From Plainer Words

Church Of God vs. Church Of The Mystery

Posted in: 2004
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 4, 2008 - 9:18:49 PM

December 01, 2004


Part I

The more one becomes familiar with the Dispensation of the Grace of God (Eph. 3:2), the more he has impressed upon his mind the fact that there is no distinction between the Jew and the Gentile in the Ecclesia over which Christ Jesus is the Head. However, since the Jew has passed off the scene and is no longer a factor in world Christendom as he was in the first century, this fact just doesn’t seem to register with folks today..

The special subject of the Dispensation of the Grace of God is “the revelation of the Mystery.” The revelation of the Mystery made known to Paul, the prisoner of the Lord, concerns the fact;

“That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).

In order to fully appreciate Present Truth one must recognize the difference between the calling of the Ecclesia of God (Church of God during Acts) and the Ecclesia (Church) of the Mystery. The former was associated with the hope of Israel (the “restitution of all things” spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets) and ran its course from Acts 2 through Acts 28. The latter is connected with the Mystery, and its course will run from the end of Acts to the Epiphaneia (Appearing) of 2 Timothy 4:1. Ephesians 3:6 sets forth the perfect equality that was to exist between believing Jews and Gentiles as they came out of the Pentecostal Dispensation. This was in contrast to the distinction that existed between Jew and Gentile in the Church of God during the Acts period. When Peter opened the door to the Gentile, Cornelius, in Acts 10, there began the distinctions and dissensions between the two parties which lasted throughout the “Acts of the Apostles.” We will endeavor to set forth some distinctions that are often overlooked.

ONE: In the Church of God the Gentiles were given a “law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15). We learn what these laws were in Acts 15 where James, in Jerusalem, wrote a letter to the Gentile believers. This letter was hand-carried by the Apostle Paul to the believers in Antioch. When Paul read this letter to the group in Antioch, they rejoiced because James acknowledged that Gentiles did not have to submit to circumcision, or “keep the law.” However, James said that “it seems good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay no greater burden than these necessary things: That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from things strangled, and from fornication” (Acts 15:28-29).

These were the laws of commandments contained in ordinances. Paul learned after Acts 28 that these laws were not truth for the new dispensation. Paul referred to them as an “enmity” (Eph. 2:15). He said of them, in Colossians 2:14, that they were blotted out, taken out of the way, having been nailed to the cross of Christ.

TWO: Gentile believers who were in the Church of God did not have access to the inner portion of the Temple in Jerusalem. During this time-period, the Gentile had to keep his place. His place was the Court of the Gentiles; under no circumstance could the Gentile enter into the Holy Place. As a matter of fact, Paul, the very apostle to the Gentiles was wrongly accused of taking Trophimus, an Ephesian, into the Temple (Acts 21:29).This caused quite an uproar. The charge against Paul was a lie. Paul knew better than to do such a thing.

The wall separating the Jews from the Gentiles in the Temple was found to have this inscription on it: “No one being a foreigner, may enter into the enclosure around the Holy Place. Whosoever is apprehended will himself be to blame for his death which will certainly follow.” A cast of this inscription is in the British Museum. This gives the reader some idea of the status of the Gentile Christian in the Church of God during the Acts period. This also gives us an insight to what Paul meant when he referred to the “middle wall of partition” being NOW broken down (Eph. 2:14). The “middle wall” stood between the Jew and Gentile during the Acts economy. Paul’s Acts Epistles are to be read in that light.

THREE: In the Church of God, another often overlooked fact was that no one could herald or preach the Word of God except the Jews. Gentiles were not divinely authorized to be ministers of the Word during the “Acts of the Apostles.” Gentiles were not stewards of the Oracles of God; only the Jews were. The Jew had the advantage in the Church of God MUCH IN EVERY WAY: CHIEFLY, BECAUSE UNTO THEM WERE COMMITTED THE ORACLES OF GOD (Rom. 3:2). Not only that, but, Gentiles were not allowed to be officers, leaders, or rulers in the local ecclesias (i.e., churches) (Rom. 9:4). Recognition of Present Truth sets aside the Jewish privilege in such matters.

FOUR: In the Church of God, Gentile believers were reckoned as “strangers from the covenants of promise and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” (Eph.2:12). The “covenants” were made with the “fathers of Israel.” Gentiles never had a covenant relationship with God. The covenants were with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. The Gentiles had no “fathers” in the sense the Jews did. In fact, Jesus Christ “was a minister of the CIRCUMCISION to confirm the promises made unto the FATHERS” (Rom. 15:8). The Gentiles, during the course of the Church of God, were made partakers of the “blessings of Abraham” and were counted as his seed and heirs according to the promises (Gal. 3:29): this, of course, was by means of faith (Gal. 3:26).

As far as God was concerned, believing Israelites during the Acts period made up the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). This was the Lord’s “new nation.” This new nation was referred to by the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians, as “the commonwealth of Israel” (2:12). The Lord dealt with the believing Gentiles, during this time, on the basis of them being “aliens” to His newly formed Israel. That is to say, the Gentiles could partake in the blessings, but they had no rights as far as being administrators of the “commonwealth of Israel” was concerned. Like a legal alien in the U.S.A., the alien can enjoy in the freedom and protection under the law offered citizens, but he can never hold a governmental office. This was the case with believing Gentiles during Acts and their alien status with the “new nation” God was forming. Read the “Now therefore” in Ephesians 2:19 and notice after Acts 28; “ye are no more strangers and foreigners.” The change took place after Acts 28.

FIVE: In the Church of God, the Gentiles were without a Christ of their own [i.e. without a Messiah of their own] (Eph. 2:12). The Gentiles, as such, had no Messiah. Christ means Anointed or Messiah. Jesus Christ was of the seed of David (2 Tim 2:8). “Who are Israelites . . . of whom concerning the flesh Christ came” (Rom. 9:5).

From Acts 10 to Acts 28, the Gentile believers were “without Christ;” they looked to Israel’s Messiah. He was Israel’s. “BUT NOW” in the dispensation of the Mystery, “ye who sometimes were far off are made NIGH by the blood of Christ.” The “BUT NOW” indicates that there had been a radical change from what the Gentiles had been by birth—without a Christ. This clearly points to a dispensational change where the believing Gentiles have NOW been made nigh by the Blood.

These five points should clearly indicate to those who have “eyes to see and ears to hear” that a change in the Divine Economy took place when the “Acts of the Apostles” ended. The “hope of Israel” was suspended. Subsequently, the Apostle Paul received a new and fresh revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ. The new revelation was given exclusively to him and him alone. The latest report from God is found in Paul’s Prison Epistles.

Tom L. Ballinger

December 08, 2004


Part II

In the last article five distinctions were pointed out between the church of the Acts period and the church of this present dispensation. We will now consider five more.

SIX: In the Church of God, the Gentiles were without God. Just as they had no Christ of their own, neither did they have a claim on God. When “they knew God, they glorified Him not as God neither were they thankful” (Rom. 1:21). Because of this, God gave them over to a reprobate mind. This took place at the tower of Babel when He confused their tongues. From that time, Genesis 10, to the end of the Acts of the Apostles, the Gentiles were WITHOUT GOD. Yahweh was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He was not the God of the Egyptians, or the Macedonians, or the Philistines, or the Greeks, or the Romans, but, rather He was the God of Israel. Not until Israel was set aside at the dispensational crisis of Acts 28, did the Gentiles have a claim on God. He became their God by virtue of the fact that the salvation-bringing-message was sent to them (Acts 28:28), and those who believed were made members of the Body over which Christ Jesus is the Head.

During the Acts period, even as Gentiles were saved and made partakers of Israel’s hope, they recognized that their God, in reality, was the Covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, as members of the Church of God, the Gentiles were still without a True God of their own.

SEVEN: In the Church of God, the Gentiles had NO HOPE of their own. They were without a Christ, without God, and WITHOUT A HOPE OF THEIR OWN (Eph. 2:12). During the book of Acts, the believing Gentile was to be a participant in the HOPE OF ISRAEL. There was no other HOPE available or open between Acts 1 and Acts 28. It was Israel’s hope. Israel’s hope was that Yahweh (now known as Jesus the Christ) would rule the world and restore its’ kingdom. Both Jews and Gentiles, at the time, understood that Christ would rule the world from His Throne in heaven. The Apostle Paul expressed the reasons the Gentile believers should rejoice along with God’s people; “There shall be a Root of Jessie (Jesus Christ), and He shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust” (Rom. 15:12). Here, in Romans 15 Paul, was quoting Isaiah 11:10. This was certainly no mystery that the nations would be ruled over by Jesus Christ. Compare this to Ephesians 1:3:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”

There was but one hope running throughout the “Acts of the Apostles” and the epistles during that time period. Israel’s hope persisted throughout Acts and embraced all of the churches (ecclesias) called into existence. These churches made up the overall Church of God. As late as Acts 28:20, Paul claimed that the chains that bound him were “for the hope of Israel.”

When the Mystery was revealed to Paul, he learned that a new HOPE was ushered in and was to be associated with the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Gentile believers NOW had a hope of their own—Christ was now among the Gentiles and is our “hope of glory” (Col.1:27).

EIGHT: In the Church of God, the Gentiles were considered the UNCIRCUMCISION. This was a definite distinction between the Jew and the Gentile. Paul reminded the Gentile believers, who lived through the dispensational change at Acts 28, that as members of the Church of the Mystery, they ought to “remember that ye being in TIME PAST (Acts period) Gentiles in the flesh, who are called UNCIRCUMCISION by that which is called Circumcision” (Eph.2:11). You should note that during the Acts period, the Gentile members of the Church of God were reminded that they held a lesser position as being the UNCIRCUMCISION. The “uncircumcision” even had their own gospel, and it was so recognized, and acknowledged. Galatians 2:7 says that Paul preached the “gospel of the Uncircumcision.” This certainly is not truth for today. There is no gospel for the Jew and one for the Gentile, but in the Church of God, there was. Paul declared to the believers who lived through the dispensational change that the Gentiles were now JOINT-HEIRS [fellowheirs] of a JOINT-BODY [i.e. of the same body] and JOINT-PARTAKERS of the promise in Christ (Eph. 3:6). After Acts 28 there was perfect equality “in Christ.”

NINE: In the Church of God, the believing Gentiles were even being used by the Lord to spur on Israel. The Gentiles were likened to a “wild olive tree” (Rom. 11) whose branches were being “grafted in” to the olive tree (Israel) which God had been cultivating for 2,000 years. God’s olive tree was not bearing fruit in response to the Gospel. They crucified their King, and were treating the King’s servants spitefully. In order to stimulate growth and fruit-bearing, the Lord began to save Gentiles and “graft” them into Israel’s hope. That is to say that the Gentiles received the spiritual gifts that were really Israel’s. This was done to “provoke Israel to jealousy.” The provocation was to cause Israel “to emulate” the Gentiles’ faith. The cultivated olive tree was not responding, so the idea of grafting in Gentiles was an effort to make Israel jealous so they would copy the faith of the “wild olive tree.”

The reader is encouraged to read Romans 11:11-25 to get the full impact of the “wild olive tree” being grafted in to the cultivated tree, which was contrary to nature. In this section of scripture, Gentiles were reminded that they were partaking of the “fatness of the root of the olive tree” (Israel). Only, as Israel stood before God, could the Gentiles expect to receive blessings that were connected with the hope of Israel. “Boast not” against the natural branches, “be not highminded” were exhortations to the Gentile members of the Church of God. “Take heed lest” God spare not you Gentiles. All of this was truth of a past dispensation and speaks volumes of the inequality that existed in the Church of God. The Gentiles were even warned that if they did not continue in their goodness as members of the Church of God, that they, too “shalt be cut off” as broken branches of the natural olive tree. None of this pertained to the Church of the Mystery as made know in Paul’s Prison Epistles.

TEN: The final consideration is this—only one time during the Book of Acts were believers referred to as “the body of Christ.” That is found in 1 Corinthians 11:27;

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” NIV

The next time this title is used is in Ephesians 4:12;

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Eph. 4:12).

This title, the body of Christ, should be understood in light of the context. When Paul wrote Ephesians many Acts period believers lived through the dispensational change of Acts 28. They were designated as the “body of Christ” during the Acts period. When Paul used the expression, “the body of Christ” in Ephesians, he was writing about those members who lived through the dispensational change of Acts 28. This was a not a reference to us. We were never members of the “body of Christ.” We are members of the “church, which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). This distinction should be kept in mind.

So, here’s what we have. After Paul made known the revelation of the Mystery, “the body of Christ” of the Acts period had to be re-directed in order for them to have understood and comprehended the change. So, the Lord Jesus Christ appointed, or positioned a group of men who were chosen to edify the “body of Christ” in the new revelation—the Mystery.

“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” (Eph. 4:11)

These men were especially appointed by Jesus Christ in order to accomplish the following:

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Eph. 4:12-13).

The Church of the Mystery is never referred to as the “body of Christ.”

In closing, it should also be pointed out that the “body of Christ” had a different set of men raised up for it. “God set some in the church;” first apostles, secondarily prophets,, thirdly, teachers, after that miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues (I Cor. 12:28). Compare the differences of the offices of the two churches; the offices of the church during the Acts time-frame and the offices of the Church of the Mystery. This clearly indicates a change in dispensations.

Truth for today is found in the unique cluster of epistles written by Paul, the Lord’s prisoner.

Tom L. Ballinger

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