Simple Papers on the Church of God: Part 10, Of Whom Composed

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When the Lord Jesus Christ was upon earth He spake of His assembly as then nonexistent. He had not yet built it. (Matt. 16:18) Till the Holy Ghost came, consequent on. His ascension, it was not, and could not be formed. The Spirit's presence, however, inaugurated a new era; for by the baptism of the Holy Ghost the body of Christ was called into being. (1 Cor. 12:13) No Old Testament saint then could have been a member of the Church, or assembly of God, which is the body of Christ. In the kingdom of God every one of them will be found, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in power and great glory. But part of the Church of God they never were, nor, we can add, ever will be; for in heaven, as well as upon earth, the Church is viewed as distinct from the worthies of old.
This we are taught in the epistle to the Hebrews, and the point is an important one to keep before the mind; for unless the great landmarks of Scripture are known, and dispensational teaching is apprehended, we cannot rightly divide the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15) How such a thought should make one careful in the putting forth of truth, as well as diligent in acquiring an understanding of it: The word of truth should be rightly divided. The apostle gently intimates by this remark to his child in the faith, that unless the workman was careful he might fail to do it: With Paul, then, the unfolding of Scripture was not the giving out of man's opinion upon it. It could be rightly divided; yet, unless Timothy was careful, that might not always be the case.
Now, important as it is for us to be taught correctly about the Church of God, it was of all importance for those in apostolic times, who, formerly Jews, were such no longer, in order that they should clearly see how distinct was, their proper Christian position from that which they had previously prized, and with which they had been associated. To such Paul wrote in Heb. 12:22-24. Going forth to Christ without the camp, they would surrender much which they had previously valued, and valued very highly. Would they be losers thereby? To answer such a question he introduces his readers to a millennial scene, and lays open to their gaze the court of heaven, arranged, so to speak, in the order of precedence, and shows the connection between the earthly seat of the kingdom and the real metropolis of the universe: "Ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, a general assembly, and to the Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel" (rather, better than Abel). To all this had they then come, though in spirit only as yet. Thus, that to which the Jews in millennial days never will attain, what the earthly people never can have, was theirs, who from amongst them had confessed the Lord Jesus, theirs really, though not then enjoyed. All that they had come to the apostle enumerates, but marks off each thing distinctly from the rest by the conjunction "and." The position therefore of the Church in heaven this passage points out: The assembly of the first-born ones (πεωτοτόκων), as the Holy Ghost here designates them, is seen next to God on His one hand, and the Old Testament saints -the spirits of just men made perfect—are seen as equally near to Him on the other; but two distinct companies never amalgamated. Both are equally near to God (that we must ever remember); but the Church of the first-born ones and the Old Testament saints are described as separated companies in heaven, each having their own proper position on high.
Who then, it may be asked, form the Church of the first-born ones? Some formerly Jews, and some formerly Gentiles; for the Scripture recognizes three classes as at present existing upon earth-the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God. (1 Cor. 10:32) Before the cross there were but two classes-the Jews and the Gentiles. By-and-by there will again be but two upon earth, when the word by Moses shall have its accomplishment: "Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people." (Deut. 32: 43) At present there exists also the third-the Church of God.
To this company the Lord made reference in John 10:16, when He announced the formation of the one flock under the care and the guardianship of the one Shepherd; for the reader should mark the Lord's language. One flock He speaks of, (ποίμνη), to be composed of the sheep in Israel, whom He was about to lead out of the fold, (αὐλὴ), and of the sheep from amongst the Gentiles, who were never in it. This flock then was something quite new, and unthought of, till the Lord taught men about it. Observe, that to make the one flock, He first leads out of the fold those which had been in it. It was not the bringing those formerly Gentiles on to Jewish ground that He had here in view. That in its full sense never was done, and never will be done. It was not making proselytes to Judaism of Gentiles who hearkened to His teaching. That the Lord never did. The time too for that, in accordance with God's thoughts, was then passing away. What the Lord treats of is the getting the two companies, who were to form the one flock, on to new ground altogether. The flock therefore of which He speaks could not be formed, till God dealt with Gentiles in grace equally with Jews. From the days of Abraham to the cross God was acting in a different manner. None therefore, who died before the cross, could form part of the one flock, the assembly, or Church of God.
Years after we get this truth of the component parts of the flock affirmed by different apostles James, in the council at Jerusalem, endorsed Peter's statement, that God had visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. (Acts. 15:14) Later on, Paul, writing to the Romans, bore witness that there was, from amongst Israel, "a remnant according to the election of grace." (Rom. 11:5) The apostle of the circumcision spoke of believers from amongst the Gentiles. The apostle of the Gentiles acknowledged the presence in the assembly of some who, had once been Jews. But, both Peter and Paul distinctly pointed out, that it was only an election from the one and from the other. Those from the Gentiles did not become Jews; those from amongst the Jews did not become part of the one flock by virtue of their descent according to the flesh. Yet there is but one flock, one assembly-" God's flock," as Peter calls it (1 Peter 5:2,3), " God's Church," as Paul designates it. (Acts 20:28) Both terms, it will be seen, are instructive, attesting to whom those comprising the flock and the assembly belong, even God, but without referring to their former condition, whether moral or dispensational.
The truth, therefore, was owned by Peter as well as by Paul, though it is only in the writings of the latter that we find it dwelt on, and treated of doctrinally.
At the end of the first chapter of the Ephesians, Paul introduces the subject of the Church of God, when writing of the present place on high of Him who is its Head. In the second chapter he develops the subject, and shows us who those are that compose it; first setting forth what they had been morally (vv. 1-10), and then what had been their condition dispensationally. (vv. 11-22) Morally, nothing could have been more hopeless; spiritually dead, they had required quickening power to be put forth on their behalf by God for them to live. How wholly were they, one and all, dependent on the love, and mercy, and favor of God! For if they needed quickening power to be put forth by God that they should live, the putting forth of that power depended solely on the activity of God in grace. But what a comfort to remember the class of persons morally on whose behalf He thus acts. Dispensationally, the Jews had been nigh, and the Gentiles had been far off. The former had thus occupied a vantage-ground, which the latter had not. For the Church that vantage-ground has disappeared; for those, once far off, are in Christ made nigh by His blood, and those, once Jews, with those once Gentiles are created one new man. in Christ. A new kind of man (καινὸν), such as had never existed before, the twain made one in Christ. Learning this, we should not, it is clear, look to the Old Testament for instruction as to the formation of the Church, nor for guidance as to its worship. It did not exist in those days, nor was there anything like it ever called into being. Nothing analogous to it can be traced in the pages of the Hebrew writers. Any incorporation then of Jewish practices with Christian worship should have been sedulously guarded against, and that which the New Testament teaches about the Church, the new man, the body of Christ, should have been sought out and conformed to. Has this been generally done?
C. E. S.