Even the superficial student of the Scriptures has noticed that, in many respects, there is a great contrast between the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistle to the Ephesians. There is no difference as to the Divine inspiration and Divine authority of these two Records. The Book of Matthew covers the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you (Israel) by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” Acts 2:22. In the last chapter of Matthew we have what has been called, “the Great Commission”. This Commission was given to the Eleven about the year 33 A.D. The Epistle to the Ephesians was written more than thirty years later, and it contains the revelation which the ascended Christ gave to the Apostle Paul concerning the Church which is His Body, with special emphasis on the place of Gentiles in the dispensation of the grace of God.
Now by way of contrast compare Matthew 10:5 with Ephesians 3:1 and 2 and Ephesians 3:8 and 9.
“These Twelve 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.” Matthew 10:5.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ FOR YOU GENTILES, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach AMONG THE GENTILES the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 3:1 and 2; Ephesians 3:8 and 9.
Also the plain statement of Christ to an unfortunate Gentile, as recorded in Matthew 15:24, with Ephesians 2:11 and 12.
“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24. “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; 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.” Ephesians 2:11 and 12.
Immediately this should convince us that the message and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, in the Book of Matthew, is for Israel; whereas the ministry and message of Christ, revealed in Ephesians, is primarily for Gentiles. These Gentiles were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel while Jesus was here on earth.
As a connecting link we quote two verses from the pen of Paul, written more than 25 years after Christ died and went back to heaven: namely Romans 11:13 and 11.
“For I SPEAK TO YOU GENTILES, inasmuch as I AM THE APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES, I magnify mine office: 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.”
The beginning of this ministry is mentioned in Acts 14:27.
“And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith UNTO THE GENTILES.”
This door was opened to the Gentiles about 15 years after Christ had closed His earthly ministry to Israel. Paul was not with the Lord Jesus while He was on earth. The story of his conversion is recorded in Acts 9:1 to 15. In Acts 9:15 are the Lord’s instructions that Paul is to witness to Gentiles. In Galatians 2:9 we learn that the twelve apostles acknowledged the Divine authority of Paul’s Gentile ministry. In the Book of Matthew we find the expression “the kingdom of heaven” more than 30 times. The first question in Matthew concerns Jesus the King of the Jews. Matthew 2:2. In Matthew 27 the Lord Jesus is crucified as King of the Jews. In Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:17 and Matthew 10:7, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. To them Christ gave “the keys of the kingdom of the heavens”. Matthew 16:16 to 19. The Lord Jesus guaranteed to the Twelve that when the kingdom is established on earth they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:28. The message and the program of the Gospel of the kingdom is set forth in Matthew 10:6 to 8, which we quote:
“Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give.”
In connection with the “Kingdom Gospel” program we find the “Our Father” prayer. The Israelitish disciples who were instructed were told to pray “Thy kingdom come”. They were also told in this prayer that the forgiveness of their sins depended upon their forgiveness of those who sinned against them. The penalty for refusing to forgive is set forth in the closing verses of the 18th chapter of Matthew. In Matthew we have the Sermon on the Mount, and in that sermon we are told that the meek are to inherit the earth. In that Sermon we have the Golden Rule with the “double” do. In Matthew 24:13 and 14 we learn that in the gospel of the kingdoms salvation depends upon “enduring unto the end”. In Matthew 8:1 to 7 we learn that the person miraculously healed is to obey the law of Moses and take a gift to the priest. In Matthew 23:1 to 3 we learn that Israelitish religious rulers occupy Moses’ seat with Divine authority. This whole story is told in Matthew 5:17, which we quote “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Thus we see that in Matthew the Son of God, as Jesus of Nazareth, is indeed under the Law and a minister of the circumcision with a ministry of confirmation. We would ask our readers to carefully study Galatians 4:4, Romans 15:8, Acts 2:22 and Matthew 15:24.
Now by way of contrast we turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians. Jesus of Nazareth is not on earth. He is far above all heavens, seated—Ephesians 1:19 to 22, Ephesians 4:10. He is not the King of the Jews. He is the Head of the Church which is His Body. The record of the ministry of the twelve apostles closed with the 15th chapter of Acts, about 15 years before Ephesians was written, (except their epistles). Paul does not write as a minister of the circumcision; but as a minister of the uncircumcision. He is not proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom; for the kingdom of heaven, as presented in Matthew, was no longer at hand. He does not instruct any one to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers or cast out demons. He is not instructing any Gentile believer to take a gift to the priest or to practice any other ceremony or obey any of the religious ritual which God gave to Israel through Moses the mediator of the Old Covenant, all of which were still binding on Israel when Christ was in their midst. On the contrary, in Ephesians 2:13 to 17, he plainly teaches that that middle-wall of partition had been taken out of the way. Instead of Divine forgiveness being conditioned upon human forgiveness, we find these words in Ephesians 4:32: “forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Instead of the kingdom gospel, “he that endureth unto the end the same shall be saved, we learn that the sinner has been saved wholly and solely by the grace of God, and that he, is sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 and Ephesians 4:30. The believer is exhorted to be meek, but not that he may inherit the earth; for he is already seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6 and 4:1 to 3.
In Ephesians, Christ is not fulfilling the law and the prophets, but He is speaking through Paul concerning “the dispensation of the mystery” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ” for Gentiles, Divine truth never once hinted at in the law and the prophets. There are no scribes and Pharisees in Moses’ seat, but every, sinner saved by, grace is in a heavenly seat. There is no “baptism unto repentance” for remission of sins such as we find in Matthew 3:11 to 17, but one Divine baptism, not made with hands, which identifies the believing Gentile with the risen Christ in glory.
There is no contest on earth between the Lord Jesus and Satan, but the conflict in the heavenlies between the members of Christ’s Body and the Prince of the power of the air, the ruler of world darkness in the heavenlies. In Ephesians, Paul is not instructing members of the Body of Christ to heal one another, for he, himself, was a very sick man. And at the time he wrote Ephesians he wrote his most faithful coworker to take medicine for his sickness. I Timothy 5:23.
In conclusion, as we have noticed, there is a decided contrast. Inasmuch as the spiritual program of Matthew belongs to a dispensation that has closed, and the Epistle to the Ephesians gives to us God’s spiritual program for the dispensation of the grace of God, in which all believers now live, surely we should be wise enough to know that the Book of Matthew should be studied in the light of the Epistle to the Ephesians. What glorious sublime truth we have in Ephesians! In this wonderful Epistle almost every phase of Christian life is covered. We have a wonderful chapter concerning the spiritual behavior of the family in the home, and also several chapters as to the spiritual behavior of the whole family of God clearly setting forth the highest standard in the Bible as to the unity of the Spirit, the unity of the faith in the inter-relationships of every member of the Body of Christ, with specific information that on this earth God has but one true Bible Church which is not primarily a human organization but a Divine organism.
Therefore the problem of separating and eliminating from the kingdom program of Matthew that which cannot be included in the doctrine and practice of members of the Body of Christ is not found in Ephesians. What a blessing will come to any member of the Body of Christ who will carefully, diligently, prayerfully and spiritually study time and again the great epistle, so teeming with Body truth.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.