The Aaron Papers www.the-aaron-papers.net
Beyond Christianity :
SINCE it is quite obvious that God was dealing with His creation well before the formation of what we identify as the New Testament Christian Church, it should also become obvious that the events leading to the conclusion of God’s dealings with His creation will likely reach far beyond the present bounds of this same Christian Church.
Every Christian, as well as the entire Christian Church, must be seen as planned participants in God’s preexistent reconciliation—the Abrahamic Covenant. As we can find that this participatory role of the Christian Church is well documented in a number of passages found in both testaments of the Holy Bible, we can begin to more thoroughly develop these thoughts with Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians.
The Apostle Paul begins with his usual salutation:
"1 1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
aaron— Some within the Christian Church have speculated that the Apostle is addressing two separate and distinct people groups in this salutation. The first group is identified as "the saints that are at Ephesus", and the second group is identified as "the faithful in Christ Jesus". Though these two terms could be referring to a solitary group, our comprehension of this dual theory (Ekklesola en Ekklesia / the Little Church in the Church) becomes imperative when we consider the complex definition that is associated with any proper identification of God’s peoples.
Paul immediately moves into the very heart of this epistle, by explaining the richness of the blessings that God has bestowed upon this newly formed Christian Church. More specifically, the spiritual blessings that have been abundantly poured out upon these beloved saints of God:
"3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: 5having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: 7in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. 9Making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him 10unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him, I say, 11in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his will; 12to the end that we should be unto the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ: 13in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,— in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession, unto the praise of his glory."
aaron— One wonders if the average Christian, even any one of us as a matter of fact, can fully comprehend the full breadth of these blessings that God has so richly bestowed upon the elect members of the Church? I would list just a few of the more obvious of these promises that God has given us:
"blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places"
"he chose us in him before the foundation of the world"
"foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself"
"his (God’s) grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved"
"in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace"
"Making known unto us the mystery of his will"
"we were made a heritage, having been foreordained"
"you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession"
With the passing of Pentecost and the formal commencement of the Common Christian Era, these intimate promises are the most evident distinguishing characteristics that would best reflect the differences between God’s first peoples Israel and the elect Christians of the New Testament Church who now make—up the Messianic priestly line. The same differences that one might also derive from a cursory analysis of the intended ministries of each of these God established institutions.
As God’s first peoples, Israel represents the Old Testament established visible institution, through which, by the use of God’s commanded visible initiatory rites (physical circumcision and the Passover celebration), the visible creation had access to their invisible Creator. Israel’s principal ministry was to be a visible manifestation and demonstration of the relationship that the invisible Creator God desired to establish with His visible creation, as well as manifesting the indispensable visible symbols that would ultimately give definition to God’s invisible dispositions.
Then as a continuation of God’s reconciliation, the participating Christian Church represents the New Testament God established visible institution, through which, by the use of the God established visible initiatory rites (water baptism and participation in the Lord’s Supper), the visible creation has access to their invisible Creator God. In addition to its all—important evangelistic mission that includes the ultimate reconciliation of the world, the Spiritual ministry for the Christian Church is to manifest, demonstrate, and explain God’s invisible dispositions. To bring to light those things that have always been hidden in God. This conversation is just beginning to scratch the very surface of God "Making known unto us the mystery of his will"
"15For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which you show toward all the saints, 16cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; 18having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what (is) the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19and what (is) the exceeding greatness of his power to us—ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might 20which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all."
aaron— The Apostle Paul is moved to give additional praise and glory to the God of Creation, as he sights the real benefit that God has so graciously given to the elect Christian Church—"17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; 18having the eyes of your heart enlightened". It is this Spiritual enlightenment and intimacy that God has established between Himself and the elect Christian Church that stands out now as the real difference in the progress of God’s reconciliation and in the way that God is presently dealings with His peoples and His creation. Do we realize just how blessed we really are as New Testament believers?
The Apostle Paul then gives a positional explanation for the origin of every one that claims to be an elect Christian:
"2 1And you did he make alive, when you were dead through your trespasses and sins, 2wherein you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience; 3among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:"
aaron— Now when we consider this obvious principle of the creature’s total depravity, these first three verses from Ephesians chapter two probably gives us one of the best descriptions of the natural character that we all possess within these frames of clay. Then it was because of that predisposed natural condition that we were all previously confined in a state of hopelessness and helplessness.
Paul now explains precisely how God has so richly bestowed this blessed hope upon every elect saint:
"4but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive (Jn.5:25 zao) together with Christ (by grace have you been saved), 6and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 8for by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not of works, that no man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them."
aaron— Then here, we are given the second necessary ingredient—it is God’s free and unmerited grace that actually rescues and saves us “together with Christ” into His kingdom. One could conclude that God’s saving grace is best understood only when we recognize our inherent inability that comes from our old nature.
Following the mandate of his apostleship, the words of Paul are then directed more toward the Gentile collective of the institutional Christian Church:
"11Wherefore remember, that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; 12that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world."
aaron— It is here that Paul gives a detailed description to the preexistent institution with its identifying characteristics. Those who were born as Gentiles, "who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision", are in fact the strangers and foreigners who are now coming into God’s established institutions. That in their natural state, the Gentiles were—
"separate from Christ"
Christ was the promised Messiah /Anointed One that was to come as the Redeemer of Israel and the world. This was an Old Testament promise for God’s peoples, to which the Gentiles were not yet entitled to become participants.
Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 49:6 Since the Gentiles were—
"alienated from the commonwealth of Israel"
"The commonwealth of Israel" is the Old Testament God established visible institution, which was given as the demonstration of the desired relationship between the invisible Creator God and His visible creation.
Which initially made the Gentiles—
"strangers from the covenants of the promise"
"The Covenants of promise" spoken of here are principally formed around and within Abraham’s Covenants with God. The plural word "covenants" is used to indicate the complex character of the Abrahamic Covenant. That is, the Abrahamic Covenant has a complex definition because it has a coexistent visible characteristic that is represented by the Covenant of Bondage—the circumcision of the flesh covenant, as well as an invisible characteristic that is represented by the Covenant of Promise. All of which is clearly described in Genesis 17:1—27 and Galatians 4:21—31.
Because of their foreign status, the Gentiles were pictured as—"having no hope and without God in the world".
So then without our being formally included within God’s established reconciliation, we Gentiles remain aliens and are naturally left in that hopeless state of—"having no hope and without God in the world".
"13But now in Christ Jesus you that once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ."
aaron— Here in verse thirteen, God is explaining that our access into His established reconciliation—the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as all of those that preceded or will follow us in this journey, is wholly facilitated by the propitiatory work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul then explains how this newly formed New Testament institution, because of Christ’s propitiatory work, was to fit within God’s reconciliation:
"14For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, 15having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; 16and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were near: 18for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father."
aaron— Even though the Abrahamic religions rarely get along together or agree on many religious issues, their individual inclusion within the corporate institution is always predicated on Christ’s finished propitiatory work.
Then looking at this from the Christian perspective, before Christ, access into God’s reconciliation was limited to the commonwealth of Israel and to those who were proselytized into the Jew’s religion through the Circumcision of the flesh Covenant—the Covenant of Bondage. Which could have also included the entire lineage of Abraham who obediently followed the practice of God’s commanded visible initiatory rite of circumcision. But with the finished work of Christ, the ordinances of prohibition that created the enmity between God’s first peoples and the Nations were removed, thus opening wide the door of reconciliation to all peoples, tribes, tongues, and Nations. During this dispensation of God’s free and unmerited grace—the year of Jehovah’s favor, that is also known by us as the Common Christian Era, it is through the present work of God’s Holy Spirit that God’s priests and God’s peoples are now being gathered together. Then also noting that we all have direct access to our Heavenly Father as well.
Once again we are reminded of our alienated estate that we must lay aside—
"19So then you are no more strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow—citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, 20being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; 21in whom each several building, fitly framed together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit."
aaron— It is imperative that we are fully cognizant of the complex character of the Abrahamic Covenant—the Covenant of Bondage and the Covenant of Promise. Where we must always distinguish between the visible characteristics that are evident in the Covenant of Bondage and the invisible characteristics that are evident in the Covenant of Promise. Then understanding that both of these characteristics are always coexistent within God’s established institutions—Israel and the Christian Church. Institutionally, Christ’s finished propitiatory work effects God’s grace in the covenants of promise as God Himself wills, but our being "a holy temple in the Lord", "a habitation of God in the Spirit", "fellow—citizens with the saints, and of the household of God", are representative of only the invisible characteristics of the Abrahamic Covenant—the Covenant of Promise as I see it. The majority of the time in Scripture, God is directing our attention and understanding towards the manifestation and explanation of the invisible Covenant of Promise—the Messianic Covenant—the continuum of Abraham's Covenants with God.
"3 1For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles,— 2if so be that you have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you—ward; 3how that by revelation the mystery was made known unto me, as I wrote before in few words, 4whereby, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; 5which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow—heirs, and fellow—members of the body, and fellow—partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel".
aaron— These summary passages that we find in the first six verses of chapter three, once again demonstrates that the Gentile Christian Church, because of Christ’s finished work upon the cross, is now, as an inclusive branch in Abraham’s family tree, being made full—fledged participants within God’s preexistent reconciliation. The "mystery" that is mentioned here might be defined as the universal character of God’s reconciliation and the marvelous way that God has so graciously accomplished this monumental task. Not precisely removing His first peoples Israel from His reconciliation, but incorporating the Nations through the New Covenant institutional Church that is enacted on better promises—with their specific assigned task of evangelizing the world.
"7whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power. 8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages has been hid in God who created all things; 10to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God, 11according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in him."
aaron— Here, Paul calls this particular time period "the dispensation of the mystery which for ages has been hid in God". Even though the Old Testament gave some strong prophetic hints concerning Messiah’s future work in accomplishing God’s universal reconciliation, the present help of the Holy Spirit is essential for anyone to achieve this full understanding. As was stated earlier, the Christian Church is the New Testament visible institution, established to manifest, demonstrate, and explain God’s invisible dispositions—the Jews, the Circumcision, and the hidden Israel of God: including the evangelizing of the whole world.
"13Wherefore I ask that you may not faint at my tribulations for you, which are your glory. 14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; 17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God. 20Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21unto him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen."
aaron— The Apostle Paul closes chapter three with this grand exclamation that is worthy of repeating—
"14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; 17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God."
The Apostle Paul, in the last half of Ephesians, moves on with some sound exhortations for the betterment of every Christian’s walk:
"4 1I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith you were called, 2with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.
7But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Wherefore he said, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, And gave gifts unto men. 9(Now this, He ascended, what is it but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: 13till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full—grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;
15but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ; 16from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in due measure of each several part, makes the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.
17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; 19who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20But you did not so learn Christ; 21if so be that you heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: 22that you put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxes corrupt after the lusts of deceit; 23and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24and put on the new man, that after God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.
25Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
26Be angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27neither give place to the devil.
28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that has need.
29Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.
30And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.
31Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice:
32and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you."
"5 1Be you therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; 2and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell.
3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becomes saints; 4nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but rather giving of thanks. 5For this you know for certain, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things comes the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore, be not partakers with them; 8For you were once in darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10proving what is well—pleasing unto the Lord; 11and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them; 12for of the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak. 13But all things when they are reproved are made manifest by the light: for everything that is made manifest is light. 14Wherefore he said, Awake, you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you. 15Look therefore carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17Wherefore be not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; 19speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.
22Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the savior of the body. 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything.
25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; 26that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loves his own wife loves himself: 29for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ also the church; 30because we are members of his body. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. 32This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church. 33Nevertheless you also do severally love each one his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she fear her husband."
"6 1Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise), 3that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth. 4And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.
5Servants, be obedient unto them that according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6not in the way of eyeservice, as men—pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7with good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not unto men: 8knowing that whatsoever good thing each one does, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
9And, you masters, do the same things unto them, and withhold threatening: knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no respect of persons with him.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world—rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all to stand. 14Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints,
19And on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. 21But that you also may know my affairs, how I do, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: 22whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that you may know our state, and that he may comfort your hearts.
23Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible."
“15And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16After these things I will return, And I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; And I will build again the ruins thereof, And I will set it up: 17That the residue of men may seek after the Lord, And all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, 18Says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.”—Amen—
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|All text copyright © 2005 aaron. All rights reserved. Photos, unless otherwise credited, are the property of the auth, all rights reserved. Originally posted February 24, 2004. Revised: February 20, 2009.|