Whom Say Ye That I Am?
There is only one church today, and that is the church which is the body of Christ and of which He is the Head. This is the only church the Scriptures recognize today. But the question is; who are the members of that church?
In other words, then how does one join it? You don't. You have to be joined to it. Any association with a group that talks about the mystery will not make one a member. Talking about it does not make one a member. You don't get it like the measles, by contact with those who are members. It is not catching.
There was a church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38). There was a church in the time of the Lord's ministry (Matthew 18:17). There was also to be a church which Christ was to build (Matthew 16: 18). There was a church in Acts, mentioned 21 times. But in that church, the Jew was first (Romans 2:9,10). All of these churches were of the dispensation of promise. They had blessings in accord with the promise made to the fathers.
But the church which is our subject here is entirely different. It is not connected with a place of worship, with priesthood, or even a ritual. It is to worship in spirit and in truth. See Philippians 3:3 for example.
Really, this church is an invisible church. It has no headquarters on earth. Its Head is in heavenly places where the members have their citizenship (Philippians 3:20).
And this church today was created when Israel was set aside, the salvation of God sent unto the Gentiles, and one new man created when the middle wall of partition was abolished (Ephesians 2:14,15). This wall was primarily the law of Israel and circumcision.
When one believes the record, then he is joined to this church. This is found in Ephesians 2: 8-10, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
This salvation which is in the church, is by grace first of all. It is obtained by faith. No works of our hands have anything to do with it. Each believer in the church is a new creation, with works in view, good works at that! There is no joining for us to do! We have been given faith, and by faith God joins us to the church, adopting us as sons (Ephesians 1:5 margin). Not one of us can say that we have joined this great church of today for we are His Workmanship!.
And it is an invisible church as far as the world is concerned. No headquarters on earth. The Head is in heaven. So there is no city or big building or the like in any country in the world that can be called the home of this church. Its home is in heavenly places.
Ephesians 5:30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
This expression was used of' the relation of Eve to Adam, She was not merely his wife, but a part of him in the creative process. No other woman could ever claim this relationship to her husband except in type. And that is a mystery. Husband and wife are one flesh. Bone is not mentioned in this relation since Eve.
But the church, which is the body of Christ, has a mystical and spiritual relationship to Him that no other group or church has. This church is invisible in that no one can point it out here on the earth. And the Head is in the heavenly places, far above all. And some day the body and the Head will be together in that place. A wonderful hope.
How does one get to be a member? This is set forth as the great salvation for today. By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
This is by no means John 3:16. That has to do with eternal life. But this passage has to do with a people chosen from before the overthrow, blest with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, having received the adoption, predestinated according to God.
All these are members of the church of the dispensation of the mystery, members of His body of which He is the Head. And this great position is received simply by faith. But faith cannot be exercised without knowledge. So each one must learn from the Word of God, that portion written by Paul after the Salvation was sent to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28).
Membership in some denomination or local church group can never make one a member of this church of the mystery. This church is unique in that its Head is in the heavenly places, far above all.
No members of this church are blest in faithful Abraham. Such were God's earth people and have a place in His economy, but not in heavenly places. They inherit the earth.
In Ephesians 3:6 we learn that all the members are on an equal as to inheritance (joint-heirs), all members of a joint-body, and joint partakers of a promise which was made in Christ before age times and had to do with eternal life for the cosmos. See 2 Timothy 1:1 and Titus 1:2.
In Ephesians 1:10 we learn that this church is mentioned as things on the earth and is under the same Head as things in heaven (principalities, powers, etc.). And so in Ephesians 2:19 we learn that this church is a part of the household of God in the heavenly places.
Membership was bought by the blood of Christ.
Many have heard about the church of the dispensation of the mystery, and many talk about it, but many have some very hazy ideas about it. So we sum up some of the things about it that can be found especially in Ephesians.
It was in the mind of God and planned before the overthrow of the world. At that time the blue prints were made. But it was not created and set in motion at that time.
It was created and came into being when the middle wall of partition (the law) was broken down. The law was not taken away until Israel were set aside and the Salvation of God sent to the Gentiles at the end of Acts.
This church is likened to a temple, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets which were chosen and sent by the risen and ascended Lord. There is no other foundation for the church.
The chief corner stone, the keystone of the arch is Christ Himself, the stone which builders would toss aside, for it will fit in no other place than at the head of the arch.
The purpose of this church or temple is that it might be an habitation of God thru the Spirit. It is made up of members which are living stones, and so it is said to grow.
These members are all on an equality as to being equal or joint heirs, being members of a joint body, and also are joint partakers of a promise in Christ which is further explained by 2 Timothy 1:1 and Titus 1:2.
Although every member should be eager and willing to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, there is even a greater spread of the ministry in that now unto principalities and powers in the heavenly places is the manifold wisdom of God being made known by the church. So the ministry is not only worldwide, but universe-wide. This is a terrific responsibility for the members and should lead to upright and holy living in this world.
The sphere of the hope of the church is not on this earth, not in some promised land there. But it is every blessing that is spiritual in heavenly places. In fact, the members are spoken of as being already raised up and seated in these heavenly places.
The apostle Paul was a special minister chosen to make known this great mystery among the nations. The Lord came, but was not received by His own people, but as many as received Him, to them was given the right to become children of God. And it was among these that Paul ministered and proclaimed the adoption to sonship.
Membership in this church is obtained by faith, a response to what is revealed concerning it in God's Word. Having a heavenly calling and its members baptized into Christ (not water), there are no rules, ordinances, or rituals to observe. Worship must be in spirit and in truth, that is, true spiritual worship.
Like the kingdom was at one time, this church is not entered by every one that would say, Lord, Lord, but is entered by those who have died to sins and trespasses. Such are quickened, raised and seated, awaiting the manifestation.
In most of the discussions of' when the church began or what is the mystery, there has not been much attention paid to what was the membership at the beginning. A little study of that subject might shed some light on what is the mystery.
The very first revelation of what the mystery is might be is given in Acts 28:28. The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles. Before this, salvation had been of the Jews (John 4:22). And all thru the gospels we note that this salvation was centered in the kingdom of heaven. This was to be on the earth with Christ as King of kings ruling from Jerusalem.
But who are these Gentiles to whom the salvation of God is sent? How many ever stopped to think this thru? Paul was speaking to Jewish leaders. What would be their first thought in this connection? No doubt it would be the believing Gentiles who attended their synagogues. No other Gentiles of that time would fit in with the description here given.
Now in Ephesians 2:15 we have a group of Gentiles and a group of Jews who are made one and then made (created) into one new man, the body of Christ. Who are these Jews and Gentiles?
Romans 11:5 tells us that at that late date in the Acts of the Apostles there was a remnant of believing Israel left, even as there was a remnant of 7,000 left back in the times of Elijah the prophet. So at the end of Acts there was a believing remnant of Jews. These, along with the Gentile believers mentioned above, heard the gospel of the dispensation of the mystery, and so were the first members of the church which is the body of Christ and of which He is the Head. These were the charter members. That is how the church started.
But since the rest of the Jews were blinded and left in unbelief, very few, if any, Jews were added to this church. And note that in Ephesians 3:1 and 4:1 this church is addressed as Gentiles. The new hope and calling were for the Gentiles in particular, and Jews did not even count in this plan, for they no longer had the priority or even the hope of the kingdom any longer. The doors were closed. So in reality, they became Gentiles in order to partake of the new calling. But at one time Gentiles had to become Jews in order to enter the kingdom.
So as the years rolled by, the charter members died. New members were added by grace thru faith (Ephesians 2:8-10) thru the centuries up till now. They are still being added. But it is very rare even yet that a Jew is added to this church. As a nation they are still blinded.
Some day the church will be completed and removed from the scene. Then Israel will come to the forefront again. But not now. None of their prophecy is being fulfilled yet.
Read the directions carefully in Ephesians 2 and then examine yourself to see if you are a member of this glorious organism, the body of Christ.
Count your blessings the old song says. What blessings and where? we may ask. So let us look thru the post-Acts epistles for references. It may be edifying to many.
Ephesians 1:3. Tells us where members are blest with all spiritual blessings. In the heavenlies, at the Father's right hand, far above all principality and power (verses 20,21).
Ephesians 1:10. Indicates that some time the earth peoples and heavenly peoples will be one.
Ephesians 1:18. Shows where the Lord's inheritance is; in ton hagion, holy of holies. Colossians 1:12 indicates that members are made meet to share it.
Ephesians 2:6. Members are potentially now seated in the heavenlies together with Christ.
Ephesians 2:19. Says that members are fellowcitizens in the holy of holies, right in the household of God. Again it is ton hagion (see Hebrews 9).
Ephesians 3:10. A witness to principalities and powers in heavenly places. Contrast with Israel's witness to the nations of the earth.
Ephesians 3:15. Should be every family. They are both on earth and in heaven. So there is a family or dispensation in heaven.
Ephesians 6:12. It is said that where the hope is, that is where we find the enemy. And so members do wrestle with principalities and powers in high or heavenly places.
Philippians 3:11. This is an earlier resurrection. .Would it be on earth in times of trouble, or in heaven from which Satan will be cast?
Philippians 3:20. Members have their citizenship in heaven where they will see the manifestation of the Lord.
Colossians 1:5. A hope laid up in heaven.
Colossians 1:12. Members made meet to partake of the inheritance in the holy of holies in the Shekinah light or glory.
Colossians 1:13. Translated into the kingdom of His dear Son. A kingdom not prophesied (Acts 28:31). Eventually Christ will reign over all creation.
Colossians 2:20. Members living in the world must remember their place of citizenship and act accordingly. Free from all earthly rituals.
Colossians 3:1-4. Members to seek those things above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set affection there. That is the place of the great manifestation (coronation).
2 Timothy 2:12. In this great kingdom of God and His dear Son in the heavenlies is the promise of reigning for those who suffer or endure.
Titus 2:11-15. Members are to live looking for the glorious appearing. These members are to be a peculiar people.
Besides these references it would be well for the reader to look up all the occurrences of epiphaneia, manifestation or appearing and where it will be and who will be there.
No rapture is mentioned in connection with any of the above references. It is for another family or dispensation, those who had the hope of the promise made to Abraham.
No time is given anywhere, but it could well fit in with the time mentioned in Revelation 12:7-12.
Those with a little knowledge of Greek can do well to make a study of ton hagion as used in the prison epistles and in Hebrews.
For fuller details, read carefully and prayerfully Ephesians , Philippians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. These have all you need to know.
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