Chicago, April 1, 1936.
Dear Christian Friend:
In answer to your inquiry as to just how far I agree with the teachings of Dr. E. W. Bullinger, first of all let me say that whether or not all that I teach is sound doctrine, according to the Word of God, rightly divided, I believed and taught what I now believe and teach some years before I ever heard of Dr. Bullinger or read any of his written messages.
It has been since I have been charged with being a “Bullingerite” that I have carefully read the writings of Dr. Bullinger. Perhaps you known that he was identified with the Church of England, and lived until the year 1913. He was a profound student of all the Scriptures, and perhaps analyzed every word in them. He was an unusual master of the original languages. No man of God ever stood more faithfully for the verbal inspiration, the integrity and authority of the Bible. No man was ever a greater defender of the eternal Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ than was Dr. Bullinger. Few men have ever presented as clearly as did Dr. Bullinger the message of the pure, unmixed grace of God. He stood without fear, favor, or compromise, for his convictions. Like every other able spiritual expositor of God’s Word, he taught that there is only one true Bible Church in this dispensation of grace, and that that Church is definitely designated “the Body of Christ”. He believed with all his heart that that Body of Christ is an undenominational Church, and that sectarianism is the greatest hindrance to the clear understanding and proclamation of God’s message of unmixed grace and His truth concerning the One Body.
Dr. Bullinger received most of his bitter opposition and ungracious persecution from the hands of God’s people, known as the Plymouth Brethren. This was chiefly because, in his exegesis of the sevenfold unity of Ephesians 4:3 to 7, he taught that the ONE BAPTISM is a Divine baptism and not a religious ceremony, water baptism. He taught that water baptism, being a work of man, is incompatible with the message of pure grace contained in the Epistle to the Ephesians. Dr. Bullinger believed that water baptism had an important place in the Four Gospels, and during the “Book of Acts” period; but that it ceased to have any place in the spiritual program of the Lord when He presented, by the pen of Paul, the clear revelation of the Body of Christ, “the dispensation of the grace of God” and “the dispensation of the mystery”, set forth in Paul’s prison epistles. Ephesians 3:1 to 3— Ephesians 3:9. He believed that the miraculous signs, the sign-gifts, and supernatural visitations, were inseparably connected with water baptism; and that all were done away, when the climax was reached, in the Divine judgment of God, pronounced upon Israel in Acts 28:25 to 28.
Some years before I ever heard of Dr. E. W. Bullinger or his teachings I was taught by the Holy Spirit, through diligently searching the Word of God for an answer to Pentecostalism and the fanatical healing doctrines which have been carrying many of God’s people into utter confusion and delusions for some years, these same blessed truths which Dr. Bullinger had learned from God’s Book. Hundreds of other students of the Word of God have learned from the Bible these same Divine facts
I quote here from the Moody Monthly an editorial from the pen of a man of God, who for years has been held in high esteem by many of God’s servants, Dr. James M. Gray, who has departed to be with the Lord and to await his rich reward when we shall all stand together before our Saviour.
Bullinger would be called a fundamentalist were he now on earth, for he was an able defender of the inspiration of the Bible, the deity and virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, the premillennial coming, and all that. But he was an extremist, some would call him a faddist, on dispensational truth, and he was unscriptural, as we believe, on future retribution.
Because of these last named errors, the Monthly has not felt free to advertise Bullinger’s books, certainly not all of them, and yet the writer of these lines owes one of his richest spiritual blessings to that great teacher; for a truly great teacher he was. No one ever set before us from the Word of God as clearly as did Bullinger, the profound mystery of the Body of Christ, and we always shall be indebted, to him.”
Now, my beloved brother, because of my belief and teaching concerning water baptism, which I have held for more than fifteen years, a number of Christian brethren who have been both unwilling and unable to take the Word of God and prove that my teaching is fallacy or unscriptural, have resorted to very ungracious, unjust and unspiritual tactics, by accusing me of teaching many things that I have never taught and have never believed. Most of these brethren have never read a line from the pen of Dr. Bullinger, but in a parrot-like, sheep-like fashion, they have joined with others to malign Dr. Bullinger, and to malign me and grossly misrepresent my teaching. I am willing to be called an “ultradispensationalist”, if brethren will not deliberately misrepresent. However, in my own mind I feel that I have always been ultra-conservative in any Bible doctrine that I have taught. Every student of the Word of God is a “dispensationalist”, and if he is to intelligently apply the dispensational truth for the understanding of the Bible, he must carry the dispensational teaching as far as the Holy Spirit has carried it in the Bible.
DISPENSATIONALISTS AND ULTRADISPENSATIONALISTS
The unanimous verdict of all my critics who are considered premillenarians and “dispensationalists” has been, that the Lord Jesus, while on earth, was offering Himself to Israel as a King; that He was then presenting to them the kingdom of heaven promised to Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures. They teach definitely that the Body of Christ did not have its historical beginning until after the rejection of the King, after His death and resurrection. Therefore, they teach dogmatically, that beginning with the death of Christ, there was the interruption or, suspension of the promises and guarantees of God contained in the Abrahamic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant. They teach definitely what its known as “the postponement of the kingdom”. Therefore, they declare we are living in a “parenthesis”. This parenthesis, they affirm, is “the dispensation of grace” also called by Paul, in Ephesians 3:9, “the dispensation of the mystery”. According to their program, the Body of Christ had its historical beginning on the day of Pentecost. At that time the New Covenant dispensation was inaugurated by the advent of the Holy Spirit. They claim that the dispensation of the New Covenant has continued down to the present time, without interruption; and that it will continue until God shall close this parenthetical period with the rapture of the Church, in Accordance with I Thessalonians 4:13 to 18. Therefore, God’s one purpose during this age, which began on the day of Pentecost and will close with the rapture of Thessalonians, is the making of one New Man, the Church which is the Body of Christ. They are agreed, in the light of Colossians 1:24 to 28 and Ephesians 3:8 and 9, that the Body of Christ was not the subject of prophecy; that it was not revealed to Israel’s prophets or by them, and therefore, it is rightfully called “the mystery”. According to their teaching the principal fact of the mystery was the fact that the Gentiles were raised to the same spiritual level with Israel and given the same spiritual blessings in the same Body of Christ.
Their further teaching concerning the New Covenant is, that after God has accomplished His purpose in this parenthetical dispensation, the calling-out of a people for His Name, the Lord will return, as Israel’s Deliverer, Saviour, Messiah and King, and fulfill for that Nation the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31 to 35, Hebrews 8:7 to 11: then “all Israel shall be saved”. Romans 11:25 to 30. The coming of the King will usher in the millennium; and then “the kingdom of heaven”, which Christ proclaimed when on earth, which is now in abeyance, will be at hand.
Then there will be the fulfillment, for Israel, of the Abrahamic Covenant guaranteeing the occupation of all of the land of Canaan, kingdom reign of the Prince of Peace in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, and the spiritual transformation of the children of Israel, in fulfillment of the New Covenant. All of these guarantees are included in the Prophecies of Ezekiel, chapters 34 to 39, and in Isaiah, chapters 2, 9, 11, 35, 62 and 66.
WHEN WAS ISRAEL SET ASIDE?
Now in this teaching it must be proved that Israel was set aside, as a Nation, at the cross of Calvary. Any faithful careful student of the Word of God must say that this is contrary to the fact, because the judgment, pronounced by Christ in Luke 21:20 to 24 and Matthew 22:7 to 9, did not take place before Pentecost, or immediately thereafter. The Nation Israel was given more than thirty years of grace. They rejected Jehovah in the Old Testament. They rejected the Son of man in the Four Gospels. They killed the Heir according to Matthew 21:36 to 43. But that Heir said in Matthew 12:31 to 32, “Sin against the Son of man, and it shall be forgiven you; but sin against the Holy Spirit and it shall not be forgiven.” The armies which were to surround Jerusalem, according to Luke 21:20, which were to kill the murderers of Christ, according to Matthew 22:7, were not sent by God until after the close of the Book of Acts; and even then, the judgment was delayed until Paul had penned his last message in II Timothy, and said. “the time of my departure is at hand.” Christ on the cross interceded for Israel; praying “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. The Father very graciously withheld for some years His Divine wrath. According to Acts 5:30 to 32, the Holy Spirit was sent to witness to Israel concerning the resurrected Christ. They resisted the Holy Spirit, blaspheming against Him. Thereby they committed the unpardonable sin until the children were cast into outer darkness, in accordance with Christ’s prediction in Matthew 8:7 to 12. Read Acts 7:51, Acts 13:45 and 46, Acts 18:5 and 6, Acts 28:25 to 28. There is a very radical change marked in the Bible by the quotation, in Acts 28:25 to 28, of the Divine judgment of God mentioned in Isaiah 6:6 to 9, “blindness upon Israel”. He who teaches that Israel was set aside at the time Christ uttered the words of Matthew 23:31 to 39 doth greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures.
All of this cry about “Bullingerism” and “ultradispensationalism” is simply a trick to prejudice God’s people and to keep them from studying the difference between “faulty dispensationalism” and so-called “ultradispensationalism”. It is the old trick of Rome to keep people ignorant of the Bible. After all, the difference is this: the “dispensationalists” teach that Israel was set aside by God before Pentecost. The “ultradispensationalists”, so-called teach that Israel was set aside after Acts 28:28. We urge not to be intimidated by any group of Christians, but carefully and prayerfully decide by an earnest investigation of the Scriptures just who is right. To set aside Israel before Pentecost is to leave the Bible with many contradictions as to the Church. Compare Acts 5:29 to 32 with Ephesians 1:19 to 22.
Dr. Bullinger taught that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is never mentioned in feminine gender in the Bible and that Israel is. He was unable to see how the of this dispensation could be both the Body and Bride of Christ. Therefore, he believed that a special remnant of Israel will be the Bride. Is this teaching a spiritual crime?
He taught that the hope of the Church, during the “Acts” period, was a different hope from the blessed hope of the Body of Christ, expressed in Titus 2:13. On account of this difference he believed that “till He come”, in connection with the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:26) referred to the “Acts” hope; and not to the blessed hope. And therefore, he taught that the Lord’s Supper ceased with the close of Acts. With this teaching I most heartily disagree. Dr. Bullinger taught that, Christ’s soul and spirit separated at death; and that the same is the experience, of every believer at death. His teaching was that, the soul is not conscious in the intermediate state. But Dr. Bullinger most vehemently denied that he believed in annihilation for the unsaved. He positively denied the “theory” of future retribution which his critics claimed that he taught.
I quote these words from Dr. Bullinger’s Magazine:
“The term annihilation is non-scriptural and the statement that the doctrine is held by the writer is both false and malicious.”
Dr. Bullinger taught that the Gospel of Matthew is Israelitish, and in the other three Gospels Christ was speaking to His own Nation Israel, concerning their promised kingdom; and not to Gentiles concerning the Gospel of Grace. Therefore, it was his firm expressed conviction that Christ was not dealing with the Body of Christ, while He was on earth, and that He was not then instructing members of that Body concerning the hope and calling preached, to them by Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, some years later. In his later writings Dr. Bullinger differentiated between, the hope and calling of members of the Church of God of the “Acts” period, set forth in Galatians, Corinthians, Thessalonians and Romans, and the hope and calling of the Body of Christ described in Ephesians, Colossians and Titus. According to his teaching, concerning this difference, members of the Body of Christ since the close of the “Acts” period, since the setting aside of Israel, have not been the seed and children of Abraham. The New Jerusalem let down from heaven is to be the dwelling-place of the Church of the “Acts” period; but the Body of Christ which is to appear with Christ in glory has more than that heavenly or celestial hope. The Body of Christ has a “super-heavenly” or “super-celestial” hope. Of course, this means that the Body of I Corinthians 12:13 and the Body of Ephesians 1:19 to 22 and Ephesians 4:3 to 7 are different Bodies; and that the Seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 do not speak of the Body of Christ of Ephesians. The rapture of the “Acts” Church, mentioned it I Thessalonians 4:13 to 18 and I Corinthians 15:51 to 54, and I John 3:1 to 6, will take place at the last trump of Revelation and will, therefore, be a “tribulation” rapture. But the hope of the Body of Christ, expressed in Philippians 3:20 to 22, Titus 2:13 and Colossians 3:3 and 4, will be a different rapture. To some men of God some of these teachings seem rather fanciful, more like fantastic speculations than sound exegesis of the Word of God. I have been much troubled with the Olive tree of Romans 11, but have never taught these doctrines just mentioned.
As for my “Bullingerism”, I most heartily disagree with Dr. Bullinger’s teaching concerning the unconscious intermediate state of either believer or unbeliever, between death and resurrection. I have been much perplexed, and am somewhat uncertain as to “the Wife of Jehovah” and “the Bride of Christ”. I have not found as much difficulty as some men of God have found in making the Church both the Body and the Bride. I have looked, however, to see where “the Body” is called “the Bride” in the Scriptures. In the light of II Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:31 and 32, it appear that the Body is the wife. The question is often asked, “how can an adulterous divorced wife (Israel) be a Bride? In the first place, that wife is to be forgiven and cleansed, Jeremiah 3. In the second place, it is a special Israelitish remnant that is to be the Bride, according to what is called “Bullingerism”. Dr. Bullinger sought to confirm his teaching by the language of Revelation 19:7 and 8 and by the Israelitish description of the City of Revelation 21:12. Because this City was Abraham’s hope (Hebrews 11:10) and because of the truth of Romans 4:16, Galatians 4:26, and Hebrews 12:22, the Church of the “Acts” period was considered by Dr. Bullinger “Israelitish” as to its hope and calling.
But we say that Abram was not an Israelite and that some very definite promises were made to him as Abram for Gentiles. By Galatians 3:8 we learn that the Gospel was preached to Abram in uncircumcision. According to prophecy the Gospel was to go the Gentiles after the kingdom had been restored to Israel and that nation was occupying the land promised them. But Christ revealed to Paul the Gospel of the uncircumcision by which believing Gentiles could become members of the Church before Israel would enjoy the blessings of their national redemption and kingdom. Galatians 1:11 and 17, Galatians 2:7 and Galatians 3:8. I have always taught that the Body of Christ is also the Bride, but I confess I cannot be dogmatic. In spite of such Scriptures as Mark 2:19 and Matthew 25:1, which do not refer to the Body, there are just as many Scriptures to prove that the Body is the Bride. Up to the present moment I have accepted none of the extreme teaching of Dr. Bullinger. Neither do I claim that I have answered all of his doctrines with which I disagree.
I earnestly and honestly tested the Scriptures in the matter of the Body of Christ beginning after the close of Acts. In my humble judgment, it is a more difficult task to prove that the Body of Christ began with the close of Acts than on the day of Pentecost. It is difficult, even impossible, for me to see either at the present time. Very much depends upon whether or not the prophets foretold the Body of Christ. If they did not, then Acts 15:14 to 18 does not refer to that Body. Ephesians 3:8 and 9, Colossians 1:24 to 27 seem to prove the prophets were ignorant of the Body of Christ. But to teach that any part of the mystery was not revealed to Paul and by Paul, in Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, written during the “Acts” period, in my judgment, is not sound exegesis. On the other hand, any endeavor to prove that many phases of the mystery, including “the dispensation of the mystery”, were not, for some Divine reason, withheld for Paul’s prison Epistles, after the “Acts” period, will prove futile. With the close of the Book of Acts a most radical change took place in the spiritual program of the Body of Christ and this climax divided Paul’s pre-prison and prison Epistles. Why did Acts close before Paul’s acts closed? There are three baptisms in the “Book of Acts” period and only one in the “Body”, according to Ephesians. The program concerning signs and sign gifts changed after the close of Acts. After Israel was set aside there was a new administration; but the same Body, the same grace gospel but a changed program.
I do not hold or teach what is termed “ultradispensationalism” or the extreme views of Dr. E. W. Bullinger and others. I accept for the Body of Christ any teaching found in the synoptic Gospels that is compatible with the dispensation of the Grace of God committed to Paul for the Gentiles. Ephesians 3:1 and 2. I do not at all agree with the “ultradispensationalists” as to the place of John’s Gospel and his Epistles, I believe that the truth in John’s Record, which differs so radically from the synoptic Records, is the message of grace based upon the rejected, crucified and resurrected Christ. I believe that John’s grace message fits into Paul’s grace message. I heartily believe in the doctrine of Paul’s pre-prison Epistles for Gentile believers but not in the practice as to signs, judgments and ceremonies.
I cannot eliminate the Lord’s Supper from this dispensation of grace, because of the words “the blood of the new covenant”, as some brethren do; for the simple reason that I would have to eliminate, by the same exegesis, all the spiritual benefits mentioned in the Book of Hebrews, which is based upon the value of the blood of the new covenant. This includes the believer’s uttermost salvation through the work of Christ as intercessor, priest and advocate. To my mind, there is no place to stop, if we begin to take away from members of the Body of Christ everything that pertains to God’s covenants, especially, the covenant that He made with Abram as an uncircumcised Gentile. I have been falsely accused of this teaching, to which I am unalterably opposed.
I believe that the “Body” of Romans is the “Body” of Ephesians and Colossians. I believe that the Gospel of the Grace of God, in Romans, is the Gospel of the Grace of God in Ephesians and Colossians. But I do not believe that God’s order continued to be “to the Jew first” after the close of the Book of Acts. I believe that Israel was set aside as a nation, after Acts 28, and that they ceased then to have priority rights. As the Jews required a sign, signs ceased at the close of Acts. And as water baptism that Christ might be made manifest to Israel, I believe that water baptism ceased the close of Acts with the sign gifts. I believe that Acts 19:1 to 5 is the last recorded case of water baptism and in that chapter signs and water are inseparably connected; the water having been required for Holy Spirit baptism.
Dr. C. I. Scofield, author of the Reference Bible bearing his name, held this same view concerning the miracles and signs, and Israel’s place of privilege and priority until the close of Acts. Send to the Moody Colportage Association for A. E. Bishop’s book on Signs in Acts.
Unless I am to be considered an extremist, because of my views concerning water baptism, I am not an extremist. I am not an “ultradispensationalist”. I am not a Bullingerite. I am taking a definite stand against what I consider to be extreme views. By studying together Colossians 2:11 and 12, I must believe that if Colossians 2:11 refers to spiritual circumcision, not made with hands, that Colossians 2:12 refers to spiritual baptism, not made with hands. Therefore, I believe that the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 is the Divine baptism which places a redeemed sinner in Christ, into the death of Christ, and in possession of all the riches of Christ. I believe by this same operation of faith the believer is buried with Christ, raised with Christ; and seated in the heavenlies with Christ. It is the unanimous verdict of all “dispensationalists”, who preach a grace gospel, that water baptism has neither merit nor efficacy in aiding in any way to put a believing sinner in the true Bible Church, or to keep him in. Therefore, it is my firm conviction that no servant of the Lord has the right to demand for membership in his assembly, if he calls that assembly the Bible Church, a religious ceremony not required by the Lord for membership in the Lord’s Body.
I hope I have made myself sufficiently clear in this letter to answer the questions which have been put to me.
I close by saying that I am positive that more than ninety-seven per cent of the ministers today are utterly failing to obey Ephesians 3:9, which I quote: “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” And I also affirm that no man who is clinging to water baptism is making any effort to obey these instructions. Neither can he hold on to water baptism and please God in his presentation of this “mystery” truth.
With sincere good wishes, I remain
Very cordially yours,
J. C. O’HAIR.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.