July 29, 2009
PLAINER WORDS ONLINE …THE BODY OF CHRIST IS NOT THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY.
The subject of “The Body of Christ” is one which has been carefully considered. The writer has been ever mindful of the fact that a student of God’s Word must, always, be willing to unlearn that which he learned from man in order to learn from the Word Itself. We have found that many of our most cherished doctrines turn out to be “the doctrines of men” and not truth learned from the study of God’s Word. The older we have become, the less we care about being approved by men. The less we care about passing-on the doctrines of “men of stature” in the realm of “Dispensational Truth.” The less we feel compelled to teach the “approved doctrines,” unless they have become our own, based upon our own personal study. The older we get, the more we desire to rely upon the Spirit of Truth to lead us into Truth. If our findings turn out to be wrong, it will be because we misunderstood the promptings of the Spirit. It will not be His fault, but it will be ours. At least, we don’t pass along the errors of others, but if there are errors, they are ours.
With this said, we are reminded, as we approach our subject at hand, of the Apostle Paul’s warning in Colossians 2:8.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
The burden, which tradition carries, weighs very heavy upon the hearts and minds of most all of us. So much of our Bible background was implanted by those who were “professional church operators” who learned their Bible from accredited schools of Theology, all of which had specific doctrines to propagate and to defend. Perhaps, so it is with our subject—The Body of Christ.
Most all fundamentalists agree with “right dividers” in believing “The Body of Christ” is the mystical Church over which Christ Jesus is the Head. They may not agree as to when “the Body of Christ” began, but they will agree that the term which the Apostle Paul uses for the Church is “The Body of Christ.”
The term, “the Body of Christ,” is specifically mentioned, twice, in the Scriptures. The first occurrence appears in the Scripture written during the Pentecostal Dispensation.
“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (I Cor. 12:27).
The second time it is used is in the epistle which makes known and explains the Mystery.
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Eph. 4:12).
GIFTS GIVEN BY THE ASCENDED CHRIST
In order to come to some settled conclusion, we call the reader’s attention to Ephesians 4:8 and 4:11:
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”
This tells us that the Ascended Lord Jesus Christ gave these men His gifts to the Church for “the perfecting [equipping] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the EDIFYING OF THE BODY OF CHRIST.”
The standard interpretation is that the Lord Jesus Christ gave some apostles and prophets to the Church as His initial gift. That is to say, after the Apostle Paul received the revelation of the Mystery, He ordained a set of apostles and prophets who He used after 63 A.D.. These were the men who traveled between Paul’s “own hired house” (Acts 28:30) and the, previously, established assemblies. This set of apostles and prophets were not the Twelve, but rather, another set. Men, like Timothy, Titus, Epaphroditus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, and Marcus, Jesus named Justice, Epaphras, Luke, Demas, and others. These men were the apostles and prophets mentioned in Ephesians 2:20, and Ephesians 3:5. The Gentiles, who were “no more strangers and foreigners,” were built upon the foundation of [these] apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:19-20).
It is said that these men were the initial apostles and prophets of the Mystery Dispensation. After they completed their ministry, the Ascended Christ did not give the “Church, which is His Body” another set of apostles and prophets. They performed the foundational work for the Church of the Mystery. These apostles and prophets were allowed to die-out and were not replaced. There was no longer a need for them. Therefore, the only gifts to the Church, which remained after the initial foundational work, were the evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Christian fundamentalists insist that these “men-gifts” are still being Divinely ordained.
Their doctrinal position is: the Lord Jesus no longer ordains apostles and prophets, but He has “called,” “selected,” and “ordained” men, all during this “church age,” to be evangelists, pastors, and teachers. We accepted this doctrine for a time. But, this idea did not stand up to close scrutiny. Therefore, we had to abandon it.
As we pondered this idea, it was accepted that the gifts of apostles and prophets of this Dispensation were phased out, and the other three gifts remained. We have heard many Bible Teachers, as well as pastors, teachers, and evangelists use Ephesians 4:11 as the justification for their ministry. They felt and believed they were a Divine gift to the Church; called and ordained by Christ to be a minister of The Word of God. In fact, for a short period of time, we even imagined this about ourselves. The misunderstanding of Scripture, in such matters, can lead to the height of arrogance. Can you even imagine the “heady” feeling a man has as he presumes he is one of God’s gifts to the Church? How dare anyone question his interpretation of the Bible, or question his authority in matters of faith and practice! After all, God Himself called him into the ministry; he must have Heavenly qualifications to be “a man of God.” Sadly, a great many of those who sit in church pews believe this about the “preacher-man,” himself.
After coming to grips with the matter, we realized Ephesians 4:11 did not apply to ourselves. If a man is to find a Scriptural excuse for his ministry, today, he must reject the fanciful belief that he is God’s gift and move the basis for his vocation from
Ephesians 4:11 to II Timothy 2:2.
The key to understanding what Christ gave; to whom He gave; and for what purpose He gave is found in understanding sixth grade English. “Gave” is the preterit of the verb “give.” The preterit is “past; applied to the tense in grammar which expresses an action or being perfectly past or finished, often that which is just past or completed” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). Therefore, we note that Christ:
GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN … (Eph. 4:8), HE GAVE SOME, APOSTLES; AND SOME, PROPHETS; AND SOME, EVANGELISTS; AND SOME, PASTORS AND TEACHERS … (Eph. 4:11).
This, certainly, informs the student that the action was past, or finished when Paul wrote to the Ephesians. In plainer words, the Bible doesn’t say that Christ GIVES the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. It states that He GAVE (past tense, which expresses an action which is perfectly past, or finished) these men to the Church.
The Lord Jesus Christ ordained these men sometime between Acts 28 and his writing of the “Epistle to the Ephesians.” He did not continue to ordain and give these men to the Church, which is His Body. These men were carefully chosen by Christ to minister to the saints who lived through the dispensational change of Acts 28.
When viewed from this perspective, the problem concerning the gifts, today, vanish. Simply stated, these men-gifts to the Church have not been given since the initial ones were ordained with the ushering in of the Dispensation of Grace. The reason Christ gave these men to the Church of the Mystery was for the express purpose which is stated in Ephesians 4:12.
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Therefore, it is noted that Christ gave Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and
for the perfecting of the saints,
for the work of the ministry,
for the edifying of the BODY OF CHRIST.
“Saints” refer to those who were saved under the Pentecostal program and lived through the dispensational change at the end of “The Acts of the Apostles.” The “saints” were those who believed the revelation of the Mystery. There was a need of “perfecting,” [preparing, or equipping]. Immediately after Israel’s blindness was pronounced
(Acts 28:25-28), there was a need for readjustment. The saints who believed the testimony of the Lord’s Prisoner were going through a period of readjustment, to wit, perfecting, from that which was Pentecostal with a Jewish priority, to that which is all Grace, with the Gentile having the ascendancy. This period of adjustment called for special men who were raised up and ordained, by the Ascended Christ, to perform the work of “perfecting the saints.”
The perfecting of the saints had, in view, “the work of the ministry.” In the Dispensation of the Grace of God, there is no laity, or ecclesiastical set-up. The “saints” are to perform the work of the ministry. As someone has said, “In the theocracy of Grace there is in fact no laity.” The “saints” are to perform the ministry work, and, thus, they required the perfecting.
The ministry of perfecting the saints was the work and service of the “gifts” Christ gave to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. The ministry was, also, to edify the body of believers coming out of the “Acts” economy. The group of saints who lived through the dispensational change was referred to as “the Body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27). “The Body of Christ” was to be built up in the Truth of the Mystery. The Mystery was Truth which replaced Pentecostal Truth. “The Body of Christ” had previously been established in Pentecostal Doctrine. Pentecostal Truth had been centered on “the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20). The need to establish “the Body of Christ” in Present Truth was essential. The Lord gave the special set of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to edify “the Body of Christ.”
The edifying of “the Body of Christ” did not meet with a great deal of success. We learn in II Timothy:
“That all they which are in Asia be turned away from me …” (II Timothy 1:15)
There is Scriptural evidence which indicates many members of “the Body of Christ” were ashamed of the new revelation.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner:”
Paul’s post-Acts ministry was associated with prison, bonds, and a chain. In fact, His “chain,” as a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” was the badge of His ambassadorship. He stated, in Ephesians 6: 19-20, that he was an “ambassador in bonds” to make known the Mystery. When Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy, he implied that many were ashamed of “his chain.” However, he said that Onesiphorus was not ashamed.
“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain” (II Timothy 1:16).
The Apostle Paul’s use of the word, “chain,” is a Figure of Speech—a Metonymy. A Metonymy, as a figure of speech, is a literary device by which one name, or noun is used instead of another, to which it stands in a certain relation. Hence, the “chain” stands in close relationship as to why he was in bonds. He was in chains, or bonds for the express purpose of receiving the revelation of the Mystery (Eph. 6:19-20, Col. 4:3). It was as if Paul couldn’t receive the revelation of the most holy secret unless he was in prison. His imprisonment was for the express purpose to receive the revelation of the Mystery. So, when Paul said Onesiphorus was not ashamed of “my chain,” he was saying, in plainer words, Onesiphorus was not ashamed of the Mystery. From Paul, we learn that “all they which are in Asia” turned away from him (II Timothy 1:15) when he announced the Gospel of the Glory of the Blessed God (I Timothy 1:11). We learn, from Paul, that many Acts Period believers were ashamed of the testimony of the “Lord’s Prisoner.” (This goes without saying that many members of the “Body of Christ” were ashamed of Paul’s “chain”). It is, therefore, concluded that the edifying of “the Body of Christ” did not meet with great success.
After Paul’s teaching of the Mystery, he was persecuted. Like Demas, many early believers found it to be more comfortable to stick with the gospel of the “Acts of the Apostles.” Just like today, many Christians are not comfortable embracing Truth for Today. Why? Because, to acknowledge one’s belief in Truth of Today results in being slandered, maligned, verbally abused, and ostracized. Because of this, there are many “closet” Acts 28ers, as well as “closet” Pre-Millennial Kingdomists.
When they turned away from Paul, it was tantamount to saying they turned away from the doctrine which Paul was making known after God set Israel aside.
The goal, towards which the new set of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were pointing, was for all of the saints to come into the unity of the faith.
“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 fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
The reference to “we all” refers to members of “the Body of Christ” coming out of the Pentecostal era, as well as new Christians who had embraced the Mystery as their initial act of faith. During the Pentecostal era, there was no “unity” of believers. “Unity” means the state of being one.
From Plainer Words
The Body of Christ is Not the Church, Which is His Body
Posted in: 2009
By Tom L. Ballinger
Aug 3, 2009 - 12:54:40 PM
Aug 3, 2009 - 12:54:40 PM
© Copyright 2009 by Plainer Words