Category Archives: THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST

Was Priscilla “lead teacher in her family?”

WAS PRISCILLA “LEAD TEACHER IN HER FAMILY?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Advocates of women preachers and Christian women teaching men point to assorted verses for Scriptural support. The case of Priscilla, a Christian lady of the New Testament Scriptures, forms the foundation for one of their arguments. Allegedly, she is “lead teacher in her family.” Is that so? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Priscilla appears on six occasions in a King James Bible (2 Timothy 4:19 shortens her name to “Prisca”). She is continually paired with her husband, Aquila. This Jewish couple was saved under the Apostle Paul’s ministry and served as his spiritual coworkers. Read the only passages that feature Priscilla:

  • Acts 18:2: “And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome: ) and came unto them.”
  • Acts 18:18: “And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.”
  • Acts 18:26: “And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
  • Romans 16:3: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:”
  • 1 Corinthians 16:19:“The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:19: “Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.”

Supposedly, since Priscilla’s name “always” precedes Aquila’s name, she was the dominant one in the relationship (and thus, the Bible teacher of her family). That is simply not true, as a careful reading of the Bible text shows us. When first introduced to us, Aquila comes before Priscilla (Acts 18:2). In journeys, she appears first (Acts 18:18). When being greeted, she is first (Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19); when greeting others, she is second, after Aquila (1 Corinthians 16:19). In the case of teaching, Aquila comes first, then Priscilla (Acts 18:26). Priscilla never dominates her husband with respect to teaching ministry or family. Aquila leads in teaching, just as God the Holy Spirit tells us in 1 Timothy chapter 2, Ephesians chapter 5, and 1 Corinthians chapter 11.

  • First Timothy chapter 2: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
  • Ephesians chapter 5:“[22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
  • First Corinthians 11:3: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”

Thus, a woman who takes the lead in a local assembly or marriage/family does so due t one of two reasons: (1) no man has the courage to guide the church or marriage/family so she dominates, or (2) a man is leading but her flesh compels her to compete against him. Even though neither situation is ideal, it is better to have the first than the latter. Someone has to lead, so if the man fails, then the woman will have to step in. When no man was willing to be used of God as a prophet (speaker), then He resorted to employing women/prophetesses (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22; Isaiah 8:3; Luke 2:36). If neither man nor woman were available, the LORD God spoke through a donkey (Numbers 22:28-30)!

We can learn a great deal by looking to our first parents, Adam and Eve. Eve did not submit to her husband’s spiritual headship, and he was unwilling to be her spiritual leader. Overall, they both failed to function in their God-given capacities. Hence, the human race fell into sin! If the local church does not learn this lesson, if the family does not learn this lesson, if the marriage does not learn this lesson, you can be sure trouble and destruction will abound (1 Timothy 2:11-15—quoted earlier)!

Genesis chapter 3: “[1] Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? [2] And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: [3] But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: [5] For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. [6] And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”

Adam did not remind his wife of what the LORD God told him (Genesis 2:16-17), and Eve did not ask Adam what God told him to tell her. Eve listened to Satan’s evil doctrine, and Adam stood there—and did nothing to stop her. In fact, Adam went right along with his wife—she led him, and he let her usurp his role! Absolutely, Priscilla knew better than to repeat the gross error of our mother Eve… and Aquila knew better than to repeat the gross error of our father Adam!

Also see:
» Should women serve in the ministry?
» Should women speak in church? May they ask questions?
» Are Galatians 3:28 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 contradictory?

“So shall we ever be with the Lord?”

“SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

A recurrent idea among Christians is that the Church the Body of Christ will return with the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming. Various and sundry verses are offered as support. However, a careful examination of the Holy Scriptures demonstrates this to be a total misunderstanding of both the purpose of the Body and the objective of the Second Coming. (For more info, please see our related studies linked at the end of this article.)

Years ago, when this author began coming to the knowledge of the truth, better understanding the Word of God rightly divided, he struggled to make sense of the above matter. Were we returning with Christ at His Second Coming, as he had been led to believe for so many years? First Thessalonians 4:17 nagged him: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” What should we make of the phrase, “so shall we ever be with the Lord?” Will we be physically “with” the Lord Jesus when He steps onto the Mount of Olives at His Second Coming? Will we be reigning “with” Him on Earth in Israel’s Davidic kingdom? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Like most individuals, this author assumed the “and so shall we ever be with the Lord” clause meant that we must be in close proximity to Christ at all times once we are raptured. After He takes us into Heaven in that split second of time (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), we will never again leave His side. Wherever He is, we will always be beside Him. Is that what “with the Lord” means in 1 Thessalonians 4:17? No, as this explanation is contrary to many verses in Paul’s writings (we will get to those shortly). First, we need to review the basics.

Creation consists of “heaven and earth” (Genesis 1:1). Offices govern both realms—thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, mights, and every name that is named (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16). Satan has usurped and corrupted these offices but Father God will bring them all under His authority again through His Son Jesus Christ. In “the dispensation of the fulness of times,” our Heavenly Father shall gather all governments under one Head, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10). He has thus formed the nation Israel to be His earthly people, and the Church the Body of Christ to be His heavenly people. It is one overall kingdom, functioning in two realms, for one eternal purpose! The Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified forever—regardless of the angels and the humans who refuse to participate and accomplish it.

We the Church the Body of Christ have a heavenly destiny not an earthly destiny. Our realm of blessings and influence is the heavenly places. Observe the following:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
  • 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:….”
  • Ephesians 1:20,22-23: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,…. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
  • Ephesians 2:6: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:….”
  • Ephesians 3:10: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,….”
  • Philippians 3:20: “For our conversation [lifestyle reflecting citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:….”
  • Colossians 1:5: “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;…..”
  • Colossians 1:16,20: “For by him 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:…. 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, or things in heaven.”
  • 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.”

Consider all the above verses. We are installed to serve in the heavenly places prior to the Second Coming (in perfect accordance with Revelation 12:7-12—Satan and his angels evicted from the second heaven to make room for us there). Therefore, it certainly would not be appropriate for us to use one verse (1 Thessalonians 4:17) to teach that we will come down with Christ to reign on Earth with Him. So, what of “so shall we ever be with the Lord?” In what sense are we “with” Him? Let us quickly survey verses that show us how the English (King James) Bible employs “with” in sentences.

“WITH” (AS IN CLOSE PHYSICAL PROXIMITY, EXISTING BESIDE ANOTHER, ADJACENT OR NEIGHBORING)

  • Acts 8:31: “And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”
  • Galatians 2:3: “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:….”
  • Matthew 9:10: “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.” (A similar idea is found in Matthew 14:9 and Acts 11:3.)
  • Matthew 4:21: “And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.”
  • Acts 11:12: “And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:….”

(You may also consult Acts 20:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, John 13:18, Acts 9:7, Acts 9:19, Matthew 26:23, Mark 14:18-20, Acts 23:19, Philemon 13, and Acts 27:2.)

The above verses contain probably the most frequent definition of how we use the word “with.” Considering all that has gone before, however, there must be another sense 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is using the word. Our destiny is the heavenly places, recall.

“WITH” (ON THE SAME TEAM, JOINED IN ONE CONDITION, HAVING A SHARED PURPOSE)

  • Acts 16:34: “And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
  • Romans 1:12: “That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
  • John 13:8: “Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”
  • Philippians 2:18: “For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.”
  • Luke 11:23: “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” Matthew 12:30: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”
  • Luke 1:58: “And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.”
  • Romans 15:30: “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;….”
  • 1 Corinthians 12:26: “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”
  • Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

The idea in these verses is connecting to others around a common goal or experience—rejoicing with others, mourning with others, praying with others, trusting in God with others, and so on. Physical distance is not under consideration. We can do these things with others around the world, though they are quite far from us bodily. If we look at the Bible’s testimony as a whole, this seems to be the most probable notion being communicated by “with” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

CONCLUSION

First Thessalonians 4:17 says, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” The word “with” here is not to be understood in the sense of sitting face-to-face, or side-by-side with another. Scripture also employs the term as united around a mutual action or experience. There is solidarity or camaraderie, teammates achieving one end, fellowshipping as concerning one matter.

In Revelation 3:21, the Lord Jesus says to Israel, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Certainly, Christ is not speaking of one or two thrones in which He, the Father, and all believing Jews will sit around each other. Close physical proximity is not the issue—that would be most absurd. The idea rather is one of unity in reigning (as in, shared authority or mutual power). Redeemed Israelites are extensions of His earthly authority, just as we (the Body of Christ) are extensions of His heavenly authority. For us to be “with” Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17) is not about us returning to Earth, but rather sharing His governmental influence in creation—namely, the heavenly places—as Israel will share His influence in the offices of Earth’s government.

One passage to summarize with now is 2 Timothy 2:10-13: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” The “reigning with him” is defined in chapter 4 and verse 18 as entering “his heavenly kingdom.” (Notice the idea of teammates throughout these verses. There is no hint of next-door neighbors but individuals associating around a joint conclusion.)

The idea in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 “with the Lord” means we are on His team, ruling and reigning with Him, but in what realm? Paul’s epistles always speak of our (Body of Christ) realm as the heavenly kingdom. In the ages to come, the Lord will be exercising governmental authority and we will be too. It is all one enormous kingdom, spanning between Heaven and Earth, all to exalt Jesus Christ the Lord of glory. Lastly, remember, we can only be so close to Him physically. Millions of believers from the last 20 centuries will be in Heaven. We cannot all be within arm’s reach of Him, and yet we will be “with Him.” Surely, something beyond physical closeness is under consideration in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

ATTENTION: We have released our new seven-hour Bible study series—“The Feasts of JEHOVAH.” These lessons are approximately 65 minutes each, totaling 7 1/2 hours. They are quite advanced, as they build on our five-lesson series “Israel’s Covenants” I taught a month ago. It is best to watch all seven videos in order, as they are progressive. May you be edified, encouraged, and enlightened! Enjoy!! Praise our Lord Jesus Christ! Click here to watch.

Also see:
» Will we return with Jesus Christ at His Second Coming?
» Who are the “saints” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13?
» Can you compare and contrast the prophetic program and the mystery program?

Can you explain 2 Corinthians 5:16?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN 2 CORINTHIANS 5:16?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” Many preachers have grown quite disappointed and angry after reading or hearing these eternal words of the everlasting God. Why? What is so controversial here? What exactly does it mean to “know no man after the flesh?” How can Jesus Christ be “known after the flesh?” How can He not be “known after the flesh?”

The “flesh” here is something physical and literal (as opposed to the Bible’s other usage of the term—“flesh” in Romans 8:1, for example, is a metaphor for our sin nature). Specifically, in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “flesh” is circumcised (Jew) or uncircumcised (non-Jew, or Gentile). In other words, it refers to the differentiation underscored in Ephesians chapter 2: “[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:….”

Verses 13-18 describe the Dispensation of Grace, the opposite of the previous two verses in the chapter: “[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, and to them that were nigh. [18] For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

In this the Dispensation of Grace, “but now,” there is no distinction between Jew (circumcision) and Gentile (uncircumcision). Almighty God only sees saved and lost, those in Christ and those in Adam, respectively. Turn to Galatians 5:6, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Now, Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” There is no longer an advantage of physical circumcision before God, and there is no more a disadvantage of physical uncircumcision before God. What He sees is the “new creature” (Galatians 6:15), the “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), the Church the Body of Christ. These are all believers in Jesus Christ. God sees all unbelievers outside of that one Body. This is the only distinction God acknowledges today. Thus, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Any fleshly distinction is not important before God; that old identity has passed away, and the believer gains a spiritual identity in Christ.

Knowing a man “after the flesh” and “though we have known Christ after the flesh” all relates to the “time past” distinction highlighted in Ephesians 2:11-12. Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, Matthew through John, operated on the basis of the division between Jew and Gentile, circumcision and uncircumcision, respectively. Ephesians 2:12 says we Gentiles (nations) were “without Christ.” Romans 9:4-5 says of the Jews, “and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.” The “flesh” here is physically circumcised flesh, Jewish flesh. Christ’s earthly ministry was to the nation Israel only, and not to the nations (Gentiles). This can be easily proved from Scripture.

The Lord Jesus said in John 4:22: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” Notice the emphasis on “the Jews;” no Gentiles are in view here. Matthew 10:5-7: “[5] These twelve [apostles] Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Christ said in Matthew 15:24: “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Romans 15:8 summarizes, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision [Jews] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:….” This expression, was a minister,” is key—it is past tense in the King James Bible (changed in modern versions).

Back to 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” We want to concentrate on the phrase, “yet now henceforth know we him no more.” Now, with Paul’s ministry (the “but now” of Ephesians 2:13), we do not know Jesus Christ according to His earthly ministry, when there was a difference between Jew and Gentile. The middle wall of partition has been removed—God Himself has abolished it. We know Jesus Christ according to His “all-man” (Jew and Gentile) ministry. Again, this new program began with the Apostle Paul’s ministry and message.

First Timothy 2:4-7: “[4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; [6] Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [7] Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not; ) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” (Pay special attention to verse 7. Paul is the “due-time testifier” of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for all sins—both Jew and Gentile. Prior to Paul, soul salvation was limited to Israel. See Isaiah 53:8 and Matthew 20:28, for example. Isaiah’s people and the “many” are Israel. No Gentiles are in view.)

Romans 3:22,29: “[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:… [29] Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:….” Romans 10:12: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,….” These “no-difference” statements, these “all-men” statements, could not be said of Christ’s earthly ministry. They were only true until the Lord Jesus Christ said them through Paul’s ministry. Notice more Pauline verses on this subject.

Romans chapter 1: “[5] By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:…. [14] I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. [15] So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. [16] For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Notice verse 5—“all nations.” Paul has an unrestricted apostleship to all nations. Contrast this with Peter and the 11 other Apostles, who had to preach to all Israel before going to all nations [Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 28:18-20].)

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:…..” (Verse 26 says “all nations.” Paul has a ministry to all nations, where Peter and the 11 had to evangelize all Israel before preaching to all nations [Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 28:18-20].)

It is therefore dangerous for people to continue with their mindless chant, “I follow Jesus, I do not follow Paul.” To “follow Jesus”—specifically, they mean the Four Gospel Records (Matthew through John)—means to know Him today in a manner in which God says we do not know Him today. The middle wall of partition that was up during the Four Gospel Records has since been done away. God has temporarily suspended that distinction between Jew and Gentile. He has changed the dispensations, the instructions given to man. Conditions that were true in Matthew through John are not necessarily true today, so it is more appropriate that we follow the Apostle Paul as he follows Jesus Christ rather than we “following Jesus.” We are not exalting Paul; we are exalting the Jesus Christ whom Paul preached, the Jesus Christ as presented in the mystery truth committed to Paul’s trust.

Paul wrote the following verses as God the Holy Spirit guided him:

  • 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
  • Ephesians 5:1: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;….”
  • 1 Corinthians 4:16: “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”
  • Philippians 3:17: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:6: “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.”

We follow Paul as he follows Jesus Christ, and he follows Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25-26). Part of that revelation is that all believing Jews and Gentiles in Paul’s Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) form the one Church the Body of Christ. You are here strongly encouraged to read Ephesians 2:11–3:11, with special emphasis on the verses in chapter 3.

Yet, 99 percent of “Christian” preaching and teaching today is Matthew through John. They proclaim God’s Word to Israel as though it were God’s Word to us Gentiles. It is all about God’s program for Israel and yet they speak of it as though it were for the Church the Body of Christ! Jesus Christ’s ministry through Paul is almost, and sometimes entirely, ignored. No wonder there is no power of God in our churches and lives. We stay focused on things God is not doing today, stressing concepts that are no longer applicable to God’s will for man. It is either (1) back to Pauline truth, or (2) onward to more apostasy!

CONCLUSION

We do not know Jesus Christ after the flesh any longer. We do not know any person after the flesh any longer. Christ’s earthly ministry, based on the middle wall of partition, is not how people should relate to God or each other today. From the time the Dispensation of Grace began with Paul’s salvation and ministry, Almighty God has revealed to us (mankind) how to no longer know or relate to people according to their fleshly identity. Unlike “time past,” physical circumcision and physical uncircumcision are not the issue today in the “but now.” Rather, we understand people to be either in Christ (saved, going to Heaven) or in Adam (lost, going to Hell).

The Bible says, in this Dispensation of Grace, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. This was not true during Christ’s earthly ministry. Today, however, there is no spiritual advantage to being a Jew and there is no spiritual disadvantage to being a Gentile. Unless we recognize the radical dispensational change that occurred in the Book of Acts (particularly, with Paul’s conversion and commission in chapter 9), we will not understand that God is dealing differently with man today in the “but now” than how He dealt with him in “time past.” We will major on issues that God no longer emphasizes; we will ignore the issues that God currently upholds. Absolute confusion and disappointment are sure to result!

Also see:
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?
» Did not God send messengers to Gentiles prior to Paul’s apostleship?
» How were Gentiles saved before our Dispensation of Grace?

Who are the “saints” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13?

WHO ARE THE “SAINTS” IN 1 THESSALONIANS 3:13?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” Are these “saints” Christians or angels?

A King James Bible critic quibbled that the word “saints” here is “an unfortunate and inappropriate translation.” He continued, “It is not believers but angelic beings.” Beloved, there is absolutely nothing “unfortunate” or “inappropriate” about how the 1611 translators handled the Greek text here. Any and every dependable Greek dictionary defines hagios as “holy, set apart; holy things or holy ones [saints].” A related word and concept is “sanctification.” “Saints” is a perfectly acceptable translation of the underlying Greek. The problem is not with the translation, but with people who are so “scholarly-minded” that they do not know how to use the English Bible!!

Such detractors, as you probably noticed, assume that the Bible term “saints” can only apply to believers. This is a misconception. Not merely can people be set apart for God’s purposes, but angels can be sanctified too. Consequently, Scripture speaks of the “elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21) as the holy angels” (Revelation 14:10). They are in contrast to “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41; cf. Revelation 12:7,9) and “the angels which kept not their first estate” (Jude 6). Since there are holy (good) angels, it is not surprising to find God’s Word calling them “saints.” Remember, they are set apart for the purpose for which God created them—they serve Him.

Look for yourself: God has no problem calling good angels “saints!”

  • Deuteronomy 33:2: “And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.”
  • Job 15:15: “Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.” Considering the connection to the “heavens,” these are angels as opposed to people. They are actually angels before they fell and followed Satan in his rebellion; hence, they have corrupted the heavens, or outer space (cf. Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 12:7-12).
  • Jude 14-15: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These saints are angels, not humans, not (Keep reading to see the parallel verses!)
  • Psalm 68:17: “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.”
  • Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
  • Matthew 25:31: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:….”
  • Mark 8:38: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Luke 9:26: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:….”
  • Revelation 19:14: “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (These are not Christians, but angels. Let the earlier verses govern the interpretation.)

WHY CHANGE 1 THESSALONIANS 3:13?

The critic denounced “saints” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 because (as you saw) he contended that Jesus Christ returns with angels not Christians at His Second Coming. His critical remark was founded upon the notion that “saints” can only mean believers. Such a verse modification is wholly unnecessary. Our earlier brief survey of verses demonstrated that assumption to be incorrect. We do not have to change the Bible text to teach our favorite doctrine. Friends, that is heresy!! Actually, we should not adjust the Bible text to communicate our pet dogma; rather, we should modify our doctrine to fit the Bible.

(The justification for changing this verse is a misconception. Make note! The critical eye, quick to “correct” the Bible, does nothing more than pervert something that was originally sound. Good was perceived as evil, so changing it in an attempt to make it “better” actually introduces error that was never there in the first place.)

God’s Word is the final authority, not our opinions. How dangerous it is to alter the Holy Bible, when in God’s mind it does not change! Jesus Christ indeed does not return with Christians at the Second Coming, but we do not have to challenge or alter Scripture to show it. All we have to do is compare verses (we did earlier, and we will do more now).

OUR HEAVENLY DESTINY: THE HEAVENLY PLACES

We the Church the Body of Christ, those of us who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), our destiny is the heavenly places. If we are already in the heavenly places—and we are during the seven-year Tribulation—we have no reason to return to Earth at the Second Coming. We have already been established in the heavenly places, ruling and reigning for God’s glory. Notice our eternal destiny as members of the Body of Christ!

  • 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:….”
  • Ephesians 1:20-23: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
  • Ephesians 2:6-7: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
  • 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.”

Now, back to 1 Thessalonians 3:13!

WHO ARE THE “SAINTS” IN 1 THESSALONIANS 3:13?

As we observed, “saints” in Scripture can be a title for either believers or angels. The context indicates which one it is. As pertaining to 1 Thessalonians 3:13, “saints” is actually Christians. But, it is not speaking of any Christians—or even angelsreturning to Earth at the Second Coming (as often assumed—the error the aforementioned critic attempted, but failed, to correct). Actually, while the faultfinder was nitpicking and offering a “better” term, he was (in fact!) misreading the verse. He was doubly confused!

Read the verse carefully in context: “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).

This speaks of us Christians being presented before Father God. After the Rapture, our gathering together unto Christ in the air (2 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), we go to the Judgment Seat of Christ for our Christian doctrine and earthly service to be reviewed (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). After that, the Lord Jesus Christ will present us before the throne of His Heavenly Father. It is here that our Heavenly Father will appoint us to fulfill offices in the heavenly places. These roles will be consistent with our doctrine and service already determined at the Judgment Seat. Jesus Christ comes to Father God with His saints, Christians. Again, 1 Thessalonians 3:13 has nothing to do with Christians or angels at the Second Coming. The Second Coming is not in view here anyway.

CONCLUSION

Contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not restrict the word “saints” to believers or Christian people. According to some verses, angels can be set apart for God’s purposes as well. We must therefore rely on the context to restrict the definition (whether angels or people).

In the case of 1 Thessalonians 3:13, the word means Christians not angels. However, that is not to say that this verse says Christians will return at the Second Coming (another common misconception). First Thessalonians 3:13 is Jesus Christ bringing Christians from the Judgment Seat of Christ, to stand before the throne of Father God, so Father God can designate their (our) roles in the government of the heavenly places!! If you want to see more about this special event, see Ephesians 5:27 and Colossians 1:22.

Also see:
» Do we have guardian angels?
» How many angels will be with Jesus Christ when He returns?
» Do angels age?

Which hymns are appropriate for us grace believers to sing?

WHICH HYMNS ARE APPROPRIATE FOR US GRACE BELIEVERS TO SING?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Which hymns are suitable for us to sing? How can we recognize high-quality Christian songs? Which melodies best communicate the doctrines of God’s Word rightly divided? Not “For what saith the hymnals?” but rather “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Hymns are a great way to express our understanding of Bible truths. Unfortunately, they can also be an excellent method whereby we advertise our Bible ignorance. People frequently spend more time in denominational teaching than sound Bible study. They rely on the minister to read and “explain” (?) the Bible to them, but they do not read by themselves. Oftentimes, the preacher was educated in religious tradition—not pure Bible—at his seminary or Bible College. Since he lacks solid theology, he transfers his erroneous views to his church members. They then write spiritual songs reflecting that denominational doctrine. Congregants everywhere sing those published hymns, thus further reinforcing and disseminating the faulty doctrine. Those songs inspire other denominational hymns. People spend more time singing and writing hymns than studying Scripture. (The cycle repeats and repeats and repeats through the decades and centuries.) Therefore, what they believe is often found in the hymnal but not in the Bible. Friends, we should exercise great caution here. Memorizing hymn verses and ignoring Scripture verses is spiritually hazardous!

We should sing only what is true. If we claim to be Christians, if we assert to have the truth, but we sing lies (false doctrine), then we discredit ourselves and become a reproach to the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Hymns should reinforce sound Bible doctrine (rightly divided Scripture); they should not teach error. This makes this whole matter of specious hymns most serious. Make no mistake: this is far from petty and pedantic!

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:18-19 adds, “[18] And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; [19] Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;….” We should put God’s Word in our inner man first, and then that Word will express itself in songwriting and singing. Conversely, fallacious hymns are the result of a failure to study the Bible rightly divided. When the Holy Spirit is in control of our minds and hearts, then we will write and sing dispensationally-correct songs!

In this Bible study, we purpose to accomplish two goals. Firstly, we want to identify some of the more recognized hymns that are awkward. Secondly, we will offer possible enhancements to correct them. Please note that these changes are not original to this author; he is merely passing along discerning revisions that others have suggested through the years.

FACE-TO-FACE WITH CHRIST, MY SAVIOR” is a hymn that concerns meeting the Lord Jesus in the Rapture (our gathering together unto Him). It mentions in verse 2, “Only faintly now, I see Him, / With the darkling veil between, / But a blessed day is coming, / When His glory shall be seen.” Verse 3 reads, in part, “When the crooked ways are straightened, / And the dark things shall be plain.” These lyrics are then fed into 1 Corinthians 13:12. The Bible is thus said to be implying us entering Heaven when in fact the passage actually teaches the completion of the canon of Scripture. Unless we get this straight, we will force the Bible verse to say something it never said. It is better to just wholly disregard this hymn. The (God-inspired) Bible verse is more important than (man-inspired) hymn verse!!

Another religious song that is not conducive to learning and teaching sound Bible doctrine is “WE’LL UNDERSTAND IT BETTER BY AND BY.” The refrain is, “For we’ll understand it better by and by.” While it is true that we will understand all things in Heaven, it is self-defeating to sing praises to God to celebrate our current ignorance. How better it is to just discount this hymn altogether and go read the Bible to “understand better by and by!”

VICTORY IN JESUS” is a beautiful, old hymn but it promotes much worthless denominational teaching. Verse 1 says, in part: “I heard about His groaning, / Of His precious blood’s atoning, / Then I repented of my sins / And won the victory.” Instead of “Then I repented of my sins,” say, “Now I’m forgiven all my sins.” Today, there is simply too much confusion about repentance, and too little understanding of forgiveness. If we sing of forgiveness instead of repentance, we may suppress this spiritual mix-up. Its last two verses also can be modified to better reflect sound Bible doctrine. Verse 3 is greatly denominational.

Verse 2: “I heard about His healing, / Of His cleansing power revealing. / How He made the lame to walk again / And caused the blind to see; / And then I cried, ‘Dear Jesus, / Come and heal my broken spirit,’ / And somehow Jesus came and brought / To me the victory.” Verse 3: “I heard about a mansion / He has built for me in glory. / And I heard about the streets of gold / Beyond the crystal sea; / About the angels singing, / And the old redemption story, / And some sweet day I’ll sing up there / The song of victory.”

We could change verse 2 to read: “I heard about Paul’s message about the mystery, ‘Christ’s Body’ / How that Jesus Christ, the Living Head, He gave us liberty; / I heard that now His message of ‘Grace’ to all believers, it takes away the Law that was and gives the victory!” Verse 3 can altered to be: “I heard His resurrection gives hope to those who trust Him / I heard about that Blessed Hope to all who are in Him; / About our home in Heaven, and our bodies fashioned like His, / And I rejoice and shout ‘AMEN!’ We have the victory!”

THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION” is a song that claims that we the Church the Body of Christ are “his holy bride.” This is not true, and only confuses us with the nation Israel. “MARCHING TO ZION” is yet another hymn that blurs us with Israel. We need to skip this one completely as well. “THE OLD-TIME RELIGION” is quite inappropriate for us to sing, too. We do not have “religion;” yea, we do not want to go around singing a tune asking for religion. This will only confuse lost people listening to us. We want a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship with Father God through Calvary’s finished crosswork!

ABIDE WITH ME” should not be sung. We have no need to ask the Lord to stay with us over and over again as this song would have us do. If we have trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, believing in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), God’s Holy Spirit indwells us and He will not (yea, never!) leave us. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). Ephesians 1:13-14: “In whom [Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

The hymn “BEULAH LAND” supposedly depicts Heaven. However, the Bible uses the term to explain the Earth, especially the Promised Land, when redeemed Israel enters her Millennial Kingdom. Isaiah 62:4: “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” This is land on Earth, not in Heaven! It is better to just abandon this hymn altogether. We are not looking to partake of Israel’s hope; we are looking for God’s heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).

THE KINGDOM IS COMING” is an additional inaccurate hymn. We are not looking for God’s kingdom to come here; Israel is (Matthew 6:10). We are looking to go and be with Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), not meet Him on the Earth (Job 19:25-27). “I’VE PITCHED MY TENT IN BEULAH” has the Christian singing as though he was once enslaved in Egypt and is now enjoying the Promised Land. This is downright preposterous because it has the Body of Christ claiming Israel’s history as its own. It is better to just disregard this hymn altogether. It is also best not to sing at all, “I AM BOUND FOR THE PROMISED LAND.” Heaven is not the Promised Land, and we do not need to steal Israel’s promises either. The song “IN THE GARDEN” has Jesus talking with the Christian on a daily basis. This can be misconstrued to mean that God speaks to us apart from His Word, the Holy Bible. It is better not to sing this hymn.

Although a good evangelistic song, “SEND THE LIGHT” says “we have heard the Macedonian call today.” In the Bible, the “Macedonian call” was the Apostle Paul’s vision in which he saw and heard a “man” inviting him to preach the Gospel in northern Greece (Acts 16:9-10). God uses no such supernatural experiences to lead us today. We have a completed Bible, so let us keep that Bible and toss out the mistaken hymns!

OLD-TIME POWER” features this chorus: “O Lord, send the power just now, / O Lord, send the power just now, / O Lord, send the power just now, / And baptize every one.” While probably sincere, the songwriter (like most) evidently believed our pattern is Acts chapter 2, the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Jewish Messianic saints. There is nothing in Acts chapter 2 about us the Church the Body of Christ. Today’s Charismatics are wrong in that they keep trying to claim “the power of Pentecost” as their own—tongues, miracle healings, and other supernatural experiences. We do not need this so-called “baptism with the Holy Ghost.” There is a related hymn, “FALL FRESH ON ME,” containing the lyrics: “Spirit of the living God, Fall fresh on me, Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Break me, milk me, mold me, fill me.” It would be utterly inappropriate for us to sing this, too. Also, the hymn “BREATHE ON ME” should be fully skipped because it has us asking the Holy Spirit to breathe on us. What mystical silliness!

I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED” is a grand ol’ song highlighting the wonderful Bible truth of security in Christ, but it has some glaring doctrinal mistakes. Verse 1 says: “I know not why God’s wondrous grace / To me He hath made known, / Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love / Redeemed me for His own.” And, verse 3: “I know not how the Spirit moves, / Convincing men of sin, / Revealing Jesus through the Word, / Creating faith in Him.” This is nothing but singing about our ignorance again. “I know not… I know not.” The Bible says we do know! Therefore, we had better change the words to “I know now!” (Otherwise, unsaved people listening to us will leave, claiming, “Ha, see they do not know spiritual truth either! I had better go elsewhere if I want to find God’s Word!”)

When “THE SOLID ROCK” says in verse 2, “When darkness veils His lovely face,” we should change that to “When darkness seems to veil His face.” Else, we start repeating Israel’s legalistic passages—God punishing her because of her failure to keep the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 31:17-18,20; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 59:1-2; Ezekiel 39:29; Micah 3:4).

Verse 3 now: “His oath, His covenant, His blood / Support me in the whelming flood; / When all around my soul gives way, / He then is all my hope and stay.” We are under no covenants in the Dispensation of Grace. This verse should be altered, possibly to read, “His love, His mercy, and His grace, / Support and help me run the race. / When all around my soul gives way, / He still is all my Hope and Stay.”

The original verse 4 says, “When He shall come with trumpet sound, / Oh, may I then in Him be found; / Dressed in His righteousness alone, / Faultless to stand before the throne.” It is better to say, “When He shall come with trumpet sound, / Oh yes I will in Him be found; / Dressed in His righteousness alone, / Faultless to stand before the throne.” We do not want to sing that we “may” be found in Christ. We have assurance of salvation in Christ, not wishful thinking (2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:8).

BLESSED ASSURANCE” says, “angels descending, Bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love” in verse 2. We can get into major theological trouble here, for this is a gateway to the Charismatic Movement. Angels have no ministry to us today. We do not look for angels, and we do not listen for “echoes of mercy” and “whispers of love.” We read the Bible if we want to hear from God. It would be more proper for us to sing, “I have His Spirit living within, I am in Christ, and free from all sin.”

It is better to eliminate entirely verse 3 of “ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD?, which says: “When the Bridegroom cometh will your robes be white? / Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? / Will your soul be ready for the mansions bright, / And be washed in the blood of the Lamb?” This omission will keep us from again confusing ourselves with Israel and making her verses apply to us (Matthew 25:1-13; Matthew 9:14-17; John 14:2; et al.). Those passages are related to Christ’s Second Coming for Israel. They are not about His coming for us at the Rapture. Contrary to religious tradition, we are not the Bride of Christ and He is not our Groom. The Bible says we are the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).

Verse 4 in some versions of “JESUS LOVES ME” says, “Jesus loves me! He will stay / Close by me all the way; / If I love Him when I die, / He will take me home on high.” This is highly unfortunate and actually heretical. We do not go to Heaven because we “love Jesus” when we die. This is nothing but works-religion. We go to Heaven because we have trusted in His blood sacrifice on the cross as sufficient payment for our sins (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:1-5; Titus 3:5)!

The two hymns “LET JESUS COME INTO YOUR HEART” and “LET HIM IN” promote a perverted interpretation of Revelation 3:20. This Bible verse is not about lost people letting Jesus into their heart so they can be saved unto eternal life. It rather discusses Jewish kingdom believers waiting in Israel’s program for Christ’s Second Coming to set up their kingdom on Earth. “REDEEMED” has a fourth verse, “I know I shall see in His beauty The King in whose law I delight….” We can sing this song, but it is better to skip this verse completely because it too applies to Christ’s Second Coming and Israel’s Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 33:17).

BURIED WITH CHRIST” features the chorus: “Buried with Christ and dead unto sin; / Dying but living, Jesus within; / Ruling and reigning day after day, / Guiding and keeping all of the way.” This would be better worded, “Buried with Christ and dead unto sin; / Dying but living, Jesus within; / Rightly dividing God’s Word today / Jesus revealed His truth in this way.”

You may retain verse 1 of the hymn “UNSEARCHABLE RICHES,” but use verses 2 and 3 as written by Grace saints. (verse 2) “Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ, / From other ages concealed. / Now, through the message of Grace He has given / These precious truths are revealed!” (verse 3) “His secret purpose He wants us to know, / Hidden no longer His plan. / Members of Christ, and His Body are we, / Highest of callings for man!”

SHOWERS OF BLESSING” has us the saints singing, “Showers of blessing, / Showers of blessing we need: / Mercy-drops round us are falling, / But for the showers we plead.” How totally unwarranted it is for us Christians to ask God for “showers of blessing!” Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” God has given us everything in Christ—we are “complete [lacking nothing] in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Now, we go around begging Him to give more?! Preposterous! Additionally, “showers of blessing” is a quotation of Ezekiel 34:26, “And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.” These are not figurative showers as the hymn implies; they are literal rain, for the context shows vegetation growing. This is Christ’s Millennial Kingdom; it is Israel’s verse, not ours. And, there are no “mercy-drops!!”

STANDING ON THE PROMISES” has the following lyrics in verse 3: “Standing on the promises I now can see / Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me; / Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free, / Standing on the promises of God.” And verse 5: “Standing on the promises I shall not fall, / Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call. / Resting in my Savior as my All in all, / Standing on the promises of God.”

We can enhance verse 3 to read: “Standing on the promises I now can see, / Romans through Philemon written just to me; / Standing fast in liberty Christ makes me free, / Standing on the promises of God.” We should not be “listening every moment to the Spirit’s call” as verse 5 implies. The Holy Spirit is not speaking to us apart from His Bible! Long ago, some Grace brethren changed verse 5 to read, “Standing on the promises, I shall not fall / Following the pattern of Apostle Paul / Resting in my Saviour who accomplished all / Standing on the promises of God.”

There is a hymn known as “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD,” which is largely Psalm 23 paraphrased and expanded. While Psalm 23 is God’s Word, we have no need to sing it; it is literal truth to be sung in a future time, after our Dispensation of Grace.

JESUS LOVES EVEN ME” says, “If one should ask of me, how can I tell? / Glory to Jesus, I know very well! / God’s Holy Spirit with mine doth agree, / Constantly witnessing Jesus loves me.” It would be better worded as follows: “If one should ask of me, how can I tell? / Glory to Jesus, I know very well! / The Holy Bible has shown me the key, / Rightly dividing what’s written to me!”

A grace brother, Pastor Ted Fellows, added verse 5 to the hymn, “THE BIBLE STANDS.” He wrote, “The Bible stands in the King James Version, / There it’s been preserved for me; / God’s Word in English, and without error, / And my final authority!”

THERE’S A SWEET, SWEET SPIRIT IN THIS PLACE” emphasizes the Lord’s presence as some Spirit who mysteriously floats around and hovers over an assembly. This is nothing but vain superstition (also Charismatic/Pentecostal-oriented). We have no reason to sing it. The Holy Spirit lives inside us the believers in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14). God, according to Scripture, does not live in manmade church buildings (Acts 17:24)!!

Finally, some of our most beloved Christmas hymns are in error. “WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE” declares there were three wise men and yet the Bible never says how many visited young Jesus. We do not know if they were kings, either. “THE FIRST NOEL” contains a similar error. Furthermore, it has the wise men visiting Jesus at the time of the shepherds, which the Bible does not support. This is all just vain religious tradition. The wise men visited Jesus in Nazareth when He was as much as two years old (Matthew 2:1-16) whereas the shepherds visited Him in Bethlehem when He was a newborn Baby (Luke 2:1-20). Martin Luther’s “AWAY IN A MANGER” song claims, “Be near me, Lord Jesus, / I ask Thee to stay / Close by me forever, / And love me, I pray.” Again, this is useless. Jesus Christ does not leave Christians.

CONCLUSION

Titus 2:1 instructs us, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” It is therefore only appropriate that we speak (and, by extension, sing) that which fits, or is in accordance with, sound Bible doctrine. This Bible study was an attempt to provide insight into how we not only believe sound Bible doctrine but also how we should actually work it into hymns. Our hymnals should be an aid in teaching rather than an aid in confusing.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Many lesser-known hymns, songs that that this author is not familiar with, could have been added and corrected here. What of those we have not covered in this study? (Are the modern “Contemporary Christian” songs any good? Usually not, as they are doctrinally shallow. Be extremely cautious here.) Friend, you will have to take God’s Word rightly divided and decide for yourself which songs are inappropriate for you (and/or your congregation) to sing. Use your renewed mind to write your own lyrics to replace doctrinally-deficient ones. If you have any background in music, you are strongly encouraged to compose brand-new dispensational songs that will glorify our Lord Jesus Christ (and reinforce sound Bible doctrine for hearers—saved and lost alike).

Dear saints, in closing, remember that the Bible is the standard. We get hymns from the Bible; we do not get the Bible from hymns. God the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible; He did not inspire hymns, no matter how beautiful, moving, or popular they are. The “good ol’ hymns,” “great songs of the faith,” are indeed our heritage—our link to the saints of God of centuries past—but our allegiance belongs first and foremost to the Holy Scriptures. We should be more fearful of changing the Bible to fit the hymns than altering the hymns to fit the Bible. The hymns are the creations of men; the Bible is the Word of Almighty God. I would rather correct the hymns than trade God’s eternal words for men’s temporal words. What about you?

Also see:
» Should I raise my hands in worship?
» Did David dance vulgarly?
» What is wrong with “praise and worship?”

Should women speak in church?

SHOULD WOMEN SPEAK IN CHURCH? MAY THEY ASK QUESTIONS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

These inquiries stem from 1 Corinthians chapter 14: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Why are Christian women instructed here to be silent? How is it “a shame” (disgraceful) for them to talk in the assembly, especially with regards to asking questions?

Firstly, this “speaking” is not normal dialog. If we look at the context (verses 1-33 especially), we see the background is the spiritual gifts of prophesying (preaching) and speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues is the supernatural (Holy Spirit) empowerment of speaking in human dialects never formally learned (see Acts 2:1-11—especially verses 6-11). It has nothing whatsoever to do with some ecstatic, “angelic” gibberish that “God alone understands.”

According to our opening verses, men only (never women!) were to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. The implication is that if women ever did prophesy or “speak in tongues,” it was NOT the Holy Spirit controlling her. Friend, contrary to what you might have seen and heard in Charismatic circles, God the Holy Spirit never, ever leads a woman to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. It is the working of her sinful flesh, the working of Satan, but never the working of the God of the Bible. That is what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14:34. While you may not like it, while you may hate it, you cannot change it! Just leave it alone and believe it! 🙂

What about verse 35? “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Again, this is not normal, everyday chitchat. It is something excessive and distracting, particularly women dominating the congregation. Women serve roles in the local assembly, but not in places where they appear to be functioning as men. The order of creation and marriage is man followed by woman. That pattern carries over into the local church.

First Timothy 2:11-15 tells us God’s plan for the functioning of the local assembly: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” This is the proper cross-reference to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

If a woman is usurping the authority over the man in the local assembly—or even in the marriage relationship—there is opposition to how God designed human life to operate. Satan will use this disorder to undermine those associations. If the Lord Jesus Christ is to be honored and glorified, the man leads in God’s Word (right way) while the woman follows him. First Corinthians chapter 11, verse 3, also written to the Corinthians, please note, says: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Ephesians chapter 5 adds: “[21] Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. [22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Unfortunately, because of sin, life is greatly complicated. Two problems arise concerning the marriage relationship and the local church arrangement. Firstly, the man may not lead in God’s way (right direction), so the woman who wants to do right must go against him. Sadly, he is not operating as God planned, so she has to act independently. Secondly, the man who does lead in God’s way (right direction) may encounter a woman who refuses to follow him because she wants to do wrong. Regrettably, she is not functioning as God intended. Such clashes hinder—and if left unaddressed will eventually destroy—the marriage and the local assembly. You had better believe it, friend, you had better believe it!!

There is spiritual safety when a woman follows her husband in sound Bible doctrine. Satan’s goal (he is most wise) is to remove the woman from the follower position and place her into the leader position, thereby defeating both man and woman—and ultimately disrupting God’s work in the marriage and local church. Go back to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which describes how Satan manipulated Eve to stop following Adam, and how Adam willfully chose not to guide his wife when she did stop following him!! This is exactly how the human race fell… how sin made its entrance into the human condition. We would be fools to dismiss the role of the sexes as trivial and fluid. Today’s “gender identity” and “sex identity” exploration fads are most dangerous. They are the Adversary’s way of upending human society, especially marriages (families) and local churches.

For sake of emphasis, we read from 1 Timothy chapter 2 again: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

Returning to 1 Corinthians chapter 14, there were women preachers and women tongue-speakers in Corinth. The Holy Spirit through Paul thoroughly condemned them. Once more, we read: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Some may not like it, but that is what the Bible says. Let God be true, but every man a liar.

Why would the Holy Spirit forbid women from asking questions? Well, remember, it is the Corinthian women specifically. “Let YOUR women keep silence in the churches….” They were notorious for being disruptive, domineering, and masculine. This is the key to understanding the “women and head coverings” issue dealt with earlier in chapter 11. Christian women in Corinth were taking away from the men’s ministry there. Therefore, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul admonished them to cease their wayward activities. (For more information, see our head coverings study linked at the end of this article.)

It has been said, more than once, that the modern Charismatic Movement would die out in a day if the women were removed from their roles. The same could be said of the Corinthian assembly—and that is exactly why the Holy Spirit wrote what He did through Paul. That mockery of Jesus Christ’s ministry was not to be ignored as “petty immaturity.” It was to be shut down entirely and immediately. Such words of rebuke thunder throughout unruly Christendom even now. “Let YOUR women keep silence in the churches….” Women (usurping the authority of the men) and men (failing to lead) are such a scourge in so many assemblies. Dear friends, the Church the Body of Christ has done such a pitiful job in learning these lessons from Corinth. After 2,000 years, even with the completed Word of God in our hands, professing Christians are struggling to get down even the basics in local church operations. No wonder they are so riddled with error!

Sometimes, even now, women will dominate question-and-answer sessions in local church settings or Bible conferences. Whether inadvertently or deliberately, it is still awkward, not conducive to learning, and contrary to Christian behavior. If one lady persists, or a group of ladies persist, in inquiry after inquiry after inquiry, it puts the authority and attention on them (when it should be on the [male] preachers and teachers—they have the task of teaching the Word of God). The (male) leaders should have the group’s attention, for God has given the teaching ministry over the whole group. (Go back to 1 Timothy 2:11-15—“[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”)

This author can just hear the objections, the critical remarks, to the study thus far. He will be swift to address them. This has nothing to do with men being more special or better than women. This is not misogyny. God the Holy Spirit does not hate women, and neither does this author. Again, the idea is headship. Someone has to take the lead and, because of creation, that is the man. Our sisters in Christ need to be very careful here, and not repeat the mistakes of the Corinthian women in Christ.

In all fairness, we are not going to leave out our Christian brothers. Friends, this is going to be offensive as well, but it must be said. If a lady in the assembly has an abundance of Bible questions, it is highly likely that her husband is at fault. The more she asks, the worse he appears. Why does this author say that? The Bible commands in verse 35 of 1 Corinthians chapter 14: “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” As noted earlier, God Almighty has given the husband the job of being his wife’s Bible teacher. If the wife knows little to nothing about Scripture, it is not the preacher’s fault! While she is responsible for her own decisions, the blame is (to a large degree) on her husband! Her husband is to be her spiritual guardian, and how he has failed miserably!! This was Adam’s fault—and, again, remember how the human race fell thereafter! It is a very serious matter, a grave issue indeed. Do not brush it off. He should take her home, and, in love, instruct her in their God’s words. At home, she can learn quietly without disturbing everyone in public. This is what Paul was urging the Corinthian men to do with their wives.

CONCLUSION

First Corinthians chapter 14 is controversial, a most “hot-button” issue: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

Surveying the entire First Epistle to Corinth, we could use several descriptors for their assembly. Two of the obvious ones are “chaotic” and “confused.” There were great disruptions, and Satan absolutely reveled in their Biblical ignorance, spiritual immaturity, and complete foolishness. Saints (yes, saints!) were abusing spiritual gifts, drawing attention to themselves. In our study here, we saw that women were not playing the submissive role. Rather, they were boisterous, overassertive, and unruly. Men were refusing to take the leadership roles and/or they were being outright rejected in leadership roles. Saints (yes, saints—women!) were drawing attention to themselves by preaching, speaking in tongues, and asking too many questions in public. The men in Corinth were failing to function as leaders and the women were overbearing instead of following.

As to be expected when God’s design is ignored, the Corinthian group suffered greatly from spiritual madness and mayhem. Hence, the Holy Spirit through Paul told the Corinthian women to keep silent and ask their husbands at home. There were simply too many disruptions, distractions, spectacles, and commotions—all dragging down the Lord’s ministry in Corinth. It is “a shame for women to speak in the church” (GOD says that Christian women who are not submissive in the local church and marriage relationship are disgraceful!!). It does not mean that women are forbidden to converse at all within the church building. It means they are not to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. They are not to lead the entire congregation. The men in the assembly were to stop being wimps and set things in order.

Yes, women can speak in church. Indeed, they can ask questions. However, as we saw with the Corinthians, they can get carried away and draw the whole assembly into Satan’s trap. When women assume leadership positions—namely, teaching men—this is extremely threatening to all involved. We all (women and men) need to guard against this and see that it does not occur in our local churches!

Also see:
» Should Christian women wear head coverings?
» Should a woman lead a group in prayer?
» Should women serve in the ministry?

“Pastor” or “bishop”—which is the correct title?

“PASTOR” OR “BISHOP”—WHICH IS THE CORRECT TITLE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“I was just wondering if Pastor is the correct term to use for the head of a local assembly? I know Timothy mentions Bishop, but most people still use Pastor.” Thank you for submitting, friend! We will get right to your question.

REFERENCES

“Bishop” (or its variants) appears only six times in the King James Bible:

  • Acts 1:20: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.”
  • Philippians 1:1: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:….”
  • 1 Timothy 3:1: “This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”
  • 1 Timothy 3:2: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;….”
  • Titus 1:7: “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;….”
  • 1 Peter 2:25: “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

“Pastor” (or its variant) is the more common term, found nine times in the King James Bible:

  • Jeremiah 2:8: “The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.”
  • Jeremiah 3:15: “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
  • Jeremiah 10:21: “For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.”
  • Jeremiah 12:10: “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.”
  • Jeremiah 17:16: “As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.”
  • Jeremiah 22:22: “The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.”
  • Jeremiah 23:1: “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.”
  • Jeremiah 23:2: “Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.”
  • Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;….”

As you could see, “bishop” is less frequent than “pastor.” Save for a single reference in Ephesians, “pastor” is exclusively an Old Testament title. When titling church leaders, the New Testament uses “bishop” or “overseer.” We will look further at these individual terms.

ETYMOLOGIES

We will start off with an investigation of the English terms.

“Bishop” is derived from an Old English word based on the Greek “episkopos” “overseer,” with “epi–” (“over”) and “–skopos” (“looking”). While usually appearing as “bishop/s/rick” (six times—Acts 1:20, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:7, 1 Peter 2:25), “episkopos” is found once in the King James Bible as “overseers” as well. Notice Acts 20:28—“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Whereas “bishop” is about leading God’s people, “pastor” carries the meaning of feeding God’s people (although there is some overlap as you saw in Acts 20:28 a few moments earlier).

“Pastor” is from the Anglo-Norman French “pastour,” from the Latin “pastor” meaning “shepherd,” with “past–” defined as “fed, grazed.” In the Greek New Testament, the word is poimen, which is rendered both “shepherd” and “pastor.” (“Shepherd” as in—Matthew 9:36, Matthew 25:32, Mark 6:34, Luke 2:8, Luke 2:15, Luke 2:18, Luke 2:20, John 10:12, and Ephesians 4:11. “Shepherd” as in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself—Matthew 26:31, Mark 14:27, John 10:2, John 10:11 (twice), John 10:14, John 10:16, Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 2:25. “Pastors” as in—Ephesians 4:11.)

While beyond this study, you can see that our 1611 translators rendered the Hebrew word “raa” over 70 times in the Old Testament as “feed,” 60-plus times as “shepherd,” and eight times as “pastor.” Evidently, “pastor” and “shepherd” are synonyms—they can be used interchangeably, just as “bishop” and “overseer.”

As an interesting little tidbit, we quote one commentator: “A shepherd in the Near East was responsible for watching out for enemies trying to attack the sheep, defending the sheep from attackers, healing the wounded and sick sheep, finding and saving lost or trapped sheep, loving them, and sharing their lives and to earn their trust.” If we can take this and apply it to a spiritual setting (local church), we will better understand church leadership.

SUMMARY

The bishop or overseer (episkopos)—by his very name—is a superintendent or supervisor. He leads or guides the local assembly in sound Bible doctrine and behavior. By God’s design, the bishop is the first line of defense against doctrinal error. The bishop not only makes sure things are done correctly (Christ-like) in the local assembly, he sees to it that any and all impurities are kept out of the church! He is a guardian, sentry, or watchman—experienced in the Word rightly divided, ready to spot error, warn others of the danger, and prevent the error from infecting the congregation.

The pastor or shepherd (poimen)—as his appellation implies—is the feeder or tender of the group. Imagine a shepherd tending to the needs of his sheep. As you can see though, there is some overlap with a bishop. Both the bishop and the pastor lead the group. The bishop guards against danger and error while the pastor feeds to produce saints who can withstand error. The bishop leads while the pastor cares. They are one individual but that one man serves two roles.

Quickly stated, the “bishop” is in the sense of “overseer” (watches over local group—same Greek word as “overseers” in Acts 20:28) whereas the “pastor” is in the sense of the “feeder” (like a shepherd feeding the flock, spiritual food being the Word of God). Is that clearer?

Earlier, we read about corrupt pastors in ancient Israel. The LORD God was very upset that they had misled His people, just as a lazy shepherd would fail to guide his sheep in the right, safe path. Read Jeremiah 23:1-2 again: “[1] Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. [2] Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.” Such scathing words could be uttered today in most churches! The average local church leader today is anything but a “leader”… and if leading, it is probably in the wrong direction!

CONCLUSION

As you stated, friend, “pastor” is the more common title for church leaders. This is likely because that word appears more often in the Bible text. Here is an interesting fact. While frequently called the “Pastoral Epistles,” the word “pastor” never once appears in 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon! The term “bishop” is used instead (1 Timothy 3:1-2 and Titus 1:7). Philippians 1:1 speaks of the “bishops and deacons” leading the church at Philippi. During the Acts period, the spiritual gifts of “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers” were bestowed upon men (Ephesians 4:11). These supernaturally-imparted gifts are no longer being given because of the completed Word of God that has come and equipped all saints to do God’s will (1 Corinthians 13:8-13 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17). However, the roles of evangelists, pastors, and teachers still need to be filled. “For the perfecting [maturing] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).

You have hinted at the controversy, so with all that has been said up to now, we might as well divulge the debate for those unaware. Some have gone to great lengths to passionately quarrel over whether “bishop” or “pastor” is the correct term. “Pastor” is for Israel’s program, it is said (not true according to Ephesians 4:11). “Bishop” is the proper term, they claim (there is some weight to this argument, but again, remember those definitions and the overlaps).

Personally, in light of what we have discussed in this study, I believe it to be a petty issue not worth our time. Provided that someone is not being called “apostle” or “prophet”—which is the most important issue about labeling church leaders today—I would not worry about getting caught up in the “pastor/bishop” issue. I know good men who use one or both terms. Furthermore, I have a friend in the ministry who prefers calling himself “pastor” because he lives in Mormon territory. Lest he advertise himself as a possible Mormon, he avoids using “bishop.” This should be considered as well.

The function of a “pastor” is still needed, for Christians still need to be fed the Word of God rightly divided (see Ephesians 4:11-12). “Bishop” is fine too, as Christians need to be led in the Word of God rightly divided (see 1 Timothy 3:1-2). Again, while some fervently argue over which is the correct term, I see no legitimate reason to accept one and reject the other. Church leader and church feeder are the roles, and there is some commonality. “Elder,” by the way, is an aged man in leadership (not necessarily physical age, but certainly advanced/experienced in the doctrine)—see 1 Timothy 5:1,17-19. There is some overlap here between bishops and elders, but that too is beyond the scope of this study. For more information, you can refer to our related studies below.

NOTE: If you missed the live streaming of my Grace School of the Bible graduation a few weeks ago, the video is now posted online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-TjUeG45yI&feature=youtu.be.

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving. You can donate securely here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux, or email me at arcministries@gmail.com. Do not forget about Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. Thanks to all who give to and pray for us! 🙂

Also see:
» Are there modern-day apostles and prophets?
» What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle?
» What is the difference between a minister, a pastor, and an evangelist?

Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?

WHY DOES THE BOOK OF ACTS END SO ABRUPTLY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Book of Acts opens where the Gospel Record of Luke left off (compare Luke chapter 24 with Acts chapter 1). Luke is again writing to Theophilus to tell him what happened concerning the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry and His Apostles’ ministry once He returned to Heaven (cf. Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-2). Let us begin with a simple, quick survey of the Book of Acts.

A SIMPLE, QUICK SURVEY OF THE BOOK OF ACTS

Chapter 1 of Acts opens with Jesus Christ spending 40 days in His post-resurrection ministry showing Himself to be alive again with many infallible proofs. He teaches the Apostles all about the kingdom of God. Then, He ascends up to Heaven to His Father’s right hand. In chapter 2, the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the 12 Apostles. Peter delivers his well-known sermon to the nation Israel in Jerusalem. Messiah, whom Israel rejected at Calvary, has resurrected, and will return to set up that Davidic kingdom promised to Israel long ago! Salvation must begin with Jerusalem’s conversion.

As we progress in Acts, we see the expansion of the Messianic Church (Israel’s believing remnant, what Luke 12:32 calls “the Little Flock”). More Jews are responding to the Apostles’ preaching; they are repenting and being water baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, preparing to survive the wrath at His Second Coming. Envious and outraged, the satanically-inspired Israeli religious leaders persecute the Messianic Church, especially the Apostles. Signs and wonders—great miracles—verify the Word of God being faithfully proclaimed. Jesus Christ is alive and well, and the miraculous demonstrations prove that He is the Son of God and working through them.

In chapter 7, Israel reaches the pinnacle of her unbelief. Her religious leadership refuses to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to her through Stephen. Israel experiences her national fall as her leaders stone Stephen to death. Just as God’s wrath is about to come upon unbelieving mankind, in chapter 9, God reaches down in grace and mercy and love to save His chief enemy. Saul of Tarsus, leading Israel’s rejection of Messiah Jesus, meets the Lord Himself and is saved unto eternal life! God commissions him with a new message, the Gospel of Grace, to preach to all nations (Gentiles). A new program, the Dispensation of Grace, has begun. The Church the Body of Christ has started. That wrath has been delayed, having given way to a mystery program God kept secret in Himself until He revealed to Saul.

For the first time, in chapter 10, the Lord Jesus commands Peter to visit and evangelize Gentiles in Caesarea (Cornelius and his Roman associates). We see Gentiles in Antioch taking an interest in God’s Word in chapter 11, Saul of Tarsus eventually heading that ministry. The Jerusalem Church suffers intense persecution in chapter 12 under King Herod—Apostle James is beheaded. Beginning in chapter 13, the Holy Spirit directs the Antiochian Church to send away Saul and Barnabas to preach the Gospel of Grace throughout the Roman Empire. Thus begins Paul and Barnabas’ apostolic journeys. These—four trips in total—will continue until the Acts period ends. Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, will be preached far and wide, and all will hear it!

From chapter 13 onward, the Apostle Paul is the main figure in Acts. Peter and the other 11 Apostles of Israel are passing off the scene because Israel herself has already fallen and has been diminishing since chapter 7. Paul’s ministry is being increasingly established and the Gospel of Grace is spreading farther and farther throughout the world. He visits (among other places) modern Turkey, Syria, Greece, and eventually Italy. Unbelieving Jews have been following and harassing him and his converts for many years. Still, the message of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for man’s sins, is being heard and believed on far and wide. The Church the Body of Christ is growing.

In chapter 15 (Galatians chapter 2), Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem to meet the Jewish Church’s Apostles and elders. Doctrinal issues must be straightened out. Paul teaches these Kingdom saints about the drastic dispensational changes that have occurred thus far. They come to realize how God the Holy Spirit is now working amongst the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry without the Law, without Israel’s prophetic kingdom, without the Gospel of the Kingdom. They see that their prophetic program is fading and Israel is diminishing. They release themselves from their Gentile commission, turning over all lost souls to Paul and Barnabas. The 11 Apostles will stay with believing Israel, the Little Flock. Paul and Barnabas will continue with reaching all unsaved Jews and Gentiles with the Gospel of the Grace of God. Their apostolic journeys continue throughout the Roman Empire. More idolatrous pagans under Satan’s control are being saved unto eternal life!

When Paul returns to Jerusalem in Acts chapter 21 many years later, the unbelieving Jews assume that he has taken a (defiled) Gentile, or non-Jew, into the Temple. An uproar is generated and Paul is physically beaten. The Roman soldiers, learning of the riot, arrest the Apostle. In chapter 22, he delivers a testimony-sermon to unbelieving Israel in Jerusalem, which infuriates them even more. Paul is imprisoned in Jerusalem to stand before Israel’s ruling religious body. Once it is uncovered that unbelieving Jews plot to kill Paul, the Roman army sends him to Caesarea to stand before Judaean Governor Felix. The trial is unfair; Felix keeps Paul illegally bound just to delight the unsaved Jews. Once Festus becomes governor, Paul has been imprisoned for two years (in Caesarea, remember). Festus also mistreats Paul to gain favor with the unbelieving Jews. Having enough of these incessant, unfair legal proceedings, the Apostle says that he appeals to Caesar, the Roman emperor, so that he may hear his case and render justice. Still, before Paul travels to Rome, Festus involves King Agrippa, whom Paul stands before to share his testimony. Agrippa mocks.

Entering a ship as chapter 27 opens, the chained Apostle Paul journeys from Caesarea to Rome. A great storm causes him and his company to be shipwrecked and stranded on the island Melita. Months later, he finally gets to Rome, the world’s capital at the time. In the latter half of chapter 28, he meets with unbelieving Jews who are curious about his ministry. Remember, he is still a prisoner. Soldiers take turns being chained to him. Acts 28:16 says: “And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.”

The closing verses of the Book are Acts 28:30-31: “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

So, what happened to Paul in Rome? How did his trial before Caesar turn out? All we read about is he being under house arrest for two years, during which time he preached the kingdom of God and taught those things regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. Why did Luke leave us in suspense here? Why did the Holy Spirit stop the narrative here of all places? For centuries, theologians have wondered and debated about this sudden ending, this “cliffhanger,” of Acts. We would have expected an adequate conclusion, a resolution of some sort. Alas, there is none. (Or is there?)

THE BOOK OF ACTS, DISPENSATIONALLY DELIVERED

It has been rightly said that the Book of Acts is the most challenging Book in the whole Bible. Why is Acts so difficult? We just saw why, dear friends. It is a transitional Book. God’s dealings with man at the beginning of the Book are overwhelmingly different from His relations with man at the end of the Book. Take, for example, two sample verses from the Book of Acts:

  • Acts 1:6: “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
  • Acts 28:28: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”

Acts 1:6 is an inquiry about when Israel’s earthly kingdom will be established; in stark contrast, Acts 28:28 involves salvation already going to the Gentiles. Recalling what Isaiah 60:1-3 (and other verses) said, Israel was to rise to kingdom glory and then salvation and blessing would flow through them to the Gentiles. Yet, those two verses from Acts do not fit Isaiah’s outline. Israel’s earthly kingdom was never established in the Book of Acts. Jesus Christ never returned to set up His kingdom in Acts. There still has not been that Second Coming in flaming fire taking vengeance on God’s enemies. Yet, Luke writes at the end of Acts that salvation has already been sent to the Gentiles. Surely, this is a departure from prophecy, something entirely different from what the prophets (such as Isaiah) expected.

It is apparent that the Book of Acts really contains two dispensations. God issues a certain set of instructions at the beginning of the Book, but by the end, a new set of divine instructions has already been given. Why this change? Why did God not keep one same body of information valid all the way from chapter 1 through chapter 28? (After all, having two bodies of information is more complicated than having one body of information.) We need not be troubled. We should not be intimidated. If we are willing to submit to the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry, Acts is going to demonstrate itself to us to be a very helpful Book rather than the burdensome text so many have made it.

What is the purpose of the Book of Acts? If it is so confusing, why did God include that record in His Holy Word? Is Acts really out of place in the canon of Scripture? If you asked the average Fundamentalist or Evangelical, or even Roman Catholic, they would tell you that the Book of Acts is the record of the establishment and expansion of the Church the Body of Christ. They would say that it documents the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem all the way to Rome. They assume there is only one Church in the Book of Acts. Also, they assume there is only one Gospel message in the Book of Acts. However, these comments manifest Bible ignorance on their part. They have not really studied the Book of Acts. What they have done is repeated misconceptions and mischaracterizations of Acts, parroting what others assumed about the Book of Acts. Denominational biases—religious traditions—have clouded their thinking. They need to look at the pure Word of God, and stop wresting it to fit their theological system.

The Book of Acts can be outlined using 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.”

In order to understand this, we must refer back to the words that the Lord Jesus Christ uttered many years earlier. We read in Matthew chapter 12: “[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.”

Israel rejected and contradicted what Jesus Christ preached to them throughout His earthly ministry, the Books of Matthew through John. The Lord Himself warned Israel that this sin would be forgiven them. On Calvary’s cross, once Israel’s rejection of God the Son came to a head, Jesus Christ cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Israel stumbled at the cross, but did not fall. Going back to Romans 11:11, “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid….”

Romans 9:30-33 explains their stumbling at Calvary: “[30] What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. [31] But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. [32] Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; [33] As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”

Again, while Israel stumbled at Calvary’s cross, they did not fall. At some later point, though, they did fall. Romans 11:11 again: “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.” When did Israel fall? Again, we know it was not at the cross because God continued to deal with her in early Acts (chapters 1-7).

In order for salvation to go to the Gentiles, unbelieving Israel had to be set aside for time. Salvation went to the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry (Romans 11:13). Paul was saved and commissioned in Acts chapter 9. That means Israel fell sometime prior. As we mentioned earlier, Israel’s fall was really in chapter 7, when Stephen filled with the Holy Ghost confronted Israel’s religious leaders about their unbelief. They stoned him to death—their final rebellion against the Holy Spirit. As per Matthew 12:31-32, this sin would not be forgiven them. God’s wrath would consume them when Christ would return at His Second Coming to establish Israel’s kingdom.

Going back to Romans 11:11-14, we pick up the thought-flow: “[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.”

Hone in on verse 13. Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles”—the man whom God has sent to be His spokesman to the nations. Since Israel had already fallen in Acts chapter 7—and Romans was written in Acts chapter 20—Israel is just another Gentile nation in God’s eyes. Paul is not simply preaching to non-Jews in the Book of Acts. After all, he visits Jewish synagogues and preaches in them throughout Acts (Acts 9:20; Acts 13:5,14,15,42; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:1,10,17; Acts 18:4-8; Acts 18:19; Acts 19:8). Israel fell just before Paul was made an Apostle in Acts chapter 9.

Romans chapter 11 again: “[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.” Why did Paul “magnify”—esteem, praise—his Gentile apostleship/ministry? Verse 14 tells us. He wanted to provoke to emulation some Jews. He desired the unbelieving Jews in the Acts period to behave like his Gentile audience. They too needed to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, for they were all under Satan’s control and were being offered God’s grace. Rather than believing the Gospel of the Kingdom and joining the Little Flock (Peter and the 11), however, they were to believe Paul’s Gospel and become members of the Church the Body of Christ (like us).

The Holy Spirit was conscientious throughout the latter part of Acts to reach lost Jews (those who had rejected the earlier preaching of Peter and 11). He provided them with revelation by sending Paul to preach in their synagogues. Paul, and his ministry companions, updated them concerning the dispensational changes that were occurring. The Jewish Apostles themselves heard about this information in Acts chapter 15 (and Galatians chapter 2) when Paul and Barnabas conferred with them. Jews scattered around the Roman Empire heard it in their respective cities as Paul et al. conducted his four apostolic journeys (Acts chapters 13–28). Since “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22), God sent Paul with the apostolic ability to perform various miracles. Miracles would validate his message as they had corroborated the 12 Apostles’ message.

We want to pay very close attention to the word “diminishing” in Romans 11:12: “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?” While Israel fell in Acts chapter 7, she diminished throughout the rest of Acts. She became less and less of an issue, but God was still speaking to her through Paul’s ministry. While the Dispensation of Grace was operating with Paul during Acts, there was also a transition from Israel’s prophetic program to our mystery program.

In order to show Paul as the perfect replacement for Peter, the Holy Spirit had Paul repeat Peter’s actions. Paul water baptized converts just as Peter did. Peter spoke with tongues; Paul spoke with tongues. Peter laid hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit; Paul did likewise. Peter went to Jews first; Paul went to Jews first. Peter healed the sick and raised the dead; Paul healed the sick and raised the dead. We could go on and on, but suffice it to say that God equipped Paul with power to do what Peter did. This was how God validated His Word amongst the Gentiles: Israel saw her signs and wonders amongst Paul’s Gentile converts. (If you could get this, my friend, you will avoid so much trouble people get into when they deal with this Acts period. However, if you fail to get this straight, you will never understand Acts!)

Three verses are at the heart of Paul’s Acts ministry. Notice them:

  • Acts 13:46: “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.”
  • Acts 18:6: “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.”
  • Acts 28:28: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”

Israel heard of her national fall on three occasions. Scattered amongst the Gentile nations, Paul visited her and said in Antioch of Pisidia (Turkey/Asia Minor), “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles(Acts 13:46). He said it again in Corinth (Greece/Europe), “From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles(Acts 18:6). Finally, in the world’s capital (Rome), he said, The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles…” (Acts 28:28). These announcements covered a period of roughly 15 years (approximately one-half of the duration of the whole Book of Acts). Paul is getting farther and farther away from Jerusalem (which was the central city in the prophetic program). Something major has happened, and it does not involve the establishment of Israel’s earthly kingdom.

Contrary to popular belief, Acts was not meant to show us how the Gospel and Christianity spread from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond. “Christianity” as we know it was first identified in Antioch, Syrianot Jerusalem (Acts 11:26)! Furthermore, it is not about how the Body of Christ formed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and spread beyond. Remember, salvation going to the Gentiles did not happen until chapter 9—Saul was converted long after Acts chapter 2! It is not meant to provide us a pattern for Christian living or doctrine, for many things are changing in the Book. The standards for the Dispensation of Grace are not made clear until Paul’s Epistles, Romans through Philemon. We do not appeal to Acts to find our doctrine, lest we wind up in confusion!

In Acts, God is transitioning from the Little Flock (Israel’s believing remnant) to the Church the Body of Christ, from Jerusalem to the world, from Peter to Paul, from Law to Grace, from prophecy to mystery, from the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Gospel of the Grace of God. Israel, once prominent at the beginning of Acts, is now fallen and diminishing. The 12 Apostles loose themselves from their commission in Acts chapter 15 (Galatians chapter 2). From chapter 9 onward, Paul is conducting a special “signs” ministry to coincide with Israel’s diminishing, that some of apostate Israel believe his Gospel of Grace and join the Church the Body of Christ.

The primary reason for the Book of Acts is to show how God was just, fair, in setting Israel aside for a time. When the Book opened, national Israel refused to hear Peter and the 11 Apostles preach about Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus led the rebellion! So, God interrupted that prophetic program and began a mystery program that He had kept secret all along. With Saul, the Apostle Paul, a new Gospel would be offered to man. The Church the Body of Christ had begun and would now form of all believing Jews and Gentiles. Eventually, Israel’s Little Flock was sealed off to new membership. Salvation for lost souls would now be in Paul’s Gospel alone. Alas, all the unbelieving Jews did was harass and persecute Paul… and it was his Gospel of Grace that barred God’s wrath from falling upon them!

God’s purpose in the Book of Acts is not to show us doctrine for today as members of the Body of Christ. (Once more, for that, we go to the Pauline Epistles, Romans through Philemon.) Many heresies and hang-ups have sprung forth from Acts because it is not handled dispensationally. Acts is not our pattern; chapter 2 is not the beginning of the Body of Christ as commonly taught. It was designed to show us how God spoke to unbelieving Israel—first through the 12 Apostles, and then through the Apostle Paul.

Once Paul’s pronouncements against apostate Israel were made, the Book of Acts closed. It was not in God’s design in Acts to give us every little detail about Paul’s ministry and message. (Again, the doctrinal details of Pauline theology are found in Romans through Philemon!) Hence, we do not read about the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome. Acts does not end “abruptly.” Its narrative terminates after it serves its final purpose—Israel’s last warning about her unbelief and salvation going to the Gentiles without her. Israel is not only fallen, but now diminished entirely. Contrary to the “Acts 28ers,” nothing new began with the close of Acts. However, something ended. Paul’s provoking ministry to Israel, the transitional part of the Dispensation of Grace is finished.

Dear friend, read the last 15 verses of Acts very slowly, and you will see the Book end right on schedule. Remember, Paul is in Rome, the world capital at the time. This is God’s worldwide message to Israel:

“[17] And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. [18] Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. [19] But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. [20] For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. [21] And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. [22] But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

“[23] And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. [24] And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. [25] And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, [26] Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: [27] For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Notice Israel’s persistent unbelief accentuated here—cf. Isaiah 6:9-10 and Matthew 13:11-15. After Acts 28:25-27, God warns her no further.)

“[28] Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. [29] And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. [30] And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, [31] Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

Also see:
» Were there two imprisonments of Paul, or just one?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Can you explain the ministry of the 12 Apostles in Acts 7-15?

What is Romans 2:24 talking about?

WHAT IS ROMANS 2:24 TALKING ABOUT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Romans 2:24 says: “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” What is this talking about?

Always remember that Romans chapters 1-3 document God building His case against sinful man (leading up, of course, to the Good News of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for our sins). Chapter 1 condemns the heathen (Gentiles, or non-Jews) as being totally depraved, falling short of God’s glory, utterly destitute of His righteousness, worthy of His wrath. Chapter 2 addresses the self-righteous (religious) man, the one who points to the heathen of chapter 1 and says, “I am not as bad as he is!” Verse 17 identifies this religious individual: “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,….” The Jew was self-righteous, conceited, believing himself to be “less sinful” than the nations around him. He had great pride in his national and religious status. God condemned him as well, lumping all Jews and Gentiles together as sinners (see chapter 2 into chapter 3).

It is these self-righteous Jewish people that the Holy Spirit is trying to convert through the Apostle Paul’s ministry during the latter half of the Book of Acts. Romans 10:1-3 speaks of them: “[1] Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. [2] For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. [3] For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” They needed to realize that despite all of their religious “goodness,” they were just as doomed to eternal hellfire as the Gentiles who had no written laws of God—they were just as guilty of sinning against God as the pagan heathens in chapter 1!

Romans 2:24 was inserted so as to force unbelieving Israel to see her dire spiritual need and her complete inability to keep the Law of Moses. She could not look down her nose at the Gentiles around her, for she was a poor reflection of the one true God! The Creator God had a special relationship with her, one that He did not have with the other nations of the world. Yet, that did not change the fact that the Jews shared one common ancestor with the Gentiles—Adam, the father of the human race and the origin of its sin nature. What made Israel so disgraceful was that she, unlike the Gentiles, should have known better! When the Holy Spirit included Romans 2:24, He was pointing back to some “Old Testament” events: “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.”

Second Samuel 12:14 is one individual example: “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” As most Bible readers know, King David had an affair with Bathsheba, a married woman whom he impregnated, he had her husband Uriah killed in battle, and then he took her to wife after Uriah’s death. God sent the Prophet Nathan to inform David that, although He had forgiven him (verse 13), the baby would die. More importantly, that forgiveness did not change the fact that the news of David’s sins had spread throughout the neighboring Gentile nations! The mighty ruler of God’s chief nation had committed adultery with a woman and then murdered her husband to cover it up! As we can imagine, it severely damaged Israel’s testimony before the world. “If that is the nation of the one true God, count me out! At least our king does not do what that David of Israel did!”

We find two other “Old Testament” cross-references—albeit national—to Romans 2:24. One is Isaiah 52:5: “Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.” The other is Ezekiel 36:22: “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.” When JEHOVAH God evicted rebellious Israel from her land and sent her off into foreign lands—namely, the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities—the Jews lived in those nations and continued their sins. Even suffering under God’s judgment, the fifth course of chastisement (punishment), they did not live like JEHOVAH’S people. They lived like Satan’s people. (And, of course, the heathen saw it and laughed and mocked constantly!)

Read Deuteronomy 4:1-10: “[1] Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. [2] Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. [3] Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you. [4] But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.

“[5] Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. [6] Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. [7] For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? [8] And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

“[9] Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; [10] Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.”

See, Israel was to follow the Law of Moses in order to have a visibly separate testimony. The nations would see them walking in the ways of JEHOVAH God and say, “Look at how the people of the one true God live! Let us go over and learn the truth from them. That nation has something our religion does not give us. God is so close to them and He is so far from us.” Of course, Israel failed (God warned them to be careful!—Deuteronomy 4:9-10). They blended in with everyone else. They assimilated, adopting the ways of the world, and became a poor example. Paul pointed out in Romans 2:24 that the Jews had no reason to be haughty or conceited. They, as individuals and as a nation, were just as sinful and worthy of God’s wrath as the idol-worshipping Gentiles they had criticized.

Friends, what can we learn from this? Is it just “dead history,” with no application to us? Why, dear friends, there is great wisdom in these passages if we have an eye to see, an ear to hear, and a heart to believe. It would do us well to remember to guard our testimony as close as possible. We Christians need to always be conducting our lives in such a way that we do not bring reproach to the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Whatever behavior or course of life we pursue, people will associate that with the God of the Bible. We living in sin while claiming to be “Christians” is a contradiction to the people watching us. They will seize on that ammunition and say, “Look at those hypocrites in the Christian church! I want nothing to do with that Jesus Christ! I can live a much better life without Him!”

In the “Old Testament” economy—which is what Romans 2:24 describes—there was no such thing as the Church the Body of Christ. During “time past,” Ephesians 2:11-12 says God’s people were the nation Israel as opposed to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Whatever Israel’s Gentile neighbors saw in her lifestyle, they equated that with JEHOVAH God. Israel was to be a holy, or set apart, nation. They were not to think or act like the pagan idolaters around them. Yet they did just that. Today, Romans chapters 9-11 say that Israel is temporarily set aside, nationally blinded. God’s people today, in this the Dispensation of Grace, in the “but now” (Ephesians 2:13-22), are the Church the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ needs to be very careful in not repeating Israel’s mistakes. We must remain separate from the world—not only in doctrine and thought, but also in behavior and lifestyle.

Also see:
» Why do some Christians persistently behave like lost people?
» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?
» Is a Christian a “poor testimony” for taking medication?

Is the Ephesian church of the Revelation the same group as those in the Book of Ephesians?

IS THE EPHESIAN CHURCH OF THE REVELATION THE SAME GROUP AS THOSE IN THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“When John wrote to the 7 churches, was the church at Ephesus the same one that Paul founded? Is not the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-11 the same church that Paul dealt with in the Book of Ephesians?”

Good questions, my friend! Many people have asked this over the years; it puzzled me too some years ago. Then, I engaged in a very rewarding Bible study whose profit I will share with you shortly. While it is commonly assumed that the Apostle Paul’s church at Ephesus was the same as the Apostle John’s church at Ephesus, we know this is not the case for at least seven reasons.

The first part of this study will be a cursory or simplistic examination of major differences between the church at Ephesus according to John’s ministry, and the church at Ephesus according to Paul’s ministry. The second part of this study, a compilation of related notes that I wrote some years ago, will provide more details for those wanting to “dig deeper.”

PART I. EPHESUS – HOW THE APOSTLES JOHN AND PAUL DIFFERED, IN BRIEF

1.JOHN AND PAUL HAD SEPARATE MINISTRIES TO DIFFERENT PEOPLES

Galatians 2:9 says Paul and John ministered to two different groups of people: “And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me [Paul], they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” This agreement was the Acts chapter 15 meeting of the Apostles.

James, Peter, and John said they would stay with the Jewish believers from Christ’s earthly ministry and early Acts (collectively called “the little flock” in Luke 12:32). Paul, however, in Acts 9:15-16 (cf. Acts 22:21; Acts 26:16-18), was sent by Jesus Christ to minister to everyone else (all Gentiles, whether Jews or non-Jews)—national Israel had fallen in Acts chapter 7. According to Galatians 1:16, Paul’s ministry to “heathen” (lost Jews and lost Gentiles) started at his conversion in Acts chapter 9. The 12 Apostles did not realize Paul’s special apostleship/ministry and message until Acts chapter 15 years later (also recorded in Galatians chapter 2). Paul is called “the apostle of the Gentiles” in Romans 11:13. The Apostle John never claimed such a title in any of his writings.

2. REVELATION IS PROPHECY; EPHESIANS IS MYSTERY

Notice how the Book of the Revelation begins: “[1] The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: [2] Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. [3] Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” This is clearly part of the prophetic program, God’s plans for Israel and the Earth. John’s Ephesian believers are part of that prophetic program. Acts 3:20-21 tells us: “[20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] 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.”

However, the Ephesians of Paul’s ministry are part of the “mystery” program. Ephesians 3:1-6 affirms: “[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:….” In contrast to Acts 3:20-21, Romans 16:25-26 says: “[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:….”

3. JOHN MAKES NO REFERENCE TO PAUL, AND VICE VERSA

The Book of Ephesians makes no reference to the Apostle John, and the Book of the Revelation makes no reference to the Apostle Paul. John does not refer his group to Paul—as in, “Remember what Paul wrote to you…” or “Recall when Paul first visited you and preached Christ to you.” Neither does Paul pen in Ephesians—“John will write to you…” or “John has written to you….” This means the Ephesians in John’s audience were totally distinct from the Ephesians of Paul’s audience. We know this because, as we saw in Point #1 and Galatians 2:9, John and Paul had separate ministries. As we saw in Point #2, John and Paul were involved with separate divine programs (prophecy and mystery, respectively). Of course, it is only fitting that they would have separate converts (or audiences).

In addition, the Book of Acts, (chapter 19) says Paul, not John, founded the church at Ephesus. Had John been writing to the same group, why did he ignore Paul when writing to Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2? Would not John have exhorted the Ephesians to remember what Paul delivered to them years earlier? Yes, and yet, he did not. That means John was addressing a different group in Ephesus than the group to whom Paul ministered in Ephesus.

4. THE ANGEL AT EPHESUS IN JOHN’S WRITINGS

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write;….” (Revelation 2:1). This is Jesus Christ telling John to write to “the angel of the church of Ephesus.” The Bible is clear that an “angel” leads the church at Ephesus in Revelation. No angel is mentioned in the Book of Ephesians; Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is directed to no such “angel.” More will be said about this in Part II. Suffice it to say that these are undoubtedly two groups of believers in Ephesus. John’s group is members of the “little flock” (Luke 12:32)—Galatians 2:9, and Point #1, remember. Paul’s group, as we will see in our next Point, is members of “the Church the Body of Christ.”

5. THE BODY OF CHRIST IS ABSENT FROM THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION

There is a reference to the “Body of Christ” in Ephesians 4:4 with respect to Paul’s believers at Ephesus: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;….” Verse 12 qualifies that “body” in verse 4 as, “… the body of Christ.” In stark contrast, there is no reference to the “Body of Christ” in Revelation chapter 2. There is only one possibility. The Ephesian believers of John’s ministry are not members of the Body of Christ as commonly taught.

6. REVELATION’S AUDIENCE IS CALLED “KINGS AND PRIESTS”

Revelation 1:6 says, “And [Jesus Christ, verse 5] hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” The audience of the Revelation is made of “kings and priests.” Surely, “kings and priests” points to 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light….” This goes back to Exodus 19:5-6, God’s promise to make Israel His “kingdom of priests:” “[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.”

The Ephesian believers of Paul’s ministry are never called by any of these titles—”kings, priests, chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation.” No members of the Body of Christ (including those in the Book of Ephesians) are ever identified as “kings” or “priests” in Paul’s epistles. This terminology is exclusive to Israel—Israel is a “nation.” The Church the Body of Christ is no “nation!” Notice how this is accentuated in Point #7.

7. PAUL’S CONVERTS IN EPHESUS ARE “GENTILES”

Ephesians 2:11-12 says to the Ephesians in Paul’s ministry: “[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:…” And, Ephesians 3:1: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,….” Finally, Ephesians 4:17: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,….”

John, in the Revelation, never addresses Gentiles; in fact, as we saw in Point #6 earlier, John wrote to Jews, the nation Israel.

PART II. EPHESUS – HOW THE APOSTLES JOHN AND PAUL DIFFERED, IN DETAIL

1. HOW THE CONFUSION BEGAN

There is much confusion in Christendom today regarding the seven churches of the Book of the Revelation. Undoubtedly, the most prevalent view is that each of these seven churches represents the Church the Body of Christ at a different age. Stated another way, all seven churches are cumulatively viewed as the same Body of Christ throughout church history (the last 2,000 years, from the first century A.D. to the present-day). There are numerous flaws in this reasoning, but addressing them is beyond the scope of this study.

Suffice it to say that the above common idea often forces people to conflate (combine) the church at Ephesus that Paul founded, with the church at Ephesus to which John wrote. They want to say it is all one Body of Christ from Matthew through Revelation. People are ignoring the dispensational principle necessary for proper, profitable Bible study: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We must keep Peter separate from Paul, prophecy separate from mystery, the nation Israel separate from the Body of Christ, and so on. Failure to do so will result in confusion—think of the issue we are currently discussing and untangling!

Moreover, there is much misunderstanding concerning the word “church” in the “New Testament” Scriptures. It is always important to remember that the term “church” is not always a reference to the Church the Body of Christ. When people see the word “church” in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Hebrews through Revelation, they usually take it to mean a reference to the Church the Body of Christ. Why? It is because they do not understand, or refuse to understand, that the Body of Christ is strictly a Pauline revelation (refer back to Romans 16:25-26, Ephesians 3:1-11, et cetera).

Jesus Christ could not reveal the Church the Body of Christ in His earthly ministry because it was not time to reveal it. It was not revealed in early Acts either. Almighty God designated Paul to be the man to and through whom He would disclose the secret of His will (Ephesians 1:9-10). That secret of God’s will was that He would glorify His Son Jesus Christ in the heavenly places. He would accomplish this by creating a body of believers who were neither Jew nor Gentile—what the Bible calls the Church the Body of Christ. Until we come to Paul’s ministry, all that God had revealed to man was that He was interested in forming a nation of people (Israel) through whom He would (and still will) reclaim Earth. The hope of believers prior to Paul was not to die and go to heaven, but rather to be resurrected to enter Jesus Christ’s earthly kingdom. (For more information about all of these differences, you can see our related studies linked at the end of this article.)

For now, we will look at what the Apostle John wrote to and about the Ephesians, and compare that to what the Apostle Paul wrote to and about the Ephesians.

2. THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS AND JOHN’S MINISTRY (BOOK OF REVELATION)

The Apostle John wrote in Revelation chapter 2: “[1] Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;….” Notice how the Lord Jesus told John to write to the “angel” of the church of Ephesus. While many translators and commentators render this Greek word aggelos as “pastor” (as they do throughout Revelation chapters 2 and 3), our King James translators knew more about the original Bible languages than people often give them credit for. Only an unbeliever rejects the Bible as it reads; we are believers, so we will not adopt unbelieving positions when approaching the Bible. We will simply take the word “angel” at face value. It means an angelic being and not a human pastor. A literal angel is leading this group of believers in Ephesus.

In verses 2-3, the Lord Jesus Christ commends the believers at Ephesus for their faithful service to Him and for their stand on sound Bible doctrine. They do not tolerate false teachers and false apostles, as He notes: “[2] I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: [3] And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.”

Verses 4-5 are a stark change in content. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ rebukes them. There is something amiss in Ephesus, and He has a controversy to settle. These believers have “left [their] first love.” Read it for yourself: “[4] Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. [5] Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” These believers in Ephesus need to return to Jesus Christ. What they did exactly is unclear, but there is definitely the urge to “repent,” the Lord telling them to change their mind about what they are doing, to think differently. That renewed mind will bring about a change in conduct. Summarized, they need to “do the first works.”

In addition, there is a motivation for them to change their mind—Jesus Christ says that, if they will not repent, He will (verse 5), “come unto [them] quickly, and will remove [their] candlestick out of his place!” This is the Law system. Israel was not simply to have faith, but to have works that matched the faith they claimed to have (see James 2:14-26). Their motivation to forgive was so God would forgive them (see Matthew 6:14-15). Their motivation to be water baptized was so that Almighty God would not baptize them with fire/wrath (see Matthew 3:1-12; 1 Peter 3:21).

In verse 6 of Revelation chapter 2, Jesus Christ again commends the believers in Ephesus for their discernment of truth from error (cf. verses 2-3): “[6] But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.” While the “Nicolaitanes” were a mysterious group about whom little is known, the very meaning of their name—“to conquer the laity”—shows us that they were church leaders who bullied commoners. (Are oppressive, dictatorial preachers anything new?) Peter’s first epistle speaks of those who “lord over [bully] God’s heritage” (1 Peter 5:3). Paul confessed that he refused to be of this sort of spiritual leader, bossing Christians, treating them like slaves or subjects (2 Corinthians 1:24).

The last verse the Lord Jesus through John wrote to the Ephesians is the promise of reward for those who “overcome”: “[7] He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” There is no such promise to the Ephesians in Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. However, in John’s ministry, this verse fits perfectly with how the conclusion of the Book of the Revelation. God’s earthly kingdom is established in Revelation chapters 21 and 22—Israel’s kingdom is brought to fruition, with her becoming a kingdom of priests enjoying God’s goodness throughout eternity future. “Overcoming,” as it relates to John’s ministry and the prophetic program, is surviving the end-times events (particularly the reign of the Antichrist—the majority of the Book of Revelation—and entering that earthly kingdom of God). While much more could be said here, we must stop for sake of brevity.

3. THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS AND PAUL’S MINISTRY (BOOK OF EPHESIANS)

As mentioned earlier, it was not until Jesus Christ revealed the mystery to the Apostle Paul, that the Church the Body of Christ became the agency through whom God would work in the Dispensation of Grace. If you read the entire Book of Ephesians, friend, you will notice that this Epistle is starkly different from what John wrote to Ephesus in the Book of the Revelation. For example, Paul wrote about “mystery” doctrine in Ephesians chapters 1-3. None of John’s epistle to Ephesus talks about the aspects of the mystery program—namely, the Church the Body of Christ (believing Jews and Gentiles being fellowheirs with each other) and the Dispensation of the Grace of God.

John talked about the Ephesians as “leaving their first love” (verse 4). Paul makes no reference to this in his Book of Ephesians. Paul never used the term “first love.” He never urged them to stay true to their “first love,” or to return to their “first love.” If you remember our earlier comments about Revelation 2:4-5, how Jesus Christ rebuked the Jewish saints at Ephesus: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” This was a warning of punishment. When Paul mentioned how the unruly members of the Body of Christ in Ephesus needed to “Awake,” or straighten up spiritually, there was no threat involved. Paul simply urged them to be renewed in the spirit of their mind and let the Holy Spirit use the principles of grace to reform their lives (see Ephesians 5:7–6:9). In fact, Paul talked about how his audience was “sealed [or preserved] with that holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13) and “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). There was no “do-this-or-else” commandment in Paul’s writing to Ephesus. Legalism was not welcome in Paul’s ministry (Romans 6:14-15); contrariwise, legalism was part of John’s ministry (1 John 2:3; et cetera).

We could go on and on, my friend, but this should be enough material to demonstrate that John’s audience in Ephesus and Paul’s audience in Ephesus were two separate crowds.

Also see:
» When did John write the Book of the Revelation?
» Can you compare Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?
» Is the Church the Body of Christ found in Matthew 16:18?