|A385 : by Tony Garland |
1. In Ephesians 2:11-13, Paul said that the believing Gentiles have been brought near to God. . . . A former dispensationalist . . . asserts that this is a watertight argument that believing Gentiles are part of Israel. Is this what this passage in Ephesians 2 asserts?
In a word, “no.” The context of the passage makes this clear — when we reach vv. 14-15. “For He . . . has made both one . . . so as to create in Himself one new man (καινὸν ἄνθωπον [kainon anthōpon]) from the two . . .” Paul refers to the joining of Jewish and non-Jewish believers as a new entity (“new” is from kainos, meaning: recent in time, previously unknown, something different). He does not say that Gentiles have been joined to or replaced Israel.
And what does it say the believing Gentiles have been brought near to? Israel? No: they have been brought near to that which they were formerly separated from: God (mentioned in v. 12 “separate from Christ,” “without God”).
What the passage is teaching is that believing Jews and Gentiles are now part of a new spiritual entity—which Paul says is related to “the mystery of Christ” which was not revealed previously, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs [with believing Jews] of the same body” (Eph. 3:1). What does Paul mean when he mentions the word, body? The body of Christ, which never existed prior to Pentecost—when Spirit baptism first began (Mat. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16; 15:8 cf. 1Cor. 12:13).
2. . . . are all people of God through the ages part of a single body of the people of God? Or just because someone is ultimately redeemed by the blood of Christ Jesus, does this make the person part of the Church as the Body of Christ?
This question can be answered by looking at various passages which teach about the spiritual body Paul is talking about in Ephesians and elsewhere.
We'll search in vain to find the “body of Christ” in the OT. And well we should! Paul just told us in Ephesians that it was not just new, but new revelation: “which in other ages was not made known . . . as it is now revealed.” Not only was the revelation new, but the all-important means by which a believer is joined to this body never took place prior to Pentecost: Spirit baptism (see list of verses under my response to question 1).
It isn't just Dispensationalists who are saying the body of Christ is foreign to the OT, Paul tells us so. And both John and Jesus also tell us that Spirit baptism did not occur until after Jesus' departure (John 7:38-39; 16:7; Acts 1:9).
All who are redeemed throughout history are redeemed on the basis of the blood of Christ. But all the redeemed of history were not Spirit-baptized. This only happens to believers living from Pentecost down to our day. Therefore not all the redeemed are members of “the body” which is the Church (see below).
It matters little whether a view is widely held in Christendom. What matters is: what do the Scriptures teach?
Although the use of basic logic appears to have fallen out-of-favor in the culture and the Church, for those who still value clear thinking, the logic is plain:
Therefore: prior to Pentecost, the redeemed were not part of the body of Christ.
- What is this “new man” which Paul refers to as “the body”? [Answer: the body of Christ.]
- How does one become a member of “the body”? [Answer: through Spirit Baptism.]
- When did Spirit Baptism first occur in history? [Answer: on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).]
3. How do we know that “there is more than one body of the people of God” is not just another baseless assertion?
The phrase, “body of the people of God” is not found in Scripture. “The body,” wherever it occurs in a non-physical sense, is a technical phrase in the Bible: it always has one-and-only-one meaning: the body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; 1Cor. 12:12, 27; Eph. 4:12; 5:23).
Listen to Paul in Colossians: “He is the head of the body, the church . . . (Col. 1:18) . . . for His body's sake, which is the church.” I don't know how much plainer it could be. There is no “body of the people of God” in Scripture. There is “the body of Christ” which Paul defines as the Church, and which he states elsewhere is formed by Spirit baptism (1Cor. 12:13) which never occurred prior to Pentecost.
Dispensationalists are not teaching that there are multiple “bodies” of the “people of God.” Rather: we are teaching the need to pay attention to how Scripture defines THE body: a) uniquely a NT concept; b) preconditioned upon the completed work of Jesus on the cross and His subsequent departure (and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost); and therefore, c) not existing in time past such as the OT. (And, if it had, why on earth did Jesus promise the Comforter — why weren't believers being Spirit-baptized prior to the cross?)
Whoever was saved by the work of Christ prior to the formation of the body, the Church, is part of the redeemed of all ages, but not part of “the body of Christ” because it was neither revealed nor existed prior to the NT: specifically, prior to Acts 2.
Some presentations on our website which touch on these issues:
The main issue here is that many Christians fail to appreciate the uniqueness and special place of the Church in God's historic plan. One way this is evident: those who want to join NT believers to Israel (or have NT believers supersede Israel) generally poo-poo the Rapture. As I like to say, “doctrines ride in posses” — that is, they “ride together”—form consistent, interlocking relationships. A denial of the historical uniqueness and formation of the body of Christ inexorably leads to confusion about the Church's primary purpose (preaching the gospel, not bringing in social justice), its unique relationship to Christ as His body in His physical absence, and its subsequent departure prior to the time of God's wrathf.
Blessings - Tony