This book is an involved study of Scripture. The serious minded believer may prayerfully gain spiritual truths and insights by its reading. I say this in all humility of spirit – the Holy Spirit is the revealer of truth, and He has taught me many things from God’s word. In the end, the reader will judge what I have written. What God requires of you is that your judgment be by the Word and through the Word.
There are many scriptures in the text of the chapters that support the thoughts being presented. There are many other scripture references listed in parenthesis that benefit your study. They help to direct you in searching the Scriptures to find out whether these things are true (Acts 17:10-11). If there are multiple scriptures given in presenting a thought and making a point of instruction, then it is far less likely that twisting and turning of Scripture is being done to accommodate human imaginations or systems of doctrine. It is only God’s thoughts out of God’s Word as taught by the Spirit that should be of interest to us.
Believers Must Depend on the Holy Spirit to Teach
It will take some time on your part to go through all the references. As believers we should all desire to gain an in-depth understanding of God’s Word. That usually takes study and effort. If it seems to us like work, that’s because it is (II Tim.2:15). But the rewards are great and eternal, if we use prayerful diligence. And we should, as believers, have an ever increasing dependence on the Comforter’s divine ability to teach.
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
These are precious words from the Lord before His departure. The disciples were troubled in heart because of His frequent discourses about His leaving. The Holy Spirit was the promised Helper and Comforter, very much what they needed in His absence (John 14:16-17). The Spirit would come as sent from the Father to the many brethren of Christ, consequent to the glorification of the Son of Man (John 7:38-39). This is the same Holy Spirit that is the seal of God in all believers. And the Spirit of God knows the things of God…Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God. (I Cor. 2:11-12) Believers need to pray and ask God to open up the Scriptures, that the eyes of our understanding will be enlightened.
Also the ministry gifts were given by the Son of Man when He was raised and exalted above the heavens (Eph. 4:8). These gifts were given to His Body for the equipping of the saints and the edifying of the Body. By them the Body is to come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph.4:11-13). There are also subtle warnings in this passage. Believers should always be watching out, not to be carried about in all directions by winds of doctrines, presented to the Body by men of trickery, in cunning craftiness of their deceptions (Eph.4:14). False teachers try to creep in unnoticed or rise up among us innocently, and believers need to be equipped to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3-20).
The Need to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth
Another error that is mixed in with false teachers, which all believers need to be watchful for, is the title of our chapter and what is mentioned in Timothy;
II Tim. 2:15
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
It is one thing to say, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…”, that most of us agree on. And then, “All Scripture…is profitable for doctrine…”, again most would agree on this (II Tim. 3:16). But if that is as far as our qualification and judgment of teaching and doctrine reaches, then we remain very naïve and easily deceived. Of importance is how the Scriptures are used, and how they are divided. The Word of God is easily and often wrongly divided, even unknowingly by good men, as teachings and doctrines are presented. We assume that good men teach only the truth of God’s word, yet this thought is only a human assumption, and a dangerous one at times. It is held in the minds of a large percentage of believers; attempting to mask spiritual laziness. We hold these unspoken thoughts that it is the minister’s job. We reason he is paid to do it. If the scriptures need to be rightly divided, it stands to reason that the scriptures can easily be wrongly divided, leading to false teachings and confusion.
The Finishing Point of All God’s Counsels – God will be All in All
In the counsels of God He has an overall grand design and plan. The end point is the glory of God, Himself. In the far off eternal state of the new heavens and the new earth, it will be that God may be all in all (I Cor. 15:28). When Paul finished the doctrinal part of the epistle to the Romans and before turning to practical teaching, he makes this statement;
“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
This is God’s grand design to which all His purposes and counsels are pointing. The center object of the plan, and this understood as before the foundations of the world, is the exaltation of Jesus Christ. Everything in God’s counsels revolves around this centerpiece as the means of fully bringing out the eternal glory of God. And there is a heavenly portion to this glory as well as an earthly portion;
“…having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”
The passage speaks of God’s will, God’s good pleasure, and His purpose in Himself. This is referring to the counsels of God. All things are to be gathered into Christ as the Head, whether they are things in the heavens or things on the earth. We have already discussed in previous chapters that the Body of Christ, as the heavenly Bride and heavenly Jerusalem, will share in all the heavenly glory of Christ. Israel, as a remnant preserved and restored in the Promised Land on the earth under their returned Messiah, and the Gentile nations gathered to them and blessed in them, are the object of the earthly glory of Christ. These are some of the distinctions found in God’s counsels made clear by the Spirit, for our spiritual enlightenment.
The Distinctions between Different Groups of People in Scripture
Let’s begin by looking at some things that help our understanding of Scripture. First we may start by discussing the different groups of people separated in Scripture, and in the purpose and plan of God. We have already seen that in the counsels of God there is an earthly calling of Israel and a heavenly calling of the Body of Christ. They are similar to each other in that both groups are specifically called by God and that God authenticates this calling by a distinctive seal on each group. That is where the similarities end and the differences begin. In the callings, one is heavenly and the other is earthly. In the seal of authenticity, one is by the Spirit of God (Eph. 1:13-14), and the other by a physical mark on their foreheads (Rev. 7:3).
These two groups are totally separate from each other, but find their association with Christ through His two distinct titles, that of Messiah and that of the Son of Man. The one group will have possession of a land mass on earth as an inheritance with Jehovah dwelling in their midst. The other group has citizenship in heaven and habitation prepared there, in their Father’s house, as sons of God, and brethren of the glorified Son of Man.
Many believers have the thought that everyone ends up in one big happy family of God, but where do we actually find that in Scripture? They see Israel as the people of God and Christians as the people of God, and so reason all are the same and all are together. And further still, if all are the same, then the reasoning is that all of God’s teaching in all of God’s word is equally applied to all, Jews and Christians alike. This certainly speaks to simplicity, because all are made to be the same and the teachings are the same. No need to rightly divide truth, if we equally apply everything to all.
God Distinctly Separated Israel, and this by His Own Sovereign Choice
This is a popular thought no doubt, birthed in human reasoning, but it has no basis or support in God’s word. There were many existing Gentile nations and peoples when God chose Israel and delivered them by His sovereign power out of Egypt. At the very least in our understanding, we have to see that this was a separation accomplished by God, and a separation apart from the rest of the human race. God gives them the Law of Moses, and this builds up a wall of separation around this nation in the world (Eph. 2:14). Again, this was done by God, to the exclusion of all other nations. But let us look at God’s own words to confirm what I’m saying;
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;”
A holy people to the Lord, means they are a separated people. And this separation was by the choice of God. The only thought of explanation for the choice is found in God’s love. He set His love on them. Further, this choosing by God of Israel made them special, a special treasure to God. This is not the only place in Scripture where we find words like this spoken by Jehovah concerning Israel (Deut. 10:15, 14:2, Ez. 20:5-6).
There are important truths to understand and acknowledge here – these come by asking some big questions about a big subject, the sovereignty of God. I believe that the proper understanding of this Biblical topic by the believer is the only path to seeing the grand preeminence of God and His full undefiled majesty and glory – as truly seeing and holding God as all in all. All other paths seem to involve in measure, to a greater or less degree, the boasting of man (Rom. 3:27, 4:2, I Cor. 3:21, 4:6-7, 9:16, II Cor. 11:17-18, 12:1-11, Gal. 6:13-14, Eph. 2:9). And we should all be wary of man’s affinity to boast.
Asking the tough but important Questions – How was Israel Special to God?
Allow me to work backwards from the final thought above by asking the reader a few thoughtful questions. If Israel, as a nation, is special to God, how are they special? What does God mean by this word special? And in comparison to what are they special? An object can only possibly be special in comparison to other objects. The other objects in the above passage are all the other nations and peoples. Israel is special to God in comparison to the rest of mankind. How then did they come to be special to God? Was it their might and strength and numbers? Was it some previous great accomplishment, or some future work that God saw they would perform? Was it that Israel had secretly chosen God and that God was reciprocating? It wasn’t any of these, which are the usual thoughts of human reasoning. They were special simply because they were chosen by God, nothing more, and nothing less.
And what was the reason for God choosing them? It was His love, and this basically unexplained. We know that the scriptures in other places speak about God’s love, God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is God’s essential nature. God is light (1 John 1:5). The essential nature of God is love and light. He is these things in and of Himself. This is different than all His attributes. God showing love is never dependent on an object to give Him motive – the motivation is always within His own nature, within Himself. Our exercise of love, even at the highest level, must have an object that provides a motivation. For example – at the highest level, the object of our love would be the Father or Jesus Christ, and beholding the object the source of all motivation. But God isn’t like this, He is an infinite Being. We, and all that is created, are finite.
If God made Israel Special, then God is showing Special Love
If God is making choices in His love, these choices are solely within His essential nature, within Himself. The choices have objects, this is true; but the objects of His choices are never the source of His motivation. His motivation, when and wherever He shows His love, has to be Himself alone. Now if Israel was special to God, chosen and separated in His love, what does it show about the love of God in this situation? God is showing special love. Special love? Love to a specific object of His choosing, to the exclusion of other objects around it. To deny these things, these truths, is tantamount to denying the existence of Israel.
If the motivation for God’s love is hidden from us in His essential nature, then it follows that the explanations and reasons for His choices are there as well. If we cannot see His motivation, how can we comprehend His reasoning? This is why we will never be able to explain the choice of God in His love and sovereign grace. We cannot know God in this way. We will never know God in this way. It would be the finite reaching to the infinite, the relative comprehending the absolute. It is simply impossible. Only God fully knows Himself.
“…having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,”
We, as believers, are the objects of God’s love and grace shown in Christ, but never the recipients because something about us or in us drew this out of Him. He always accomplishes His own good pleasure. This is always His own purposes, only found in Himself, in His essential nature. The truth of Scripture is that God acted towards us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8), when we were enemies (Rom. 5:10), and by nature, children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). He purposed in His counsels concerning us, placing us in Christ, before the foundation of the world (II Tim. 1:9).
God’s Choices serve to Glorify Him
We can see the choice of God in love and grace, because we can see the objects of His choices. Israel coming through the Red Sea on dry land was the object of God’s choice and special love. Pharaoh and the Egyptian army were not. We can see the choice of God in love, but we will never be able to explain His reasons. The things we can know as believers are those which God has revealed to us in His Word. I can see the choice of God in His love and grace all over the pages of Scripture. I can no longer deny it, nor feebly explain it away. I only now glorify God in it.
I am the product of the choice of God in Christ. If you are sealed with His Spirit then you are the product of His choice in grace. How can this not bring glory alone to God? All God’s counsels, from before the world began, have only one objective – God’s very own glory. All these counsels center on Jesus Christ. If we are the choice of God’s love and sovereign grace in Christ, how do we not see the connection here? The glory of God then becomes the only reason and explanation revealed to us for the choices of God.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
“…that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will; that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.”
These two passages of Scripture show the majority of points we’ve been discussing. You have all the counsels of God centered in on exalting Christ, as all things in the heavens and on earth are gathered into Him. You also have the choice of God of the believer in His love and grace in Christ. It reads the Father chose the believer in Christ before the foundation of the world. And the reasoning is? It is simply stated – it was in love and to the praise of the Father’s glory.
There is another portion of Scripture on this subject that is extremely difficult for most believers to read, let alone accept the principle it teaches. It is a sad reality that entire portions of God’s Word may be purposely avoided by His children because we find the teaching objectionable to our understanding. I print it here, not to teach it in depth, but to bring out from it one distinct and clear truth related to the counsels of God;
14 “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
God’s Judgments Serve to Glorify Him
The one point I make, that I believe is clearly said in this passage, is that whenever God has made a choice, regardless of what that choice is, it always serves the purpose of glorifying Him. In verse 17 above, God says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up…” This is reason for the choice, and shows God’s intention. And what was the reason revealed? It is to show God’s power and to declare His name in all the known earth. The reason for His choice, and the means and actions He uses to carry out His choice is for the display of His own glory. As we said previously, this is the overall objective of the plan and counsel of God – His very own glory.
Closely related to this line of thinking is what we see in verse 22 above – God showing His wrath and making His power known in judgment. This is a poorly understood principle of God’s ways. God’s judgments, as displayed in the earth, result in the glory of God filling the earth. I’ll say it again for emphasis; it is the judgments of God in righteousness that accomplishes the filling the earth with His glory as well as the knowledge of Him. And verse 23 follows this by saying, “…and that He might make known…His glory…” There it is; there is a biblical truth. You have just learned one of the Biblical principles in the counsels of God. [The judgment of God is discussed in greater detail farther on in the chapter.]
Is There Unrighteousness with God?
Before leaving the above passage, I point out what seems to me to be a sticky point of sorts. In verse fourteen (14) the question, or more so, the accusation is voiced, “Is there unrighteousness with God?” This accusation was voiced against God in the days of Paul’s teaching and continues to be so today. In this difficult passage the Spirit through Paul abruptly brings out this question. Have you ever asked yourself why? The question gets to the heart of the matter if you hold one of two viewpoints.
· First: Your feathers are ruffled and you are angry at his doctrine – that of a God making decisions and choices you can’t explain, or feel He has a right to make – so this accusation automatically pops up in our minds.
· Second: the leaven of doctrine we hold dismisses the teaching outright that leads to the question. We easily answer in the negative – there is no unrighteousness in God! By the leaven we hold dear, we are convinced that God sits back and waits, and only reacts to the choices and decisions that man makes.
The Spirit of God does answer the question. We don’t see and understand the answer, or we can’t accept the answer as it is given. What happens then, and innocently I’m sure, is the setting up and maintaining contradictions in one’s thoughts and faith. The problem with this is that there are no contradictions in God. If you have this thought as a believer, that there seems to you to be unrighteousness in God’s dealings, then you have a contradiction. The truth of Scripture is that there is absolutely no unrighteousness with God. Do not be content with having in your thoughts contradictions of Scripture. They are detrimental to the health of your faith and spiritual walk.
As I said, this is a great subject. And our thoughts and questions go on from here, even without all the answers. I also realize how emotionally charged this can be, and I apologize if I have offended anyone in what I have said. But the verses above remain. They are all God’s own words. There is no mistaking what He is saying. These are His thoughts. It reveals to us the true God. He has His own personal will out of which His choices flowed, and reveals to us more clearly His ways. But this has been a side-bar to the point I was making, that God’s Word separates certain groups of people in His counsels.
The Two Titles and the Two Separate Groups
In the Scriptures we have seen that the Son of Man and Messiah titles are clearly distinct in Christ, although the two thrones and reigns are simultaneous in the end during the millennium. Although simultaneous, the distinctions are recognizable and maintained. The titles, being distinct themselves, set up differences in all that is associated with each,and clearly help guide the separation and rightly dividing of the Word of truth today. With this in mind, let us set up a table showing these distinctions.
Messiah Son of Man
|Prophetic Promises, the Anointed One, the definite subject of prophecy for Israel. When He comes, He remains forever||Redemptive realities, reconciles creation and the believer. The Mystery of God. Last Adam. The Son of Man goes away to receive a kingdom|
|Israel – the center of the earthly glory of Christ as Messiah||The Body of Christ and individual believer – the center of the heavenly glory of Christ|
|Earthly calling, in the flesh, of the world and on the earth, fulfilled in a Promised Land, and the earthly Jerusalem restored||Heavenly calling, in the Spirit, not of this world, and seated in heavenly places, the New Jerusalem, the city of His God. The Father’s house|
|The law of Moses, Judaism – the religion of the earth and for man in the flesh||Christianity – the religion of the heavens with a definite heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20)|
|The earthly seal in the flesh (Rev. 7:3)||The seal of the Spirit inwardly (Eph. 1:13)|
Rightly Dividing Scripture
Understanding Scripture and rightly dividing the Word of truth requires that you give attention to any distinctions made and brought out. The truths concerning Messiah and the promises associated with Him are quite distinct in nature and character from those surrounding the Son of Man. These promises in Messiah are solely found in Old Testament Scripture, given there in prophecy, and directed to Israel. The Law of Moses, the religion of the earthly calling, is found there as well, along with the earthly tabernacle, the earthly service and ministry, and fleshly ordinances and rituals (Heb. 9:8-10). The exhortations of their prophets, efforts by these servants to turn the nation back to their law (Jer. 25:2-7), and God’s teachings to the earthly calling are all found in the Old Testament. And finally, we find there the prophecies for the end declaring the counsels of God concerning Israel and the earth, Jehovah being ever faithful to fulfill all He has promised to this earthly people.
Where we find the Doctrine of the Body of Christ is where we find its Teachings
In contrast to all this and separate from it in God’s Word is the gospel of the glory of Christ. We find it only in the New Testament. There we find the epistles – the teachings specifically from the Father and the Son through the Comforter to the Body of Christ. They are the specific work of the Comforter, only possible after the Son of Man was glorified. The epistles are the specific communications of the Father to the many sons (Rom. 8:14-17, Gal. 4:5-7), consequent upon the resurrection of Christ from the dead (John 20:17). The teachings for the Body of Christ will be specifically found where we find the doctrine concerning the existence of the Body of Christ. This makes sound spiritual sense.
The mystery of God is directly related to the glorified Son of Man as well, and it further establishes the above point about the epistles. This mystery was not revealed by the Father through the Comforter until after Christ sat down at God’s right hand. This mystery is the revelation and teaching of this glorified Man and a mystical Body joined to Him, the Body of Christ, exalted and sharing in His glory and inheritance. Part of the mystery now revealed is Christ in the believer, the sure and steadfast hope of the glory. [The mystery of God was previously discussed in detail in the heavenly calling chapter.]
The recognition of this mystery and the timing of its revelation have great importance for rightly dividing the Word of truth. The mystery is hidden in God and not revealed to the prophets of old. It is not contained or found in the Old Testament. Hidden does not mean it can be found with a little hard work. Hidden means absolutely impossible to be found, for it was hidden in God’s counsels by God Himself. Further, if the mystery was hidden, then teaching and instruction for the mystery does not exist in the Old Testament as well. As far as help for the believer in understanding scripture, this truth in the counsel of God is of paramount importance to grasp. The church, the Body of Christ, the mystery revealed, is further isolated by the Spirit to Paul’s writings. He was given responsibility by God to reveal God’s mystery (a dispensation given to him – Eph. 3:2-3).
The Gospels form a Period of Transition between the Two Titles
The gospels, although filled with wonderful instruction for the believer, must be rightly divided. They are to be seen as a transition. They include the Messiah presented to Israel (Luke 4:16-21), the kingdom of God present with Emanuel (Luke 8:1, 9:2, 11, 10:9-11, 11:20, 16:16), Messiah being rejected, the kingdom of heaven at hand (Matt. 10:7, 11:11-12, 13:11, 24), the Son of Man glorifying the Father (John 17:4), and then the Father glorifying the Son of Man (John 12:23).
In the gospels, Jesus speaks to Israel as a people under the law (Matt. 22:35-46, Mark 12:19-34) or blinded by unbelief (John 12:37-40, 10:26, Matt. 13:10-17). They cannot hear with their ears nor see with their eyes, as the prophet Isaiah judged of them eight hundred years previously. When He instructs His disciples or comforts them, it is always in the context of those He has personally chosen (John 10:27-29, 13:18, 15:16, 19, 17:6-16). When Jesus speaks prophetically, the character and themes of Old Testament prophecy are maintained. His topics include Israel and the Gentile nations in the end. He speaks of God’s judgments establishing His government of the earth in the power and kingdom of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:30, 16:28). In His prophecies He refers to the Jewish remnant in the end times preserved by the faithfulness of God to fulfill His promises (Matt. 24:22, 24, 31, 18:7, Is. 45:4, 65:9, 22). The mystery is maintained as hidden in the gospels, except in one short comment when He declares that He would build His church (Matt. 16:18, note; future tense).
The Transition from Responsibility in Man to God’s Sovereign Grace
The gospels should also be seen as the transition between man’s final testing in responsibility and God bringing in sovereign grace (John 1:17). The presentation of Messiah is the final test of mankind. After Israel’s failure in rejecting Messiah, God condemns the world (John 12:31). Everything after that is God working in sovereign grace through the redemptive work of the Son of Man. God chooses men from out of the world and brings them to faith in Christ (John 15:9, 17:6, 17:2, 6:44, 6:37-39). This He does by the Holy Spirit sent down to gather Christ’s Body.
This transition between God testing mankind and God bringing in sovereign grace is uniquely depicted in back to back parables found in Matthew. The first speaks of mankind being tested through Israel (Matt. 21:33-40). What is proven is man’s total failure in responsibility (Matt. 21:41-44). The second parable is God’s offer in grace (Matt. 22:2-14). A unique feature about this parable is that it depicts certain aspects of the kingdom of heaven, while the other parable about responsibility does not. The reason is that all the testing of man in Adam was completed before the kingdom of heaven is set up. Also we see certain events in this parable, such as Israel’s rejection of the invitation of grace, God’s judgment and destruction of Jerusalem, and God’s removal of tares in professing Christianity from any part in the marriage feast.
An Example of the Misapplication of Scripture, and Its Consequences
The following is an example of the need and value of rightly dividing the word of truth in the Christian world.
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Now for centuries this one verse, out of all of Scripture amazingly, has been used by the Church world to justify its man-made doctrines of apostolic authority and succession, and further, the infallibility of popes. But believers should resoundingly reject such teachings as the vain creations of the carnal mind. Yet these teachings have held their influence for hundreds of years, and still hold sway over many today.
The rock is the confession of Christ as the Son of God. Peter is the little stone of insignificance in view of Christ saying, ‘I will build my church.’ He builds by His sovereign power and grace, not by man or human authority. Nothing can stop the sovereign working of God or Christ, and that is the thought here concerning the gates of Hades. Yet it remains the largest of the ecclesiastical systems of man has been built-up and maintained in the Christian world on the basis of wrongly dividing a single verse of Scripture. This may be a slight oversimplification of the beliefs of Roman Catholicism, and if it is, please forgive me. It remains that the misunderstanding of this verse by man is central to catholic teaching and doctrine, as well as all they build up on the earth.
The Two Titles and the Two Groups (continued)
The message (gospels) associated with both titles, Messiah and the Son of Man, are different from each other. The mission and work associated with both are unique. The groups of people related to both the titles of Christ are quite distinct also.
- One is the earthly calling of Israel. They are a remnant only in the end, with their Messiah come out of Zion to destroy their enemies. He will reign on the throne of David from earthly Jerusalem over twelve tribes of a united Israel in their land.
- The other is the heavenly calling of the believer/body of Christ in the title and work of the Son of Man. He is the one Seed of Abraham (not the many seeds of Gal. 3:16), of whom Isaac served as a shadow. The spiritual seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9, 26, 29) are the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26, 4:5-7). The Son of Man is the seed of the woman, the second Adam, who is now glorified into the heavens. This group is seated with Him in heavenly places, as the Body united to Christ and as believers found in Christ, the glorified Son of Man. He is the Head of His own mystical Body in the heavens (Eph. 1:17-23, 2:5-7).
The Composition of the Unbelieving World – Jews and Gentiles
The world as apart from God is constantly spoken of in scripture. The composition of its groups is Jews (John 8:23) and Gentiles. God separated Israel in the world. A wall of separation was built up around the Jews by God in giving them their law (Judaism, Eph. 2:14-15). It is all in the flesh, of the world, and on the earth. Their separation was an external redemption in type, God bringing them through the Red Sea and into the wilderness to meet Jehovah at Mt. Sinai. Egypt serves as a type of the world from which they were delivered. Pharaoh is a type of Satan, the ruler of this world. Israel is a people in the flesh, of the world, and in the first Adam, as are all unbelievers. The entire world is guilty before God and under judgment (Rom. 3:19) – all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
A distinction important in dividing truth is that believers are apart from the world (John 17:14, 16). We are not part of the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. Believers are saved individually, but then become members of a Body, a corporate entity called the Body of Christ. This Body is truly what Christ builds in sovereign grace and power, and is not of this world. What is of the world is what man builds on the earth that he calls the church. This is a structure erected through the use of wood, hay, and straw. On the earth man builds a great house for God that is filled with many things, good and bad, vessels of honor and dishonor (II Tim. 2:20). Yet what Christ builds is the Body and is not connected to the earth. This Body is seated in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 2:6) and has a heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20). The believer has been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3).
The Distinct Groups of Professing Christianity – the Parable of the Wheat and Tares
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
This parable depicts the kingdom of heaven. It is prophetic in its character, as are the other parables that follow it in this chapter. This parable shows another distinct group that is separated in Scripture. The field is the world – unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. But there is a distinct crop in the field, separate from the field itself. The crop’s composition is wheat and tares mixed together. The wheat is sown by the Son of Man, the tares by the evil one. These are distinct from each other in their nature, but in the present age they are mixed together without separation. They are only distinct from each other to the eye of the Son of Man, who knows those that are His (II Tim. 2:19), and to the eye of Satan, who knows his as well, as those planted by him.
The wheat is the Body of Christ on the earth presently. They are in the world (field), but not a part of the world (not part of the field). The wheat represents individual members making up this corporate entity, the Body of Christ. The tares form a special group, no longer part of the field in a certain sense, but part of the crop, and spoiling the crop. The crop is the Christian world, Christendom. The tares are professing Christians, as are the wheat. The wheat has true faith. They are the righteousness of God by faith, and have been sealed by the Spirit of God. The wheat is the work and planting of the Son of Man, and in every sense He takes responsibility for them. Men cannot see the Body of Christ in the crop, not clearly, and so judgment and separation is not given to the hands of man (in the history of Christendom, from time to time, we have seen man take judgment into his own hands, only to end in unrighteous and evil results). Jesus says, ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest…’
The Parable is a Picture of the Present State of the Kingdom of Heaven
This parable affords the believer certain important understandings of the counsels of God. The crop is spoiled and remains so for the entire age, worsening and ripening in evil. Does the Lord tell us that the wheat will rid itself of the evil around it? Are there any symbols used by the Lord in the parable by which the wheat, on their own, exercises the power of the gospel to change the tares or the unbelieving field into wheat? Will the crop in the field get better and more pure towards the end through the hard work of the wheat? Will the wheat in any sense, rise up and prepare the field as presenting a kingdom to the Son of Man when He returns, as we are taught in some circles?
The answers to these questions are simple for any believer who actually reads the parable. The wheat has no power or authority to rid itself of the evil around. All the wheat can do is turn away from the evil individually, and not be part of it (II Tim. 2:19-21, 3:5). The actual separation of the wheat from the tares is towards the end during a time of harvest, when the wheat is removed from the world (field). The tares are bundled together in the world (field) and left there for judgment.
As for the gospel, it will not change the field or the tares. The Son of Man planted the wheat, and did so by sovereign work. To believe and preach otherwise is the presumptuous teaching of ministers and men. The saving and changing of the world is not the promised result of the preaching of the gospel. This isn’t true in the counsels of God, the Word of God, or in this parable. The Biblical principle associated with the results of the preaching of the gospel in this age of grace is individual. That principle is equally true when considering the Body of Christ or the kingdom of heaven. The principle of the results of the gospel preached is not national or global. The world does not change by the preaching of the gospel. America does not change by the preaching of the gospel. Truthfully, I have never heard of any nation ever being saved, in the history of Christendom, by the preaching of the gospel.
The crop in the field, a spoiling mixture of wheat and tares, is a picture of the progression of the kingdom of heaven today. We have to be willing to accept this truth, or immediately we step into blindness and presumption. It is man exalting himself, in what he does and what he builds, that keeps him from seeing God’s truth – this is the leaven that saturates to the end (Matt. 13:33). Christendom is built up by man as a great corrupt power in the world (Matt. 13:31-32). It is not coincidence that these two parables immediately follow the wheat and tares parable. The gospel and its effects (results) during the time of the crop in the field are stated by the Lord in John and Mark.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
These are the results of the preaching of the gospel, some will believe, and some will not (II Cor. 4:1-4). This is what the Scriptures promise, nothing more, nothing less. Man is given responsibility to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Man is not responsible for the results – God is responsible. When God works it will last for eternity. Christ will build His church. The Holy Spirit is sent down to gather the Body. By one Spirit we are baptized into one Body, the Body of Christ. This is the sovereign work of God, that which is made without hands (Col. 2:11, Mark 14:58). When we reason that God has placed in our hands the eternal destiny of another human being, and we made responsible for it, then we are thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Rom. 12:3).
In their past histories, England, Germany, and Italy have declared acceptable state religions politically mandated to their governed populaces. Here the floodgates were opened for entrance into the crop with barely any sincerity of profession required. And further back in the history of Christendom, the earthly wisdom of responsible men was the assimilating of heathen festivals into the church. They decided it better that the heathen have their drunkenness and revelry in the church rather than outside. Well, it certainly made for church growth, but I’ll end my sarcasm there. Revelation 2, 3 is the telling of the progressive prophetic history of the crop (Christendom) in the field of the world. The spiritual fornication of the churches is the crop’s unholy relationship and union with the world, where Satan has his throne, and is the god thereof.
The Failure of Man in Responsibility in Christendom
While men are sleeping, tares are sown among the wheat, and a spoiled crop is the result. The wheat is the body of Christ. What is true about all the wheat, and this individually, is the seal of the Spirit of adoption of sonship. The seal is the guarantee of authenticity. This is the seal of God, as given only by God, and not by man (Eph. 1:13-14, Gal. 4:5-7, Rom. 8:15-17). All true believers have this seal of authenticity, by which, from their hearts they can sincerely cry, “Abba, Father!”
In contrast, the entire crop in the field, wheat and tares together, has a different seal of approval upon entrance into it. This seal is the work of men and under the responsibility of men. It is water baptism. We see it in the above verse, as well as immediately on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) and at the conversion of Paul (Acts 9:18). It is man’s seal of approval of all that enters the crop in the field. It is a human work in the hands of men and therefore the responsibility of men before God. Failure in responsibility can easily be seen by the several contrasting doctrines of baptism conceived by men. It is not that water baptism isn’t of God and doesn’t have a proper godly place. It is just that it was only meant for the wheat, an outward show of our death with Christ and separation from the world. But through the centuries it was used for the opposite result, to mix the world with the church, for tares to enter in, and to further grow a spoiled crop.
What actually will change the World?
Will the preaching of the gospel change America, or change the world? That just isn’t God’s counsel. Will its preaching change some? That happens to be God’s counsel and part of His plan. The preaching of the good news is the main means the Father uses to draw those He quickens to faith in Christ (John 6:37, 44). But allow me to remind you that there was no one preaching the gospel of Christ out on the road to Damascus when Saul came by. God does as He pleases, according to His eternal purpose and will (John 5:21).
If the gospel doesn’t change America or the world, what will? The answer to this eventually becomes clear. Change only comes by the direct judgments of God. This is a truth in principle in the counsels of God, the Word of God, and in the above parable in Matthew. The tares are bundled together, left in the field, to be burned later. In the book of Revelation we have seals opened, trumpets blown, and vials poured out. All are judgments from the throne of God upon the world. Then we have the Son of Man returning on the white horse with a two-edged sword of judgment out of His mouth (II Thess. 2:8, Rev. 19:21). This will be the destroying of the two beasts and all those with them (Rev. 19:11-21), and the binding of Satan for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).
This is what changes the world. When Satan is removed from the heavens, doesn’t this limit his influence and power? (Rev. 12) If Satan is bound for a thousand years, wouldn’t this have an effect on the world? (Rev. 20) If the two beasts and all their armies are cast into the lake of fire, doesn’t this change things? (Rev. 19) Will it not result in the glory of the Son of Man spreading throughout all the earth, and His name being exalted among the Gentiles? When the remaining Gentile nations are addressed at that point, it is the separating of the sheep from the goats by the judgment of the Son of Man (Matt. 25:31-33). As for God’s thoughts on this particular matter, it is clearly shown in the following passage:
“With my soul I have desired You in the night,
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
For when Your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
Let grace be shown to the wicked,
Yet he will not learn righteousness;
In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
And will not behold the majesty of the Lord.”
Here then is the Biblical understanding on this topic. By the gospel of grace, the heathen will never learn righteousness. The world will not be changed by grace, and America will not be won by the gospel. This is how people are so deceiving themselves – Christians as well. We believe we will change and improve the world. All the while we know that Christ was in the world and did not improve it. Christians will do what Christ could not! This is the foolishness of even true believers. Christ was rejected by the world. He then condemned it (John 12:31). Yet we reason that the church has a mission to set the world right! But this is the time of the gathering of the church – those who are to be Christ’s companions. Certainly light coming in does improve the world in a certain sense. Men do not do in the light what they would in the dark. But this is the benefit, and it is superficial at best. In all the centuries that the gospel has been present, the world has remained the same, not better. Christ didn’t change it. We flatter ourselves thinking we will.
America is the World
America is a good example of what the Scriptures refer to as the world. We have in this country wealth, prosperity, luxury, materialism, and greed. We also have lying, cheating, adultery, harlotry, and fornication. We have a lot of pride, arrogance, and self. Finally, apostasy from God is a part of life in America, so much so, that it seems to be legislated upon us by the civil powers. I will say this, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, and in a certain sense, I am proud to be an American. Yet I do have my eyes open. America started well in its beginnings, just like the church had a good start at Pentecost. But America isn’t the same now, and neither is Christendom. The evil only grows and ripens and gets worse; it never improves, regardless of the object it is in. This is a principle one can easily see in Scripture.
“He spoke another parable to them: The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until it had been all leavened.”
Leaven is always symbolic of evil and false doctrine (I Cor. 5:6, Gal. 5:9, Matt. 16:12). And it grows and spreads and worsens. Paul said that evil was at work in the church already in his day (II Thess. 2:7), and that in the last days perilous times will come (II Tim. 3:1-6, 13). Paul also said this by the Spirit to the Ephesian elders;
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
The Mystery of Sin Started in the Church in Apostolic Days
There was evil lurking in the church then, and it has only taken root and grown since. Ephesus, as representing Christendom, had departed its first position and had fallen (Rev. 2:4-5). They would not return. The steady decay and decline had started. According to the counsel of Christ, as the Son of Man judging the candlesticks, the evil would progress and ripen unto the end. The results would be Thyatira and its prophetess judged, and Laodicea spewed out of His mouth. The problem is that men refuse to recognize and admit the evil’s presence and man’s failure in responsibility in keeping it out. To deny these things and to teach the opposite is at best credulity, and at worse, a form of dangerous presumption. It seems to me to also be a willful disregard for the obvious teaching of Scripture, which along with the Holy Spirit are the only things we have, as believers, that reveals the mind of God on these matters.
Is it Possible for Christendom to Return to Apostolic Power?
Let’s consider some other related questions in view of the parable of the wheat and tares. Will the church world be restored to apostolic power? Is this even possible? Is this thought in the counsels of God, supported by the Word of God, and found in the parable? I would answer these questions by considerations on a number of fronts.
· First, no thought of this is found in the parable at all. No apostolic authority bringing purity to the crop and no apostolic power at the end to further establish the wheat (Acts 5:12, II Cor. 12:12).
· Second, and this simply put, you need apostles present to have apostolic power and authority. This we do not have. And this cannot be imitated; the position, nor the power and authority. Apostles are eye-witnesses of Christ in their testimony.
· Third, Ephesus never repented and never returned to her first position; she never remembered from where she had fallen (Rev. 2:4-5).
The first position of the church (Ephesus) was Pentecost and the sovereign working of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. Apostolic power and authority were present. Ephesus, representing the first century church world with the last apostle banished to Patmos, embarks on a path of steady decay and decline. Its candlestick, threatened by the Son of Man with removal if they do not repent (Rev. 2:5), would be removed in the end with the spewing out of Laodicea (Rev. 3:16). This is how the prophetic progression of Christianity on the earth is brought to an end.
So then, the wheat and tares is a parable that actually contains four separate and distinct groups existing during this present age of grace and of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Wheat and tares mixed together profess Christ while unbelieving Jews and Gentiles together do not. Jews and Gentiles are mixed in the world because the Jews are not recognized as a people by God. When God destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD, this effectively ended the practice of Judaism. God scattered the remaining Jews into the Gentile nations, to live there as the Gentiles in unbelief. Again, it is an important understanding for rightly dividing the Word of truth and knowing the ways of God in this present age.
In the end there are other groups separate and distinct. An Israeli remnant of 144,000 is separated from Israel itself (Rev. 7:1-8). Also we see tribulation saints separated out of the unbelieving Gentile nations (Rev. 7:9-17), tribulation martyrs under the altar (Rev. 6:9-11), Old Testament saints, and those born during the millennium, etc.
The Judaizing of the Christian Faith is a mixing of Israel with the Body of Christ
These distinctions are clearly made throughout the Word of God, and we must see and understand them by the Spirit in order to keep them separate and maintained in our faith and teachings. As an apostle Paul fought a spiritual fight protecting Christian truth and doctrine. This fight that he waged by the Spirit of God and the Word of God was not against an outright heathen influence. The evil was a Judaizing dominance that was constantly deceiving and corrupting the foundational truths of the Christian faith.
As an example of distinctions made by the Spirit and Paul’s spiritual fight to maintain these truths, we have the entire book of Galatians. In the first two chapters the Holy Spirit fully distinguishes the apostleship of Paul from the other twelve in Jerusalem, particularly from the apostleship of Peter. In the very first verse he says his apostleship is not from men, nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father. This brings out two important points:
- First, there is never the thought by God of approving apostolic authority by succession in and among men (that is, apostles being called and made by men, and authority being handed down in the church through men, as we discussed earlier in the chapter).
- Second, the apostleship of Paul was distinct from the twelve, as well as separate from their authority and influence. This separation is clearly delineated in scope of ministry in Gal. 2:5-9; Paul to the uncircumcised, Peter and the twelve to the circumcised.
This last distinction certainly proved important in the history of the early church. The results proved this separation and distinction was made by the wisdom of God. In the historical record of the Book of Acts, it is Paul empowered by the Spirit and grace of God taking the gospel to the known world. God’s dealings with Paul, starting in Acts 9, are the pivotal point of the historical account, marking a definite division for the whole book. God at that time, by sovereign power and grace, uses Paul for the bringing out the revelation of His mystery, and the bringing in of the Gentiles.
In the Fullness of Time God sent His Son
Another important perspective, that is insightful and leads to greater understanding, is found in two New Testament passages;
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
What is this ‘fullness of the time’ that the Spirit speaks of in Galatians? What is this ‘once at the end of the ages’ in Hebrews? The verses are obviously referring to when Christ came, redeeming us (in Galatians) and appearing to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (in Hebrews). This work was done by the Son of God, as the Son of Man, doing the will of the Father and going to the cross. This was after Messiah was rejected and set aside. There is the subtle hint that God is turning from one thing to another. Something comes to an end that precipitates the sending forth of the Son. Obviously, what He turns to is the redemptive work. But still, how was this the fullness of time, or the end of the ages, if it was two thousand years ago? What exactly had been filled up as far as time? What had caused the ending of the ages?
The Testing by God of Man in Responsibility
This is what we must see, and bear with me in this explanation. If we go back to paradise, we see man tested by God with one commandment to obey. ‘…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.’ This was a testing of responsibility in man. Man distrusts God and believes the serpent, throwing the human race under sin and death. All men are sinners, and sin is in the flesh of man, as all men are in Adam, as their head.
God does many things after this with Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. But Israel, delivered out of Egypt, is a corporate people (a nation) externally redeemed, separated by God in the world from the Gentiles. The giving of the law to Israel was God fully testing man in the first Adam, man in the flesh, to see if man might produce fruit to God (especially righteousness, for the law given raises the question of righteousness in man).
Israel, in a great sense, represented the whole human race in this testing. How was this? The law was never given to the Gentiles, but to Israel. When you realistically compare Israel to all other nations at that time, they simply had every advantage possible that God could give man in order to produce fruit unto God (fruit being the measure of responsibility). Jehovah had drawn as close as a holy God possibly could to fallen man. Therefore Israel was the test case. If they failed there was no hope for man in Adam.
There is no doubt that God knew what the outcome would be of this testing. He knew the results before the foundation of the world. This is similar to His presenting Messiah to Israel, whose rejection God foreknew as well. Still, both had to be done, in the sense of fulfilling all righteousness and promise. But man in the flesh cannot please God, nor can the mind of the flesh be subject to the law of God (Rom. 8:7-8). Israel failed, being in the flesh. God never found any fruit on the tree. God’s conclusion was that all, Jew and Gentile alike, were by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3, Rom. 3:19-20, 23). The testing of man was finished. The test case had resoundingly failed.
Israel’s double culpability was when the scriptures say of God, “Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘they will respect my son.’ “But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him…’ This was the fullness of time and the end of the ages (Matt. 21:33-43). God was completely finished and had fully tested man, giving Israel every advantage. It was conclusively proven impossible for man in Adam to produce fruit unto God. The rejection of Messiah by Israel was the last straw. From this point forward, Israel is set aside as the earthly calling, prophecy grinds to a halt (even the Roman beast, the last great Gentile power on the earth, disappears when prophecy is set aside by God) and the earth will have to wait.
The Consequences of Israel’s Failure in Responsibility
Israel fully and morally set aside by God came about in His providence (God’s hidden hand), in a very physical and dramatic way. The Romans destroyed everything under Titus in 70 AD. As Jesus predicted, not one stone left upon another (Matt. 24:2). And what became of the Jewish people? They were scattered into all the existing nations of the world. All this was the result of the test case failing and Messiah being rejected by Israel. But there is more we can see here in the ways of God in accomplishing His counsels.
“What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”
With the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the scattering of the people, we have the effective and practical setting aside of the Law of Moses, the religion of the Jews. There would be no sacrifices, no priesthood, and no temple. By judgment, God sets aside the practice of Judaism. Was this not His counsel? The law was added until the Seed should come. And it had to be so for what God would do next.
As Biblical Principles, The Law and Grace are Opposite
God now acts towards man by an entirely different principle (Rom. 11:6, 6:14). It is an opposite principle to that of law. God works in sovereign grace by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. This is where the righteousness of God would be manifested, in the gospel of Jesus Christ. “…He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” God calls, yet not another earthly people, but a heavenly people by a heavenly calling. God’s counsels concerning this new calling were before the foundation of the world, yet they remained hidden and contained in His very own well-kept mystery. The mystery of God is now revealed by the Holy Spirit sent down, after the glorifying of the Son of Man.
Responsibility in man as a biblical principle is of great importance. In the history of man as told by Scripture, when this principle is looked at or tested, it always comes to a constant and sure result — failure. Man failed in the garden, eating the forbidden fruit. Man failed at the base of Sinai, making the golden idol. Also the kings beginning with Saul had immediate failure. Through Samuel, God warns Israel of the consequences of their fleshly desire, but to no avail (I Sam. 8:6-9:2). Israel wanted to be like the other Gentile nations, while God wanted Israel separate and distinct. The prophets fail beginning with the rejection of Samuel as prophet and judge (I Sam. 8:7-8). The priesthood failed, first in the sons of Aaron, and finally in the sons of Eli. The prophets fail in Baal and Ashtoreth, and the Gentiles in Nebuchadnezzar, the first civil world government head. The pattern remained the same – responsibility always ending in failure, at least with man in the flesh and in Adam.
If we look at responsibility of man before God as a category, there are a number of similar ideas that would fall under such a heading. There is disobedience in the garden, lawlessness without the law, transgressors of the law when man has the law, and unrighteous abuse of power by Hebrew kings or Gentile heads and rulers. Also we must include all man’s works as in Adam and the flesh. This is all his righteousness as filthy rags before God (Is. 64:6). All men will be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:12-13, Rom.3:5-6). Man’s works are his sins. The judging of man by his works carries the absolute certainty of condemnation, because they are his sins and must be judged accordingly by a holy God.
One more separate listing in this category of responsibility is that man’s original failure resulted in a far-reaching defilement of creation and this earth (all of which the first Adam was responsible to govern and rule over, only ending up defiling it). We see in the religion of the Jews, the many washings and cleansings, external attempts in types and shadows to deal with this defilement.
When the subject of responsibility is taken up in Scripture the analogy is of God planting a vineyard and expecting good fruit (Isaiah 5:1-7, Matt. 21:33-34). As I have said previously, when God tested man in responsibility, He came to Israel looking for fruit on the fig tree. When He found no fruit He cursed it, putting an end to the testing. In some of the parables about the kingdom of heaven and this present age, failure in responsibility is spoken of as men sleeping (Matt. 13:25), virgins sleeping (Matt. 25:5), or wicked and lazy servants (Matt. 25:26). This later are those who beat their fellow servants and eat and drink with the drunkards (Matt. 24:49).
The Principle of Responsibility, the Spoiled Crop in the Field, and Candlesticks
In the parable of the wheat and tares we saw that while men slept, Satan came in and sowed tares. As we said, this is failure and God holds men responsible for evil coming in while they sleep. But there is another aspect of responsibility that we can garner from the symbols here and the passing of the age. It involves the spoiled crop in the field. This crop represents all of professing Christendom. As professing the name of Jesus Christ and regardless of whether being a wheat or tare, all of it together corporately, as one crop, is responsible before God. And the responsibility associated with professing the name of Christ is to be a light shining to this world of darkness (Matt. 5:14-15, Phil. 2:15). We see this accountability of the crop symbolized by the seven golden candlesticks in Revelation 1, in the midst of which the Son of Man walks. When we read Rev. 1:13-16 the Son of Man has the distinct character of judgment. He is there to judge the responsibility of the crop, to judge the light from the candlesticks.
This He does in Revelation 2, 3. These two chapters show a prophetic picture of the spoiled crop progressing through all the times of the Body of Christ on the earth. Please remember, the crop, as a corporate entity, is wheat and tares together, and represents all of professing Christendom. The body of Christ however, is just the wheat. The first three chapters of Revelation, I would think, should be a fascinating study for all believers. It is a prophetic history taking place now. Unfortunately, the details are complicated and symbolic; regardless, the subject matter should be quite intriguing for the Christian.
While Christ was in the world, He was the light of the world (John 9:5). But He told His disciples it was imperative for Him to go out of the world (John 16:5, 7). The short version is that He represents us at the right hand of God, and so, while we are on the earth, professing Christianity represents Christ to this world. Therefore, we are to be the light of God to this world. In the parable of the virgins, all ten had candlesticks, regardless of whether they were wise or foolish (Matt. 25:1-4).The entire crop of wheat and tares is responsible for the light of the golden candlestick. Now, if tares give no light for they have no oil, then the amount of light from the mixed crop is diminished. And as time goes on and the evil grows and worsens, as it always does, the light from the candlestick simply grows less and less. This is what we see in the prophetic progression of pictures of the crop in the field that the Son of Man judges in Revelations two and three — this is what is happening in Christendom today.
God judges our Responsibility on the Cross – the Son of Man bears Sins and is made Sin
The testing of man in Adam and the presenting of Messiah to Israel clearly show the absolute failure of fallen man. The outcome of this failure in the counsels of God is that man in Adam is judged as lost. When God condemned the world, the Son of Man was lifted up on the cross (John 12:31-32). Represented in the cross are the height of man’s hatred and enmity against God, and the full extent of man’s failures in Adam. Man’s animosity toward God is shown here;
“He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’”
There certainly was hatred towards Jesus. They gnashed their teeth at Him and plotted His death. They said, ‘…let us kill him and seize his inheritance,’ as well as, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ The hatred of man towards Christ is simply equated to the Father. And the Lord said of them in John 8, “You do the deeds of your father…You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” Israel legitimately represents all men in their hatred of Christ, and therefore of God. This enmity against God is brought to the cross, man providing the sins and the nails, hanging the Son of Man to the tree.
Man’s failure in responsibility was brought to the cross as well. This failure not only was proven by God, but then had to be judged by God. The wages of sin is death, and the proof of this certainly was the cross on which the Son of Man died. Our responsibility, our righteousness as filthy rags in His sight, our works to be judged, our sins to be borne, and sin in the flesh, was all brought to the cross as the contributions of man in Adam.
The Cross is the Full Revelation of God’s Love toward Us
If man brought these things, then the cross is also the revelation of what God brought as well. God so loved the world that He gave His Son. This was the pouring out of God’s love for us, as we see here in Romans:
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The fullness of God’s own love for us was shown when we were without strength (in the flesh), and when we were still sinners (in Adam). The depths of God’s love fully met the hatred of man for Him on the cross. This was never revealed in the Law, not the love of God as demonstrated in Christ. The adulterous women brought before Jesus was spared, when the law would have rightly and justly condemned her to stoning. The love of God in Christ goes far beyond any revelation in the law. To the point, the law isn’t at all the revelation of God’s love for man. It is always the measure of what man should be before God. The law revealed what man’s love for God must be, what man’s love for his neighbor should be, and then demanded obedience (Matt. 22:36-40). And all there was for ‘those of the works of the law’ was a curse (judgment, condemnation, Gal. 3:10). This is not the revelation of God’s love. All there is for man with the law (Jews), and man without the law (Gentiles), is a falling short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:19, 23). How is this the love of God, if, with the law man is still found to be without strength and a sinner? It is the cross, and only the cross, that is the epitome of the expression of God’s love for us, and that as meeting the heights of man’s hatred and rebellion against Him.
More Redemptive Truths Displayed in the Cross
There are more revelations and redemptive truths to be found in the cross of Christ, the Son of Man. The work of redemption was perfect and complete and fully satisfying to God, His Father. This is what is revealed in Romans;
“…whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Propitiation carries the idea of fully satisfying a debt by payment. What is propitiated is God. His holy and righteous character is vindicated and fully satisfied by the shedding of Christ’s blood. By the cross, God has fully dealt with our sin and sins, and done so in such a way that He remains just – that is, He always remains true to Himself, in all His character and attributes. The Son of Man glorified God by means of the cross and His shed blood. This is the righteousness of God – God is fully and completely satisfied. His holiness and righteousness as to sin in man, and judgment of it, is maintained by how He rightly deals with it and puts it away, by the death of the Son of Man.
It is truly a wonderful meditation to think of the convergence of all these redemptive truths in the cross of Christ. In the title of the Son of Man, Jesus had certain objectives to accomplish.
- There was the propitiating of sins (Heb. 2:17) in which He satisfied and glorified God. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him (Is. 53:3).
- There was the overcoming of the power of Satan (Heb. 2:14) by His willingness to go down under the power of death without any sins of His own.
- There is the entering into all our infirmities, temptations, and weaknesses (Heb. 2:18, 4:15-16).
This should fill the saint with joy and confidence in Christ, and lead to rejoicing in the full knowledge of our steadfast hope of glory with Him (Heb. 2:10). These understandings are the result of the Son of God, as the Son of Man, coming into the world. God had prepared a body for Him; in the volume of the book it is written of Him, He came to do Your will, O God (Heb. 10:5-10). The more we look at the cross, the more we realize that God could not be glorified any other way.
The Gospel of the Son of Man – the One True Gospel that Paul Preached
Switching gears somewhat, let us consider other distinctions and differences found in God’s Word that help to divide the truth. The one true gospel is made a major point of emphasis by the Spirit in Galatians. After the introduction of the letter (Gal. 1:1-5) we see right away Paul marveling and questioning the corruption of the true gospel among them (Gal. 1:6-10). But look how the Spirit of God impresses upon the reader the distinctions of this gospel.
- In verse 6 it is a turning to a different gospel.
- In verse 7 it actually isn’t a different gospel, but a perversion of the one true gospel.
- In verse 8 the true gospel is the one Paul preached to the Galatians originally. If he comes again to them with any changes or additions or something different, or even an angelic being from the presence of God Himself preaching something different, they are pronounced accursed.
- In verse 9, the charge of being accursed for preaching a different gospel is repeated, a means of communicating emphasis (similar to Jesus saying, “Verily, verily…”).
- In verses 11, 12 the gospel Paul preached absolutely did not come from men, not from the twelve in any way, but was a direct revelation given to him by Jesus Christ (Acts 9:3-9, II Cor. 12:1-7). He did not immediately confer with flesh and blood (v. 16), nor did he come under the influence of those who were apostles before him (v.17).
These are all clear distinctions being made by the Spirit concerning the true gospel. More is seen further on in Galatians;
“But to Abraham were the promises addressed, and to his seed: he does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed; which is Christ.”
There are profound differences between the promises God made to Abraham’s many seeds, his physical descendants, and the covenant of promise confirmed in his one Seed, who is Christ. In Christ are the spiritual seeds of Abraham, by faith his spiritual children (Gal. 3:7) and also called the sons of God (Gal. 3:26, 4:5-7). Christ, in resurrection glory, is the firstborn (from the dead) among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).
Sarah and Hagar – Children of Promise and Children of Bondage
In chapter four of Galatians there is another clear distinction made by the Spirit of God between these two groups — the physical seeds and the spiritual seeds. And the importance of the differences is brought home in Gal. 4:21-31, were two types are used in comparison with each other:
Abraham: Galatians 4:21-31
|Hagar, the bondwoman (v.22)||Sarah, the freewoman (v.22)|
|Ishmael, the slave son (v.22) – the type||Isaac, the free son (v.22) – the type|
|According to the flesh (v.23)||According to promise (v.23)|
|From Mt. Sinai – covenant of Moses, the law (v.24) – Judaism, leads to bondage||Covenant of promise in one Seed, which is Christ (v.24) – Christianity, leads to liberty, specifically from Judaism – Gal. 5:1|
|Earthly Jerusalem (in Paul’s day, v.25)||Jerusalem above (heavenly) (v.26)|
|Children of slavery (the Jews) (v.25), the fulfillment of the type||Children of Promise (N.T. believers) (v.28), the fulfillment of the type|
|Born according to the flesh (the Jews, the nation of Israel) (v.29)||Born according to the Spirit (believer/ Body of Christ, v.29)|
|The children in bondage persecute the children of the Spirit (v.29)||Cast out the bondwoman and her son, they will not be heirs of God as His sons (v.30)|
The differences between the two columns above are obvious and striking. It is the Spirit of God using the types in comparison and teaching the lesson. The children of promise are clearly distinguished from the children of bondage. The believer’s understanding of these differences and maintaining them in our faith and doctrine is paramount to our Christian liberty (Gal. 5:1). This liberty is given up through the Judaizing of the believer’s walk in this world. These are important distinctions or why would the Spirit bother? Again, in Galatians:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
The yoke of bondage not to be entangled with is Judaism, the Law of Moses. As I said previously, not one vestige of Judaism should be mixed in with the believers’ faith and practice. This is basically the whole message of this epistle to the Galatians. To show this conclusively, and since we’ve been led in this direction, we can easily see this important truth in other Scriptures.
God’s reason for giving the Law
“What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made;”
Here we are looking for God’s thoughts, intentions and reasons that will define for us the true purpose of God giving the law – it was because of transgressions. By the giving of the law to Israel, their committing of sins would no longer be known as lawlessness, but now as transgressions of the law. It tells us in Rom. 5:20 that sin abounded by producing many transgressions as a result of the law being given. More than simply revealing sins, the law exposed the sin nature in man inherited from Adam (Rom. 5:12, 7:7-8). The law exposed the presence of sin in the flesh. From the beginning death came in – the wages of the sin nature (Rom. 6:23, 7:10-13). The condemnation of God was attached to sins (Rom. 5:16, 18). This is why the law was a ministration of death and condemnation (II Cor. 3:6-9).
Israel Thought the Law Would Produce Righteousness and Life
Many more N.T. scriptures could be brought in as further proofs. But how did man actually see the purpose of the giving of the law by God? How did man in the flesh reason in his mind the intentions of God? Rom. 10:1-5 and Phil. 3:9 answer this question. Israel saw God giving the law to them as a means of producing life and righteousness. God says death and condemnation, while man reasons life and righteousness. It shouldn’t be hard for anyone to see the disconnection. It is not merely a mistake, but an error in man’s reasoning of monumental proportions. This is man in the flesh, man in Adam, and he reasons and perverts the thoughts and purposes of God.
There is another thought worth entertaining concerning Gal. 3:19, which we discussed earlier. It says the law was added…until the Seed should come… Well, I think we all know that the Seed has already come. If something was added for a certain period of time until another event, the coming of the true Seed, and that period of time is obviously ended, then why is the addition allowed to continue? And further, when the Seed came He brought with Himself the implementation of the covenant of promise – that which was confirmed in Him previously. This raises a few questions. How can two covenants from God exist at the same time for the same people? If the covenant of law continues on, once the Seed has come with His covenant of promise and grace, how is it not considered an addition and a violation of the principles addressed in Gal. 3:15-17? We answer this question in a later chapter on covenants and dispensations – Israel, as a nation, never obtained the covenant of promise given to Abraham.
The Confidences of the Flesh
Man in the flesh and in Adam is all about having confidences in the flesh. For Paul these confidences were what his former life in the religion of the Jews represented. In Phil. 3:4-6 these confidences are detailed.
“…though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
This is his former life in Judaism before his life in Christ. It is quite impressive, that is, to man in the flesh and the carnal mind. But it isn’t impressive to God in the least, as verses 7-9 plainly point out. So when Paul finds himself in Christ by the sovereign work and grace of God (Acts 9:1-19), the Spirit has Paul discard and cast out all vestige of his former religion, as all things counted as loss and, get this, simply rubbish.
Judaism is for man in the Flesh, a man in Adam, and man of the Earth
Judaism is the religion given by God to man in Adam, man in the flesh. We’ve already discussed God’s reasons for giving it – a testing, if you will, of man in Adam, to see if he could be responsible in the flesh to bear fruit before God and to see if man in the flesh could have a relationship with God. This all was proven impossible. God came to the fig tree desiring fruit and found none, only leaves (the outward show of the flesh). And what was said? “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” God was finished with testing man in the flesh, he could not be responsible, and he could not bear fruit (Matt. 21:18-19, 33-44). And at that time Jesus says in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world…” Why now? Because God was finished with the world and He judged it.
Judaism is the religion of the earth, given to man in the flesh, and the religion of the earthly calling in God. Christianity isn’t any of these things. Here in Phil. 3:3 as describing the believer, “…we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit…” In John 4:20-24, Jesus connects Judaism with the earth in its worship in a permanent temple in Jerusalem and the patriarchs’ worship on a mountain in Samaria (that which preceded Judaism). This He contrasts with the new worship. He would be the source and life of worship of the Father in spirit and truth by true worshipers. This thought is connected with Christ in the title of Son of Man. A permanent temple in Jerusalem and the earthly worship and religion of the Jews is connected with Christ in the title of Messiah. And Jesus says in verse 23, the hour is coming, and now is (presently), for the new kind of worshipers that the Father is seeking.
I cannot overemphasize these two words that Jesus used in contrasting Christianity with Judaism – spirit and truth (John 4:23). Believers alone worship God in the Spirit, because God is Spirit, and only true worship of God is done in the Spirit. We are talking about true worship as revealed in Scripture and by the Lord’s very own words. Further, the believer is not in the flesh (as all unbelievers happen to be) but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). The Christian alone, being in the Spirit, can offer true worship of God, who is Spirit. Then there is the other word — truth. Only Christianity is true worship of God, according to who and what God is, and has revealed concerning Himself. So we can conclude that Judaism is not true worship of God as He desires (Heb. 10:5-9), and never could be described as worship of God in spirit and truth. What we should also be able to conclude – Judaism is set aside by God, if God was seeking something different.
The Judaizing of the Christian faith was a serious problem in the early church. Paul fought this corruption and evil influence at every turn. Its corruption took in many in the early church. The Galatians fell under this deception as we have seen, but this wasn’t the first of it. It is clearly present in Acts 15 when it says at Antioch that certain men came down from Judea, teaching… At that time the Lord works by the Spirit through Paul and Peter to save the church from splitting into separate Jewish and Gentile bodies. But the problem didn’t go away. And then later on, we see in Gal. 2:11-16 that Peter, Barnabas, and others of the Jews are swept up in this corruption and play the hypocrite, refusing to eat with the Gentile believers at Antioch. This leaven would not go away, but would take up roots and branch out, even early in the apostolic period.
The Leaven Continues to Spread
What had a corrupting presence working at the beginning of the age will only become a greater presence of evil towards the end of this period. Evil, as a Biblical principle, only ripens and worsens through the passage of time. The Judaizing of the Christian faith was one of the mysteries of lawlessness in the church world already at work in Paul’s time (II Thess. 2:7). It was secret, hidden, subtle and deceptive. The three measures of meal, in the end, become all leavened (Matt.13:33). In the latter days, it will be so, but worse. How will it be secretive and hidden? Well, it will not be as obvious as circumcision in the flesh. But rather the mixing of the heavenly and earthly calling, the blurring of any distinction between the two, in the teachings and doctrines of the Christian faith, done unwittingly and naively by its ministers.
Romanism is a well- established pattern of the Judaizing of the Christian faith that has been in the church world for 1500 years. I’m sure there have been and continue to be many different forms and offshoots of this influence in Protestantism. But I’m not referring here to the obviousness of Romanism, although that has been firmly established in professing Christianity for a long time. What I refer to is a less obvious and more subtle Judaizing that has already inundated Evangelical Christianity. How has this happened? How was Satan able to come in secretly and work corruption? Satan sows tares because man failed in his responsibility. Satan comes in because men slept;
“…but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.”
We have already discussed the details of this parable. The understanding of it and its proper interpretation, as we know, is of the upmost importance for all believers. I simply point out this portion again to the reader. We are looking at professing Christianity, we see how evil comes in, and that there is failure in responsibility. Judaizing of the Christian faith and truths is an evil corrupting in Christianity today. And please understand this point – it is not just the Judaizing of truth by adding to Christ, who should stand alone, in justification by faith for the believer. It is the Judaizing of the Christian walk. It is the compromising of the truth that Christ alone is all you’ll ever need as a believer, in your walk upon this earth. Peter and Barnabas were well- established Christians. It was their walk that they allowed to be Judaized.
It is the mixing, and as a result, the confusing of these two titles of Christ, that leads to so much misunderstanding of Scripture. Our failure to distinguish between the two, and failure to clearly understand how each is fulfilled in scripture, will continue to result in many misleading teachings. We see this lack of understanding in many of man’s devised systems of doctrine. When you engage in the spiritualizing of Scripture, by making the body of Christ into earthly Israel, and no longer distinguish between the two, you give yourself carte blanche in teaching doctrine. This is a Judaizing of the Christian faith.
The spiritualizing is done to maintain man’s systems of doctrine. It leads to the mixing of Israel with the church in scriptures, and then the mixing of the promises spoken to Israel with those of the church. There arises a blurring of the distinction between the heavenly calling of the church and the earthly calling of Israel. Worse, there is often a total lack of acknowledging the existence of the heavenly calling. And as so often we see, it drags the church back down to the earth. The church is then taught the teachings and instruction intended for Israel, and there is a broad mixing of the two distinct covenants. Confusion reigns or the simple minded are placated. It further leads to placing the body of Christ into the prophetic statements addressed to Israel, and connects it with this earth and world.
Why the Church is never the Proper Subject of Prophecy
You do not see teaching or prophetic statements concerning the church in the Old Testament, the main body of prophetic scripture. This is for two main reasons as previously discussed. The church is not of the earth and not of the world. Israel is of the earth and of the world. The church’s calling is heavenly; but prophecy concerns the events that happen on the earth, and of the world.
The second reason comes directly from the first. The church, it’s existence, it’s nature and character, it’s doctrine and calling, is all part of God’s mystery (Eph.3:2-11, Col.1:24-27). This was hidden from the prophets of old, now revealed through Paul’s revelation (II Cor.12:1-4, 7) and teachings. A dispensation of grace and truth given to Paul (Eph. 3:2, Col. 1:25), and he was given responsibility to unveil this mystery…the church, the body of the exalted Man, Christ Jesus, in glory (Eph. 1:22-23).
In the absence of having a better way of closing this chapter, I mention some study points of interest in Scripture that the believer may want to search out further than I’ve been able to do in this writing. Four examples are given, each showing how the carnality of the human mind in the flesh (in Adam), or the untrained spiritual mind, tends to see the opposite of what God actually intends and His truth teaches.
1.) Israel and the law (Rom. 9:30-10:5), is it for life or for death? The carnal mind says life. Israel, having the mind of the flesh, agrees it is for life and righteousness for their people. However the Scriptures say the opposite; that it is for death and condemnation (II Cor. 3:7, 9).
2.) Grace (its proper understanding through the Scriptures) and its actual deliverance of the believer from sin vs. the carnal mind mistaking the teaching of grace as a license to sin (Rom. 6)
3.) The choice of God in sovereignty – we see it as evil in God (Rom. 9:14) when really it is the choice of God in supreme special love (Eph. 1:3-6, Rom. 9:23-24, 8:29-32) because of the reality of sin and man being lost (John 8:34, Rom. 6:15-22, 8:7-8, 3:9-19, Eph. 2:1, 3, 5). [This topic we touched on in just a few paragraphs]
4.) Jesus Christ, His appearing and His kingdom through judgment in righteousness (Isaiah 5:16) vs. Kingdom now doctrines and philosophies and associated grandiose ideas about the success of preaching the gospel and its effects on changing the world. [This was somewhat explained in this chapter, but certainly a topic worth further study]
2 Timothy 1:9-10
“…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,”
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:17-18). God’s blessings to you.