From Plainer Words

The Theme of the Mystery

Posted in: 2010
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 26, 2010 - 9:54:48 AM

March 26, 2010
 
PLAINER WORDS ONLINE … THE THEME OF THE MYSTERY
 
“That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6)
 
The “Scope” of the revelation of The Mystery is summed up in this one verse. When we speak of the “Scope” we mean—what it is all about. “That the Gentiles” is the King James’ introduction to the theme of the Mystery. The phrase is also rendered as; “(to wit), that the Gentiles” (ASV), “to be specific, that the Gentiles” (NAS), and “This mystery is” (NIV). All of these convey a one verse delineation of God’s great Mystery in Ephesians 3:6. This verse explains the Mystery in a capsule form. The verse standing alone does not yield the magnificence of the Mystery. Paul wrote fifty verses prior to Ephesians 3:6. When the previous verses are read and comprehended, then, we may understand Paul’s knowledge in the Mystery of Christ (Eph.3:4). Spiritual understanding of the first two chapters enables the believer to adequately discern the weightiness and splendor of Verse Six in Ephesians Chapter Three.
 
It is necessary to realize that with the bringing-in of the new Dispensation of the Mystery, a new calling came into existence. This new calling uses a figure of a “body” (the Church, which is His Body). This “body” of believers is on such equal terms that every member is absolutely equal. Ephesians 3:6 speaks about members being “fellow heirs.” The word “fellow” as it is connected with “heirs,” carries with it the meaning of “one of the same kind,” or one “who is equal,” or one “like another.” The definition is from “Webster’s Dictionary of 1828.” The words, “fellow heirs” has to do with those who have an inheritance.
 
“Fellow heirs” means that the members of this Body are equal heirs of the same promise. Most people who have an inheritance have a share. An “heir” is someone who is, “by law to inherit the estate or title of an inheritance of an ancestor after his death.” Or, an heir is one who is named in a will to inherit after the death of an ancestor. “Heirs” are closely connected and associated with the following three words: (1) covenant, (2) testament, and (3) will. The “Old” Covenant is the Old, or the Prior Covenant of Law; whereas, the “New” Covenant (Testament) is The Subsequent Covenant (Testament) of Grace. So, we have one covenant of Law and one of Grace. Your attention is called to several verses in The Epistle to the Hebrews.
 
16 In the case of a will [testament], it is necessary to prove the death of the one [testator] who made it, 17 because a will [testament] is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one [testator] who made it is living” (Heb. 9:16-17) NIV.
 
If each child receives an equal share of their father’s estate after his death—each child owns just a portion of the estate; whereas, a “fellow heir” is a co-heir, or joint-heir. Each heir has a claim to the WHOLE ESTATE. Ephesians 3:6 informs the student that as a member of the Church, which is His Body, he inherits the entire “promise in Christ.” In other words, the believer who embraces the truth of the Mystery inherits all of God’s “Promise in Christ,” not just a share.  All “members of His Body” (Eph. 5:31) have a claim to all of the promise. They have more than a share. They are heirs of the WHOLE PROMISE; hence, “fellow-heirs.” Therefore, they are understood to be a fellow-heir, or joint-heir, or co-heir. Every member, Jew, Gentile, bond or free inherits the same “promise in Christ.”
 
No one has a greater inheritance than any other. Spiritually speaking, each member is on, absolutely equal ground with all other members. There has never been a calling in which each member was on equal terms with each other (see I Corinthians 12). This “fellow heir” concept, between believers, was impossible as long as “the middle wall of partition” stood between the Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14). However, with the breaking-down of the middle wall (Acts 28:28) and the ushering in of a new dispensation at the close of “The Acts of the Apostles,” an unheard-of “Body” of believers was formed—the Church over which Christ Jesus is the Head. This mint-condition Church, which is His Body was created when Israel and the Church of God were temporarily set aside. This new creation was a concorporate Body of believers. “Concorporate” means “united in one body; or, to unite different things in one body.”
 
The New Covenant’s “Church of God” was composed of both Jews and Gentiles. However, it was a common knowledge that the Jew had the dispensational advantage over the Gentiles because it was “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16. 2:9-10). There was an advantage in being a Jew:
 
“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 9:4-5).
 
Students of the Word are continually called upon to “rightly divide the Word of Truth”  (2 Tim. 2:15). The Bible mentions two separate callings; (1.) the Church of God, and (2.) the Church, which is His Body. The Church of God was the calling of the Acts Period. The Church, which is His Body is the new calling revealed in Present Truth. In order to fully appreciate the character of the two Callings, we will, briefly, examine the two.
 
The Acts Period “Body of Christ” was not a concorporate body. In the “Body of Christ” (1 Cor.12:27), the Jewish believer had a special advantage, by birth, over the Gentile. The two entities which made up the Body of Christ were distinct from one another—the Jew and the Gentile. This distinction is essential in order to “rightly divide.” Otherwise, confusion mystifies one’s comprehension of Truth. New Testament Truth regarding the Church of God clearly differentiates the Jewish advantage from the Gentile’s disadvantage.
 
The Apostle Paul rhetorically asked, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: …” (Rom.3:1-2).
 
The special advantage was their pedigree to inherit the “PROMISES made unto the fathers …” (Rom. 15:8). This advantage was their blood-line, to wit, their descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thus, the Jew had the dispensational advantage over the Gentile during The Book of Acts. The Jew had the special privilege.
 
The Jews established their “Bona Fides” by their blood-line—that is to say, by being descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their blood-line established their priority and ascendancy as members of the Ecclesia of God. Whereas, the Gentile member of the Ecclesia of God,was likened to “a wild olive tree” (Rom. 11:17). The Jew was the natural olive tree.
 
The Gentile believers were saved and given “gifts of the Spirit” in order to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom.11:11).
 
In the Dispensation of the Mystery all of the privileges which the believing Jew had during the Acts Period were no longer their “Bona Fides”. The Jews who moved on from faith-to-faith were incorporated into the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus. They were “participants in common,” as joint-heirs with the Gentiles, in the concorporate Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all.
 
As “fellow heirs,” they are members of the “same body.” The “same body” is referred to, in Ephesians 4:4, as the “one body” which is an integral part of the Unity of the Spirit. These were the believers who lived through the dispensational change and made up the One New Man. Members of the “same body” who had emerged from “The Acts of the Apostles” were, again, reminded that those who had been the privileged ones no longer had an advantage over the Gentiles. After the close of the Acts Period, God’s special calling of the Church, which is His Body enjoys a membership in which all saints are equal members of the very same body. Being members of the same concorporate body entails the fact that each member is an equal partner with others who are “participants in common” of God’s “promise in Christ.”
 
As “fellow heirs” of the “same body,” they are “fellow partakers” of God’s “promise in Christ.” These fellow heirs are not to inherit the promises made “unto the fathers” of Israel. The “fellow heirs” who are members of this “same body” are to be the heirs to the “promise of life” (2 Tim. 1:1), which dates back “before the world began’ (Titus 1:2). These saints were also “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13) which sealed them unto the day of redemption.
 
During the Acts Period, the Gentile saints had been “strangers from the covenants of promise” which had been made with “the fathers of Israel.”  Ephesians 3:6 does not teach, or imply that the Gentile believer, NOW, enters into the promises originally held, exclusively, by the Jew because of their blood-line. In plainer words, the Gentile does not participate “in common” with promises made to Israel’s fathers. No, indeed! The fact is that with the ushering in of the Dispensation of the Grace of God, a NEW PROMISE IS BROUGHT TO LIGHT. It is concerned with a promise that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew nothing about. A “new man” has been created (Eph. 2:15) and within this new calling. a new promise has been brought forth in which no member has ascendancy over another. The membership in the “one new man” is concorporate. This body is a newly created one, and it was not an evolution of the Acts Period “Body of Christ.”
 
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all”  (Col. 3:10-11).
 
As long as Israel was still recognized as a nation before God, the Gentile could never be in a position of perfect equality with the Jew. As long as Israel was in covenant a relationship with God, Israelites had to have first place. “To the Jew first” was the order of the Church of God and had to be as long as the Acts Period Church was in session. During the Church of God administration the Gentile had been invited to participate in the Covenant blessings. They came into a relationship with God through Israel and were participating in the Church’s blessings as “a wild olive branch” being grafted into the domesticated Olive Tree (Israel). The great Mystery revealed to Paul, after the Book of Acts ended, was that a new calling was on the scene. This new calling was the Church, which is His Body, in which there was a special relationship in which the believing Jew and Gentile came together, as one, in the concorporate Body over which Christ Jesus is the Head.
 
It is interesting to note the comments of Walter G. Wright in his book, “Ephesians.” It was published by The Moody Bible Press. He asks the question, “What then is the origin of the Church?”
 
“From what has been said, it is evident that the Church of this present age …was not in existence during Mosaic age; indeed the secret as to God’s purpose regarding such a body had been hidden from the age and generations which had gone before. We have seen, moreover, that when Jesus Christ came into the world He accepted the order of things as He found it as to the special privileges of Israel. He was a ‘minister to the circumcision;’ He came to confirm the promises made to the fathers as well as to fulfill them; He sent His special His messengers out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; He bade them not to go into the way of the Gentiles nor to enter into the Samaritian cities, and in general He confined His ministry to His own people. Furthermore, the disclosure was not even made to the twelve apostles: the revelation of this secret was given to the apostle Paul. The Church was not formed during the earthly life of Christ: He did not ‘found’ the Church in the days of His flesh.
 
“It has been commonly believed that the Church was formed, as to its first nucleus on the Day of Pentecost. If this be so, then it was a Jewish Church, responding to a Jewish appeal on Jewish grounds. And the appeal is so Jewish in its character that the question has been raised by some as to whether we must not look to a later date for the beginning of the Church on earth. If then the Church was not in existence during the Old Testament ages; if it was not formed during the during the earthly life of Christ; if, moreover, a diversity of opinion may exist as to its being brought into being on the Day of Pentecost, what date shall we set for its origin?
 
“Whenever the Church may have come into existence in the course of time, her conception is infinitely remote, even before the foundation of world” (Page 62).
 
The summary presented by Mr. Wright is noteworthy, inasmuch as he is made aware of the uniqueness of the calling of the Church, which is Body and so stated that Israel’s privilege cannot be part of the present Church. Taking his statements which, in general were very good and carrying them to their logical conclusion; one must deduce that the Church he was describing (the Church over Christ Jesus is the Head) came into existence in the course of time after Israel’s ascendancy ended—which was at the end of “The Acts of the Apostles.” After Acts 28, the sum of the matter, according to Ephesians 3:6, is that Gentile believers are said to be:
            
1 Fellow heirs
2. Fellow members of the same body and
3. Fellow partakers of the promise
 
This threefold equality only exits in “the One New Man.” Another way of expressing this equality is to say that the Gentile believers were part of a “joint-Body,” and were “joint-heirs,” and were “joint-partakers” of God’s promise in Christ.
 
The promise which the Church of the Mystery embraces is one which was promised “in Christ.” It relates to life and dates back before the “foundation of the world.” Notice how this ties in with 2 Timothy 1:1:
 
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.”
 
Paul, further, mentions a dating of this Promise.
 
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim.1:9).
 
Another mention is made in Titus 1:2 where both “life” and the “promise” are made.
 
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”
 
The promise for the Gentiles, which dates back before the world began, relates to the special revelation of the Mystery. This is set in contrast with the Gentiles during the Acts economy who were blessed “in Abraham” (Gal.3:14, 29). The one has the Promise “in Christ,” the other “in Abraham.”
 
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