:22). Paul was “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13)—Paul wrote Romans during the Acts period. Israel had fallen back in Acts chapter 7 and was now “diminishing” (see Romans 11:11-12), so any lost Jews were technically Gentiles. In Acts chapter 15, Paul agreed to minister to the “heathen” (Galatians 2:9)—this would be anyone who was not a member of Israel’s little flock, her believing remnant. A Jew who had not trusted Jesus as Messiah was still just as much a “heathen”—a child of the Devil, and an enemy of the God of the Bible—as a lost non-Jew (Gentile) (see John 8:44, Acts 13:10, and Ephesians 2:1-3).

Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had been one of those Christ-rejecting Jews, a heathen just as sinful before God as a Gentile. Paul’s ministry and message were directed toward any Christ-rejecting lost people—Jews or Gentiles. This distinction of Jew and Gentile being done away could only be possible if Israel’s program were fallen; the distinction between Jew and Gentile is always indicative of “time past” (Ephesians 2:11-12). The Church the Body of Christ had to have begun at the very beginning of Paul’s ministry, otherwise those to whom he ministered could not be saved. Yea, Paul himself could not be saved if a new program (the Dispensation of Grace) and a new agency (the Church the Body of Christ) had not begun back in Acts chapter 9.

4. PAUL’S INCLUSION IN THE RAPTURE

Paul considered himself to be a member of the Church the Body of Christ because he mentioned himself in reference to the Rapture. The Rapture of the Church the Body of Christ does not involve Israel or her prophetic program; the Rapture actually prevents our mystery program from overlapping with Israel’s program. Had the Body of Christ began after Paul was saved in Acts chapter 9—such as in Acts chapter 13, Acts chapter 18, or Acts chapter 28 or beyond—it would make no sense for Paul to be including himself in the Rapture. Paul had a hope to be included with the members of the Church the Body of Christ at the Rapture. He says “we” not “you” throughout 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18—Paul included himself in the Rapture, which is exclusively Body-of-Christ doctrine (verses 15 and 17). In fact, remember what Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13)—Paul did not use the pronoun, “you,” indicating that he included himself in the Church the Body of Christ. Paul mentioned God blessing us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3)—this is the Body of Christ doctrine, and when he wrote that God “blessed us with all spiritual blessings,” he included himself. “For we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:30)—Paul included himself in the Body of Christ. To have the Body of Christ begin after Paul’s salvation is to ignore the many verses that indicate that Paul was a member of the Body of Christ.

5. THE DANGERS OF STARTING THE BODY OF CHRIST AFTER ACTS 9 (SUCH AS ACTS 13, ACTS 18, ACTS 28, OR BEYOND)

To begin the Church the Body of Christ at some time other than Acts chapter 9 is to ignore the foregoing verses and passages. Furthermore, a non-Acts-9 view of the Body of Christ will introduce increasing confusion into your Christian life and the lives of those around you. You lose Paul’s salvation as your pattern, you make your Christian life less clear, and you make the transitional period of Acts more confusing. Without going into too much detail, we will briefly comment about the “Acts 13,” “Acts 18,” and “Acts 28” positions:

  • ACTS 13. This position is taken because Paul began his apostolic journeys at the beginning of this chapter. Furthermore, Acts 13:46 is used to justify this position: “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Some use this verse to contend that Paul will go unto Gentiles from this time on, so the Gentile body of Christ could not begin until Acts chapter 13. Still, we understand that Paul was considered a Gentile because he had rejected Jesus Christ and was a “heathen” (Israel had fallen in Acts 7, see Point #2, “Paul could not be saved in Israel’s program”). Moreover, the Body of Christ had already begun with Paul’s salvation in Acts 9 (see previous comments). Had the Body of Christ begun in Acts chapter 13, Paul could not have been saved unto eternal life. The clear teaching of Acts 13:46 is this—it was Paul’s announcement to unbelieving Israel in Asia (modern-day Turkey) that God had now changed His dealings with mankind, that Israel was now fallen and diminishing. Nothing more.
  • ACTS 18. Acts 18:8 is used to teach that the Gentile Body of Christ began in Acts 18: “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Yet, by this time, Paul had already gone to Gentiles—he spoke with the pagan Greeks in Athens in Acts chapter 17. In Acts 18:8, Paul was not saying that the Body of Christ was now beginning. He was simply announcing in a new region (Europe) to unbelieving Israel that his ministry was amongst Gentiles. He was speaking to a new Jewish audience to inform them that JEHOVAH God had now changed His dealings with mankind, that Israel was now fallen and diminishing. To begin the Church the Body of Christ in Acts chapter 18 is to divorce ourselves from Paul’s earliest epistles—Thessalonians and Galatians.
  • ACTS 28. Acts 28:28 is used to support the Acts 28 position: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” This does not say that God’s salvation will go to the Gentiles; by this time, we have seen that it has already gone to the Gentiles and is going to the Gentiles (recall our earlier comments). The Body of Christ had begun long before Paul announced those words in Acts 28:28—some 30 years earlier actually. Acts 28:28 was Paul speaking in Rome, the world’s capital at this time. “Acts 28” is a particularly dangerous position to take because it divorces you from Paul’s Acts epistles (Galatians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, and Romans) and makes you believe they are not to or about you—Paul never divides his epistles between one section of the Body of Christ in Acts and another section of the Body of Christ after Acts. The admonition in 2 Timothy 2:15 refers to all of the Bible, and does not teach “rightly dividing” Paul’s epistles.

Acts 13:46, Acts 18:8, and Acts 28:28 are not the beginning of the Body of Christ and, despite what some “grace” people may tell you, they are not indicative of such. These three verses should be considered one unit, for they comprise a three-fold announcement that the Apostle Paul made to unbelieving Israel in three separate regions. God was now going and had gone to the Gentiles, and Israel’s prophetic program was diminishing. By the time of Acts 28, that transition period was over. How clear, how simple!

CONCLUSION

We so-called “mid-Acts dispensationalists” agree that the Church the Body of Christ did not begin in Acts chapter 2 (as “traditional dispensationalism” teaches). Yet, there is often great confusion and doubt concerning when it did begin (hence the broad term “mid-Acts”). Some say it was Acts chapter 9, others Acts chapter 13, still others Acts chapter 18, and some even say Acts chapter 28 or later. Indeed, it sounds just as bad as denominationalism in Christendom! Mid-Acts dispensationalists often blame traditionalists (denominational people) for holding to the “traditions of men” to advance a particular church’s viewpoint regarding Scripture. Sadly, however, some so-called “mid-Acts dispensationalists” are just as guilty of this error. One glance at the “Acts 9/13/18/28” controversy demonstrates that religious tradition and preconceived notions often deceive, divide, and defeat us “mid-Acts dispensationalists” just as it does denominational Christendom.

Honestly, some years ago, when I first learned of the Acts 9/13/18/28 division within “grace circles,” I grew very discouraged. I had left my religious confusion in a denominational church behind, only to wind up with more confusion parading as “grace doctrine.” I wanted to know when the Church the Body of Christ began so that I could then determine what parts of the Bible on which to focus the most. It took me at least two or three years to finally learn the truth about the matter (during that time, many “grace people” were telling me different things, and they seemed to be just as confused as I was). When I finally studied the Scriptures on my own, I was thrilled to see how clear the Bible was regarding the issue. Acts chapter 9, the Apostle Paul’s salvation, was the beginning of the Church the Body of Christ; to say otherwise is to cause abounding confusion.

Dear friends, the fragmentation of grace believers regarding the beginning of the Body of Christ, often aids the Adversary’s cause in keeping God’s truth hidden. Having struggled with this issue myself, I can personally testify to that. Furthermore, this Acts 9/13/18/28 conflict affords our denominational critics another reason to undermine our stand on Paul’s special apostleship/ministry to us Gentiles and our stand in the Gospel the Lord Jesus Christ committed first to his trust. Thus, the question, “When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?,” is one of the most important questions the Bible student will face. He or she must answer it using Bible verses, not religious tradition (even if that church tradition parades under the guise of “grace doctrine!”).

If we are to be a pure church, we too must discard traditions, even if “grace” brethren believe and teach them! No question about it, the Apostle Paul was the first member of the Church the Body of Christ. It is not that difficult to understand unless we refuse to see it for sake of keeping our own traditions.

Also see:

»
» Can you explain Paul’s ministry during the book of Acts?
» What is “the Dispensation of Grace?”
» Was Paul saved by the Gospel of the Kingdom? Did he ever preach that Gospel message?

Can you please explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?

CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN PAULS MINISTRY DURING THE BOOK OF ACTS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Certainly!

During the book of Acts, why did the Apostle Paul heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils, water baptize, offer sacrifices in Jerusalem’s Temple, physically circumcise Timothy, and place his hands on people to impart the Holy Ghost to them? Did these practices and miraculous demonstrations not belong in Israel’s program? Then why was Paul involved with them? Was Paul preaching in Israel’s program? As always, when we have Bible questions, we appeal to the Bible to get Bible answers. Not “For what saith the grace preacher” or “For what saith the grace seminary,” but “For what saith the Scriptures?”

In the Bible, from Genesis chapter 12 and Abram/Abraham until we come to the ministry of the Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus was saved in Acts chapter 9), JEHOVAH God is dealing almost exclusively with the nation Israel. Hence, John the Baptist’s ministry was limited to Israel (Luke 1:16-17,80; Acts 13:24), Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (recorded in the books of Matthew through John) was restricted to Israel (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; Luke 19:9; John 1:11; John 4:22; Romans 15:8), and Peter and the 11 other apostles’ ministries were limited to Israel during early Acts (Acts 2:36; Acts 3:13,25; Acts 4:8; Acts 5:30-31; Acts 7:2). For those four years, Israel refused to listen to and believe the preaching of Jesus, Peter, the 11, and Stephen. The Jews refused to trust Jesus as their Messiah-King, so in Acts chapter 7 (when Israel’s leaders stoned Stephen), Israel’s program fell away (albeit temporarily). That is when the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ began a new program by raising up Saul of Tarsus, saving him, making him Paul, a new apostle, and giving him a new message, the Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts chapter 9 and onward).

The latter part of the book of Acts (chapters 9-28) can be awfully confusing and downright impossible to understand unless we keep Romans 11:11-14 in mind. The first step in understanding Paul’s ministry during the Acts period is to read and believe Romans 11:11-14: “[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.”

According to the Old Testament prophetic program, the nation Israel should have risen to her kingdom glory. She should have accepted and trusted her Messiah-King Jesus, and in the literal, physical, visible kingdom He would then establish on the earth, Israel would be a kingdom of priests who would evangelize the Gentiles (see Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 59:21–60:3; Isaiah 61:6; Zechariah 8:20-23; Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; et cetera). When national Israel refused Jesus but rather crucified Him, and then refused to repent (change their mind about who He was) in early Acts, God caused her program to fall away temporarily. That is what Paul is saying in Romans 11:11-12. Israel stumbled at Calvary’s cross when she crucified her Messiah, but she did not fall (Romans 9:32-33). Israel later stumbled in early Acts by rejecting God the Holy Spirit who was speaking through Stephen (Acts 7:51,55), and Israel finally fell here. Today, national Israel is “fallen” (Romans 11:11-12); now, God sees no difference between Jew and Gentile (Romans 3:22; Galatians 3:28; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:13-18; Colossians 3:11), but rather sees sinners (lost, those in Adam) and saints (saved, those in the Body of Christ). Throughout the book of Acts, from Acts chapter 7 to the end of the book of Acts (chapter 28), Israel and her program are “diminishing” (Romans 11:12)—the internal scriptural evidence suggests that Paul wrote the book of Romans during the book of Acts. One day, after God is finished dealing with the Church the Body of Christ, it will be raptured, and then He will resume Israel’s program (see Romans 11:25-32, 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:9, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17). After our dispensation ends, Israel will be preeminent again in God’s dealings with mankind.

Romans 11:13 quoted above says that Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles.” Paul has a ministry that is not limited to Israel. Paul is God’s spokesman to Gentiles (which would include lost Jews, since Israel fell before God years earlier in Acts chapter 7). But, in order to validate Paul’s ministry, in order to show Israel that her program was diminishing, God temporary granted Paul the power to perform miraculous demonstrations and exhibit other “Jewish-related behavior” (Acts chapters 9 through 28). Regarding the supernatural gift of speaking in tongues (intelligent human languages never formally learned), the Apostle Paul wrote: “[21] In the law it is written [Isaiah 28:11-12], With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. [22] Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe” (1 Corinthians 14:21-22). By temporarily granting the supernatural gift of tongues to Gentiles, JEHOVAH, Israel’s God, was communicating to unbelieving Israel that He had now started a new program with Paul’s ministry.

Throughout Acts, we read how the Apostle Paul healed the sick (Acts 14:8-18; Acts 19:11-12; Acts 28:8-10), he physically circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1-3), he water baptized new converts (Acts 16:14-15; Acts 16:30-33; Acts 18:7-8), he cast out a devil (Acts 16:16-18), he laid hands on people for them to receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:1-7), he raised the dead (Acts 20:7-12), he offered sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem (Acts 21:18-30), he spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18), and he survived a snake bite (Acts 28:1-6). The miraculous demonstrations and other behaviors associated with Jesus and His 12 apostles in Matthew through John and early Acts, Paul did them during the Acts period. Paul’s “strange” behavior in Acts was God’s way of communicating to unbelieving Israel that her God was now amongst the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry. Acts chapters 9 through Acts 28 is a transitional section of the Bible—it is the record of God being just/fair in setting Israel aside for a time and going to the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry (you can study the book of Acts to see how unbelieving Israel continually harassed and hindered God’s ministry through Paul).

Let us re-read Romans 11:14: “If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” Paul would “provoke to emulation them which are my flesh”—that is, the way Paul would encourage his lost Jewish brethren to behave like Gentiles and trust Jesus Christ—was by magnifying his Gentile apostleship (verse 13), and that Gentile apostleship involved Gentile believers experiencing Israel’s signs, miracles, and wonders. Although unbelieving Israel hated Paul (actually, they hated the Jesus Christ whom Paul served), and unbelieving Jews desperately tried to hinder Paul’s ministry throughout Acts, they were fully aware that the God of their fathers was working in and through him. Their miracles were now evident amongst the Gentiles; their God had signified to them that He was now working apart from them. They knew Paul’s ministry and message were valid, albeit they rejected it in unbelief as they had rejected Peter and the 11’s ministries.

Before we leave this section, notice what the Church at Jerusalem, Peter and the other Messianic Jews, witnessed: “[12] Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. [13] And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: [14] Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:12-14). Even believing Israel had to learn that God was now working through Paul.

 

CONCLUSION

The Dispensation of Grace began with the salvation of the Apostle Paul. Nevertheless, to validate Paul’s ministry for the lost Jews’ sakes, God temporarily granted Paul the gift of miracle-working and had him perform other “Jewish” behaviors. The signs, miracles, and wonders of Israel’s program were carried over into Paul’s ministry because God was demonstrating to Israel that her program was falling away and Paul’s ministry was replacing Peter’s (Romans 11:11-13; 2 Corinthians 12:12). Paul did the same things Peter did: water baptism—Acts 2:38-41 cf. Acts 16:30-33, healing the sick—Acts 3:6-8 cf. Acts 14:8-10, raising the dead—Acts 9:36-42 cf. Acts 20:9-11, laying on hands to give the Holy Ghost—Acts 8:14-20 cf. Acts 19:1-7. Eventually, Paul quit water baptizing (1 Corinthians 1:14-17), Paul could no longer heal himself and other Christians who were sick (Galatians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20), and so on.

Paul’s odd Acts ministry was God demonstrating to Israel that He was working through Paul, for Paul did the same things Israel’s apostles did. The strange and often controversial and confusing passages in Acts where Paul does things that belong in Israel’s program, is actually the Lord Jesus Christ validating Paul’s apostleship for unbelieving Israel’s benefit; those strange, Pauline Acts passages have nothing to do with us because they occurred during the transitional period of Acts, while God was moving from Israel to the Gentiles. Paul, when teaching the Church the Body of Christ in his epistles of Romans through Philemon, never instructs us to be water baptized, never instructs us to lay hands on sick people in order to heal them, never instructs us to lay hands on people to give the Holy Ghost to them, never instructs us to raise the dead, never instructs us to be physically circumcised for salvation, never instructs us to cast out devils, never instructs us to offer animal sacrifices, et cetera. When Paul did those things, it was not a pattern for us to follow; it was simply something God wanted Paul to do in order to teach Israel doctrine (that his ministry was replacing Peter and the 11’s, and if any lost Jews wanted salvation, they would have to come to Paul’s ministry and message/gospel).

By the time we get to Paul’s latter (that is, post-Acts) epistles (his prison epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon; also 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus), Paul has no more relation to water baptism, laying on lands to receive the Holy Spirit, physical circumcision, raising the dead, healing the sick, animal sacrifices, devil casting, et cetera. By Acts chapter 28, Israel’s program had fully diminished and she had fallen (she had fallen back in Acts chapter 7). The 30-year-long Acts transitional period was over, and the Dispensation of Grace remained. Nothing began at the close of the book of Acts, but something ended—Paul’s transitional ministry ended. Just a few years after that, the Holy Bible was completed, and the spiritual gifts were no longer necessary (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). How simple!

Also see:

» Did Paul ever preach the Gospel of the Kingdom?
» What about spiritual gifts in the Dispensation of Grace? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What is “the Dispensation of Grace?”

What is “the Dispensation of Grace?”

EXACTLY WHAT IS “THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE” ANYWAY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

What do you mean by the expression “the Dispensation of Grace?” When did it begin? How long will it last? Let us see what God’s Word has to say about the matter.

The term “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” appears in Ephesians 3:2 in the King James Bible. Thus, we need to study Ephesians 3:1-11 to learn the basics about it (we will examine that passage shortly). Firstly, in the Bible, a dispensation is simply a set of instructions that God “dispenses” (or gives) to mankind, or to a section of mankind, for him to apply to life during a particular time period; God expects mankind to obey the particular dispensation He gives to him. In Scripture, there are various dispensations, diverse sets of instructions that God has dispensed throughout history (these other dispensations are beyond the scope of this discussion, so they do not concern us here). The “Dispensation of Grace” (or using its full name, “the Dispensation of the Grace of God”) is the set of divine instructions that pertains to us; it involves God’s current dealings with mankind.

Let us now look at Ephesians 3:1-11: “[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: [7] 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. [8] Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; [9] And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: [10] To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, [11] According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:”

According to Ephesians 3:1, the Apostle Paul is writing to us Gentiles; he was writing to communicate to us some doctrine that Jesus Christ wanted us to know. After all, the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write in Romans 11:13: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.” According to the Bible, Paul—not Peter, not James, not John—is our apostle. Paul is the man whom God Almighty sent to us Gentiles; Paul is Jesus Christ’s spokesman to us non-Jews. In Ephesians 3:2, we read that Jesus Christ gave “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” to the Apostle Paul, so that Paul could then relay that information to us. From heaven’s glory, the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ saved Saul of Tarsus in Acts chapter 9, ordained him as the Apostle Paul, directly revealed to him a set of information that He had previously kept secret in Himself (Galatians 1:11-12), a “mystery” (or secret) dispensation (Ephesians 3:3; cf. Romans 16:25-26; Colossians 1:25-27).

Under the leading of the Holy Spirit, Paul claims that he alone received the revelations of doctrine that make up the Dispensation of Grace. The Holy Spirit led Paul to write that he alone was entrusted with “the Dispensation of the Grace of God.” Prior to Paul, no one knew of it but God: consequently, the Body of Christ is called the “Mystery Church.” Hence, the Bible calls the Body of Christ and the Dispensation of Grace a “mystery,” or “that which was kept secret since the world began.”

Read Romans 16:25-26: “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you 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, [26] 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:”

Ephesians 3:9 says, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”

Colossians 1:25-27 says: “[25] Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; [26] Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: [27] 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:”

From Genesis until the Apostle Paul’s conversion in Acts 9, we read about something called the prophetic program. The Apostle Peter said in Acts 3:21, “[Jesus Christ] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” This should be contrasted with what Paul wrote in Romans 16:25-26: “…the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest….”

Now, Jesus Christ has revealed the mystery, a program He was keeping secret while He was revealing the prophetic program. Through the Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit has written that information in Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon. By reading those books of the Bible, we too can learn that once-secret, now-revealed information (2 Timothy 2:7)—the doctrine that God wanted made known to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:3-4). Ephesians 3:5 further explains: “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;” The Lord Jesus Christ manifested the Dispensation of Grace to the Apostle Paul, and through Paul’s inspired writings (Romans through Philemon), the Holy Spirit teaches us that information.

 

PAUL IS THE “WISE MASTERBUILDER”

Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, where Paul writes: “[10] According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. [11] But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” It is by faith in the Gospel of Grace that one enters into the Body of Christ. Who laid the foundation of the Christian faith in this Dispensation of Grace? The Bible says that it was PAUL! Please understand that Jesus Christ is the Foundation, but the Holy Spirit claims that Paul is the “wise masterbuilder” (chief architect) who laid the Foundation—the Foundation is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins, buried, and risen again for our justification.

Acts 9:15, Romans 11:13, Romans 15:16, and 2 Timothy 1:11 all make it abundantly clear that the risen, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus Christ sent Paul to the Gentiles to call out from them believers to create the Church the Body of Christ. Again, Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). Look at 2 Timothy 1:11: “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” Paul (known then as Saul of Tarsus) was saved in Acts chapter 9, about a year after the events of Acts chapter 2. Consequently, the Body of Christ could not have begun in Acts chapter 2. The Body of Christ began with the salvation of the Apostle Paul in Acts 9. The Body of Christ began when the Dispensation of Grace began, and both began when Paul was saved on the road to Damascus (more on this later).

 

PAUL’S BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST

The Lord Jesus issued a stern warning to the nation Israel in Matthew 12:31-32: “[31] Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. [32] And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

Saul (Paul) encouraged the murder of Stephen (one of God’s prophets), and Saul was thereby guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Ghost. After all, Jewish Saul was leading the world’s rebellion against Jesus Christ (see Acts 7:57-60; Acts 8:1-4; Acts 9:1-5; Acts 22:3-7; Acts 26:9-11; et cetera). Paul wrote that, when he was lost and on his way to everlasting hellfire, he was a “blasphemer” (1 Timothy 1:13). Paul was saved, and yet he blasphemed against the Holy Spirit! How was Paul saved then? Paul could not be saved in Israel’s program, for it would contradict Jesus’ statements in Matthew 12:31-32. Nevertheless, God opened our Dispensation of Grace, a program separate from Israel’s program, in Acts chapter 9, and saved Saul/Paul. Saul/the Apostle Paul could only be saved if God interrupted Israel’s program with a new program. Paul was saved in our dispensation, not in Israel’s program. A new dispensation was in effect in Acts chapter 9, so a new gospel had to also be in effect in Acts 9 beginning with Saul. The first person to be saved by the Gospel of the Grace of God was the Apostle Paul.

 

PAUL’S SALVATION IS OUR “PATTERN”

We want to look now at 1 Timothy 1:15-16 where Paul writes to Timothy, a church leader and member of the Church the Body of Christ: “[15] This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. [16] Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

A pattern is the first of more to come. Paul is the “pattern” for us members of the Church the Body of Christ; the Apostle Paul being the “pattern” means he was the first member of the Church the Body of Christ. The Gospel of Grace by which we were and are saved, is the same Gospel message that saved the Apostle Paul. The word “chief” implies he is the first, the primary one, and the head of the line (“chief” in Acts 14:12, Luke 22:26, Acts 28:7 means “first, main, primary”). “Hereafter” means something began with Paul, and the only logical explanation is that the Body of Christ began with Paul. It is obvious from the Scriptures that the Church the Body of Christ and the Dispensation of Grace both began with Paul, when Jesus Christ appeared to him in a secret coming in Acts chapter 9 (cf. Acts 26:16-19; Galatians 1:11-12), a coming not prophesied in the Old Testament. The Church the Body of Christ and the Dispensation of Grace will end with another secret coming of Christ, the Rapture, a coming that is not found in the Old Testament either (the “mystery” [secret] of 1 Corinthians 15:51).

 

THE DOCTRINAL CONTENTS OF THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE

What God was doing with Israel in “time past” (Ephesians 2:11-12) is different from what He is doing with us Gentiles (non-Jews) in the “but now” (Ephesians 2:13). In Matthew through John, Jesus Christ was speaking to Israel under the Mosaic Law (see Matthew 5:17-19; Galatians 4:4). Jesus Christ was speaking in light of God’s earthly kingdom, over which He would be King. We cannot follow what Jesus said in the Four Gospels, because that was God’s message to the nation Israel (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Romans 15:8). Jesus Christ said He was not sent to Gentiles during His earthly ministry.

The Apostle Paul says, “I am the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13 KJV). Paul is our apostle; the Lord Jesus sent Paul to us, so if we are to accept the words of Jesus Christ to us, we are to accept the words of Jesus Christ through Paul. Just as Jesus spoke God’s message to Israel in the Four Gospels, God’s message to us Gentiles (non-Jews) is Paul’s 13 epistles, Romans through Philemon. The Holy Spirit led Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 14:37-38: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” There are many Christians who will (and do) willfully ignore Paul’s distinctive apostleship and message, but the Bible is very clear that if someone is “spiritual” (led by God’s Spirit) and a “prophet” (speaking on behalf of God), he or she will acknowledge that Paul’s writings are the words of Jesus Christ to us Gentiles apart from Israel’s program. Conversely, if someone rejects Paul’s special ministry, he or she is not being led by God’s Spirit, and he or she is not speaking on behalf of the God of Scripture.

From the Apostle Paul’s epistles alone, we learn the following doctrine (please remember that this is not an exhaustive list):

1. WE ARE SAVED BY FAITH IN THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD, AND NOT BY OUR WORKS.

Paul said in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” In 1 Timothy 1:11, the Apostle wrote the Gospel of Grace “was committed to his trust.” Paul called it “my gospel” (Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8), “that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:2), and “the gospel of the uncircumcision” that was committed to him (Galatians 2:7). Even the Apostle Peter admitted some of the things Paul wrote and spoke were “hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:15-16). Paul’s Gospel is not to be confused with the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 9:35 et al.) or the Gospel of the Circumcision committed to Peter (Galatians 2:7), which are Gospel messages that involve Jesus Christ being Israel’s Messiah-King and God blessing the world through Israel in her kingdom, respectively.

Unlike believers in Israel’s program (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), water baptism has nothing to do with our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:17; Ephesians 4:5). No religious works play any role whatsoever in our salvation (Acts 16:31; Romans 4:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). Our soul salvation is totally dependent upon Jesus Christ’s faithfulness at Calvary, His finished crosswork, as sufficient payment for our sins—His dying for our sins, His bloodshed, His burial, and His resurrection (Romans 3:19-28). To have those merits of Jesus Christ applied to us, the Holy Spirit through Paul wrote that we rely exclusively on Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins, justification unto eternal life, a home in heaven, et cetera. We are not saved by “turning over a new leaf,” saying the “sinner’s prayer,” confessing our sins, getting water baptized, joining a church, giving money to the poor, and so on. “Therefore, [salvation] is of faith, that it might be by grace” (Romans 4:16a).

2. WE ARE UNDER GRACE, NOT LAW.

We are not under Israel’s legalistic water baptism ordinance (1 Corinthians 1:17; Ephesians 4:5), we are not under Israel’s legalistic tithing system (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and we are not under Israel’s legalistic system of feast days, holy days, and Sabbath days (Colossians 2:16). Our Christian lives operate on the basis of how we were saved unto eternal life (Colossians 2:6-7)—by faith in Jesus Christ’s faithfulness at Calvary, not our faithfulness, and His work, not our work. Grace gives us liberty to serve God and others out of love (Galatians 5:13), not out of the motivation of fear and Law-keeping (Romans 8:14-17). Romans chapters 7 and 8 testify that our Christian lives operate on the basis of grace, not works-religion (rites, rules, regulations, ordinances, et cetera).

Romans 6:14-15 could not be any clearer: “[14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” God’s grace teaches us how to live; Paul’s epistles indicate that we Christians are “righteous” and we do not need the Law (1 Timothy 1:9-11). Galatians 5:18 reminds us: “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” God’s Holy Spirit will never lead a believer to place himself or herself under Israel’s legalistic system; the Bible says that any preacher who commands you to follow Israel’s laws is not being led by God’s Spirit!

3. WE ARE NOT “SPIRITUAL ISRAEL,” WE HAVE NOT REPLACED ISRAEL, AND WE HAVE NO RELATION TO ISRAEL’S PROGRAM WHATSOEVER.

The Dispensation of Grace involves the doctrine that God uses to take believing Jews and believing Gentiles and form one unit of believers, the Church the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians chapter 12; Ephesians 2:11-23). The Church the Body of Christ is not to be confused with the nation Israel, which is composed entirely of Jews. Prior to Jesus Christ revealing to Paul the Dispensation of Grace, He was forming the nation Israel so that the nation Israel could then evangelize the Gentiles (see Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 60:1-3; Zechariah 8:20-23; et al.). When Israel rejected her Messiah Jesus, and refused to repent and trust Him in early Acts, Israel fell before God (Romans 11:11-13). In order for God to save us Gentiles apart from Israel and her prophetic program, He began a new program, a mystery program, a secret program (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:1-11; Colossians 1:25-27), a program that He kept hidden from Satan in order to defeat Satan (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). When no else wants to trust Jesus Christ as his or her personal Saviour, then this Dispensation of Grace will end with the Rapture (when the Church the Body of Christ is caught up to meet the Lord in the air; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). God will then continue His program with Israel (Romans 11:25-29). The events that will occur after our Dispensation of Grace include the rise of the Antichrist, the seven-year Tribulation, Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (for Israel), God’s 1,000-year earthly kingdom, and New Heaven New Earth.

Romans 11:11-12,25: “[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? [25] For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” Ephesians 2:14-16: “[14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; [15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; [16] And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:” Ephesians 3:6 says: that the Dispensation of Grace involves saved Jews and saved Gentiles being placed into one Body, the Body of Christ: “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:”

4. WE WILL BE GOD’S VESSEL TO BE USED IN THE HEAVENS FOR JESUS CHRIST’S GLORY.

Prior to this the Dispensation of Grace, God’s Word focused on His purpose and plan for the earth. When we come to Paul’s ministry, we learn how God the Father will restore heaven unto Himself using the Church the Body of Christ (just as the rest of the Holy Bible discusses how He will restore the earth unto Himself using redeemed Israel). See Ephesians 1:9-10 and Colossians 1:16-20.

Notice Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” And Ephesians 2:6-7: “[6] And 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.” And 2 Timothy 4:18: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Our ultimate prospect is to replace Satan and his fallen angels in the heavenly places (see Revelation 12:7-10).

 

CONCLUSION

Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, are exclusively “the Dispensation of the Grace of God.” We study all of the Bible, but not all of the Bible is to us or about us. In order to learn what God has to say to us today, we must go to the Apostle Paul’s writings, Romans through Philemon. It is only in Paul’s epistles that we learn about our doctrine, duty, walk, and destiny as Christians today. We do not reach into Israel’s Scriptures and try to apply them to us because they are a different time period, a different program, and a different dispensation. To ignore and/or confuse these dispensational boundaries in Scripture is to introduce unanswerable confusion in the lives of Christians—now you know why there is so much debate in Christendom!

Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, are our primary source for spiritual advice. It is only in these 13 books that we learn how to be saved today unto justification and eternal life. It is only in these 13 books that we learn how God has designed the Christian life to operate. It is only in these 13 books that we learn about God’s grace to us apart from Israel’s program. It is only in these 13 books that we learn how God will restore the heavens unto Himself one day. The main reason why Christendom is so spiritually weak and confused is that they have largely ignored the special information—the Dispensation of the Grace of God—that the ascended Lord Jesus Christ delivered us through Paul’s epistles. May we never forget that!

 

Also see:
» Do we “make too much of Paul?”
» Can you explain Paul’s ministry during the book of Acts? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?

Does God chasten us when we sin?

DOES GOD CHASTEN US WHEN WE SIN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Do my difficult circumstances indicate that God is mad at me? Is God punishing me because of my “unconfessed sin?” Does God still love me? Is God “going to get me” when I sin? Are my difficult circumstances God’s retribution for my sins?

One of the chief differences between religion (Christendom) and grace (Christianity) is the issue of divine punishment inflicted on disobedient Christians. How many times have ministers accused suffering Christians of having unconfessed sins, having backslidden, having apostatized, and so on? How many sincere, God-fearing, Jesus Christ-believing Christians have had sickly children, accidents, financial hardships, miscarriages, divorces, and prolonged illness, and religion has added to their pain by “beating them up” by saying, “You are under God’s punishing hand?” These religionists quote assorted Bible verses about God’s wrath supposedly being poured out on sinful Christians. Sadly, people usually never bother to read the contexts of those verses quoted during such circumstances. Beloved, we need to look at the Bible verses often used to teach that God “chastens” us today, and see what those verses really teach. The pure Holy Bible is our final authority, not a denominational interpretation of it.

Let us examine some of the passages from the New Testament that are used to teach that God chastens believers today. We will see what the Scriptures really say and teach about chastisement in the Dispensation of Grace.

 

1 CORINTHIANS 11:29-32

Those who claim that God chastens believers today using troubling circumstances, cite 1 Corinthians 11:29-32 to justify that belief and teaching. Please read that passage here: “[29] For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. [30] For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. [31] For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. [32] But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

This passage is commonly used to teach that God will cause sickness among, or even kill, believers who habitually live in sin, particularly when they abuse the Lord’s Supper (they assert that God did this to the Corinthians, focusing on verse 32 when it says, “we are chastened of the Lord”). Verse 32 should be considered in light of the whole passage, and should not be isolated.

Certainly, some of the Corinthians were getting drunk and being gluttonous when observing the Lord’s Supper (see verses 21-22). Overeating and drunkenness are known to cause illness and even death. However, please understand that God was not punishing the Corinthians for their bad behavior; the Corinthians simply reaped the results of their sowing to the flesh instead of sowing to the Spirit. God was not causing the Corinthians to get sick and/or to die; He simply let them reap the consequences of their actions. “[7] Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. [8] For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8). The Corinthians preferred drunkenness and gluttony, so God let them exercise free will to pursue it. Although Jesus Christ has taken away the eternal penalty of our sins (hell and the lake of fire), please understand that God will not remove the consequences of our poor judgment. If we choose a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, God will not shield us from the ill effects and poor health such a lifestyle brings. God will not keep us out of prison if we murder someone, commit theft, and so on. Again, the Corinthians were experiencing the natural results of their behavior. It was not God directing sickness and death to trouble them.

Here is where dispensational Bible study is so important. This is why “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is the key to understanding how God deals with us today. Today, God does not bless us on the basis of our works, our performance; moreover, God does not curse on the basis of our works, our performance. This is made abundantly clear in Paul’s epistle to the Romans and in his epistle to the Galatians. Romans 6:14-15: “[14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” We are blessed with every spiritual blessing only because of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, not because we confessed our sins, lived a good life, prayed often, gave money to the church, got water baptized, et cetera. Our works are not the issue because God’s Word has already made it abundantly clear that our “good” works are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

 

HEBREWS 12:5-11

Those who claim that God is chastening believers today, will also cite Hebrews 12:5-11. Let us read that passage here: “[5] And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: [6] For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. [7] If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? [8] But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. [9] Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? [10] For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. [11] Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

The book of Hebrews is especially cited regarding chastening in the lives of today’s Christians because it is often assumed that Paul wrote that book (thus, it is supposed, making Hebrews applicable to us). While beyond the scope of this study, there is plenty of Scriptural evidence to indicate that Paul did not write the book of Hebrews. Furthermore, Hebrews 12:5-11 has a context—it quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 (a passage to and about Israel), and from the book’s title, it is overwhelmingly clear that Hebrews is still a Jewish book with a Jewish title. It is the book to the Hebrews, after all, is it not? The book of Hebrews is not actually written to us or about us, the Church the Body of Christ, so we should not try to extract its legalistic teachings and force them on ourselves.

If we study the book of Hebrews, we learn that its contents are future, for it speaks of “the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5). The book of Hebrews is written to people who are anticipating Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (Hebrews 10:25)—we, the Body of Christ, are looking for the Rapture, not the Second Coming! The book of Hebrews is actually written to believing Israel living during the seven-year Tribulation. As per the Mosaic Law, the Old Covenant, if Israel disobeyed God, then she would receive a series of increasingly harsher judgments. The seven-year Tribulation is the conclusion of those judgments, God’s chastening of Israel for her many centuries of pagan idolatry. This is the chastening of which the book of Hebrews speaks; it has nothing to do with God punishing individual believers today, but rather God judging and purging the nation Israel during the seven-year Tribulation, so she can be God’s spotless nation to go into His everlasting earthly kingdom (which will begin with the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ).

 

WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT

One of the cleverest ways the Devil confuses the Body of Christ is to quote Bible verses that have nothing to do with it. If it is in the Bible, it must be true for and us, right? Wrong! We can claim Israel’s legalistic passages in the Bible and still be outside of God’s will because those passages are not God’s will for us. Such deception of being Scriptural but not being dispensational is so subtle that it often goes unsuspected and undetected. It is abundantly clear that God dealt with Israel on the basis of works, and He will do so again. If Israel wanted to be blessed of God, Israel had to do good works by faith (James 2:14-26). When Israel disobeyed God, she received the curses, the judgments, the chastisement. See Deuteronomy chapter 28 and Leviticus chapter 26.

Back in Exodus chapter 19, God offered to make a covenant with Israel. Exodus 19:5-8: “[5] 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: [6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. [7] And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. [8] And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.” Israel agreed to enter into that Covenant of Law, and she was under it even during the time of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (Galatians 4:4). Israel entered into a contract whereby she could only be God’s people IF she obeyed Him (refer back to Exodus 19:5); otherwise, Israel would be cursed, and under Satan’s control. God’s judgments on Israel were His attempt to reform her (see Leviticus 26:23), and teach her to do right in His sight, just as a parent would lovingly discipline his or her disobedient child.

Read Deuteronomy 28:1-2,15: “[1] And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: [2] And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. … [15] But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:….” He then lists the curses—sicknesses, wars, famines and other economic hardships, pestilences, and so on. Unfortunately, Israel “enjoyed” more of the curses in her history than the blessings.

The Law proved that sinful man could never measure up to what a holy God wanted. God proved to all the world that our performance will never get us anywhere before Him (Romans 3:19-20). That is why God offers to us His grace—what we do not deserve—in order to give us what we do not deserve, mercy and salvation from our sins. Law and grace are antithetical: they do not mix. To say we are saved by grace but that we must do good to avoid God’s punishment is to mix law and grace, and the whole book of Galatians refutes that combination. You destroy God’s grace when you mix it with law. If we allow even just a little leaven—a little legalism to creep in (see Galatians 5:9), Israel’s performance-based acceptance system—then we will begin to question all of God’s grace to us in Christ, we will begin to undermine the very life that God gave us in Christ. We start fearing God, we forget His love toward us in Christ, we think we have to work to please Him, we begin to doubt if we are even going to heaven, and on and on with the false doctrine Satan wants to use and distract us with.

Unfortunately, there are many inconsistent dispensationalists—people who understand Paul’s special ministry (Paul being our apostle) and the Church the Body of Christ and the Dispensation of Grace being revealed to Paul, but who will go to various other parts of the Bible and apply Israel’s passages to us Gentiles. Frankly, it is complete foolishness! We do not question their sincerity, but we question their theology. To separate Peter from Paul, law from grace, the nation Israel from the Body of Christ, prophecy from mystery, and THEN to combine all of the Bible into one buffet by taking Israel’s verses and making them apply to us, is doubletalk, and one of the silliest things of which I have ever heard. In fact, it is even worse than people who do not even know about Paul’s special ministry. To claim to understand the Bible rightly divided and then combine its various dispensations is being dishonest with God’s Word, and such shoddy Bible handling will undoubtedly cause (and has caused) unanswerable confusion in the lives of millions of Christians.

 

CONCLUSION

If God is punishing Christians for their bad behavior, that means that He is imputing their sins to them, and that means that Jesus Christ did not take care of their sin problem. If God has to punish us for our sins, what is the purpose of having Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Saviour? Does the Bible not say that God is not imputing our trespasses unto us (Romans 4:1-8)? Does the Bible not say that God has forgiven us of all trespasses (Colossians 2:13)? If God were holding sins against a Christian, that person could not actually be a Christian, for even one sin applied to one’s account would keep him or her out of heaven. Do you see what sorts of dangerous ideas creep in when it is not understand that divine chastisement has no place in our Dispensation of Grace? Furthermore, if God were punishing Christians for sins, every Christian would stay sick, stay poor, stay cursed. Everyone sins, even Christians, even the preachers who “beat up” the “sinful” suffering Christians.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). If we have to do good works in order to maintain fellowship with God, if we have to be good in order to get God to bless us with grace and favor, that is legalism. God chastening Christians with difficult circumstances in the Dispensation of Grace is nothing more than legalism with a different face, a sneaky teaching indeed, another form of works-religion. Again, we do not question the sincerity of the people teaching divine chastisement in the Dispensation of Grace, but, on the authority of the Holy Bible rightly divided, we simply cannot agree with them and will not agree with them. Their teaching is dangerous because it allows legalism to creep into the Christian life and make God’s grace of none effect. These promoters have not learned what God’s grace is all about, and they need to learn how to distinguish between law and grace, works-religion and grace-relationship. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).

Ultimately, to argue that God manipulates our circumstances in order to punish us is to ignore the authority of the completed Holy Bible. We do not need God to speak to us apart from the Bible; there is no such thing as continuing revelation (God has already spoken and His words are written in the Holy Bible, preserved for us in English in the King James Bible). God is not teaching us anything by sending problems our way. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “[16] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” If we want to learn what God has to say—what He wants to teach us (“doctrine”), how He wants to reform our behavior (“reproof”), how He wants to correct our bad thinking (“correction”), and how He wants us to live (“instruction in righteousness”)—we have to go to the Holy Bible (especially the Holy Scripture rightly divided, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon). We live in a fallen world, and sin’s harmful results are to be expected. Those problems are the context in which we apply sound grace Bible teaching.

 

Also see:

» Must I confess my sins?
» Is grace a “license to sin?” (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What should I do when I sin? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)