THINGS THAT DIFFER
There are Divine distinctions made in the Word of God that must be recognized by every student who desires to show himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. II Timothy 2:15.
We must “distinguish between the things that differ” (marginal rendering of Philippians 1:10). While all Scripture is for us and is profitable, yet not all truth is about us or to us. II Timothy 3:16. In order to obtain the true interpretation of any passage of Scripture, we must take into consideration the particular period of time in which the message was given and to whom it was addressed.
Much of the confusion today in the churches, the different interpretations that are accepted by different groups, and the divers and strange doctrines that are carrying away even some of the most zealous and earnest Christians, can be traced back to a mishandling of the Word of God and a disregard for the injunction just mentioned.
For instance: in I Corinthians 10:32, we find these words—“Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.” The distinctions in this passage are given by God and unless recognized will make for a distortion of the Scriptures so disastrous that nothing but confusion can be expected, and the spiritually new born babes in Christ will be lost in such a maze of different beliefs that to find the right track will be almost impossible.
The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God are not the same and never will be. This seems superfluous and unnecessary, for the very names of these three groups make them distinct and different. Yet is it not a fact that today we find men, not understanding their distinct calling as members of the Church which is His Body, trying with every conceivable plan and program to bring in an earthly kingdom of blessedness that is God’s purpose for Israel? Would to God that Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:17 could be answered in us today; that we might have our understanding enlightened and know what is the hope of His calling. The Church of Jesus Christ, not knowing the nature of this calling, which is heavenly, in ignorance seeks to realize the vocation of Israel, which is earthly.
God has a definite plan and purpose for Israel on the earth and our God, who cannot lie, will yet fulfill the covenants He has made with His people. The entire prophetic Word has its climax in the coming of the Messiah and the setting up of His Kingdom. Luke 1:31 to 33. “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” We know how Jesus came to His own and His own received Him not, He was rejected, and they crucified the Lord of glory as an emphatic declaration that they would not have this Man to reign over them.
While it is true, that the majority of the Jews were blind, it is also true that many of the Gentiles had their eyes opened and in the purpose of God Paul was chosen as the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, with the good news that a door of faith had been opened to them. Acts 14:27. Later, in Ephesians 3:1, the Apostle Paul tells of a definite truth that God had given to him: truth not made known to previous ages and generations; and he is the dispenser of this new revelation to the Gentiles. Could any statement be more clearly stated? Read it in Ephesians 3:1 to 11 and Colossians 1:24 to 28.
While the Kingdom is in abeyance and blindness has happened to Israel, God, according to His eternal purpose, made known to Paul this secret hid from ages and generations. Not one of Israel’s prophets knew this mystery; neither did John the Baptist nor the Twelve Apostles. Not until the glorified, ascended Lord revealed it to Paul was the manifold wisdom of God made known; that before the foundations of the world He had purposed the making of a new thing, whose nature, calling and destiny would be heavenly. Paul is the minister of this truth or revelation which completes the Word of God. Colossians 1:25. (the word ‘fulfill’ is ‘complete’). God is now definitely concerned with the making of a New Man, Ephesians 2:15; i.e. the “Church which is His Body”. Christ Jesus our Lord is the glorious Head. Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18 to 28.
One day the Body will be complete, the last soul that will realize his inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1:19) will be called from justification to glorification. When that day comes our heavenly hope will be realized and the Body will be joined to the Head in the glory! After that, God will deal with Israel again for they have not been cast away forever. Romans 11:27. God’s purpose with them and the setting up of the earthly kingdom will be established.
Looking back, we can easily see how the Jews were blind when they rejected Jesus Christ and said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” But those people are equally blind who today take for themselves Christ’s message to the Jews and apply it to the dispensation in which we live. To say that we are now in the Kingdom and Christ Jesus is reigning as “King of the Church” is more than absurd. Today any one with open eyes can see that not Christ is reigning but the powers of darkness are in control. When Christ comes back again He shall reign in righteousness and to His sovereign control every knee shall bow.
Paul’s later Epistles have a distinct message for this age. In them is found truth for us concerning the Church which is His Body, as distinct from kingdom truth for Israel. May God reveal to us what is the hope of our calling, character and destiny! To this end we are going to study the Epistle to the Ephesians which was written by the Apostle Paul during his imprisonment at Rome, after the final rejection of Israel and the judicial sentence in Acts 28:27 and 28—“For the heart of this people is waxed gross and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed: lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
THEME OF THE EPISTLE
The most glorious revelation that God has given, the highest and deepest truth He has made known to man, He communicated through the Apostle Paul. The Epistle to the Ephesians stands without a peer in the whole range of the inspired Book. Its love surpasses knowledge. Its riches are unsearchable. Christ Jesus is far above all principalities and powers, seated in the heavenlies, into which God’s grace has brought us in Him. The truth takes us back before the foundation of the world, and points forward to the ages to come when believing sinners shall be made the display of His grace in the glory. In Colossians 1:25, Paul states that this truth which he is dispensing “completes the Word of God.” How many Christians really know and understand this final word which God here declares, this truth which God kept secret from former ages and generations, this mystery which was hid in God’s heart, this purpose which He purposed in Himself before the foundation of the world? What a message of pure unadulterated grace for hell-deserving sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, telling them that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ exalts them to a position of identification with Him in the heavenlies, with the blessed hope of appearing with Him in the glory.
If we could only get the Church to read this Epistle and understand this distinct message of grace which is set forth, it would do away with much of the confusion that exists and make for a unity of the faith which God Himself has made.
Throughout this Epistle we find this dominant recurring expression which occurs more than 20 times and is the keynote of the book.
“In Christ.” Isn’t it wonderful? We do not have to try and follow Him, as did the disciples before the Holy Spirit was given. thank God. We are in Him and, as Colossians 2:10 puts it, “ye are complete in Him.” Oh! the matchless grace of our God! To think that the sinquestion is forever settled, that we are justified freely by His grace, and are made one with the Lord Jesus. In Him we stand holy and without blame before the Father;
What a. message of deliverance for church-members today who are entangled with all kinds of churchianity and ecclesiastical machinery of good works, trying to become righteous by their own efforts, when the message of God’s Word is plain: that Jesus Christ is our righteousness and we are complete in Him.
Before going into an exposition of the Epistle, I want to give you a simple outline which will be a picture of the contents of the book before you.
OUTLINE OF PAUL’S EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS
Keynote—IN CHRIST JESUS
Salutation and Benediction— Ephesians 1:1, 2.
Our calling in Him— Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 3:21
Our conduct in Him— Ephesians 4:6 to 9.
Our conquest in Him— Ephesians 6:10 to 18.
Conclusion— Ephesians 6:19 to 24.
Let no man think that he can come to this Epistle and grasp its riches, scale it heights, or fathom its depths, aided only by the natural mind:. There must be more than an intellectual understanding of the truth. Spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. We pray then that in the meditation of this portion of His Word the Holy Ghost shall be our teacher and that we shall go on from Glory to Glory.