One of the favorite verses of Scripture quoted by Christians who have the assurance and joy of salvation is II Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” “If any man.” The message of the Lord Jesus was not to “any man”. “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24. Some months after the death and resurrection of the Son of man, His twelve apostles declared that He had been raised from the dead to be a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance and remission of sins to Israel. Acts 5:31. For several years thereafter the Word of God was preached to none but Jews only. Acts 11:19. Even Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, declared that it was necessary that the Jews should have preference over the Gentiles. Acts 13:46. In fact, the Lord turned Paul to the Gentiles because the Jews put His offer of mercy from them; and then the Gentiles obtained mercy through Israel’s unbelief. Romans 11:30. Salvation was sent unto the Gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealousy. Romans 11:11.
After the Apostle Paul declared that the Jews’ blood was not upon him, he said, “henceforth we turn unto the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6, Acts 20:26. Then he wrote these words to the churches in Galatia “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but a new creation.” Galatians 6:15. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28.
“If any man be in Christ”. Any kind of a man or woman. No longer was there any merit or advantage because of race or religion. The only place of advantage, security and blessing was in Christ. The same is true today. God’s Old Testament saints had been “under the law” by God’s commandments. But the Holy Spirit wrote, by the pen of the Lord’s great grace preacher, to the believers in Christ; “ye are not under the law.” Romans 6:14
Even at this present time “there is no difference”; “all have sinned and short of the glory of God.” The unsaved religious man or woman, the unregenerated church-member, the reverend or doctor of divinity who has not been redeemed by the blood of Christ, are all in the same predicament as the vilest heathen of darkest Africa, in the same condition before God as the social outcast and moral pervert, dead in trespasses and sin the world without God (atheist), having no hope, condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18; Ephesians 2:11 and 12; Ephesians 2:1 to 5.
Not in some denominational fold, not in some religious movement, not in some group of people organized to propagate some ethical philosophy or to carry on a program of philanthropy, better government and social uplift, is the individual protected from the judgment and condemnation of God, unless he or she is also in Christ Jesus. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1. In Adam all are dead and all die. I Corinthians 15:22. “If any man be in Christ there is a new creation.”
No unrighteous man shall enter the kingdom of God. I Corinthians 6:9. “There is none righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:10. We are made the righteousness of God in Christ, because Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin for us. II Corinthians 5:21.
Believing sinners are made accepted in Christ. Ephesians 1:6. Believing sinners are complete in Christ. Colossians 2:10. Believing sinners are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. Ephesians 1:3. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:13.
All believers in Christ Jesus are one, in one Body, in one hope, because of one faith; and they will all come in the unity of the one faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man. Ephesians 4:12. All such believers should recognize one Lord, as the one Head of the one Church which is His Body. Ephesians 4:3 to 6.
The One Head together with the One Body constitute the One New Man of Ephesians 2:15. The members of this One Body, one flesh with the risen glorified Christ (Ephesians 5:31), are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works that God hath foreordained that they should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8 to 10.
Until the individual is worked upon by God, thereby becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus, he is without hope in the world; condemned, dead in trespasses and sins, lost, headed for that wrath of God which cometh upon the children of disobedience: Out of Adam into Christ, is the most important move for any man to consider, the most important step for any man to take.
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” II Corinthians 5:19. Surely such a God is the God of all grace. I Peter 5:10. “God was in Christ”. “If any man be in Christ”. Christ was God and man. God and man met in Christ. God will meet and commune with man in grace and mercy in Christ. God will bless, with all spiritual blessings, every man in Christ. In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3. The believing sinner is dead and his life is hid with Christ in God and when Christ who is his life shall appear, then shall he also appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:3 and 4.
FOLLOWING JESUS AND IN CHRIST
While the Son of God was here in the flesh, He was made under the law. Galatians 4:4. He was a minister of the circumcision to confirm promises which God had made unto Israel by the prophets. Romans 15:8. The price of discipleship in the days of His flesh, was to leave all and follow Him, selling or giving away all possessions. Luke 3:11; Luke 5:11; Luke 5:28; Luke 9:3; Luke 10:4; Luke 11:41; Luke 12:21; Luke 12:33; Luke 18:22; Luke 19:8; Luke 21:2 to 4; Luke 9:61. It required the death and resurrection of Christ to bring in God’s reign of grace, the grace of God which hath appeared to all men and to bring salvation.
Surely the careful student of the Scriptures will observe the great difference between kingdom discipleship and grace salvation. God, by the mouth of His Old Testament prophets, told Israel that His Son would come to them from heaven as their suffering Messiah, and also as their glorious King. The fulfillment of all these prophecies meant that Christ would be put to death in the flesh and in a glorified body would sit on the throne of His glory here on earth. This is called “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.” I Peter 1:11.
The Old Testament prophets said nothing to Israel about the present position and possessions of the members of the Body of Christ. They had nothing to say about Christ far above in the heavenlies, Head over all things to the Church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:19 to 22; Ephesians 3:5 and 6. This was hid in God, not made known to Old Testament prophets or to New Testament prophets, until after it was revealed to the Apostle Paul by the risen Christ. Ephesians 3:8 and 9. Colossians 1:24 to 28. This mystery made known is no longer a mystery.
The fact that God would be so rich in mercy and so great in love that He would make alive Gentiles who had been alienated from the life of God, dead in trespasses and sins, and make them to sit in Christ in the heavenlies, accepted and complete in Christ, identified with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and heavenly position and finally to appear with Him in glory, was a mystery, or secret, hid in God from the foundation of the world. Ephesians 2:4 to 10. The New Covenant was foretold. Jeremiah 31:31 to 34. The new Israel was foretold. Isaiah 62:1 to 4. The new heavens and the new earth were foretold. Isaiah 65:17. But the new creations of II Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 2:9 and 10 were not foretold. They were, however, foreordained before the foundation of the world. Romans 8:29 and 30.
When Peter and the Eleven were preaching during the “Acts” period, they could say, “this Scripture must needs be fulfilled;” “this is that which was spoken by Joel,” “David being a prophet foretold that Christ would be raised to take his throne;” “Moses, Samuel and all the prophets told of these days;” “to Him give all the prophets witness;” “to this agree the words of the prophets.” Acts 1:16; Acts 2:16; Acts 2:30; Acts 3:24; Acts 10:43; Acts 15:15.
What the prophets did say and what the prophets did not say is intimated in Paul’s statement in II Corinthians 5:17: “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become NEW.” “Old things passed.” “All things become new.” Note in this connection II Corinthians 5:16: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh, yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” “Christ after the flesh;” “old things passed away.” “If any man be in Christ” “all things are become new.” The new creation was the new truth. Here is a change in the Divine program. Note also in the same chapter, verse fourteen: “We thus judge that One died; then have all died.” (RV)
Christ was baptized unto death. Luke 12:48 to 51. Believers have been baptized into the death of Christ. Romans 6:3. They are dead with Him; buried with Him; raised with Him; seated with Him. They are in Him. Baptized into Christ. They have put on Christ: Galatians 3:27.
Such glorious truths were not given by Jesus of Nazareth to His Twelve while He was the Man in the midst of Israel in their land, going about doing good, proclaiming His kingdom and performing kingdom miracles. Acts 2:22 and 10:38. The Twelve did not experience this intimate union while on earth as followers of Jesus. The Twelve did not preach such a union with Christ to Israel on the day of Pentecost, or before Paul declared it. The ministry of Peter and his associates, after the death of Christ, is set forth in the Book of Acts, chapters 1 to 12; from the year 33 A.D. to the year 45 AD. After that year Paul’s ministry fills the record to Acts 28:31; until the year 63 A.D. He is mentioned more than 120 times in the last half of Acts. Before the council at Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15:1 to 22, before Paul there decided to take up some important work in connection with the Twelve, he had been preaching independent of them, the message which he had received from no human lips. He conferred not with flesh and blood. His gospel of the uncircumcision, justification by faith, was received from Christ in heaven, while Paul was in Arabia. Galatians. 1:11 and 17; Galatians 2:7 to 9; Galatians 3:8; Acts 13:39. In the Jerusalem temple Christ, by vision, sent Paul far hence to the Gentiles. Acts 22:21. Some time after Paul had finished his work with the Twelve, he uttered these words: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24.
It was undoubtedly very shortly after this declaration of the Apostle, to the Gentiles that he wrote that the God of his age would do everything possible to keep the last sinner from receiving and, believing the gospel of the glory of Christ. II Corinthians 4:3 and 4. And then followed these wonderful new truths recorded in the fifth chapter of II Corinthians in connection with the ministry of reconciliation committed to Paul, and by him to others “Old things passed away;” “know Christ after the flesh no more;” “all things new;” “new creation in Christ.”
About the same time Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans, setting forth that clear message of grace, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24), stating that the grace message was at first sent to Gentiles because of Israel’s blindness and unbelief. Romans 11:1 to 30. It is in this same eleventh chapter that the Apostle Paul magnifies his office, Apostle to the Gentiles. Romans 11:13. In this Epistle he speaks of the wonderful grace gospel as “my gospel.” Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25.
By the way of Jerusalem, Paul went to Rome, after he declared that he would finish his course with joy and testify of the gospel of the grace of God. He was bound in chains for the hope of Israel. Acts 28:20. He had not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. But there is no record that he had mentioned the dispensation of the mystery, hid in God from the foundation of the world. Ephesians 3:9.
Undoubtedly he was released from his first imprisonment in Rome; and then was in bonds, prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Gentiles, for the mystery, and to complete the Word of God by making known that Divine secret. Colossians 1:24 to 28; 4:3; Ephesians 3:1 and 2. Committed to him for the Gentiles was the “dispensation of the grace of God” and the task of instructing members of the Body of Christ “to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery.” Ephesians 3:9. Read how the people of Ephesus and all Asia heard Paul and loved Paul, and then how they turned away from him because of his revelation of the mystery. Acts 19:10; Acts 20:37; II Timothy 1:15. And alas! Most members today cannot see it, or have no desire to see it. Many of the Christian leaders are doing their utmost to keep their followers from seeing it. They even prefer to go back beyond Paul’s double “henceforth” of II Corinthians 5:16, and know Christ after the flesh. They prefer the Sermon on the Mount to the dispensation of the grace of God. They either cry with the modernists, “back to Jesus”, or with the Pentecostalists, “back to Pentecost”. Either is to know Christ after the flesh.
Back to Mark 16:14 to 18 is back to an Israelitish kingdom program. To go back to the kingdom program with the Twelve is to go back to the time and the place when even the most favored servants of the Lord were not “In Christ.” In fact, if we go back to the Four Gospels and to the ministry of the Twelve, what will we find back there for the Gentiles who were alienated from the life of God, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, when even the Son of God was Jesus of Nazareth, under the law? There we shall find that Christ was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and that it was unlawful for the Twelve to come to a Gentile, seven years after Christ died. Acts 10:28.
We had better travel with our Apostle Paul into the thirteenth chapter of Acts; then to Acts 14:27, and there bow and give thanks to God as we read these words “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how that He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27. This was about 45 A.D. When the Twelve knew Christ after the flesh, they knew nothing concerning the Church which is His Body. Even after His death and resurrection they trusted that it should have been He which should have redeemed Israel. Luke 24:21. Some days later they asked Him, “Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6. Some days later they preached to Israel that God would send Christ back, if Israel would repent. Acts 3:19 to 21. God will some day restore again the kingdom to Israel and the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:28. They were the Lord’s chosen witnesses to Israel. Acts 2:36; Acts 5:31; Galatians 2:7 to 9. They preached the gospel of the kingdom to Israel and healed everywhere. Luke 9:6.
After the resurrection of Christ, He, in person on earth, commanded them to continue this program of preaching and healing. Mark 16:14 to 18. By special vision Peter was permitted to preach to one God fearing, Israel-loving, religious Gentile and his house, the message concerning Jesus of Nazareth, the word which God sent to Israel. Acts 10:36 to 41.
We fail to find in the first twelve chapters of Acts where Peter and the Eleven were preaching justification by faith, or the ministry of reconciliation, or the gospel of the glory of Christ, or where they had anything to say about the one Body of which Christ in the highest heavenlies is Head.
The water baptism which they preached was unto repentance for the remission of sins. The practice of circumcision continued. The Twelve preached in the Jerusalem temple. Acts 5:42. The Jews which believed continued to be zealous concerning the law. Acts 21:18 to 21. The Lord had given to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Kingdom blessings had to be in connection with Israel.
Unto Paul was committed for Gentiles the dispensation of the grace of God. Ephesians 3:1 to 6. He was given the special task of preaching among Gentiles the “unsearchable” riches of Christ. The Twelve did not preach to any one the unsearchable riches of Christ, according to the “Acts” record. In Acts they were not preaching the message of reconciliation or proclaiming the new creation in. Christ. They had not received the same revelations from Christ that Paul had received. They had made no effort to make any one to see the dispensation of the mystery.
Peter declared, even after the close of the “Acts” period, that Paul’s teaching included some things hard to be understood. II Peter 3:16. There is not the slightest suggestion in Acts that any of the Twelve preached the wonderful grace message of Ephesians 2:4 to 10. While Christ was on earth, two Gentiles received kingdom blessings of healing because of their great faith, and for other special reasons. Luke 7:1 to 10; Matthew 15:21 to 27. But after the close of the “Acts” period, after God’s judgment pronounced upon Israel in Acts 28:25 to 28, all Gentiles could be blessed with all spiritual blessings, not because of extraordinary faith, but because of extraordinary grace. “But God who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith He loved us . . .” Ephesians 2:4. What a difference between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God; between knowing Christ in the flesh and becoming a new creation in Christ!
What perfect satisfaction; what rest And confidence for the soul; what peace of mind and heart just to trust in the perfect work of the Lord Jesus Christ and know That salvation, from first to last, is all of grace. Redeemed forever by the precious blood of the Son of God. God has made is accepted in the Beloved. In Him we are complete.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.