Ecclesiology 013

Dr. Andy Woods | Feb 11, 2018 | Ephesians 1:3 | Ecclesiology

Andy Woods

Ecclesiology 13

2-11-18     Lesson 13   164- 174

Father, we’re thankful for today and we’re thankful for the cool weather.  I just ask that you’ll be with us in Sunday School today and in the main service that follows as we look into Your Word, as we try to study the doctrine of the church and also a little bit more on the Book of Daniel.  I pray for Your illuminating Spirit, the ministry of the Spirit I should say, and I do ask that we would leave here changed.  If anybody is here that’s unsaved we pray that they would get saved and those that are on the road of progressive sanctification I pray that You would bring things to our minds that we can apply to our daily lives and grow in Christlikeness under Your resources.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said Amen.

Good morning everybody.  If you could open your Bibles to the Book of Ephesians, chapter 1 and verse 3.  And as you all know, or if you’re visiting for the first time, we’ve been doing a study on the doctrine of the church which is something called Ecclesiology.  By the way, you should have a handout.   One of the things we’ve been talking about for the last several Sunday’s in Sunday School is the differences between Israel and the church.  And if you don’t separate properly Israel and the church you move into a lot of interpretive mistakes.  So this is one of the most fundamental things you could ever learn as a Bible student, the differences between Israel and the church.  And there at least twenty-four of them that we’ve identified.

There’s the first eight we went through, the second eight that we went through and we’re on this third group of eight.  We’ve actually done most of these, except for the last three so we need to do today number 22, 23 and 24.  And then as God allows it we’re going to try to finish that part of the study today .  Everybody’s laughing because I say that every week.  I’m just going to go back at the end and briefly review all twenty-four.   So here we go!

Another difference, this would be number 22 on your list, another difference between Israel and the church is the evangelistic strategy.  When God created the nation of Israel He had the nations on His mind of the world so the blessings that God gave to Israel were never designed just for Israel, they were designed to spill over to the rest of the world.  So Israel, from the very beginning, had a missionary purpose, a missional purpose.  And you can see that in what God said to Abram when He called him from Ur of the Chaldeans.  He said, “and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”   [Genesis 28:14, “all the families of the earth will be blessed.”]

And the prophet Isaiah picks up on this in the seventh century where Isaiah 42:6 indicates that Israel will be a light to the nations.  And in Isaiah 49:6 Isaiah says the same thing, speaking of Israel, you are “a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  [Isaiah 42:6, “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations.”  Isaiah 49:6, “He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”’]

So there’s some commonalities between Israel and the church; both are created with a missionary purpose BUT the strategy that God gave to each instrument to reach the world is different.  Israel, for the most part, operated on the basis of a come and see strategy.  In other words, the whole point of Israel, God’s earthly people, was to build the temple, which was beautiful by everybody’s estimation, including Josephus in the first century.  He says if you haven’t seen the temple you haven’t seen the most beautiful thing in the world.

And so what was supposed to happen, and that’s why there’s all these instructions that God gave to Solomon about the construction of the temple.  And this was supposed to be such a beautiful edifice that the nations were to stream from where they lived to Israel to see this beautiful thing and in the process they were supposed to learn things about God’s character and who God was.   And that’s why when you… you don’t have to turn there but you can jot down 2 Chronicles 9:1-12, what’s going on is you see the Queen of Sheba making a journey of about 1,200 miles to the land of Israel.  Now 1,200 miles in that time period was a BIG journey, there’s no… there’s ships but there’s no… cruise lines I guess we could put it that way.  You don’t have any airplanes, you don’t have any of the travel comforts that we have today.  So for her to make that journey was a huge sacrifice on her part and yet she made that journey, according to 2 Chronicles 9:1-12 to sit at Solomon’s feet and learn of his wisdom.

[2 Chronicles 9:1-12, “Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test Solomon with difficult questions. She had a very large retinue, with camels carrying spices and a large amount of gold and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was on her heart.[2] Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from Solomon which he did not explain to her.  [3] When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house which he had built, [4] the food at his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his ministers and their attire, his cupbearers and their attire, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the LORD, she was breathless. [5] Then she said to the king, ‘It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. [6] Nevertheless I did not believe their reports until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You surpass the report that I heard. [7] How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. [8] Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the LORD your God; because your God loved Israel establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.’  [9] Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold and a very great amount of spices and precious stones; there had never been spice like that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.  [10] The servants of Huram and the servants of Solomon who brought gold from Ophir, also brought algum trees and precious stones. [11] From the algum trees the king made steps for the house of the LORD and for the king’s palace, and lyres and harps for the singers; and none like that was seen before in the land of Judah.  [12] King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire which she requested besides a return for what she had brought to the king. Then she turned and went to her own land with her servants.’”]

And the nation of Israel really, when you study the Old Testament, they really didn’t send out missionaries.  Like, we’re going to have a missions moment today, they didn’t have missions moments, they didn’t have mission conferences, they didn’t say hey, let’s get a bunch of Jewish people together and let’s go out and evangelize because that is a strategy that God never gave to Israel.  It was never a “go out strategy,” it was a “come and see” strategy.  And in fact the only prophet I can think of in the whole Bible that was actually sent by God outside the borders of Israel to reach a distant people group is Jonah, and he didn’t really want to go to begin with, so God had to deal with him very severely.

And I think part of the reason Jonah didn’t want to go is because it was just atypical for that to happen.  I mean, we’re not supposed to go to them but nations are supposed to come to us.  And when you start understanding this strategy you understand why Jesus is so angry.  Mark’s Gospel records His visible anger when He went into the temple and He saw that they had turned the temple into a commercial enterprise.  You know the story, how Jesus started to overturn the money changer’s temple and that kind of thing.

So why was Jesus so angry?  Because the nations were streaming to Jerusalem to learn about Yahweh through the temple and what were they learning?  They were learning a distorted image of who God is.  They were learning that God was a God of greed God was a God of commerce, God was a God of merchandise, and in fact, Jesus does that, I believe to… a lot of people try to make it look like He just did it once but when you study the life of Christ very carefully what you discover is He did it twice.  He did it at the beginning of His ministry and then He did it at the end of His ministry.  So He was very upset about this and the reason He was upset is because this was a total perversion of the “come and see” evangelistic strategy that God had given to the nation of Israel.

And when the millennial kingdom is established upon the earth for a thousand years the “come and see” strategy will be back in place.  The prophet Isaiah talks about a time when Jerusalem, in the millennial kingdom, will be raised above the hills, and then notice what it says, “all the nations will stream to it.”  [Isaiah 2:2, “Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.”]  So it’s not you folks in Jerusalem get out and evangelize everybody else, it’s everybody is going to Jerusalem to learn of God.  And it’s from Jerusalem that Jesus will render decisions and there will be perfect justice and righteousness and all that sort of stuff.

So the nation of Israel was evangelistic in terms of God’s missionary purpose for them but the purpose for the strategy was very different than what we see today in the church.  It was the come and see strategy.

There’s another verse in Zechariah 14:16 in the millennial kingdom, it says people will go up to Jerusalem from year to year to worship the King.  [Zechariah 14:16, “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. “]  So it’s a regular occurrence where people are going to travel to Jerusalem to actually worship Jesus Christ.  So the “come and see” strategy is going to be back into effect.

Now compare that to the church; the church was also created for evangelistic purposes and it too is to reach the world by God’s design, but it was never given a “come and see” strategy.  It was a go strategy, in other words the local church is about the idea that you win people to Christ, you build people up in Christ, and then you send them out to be ambassadors for Christ.

Jesus said something, and we just sort of read right over this because we’re used to the missionary strategy that we have today, a go and send kind of strategy.  But when the Jews heard Jesus say this I think it blew their mind because He was reversing what Israel had done for about 1,500 years.  After the nation rejects the offer of the kingdom, Matthew 12, in Matthew 13 Jesus starts to disclose the new age of time where the rules have changed.  What’s consistent all the way through is God’s desire to reach the lost; what changes is how it’s going to be done.   So He says in Matthew 13:3, “And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, ‘Behold, the sower went” what? “went out to sow;” now that’s earthshaking there, what He just said.

And this is why I like what Arthur Pink writes on this.  Now I quote Arthur Pink a lot but I don’t agree with everything Arthur Pink said.  I can go into a lot of detail about things I disagree with but I think his treatment on the Matthew 13 parables is probably the best I’ve ever seen. Arthur Pink writes, ““The words ‘went forth to sow,’ or as Mark’s Gospel puts it ‘went out’ were indicative of” now here comes the “D” word, ready?  “…great dispensational change which was soon to be introduced.”  Everybody is afraid of that word “dispensation,” all it means is rule, house rules.  So the house rules are about to change.  What is consistent is God’s heart for the lost; what’s about to change is the strategy that God gives.  And then he says, “There was no longer to be a planting of vines or fig-trees in Israel, but a going out of the mercy of God unto the Gentiles; therefore what we have here is the broadcast sowing of the Seed in the field at large, for as verse 38 tells us ‘the field is the world.’”  [A. W. Pink (2005). The Prophetic Parables of Matthew Thirteen. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.]

That’s a brand new strategy.  And of course this carries over into the age of the church as Jesus was giving introductory ideas to the age of the church there, I believe Jesus starts to give the primary… if  you’re into mission statements or vision statements He gives primarily here the mission statement of the church or the vision statement; it’s called the Great what?  Commission.  And it’s very clear, it says, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’  [19] Go” see the word “go” there, “Go therefore and make disciples of” what? “all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”   [Matthew 28:18-20]  So you see the missional emphasis of the Great Commission with a brand new strategy; it’s go and be sent strategy, it’s no longer a come and see strategy.

Mark’s Gospel puts it this way, Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  [Mark 16:15]   And then just before His ascension He says this to His disciples, Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses” now notice He doesn’t say in Jerusalem only, He says, “both in Jerusalem,” meaning you’re supposed to get out beyond Jerusalem, “both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria,” now Judea and Samaria.  Here’s Jerusalem, like a city Judea and Samaria to put this in 21st century vernacular would be surrounding counties, so get out into the surrounding counties into “Judea and Samaria [and even to the remotest part of the earth.]”

And what you learn in the Book of Acts is the early church didn’t want to do this.  They’re very comfortable in Jerusalem, thank you very much!  Why were they comfortable in Jerusalem?  Because the whole church, until the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10, the whole church is Jewish, Hebrew.  So they haven’t really caught on  yet, they’re still following the old strategy.  And so God says well, I’ll fix this problem, and He brings on a horrific wave of persecution through a guy named Saul.  You can read about this in Acts 8.  And this literally forces the church out of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria.  So God had to sort of kick these people in the backside to get them to adopt His new strategy.  So it’s interesting, God is going to get His way one way or the other, isn’t He?  We can either cooperate with Him, that’s the easy way, or He’s going to get it done through some other way.

And when He says you’ll “be My witnesses in Judea” and then He says “Samaria,” oh my goodness.  If you know anything about the Jewish-Samaritan conflict which had been going on for 700 years you know that that statement blew their minds.  The Samaritans were a half breed race that worshipped the way they wanted to worship, on Mount Gerizim.  They wouldn’t follow the game plan, they wouldn’t go to Jerusalem like they were supposed to.  And so for 700 years the Samaritans hated the Jews and the Jews hated the Samaritans and then Jesus goes in John 4 and ministers to a woman living in Samaria.  And everybody is saying why are You talking to her, because of this racial hatred.

And it’s sort of interesting, we hear all this stuff in our culture today about race and everybody is so race focused.  Have you ever studied race through the lens of the Bible? I mean, we have so much we could contribute to the conversation about race.  And one of the ways is how God overcame in the age of the church the ancient Jewish-Samaritan conflict.   In fact, the Jews hated the Samaritans so much that in Luke 9 Jesus went into a Samaritan village; the people there didn’t respond to His ministry.  And so James and John, now keep in mind John is the love apostle; he doesn’t sound very loving here though, in Luke 9.  He says, Lord, shall we not bring down fire from heaven and consume these people?  [Luke 9:54, “When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”’]   Why would he say that?  Because of this ancient racial and religious tension between the Jews and the Samaritans.

So here Jesus is saying you’re not to be My witnesses in Jerusalem any more, you’re to get out and go into Judea and even into Samaria and then don’t stop there, go where?  To the remotest part of the earth.  And so this Acts 1:8 is sort of an outline of the Book of Acts.   The witness of the church in Jerusalem is Acts 1-7; the witness of the church in Judea and Samaria, after the persecution broke out, spearheaded by Saul, is in Acts 8-12.  And then how the gospel got to the remote parts of the earth, which would be Asia Minor, Southern Galatia, and ultimately all the way to Rome.  Now do you know the statement, “all roads lead to Rome.”  There’s an understanding that once it gets to Rome it’s going to go everywhere because all roads lead to Rome.  That’s why the Book of Acts stops, after Paul reaches Rome, with the gospel.

So the third part of the book, you’ll be my witnesses to the remote parts of the earth, that’s chapters 13-28 of the Book of Acts.  And all of this is being carefully developed because there’s a new rule in place where God is no longer saying come and see, it’s a go and send strategy.  And you say well, is this really practical, what you’re talking about?  Let me show you how practical this is: a lot of church models today is still a come and see strategy.  I volunteered at a church sitting in a staff meeting and the leader of the particular ministry that I was in made this statement.  It was a mega church and he said, “if we build it they will come.”  And I started thinking to myself, gosh, that sounds familiar, where is he getting that from, I can’t find that in the Bible.  Well, as you know that comes from Hollywood, that comes from the movie Field of Dreams.  Let me get this straight, we’re getting our missional strategy from Hollywood and not carefully consulting the Word of God?

There’s a lot of people out there that say we’re going to build this beautiful, whatever.  Robert Schuller in California, about 15 minutes from where I grew up, built this beautiful edifice, made of pure glass basically, and it was very attractive to look at, and it’s this idea that once we get this thing built then everybody is going to stream into the doors and all that kind of stuff.  And the reality of the situation is you’re going back to an old strategy when you do that.  The age of the church, the focus is not earth, earthly things, the focus is not property, the focus is really not material beauty, although God has given us a beautiful facility here and so we might as well use it to His glory.  But we could have church without this building, amen!  Because the church is God’s people.

So in the age of the church it’s not a let’s get everybody in here kind of thing, even though we want as many people to come as possible, the idea is to build people up in Christ, primarily through the perpetual teaching of God’s Word, which then equips them for their ministry where?  Outside the doors of the church because you’re going to have access to people I don’t have any access to.  So I can multiply the influence of my ministry by building into you and this week you can reach two or three people that I won’t even know, I don’t even know exist.  And think if that happens with every person in the room; there’s a far bigger impact than just getting a bunch of people in the room. I mean, we could probably only fit two or three hundred people in this whole room.  And just in this room, if everybody here reaches two to three people, I mean, we’re reaching far more just through the multiplication than just a mere two hundred or three hundred.  So we need to embrace this strategy that God has given us; it’s a win/win built in strategy.   So that becomes another major difference between the nation of Israel and the church.

Another difference relates to our blessings.  The blessings of the nation of Israel are primarily material blessings. I know I had you open up to Ephesians 1:3 but you might want to slip back for a minute to Deuteronomy 28, holding your place in Ephesians 1, and notice what God, through Moses, says to the nation of Israel and look at how all of these are material things.  Deuteronomy 28:1, “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His command­ments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the” what? “nations of the” what? “earth.” [2] “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God:  [3] Blessed shall you be in the city,” that sounds earthly, doesn’t it, “and blessed shall you be in the country.  [4] Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.”  See how these are all earthly things.  [5] Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.”  Verse 6, “Blessed you will be when you come in and blessed shall you be when  you go out.”  [7] The LORD shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.”

See, these are all earthly things.   Verse 8, “The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”  And you can just go right on through that.  It talks about rain and crops, livestock, I mean, Israel’s blessings were earthly, they all relate to this earth, planet earth.  And that’s part of the reason God gave them a “come and see” strategy because people could come to the land of Israel and see the actual material blessing of God, see there’s no other source for this other than God.

Compare that to the church; we can to Ephesians 1:3.  Look how different this is.  Paul, writing to the church in Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every” what’s the next word, “spiritual blessing” where, “in the heavenly places in Christ,” now as you look at Ephesians 1:3 there’s probably… the three words I’m focusing on in here is number 1, “blessed” a lot of people are trying to get… a lot of Christians are out there trying to get blessed from God, and if someone tells them you can get God’s blessing if you do this formula.  Well, the reality is you’ve already been blessed.  In fact your bank account is so full if you ask God for something else there wouldn’t be enough room for it.

And it’s not just a couple of blessings that we have; we have how many blessings, “every” blessing; that’s a pretty comprehensive concept, isn’t it?  And then it very clearly says our blessings are spiritual; they’re not material.  Now does God bless people materially?  Yes, He can and does.  Does God provide for our needs?  Yes, He can and does.  But that is really not the focus of the church; the church’s blessings are spiritual blessings, every blessing in the heavenly places.   You say well, is this really relevant, what you’re talking about?  There isn’t anything more relevant than understanding this because so many of God’s people think that their glass is maybe three-quarters full.  And they’ve got to go and plead before God to get the final twenty-five percent.

And in the charismatic movement you see this idea of the second blessing.  Now that you are a Christian you’ve got to go on now and get this sort of second dose of the Holy Spirit.  Well, that would contradict, wouldn’t it, Ephesians 1:3.  Ephesians 1:3 doesn’t say you’re blessed with every spiritual except the baptism of the Spirit, you don’t have that one yet.  I mean, the problem with us is not that we need more blessings; the problem with us is we quench the blessings that we do have, so our fellowship with God can get broken and we need to restore that AKA 1 John 1:9.  Right?     [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”]

So I don’t need more of the Spirit, the Spirit needs more of me because I constantly will, in my human fallenness, assert my will against the Spirit and I can quench the Spirit.  But the problem isn’t God here in the lack of blessings; the problem is I haven’t been a good steward of the blessings I do have.   And so many people, they fall for a financial strategy which says gosh, if I’m having some problems financially the televangelist told me that if I give a certain amount of money and the money has to go to the televangelist by the way, did you ever notice that?  It’s never don’t give to the orphanage that no one knows about, always give it here.  Then God is obligated to bless me materially so material blessings are held out to people as a consequence of giving money to a televangelist.  And immediately when you hear that you should be thinking, first of all, that’s the wrong dispensation.  And what confuses people is the televangelist will quote a bunch of verses from the Bible but they’re all from Israel.  And people that don’t understand the Israel/church distinction will fall for this.

So if you feel you have to give to somebody to get the blessing of God, number 1,  you’re going back to old covenant Israel whose blessings were earthly.  And number 2, you’re confusing the motive for giving.  Why do we give as New Testament Christians?  By the way, the New Testament in the epistles talks about giving.  2 Corinthians 8 and 9, it’s called the principles of grace giving.  Why do we give?  I mean, do I give because if I put $10.00 in God is obligated to give me $100.00 back, like a slot machine?  NO, I don’t give… watch this very carefully, I don’t give to get blessed; I give because I’ve already been blessed.  That’s a totally different motive.  We give because we can’t believe what we have in the grace package; God has given us “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”.

Now in our soteriology study we went through 33 of those blessings that you already have.  Those are yours at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.  But they’re not earthly, they’re not material, although God does provide for our needs and does financially bless His people when He wants to.  That’s just not a guarantee.  Meeting our needs is a guarantee.  But what is a guarantee is “we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”  [Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”]

This is why Jesus, to the church at Smyrna, Revelation 2:9, says I know “your poverty,” now the Greek word for poverty here is a level of poverty that’s abnormal.  We’re not just talking about people that are struggling to pay their bills; we’re talking about a level of poverty that’s way below anything that would be imaginable in the human mind.  So Jesus says I am acknowledging your poverty, and then He puts in parenthesis here, “but you are” what? “rich.”  Why are they rich?  Because they’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  A job layoff can’t change that; inflation can’t change that, interest rates can’t change that, identity theft can’t change that.  Anything that’s taken away from you in the earthly realm can’t alter the fact that you’ve been blessed with every blessing in the spiritual heavenlies.  So Israel and the church are very different because Israel’s blessings were earthly, they are God’s earthly people and we are God’s heavenly people and so our primary blessings are heavenly.

And let me see if I can squeeze one more in.  This is number 24.  The final difference that we have between Israel and the church is the composition.  The only thing that’s necessary to be a member of Israel is physical lineage, meaning you have to be a physical descendant from who?  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!  If you’re in that lineage then you’re Hebrew, you’re Jewish.  That’s why God calls Himself later on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He’s making a statement about Israel.  He doesn’t say, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.  Why?  Because Joseph was a tribe, one of twelve, within Israel.  The only thing that’s necessary to be a member of Israel is you have to be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob physically, genealogically, which means within Israel you can have some that are actual believers in God’s promises and some that are unbelievers.

Do you see that?  And as you begin to understand this it starts to make sense of the things that the New Testament prioritizes for the Jew.  The New Testament is very clear that yes, God loves the Jewish people but He’s going to fulfill His covenants, not just through Israel but through who?  Believing Israel.  This comes out in the preaching of John the Baptist.  Matthew 3:9, “And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’;  So a lot of them thought they were okay with God because of their genealogy.  And John the Baptist says, “for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”

In other words God is not impressed with someone just because they’re Jewish.  What He’s impressed with is the believing Jew.  See that?  Because within Israel it’s completely possible to have a composition of unbelieving Israel and believing Israel.  This starts to make sense of what Paul says in the Book of Romans, chapter 2, verses 28 and 29, a section where he’s dealing with Israel.  And Paul says, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. [29] But he is a Jew who is one” what? “inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

I mean, there’s nothing wrong, of course, with being a physical Jew.  God set up the institution of circumcision, Genesis 17,  I mean, that’s all wonderful but the reality of the situation is God is not going to fulfill His covenants just through Jewish people because they’re Jewish.  He’s going to fulfill His covenants with believing Israel.

Romans 9:6 says, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;”  see that?  So in the outer ring there that’s in blue you have the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  But in that white ring in the interior there you have a special group of Jews, believing Jews  And Paul calls them, Galatians 6:16, “the Israel of God.” [Galatians 6:16, “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”]

They’re a lot of people out there trying to make it sound like “the Israel of God” is a term that applies to the whole church.  That is not true and we tried to deal with this in our Kingdom series, I think the last lesson we did at the end of last year.  You can access that and see what Galatians 6;16 is really talking about.  It’s talking about a group within the physical lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that are believing Jews and they’re affectionately called “the Israel of God.”

And that’s why Jesus, back to the church at Smyrna, could say, “I know the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews but are not.”  Revelation 2:9.  You’ll see the exact same concept in Revelation 3:9 as Jesus addresses another church in Asia Minor.  [Revelation 3:9, “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie….”]  So what he’s getting at is God is not impressed with someone just because they’re Jewish; it’s the believing Jew that He’s going to fulfill His purposes through.  So all the way through Old Testament, New Testament, you have this constant distinction being made between the believers and the unbelievers that are all physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

You say well, can you connect the dots for me a little bit more?  Well here we go.  You ready for this?  That’s why Israel will go into the tribulation period.  Why is Israel going into the tribulation period, the 70th week of Daniel?  Because the purpose of the tribulation period, besides judging this world for its wickedness is preparatory for the kingdom.  God’s covenants are made with the Jewish people.  God is very clear that He is going to fulfill His Word through the Jewish people, not just the Jewish people generically but the Jewish people in faith.   So He’s got to send Israel into the tribulation period to find the ones or to create the ones that are believers in Him.  They’re called the remnant; the rest of them are going to be purged off or cut off.

That’s why this remnant in the tribulation period is analogized to the refiner’s fire; you apply the refiner’s fire to a piece of metal and what does it do?  It purifies the metal; it burns off the dross.  That’s what the tribulation period is doing for Israel.  The purpose of it is to locate and in some cases bring to faith the remnant and to purge off the unbelievers.  Why does God have to do that?  Because of the nature of Israel itself.  Israel, by definition, has within it believers and unbelievers.  So the prophet Zechariah says, [Zechariah 13::8] “It will come about in the land, declares the LORD, ‘that two-thirds will be cut off.”  Now who’s the two-thirds?  Those are Jews that are not believers.  “…and they will perish; but the third will be left in it.  [9] And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested.”  And then it talks about their believing state when this process is over, the Israel of God, “They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”

So what is God doing in the tribulation period is He’s making a deliberate separation between unbelieving Israel and believing Israel and at the end of the whole process you now have a believing Israel in place whereby God can fulfill His covenants and bring forth what He’s always wanted to do, the millennial kingdom.  I don’t think you guys have this slide but I added this at the last minute but it’s just Ezekiel 20:33-38.  It teaches the same principle.

God says in Ezekiel 20:34, “I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, … [35] … and there I will enter judgment with you face to face.  Verse 38, “and I will purge from you the rebels” now who would the rebels be? Unbelieving Israel, they’re purged off, they’re cut off, leaving only believing Israel so there’s a believing Israel in place whereby God can fulfill His covenants and His program.  Do you see that?  So Israel, because of how she’s designed, having believing Jews and unbelieving Jews, has to go into the tribulation period.  Does that make sense?

Compare that to the church.  Can you have unbelievers in the universal church?  I mean,  you can certainly have unbelievers in a local church, but we’re not talking about that;  we’re talking about God’s church, the universal church.  If you weren’t a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you couldn’t get your foot in the door.  You would never be granted entry.  With Israel it’s completely possible to have an unbelieving Jew and a believing Jew.  You cannot have that in the universal church.  1 Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit” us Bible church people were all…. No, it doesn’t say that, does it?  “For by one Spirit” us Presbyterians, us Methodists, us Lutherans.  No!  “For by one Spirit we were” what? “all baptized” means identified, “into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were” what?  What’s the next word? “all made to drink of one Spirit.  If a person has trusted in Christ they are part of God’s  universal church; if they’ve never trusted in Christ for personal salvation then they are not part of the church.  Not so with Israel.

So the primary distinctions that the New Testament draws our attention to concerning divisions in the church have nothing to do with believing versus unbelieving.  What it has to do with is different levels of maturity and different levels of growth.  That’s the distinction.

1 Corinthians 2:1-3 says, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people, but as to carnal, as to babes in” babes in what? “babes in Christ.  [2] I fed you milk to drink, not solid food; for until now you were not yet able to receive it.  And even now you are not yet able, [3] for you are still carnal. For where there is envy and strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal, and are you not behaving like mere men?”  And it is frustrating to me to watch commentator after commentator after commentator in their Corinthians commentaries try to explain that the babes in Christ and the carnal are not Christians.  Well folks, that’s an Israel distinction, believer versus unbeliever.  Paul is not dealing with Israel here; he’s dealing with the universal church.  If these people were not believers they wouldn’t be part of the universal church at all.  See that?  That’s why he calls them “babes in Christ.”  And that’s why he says, “And I,” what’s the next word in verse 1, “I, brethren,” see the distinction within the church is different levels of maturity and different levels of growth.

We are very simplistic how we think.  Our thinking is believer/unbeliever!  And that’s an important distinction because that determines heaven or hell but that is a very shallow, superficial analysis.  What you’ll find in Paul is a lot more sophistication than that because within the camp of the saved, within the universal church there are different levels of maturity.  One group is the growing group called spiritual believers.  One group is the infants in Christ, those are new Christians and they’re sort of cute because they’re doing age appropriate things, like when a baby sucks their thumb, that’s sort of cute, right?  But when they’re 16 it loses its cuteness and the group that loses its cuteness is that third group there, the carnal Christians.  The author if Hebrews, chapter 5, verses 11-14 says that that group “by this time,” in other words, they have been in the state of carnality for a long time, ‘by this time they ought to be teachers,” but I need “to teach you the elementary” things of the Word of God all over.  And we’ve done studies on the reality of carnal Christianity.

And there’s such a fear that if you acknowledge a category called carnal Christianity that somehow you’re misinterpreted as being a cheerleader for carnal Christianity.  Paul was no cheerleader for carnal Christianity.  You can see Paul in 1 Corinthians speaking very harshly to these people, not threatening them with hell but threatening them with loss of rewards at the Bema Seat and all kinds of other issues.  So just because you acknowledge it’s a category doesn’t mean you think it’s some great thing that you have carnal Christians because in the hyper Calvinist circles you get this idea that you’ve got believers and unbelievers and that’s it.  And if you’re not growing in Christ you were never saved.  And if Jesus is not Lord of all then He’s not Lord at all.  And you hear this type of thinking and then I would just challenge you to read that through the grid of Paul.  Paul wants folks saved but within the saved camp he clearly acknowledges different levels of maturity within the body of Christ.

So what am I trying to get at?  What I’m trying to get at is Israel had believers and unbelievers in it so Israel has to go into the tribulation period to purge the unbelievers from the believers.  The church, the universal church has no unbelievers in it at all.  The only distinction that’s drawn is the different levels of maturity within Christians.  So therefore the church does not have to go into the tribulation to purge believers from unbelievers because you wouldn’t be part of the universal church at all unless you were a believer.

Now God, prior to the tribulation, will send you into all kinds of trials, little “t,” to move us away from infancy and carnality into the spiritual man.  That’s what the trials are there to do; they’re there to bring us to a higher level of maturity.  James 1:2-4.  [James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, [3] knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. [4] And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”]  But it’s not going into the tribulation period itself, the way Israel has to do, to separate believer from unbeliever.

So John Walvoord, the great prophecy scholar said this:  “Your views on eschatology really relate to your views on ecclesiology.”  If you have a correct ecclesiology down then your view on eschatology will fall nicely into place.  So people that want to put the church into the tribulation period, number 1, don’t understand the purpose of the tribulation period, and number 2, they don’t understand the nature of the church.  It would be a violation of the nature of the church itself to put the church into the seven years wrath of God.  That’s number 24.

So here we go, we’re going to review the difference between Israel and the church: Israel is the wife of Jehovah, the church is the bride of Christ. Israel birthed Christ, the church was birthed by Christ.  God returns for Israel, the second coming; He returns for the church at the rapture.  God is the King of Israel; He’s the head or the groom over the church.  Israel began in Genesis 12; when did the church start?  Acts 2.  80% of the Bible, 4/5ths of it governs Israel.  20% governs the church.  Concerning the covenants, Israel was the direct party between God and the covenants.  We’re not a party to those covenants, we’re what we call third party beneficiaries.  And just kind of review the prior lessons and if some of these things I’m saying are ambiguous.

Israel is a political nation, the church is a spiritual man.  Israel’s wars were political, our wars are spiritual. Israel has timing texts; the church has none.  Israel has a priesthood, the church is a priesthood.  Israel had a physical temple, but today the temple of God is where?  The individual Christian.  Israel is going to receive their resurrected bodies at the first resurrection, Revelation 20; the church is going to receive its resurrected body at the time of the rapture.  Israel’s judgment is on the earth; our judgment for rewards is where?  In heaven.

The New Jerusalem names the gates after Israel but it names the foundations after the church.  You get into Israel through physical birth; you get into the church through spiritual birth.  What governs Israel is the Law; what governs the church is New Testament revelation, primarily the epistles.  Israel received the Holy Spirit selectively, temporarily and subsequent to salvation.  We receive the Holy Spirit universally and permanently at the moment of salvation.  God’s farewell address to Israel is the Olivet Discourse.  His farewell address to the church is the Upper Room Discourse.  Israel is called God’s firstborn Son.  We are called the Bride of Christ.  Israel is revealed in the Old Testament but the church is not.  Israel followed a come and see evangelistic strategy.  The strategy God has given us is a go and proclaim strategy.  Israel’s blessings are earthly, the church’s blessings are heavenly.  Israel is composed of believers and unbelievers.  The church is composed only of believers.

What I’m trying to argue here is that God has, watch this, separate programs for Israel and the church.  Israel and the church are like two trains running on different railroad tracks.  Take a look at Ephesians 3:10, just to sum up here.  Paul says this, “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”  Paul says when he’s describing the church it’s part of, and I have the key word underlined here, “the manifold” plan of God.  The word “manifold” is polypoikilos, what does that mean? I looked that up in the lexicon and it means many sided.  God’s program is many sided.  It brings to memory a multi cut diamond, many sided, multiple cuts to make up a diamond.  That’s the plan of God.

God has one program for fallen angels.  He’s got a totally different program for the angels that didn’t fall.  God has one program for man.  He has a totally different program for woman.  God has a program for national Israel.  He has a completely different program for the church because this is the nature of God.   God is a God of diversity and variety.  Isn’t that obvious by looking at creation?   The fact that of the seven billion people on this planet nobody has exactly the same fingerprints; we all have different personalities, we all have different temperaments.  And you look at nature, you look at humanity, you look at what God has created, what do you see?  You see complete diversity.  And what do you see in the plan of God.  You see diversity.

And the reason I bring this up is there is such a… what I would call a ram, jam and cram mentality today where people don’t like all this and they want to oversimplify things and just jam it all into one thing.  And that’s called the one people of God theology.  Well, I don’t believe in one people of God theology, I believe in at least two people of God theology, Israel and the church. I don’t have any problem believing in that if it’s biblical because it fits into the many sided manifold plan of God which is who God is.  He’s a God of variety; He’s a God of diversity.

So let’s let Israel and the church just be what God wants them to be; let’s not force one to be the other.  I mean, there’s people in the church that want to be Israel today and there’s other people that think Israel is the church and it’s part of this mindset that we have where we want to fit God into our box and God doesn’t fit into a box (as you know).    God’s plan is multisided.  And so that’s what the Israel/church differences help us to understand.

So the next time we’re together we’ll get into the subject of the intercalation that the church is what we would call an intercalation; it’s an interruption in God’s past and future program for national Israel.  The church is not less important but it’s right there, it’s sometimes used as a parenthesis to describe it, it’s right there interrupting God’s past and future work with Israel.  So that’s where we’re going starting next week and I’ll stop talking, believe it or not, and we can open it up for questions.