“THAT THEY MAY BE ONE IN US; THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME.”
How many, or rather how few, Christians today are obeying the Lord’s instructions to the members of the Church which is His Body:
“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?” “One Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord; one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.” Ephesians 4:3 to 7.
Surely no Christian would be senseless enough to believe that the unity of the Spirit could be kept on the basis of two God’s, or two Christ’s, or two Holy Spirit’s.
Then all Christians should know that it would be impossible to keep the unity of the Spirit on the basis of two Bodies, or two faiths, or two hopes, or two baptisms. All Christians who contend for more than one Body, or more than one faith, or more than one hope, or more than one baptism, are hindering the obedience to the will of God as to keeping the unity of the Spirit.
In the sight of the one God and Father believers today who have been saved by His grace are members of the Church, Christ’s Body. They are likewise members one of another. Ephesians 4:25. And the Word of the Lord also says, that he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. I Corinthians 6:17.
As to the “oneness” of those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, the will of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is expressed in the Saviour’s prayer, recorded in John 17:20 to 25: “That they all may be one . . . . . that they may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou halt sent Me.” “That they may be one, even as We are one.” With the Church of the risen Lord divided into more than three hundred denominations, carrying on their competitive programs in rivalry, jealousy, with a marked absence of mutual brotherly love and spiritual fellowship, the world today is not believing that the Father sent the Son from heaven’s glory to suffer and bleed on the cross of Calvary for the redemption of the lost human race, and therefore, the world is not believing that God has raised that Son to His own right hand in glory and made Him to be Head over all things to the Church, the one and only Church, which is His one Body.
Again God’s will concerning the unity of His children, redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, is expressed in I Corinthians 12:25; “that there be no schism (division) in the body.” It is in that same chapter that the Holy Spirit has recorded the fact that believing Jews and Gentiles were baptized by one Spirit into the one body. 12:13 For centuries there had been a great gulf between God’s chosen Nation, Israel, and the other nations of the earth. At Mount Sinai God had erected a middle-wall of partition between the Nation and the nations, and He said “I have made a difference between you and all other people.” Israel was God’s peculiar treasure, His sanctified Nation, created for His own glory. The Gentiles were a foolish nation; no people. But according to the Divine record, Ephesians 2:11 to 19, God permitted His Son to make peace on the cross and there to break down the middle-wall and make both one . . . “to make in Himself of twain One New Man.” Ephesians 2:14. And since the revelation of this glorious fact we have both had access by the one Spirit unto the one Father, by the work of the one Son; and being part of that One New Man, we are members one of another and members of the one and only Body of Christ. We all have the one and same blessed hope, looking for the Lord to come, to appear in glory, so that we shall likewise appear with Him in glory. Our hope is laid up in heaven. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. Therefore we have this blessed truth revealed to us in God’s Word: “They Two shall be one flesh . . . . I speak a mystery concerning Christ and the Church.” Ephesians 5:31 and 32.
So we see that the clear and unmistakable teaching of the Word of God is, that in spite of the divisions and subdivisions of the redeemed of the Lord into denominations, sects, and church-organizations, in spite of the doctrinal differences that are causing discord, dissension, strife, jealousy and ungracious relationships, all truly saved people are members of the One Body of Christ; are called into the One Hope; because of the One Faith in the redemptive work of the eternal Divine Christ. When the Lord Jesus shall appear in glory and all of the members of His Body shall appear with Him in glory then there will not be a divided unity; for all of the differences shall have disappeared.
Must we say then that there is neither probability nor possibility of any realization on this earth of the desire of the Lord, for the oneness of Hs people, expressed in His prayer to His Father? From present indications and conditions that prayer will not be answered until every member of the One Body is at home in glory; and then it will be too late to give a testimony to the world of the “oneness” of the Church. Undoubtedly the consensus of opinion among the members of Christ’s Body is, that we are too far gone into a divided unity to even endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit: the general feeling is, “what’s the use of trying; it can’t be done.” Why waste time trying to get Christians to forget their doctrinal differences, remove their denominational barriers and eliminate their sectarian creeds? Every effort in this direction will only prove futile; it is apparently an impossible task. Some are indifferent and uninterested, while others look on the pitiable scene, sad and helpless. This is true of even the most zealous, earnest, faithful, obedient loving Christians, who are more loyal to Christ than they are to any denominational leaders, who are more eager to follow the Word of God than they are to obey the established creed of any sectarian group or organization, who are much more concerned about membership for themselves and for others in the one true Church, or Body, of Christ than they are in getting Christians to join some denominational assembly. Yes, the task of bringing Christians to the position of undenominational fellowship and Scriptural unity, in any great numbers, is a hopeless one. We are utterly powerless to produce on earth an actual, visible, united fellowship among the redeemed of the Lord; and we must continue to present to the world of lost sinners a divided unity, and leave in their minds the question, “who is right and which way shall we turn; what shall we join; whom shall we believe?” It is the same old question, “is Christ divided?” This desired Christian unity is impossible as long as Christians insist on allegiance to some particular denominational church organization as the basis of Christian fellowship. We are unanimously agreed as to this.
The members of the Body of Christ are not instructed to prepare a church constitution, or to compel others to join with them in some denominational branch of the one Church, in order that the unity of the Spirit might be established. It is not a question of establishing this unity. The instructions are to maintain that which the Lord, on His own doctrine and Divine truth, has already established; “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit.” That unity was established nineteen hundred years ago and Christians are no more expected to establish the basis of unity than they are to provide a redemption from sin.
Then the question, if we look upon the situation as hopeless, and the task as apparently impossible, should we cease to endeavor to keep the unity? Most assuredly not. The Lord would say to us as He said to Peter concerning John, “What is that to thee; follow thou Me.” The Lord will hold us responsible for endeavor; not for success. What others do or fail to do, will not relieve you or me of our God-given responsibility. Our duty is to begin, or to continue, to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, according to God’s will and in God’s own way. Shall we do our duty, even if we have to stand with the very small minority?
If all truly saved people are joined to the Lord, they are truly joined to Him for time and eternity; and most assuredly they will not be “unjoined” because they join some denominational organization, or for any other reason. The believer sealed by the Holy Spirit is sealed unto the day of redemption and after that day he will be safe forever in glory. Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30. But let us be honest with ourselves and answer these questions concerning God’s desire for unity in the church, which is denominated in the Bible, “the Church which is His Body”. Ephesians 1:19 to 22. Will joining a denomination help any Christian to keep the unity of the Spirit? Will remaining a member of some denominational church-organization hinder obedience to the instructions; “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit?” I shall not attempt to answer for you. But it would be well for each Christian to ask himself this question and answer it in the light of the Word of God. Can any one of us find a single verse of Scripture authorizing any Christian to use the expression, “joining the church?” All of us must agree that we can never expect to see the realization of the Lord’s desire for unity among the members of the Body of Christ on this earth, as long as the members join different church-organizations with denominational barriers and refuse to fellowship with other members of the Body of Christ who belong to another denomination with different requirements for membership. There are some who are trying to forget some of the denominational differences in interdenominational conferences and associations, while remaining loyal denominationalists among their own members. But such Christian fellowship, though it be in the Lord, is not the unity of the Spirit which believers are urged to endeavor to keep in Ephesians 4:3.
It must be obvious to any thinking Christian, as we have remarked, that every individual believer must endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit no matter what others may do. Do we not know of faithful men of God who have tired of their lonely and unpopular position and in despair have yielded to the bid for a more popular ministry among the denominationalists and have abandoned their true Scriptural position? It is certainly more pleasing to the flesh to compromise for an inoffensive ministry; but how about the explanation when we meet the Lord?
In endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit, there are other important Scriptures to obey; such as Galatians 1:10 and Jude 3: “If I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ;” “Contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Therefore, it is plain that no child of God in endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit, is expected to sacrifice or surrender a Holy Spirit conviction as to the infallibility, integrity and Divine authority of the Word of God, or to compromise for one moment with any man or; group of men who would oppose or suppress any precious truth of God. Neither will any intelligent child of God ignore another most important command of the Lord.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15.
This most important principle of Bible study is set forth in the very last message which the Holy Spirit directed the Apostle Paul to write. Without a doubt the Apostle was referring to the difference between the ministry, message and program he had received from the Lord before the close of the “Book of Acts” period and the revelation of God’s program concerning the Body of Christ after the close of that period. Any student of the Word of God, who has carefully studied Acts 15:3 to 23 and Acts 21:18 to 28, and I Corinthians 9:20 to 25, has learned that, during the Book of Acts period, God had one order for the Jews that believed and another order for the Gentiles which believed. All during that period God’s order was “to the Jew first”, and the Gentiles rejoiced with Israel. Romans 15:10. It is true that near the close of that period Paul wrote to the Corinthians that both Jews and Greeks were baptized into the one body by the one Spirit, although it is not clear to all students, who would rightly divide the Word of truth, that the body of I Corinthians 12:13 is the same as the Body of Ephesians 1:19 to 22.
It is significant that the Lord waited until He was ready to make known the glorious truths revealed, for the first time, in the first three chapters of Ephesians, concerning the Mystery of the Body, and the Mystery of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, in the sixth chapter, before He instructed the members of the Body to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit.
The new truths revealed in Ephesians have to do with the believer’s position and possessions in Christ, in the upperheavenlies, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and blessed with all spiritual blessings in the upperheavenlies in Christ. Because Christ’s present place in glory far above principality and powers, Head over all things unto the Church, which is His Body, and the heavenly position of the members of His Body seated there with Him, was not the subject of Israel’s prophets and was not made known by Christ to the Twelve Apostles when He commissioned them, it had to be made known by the risen Lord by special revelation to and through Paul. “How that by revelation He made known to me.” Ephesians 3:3. The Epistle to the Ephesians was written after Paul reached Rome; and he wrote it as the prisoner of the Lord Jesus for Gentiles, for whom the Lord finally committed to Paul that Dispensation of the Grace of God, a ministry of pure grace, independent of any of Israel’s prophecies and covenants. Paul was commanded to preach among the Gentiles the untraceable riches of Christ, a message which was hid in God from the beginning of the world, not made known to the sons of men in other ages. Ephesians 3:9 and Ephesians 3:5 and Colossians 1:24 to 27. Paul was in chains for the Mystery. Ephesians 6:20, Colossians 4:4. In the Epistle to the Ephesians and in Second Timothy the Holy Spirit reveals the fact that God’s grace and purpose in Christ Jesus was given His members before the world began, and that this grace and purpose had to do with the one New Man, and the fact that Christ, the Head, and the members of His Body should be one flesh. II Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 3:11.
In making known God’s eternal purpose in Christ the Holy Spirit reveals to us, in Ephesians, that on the cross of Calvary the Lord Jesus made peace, and broke down the middle-wall of partition. Ephesians 2:12 to 19. It is quite significant that God withheld this written revelation until after he had declared, in the year 60 A. D., that He would send blindness upon His Nation Israel and had sent salvation to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. Romans 11:7, 8, 11, 25 and 30. That judgment was pronounced definitely in Acts 28:25 to 28, about 62 A. D. A most radical change in the program of God took place with that pronouncement. Up to that time God’s Nation was favored with special privileges. They enjoyed priority rights for about thirty years after the death and resurrection of their Messiah, with a program of signs, visions, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. All of these suddenly ceased with the close of the “Book of Acts” period; and since that time have not been in the program of God, except in the counterfeit.
The Lord restrained the Apostle Paul from writing concerning the revelation of the Mystery until after the “Sign” age had ceased and the age of pure and unadulterated grace, without religion, for both Jew and Gentiles, was ushered in. Israel was removed from the place of special favor with God’s judgment declared in Acts 28:25 to 28. Then He brought the Gentiles to realize their place as fellow-heirs in the same Body, to share equally—if not in preferment— all spiritual blessings in the upper-heavenlies. “To you which were afar off and to them that were nigh.” Ephesians 2:17. Surely that was the end of the order, “to the Jew first.”
We refer to the “Book of Acts” period as the “Transition” period. That period began with the question of the Twelve, about 33 A. D., “wilt Thou at this time again restore the kingdom to Israel”, and closed with the statement of the Apostle Paul, about 30 years later, “the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles.” During that period the gospel of the circumcision was committed to the Twelve: the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul. Galatians 2:7 to 9. When this agreement was reached the record of Peter’s activities ceased, in about 46 A.D., and no more was heard of him until he afterwards wrote his two Epistles. Paul is mentioned more than one hundred times in the last half of the Book of Acts. Paul did not write any of his Epistles until the record of Peter’s activities ceased. During the “Transition” period Paul wrote Thessalonians, Galatians, Corinthians and Romans. In these six Epistles and in his ministry in the Book of Acts he referred to the Jewish Scriptures or used Jewish religious terms more than two hundred times: for Paul had a two-fold ministry, the ministry of confirmation and the ministry of revelation. With the close of the “Transition” period Paul’s ministry of “confirmation” ceased, and then he continued with the “revelation” ministry, with added revelation. Therefore, in Paul’s last seven Epistles, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Titus, Philemon, Timothy, we observe a most decided absence of references to Israel’s Scriptures, covenants, ceremonies and religion. It was Israel that required signs, and therefore, while they were in the place of special favor, during the “Transition” period, signs, visions and miracles prevailed. After the “Transition” period not even the most faithful enjoyed “sign” healing. I Timothy 5:23, II Timothy 4:20. The “Transition” period was the “Sign” age.
During the “Transition” period, of about thirty years, there were gifts of the Holy Spirit, faith, wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues and miracles. I Corinthians 12:6 to 12. Those gifts belonged to “that which is in part”. They were to pass away when “that which is perfect” had come. I Corinthians 13:10. The ministry of “confirmation” and “that which is in part” and the “Corinthians” special gifts of the Spirit ceased together after Paul pronounced God’s judgment upon the Nation Israel, in Acts 28:25 to 28, and then and there Gad removed His Nation from the place of special favor.
And is it not obvious to any student of the Word of God that, during the “Transition” period, members of the Body of Christ could not have endeavored to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace on the basis of one Baptism? Certainly two baptisms were proclaimed in Acts 2:38, and the water baptism there was for Israel only, and was unto repentance for the remission of sins. In Acts 8:5 to 15, Jews only were preached to in Samaria. Acts 11:19. They received the message of Phillip, the Jew, and believed and were baptized with water some days before they received the Holy Spirit. Up to that time no Gentiles had received the gospel. The first company of Gentiles to be granted repentance unto life were the members of the household of Cornelius. Acts 11:18. Even the twelve Apostles, eight years after Pentecost, were not well pleased with this, until Peter had told them how the Lord had made it lawful for him to preach to Cornelius. Acts 10:28 and Acts 11:18. After that they preached to no other Gentiles, during the “Transition” period, as far as there is, any Scriptural record.
The attitude of Peter, James and others toward the Gentile believers in Antioch, as recorded in Galatians 2:11 to 15, would show how utterly useless it would have been to instruct Jews that believed and Gentiles that believed to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit. The Jews continued with circumcision. Paul continued to be a Jew to the Jews and as one without the law to those who were without the law. I Corinthians 9:20 and Acts 16:3. While Paul was carrying on the two-fold, God-given ministry, he would not have written Ephesians 4:3. During the “Transition” period there were two baptisms, at least; Holy Spirit baptism and water baptism. Some of the water baptisms were unto repentance for the remission of sins, some of them were before the experience of Holy Spirit baptism; and some of them followed. So we see that there was not one baptism upon which the members of Christ’s Body could have endeavored to keep the unity of the Spirit.
Water baptism was for Israel. John 1:31, Acts 13:24. It was carried over into the “Transition” period, during the period of Israel’s special Divine favor, and then ceased with the signs; otherwise, the Apostle Paul would not have instructed believers in Christ’s Body to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit on the basis of one baptism. Near the close of the “Book of Acts” period Paul plainly stated, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” I Corinthians 1:17.
With the One Baptism of Ephesians 4:3 we have certain gifts mentioned for the program of the Body of Christ for the perfecting of the saints. These gifts and this program were to supersede the gifts and program of the Lord Jesus on earth and some of the program of the Church during the “Transition” period. Some able Bible students believe that the “Body” Church of Ephesians was a different church from the Pentecostal church; and all able students know that if it was the continuation of the same church, it was continued with a very much revised program.
Members of the Body of Christ in Ephesians, by the One Baptism of Ephesians 4:5, are identified with Christ in death, burial and resurrection; and are also seated in the upper-heavenlies. And all of us know that that could never be done by water baptism, that water baptism could not help to do it. Neither could the neglect of water baptism keep the believer from such an experience, the very moment he receives Christ and believes in the full efficacy of His redemptive work, apart from water baptism or any other religious act. Surely all of us must know that water baptism is religion and not compatible with the message of pure grace.
The believer seated in the upper-heavenlies is to know that his citizenship is in heaven and that he is to seek those things which are where Christ sits. Philippians 1:20, Colossians 3:1 to 4, Ephesians 2:5 and 6.
How different is the blessed heavenly position and hope from the hope for Israel expressed in Peter’s message in Acts 3:19 to 21, in which that nation was offered the return of their Messiah from heaven on the condition of repentance.
The student of the Word of God should take up the study of the Book of Acts, not with his mind saturated with the traditions of the Church fathers, and not determined to make the Book of Acts agree with the teachings and practices of Historic Christianity, but with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi, as well as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, generally called “the Four Gospels”.
There were several hundred silent years between Malachi and the birth of the Lord Jesus. But the student leaving Malachi, the last of the Old Testament Prophecies, begins the study of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with the realization that God has made several covenants with Israel which are unfulfilled; the Abrahamic covenant, guaranteeing peaceful possession of all the land of Canaan, the Davidic covenant, guaranteeing a Divine King on David’s throne and the New covenant guaranteeing Israel’s redemption and all Israel indwelt by the Spirit of God. Genesis 17:5 to 9; II Samuel 7:10 to 17; Jeremiah 31:31 to 34; Amos 9:11 to 15; Ezekiel 36:24. to 34 and Ezekiel 37:24 to 34. The first verse if Matthew declares that Jesus Christ is the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Therefore we are to expect, as we begin the study of Matthew, that there is to be the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants concerning Israel, their land, their King and their Kingdom and their national restitution. The same is true concerning Mark and Luke. In the first chapter of Mark the Lord Jesus announces, “the time is fulfilled . . the Kingdom is at hand.” Mark 1:15. That particular Kingdom was to be—and will be the fulfillment of the three covenants. In the first chapter of Luke the character and meaning of that Kingdom is described in Luke 1:67 to 77. According to that same chapter Jesus was to be born to take David’s throne. Luke 1:27 to 33. Three years later the King tells of the mutual rejection of Israel and the Lord in the Parable of the Vineyard. Matthew 21:33 to 46. “The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you (Israel).” Matthew 21:43. But the Son of Man will come again in the midst of great trouble and again the Kingdom of God will be at hand for Israel. Luke 21:24 to 34. Then there will be the fulfillment of the three covenants, the Abrahamic, the Davidic and the New. When will He come? It may be before the Twelve shall have gone over the cities of Israel. It will be after the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached as a witness among all nations. It may be before this generation shall have passed away. Matthew 10:23; Matthew 24:14 and 34.
Before the King was finally rejected and delivered to the Gentiles to be put to death He explained to Israel that that great sin would not be unpardonable. Matthew 12:31 and 32. They could be pardoned for sinning thus against the Son of Man, because they were going to do it through ignorance and in fulfillment of Scriptures. This they did. Acts 3:14 to 18. They crucified the Son of Man, and on the third day He was raised again from the dead.
Thus ends the record of the Four Gospels. We leave the Four Gospels with the same three covenants to Israel unfulfilled. So when we approach the Book of Acts for an intelligent study we come to that Book remembering those three covenants, and know that Israel is awaiting their fulfillment. We must not come to that Book influenced by history and tradition, for if we open the Book of Acts, with the preconceived opinion that the Dispensation of Grace for Jew and Gentile alike is to be immediately ushered in, because the Nation has been set aside, and with the assurance that the Body of Christ is to immediately begin, we shall never understand the Book but shall rather reach the same state of confusion into which most students of the Word have now come.
For some reason the Lord did not immediately bring to pass the judgment predicted in Luke 21:24 and in Matthew 23:25 to 39. Divine action was deferred because of the Messiah’s prayer on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. Their temple was permitted to stand for more than thirty years thereafter. They carried on their religious ceremonies in that temple, unmolested, until the close of the “Book of Acts” period. Their city was not destroyed until nearly 70 A. D., in fulfillment of Matthew 22:7 and Luke 21:24. During all of those years the Twelve Apostles were ministers to Israel in the land. Galatians 2:7 to 9; Acts 8:1; Acts 21:18 to 28. Even the Apostle to the Gentiles was sent to them becoming a Jew to them, as one under the law. I Corinthians 9:20. The Jews were in the place of special Divine favor. with special Divine signs and miracles, during that 30 Year Transition period. Acts 3:26; Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6.
On the day of Pentecost Peter and the Eleven addressed devout Jews from every nation under heaven, not concerning the Body of Christ or the Gospel of the Grace of God, but concerning the Kingdom Prophecies of Joel and David, in Acts 2:5 to 31, and concerning the Kingdom prophecies of Moses, Samuel and all the others, in Acts 3:19 to 26. To Israel they continued to preach the message of John the Baptist, the Messiah and the Seventy, signs following “baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins.” Acts 2:38. The Twelve were not preaching to individual Jews and Gentiles that they could be saved from perdition by the pure message of grace; by believing that Christ had died for their sins, according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and raised, and that they could be declared righteous without a cause. Romans 3:24 to 26. No, they were the children of the covenant and of the fathers, and to these fathers God had promised a kingdom, and Christ had been raised to take David’s throne and establish this long-promised Kingdom, and now the Son of Man had prayed for their forgiveness and if they would repent He would be sent back. Acts 2:38; Acts 2:24; Acts 3:14 to 18. Always emphasize the “therefore” in Acts 3:19 and the “first” in Acts 3:26. Then carefully compare Acts 3:21 to 26 with Matthew 23:38 to 45. The only way in which they can be reconciled is in the light of the prayer of the Son of Man on the cross. Luke 23:34.
The offer of the Kingdom of God to Israel is to be renewed or continued. The Twelve were instructed to go to Israel only before Christ died. Matt. 10:5. The Twelve were instructed to go to Israel only after Christ died. Galatians 2:7 to 9. They had the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. They preached to one Jew-loving Gentile, and his household, the Word which God sent to Israel. Acts 10:34 to 38.
The Twelve preached repentance and restitution to a Nation—Paul preached justification and reconciliation. Most assuredly no intelligent student of the Word of God would bring over to the message of pure grace for Gentiles, in Ephesians, the message of Peter and the Eleven, “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” And what teacher of the Word of God would say that the baptisms of Acts 2:38 are the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5? Which of the two baptisms of Acts 2:38 is the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5? Who has scriptural proof that either the water baptism or the Holy Spirit baptism on the day of Pentecost placed individual Israelites in the Body of Christ, made them members of that spiritual temple of believers mentioned in Ephesians 2:19 to 22?
As long as the Israelites had access to their Jerusalem temple and were permitted during the Acts transition period to continue their religious services there, they were not ready for truth concerning the temple described in Ephesians. How different is the Temple, mentioned in connection with the Mystery, from Israel’s temple of cedar, stone and precious metal.
Immediately following the description of this spiritual temple in the closing verses of the second chapter of Ephesians, we find Paul’s words, “For this cause.” What is their significance? Do we not confess with shame our ignorance of the Divine truth of Ephesians? We should do more than confess. We should make up for our neglect by beginning now a real Holy Spirit, prayerful and diligent study of that masterpiece of God, that glorious truth which transcends all other truth in the plan, purpose and program of God.
Surely we cannot hope to make all men see what is the fellowship, or dispensation, of the Mystery, in accordance with Ephesians 3:8 to 10, until we have permitted the Holy Spirit to make us see it. When we see that the Body of Ephesians is altogether different from the Kingdom of God that was at hand, in Mark 1:15, that was to be taken away from Israel, according to Matthew 21:43, and that is to be given to Israel when the Son of Man comes again, according to Luke 21:27 to 31, we will have learned a most important lesson toward the understanding of the truth of God in Ephesians and Colossians. This glorious truth was hid in God and from men from the beginning of the world until the risen Christ made it known to Paul. Ephesians 3:9 and Ephesians 3:3 and 5, Colossians 1:24 to 27. It has to do with the calling, the grace and purpose of God for us in Christ Jesus, given before the world began. II Timothy 1:9. Therefore, it is designated the eternal purpose of God in Christ. Ephesians 3:10 and 11.
We must carefully read and diligently study the first three chapters of the Epistle to the Ephesians before we are ready for the “Therefore” in Ephesians 4:1. We shall then be prepared for obedience to Ephesians 4:2 to 8. After reading these three chapters, among the many truths that we learn we know that Body truth was unknown to any of Israel’s prophets, was unknown to any of the Twelve until they learned it from Paul; and we should know the peculiar blessings of the heavenly people who make up that Body, seated with the risen Head in the upperheavenilies. The Prison Epistles of Paul so clearly set forth the believer’s heavenly position and possessions in Christ and the one heavenly hope of his calling. No member of the Body of Christ would contend for two hopes, any more than he would be foolish enough to contend for two Fathers, two Christs, or two Spirits, or two Bodies. In those messages of pure unadulterated grace, apart from Israel’s religion or covenants, the believer is taught concerning the One Faith that brings him into his position and possessions in Christ; and that faith satisfies him. Thus he learns what the Apostle Paul meant in I Corinthians 13:8 to 13, when he said, “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” He declared that with that which is perfect, faith, hope and love would abide. The believer’s blessed hope, as a member of the Body, is like his calling, his citizenship, his position and his blessings; all heavenly.
Into all of these glorious, heavenly blessings the member of the One Body has been brought by the One Baptism. Scripturally speaking, this is not designated either “water” baptism or “Holy Spirit” baptism. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, with which water has nothing to do. Water was a symbol given to Israel before the Dispensation of Grace began. It was a kingdom ceremony. But on the cross of Calvary the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized into death. Luke 12:49 to 52. By the eternal Spirit He there offered Himself to God. Hebrews 9:14. Likewise every member of the Body of Christ has been baptized into the death of Christ, by the same eternal Spirit. Romans 6:3. So there was the baptism of the Head of the Body into death, and there is a baptism of the members of the Body into His death; all by the Holy Spirit. All members of the Body of Christ have put on Christ, not by water baptism, but by the Spirit baptism into Christ’s death. Galatians 3:26 to 28. Surely every intelligent Christian realizes that that cannot be done by water baptism.
Some Christians believe and teach that the One baptism of Ephesians 4:5 is water. Others say it means Holy Spirit and water. But that could not be, for one baptism is not two baptisms. Then others say that it is water only. But among themselves they differ as to the mode, formula and significance of the water, and hence it is impossible for them—although they are all members of the One Body—to keep the unity of the spirit, because they have more than one baptism.