As we begin to examine what Paul writes in his letters, we'll start with his letter to the Romans. This will not be a comprehensive study of Romans, at all, but rather I will look at a very important part that is overlooked by too many.
There are a few common methods of sharing the 'gospel' with people, to bring them to accepting Christ as their savior. Two of the very well known techniques are called "The Four Spiritual Laws" and "The Romans Road." They both cover essentially the same basic ideas, but I will focus on the Romans Road. There are a few variations of this method, but a common one is as follows:
1. Our Condition:"As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;"
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"
"For the wages of sin is death…"
2. Our Hope in Christ:"... but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
3. Our Response:"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."
"For, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
4. The Salvation:"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,"
Many have traveled this road and come to a living faith in Jesus Christ. Praise God for that.
But the Romans Road actually should not end there! The road with its 'switchbacks' never goes farther than Romans 10:13. I have no argument with it as far as it goes, but there is more.
Now what could be simpler than "calling on the name of the Lord"? What a promise!:... "For, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
Well then, what on earth was Paul saying in Acts:
strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
Let us travel further down the Romans Road beyond where everyone else seems to have stopped.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Well why do we need to do that? If we called on the name of the Lord, aren't we saved?
Yes, but are you satisfied to wait till you die and go to heaven to enjoy your salvation? What about entering the Kingdom here on earth?
So what does Paul say just after 12:1?
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let us look at something about 'being saved' that will help us to see the difference, then we'll come back to Romans. Paul says to the believers in Corinth:
For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
(1 Corinthians 3:9-15)
Did you catch it? If you build with poor materials, your works will be burned up. And you will be saved, "yet so as through fire." I don't think you want that!
So going back to Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
We need our mind renewed. Remember the meaning of the Greek word for 'repent.' It literally means 'with-mind' or 'after-mind.' Here is what it means to repent. Let your mind be renewed by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Let your mind spend time 'with' the Holy Spirit. Then 'after' your mind is renewed, you will understand and be able to "prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
So continuing in Romans, Paul tells us what that is:
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
'We, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.' That is absolutely key in Gods's perfect will.
Today it is typical in even a small town to have a dozen or more churches, each part of a different denomination, having their own different systematic theology, teachings that conflict with the teachings of the other churches in the town.
Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians; At the beginning of his letter, 1 Corinthians he says. In the first nine verses, Paul speaks of his thankfulness to the Lord for what He has given to the saints in Corinth, and how they have "all utterance and all knowledge" and "that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." But in verse ten he pleads with them. He addresses his deep concern for their condition:
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas (Peter)," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
(1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
The goal, clearly is, as Paul pleads with them, "that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." How far we have fallen from that 'perfect will of God.' In Corinth, they were still in one church in the city of Corinth, but today the divisions have far exceeded that of Corinth. Today the divisions have completely separated, and become completely entrenched with "Lutheran churches" (I am of Martin Luther) in many cities all around the world, and "Baptist churches", and "Mennonite churches" (I am of Menno Simons), and thousands more. The Kingdom cannot come to such a divided mess.
Jesus Christ is the King of one united Kingdom, He is the Head of One Church, He is the Bridegroom of One Bride. He is most certainly not divided. Hear what He says:
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
The state of Christianity today cannot stand.
In the Bible, God's revelation to us, there are many shadows, and 'types' (symbolic pictures) of spiritual realities. These pictures are given in stories about natural things (the parables) and also pictures through history, mainly the history of the nation of Israel:
Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
(1 Corinthians 10:6-11)
"Now these things became our examples, ... Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."
Solomon, the 'son of David' built a temple in Jerusalem where God was to be worshiped. But after a few hundred years, Israel had become so corrupt that God let them be carried away to Babylon. The meaning of the name 'Babylon' means confusion. In particular it means confusion of languages, so that men could not understand one another's speech.
Just as the southern (divided) kingdom of Israel, Judah was carried away to Babylon, the divided 'Christian church' has been carried away to 'Mystery Babylon the Great.' We no longer all speak the same thing, in fact we don't even understand one another's speech. The theology of one denomination makes no sense to another denomination. 'We' don't understand how 'they' can believe that.
But just as happened, by the sovereign work of God, that a remnant of the Jews returned to Jerusalem, built the wall around it, and rebuilt the temple, likewise, there will be a remnant of believers 'upon whom the end of the ages have come' who will return to the one place and rebuild the one true church. Yes, Jesus said "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18b)
His church, His house, is made of living stones, which we are. We build, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) He builds when we build, He is the head, and we are his body, His hands and His feet. When we build, it is Jesus, the head, building.
But just as with many Jews who were in Babylon,
they were comfortable there and had no interest in returning to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple,
there will be many who are comfortable to stay in the denominations.
Only a small remnant will return to the One and only church that Jesus is building.
But that is where the Kingdom will come.
The Good News, the Gospel of the Kingdom is about that return.
As we continue looking at the gospel that Paul preached, I want to focus on one of his letters that has no name.
What? No name? That's right, the name is missing. Oh, it has a name in our Bibles, but in the best and earliest Greek manuscripts (hand written copies) the name is missing. There is a blank space in the first verse where the name should be, but no name is there. The letter in our Bibles is "Ephesians," but there is also strong internal evidence that the letter could not have been written to the church in Ephesus. Let us first get a little background and context.
In Acts 9:1 we read that Paul came to Ephesus, and spent over two years there:
And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
So three months, and then two years. His teaching and influence there was so great that from there "all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks."
If we look at Paul's other letters, we find a common pattern. At the end of his letters are 'greetings' to people he knew there:
Romans: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila ... and the church that is in their house" (16:3-5). He also greets Mary, Andronicus, Junia, Amplias, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, those who are of the household of Aristobulus, Herodion, those who are of the household of Narcissus, and over a dozen more people by name (6-15) And he also passes on greeting to them from his co-workers, like Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, and several more. (21-23)
1 Corinthians: "The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." (16:19)
Galatians: While there are no greetings at the end, read what Paul says to them:
You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
Colossians: The last twelve verses are greetings from brothers with Paul,
two who were from Colossae, and others who knew each other.
Now let us examine some facts and characteristics of the letter called "Ephesians."
In the best and earliest manuscripts:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are ___________, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
There is a blank space for a name, but no name is there. "To the saints who are," requires a name. It is fairly evident that Paul originally had a name there, but the early copies left it out, but left space for it. This may seem strange, but for the fact that this letter was of such great value, with such high revelation, that it became a very popular letter that was copied and sent around to many churches in many cities, it truly was for all the churches, so the copies just left out the original name.
So who did Paul actually have in mind as he wrote? Who did he first send it to? The contents of the letter is full of clues. Not until verse do we have a direct reference to them; "you":
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers"
In verse 13 Paul says "In Him you also trusted, after you heard ... the gospel". Then Paul continues, "Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith ..."
What? They trusted after they heard the gospel, and then Paul also after he heard of their faith, gave thanks and prayed for them? Clearly they heard the gospel and believed before Paul heard about it. But in Ephesus, remember Paul spent over two years there preaching the gospel to them (read Acts 9 again!) This letter certainly could not have been originally written and sent to the church in Ephesus!
So why is it called "Ephesians"? Well, remember that it was from Paul's teaching for over two years in Ephesus that all Asia heard the gospel. Ephesus was the capital city of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). It was the natural center for collecting all the letters of Paul, and since some early copies didn't have a name, perhaps a copy that was sent to Ephesus may have had their name inserted. We don't know exactly how it came to be known by that name, but this idea is reasonable. But the evidence that the letter was not originally written to Ephesus is very strong.
So what? Who cares? Is it important to know?
I suggest to you that perhaps, in God's amazing wisdom and His great plan, He kept it a secret until the end of the age. Scholars have speculated as to who it was written to, and the prevailing opinion is well supported by the internal evidence, the content of the letter itself.
All that I have written this far on this website is leading up to the content of this letter. Paul said to the Corinthians "I fed you with milk." I would say that the content of this letter, "Ephesians" (so called) is the richest cream that has risen to the top of the milk of the Word of God.
There are two of Paul's letters which are very close in their content. They are much closer to each other than any other of his letters. The two are "Ephesians" and Colossians. These two letters were carried by Tychicus to their destinations:
But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts.
Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts,
Here is the biggest clue, strong evidence for who Paul wrote to:
Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house. Now when this epistle is read among you (the Colossian church), see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh
So here we are told directly that Paul wrote a letter to Laodicea, and he wanted that letter and the letter to the Colossians to be exchanged and read by both churches. ('from Laodecea' should be understood as the one sent from Paul to Laodicea, and now brought 'from Laodicea' to the church in Colossae also.)
Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.
Epaphras was from Colossae; "who is one of you." He had a great zeal for these three cities, "for you (Colossae), and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis." These three cities were close together, and were known as "the tri-cities."
In Revelation we have a letter that John wrote to Laodicea. It is the last of seven letters. And the first of the seven letters was to Ephesus. It is well known among many students of the Bible that there is a correlation between these seven churches and church history. The evidence is not only in the contents of the letters, but also the names of the cities.
Ephesus is the first church that John wrote to. They had left their first love. (Revelation 2:1-7) Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy from prison, after he had taught for over two years in Ephesus, from which the gospel spread through all Asia. He wrote:
This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me.
(2 Timothy 1:15)
Consider this, the Gospel of John, and Revelation, also written by John, were written quite late in the first century, after Paul was killed. All the seven churches John wrote letters to were in Asia. But all of those in Asia had turned away from Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ before John wrote to them! It was Jesus Christ who told John to write and what to write to each one.
Smyrna, the second, was the persecuted church that suffered poverty and martyrdom. Smyrna is also known as Myrrha, which is the feminine form of the embalming spice Myrrh, an appropriate name for the church during the time of great persecution, with many saints killed for their faith.
Next is Pergamum, the worldly church that mixed its doctrines with paganism, corresponding to the time of Constantine who mandated that "Christianity" would be the religion of the Roman Empire, he being the first head of the Roman "church," (the first Pope.) He mixed all the Roman pagan feasts and doctrines in with the teaching of the church. The root of the name Pergamum is gamos, the Greek word for wedding or marriage. This is the marriage of "Christianity" with the pagan world.
Thyatira is the corrupt church that allows "that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols." The name Thyatira, according to one ancient source comes from the Greek word for daughter. That may be understood as the offspring of the marriage of Christianity and paganism, Pergamum.
Sardis: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead." (Revelation 3:1) They give the impression that they are alive, but they are dead. The result of that marriage with paganism, and her offspring is death.
It should be noted that in each of the first five letters, Jesus speaks of a few things they have that are good, and also points out their sin and errors. But in the last two we have exceptions to this pattern.
Philadelphia: This name means "Brotherly love." In only this letter, there is not a single word pointing out their sin or errors. The whole letter is completely positive. This church corresponds to the time in church history where the greatest amount of recovery of truth from the Bible was studied and published. Much more could be said about the simple purity and love of those in this period of church history. (This church seems to best fit the period of the 17 and 18 hundreds.)
But finally we come to the last letter, to Laodicea. In this letter, the exception is that there is not a single word of praise for anything good there.
"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."
But even this church He still loves!
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'"
This is the church at the end of this age. It corresponds with the masses of churches today, all divided and lukewarm. But there is still the call, as in all seven, "To him who overcomes." The overcomers are the remnant who will return to the One Church that Jesus said He would build.
Now finally we return to the so called book of "Ephesians," actually, in all likelihood, written to this church in Laodicea. This letter contains the highest and fullest concentration of revelation of God's purpose and desire, written by Paul from prison. It is one of the only two letters that Paul instructed more than one church to read. Laodiceans, ("Ephesians") and Colossians were both to be read by both churches. And they are more for our time today than for any other time in church history.
So what do we find in this letter?
(I will call it "Laodiceans" from here to the end.)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,
To the saints who are ___________, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
Here I will follow the earliest and best existing copies of this letter, which had no name, but left space for one. I will leave it this way because this letter, more than any other is really for every church and every believer, and especially for the churches all over the earth today! It is the only letter written by Paul in which every word is completely applicable to any and every believer. What I mean is that all of his other letters contain specific corrections or instructions for problems unique to the church written to. But this one, is written in a way that contains the very best of all that he taught in all the churches.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us into mature-sonship through Jesus Christ into Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
I have made some corrections to the translation. Here in verse 5; from "having predestined us to adoption as sons" (NKJV) to "having predestined us into mature-sonship". This is the meaning of the Greek word 'huion.' It is a different word from 'teknon' which means young child. A huion is a full-grown mature son. We are predestined into that! We are not 'adopted' into God's family, we were born into it, when we were born again! After being born, we must grow up to complete maturity. That is "according to the good pleasure of His will."
I must focus on some of the high points, otherwise I would be writing too much. So next,
into a stewardship of the fullness of times to head up all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
Note here that "the fullness of times" is at the end of the age, not the beginning. This is for us NOW!
which He (God) worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
(Laodiceans 1:20-23 or "Ephesians")
Paul speaks much in this letter about the body of Christ. This is another description of the church; "the church, which is His body".
that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(Laodiceans ("Eph") 2:7)
"Ages" plural. There are ages to come in the future. Many Christians are just waiting to die, or be raptured to be in "eternity." But here Paul says there are ages to come. And one purpose for our salvation is to be a display of God's work to the principalities and powers:
the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
(Laodiceans 2:8-10 or "Ephesians")
In chapter 2 Paul begins to explain the body of Christ in a fullness beyond all his other letters. Only in Colossians does he use the same terms, explaining the same thing, but more briefly. Here only in his letter to the Laodiceans does he fill out this description in its fullness. When we see and understand this, then we will be able to see it in his other letters and in the Old Testament as well.
so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,
(Laodiceans 2:15b "Ephesians" so called)
Here Paul is describing something truly profound!
"One new man from the two"? What are "the two"?
having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,
These words "one new man" only occur in this verse, nowhere else in the Bible. The context explains:
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Paul is talking about two peoples;
God's chosen people, Israel, "called the Circumcision,"
the Gentiles, the rest of the world, "those called Uncircumcision."
These two peoples were separated. God chose a people out of the world for a special purpose, His eternal purpose. That was the nation of Israel, but He loves all the people of the whole world. He needed a special people though, to bring His salvation to the whole world. It was through His chosen people that He himself entered the human race, as a man! Jesus was born into that race to be the savior of the whole world. Now He, Jesus has abolished in His flesh on the cross all that separated these two peoples, and made a new creation, a new heaven, and a new earth, and one new man! Paul indicates in his letters to the Corinthians and the Romans that there are only two men in the universe!
What? Lets read it:
And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
(1 Corinthians 15:45)
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. (v. 47)
Every human being is in one of these two men:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (v. 22)
When we were born naturally, physically, we were in Adam, the first man. When we are born again of the Spirit, we are born into the second man, Christ. But after we are born of the Spirit, we must mature in order to enter the full reality of the new man. After we are born again, then we must see, and then enter the Kingdom of God, as Jesus said to Nicodemus (see John 3:3-5).
So Paul, in Laodiceans and Colossians, speaks of these two men as the "old man" and the "new man." He is writing to believers, born again Christians in these churches. Even though they were born anew, he is admonishing them to grow up into Christ.
I must expose a grievous misconception that has in recent years spread throughout the Christian world. This word "man" is the Greek word "anthropos." The English word anthropology, 'the study of man' comes from this Greek word. The word definitely means man. Anthropos occurs hundreds of times in the Greek New Testament, and has always been translated "man," ... until about 1900. This is the first that I am aware of where this word was changed in English, not translated at all, but changed to "self"!--and particularly in these places in Laodiceans and Colossians. This change, if I am correct as to its first appearance, was made by Richard Francis Weymouth, in his translation, or rather paraphrase of the New Testament. His version was first published in 1903 after his death in 1902. Since then, this change has crept into many of the later versions including the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the New International Version (NIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV). It is informative to note that in many of these newer versions, Laodiceans ("Ephesians") 2:15 still has "man" for anthropos, and not one version has "self," because that would make no sense at all. So when Paul describes how the one new man was created from the two, it is absolutely certain that his idea has nothing to do with "self." What Paul describes in 2:15 is the idea he is carrying through the whole theme in these two letters. So when the word is changed to "self" it completely breaks the connection with what Paul is talking about.
The old man is the first man, Adam. The New Man is Christ and all who are in Him. Christ is the head of this new man, and Christ's body are the 'members', body parts (hands, feet, ears, nose, eyes, mouth) of this one new man. After one is born again, he must "grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ"
(Laodiceans 4:15 (Eph.))
So now in Laodiceans and Colossians Paul expands on what it means to grow up into Him. From verse 15 he continues:
"but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ--from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Oh that we would memorize, pray over and meditate on these verses, and the whole of these two letters of Paul!
Before you can grow up, you need His life. That happens by believing into Him, through hearing the gospel. This is what it means to be born again of the Spirit. Then you can grow; you need to grow up in all things into Him who is the head. Only then is there a body that grows out from the head--Christ. There is no 'body' apart from growing up in all things into the head.
Consider the growth of a first conceived baby in the mother's womb. If you look at images of its formation and growth, what you would first begin to see is like a round ball, that will form into the head. As it grows, you will start to see some dents and bumps that then become eyes, a mouth, ears and a nose. And then a little body starts to grow out of the bottom, very small at first, but eventually, arms and legs, hands and feet, and finally fingers and toes. It all grows out from the head. Thousands of things in this natural world are amazingly detailed pictures of spiritual realities. Remember God created it that way, exactly for that purpose; to be pictures for us. Praise Him for His great wisdom!
So Paul, in describing the old man and the new man, says what he means, and means exactly what he says. Adam is the first man, the old man, and Christ, the head with His body, is the second man, the one new man. So now when we read what follows in Laodiceans and Colossians, the old man is Adam, that first man all divided and full of division and enmity, and the New Man is the second man, Christ with a body in absolute and complete unity and love.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
(Laodiceans ("Ephesians") 4:11-24)
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
God is waiting for a remnant, a little flock to return to the full reality of the one new man. To put off the old man with all of its divisions and differing teachings, and put on the one new man that is growing out of the head Christ.
When I have talked about these verses in this letter to the Laodiceans (or "Ephesians" when I may talk about it), and when I talk about Jesus prayer to the Father in John 17:
"that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."
I often get a response something like "Oh that's what it will be like in heaven." or "That will never happen here until Christ returns." But now consider one more verse in this letter:
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Laodiceans (i.e. Ephesians) 3:20-21)
Well not only am I thinking it, that it will happen, Jesus taught us to ask for it; "Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And here it says that He "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think." Then I challenge you are you really a 'believer'? Do you believe that Jesus' prayer to His Father will be answered and become a reality?
Only those who actually believe it, who see it, will be desiring to pursue it, to seek it first, and to enter it.
Notice how He will "do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think." Is it by taking us away from this mess to heaven? Or is He going to come here and fix it all? What does it say?
"according to the power that works in us." He will do it in and through us His body on this earth. This is how His Kingdom comes here. This is how his will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.
This is Paul's preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!
This is the Greatest News ever published!
So where is it? Why don't we see it?
The word return occurs over 470 times in the Bible (New King James Version), but there is only one verse where it occurs twice together as "return return," in fact in that verse "return return" is repeated twice, so the word return is four times in that verse.
Before we go there, Paul says Christ's body is the church (Colossians 1:24). There is only one verse in the Bible with the words "great mystery." They are here in Paul's letter to the Laodiceans:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
So this great mystery is that when he speaks of the man and his wife becoming one flesh, he is speaking of Christ and the Church. So not only is the church His body, it is also His wife, His bride.
So where is the verse that says "Return, return ... Return, return"? It is in the Old Testament, "The Song of Song's which is Solomon's." This song, written with such language that many Christians are embarrassed by it, is packed with amazing truth. It is a most beautiful picture of Christ's love for His Bride, His Wife. And it is extravagant in its description of her beauty.
Solomon, the son of King David is a type (a picture) of Jesus, who was called the "Son of David" over a dozen times in the New Testament. Even in the very first verse of the New Testament!:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
So Solomon, David's son, who became King after him, and who built the temple, a house for God, is a picture of Jesus, Son of David, and Son of God, the King of Kings, who is building the real temple, His house, made of living stones, His people.
Now in Solomon's Song, it says:
There are sixty queens
And eighty concubines,
And virgins without number.
My dove, my perfect one,
Is the only one,
The only one of her mother,
The favorite of the one who bore her.
The daughters saw her
And called her blessed,
The queens and the concubines,
And they praised her.
Later in Solomon's reign, we are told that he had more:
And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.
(1 Kings 11:3)
So Solomon's end was not as good as his start, but he was none the less a picture of Jesus Christ. No picture is as good as the real!
So here in his Song, he had sixty queens (wives,) and eighty concubines. And virgins without number!
As a type of Jesus Christ, this is very meaningful! Jesus has followers without number! So many they cannot be counted! And wives, and concubines... There are many many thousands of churches all over the world.
My dove, my perfect one, Is the only one,
The Song is written about her, "the only one."
Just a few verses later is the cry:
Return, return, O Shulamite;
Return, return, that we may look upon you!
Where has she gone?
This one, the only one, is called "the Shulamite", her name is never given to us. "Shulamite" is the feminine form of the name "Solomon." (the names look much more alike in Hebrew.) Both names mean "Peace." She is known by the name of her Bridegroom, no other name!
Remember this is all a type of Christ and the church. The church, the Bride, at the beginning was exceedingly beautiful, but where has she gone?
Return, return, O Peaceful one;
Return, return, that we may see you again!
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
The Greek word for 'sons' here is again 'huion,' full-grown mature sons. Let us indeed "grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ." And truly become one "whole body, joined and knit together." Jesus is only building one church, He has only one house, only one body. Let us fervently pray that His Spirit teach us all the one "faith, once delivered to the saints", so that we may "all speak the same thing, and have no divisions among us." All creation is eagerly waiting for this! Let us believe God's Word so that He may do it in us!
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?
When we return to the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,
that will be the return that all creation is eagerly waiting for!
Copyright © 2019 - 2023 by Harvey Block
(2019/11/29 rev 2023/11/01) on Greatest-News.Net