We have had requests from a number of our friends to present some elementary lessons concerning the Church which is called the “Body of Christ”, and the relation of other dispensations to the “Dispensation of the Mystery”. Ephesians 3:9.
We appreciate that this is not an easy task, for the reason that the great majority of Christians do not seem to have the interest or desire to diligently study the Word of God with open hearts and unprejudiced minds. It is almost impossible for loyal denominationalist to be Bereans, and accept as truth that which is contrary to their denominational creeds and the traditions of church fathers. But we shall endeavor in this message to present some plain facts clearly taught in the Bible.
FIRST—IN THE FOLLOWING SCRIPTURES WE ARE TAUGHT THAT THE APOSTLE PAUL WAS CHOSEN BY CHRIST TO BE THE APOSTLE, THE PREACHER, THE TEACHER, THE WITNESS, AND THE PRISONER OF THE LORD JESUS TO THE GENTILES. Galatians 1:16 – Galatians 2:7 – Acts 9:15 – Romans 15:16 – Romans 11:13 I Timothy 2:7 – II Timothy 1:11 – Ephesians 3:1 – Ephesians 3:8 – Colossians 1:24 to 28.
SECOND—The Apostle Paul was not one of the twelve apostles who companied with Jesus during the years of His ministry on earth, and therefore was not present with Christ on earth when Christ committed to Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 16:16 to 18. Neither was he present with the twelve apostles, after the resurrection of Christ, when the Eleven received from the resurrected Christ, the Great Commission. Paul received his “Grace of Christ” message, the ministry of reconciliation, the uncircumcision gospel, the truth concerning the Mystery and the Body of Christ, in fact all of his commissions, by visions and revelations, after Christ had gone back to heaven. Acts 9:15—Galatians 1:12 and 1:17—Acts 22:17 to 21— Ephesians 3:3 and II Corinthians 12:17.
THIRD—IN EPHESIANS 1:22 AND 23 WE READ OF THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY. IN COLOSSIANS 1:24 WE READ “FOR HIS BODY’S SAKE, WHICH IS THE CHURCH”. THE EPISTLES TO THE EPHESIANS AND COLOSSIANS WERE WRITTEN AFTER THE CLOSE OF THE BOOK OF ACTS, WHEN PAUL WAS A PRISONER OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Ephesians 3:1. NO OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET EVER FORETOLD ANYTHING CONCERNING THE BODY OF CHRIST. IT WAS PURPOSED IN CHRIST BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.
FOURTH—When the twelve apostles were sent by Christ on earth they were specifically instructed to, “go not unto the Gentiles”, but only unto Israel. Matthew 10:5. Some years after the death of Christ it was decided in the conference of apostles that the Twelve would preach the Israelitish gospel to Israel. Galatians 2:9. Peter preached to the household of Cornelius, a Godfearing, Israel-loving, devout, respectable, religious Gentile, who lived in Israel’s land. But there is no record in Acts that he preached to any other Gentiles. There is no record in Acts that any of the Twelve preached outside of the land of the Jews, or to any Gentiles, except the one message to Cornelius. Paul was given the responsibility of preaching Grace to the Gentiles. Galatians 2:9. FIFTH—THERE IS ONLY ONE BIBLE CHURCH OF CHRIST IN THIS AGE OF GRACE. THAT CHURCH IS SCRIPTURALLY DESIGNATED “THE BODY OF CHRIST”. Ephesians 1:22 and 23. Colossians 1:24. CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THIS ONE CHURCH. THE HEAD IS SEATED FAR ABOVE PRINCIPALITY AND POWER IN THE HEAVENLIES. Ephesians 1:19 to 22. THE MEMBERS OF THAT ONE BODY ARE LIKEWISE SEATED IN THE HEAVENLIES. Ephesians 2:6. EVERY SINNER SAVED BY GRACE IS A MEMBER OF THAT ONE BODY, WHETHER OR NOT HE BELONGS TO ANY DENOMINATIONAL OR UNDENOMINATIONAL CHURCH ORGANIZATION. “JOINING THE CHURCH” IS NOT A SCRIPTURAL EXPRESSION.
SIXTH—It is a Scriptural fact, acknowledged by all “Grace” preachers, that nothing is required for membership in the One true Bible Church, which is the Body of Christ, but saving faith in the crucified, resurrected and glorified Christ. They are all agreed that God, by a Divine baptism not made with hands, adds members to the Body of Christ; and, that if water baptism were required by God for membership in the Body of Christ, salvation would not be by grace and faith alone, but by God’s work, plus man’s work. No religious ceremony of any kind is required, either to save a believing sinner, or to give him membership in the Body of Christ. Therefore, it should be apparent to any student of the Scriptures that if a group of men require for membership in their church a religious ordinance not required for membership in the Bible Church, the churches are not one and the same.
SEVENTH—MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST ARE NOT SAVED ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS, BUT ACCORDING TO GOD’S PURPOSE AND GRACE WHICH WAS GIVEN THEM IN CHRIST JESUS BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. II Timothy 1:9. THIS IS CALLED GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE IN CHRIST. THIS PURPOSE WAS IN GOD’S MIND AND GOD’S PLAN AGES BEFORE HE MADE HIS COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM. BUT ONE GREAT QUESTION, WHICH PERHAPS REMAINS UNANSWERED IN THE MINDS OF MOST CHURCH-MEMBERS, IS: “WHEN DID THE BODY OF CHRIST BEGIN HISTORICALLY? THE POSTMILLENARIAN TEACHES THAT THE BODY OF CHRIST, THE CHURCH OF GOD AND ISRAEL ARE ALL THE SAME CHURCH IN DIFFERENT STAGES. SOME PREMILLENARIANS ARE SURE THE BODY BEGAN WHEN CHRIST BREATHED UPON HIS APOSTLES. John 20:22. OTHER PREMILLENARIANS TEACH THAT THE CHURCH BEGAN ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST. OTHER PREMILLENARIANS SAY, AFTER THE THIRTEENTH CHAPTER OF ACTS. AND STILL OTHERS SAY, AFTER THE WORDS OF PAUL RECORDED IN THE CLOSE OF ACTS, IN ACTS 28:25 to 28. WHAT DO YOU SAY? AND WHAT IS YOUR SCRIPTURAL PROOF?
EIGHTH—The word “CHURCH” is a very indefinite term; and before applied to any specific company of people, the student of the Scriptures should find in the Scriptures the particular company of people to whom the term applies. The Greek word, used more than 100 times, is “EKKLESIA”. In the last few verses of the nineteenth chapter of Acts, it is “assembly”; there referring to an unlawful assembly, or mob, of anti-Christian heathen. A company of unsaved and idolatrous Gentiles, assembled centuries before Christ came to earth, would have been called a “church”. Therefore, we see that the word “Ekklesia” is so indefinite in its meaning, that we must find the Scriptural qualifications before we can prove any doctrinal points by the use of the word “church”. In Acts 7:38 we learn that the Israelites marching to Canaan nearly 1500 years before Christ was born, was called the “Church in the Wilderness”. We might say with Scriptural authority, that in the coming kingdom age, Israel, redeemed and restored under the promise of the New Covenant, will be a New Covenant Church. The Church of this dispensation is the Church, which is His Body.
NINTH—IN EPHESIANS AND COLOSSIANS WE LEARN THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT SPEAKS OF THE MYSTERY IN CONNECTION WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST. THE WORD “MYSTERY” MEANS “SECRET”. IT IS APPARENT THEN, THAT UP TO THE TIME THAT PAUL WROTE EPHESIANS AND COLOSSIANS, GOD HAD KEPT THE TRUTH CONCERNING THE BODY OF CHRIST A SECRET. IT WAS GOD’S SECRET “HID IN GOD FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD”. Ephesians 3:9. IT WAS THE SECRET WHICH “HATH BEEN HID FROM AGES AND FROM GENERATIONS. Colossians 1:26. THE TWELVE APOSTLES DID NOT USE THE WORD “BODY”, AND MADE NO ATTEMPT TO REVEAL TO SAINTS THE SECRET WHICH PAUL MADE KNOWN IN HIS PRISON EPISTLES.
TENTH—When Paul was speaking in Berea about 53 A.D., the Bereans searched the Scriptures to see if Paul’s statements were Scriptural. Acts 17:11. When Paul wrote, about ten years later, to the Ephesians they could not search the Scriptures which the Bereans searched, because Paul was writing concerning the “unsearchable” (not-to-be-tracked) riches of Christ. Ephesians 3:8. This should give to every Bible student a very simple principle of Bible study and convince any person that Paul first taught what Israel’s prophets had foretold and he later taught truths about which they were wholly ignorant as well as silent. Ephesians 3:1 to 11 . . . Colossians 1:24 to 28. Christ Himself began with Moses, who wrote the first five Books of the Bible, and went all through the Prophets to Malachi, and expounded unto His disciples all the Scriptures concerning Himself. Luke 24:21 to 36. But He did not speak to them concerning the Unsearchable Riches which Paul preached to the Gentiles, because Moses and Malachi, and all of the in-between prophets had nothing to say about these Riches. They were hid in God, until they were made known by the risen Christ to Paul. When we preach Christ we should obey Philippians 1:10 (R.V.)
ELEVENTH—JESUS OF NAZARETH ON EARTH WAS FULFILLING (FILLING OUT) THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS. Matthew 15:8. HIS MINISTRY WAS CONFIRMING WHAT THE PROPHETS HAD FORETOLD. Romans 15:8. WHILE ON EARTH THE LORD JESUS WAS PROCLAIMING THE PROPHESIED KINGDOM OF HEAVEN; BUT HAD NOT ONE WORD TO SAY ABOUT THE BODY OF EPHESIANS 1:18 to 22, OF WHICH HE WAS TO BE THE HEAD. THE TWELVE APOSTLES CONTINUED WITH THIS “CONFIRMATION” MINISTRY ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST AND THROUGH THE BOOK OF ACTS. Hebrews 2:3 and 4. WHAT THEY PREACHED ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST WAS IN FULFILLMENT OF THE PROPHECIES MADE TO ISRAEL CENTURIES BEFORE. Acts 2:16 and 2:30 to 33. THE KINGDOM OFFERED TO ISRAEL, IN ACTS 2:19 TO 26 WAS A KINGDOM ABOUT WHICH ALL THE PROPHETS, FROM MOSES AND SAMUEL HAD WRITTEN. Acts 3:24 and 25. THEREFORE THE TWELVE APOSTLES WERE NOT OFFERING, IN ACTS 3, THE SAME KINGDOM CONCERNING WHICH PAUL WROTE IN EPHESIANS, COLOSSIANS AND II TIMOTHY. THE DISPENSATION OF THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS” COULD NOT BE THE “DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY”, MENTIONED IN EPHESIANS 3:9. THE LORD ON EARTH GAVE THE “KINGDOM” KEYS TO THE TWELVE; BUT THE RISEN CHRIST IN HEAVEN GAVE PAUL THE “DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD”. Ephesians 3:1 and 2. THE TWELVE WERE MINISTERS TO ISRAEL, AND ARE TO YET SIT ON TWELVE THRONES AND JUDGE THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL. Matthew 19:28. Galatians 2:9. PAUL WAS THE LORD’S MESSENGER TO THE GENTILES, WITH THE “UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST” AND THE “MYSTERY”. GOD, NOW, WANTS ALL MEN TO SEE WHAT IS THE “DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY”, HID IN GOD UNTIL PAUL REACHED ROME AND WROTE EPHESIANS, ABOUT 64 A.D.
TWELFTH—Thus we see that prophecy spoke of the death and resurrection of Christ; that the prophets and covenants foretold the Kingdom blessings of Israel, the hope and calling of Israel, and the Gentiles who were to be blessed with them. Romans 15:10. And we see that Jesus of Nazareth and the Twelve Apostles carried on this ministry promised by prophets and covenants. And that in Paul’s “Prison Epistles” God is speaking of a different kingdom, hope and calling purposed in Christ before there were any prophets.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.