1. In II Peter 3:15 and 16 we read these words from the pen of Peter concerning Paul: “Even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood.”
I am sure that we desire to add our hearty “Amen” to Peter’s statement. Not only do we find some things in Paul’s Epistles hard to be understood but we find that an honest, prayerful, spiritual endeavor to understand them brings from Christians, who insist on mixing Peter’s circumcision ministry with Paul’s uncircumcision ministry, some hard sayings and uncharitable condemnation.
2. In Luke 2:25 we find an Israelite, Simeon, waiting for the Kingdom of God. In Luke 21:20 to 31 we learn from the mouth of the King that the kingdom of God will be at hand after signs in the heavens and on earth when the Son of man comes in the clouds. The Thessalonians and Corinthians were waiting for God’s Son to come from heaven. I Corinthians 1:7—I Thessalonians 1:9 and 10. The Romans, with Paul, were waiting for the redemption of the body. Romans 8:23. Unto those that wait for Him Jesus is going to appear the second time. Hebrews 9:28. Members of the Body of Christ are looking for that blessed hope. Titus 2:13. We are waiting to appear with Christ in glory. Colossians 3:4. We are not waiting for the coming of the Son of man as told in Luke 21:23 to 31. If we are, remember the awful signs will precede that coming and we will be with Israel in the great tribulation. The time of Christ’s appearing for His Body is not to be told by the signs which will be given for Israel.
3. Read the message of our brother Chas. F. Baker in our January edition. He is going to show in that message the folly of teaching that Peter’s “last days” Kingdom Message on the day of Pentecost was the “first day” of the Body of Christ. How could Joel’s “last days” mean the Body’s “first days”? If we teach that the Kingdom of heaven, proclaimed in Matthew, Mark and Luke, has been postponed until after the Body of Christ has been completed and removed from earth, then why not teach that the “last days” proclaimed by Peter and the Eleven have been postponed until after that Body has been completed? If the Body of Christ was not prophesied as having anything to do with Israel’s “last days”, why have that Body begin historically when the “last days” message was proclaimed?
4. The word “Church” comes to us from the word “Kurios”, translated several hundred times in the New Testament Scriptures “Lord”. The word “church” and “churches” occurs over one hundred times in the New Testament Scriptures. The Greek word is “Ekklesia”, literally “the called-out. The word is translated “assembly”, Acts 19:31, 39 and 41, heathen gathered in the theatre. A mob thus gathered centuries before could have been correctly called “an assembly”. Therefore the word “Church” has a rather indefinite meaning unless qualified and described in the Scriptures. The church of Hebrews 2:12 is called in Psalms 22:22, “the congregation”. In Luke 10:20 the Lord Jesus told 70 disciples that their names were written in heaven. Were they not then members of the Church of the first born, which are written in heaven? Hebrews 12:29. Believing Jews and Greeks were not baptized in one Spirit in one body while Christ was on earth. But where is the Scripture to prove that the Church, which is the Body of Christ did begin on the day of Pentecost? Who was the first Greek to be baptized into the Church which is Christ’s Body? Let us be careful about proving doctrine by the use of the Word “ekklesia”.
5. In Acts 28:20 Paul was in Rome and in that verse he declared to a company of Israelites that he was bound with chains for the hope of Israel. In Colossians 4:3, Ephesians 6:19 and 20 and II Timothy 2:9 Paul was in Rome and declared to Gentiles that he was in bonds for “the mystery”. Our Premillennialist brethren, who devote very little time to the preaching of “the mystery” declare that “the mystery” was the fact that Paul was preaching Israel’s hope to Gentiles. Peter did that to Cornelius in Acts 10:34 to 43. Was Peter preaching “the mystery” to Cornelius? If so, how did he and James keep out of bonds for “the mystery”? Would Gentile believers need the wisdom and revelation of Ephesians 1:17 and 18, if “the mystery” was Israel’s hope? Remember that nearly all able students of the Word teach that Paul had two imprisonments in Rome. What is the difference between Israel’s hope and the hope of the Church which is Christ’s Body?
6. In Matthew 15:24 the Lord Jesus declared that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. John 3:16 declares that God gave His Son that whosoever believeth on Him should have everlasting life. How do we reconcile “the lost sheep of Israel only” with “whosoever”? Did Christ say what is recorded in John 3:16 while He was on earth or did the Holy Spirit speak those words years later by John? Did Jesus and the Twelve preach to Gentiles? Did the Twelve preach a “whosoever” message that took in the Gentiles during the first nine chapters of Acts? Did not the Twelve require something more than believing to receive God’s blessing? Acts 2:38. Acts 8:12 to 16. Mark 16:15 to 18. How does the gospel program which the Lord Jesus gave to the Twelve, in Matthew 10:5 to 10, fit into the gospel program of Paul in Ephesians 2:8 to 10, I Timothy 1:11; 5:23, II Timothy 1:9 and 10 and Titus 3:5 to 7?
7. How are we to follow Jesus today? In I Corinthians 11:1 Paul wrote to the Gentile believers at Corinth; “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Several years later he wrote to the Philippians, “Be followers together of me”. Philippians 3:17. In Philippians 3:5 to 9 Paul declared that everything he had cherished in Judaism, everything he had valued in his religious life, everything he had practiced as an Israelite under the law, he had counted as loss. It is not a difficult task to map out our spiritual path, our Scriptural program as given in Paul’s prison Epistles, although we have a gigantic task to try to follow his course of faithful obedience; but we find no end of the study needed to be able to follow him in his pre-prison Epistles. We know we are not expected to circumcise a Timothy, to take vows, to shave our heads, to observe Pentecost, to sit as a Jew in a Jewish assembly; to become as one under the law—all of these Paul did. He said “I thank God I baptized none of you (but a few),” “I thank God I spake with tongues more than ye all.” I Corinthians 1:14 and I Corinthians 14:18. Those who speak with tongues join with other brethren in telling how many were baptized in their meetings. Most Fundamentalists cannot thank God either way. Paul laid hands on the sick and they recovered (in his pre-prison ministry). Shall we follow him? In other words, how are we to apply the principle of II Timothy 2:15 so as to obey I Corinthians 11:1 and Philippians 3:17? Much of Paul’s program during the Acts period was put away when he took up his ministry in Ephesians, Colossians, Titus, Philippians and II Timothy. And as we do not live in the Acts period we are not expected to take up what was put away with the close of that period. This includes the “sign gifts” of Mark 16:17 and 18 and, I Corinthians 12:8 to 11.