After Trusting In Christ ...
If you are saved there would have been a time in your life when you trusted in the finished work of Christ on the cross at Calvary to save you from the consequence of sin. This simple act of faith marks the start of your Christian life and should not be under-rated. The preaching of the cross is of vital importance and so we must strive to present the gospel of salvation in clear and unequivocal terms.
Many Christians however never leave this message and fail to grow in the Lord so that after salvation a time of attrification and stagnation occurs. Is there something more in the Bible for Christians to learn? Clearly there are many Biblical stories, facts and related historical events, archeological considerations, details of language and grammar etc. Various studies as mentioned put in their correct context will help and be a blessing to you. These however are not necessarily going to feed the spirit of man -- they may help you in many different ways and I am not attempting to criticize these disciplines but to point out that there is a yearning in each Christian to grow in the knowledge of Christ and understand what His will is in this age. What is God's will for US today where we live and breath and carry out our lives? Learning how to defend and produce a reliable and accurate apologetic for "the faith" is a great and useful thing but we must ask -- what is the content of your faith where does it come from - specifically, and from what method of investigation?
The nation of Israel was to be a channel of blessing to the Gentiles. We see in Jonah a picture of how they often failed and resisted this God given responsibility. Paul speaking to the Hebrews says this in Heb. 5:
12 (AV) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 (AV) For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 (AV) But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The first principles are needed but you cannot stay on them. The children of Israel had to learn this and take up their position as teachers sent from God. Using milk is helpful for a baby to grow, in fact it is essential. But you cannot stay there, we should learn from the mistakes the Hebrews made. Do you wish to be unskillful in the word like a baby? Surely we need to grow up --- we need to grow and feed on strong meat and not oppose God's will for us in this respect as Israel did.
The first thing we should do is find our group, and the age we live in. Where are we living in the outworking of God's will? What is God saying to us? Can we take what belongs to Israel and assume that this is now ours? Are we spiritual jews or are we graft into Israel? Many more questions will come to mind. To answer these questions we need to compare spiritual things with spiritual and rightly divide the word of truth.
2Tim.2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
This passage is taken from a letter Paul addresses to a young preacher called Timothy. As a preacher he was responsible to feed the assembly food in season.
Two Groups in the Bible
There are really only two national groups in the Bible, the nation of Israel and the rest (the Gentiles). It is often shocking for Christians to face the fact that when Christ came to earth he was not a minister of the Gentiles. The following passage from Math. 15 is about a Syrophoenician (a Gentile) woman who came to the Lord because her daughter was afflicted by a devil. The passage gives a very informative window into the spiritual economy then unfolding.
21 ¶ Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
The passage reveals a number of important details about the time then present and the national advantage Israel had over the Gentiles. The Lord responded to the needs of this Gentile woman by making two statements that collectively clarify once and for all the place the two groups of people had before God.
- I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
(Christ was sent to no other group than the lost sheep of the house of Israel)
- It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
(It is not right to take the bread that belongs to the children and to cast it to the little dogs)
The rightful thing for Messiah to do in the age in which He was then present in the flesh was to only go to Israel and feed only them their spiritual food, To feed the nations would be wrong and akin to casting (not like a careful feeding) bread to dogs. The best that a Gentile could expect was to eat crumbs. The Jews were seen as Masters eating at the table while the Gentiles were under the table as little dogs taking pieces (crumbs) that fell by accident from the process of eating the meal..
Do you think the Gentiles were on an equal footing with the Jews? Were they eating with the Jews at the table? Were they enjoying a 4 square meal?
It would therefore be a very serious matter to say that we are today living in that age. Well, do we live in that age? How can we know?
First let us examine the undeniable reality that there are ages in the Bible. The word "age" is translated from the masculine Greek noun "αἰών" which is simply a period of the world's history. Sometimes it is translated as "world" and you will need to gain the context to get the correct nuance intended by the author.
1Co 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world <165> are come.
Eph 1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world <165>, but also in that which is to come:
Eph 2:7 That in the ages <165> to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
There are some 102 verses where the word appears, sufficient has been given above to conclude that there is a current age, "this age" and an age and ages which is/are "to come". There was an age then current in the time Paul wrote to the Corinthians in which they were experiencing events of the ends of the age. If the ends of the age were present 2000 years ago do you think it possible that a new age had begun since then? We will need to investigate this.
Don't you think it would be important to find out when ages begin and end especially when our age began and what God says to us in this age?
Events in Order
We can locate our age by simply putting things in order and finding the message and group God deals with. Is God still dealing with Israel and giving them the advantage?
While on the earth the Messiah went to Israel and gave them warning about rejecting the Holy Spirit in Matt 12
31 (AV) Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32 (AV) And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Representatives of Israel spoke against the son and had him crucified. The Spirit was given at Pentecost and was blasphemed by representatives of Israel from synagogue to synagoue
Ac 13:45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming <987>.
Ac 18:6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed <987>, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
Notice a progressive movement to the Gentiles by Paul as he attempted to use them to provoke Israel to jealousy. This provocation was not certain to succeed, to show this look at the NT concordance of the the expression " εἴ πως" or "if by any means":
Ac 27:12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if <1513> by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
Ro 1:10 Making request, if by any means <1513> now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
Ro 11:14 If by any means <1513> I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
Php 3:11 If by any means <1513> I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
The first reference shows that failure was possible as Phenice was not attained but rather a shipwreck occured on the island of Melita near a small creek Acts 28:1. In Php 3:11 the resurrection mentioned is a special "out-resurrection" and could be forfeit without the right works. Similarly those that were of Paul's flesh (Israel) might not be provoked to emulation. Failure was possible.
Throughout the Acts a story of rejection and blasphemy continued out of the gospels, Math. 13 records one of the quotations of Isa.6:9 in the context of parables revealing teaching pertaining to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (mystery truth comes in as rejection increases). Jesus called them to repent:
Mt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Before the quotation of Isa. 6: 9 in Matt. 13: we have a series of events leading up
to this critical point:
The failure of Israel to repent, even though the mighty works done in Chorazin and
Bethsaida and Capernaum would have brought about the repentance of notorious
cities of the Gentiles like Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 11: 20-24).
The threefold rejection of the Lord Jesus in His three offices, as Priest, Prophet
and King. "In this place is one greater than the Temple" (Priest). "A greater than
Jonah is here" (Prophet). "A greater than Solomon is here" (King) (Matt. 13: 6,
Consequent upon this rejection and non-repentance come the "mysteries of the
kingdom of heaven", and the citation of Isa. 6: 9 (Matt. 13: 11, 14).
At the close of the Acts we find a repetition of this crisis, but on a larger scale. This
time Israel is set aside, but no command is given to make a fresh proclamation, as in
Acts 1: The quotation of Isa. 6: 9 is followed by the dispensation of the Mystery, in
which the olive tree and its branches, as such, have no place.
We do not speak in tongues and exhibit the "gifts of the spirit" because that economy has ended at the end of the book of Acts.
Truth matters and understanding the revelation given to PAul the prisoner changes our understanding of the will of God for us in this age.