Rightly Dividing The Word

Using A Principle That Only The Apostles Understood

by Mike Vinson

The Bible is without question the most well known book in the history of this world. It is the most revered book on earth. It has for decades consistently outsold every other book in the world. Bible sales top 100 million every year. It always heads the best seller list.

While it is no doubt the most quoted and most popular book in the world, it is at the same time paradoxically the least read and even less understood book of all time.

Why is a book so universally acknowledged as the Word of God, or at the very least the greatest piece of literature in existence, so completely misunderstood or ignored?

God gives us His answer to this paradox. Within this answer we are given a key to unlocking the scriptures. Notice this statement directly from the mind of God via the pen of the apostle Paul: …the natural man receives not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned… (1Co 2:14).

Notice: …the things of the Spirit of God…are spiritually discerned. They are “foolishness” to the natural mind. The natural mind may want to receive them but …neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.

So no amount of writing, explaining or educating can give one an ability to receive…the things of the Spirit of God…because they are spiritually discerned.

Education is not the gift of the Spirit of God. Take note what the educated leaders of the church said of Christ,…How knoweth this man letters having never learned? Christ was not illiterate, and the Pharisees acknowledged this fact. But they could not understand where his “knowledge of letters” came from “having never learned” within their educational system. Christ was not as the learned pharisee, the apostle Paul,brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. Yet at the age of twelve, he was asking questions of the teachers in the temple at Jerusalem. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. (Luk 2:46-47)

So how did He come by this knowledge? We are given the answer in a response from Christ to a statement made by Peter …You are the Christ the son of the living God. (Mat 16:16) Christ’s response wasBlessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 16:17)

Apparently no amount of education gives one “spiritual discernment”, only those to whom “the Father reveals it.” It is to just such people that this discussion is addressed; to those who know through “Christ in them” (Gal 2:20) that the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek is the revealed Word of God to man.

Now the apostle Paul made a statement to just such a man that has given rise to much discussion and disputation over the years. Timothy was a young man whom the apostle Paul thought so much of that he called him hisdearly beloved son (2Ti 1:2). As such, he admonished Timothy to study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)

Could there possibly be a connection between this “rightly dividing” and the “spiritually discerned” of 1Co 2:14? Surely the answer to this question and the godly understanding of both of these scriptures is demonstrated for us in the scriptures themselves; in the examples set for us by Christ and His apostles. Can anyone deny that the understanding Christ had of scriptures should be our understanding? Would the apostle Paul “rightly divide” scripture in one manner and expect us to “rightly divide” it some other way? Surely not!

So now let us without any “idols of our hearts” (Eze 14) examine how Christ, the writers of the gospels and the apostle Paul “rightly divided the word of truth.” Let us with an open mind search for the examples given us of discerning “the things of the Spirit of God.”

The best treatment ever given this subject, to the knowledge of this writer, is within the pages of a 150 year old out-of-print book by one Andrew Jukes. The name of the book is The Mystery of the Kingdom. Mr. Jukes takes note that Christ is called “the Word of God” (Joh 1:1). As such, whatever applied to Christ in the flesh, will also apply to the written Word. Contrary to the modern concept of Christ as having a halo around His head, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is Christ was so common looking that He could, and did, lose Himself in a crowd of Jews of His time (Luk 4:28-30). Seeing Christ in the flesh alone no one would ever have known He was the son of God. As we have related, this was only revealed to a few at that time, not by flesh and blood, but by “my Father which is in heaven” (Mat16:17). Christ was in every visible way as common as any human who ever lived.

But there was much more to this Jesus, the “son of Joseph” than met the eyes. Casually seeing Christ, one could never have discerned the boundless love within Him. One could never simply by meeting and shaking hands with Him have been aware of the complete and total oneness He was with the written Word. No one without a revelation from God would even have known that this man was the supernaturally conceived and begotten Son of God.

No, outwardly, he was the perfect disguise for the creator of the universe. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (Joh 1:10). “He came to His own, and His own received Him not” (Joh 1:10-11). Anyone who did not ‘need’ Christ certainly did not recognize who He was. Anyone who came to Christ measuring Him against their preconceived idea that the Christ had to be a physically powerful man with the ability to throw off Roman rule was surely disappointed.

To the righteous of the day, He was a great disappointment, picking corn on the Sabbath, healing on the Sabbath and then telling a man to pick up his bed and carry it on the Sabbath. To such, Christ was a door shut tight, keeping God out of sight.

Now if this is all true of Christ, the Word in the “flesh” (Joh 1:1), then the same must be true of the written Word. Is it true of the written Word? Is there really more to it than meets the eye? Could it be that just as the Word in the flesh was hidden right out in the open, so the written Word too, is right there for anyone to see, yet none but those “to whom it is given” (Mat 13:11) see it? Could it possibly be so complex for the average person that simply reading the Words, considering the context and believing what was written was not enough to grasp the deepest meaning of what had been said?

How is one to handle the Word of God?

Surely some principle for “rightly dividing the Word” is revealed by observing the way the Word of the Old Testament was understood by the writers of the New. They cannot tell us to “rightly divide the Word” by simply considering the context and the words written, while they themselves apparently ignore the context and assign a different meaning to words other than their original primary meaning. Do they really do that?

Do the writers of the New Testament quote the Old Testament out of context? Let us with an open prayerful mind check and see. Consider the context of the very first Old Testament scripture quoted in the New Testament. Mary the mother of Jesus is pregnant, and the marriage has not yet been consummated. The situation demands an explanation, so Mary tells Joseph the truth. What is the truth? According to scripture, “thy Word is truth” (Joh 17:17). Is the truth easy for Joseph (or anyone) to accept? No! Neither Joseph nor you nor I would have believed Mary. The context demands that we not believe her. Only the most gullible, blinded-by-love man would have bought such a fantastic story. Yet it was the truth. As with Peter (Mat 16:17), so with Joseph, so with you and so with me, a supernatural revelation is required to convince one of the truth. “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Mat 1:20-21)

We come now to the first Old Testament scripture quoted in the New Testament. “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us” (vs 23). Was this scripture really written about Christ as Matthew says it was? Is that the context in which we find it?

Let us check the context. Today’s method of scriptural interpretation teaches that the examination of the context is the primary rule for understanding the Word of God. This verse (Mat 1:23) is quoted from Isa 7:14. It certainly does not follow today’s commonly accepted rules for scriptural interpretation. The context shows that this statement is addressed to king Ahaz, the king of Judah.

To the natural undiscerning eye, there is nothing here to connect this to the birth of Christ. Ahaz was concerned about the conspiracy by the northern kingdom of Israel under king Pekah with Rezin the king of Syria against Ahaz. What possible sign would the birth of the Messiah some 480 years later be to Ahaz? The need (the context) was an immediate urgent concern.

Yet Matthew, without explanation or apology, applies this verse to the virgin birth of Christ. The second chapter of Matthew also contains prophecies which appear to be taken completely out of context. It tells of the wise men coming from the east to Jerusalem searching for “the king of the Jews” (Mat 2:2). Herod, after inquiring of the chief priests and scribes, tells the wise men that the prophets say the messiah is to be born in Bethlehem. “And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also” (Mat 2:8).

The wise men find Christ, worship him, present him with presents “and being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way” (Mat 2:12). After the wise men depart, “the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream saying, Arise, take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt and be you there until I bring you word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him” (vs 13).

Now we come to our next out-of-context prophecy; notice: “And when he arose he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying,

Out of Egypt have I called my son” (vs. 14 and 15). This was a quote from Hos 11:1 which reads: “When Israel was a small child, then I loved him and called my son out of Egypt.”

In context, Hosea is simply saying that as Israel was being called out of Egypt, they were in the process of departing from God: “they sacrificed unto Baalim and burned incense to graven images” (vs 2). Still Matthew once again, without explanation, applies this verse to Christ’s return from Egypt. Surely we would wonder WHY DOES MATTHEW NOT EXPLAIN HIMSELF?

Let us continue with this “totally out of context” and “you can go anywhere with that” application of scripture. An even greater violence to the rules of exegesis is contained in the very next verses: “Then Herod, when he saw he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time that he had diligently enquired of the wise men” (vs 16). Notice what Matthew says next: “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet saying, In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation and weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted, because they are not” (vs 17 and 18).

Now Ramah, as Matthew very well knew, is nowhere near Bethlehem. It is not even in Judah, but is in Ephraim. Bethlehem is south and west of Jerusalem, and Ramah is many miles away, north and east of Jerusalem.

Furthermore, Judah was not born of Rachel but of Leah. All of this is very well known by Matthew, yet he once again WITHOUT EXPLANATION quotes this scripture from Jer 31:15 and applies it to the event in and around Bethlehem in the time of Christ.

Mark takes this same rule of scriptural exegesis in the first three verses of his gospel (Mar 1:1-3). Quoting Mal 3:1: “As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face which shall prepare the way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”

This statement made by Mark concerning John the Baptist is actually two separate prophets who prophesied years apart. Verse 2 is taken from Mal 3:1. Mark only quotes half of verse 1. Checking the context, let us pick up where Mark left off: “and the Lord WHOM YE SEEK, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, WHOM YE DELIGHT IN: behold he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts” (last part of verse 1). Verses 2 and 3 say He will purify the sons of Levi when He comes; “…whom you seek…”, “…in whom ye delight…”, “…and He shall purify the sons of Levi; and purge them as gold and silver…”

Line upon Line

None of this would appear to the natural mind to apply to Christ’s coming in the flesh when the “sons of Levi”, the priests, had Him crucified. Yet we are told by the Holy Spirit that the first half of verse 1 refers to John the Baptist. Is this just a whim on God’s part? Notice once again Mark doesn’t bother to explain himself. He, like Matthew, applies scriptures to Christ which we would say are taken out of context.

Read the second part of Mark’s statement. Mark, along with all the New Testament writers, apparently practiced what today is criticized as “proof texting”, taking only the part that makes his point but ignoring the context.

Let’s see how Mar 1:3 appears when read in context. This is a quote from Isa 40:3. But read it with the verse before and a couple of verses afterward, and ask yourself if you would, with today’s “context, context, context” rules of biblical interpretation have ever guessed this was a prophecy about John the Baptist. Verse 2 says “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Verse 3 and 4 continues; “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:” and verse 5: “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa 40:2-5).

Was the “glory of the Lord” revealed? Did “all flesh…see it together”? Yet we are once again informed without explanation that this is a reference to John the Baptist.

Luke quotes the same scripture and draws the same conclusion once again; without explanation or apology as if there were some commonly understood principle being applied of which we today are apparently woefully ignorant.

Does the apostle John take this same approach to scripture? Yes, he does (Joh 1:23). All four gospels quote the same scripture and draw the conclusion with the same “you see what I mean” attitude. (Mat 3:3, Mar 1:3, Luk 3:4, Joh 1:23)

Hermeneutics – Explaining the Scriptures

The word ‘hermeneutics’ is commonly used in seminaries and among bible students, but many people are unfamiliar with its meaning. The dictionary explains the word as “the science and methodology of interpretation; especially of scriptural text.”

Before we examine the apostle Paul’s hermeneutics, let’s examine one more scripture which John applies to Christ. It is a quote from Psa 69.

Christ had just driven the animals and money changers from the temple. “And (He) said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written; the zeal of your house has eaten me up” (Joh 2:16-17).

Remember the headings in the Psalms are inspired along with the Psalms themselves. The heading says this is a psalm of David. In verse 5, David confesses “O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.” This is obviously not talking about our sinless Savior. David goes on in verse 6 and 7: “Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake; let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.” Verse 8 – “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.” Verse 9 – “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproach thee are fallen upon me.”

Applying today’s context hermeneutics, it would appear that John has taken this statement by David about himself, completely out of context and applied it to Christ.

What about Paul?

Let us examine the apostle Paul. Did he ever apply this “spiritualizing” principle? Indeed he did. To quote him out of context, he did it “more abundantly than they all” (1Co 15:10). It is commonly taught in Christian churches and seminaries that God’s chosen people today are the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. Gen 12:1-3 is the first mention of God’s covenant with Abraham, whose name at this time is still Abram. Verse one states “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, “Get you out of your country and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” (vs. 2) – “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.” (vs. 3) – “And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

Notice the “had said” in verse one. This is a reference back to the time when God had first spoken to Abram while Abram was still in “Ur of the Chaldees”. Chapter 15 says “…I am the Lord that brought you (not his father, Terah) out of Ur of the Chaldees…to give to you this land to inherit it.”

The deal (covenant) God had with Abram at the very first, while still in Ur, was very general and rather vague, at least so far as what Abram was to receive was concerned. What he was to do was specific enough:

  • Get out of your country.
  • Get away from your kindred and from your father’s house.
  • Go to a land that I will show you.

Exactly what was he promised?

  • I will make you a great nation.
  • I will bless you and make your name great.
  • You shall be a blessing.

In line with, and as a result of these three promises to Abram, God says (vs. 3) “And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

Verse 4 tells us Abram was still in Haran and departed from Haran when he was 75 years old. Verse 5 says he took his wife Sarai and Lot, his nephew, and “they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.” Verse 6 says he passed through the land of Canaan “…and the Canaanite was then in the land.” Hence, the name “land of Canaan”. Now the Lord adds more detail to His promise to Abram. Notice verse 7 – “And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land:…”, the land of Canaan.

The next mention of this covenant with Abram is in chapter 13:14 – “And the Lord said unto Abram…Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward and southward and eastward and westward: (vs. 15) for all the land which you seest, to you will I give it, and to your seed forever. (vs. 16) And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then can your seed also be numbered. (vs. 17) Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.”

The promise now is somewhat altered:

  • Instead of simply promising to make Abram “a great nation”, he is told “I will make your seed as the dust of the earth…”
  • Instead of “to a land that I will show you”, he is told “for all the land which you seest, to you will I give it and to your seed forever.”

But the most specific description of the land given to Abram, is in chapter 15:18: “In the same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates.”

In chapter 17:4, he is told: “As for me, behold my covenant is with you and you shall be a father of many nations.” This is where his name is changed from Abram to Abraham, which means “a father of many nations.” (vs. 6)

The last mention of the promises given Abraham is in Gen 22 – “And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” Abraham had demonstrated to God that nothing would become an idol to come between him and his God, not even his own son. (vs. 10-13).

Therefore the Lord says to Abraham “…because you have done this thing, and have not withheld thy son, thine only son; (vs. 17) that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; (vs. 18) and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.”

So here we have the promises in their final form:

  • Abraham is to inherit the land of Canaan from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates.
  • His seed is to be “as the dust of the earth”, “as the sand of the sea” and “as the stars of heaven.”
  • “Thy seed shall possess the gates of his enemies.”
  • “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

“Thy seed” meant, of course, that these promises were passed on to Isaac and from Isaac to Jacob. These are the “promises made unto the fathers” referred to by the apostle Paul in Rom 15:8 and Gal.3:29.

What do these promises mean to Paul? Do they mean, as we are told today, “Abraham’s seed according to physical descendants are to possess modern Israel, and we will be blessed if we support them and cursed if we do not?

No, the message we are commonly taught today concerning Israel is nothing like the true message of Paul. Paul, like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and James seemed to have a principle of scriptural interpretation Christians, as a whole, do not grasp.

What did the promise “in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” mean to Paul? He tells us in Gal 3:8: “And the scriptures foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (vs. 9) so then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”

To Paul, the promise “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:18) had nothing to do with physical descent. Paul took this as a statement concerning a spiritual principle, the principle of faith in the word of God. To Paul the “thy seed” of Gen 22:18 are those in Christ. “And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promises” (same chapter vs. 29).

“Heirs according to the promises”? Is Paul saying that the Gentiles who accept Christ are to inhabit Canaan “from the river of Egypt, to the great river, the river Euphrates”? Does Paul also spiritualize the promised land? Well, yes, he does! Turn to Rom 4:13: “For the promise that he (Abraham) should be heir of the world, was…through the righteousness of faith. “Heir of the world”? Where did he get that? What happened to “From the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates”?

To Paul all the promises were primarily and ultimately spiritual statements having nothing to do with the physical realm. They certainly had nothing to do with Abraham’s physical seed and descendants. Rom 9:6 “…For they are not all Israel which are of Israel: (vs 7) Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” What does “in Isaac” mean? Does it mean physically descended from Abraham and therefore entitled to the promises?

If it does, you are saying that the promises don’t pertain to you, the adoption (maturing to the point of carrying on the Father’s business) doesn’t apply to you. Instead, you are saying the adoption and the promises apply to those who today, by the letter, are called “God’s chosen people”, but who Paul calls the “son of the bondwoman” who he says “shall not be heir with the son of the free woman” (Gal 4:30).

If we believe that “Israel according to the flesh” is still “God’s chosen people”, we, like Esau, are selling our birthright and believing that the son of the bondwoman (Jerusalem that now is and is in bondage with her children) will be made heir with the son of the free woman. It is Hagar, the bondwoman, who answers to Jerusalem that now is and is in bondage with her children (Gal 4:25). Paul is not saying that the other Jewish apostles or any believing Jew who happened to be in Jerusalem was in bondage. He is saying that being “of Israel” or “of Abraham” physically, has nothing to do with being “the seed of Abraham” or “an heir according to the promise”.

So who does God “count for the seed”; who are the “heirs according to the promise?” Let’s go right back to where we left off in Rom 9:7 “…In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (vs 8) That is, they which are the children of the flesh, THESE ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

Who then are the “heirs”, these “children of the promise”? “If you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:29)

This agrees with Christ’s statement in Joh 8:37 – “I know you are Abraham’s seed: but…” (Skip one verse and read verse 39)…”If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham…” (vs 44) “You are of your father the devil…” Christ says they are Abraham’s children in verse 37 and says they aren’t in verse 39. As Paul said in Rom 9:6, “They are not all Israel who are of Israel.”

See how far Paul carries this spiritual approach to the scriptures in Rom 9:2: “…I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. (vs 3) For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Does this not sound just like Abraham when told that his son “according to the flesh” was not to be counted for the seed. His immediate response was like Paul and many of us today. “Oh, that Ishmael (Jerusalem that now is) might live before thee” (Gen 17:18 and Gal 4:25-30).

Continuing now in Rom 9:4: “Who (natural Jews) 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.”

So the adoption and the promises “pertain to Israel” and yet Israel “according to the flesh” is “the son of the bondwoman” (Gal 4:30) and cannot be heir with the son of the freewoman. So to whom now does the adoption pertain? Rom 8:14 – “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (the seed of Abraham) (vs 15) for ye (you Roman Gentiles) have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father”. (Gal 4:5) – “…that we (Gentile Galatians) might receive the adoption of sons”. And Eph 1:5 “Having predestinated us (Gentile Ephesians) unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ…”

Who then is Paul calling “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?”

Since Gal 4 seems so hard for many to grasp, let’s consider Eph 2:11: “Wherefore remember, that you being in time past (not at present) Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands. (vs 12) That at that time (in the past) ye were without Christ, being (in the past) aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (vs 13) But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes (in the past) were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.” Just how near is near? (vs 19) “Now therefore ye are not more strangers and foreigners, but FELLOW CITIZENS (OF ISRAEL) with the saints, and of the household of God.”

Paul has just revealed that so far as God is concerned, Israel in the flesh has been replaced by Israel according to the Spirit. He goes on in chapter 3 verse 2: “…Ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: (vs 3) How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery…”

Is this some extra-scriptural revelation of which Paul is speaking? Hardly! Standing before Agrippa in Act 26:22, he states clearly that he spoke “none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come. (vs 23) That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people and UNTO THE GENTILES.”

Two chapters later speaking to the Jews in Rome after “he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets, from morning until evening” (Act 28:23). Of course, they rejected it, and Paul makes this statement to them: (vs 28) “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God (the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises) is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it.”

Continuing now with Eph 3:3 – “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery…(vs 5) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles (Paul here and in Act 15:25-27 says the apostles agreed with Paul) and prophets by the Spirit.” What is this mystery (secret) revealed to Paul and the apostles? (vs 6) “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs AND OF THE SAME BODY and partakers of the promise (not separate promises) in Christ by the gospel.”

Notice: no Jew vs. Gentile; no body vs. bride; no heaven vs. earth inheritance, but rather “fellow heirs”. (vs 9) “And to make ALL MEN see what is the FELLOWSHIP OF THE MYSTERY which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God who created all things by Jesus Christ.”

Any doubt about the oneness of the body of Christ should be shattered by these plain statements by Paul as to who constitutes an Israelite. There are still those, though, who contend that there is a “body” made up primarily of Gentile believers and a “bride” made up of Jewish believers. “You can’t be both a body and a bride” they say.

This is the equivalent of saying you can’t be both a tree (which we are – Rom 11:24) and a temple (which we are – 1Co 6:19). Paul does call us, the Gentile Christians, both a body and a bride. In Rom 12:5 – “…we being many are one body in Christ.” In 2Co 11:2 – “…I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Can one be a “chaste virgin” presented to a husband and a “son”? Gal. 4:6 – “…because you are sons…”

Yes, God can and does give us, His children, many different, sometimes apparently contradictory descriptions. We are sons and virgins. We are trees and temples. We are stones and lights. We are soldiers and sheep, etc.

Paul concludes Galations with this summary statement. Gal 6:15 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision (being a natural Israelite) availeth anything, nor uncircumcision (being born a Gentile) but a new creature. (vs 16) And as many as walk according to this rule (of vs 15) peace be on them and mercy and upon the Israel of God.

Who is a Jew Today?

It is a strange phenomenon how so many see the words “Israel of God” in verse 16 and immediately forget “this rule” laid down in verse 15. They revert right back to the flesh and the letter, forgetting the truth of God revealed in Rom 2:27. “And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge you who BY THE LETTER and CIRCUMCISION (those who still count modern Jews as God’s chosen people and the seed of Abraham) do transgress the law. (vs 28) For HE IS NOT A JEW WHICH IS ONE OUTWARDLY: neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (vs 29) but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and NOT IN THE LETTER: whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

So what is the scriptural circumcision? Php 3:3 – “For we (Gentile Philippians) are the circumcision which worship God in spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” So we Gentiles who are in Christ “are the circumcision”. We are God’s chosen people. There cannot be two chosen people. There is no such thing as “chosen” versus “elect”, or “elect” versus “very elect”. Few people realize it, but the words “chosen” and “elect” are the same in the original Greek. The Greek word is eklektos; #1588 in Strong’s concordance.

An oft quoted scripture is Mat 24:24 – “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” It is believed by many that the “very elect” mentioned here are somehow separated from those who are called merely “elect”, and this group is somehow separated from those who are merely “chosen”.

Since we are the “Israel of God”, and we are both the bride and the body, will we reign in both heaven and earth? As a matter of scriptural fact, that is exactly what the apostle Paul says in 1Co 6:2. “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world…(vs. 3) know ye not that we shall judge angels…?”

Paul says even that God (2Co 3:6) “hath made us able ministers of the new testament; (which is) not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” Paul specifically points out that the new covenant (#1242 – same as testament) is NOT OF THE LETTER, but of the spirit. Yet some still say this is not the new covenant referred to in Jer 31:31-34, where the new covenant is first mentioned. “Behold the days come saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: (vs 32) not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them saith the Lord: (vs 33) but this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward (spiritual) parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Apparently some still think this is not the same “new covenant” referred to by Paul in 2Co 3:6. They apparently don’t notice that the Ephesian Gentiles are “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens…” (Eph 2:19); that the Gentile Ephesians are no longer “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel”; no longer “strangers from the covenants of promise” (vs 12).

If this is a “new covenant” that pertains to the Gentile Corinthians and Ephesians, but is not connected to the “new covenant” mentioned in Jer 31:31-33 quoted above, then we must conclude that God had an old covenant with these Gentiles. This obviously is not what Paul had in mind. Paul is referring to the only new covenant mentioned in scriptures (Jer 31:31).

Going back to 2Co 3:6, the very next verse, after mentioning the “new covenant”, refers to the old covenant, calling it (vs 7) “the ministration of death (the letter kills – vs 6) written and engraven in stone was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: (vs 8) How shall not the ministration of the spirit (“the new covenant not of the letter, but of the spirit” – vs 6) be rather glorious.”

There are many other scriptures in Paul’s writings we could mention to demonstrate his “out of context” spiritualizing use of scriptures. But let us go on now to James to see if he does the same thing.

James and the “Tabernacle of David”

Act 15 is known as the Jerusalem conference chapter. Certain believers from the area of Judea had taken it upon themselves to teach the Gentile disciples in Pisidian Antioch that they could not be saved except they practice the outward sign of “circumcision and keep the law of Moses” (Act 15:5). There was obvious freedom of thought and expression because verse 7 says there was “much disputing”.

Finally Peter stands up and makes a profound statement; a statement he later had to live up to (Gal 2:11). In Act 15:8, “God… (vs 9) put NO DIFFERENCE between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), purifying their hearts by faith (like us). (vs 10) Now, therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers NOR WE were able to bear? (vs 11) But WE (the apostles) believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even AS THEY.”

Now we come to James, the so-called “circumcision apostle”. Does he agree that there is “no difference” between how a Gentile and a Jew are saved?

Act 15:13 – “…James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:…(vs 15) to this AGREE the words of the prophets; as it is written, (vs 16) After this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: (vs 17) That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who does all these things.”

Why would the Gentiles need the tabernacle of David rebuilt to “seek after the Lord”? James somehow equates “building again the ruins thereof” with the calling of the Gentiles.

This is a quote from Amo 9. Let’s check the context of Amo 9:9 – “For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. (vs. 10) All sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, the evil shall not overtake nor prevent us. (vs 11) In that day (the day of verse 10) will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old. (vs 12) That they (they of the house [tabernacle] of David) may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen which are called by my name, saith the Lord that does this.”

Reading this passage in Amos, it simply seems to be saying that David’s throne will be restored “as in the days of old” (vs 11). The throne of David is no older than David and Solomon when all twelve tribes were still under the “tabernacle of David” (vs 12) “That they (those of David’s house or tabernacle) might possess…the heathen, which are called by my name.”

Does this sound like a prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles at the time in Act 15? Had David’s throne or tabernacle been restored? Yet, once again, as if everyone present understood exactly what was meant (not what was said), James, like all the other apostles, doesn’t bother to apologize for or explain what he’s ‘getting at’.

Does anyone doubt that the “tabernacle of David” to which the Gentiles seek is Christ who even now has inherited the throne or tabernacle of David?

If, as some tell us, physical Israelites are to be returned to their former prominence, this scripture might have been better placed, had it been quoted on the day of Pentecost when all present were Israelites by physical birth. But even then there was no restored tabernacle of David. The Holy Spirit has seen fit instead to place it here in Act 15 in connection with the calling of the Gentiles, “that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” James agrees with Peter (vs 15) that circumcision and the law of Moses was “a yoke upon the neck of the (Gentile) disciples, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.” (vs 10)

They walked not uprightly according to the gospel

This must have been hard for the twelve original apostles to receive and fully accept. Peter’s trials with this part of God’s mind are enumerated for us in Act 10 where Cornelius is called, and again in Gal 2 where both Peter and Barnabas are seen struggling to accept this part of God’s workings. Gal 2:12 – “For before that certain came from James, he (Peter) did eat with the Gentiles: (as he had done at the house of Cornelius); but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them of the circumcision. (vs 13) And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. (vs 14) But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If you being a Jew, live after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest you the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”

This situation deserves our scrutiny. Why did Paul confront Peter? Was it really because ‘Peter made the mistake of attempting to mix administrations’? If that were his sin, Paul missed a good chance of clarifying this. Instead, he waits until “certain came from James” to point out this supposed sin of ‘administration mixing’.

Such a suggestion is of course absurd. Peter’s sin was not ‘administration mixing’ but “dissimulating”. Dissimulation is the Greek word ‘hupokrisis‘ (Strong’s #5272). This word is from hupo-krinomai (Strong’s #5271) which is translated “feign” in Luk 20:20 where the chief priest and scribes “watched him (Christ) and sent forth spies which should feign themselves just men…”

The reason Paul waited till “certain came from James” to reprove Peter was because Peter needed no reproof till then. Strong’s definition for dissemble is “to act hypocritically in concert with”. This is what Paul meant by “they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel”. Peter was not “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. (Eph 4:3) He had forgotten that (vs 4) “There is one body, one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. (vs 5) One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

Circumcision versus Uncircumcision

Hadn’t Paul agreed with Peter that Peter would go to the circumcision, and Paul would go to the Gentiles? Indeed he had. So what did that mean?

Did it mean that Paul had one gospel, a “gospel of the umcircumcision”, while Peter had another gospel, the “gospel of the circumcision”? It is right here in this chapter where Paul is reproving Peter for “not walking uprightly according to the gospel”. In the concordant version of the New Testament, the ‘the’ in “the evangel” is in dark print, indicating that Paul is aware of only one gospel, a gospel which did not allow one part of the body of Christ to separate itself from, or set itself above, the rest of the body. (Eph 2:16) – “That he might reconcile both unto God in ONE BODY by the cross…” The word “both” is a reference back to the “circumcision” and the “uncircumcision” of verse 11: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands.” The circumcision and the uncircumcision are “one body” and both have only “THE (one) gospel”.

1Co 12 is the chapter that mentions “differences of administrations but the same Lord.” What is not pointed out, is that the subject of this chapter is “concerning spiritual gifts” (vs 1), and the conclusion Paul draws is (vs 13) “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into ONE BODY whether we be Jews or Gentiles…” So any “differences of administrations” concerning spiritual gifts are within ONE BODY. Verse 28 says that the apostles, all of them, are part of “the body”. Had this not been the case, Peter would have been justified in separating himself, and for that matter, should never have eaten with Gentiles in the first place.

“Things…ye cannot bear…now”

Peter had stood up to the chief priest and the Sanhedrin saying (Act 5:29) “We ought to obey God rather than men.” He had been willing to risk his life to preach the gospel, had been thrown into and supernaturally delivered from prison. Yet here was a part of “the gospel” which he and Barnabas had trouble fully taking to their bosom. Php 3:3 – “We (Gentile Philippians) are the circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.” Rom 2:28 – “…he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh. (vs 29) But he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is of God and not of men.” Gal 6:15 – “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and on the Israel of God.” Why were Peter and Barnabas along with apparently all “the other Jews” having such a hard time accepting believing Gentiles as “the Israel of God” and counting their own physical descent as “dung” (Php 3:8)? The reason is given in Joh 16:12 – “I have MANY THINGS to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now.”

This was as hard for the original twelve apostles of Christ to receive as for Christians today to be told “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1Co 15:22)

Even today, many in the body of Christ reject God’s decree; “the son of the bondwoman (Jerusalem which now is – Gal 4:25) shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” Gal 4:31 – “…WE BRETHREN, ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE FREE (WOMAN).”

Breaking off Israel…according to the flesh (Rom 11:19; 9:3)

In Act 2:29, Peter, speaking to the Jews from “every nation under heaven” (vs 5), on the day of Pentecost, is showing them the scriptures foretelling the coming of Christ. He quotes from Psalms saying: “David…(vs 30) being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” When God says “according to the flesh”, He means “according to the flesh”. So Christ came “of the fruit of his (David’s) loins according to the flesh”.

Likewise, when it says “we are able ministers of the New Testament (covenant) NOT OF THE LETTER (FLESH) BUT OF THE SPIRIT, it means of the spirit (Rom 2:29). “Inward Jews” are Jews [that’s spirit]; the covenant with Abraham was confirmed (Rom 3:17) of God IN CHRIST [that’s spirit]. Rom 3:29 – “And if ye be Christ’s, then are YOU Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promises”; [that’s spirit]. Paul interprets “from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates” to mean the whole “world”, (Rom 4:13) [that’s spirit also]. He explains to the Gentile Corinthians that they are to “judge the world” (1Co 6:2). This is because they are, in Christ, counted as “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29). It is all “of the spirit” (2Co 3:6 and Rom 2:29).

“…The natural man (the man ‘of the letter’ or ‘context, context, context’), receives not the things of the Spirit of God (the Bible – Joh 6:63): for they are foolishness unto him: neither can (it’s not that he doesn’t want to; he can’t) receive them, because they are spiritually discerned…” (1Co 2:14).

And so all Israel (according to the flesh) shall be saved (Rom 11:26)

In 1Co 15:22, Paul says: For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive… (vs 23) But every man in his own order… So in what ‘order’ are we to expect “Israel according to the flesh” to be saved?

Paul explains in Rom 11:25: For I would not brethren that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (vs 26) And so all Israel shall be saved: (spiritual as well as physical) as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (vs 27) For this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins. WHEN WILL HE “TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS?”

The Valley of Dry Bones

Those whose ‘affection’ [the Greek is mind] (Col 3:1,2) is on the earth, say this time period is during the millennium. They quote Eze 37, the chapter of scripture which refers to “the valley which was full of bones.”

Chapter 36 sets the stage for chapter 37. It is addressed to (vs 1) “the mountains of Israel”. In the first twenty verses, he describes their punishment and why they were punished. In verse 21, he says: “But I had pity for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. (vs 22) Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine Holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the heathen whither ye went.” Verse 25 says: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. (vs 26) A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”

When flesh is not flesh

We must at this juncture determine what is meant here by replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. Do Jews have “hearts of stone”? How could anyone have a “heart of stone”? A heart of stone is to the spiritually minded person a “carnal (fleshly) mind” (Rom 8:7). “…the carnal mind is enmity against God: [it profanes His name among the heathen]; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

Now Ezekiel says this ‘heart of stone’ is to be replaced by a heart of flesh. If a ‘heart of stone is figurative, and it obviously is, what is the meaning of a ‘heart of flesh’ in this verse?

The answer is to be found in 1Co 15, the resurrection chapter. Verse 35 says: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” Paul seems somewhat exasperated with such a question; (vs 36) “Thou fool, that which you sow (the way you live your life – Gal 6:7) is not quickened [given life] except it die.” We must die ‘to the flesh’ before we die ‘in the flesh’, or we will not be in the first resurrection (Joh 12:24-25). Paul has both deaths in view here. (1Co 15:37) “…thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat or of some other grain” (there are many types of grain). (vs 38) “But God giveth it a body as it (that person, that body) hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body” [what we sow is what we reap – Gal 6:7].

Before we read verse 39 of 1Co 15, let us jump ahead to verse 44, and remember this is all in answer to the rhetorical question “with what body do they come in the resurrection?”

Here in verse 44, Paul makes a statement we must accept and apply if we hope to grasp what is meant by a ‘heart of flesh’ in Eze 36:26. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (vs 45 of 1Co 15) “And so it is written the first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (vs 46) Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual.”

Now we know that this chapter concerns the resurrection of the dead and that in the resurrection “it is raised a spiritual body”. Return now to verse 39; as “all flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes and another of birds…(vs 42) So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. (vs 43) It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: (vs 44) It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”

So the resurrected body is “incorruptible”, “glorious”, “powerful” and “spiritual”. But these “invisible things of God” are “understood by the things that are made” (Rom 1:20). God’s only way of communicating with us is in terms we can grasp; in physical terms. So still speaking of resurrected, spiritual, invisible bodies, we are told in 1Co 15:40 “There are (physical) bodies celestial and (physical) bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. (vs 41) There is one glory of the sun and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”

In the resurrection of spiritual bodies, even though they are “incorruptible”, “glorious”, “powerful” and “spiritual”, there are still degrees that “differ one from another” in every one of these spiritual qualities.

Going back to Eze 36 and 37, we can now see that the “heart of flesh” of 36:26 and the “sinews, flesh, and skin” of 37:8 are all physical descriptions of a spiritual resurrection. 1Co 15:44 – “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” If this is a resurrection, then the bodies are spiritual.

There is an important scripture that is completely neglected by those without spiritual eyes. It has to be overlooked because it denies a second physical death which the physically minded demand.

In Heb 9:25, Paul explains that Christ did not have to “offer himself often; as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of others.” In verse 26, he says “…but now ONCE in the end of the world (age)…(vs 27) As it is appointed unto men ONCE to die, but after this the judgment.” Christ entered once; man dies once.

This all explains the time and the place of the resurrection of Eze 36 and 37. There are two resurrections, the first and the second, but no one is in both. We die once and are resurrected once. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body…” is the truth of God’s word.

The fact that Christ appeared to be a physical body immediately following his resurrection, does not mean His or our resurrected bodies are physical. His purpose at that time was to prove to His skeptical disciples that He had indeed risen from the dead. He even appeared in a locked room with the wounds He received at His crucifixion, just to prove to doubting Thomas that what Thomas had heard about Christ being alive was true.

Indeed a spiritual body is much more alive than a natural body, but Christ needed no holes in His body when He appeared to John in Rev 1:14 – “…His eyes were as a flame of fire; (vs 15) And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters.” It appears that spirit can appear in many forms. Heb 11:3 – “…things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” That’s a plain clear statement. If you can see anything, it is composed from something invisible (God’s spirit).

Continuing that thought, Christ speaking to Nicodemus said in Joh 3:6 -“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Now remember, Paul has revealed to us that in the resurrection, “it is raised a spiritual body” (1Co 15:44).

Now read Joh 3:8 – “The wind bloweth where it listeth and you hear the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, an whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.”

Everyone born of the Spirit is invisible like the wind? That’s what Christ told Nicodemus. So when Christ appeared in the flesh after His resurrection, this was for the benefit of those in the flesh. It would have been totally unnecessary otherwise. Physical sight is essential for those who are still in the flesh. Rom 8:9 – “But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you…”

If you must see with your physical eyes, and if you, like doubting Thomas and Nicodemus, cannot yet bear to hear of spiritual things, to you the “Israel of God” will be the “Israel according to the flesh”, and you, like Esau, will be forfeiting your birthright to the “son of the bondwoman”.

Dan 12:2 says – “…Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some (“flesh of beasts”…and “glory of the terrestrial”) to shame and everlasting contempt.” This coincides with Eze 36:27: “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you [through a fiery experience – 1Co 3:13] and chastening judgment (1Co 11:32) to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” and “Then shall ye remember your own evil ways…and loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.”

There you have it: incorruptible “glorious”, “powerful” “spiritual” bodies who “remember (their) own evil ways” who “loathe themselves” and are raised to “shame and everlasting (olam) contempt.”

Exactly when is physical Israel to be resurrected?

Israel “in the flesh” is neither better or nor worse than the Gentiles “in the flesh”. ‘Circumcision avails nothing and uncircumcision avails nothing’ (Gal 6:15). It follows then that the resurrection and reward of both would be the same. And sure enough, it is! The assertions, and that’s all they are, of the Jews, Catholics or Protestants to the contrary, the word of God will not fail. This same prophet who gives us the “whole house of Israel” “without hope” and “cut off” from God in a “valley of dry bones”, gives us the timing of this event.

Speaking to Jerusalem (Eze 16:3) God tells ‘her’ (Eze 16:55) “When they sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.” This is what Paul meant when he said “and so all Israel shall be saved.” This is that of which Paul spoke in Rom11:15 when he asked: “For if the casting away of them (Israel) be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?” (The second resurrection which is for all mankind).

This is what Paul meant when he said “so then brethren, we are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” Unlike Esau, let us hold fast our birthright, because “they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise (that’s us!) are counted for the seed.” So Israel is no longer Israel according to the flesh, but what Paul in his summary of Galatians calls “the Israel of God”. Israel has become a spiritual nation, the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). And since “as in Adam (did you choose to be ‘in Adam’?) all die; so in Christ (it is God who ‘draws us” in our “own order) will all be made alive” (1Co 15:22). Then Abraham’s seed will indeed be “as the dust of the earth” and “as the stars of heaven for number”.

Then opened He their understanding

In the last chapter of Luke, chapter 24, we are given an account of some of the events surrounding the day of the resurrection of Christ. In verse 13, we are told: “And behold two of them went the same day to a village called Emmaus which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs (7.5 miles). (vs 14) And they talked together about all these things that had happened. (vs 15) And it came to pass, that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. (vs 16) But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” Christ joins their conversation and in verse 27 we are told: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Here is Christ himself “rightly dividing the scriptures”, “concerning himself”. What were these “things concerning himself”? They were the things He had revealed to James, Peter, John and Paul, etc. and they were in most cases what today’s Bible expositors would say were “taken out of context”, prooftexted”, “spiritualized”. Words concerning David, Israel, etc. he explains to these men on the road to Emmaus are actually “things concerning himself”. He ends up at least starting to eat a meal with these two disciples (vs 31) “and their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight.” As soon as they received spiritual vision, Christ departed. In biblical typology, it is significant that they received their “opened eyes” while “breaking bread” (Joh 6:48). This whole scene is repeated within mere hours. Luk 24:33 – “And they (the two men on the road to Emmaus) rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together and they that were with them, (vs 35) And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD.” (vs 36) And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (vs 41) “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, have ye here any meat?” So while once again “breaking bread” we are told (vs 45) “Then opened He their understanding that they might understand the scriptures.”

The ‘food’ or ‘breaking bread’ to those with “eyes to see and ears to hear” (Mat 13:13) is understanding the “spirit” (2Co 3:6) of the covenant.

How Peter understood the scriptures

What was given the disciples “…that they might understand the scriptures”, as demonstrated time and again in this paper, was a principle of scriptural understanding that defies the context oriented reasoning of virtually every Christian denomination or seminary in the world, whether Catholic or Protestant. Before we attempt to give a verbal expression to this principle, let us demonstrate its application by the one apostle we haven’t yet quoted.

In Acts 1, the disciples are gathered in the upper room awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit. (vs 15) “In those days, Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said…(vs 16) Men and brethren this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.” Peter says the scriptures from Psalms he is about to quote were “by the Holy Ghost” speaking of Judas. (vs 20) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, let his habitation be desolate, and his bishopric let another take.”

Now this verse, Act 1:20, is nowhere to be found in Psalms as quoted here. It is actually a conjunction of two separate Psalms with many Psalms in between. The first part is from Psa 69:25. David in this psalm is simply asking God for protection from his enemies. (vs 1) “Save me, O God: for waters are come into my soul. (vs 13)…my prayer is unto thee, O Lord…(vs 14) Deliver me out of the mire and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of deep waters. (vs 18)…deliver me because of mine enemies. (vs 19)…mine adversaries are all before thee.” In context, this is all about David’s enemies. But Christ had “opened (Peter’s) understanding, that (he) might understand the scriptures” (Luk 24:45). Peter now understands about whom this is actually speaking. Now in the verse of which Peter quotes only half in Act 1:20, which is Psa 69:25, “Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents”, he left off the “and let none dwell in their tents.”

The last half of Act 1:20 is quoted from Psa 109. The inspired heading declares this “a psalm of David…” In verse 2, he says “…The mouth of the wicked…are opened against me.” From verses 2 to 19, David calls down curses on HIS enemies. Verse 20 says “Let this be the reward of MINE adversaries.” But Christ only days before had opened Peter’s understanding (Luk 24:45) “…that they might understand the scriptures.”

Armed with this new “understanding”, Peter borrows only verse 9 out of this chapter of Psalms, throws it together with the first half of Psalms 69:25 and concludes that all these experiences of David are actually referring to Christ.

Where did the apostles then get the “understanding” that allows such “out of context”, “prooftexting”, “you can go anywhere with that” approach to scriptures?

They got it from Christ. Luk 24:45 – “Then opened He (Christ) their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” What was it they understood at that point that they hadn’t understood before?

In Luk 24:44, Christ laid down this principle; the one which is rejected by those who, generally speaking, consider themselves today to be “the body of Christ”. “These are the words I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me.”

Christ had been explaining it to them for years. In Luk 24:44-45, Christ simply opened their spiritual minds (previously blinded and veiled) to understand and remember what He had been showing them all along. The principle is “…as he is so are we in this world” (1Jn 4:17). Christ was rejected by the church. His doctrine was more than they could receive. If all of the “out of context” verses we have quoted, from virtually every writer of the New Testament, is any indication of what Christ had been teaching them, it is clear (Mat 10:24) “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord…(vs 40) “He that receiveth you, receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me.”

Mat 25:40 and 45 sum it up thusly: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

In other words, Christ had taught his apostles over and over that anything that applied to any of the Old Testament patriarchs or prophets or Israel or any particular Israelite (“one of the least of these my brethren”) will, and does apply to Christ. Also, anything that applies to Christ as the head of His body, will apply to any part of His body, or to any part of spiritual Israel.

If the head must suffer, the body must suffer with it. (Rom 8:17 and 2Ti 2:12.) “As He is, so are we in this world” (1Jn 4:17).

If Christ were hated, we will be hated also. (Mat 10:22-25)

What applies to David or any Old Testament patriarch or prophet or Israelite, will apply to Christ and through Christ to us, His body.

This is the principle upon which the apostles had been discipled for so long and so repeatedly that it needed no apology or explanation, because it was so universally understood at that time, but it is lost today.

How can we relate our sins to a perfect Christ?

Someone will say “but David and Daniel and others, including all of us have confessed to sin. How can this be applied to our perfect and sinless savior? 2Co 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin…”

If David says (Psa 51:9) “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all mine iniquities,” Christ says the same thing to the Father for David, the patriarchs, Israel, any Israelite and any part of His body.

Out of context?

We can see the spiritual application isn’t out of context at all! The literal fleshly application is the error. (2Co 3:6) “Who (God) also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter (the fleshly, physical, literal, context oriented) kills, but the spirit (as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren…) gives life.” According to Rom 7:6, “But now we are delivered from the (letter of the) law that being dead (“the letter kills”) wherein we were held, that we should serve (the law of God – Rom 7:22 and 25) in newness of Spirit and not in oldness of letter.”

Prooftexting?

It was Peter who was chosen to reveal to us in 2Pe 1:20 that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (vs 21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

The word ‘private’ in verse 20 is Strong’s #2398, idios in the Greek. It appears 109 times in the New Testament and is generally interpreted as ‘apart’ or ‘his own’. So “no scripture of prophecy” is to be taken ‘apart’ from other scripture or used on ‘its own’. Why not? (vs 21) “For (because) the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

It all has the same author, the Holy Spirit, so it will never contradict itself if taken as a whole.

Psa 119:160 says in the King James version: “Thy word is truth…” but the Concordant version and many others recognize the proper translation of the Hebrew here is “the sum of thy word is truth…” Psa 139:17 – “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them.”

No prophecy of the scripture is of its own interpretation, but is to be taken in the context of the rest of scripture. The principle referred to by Paul in 2Co 13:1 – “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” is especially true when using the Word of God. If you have only one scripture with which to establish doctrine, there is no scriptural basis to the doctrine. One isolated scripture is not enough.

Yet the average person cannot accept this principle of understanding the Word of God: (Isa 28:13) “But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line; here a little and there a little; (prooftexting) that they might go, and fall backward and be broken, and snared and taken.” God’s method of understanding His word is also His method of keeping it hidden from those to whom it “is not given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” Just as at the Red Sea, the same cloud that gave God’s Israel (in the flesh) light by night, was deep darkness to the uncalled Egyptians.

“You can go anywhere with that”

The above subhead is a direct quote from ministers who cling to the literal “context oriented only” modern understanding of the Word of God. The same ministers admit that the “Lamb of God” is not to be taken literally. They will admit that the Lion of the tribe of Judah is not to be taken literally, that we are not literal temples, nor are we to literally eat Christ’s flesh or drink His blood. This is the vast majority of the shepherds of the flock, at least as far as Protestant churches are concerned.

There are those who are willing to go so far as to agree that the word “fire” in scripture is generally figurative and that the lake of fire might even be figurative. The one thing most of them refuse to recognize as figurative or a “type” is the one thing Paul went to such great lengths to clarify; that is who is the true “circumcision”, who is the “seed of Abraham”, who are the “children of the freewoman” and who is the true “Israel of God”. On these points, most Christians do not want to give up the flesh for the spirit.

While there are many who do not recognize the “Israel of God” as being those who are in Christ, they do at least recognize the fallacy of denying the cross, the disciplining grace, the “if we suffer with Him, we will reign with Him” part of the gospel. On the other hand, many of those who say “you can go anywhere with the spiritual approach to scripture”, are the same people who teach that we are saved by “grace alone”; that the statement “we are not under the law, but under grace” means that God’s law does not apply to Christians. It is this literal, fleshly, letter-oriented thinking that “can take you anywhere”.

The truly spiritual take on scripture will lead you no where but where Christ and the apostles went with it; and that was straight to God through Christ.

So is anything to be taken literally or naturally?

Having spent so many pages pointing out (1Co 2:14) “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit”, we cannot close this discussion without making the point that it is in the same book of 1Co 15:46, that we are told “Howbeit that was not first which was spiritual, but that which is natural; and AFTERWARD that which is spiritual.” A second witness to this principle is Rom 1:20 – “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

The spiritual is understood by the natural, and the spiritual is never first, but the natural is first.

Consistent with this truth, every detail of the first coming of Christ was fulfilled in a literal way, Christ was: “born of a virgin”, “called out of Egypt”, “Rachel weeping for her children”, “forsaken of his friends”, “his visage was marred” but “not a bone was broken”, “they parted his garments”, etc.

Not one detail failed to have a “natural first” fulfillment. While the natural must come first, it is not the natural that saves us, but the spiritual. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

John 6:63 – “It is the spirit that giveth life…” and finally 2Co 2:15 – “And that He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him which died for them and rose again. (vs 16) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (after the flesh).

Hardly anyone recognized the signs of the first coming of Christ: the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon and Anna in the temple and family members Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and her husband, Zecharias were all given supernatural revelations concerning the birth of Christ. No doubt this whole scenario will be repeated with the signs of His second coming. Everyone was expecting the messiah, but no one recognized Him when He came. Everyone is looking for Christ to come again. No doubt every detail of the signs of His second coming will also be fulfilled, but nothing has changed. Christ as much as told us that our religious leaders can discern the face of the sky (the outward, literal physical temple in Jerusalem) but cannot discern the signs of the times. Who knows how many seals of the book of Revelation have been opened and no one is aware of it. How many trumpets have already sounded and God’s people still do not hear the call to battle? Do those who think ‘God’s Israel’ are those who slew Christ expect seven literal seals to open and seven literal trumpets to sound?

The world has its eyes on the Middle East, while Christ is urging us to watch and keep our garments (Rev 16:15) “Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

Let us pray with Paul (Rom 12:2) “..be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, (our understanding, our way of thinking) that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

If you approach God’s written Word to prove yourself right, with any of your own preconceived ideas; what Eze 14 calls “idols of the heart”, you will see exactly what you want to see. But the written Word, the truth, just as Christ in the flesh, will be a door shut tight, hiding the true light within.

On the other hand, come to the written Word with an open heart seeking only to know the mind of God, willing to give up every preconceived idea, every false church doctrine, every ounce of pride, with the heartfelt attitude of “not my will, but thine be done”, and the written Word becomes a wide open double (as in two witnesses) door, shining a light brighter than the sun on endless truths never seen before though they were there; and you had been stumbling all over them for years. “How could I possible have been so blind for so long?” you’ll wonder.

And so it was with Christ in the flesh. Who was it that was able to receive Christ? It was the tax collectors everyone hated. It was the prostitutes everyone despised, and who probably despised themselves. It was the poor who had nothing to lose. It was the sick who had no other hope. These were those with whom the Spirit of God could work to give them the love, the healing and the hope they had never had before. Had they not needed Him, they would never have known Him.

So it also is with the Lord as the written Word. As we need it and can receive it, God will reveal it to us. (Mat 11:27)

The degree of understanding given by God seems to correlate with the degree of need and hunger in the individual. “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2Co 12:9)

Mike Vinson

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