by Steven Chan
The Church was built by Jesus (Matt 16:18) as He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28) so that those who are saved may be added to it (Acts 2:47). “Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.”(Eph 5:23) Therefore … the church is subject to Christ (Eph 5:24). “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”. (Eph 1:22-23). It is the intention of Christ to present the church to Himself as a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27). Thus, the church is not an incidental or accidental institution but it is central to God’s scheme of redemption. The Bible declares that the role of the church was “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:11).
Given that the Church is such an important institution – being blood-bought, it is important for us to carefully consider what God wants the Church to BE and to DO as revealed in the New Testament – and that’s what we want to consider briefly in this article.
The Church is to be the means by which the mystery of God which was hidden in the past is now revealed to the world at large as declared by the apostle Paul in Eph 3:8-10: “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church…”
What is that mystery?
Let’s listen to the apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus: “1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles– 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” (Eph 3:1-7)
The American Std Version (ASV) renders Eph 3:6 as “that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”. The inclusion of the Gentiles together with the Jews was all along within God’s overall scheme of redemption but it was now revealed to “His holy apostles and prophets”.
What are the Gentles fellow-heirs of or what is their inheritance?
1 Peter 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Col 1:4-5: “we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven,”
Rom 8:16-17: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
That Gentiles are fellow-heirs of that living hope, an inheritance reserved in heaven, to be revealed in the last time.
Paul refers to this same hope in his defense in Acts 23:6: “concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” Paul repeated that same hope in Acts 24:15: “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” 1 Thess 2:19: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” 1 Thess 4:13-18: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 John 3:2-3: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Unfortunately, some Bible students have erroneously concluded that, the “last time” refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and that Jesus has already “appeared a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” of all – both Jews and Gentiles (Heb 9:28).
We are therefore left perplexed that people living post AD70 have missed out on that salvation which allegedly occurred in AD70. These Bible students seemed to have special insights or special revelation to conclude confidently that the salvation has already occurred in the past in AD70 as they contend that we are already living “in the new age and new heaven” on earth. For them, necessarily, salvation is in the past and not in the future.
According to these Bible students we no longer have that one hope (Eph 4:4) that the apostle Paul taught in his epistle as stated in Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” According to these Bible students, people living today should not longer for “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” because according to their reading and interpretation, Jesus has already appeared and the blessed hope has already been realized in AD70.
So, it would not be incorrect to say that for these Bible students, they can have no expectation of future salvation and no hope. How sad and tragic indeed. Of course, these Bible students will contend that they still have hope of salvation and of heaven. But unfortunately for them, “they doth protest too much” because their interpretation of the scriptures unequivocally demands the conclusion that “both salvation and the blessed hope” have occurred in the past. They have a different hope and a different salvation; no longer do they have that ONE HOPE that the apostle Paul declared in Eph 4:4.
What are Gentiles fellow-members of?
Eph 2:13-22: “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, 15 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, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
Gentiles are “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God”
What are the Gentiles fellow-partakers of?
2 Peter 1:3-4: “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Gentiles are fellow-partakers of the divine nature through His precious and exceeding great promises.
The mystery hidden in the past has now been revealed through the church that all men who would believe and obey the gospel – both Jews and Gentiles – are now fellow-heirs of the one hope of inheritance in heaven, fellow-members or fellow-citizens of God’s household and also fellow-partakers of the divine nature.