Paul’s Gospel and the Incarnation

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Gal. 4:4,5

While we fully acknowledge that we no longer know Christ after the flesh, the Apostle Paul was careful never to distance himself too far from the incarnation of Christ. We might call the incarnation the “taproot” of Paul’s gospel. As dispensationalists, we like to have things neatly compartmentalized, but sometimes, such as in the case of redemption, God has drawn a single thread throughout the tapestry of the dispensations. Thus, God’s triumph over sin has some aspects that are inseparably linked together. For example, had not the Savior entered the world in the manner that He did, the secret of the gospel, which is Calvary, would have never been possible.


Shortly after Adam’s fall God pronounced the curse, but thankfully, it also included a prediction regarding the coming of the Redeemer. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). God put enmity between Satan, who embodied the serpent, and the woman. There is a natural hatred between those who are of their father, the devil, and those who love the Lord. This marked the beginning of the struggle between righteousness and unrighteousness. With innocence but now a fading memory, Cain wickedly defied God and murdered his brother Abel, who “by faith…offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice…by which he obtained witness that he was righteous.” Dr. Gaebelein called this endless struggle the “Conflict of the Ages.”

Although this conflict continues to this day, it reached its greatest intensity when the Savior came into the world. Paul etches this historic moment with the phrase “…when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son.” In short, when darkness gripped mankind. When all hope was but a fading ember. When Rome ruled the world. When the time of Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled:

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks1, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Dan. 9:25).

According to the determinate counsel of God He had foreordained the day, month, and year of the sending forth of His dear Son. Luke’s phrase “And it came to pass in those days,” and Paul’s “But when the fulness of the time was come,” show us how the sovereignty of God and the affairs of men came together in a wonderful way to accomplish the will of God. With one turn of the wheel God fulfilled a twofold purpose.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child” (Luke 2:1-5).

After centuries of waiting for the consolation of Israel, the fulness of time had finally arrived. Unbeknown to him, under the guidance of the providence of God, Caesar Augustus determined that “all the world should be taxed.” This particular census required that everyone under the sphere of Roman rule return to the place of their extraction. Since both Mary and Joseph were of the house and lineage of David, it necessitated that they return to Bethlehem to be registered. Of course, by this time Mary was already in the latter part of her pregnancy.

What little money Mary and Joseph had was probably nearly depleted by the time they arrived at the city of David. It made little difference, since weary travelers had already filled every available room in town. Even the stables were overflowing with beasts of burden. Apparently, Mary and Joseph found refuge at one of the outbuildings or caves nearby, which at least gave them shelter from the cool night air. Far from the ivory palaces of Rome, Christ was born in the obscure little village of Bethlehem. There was no pomp or fanfare, only the sigh of the wind as it blew the autumn leaves across the dirt floor.

Once the Word became flesh, Satan focused his attention upon the earthly ministry of Christ. The battle raged for thirty-three years, climaxing in the forces of evil turning the tide of public opinion against the Savior, which resulted in His crucifixion.

Thus, the prediction was fulfilled that the seed of the woman “…shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” At Calvary Christ bruised the head of the serpent. In the Hebrew the term “bruise” has the idea to crush. Any one who has been raised on a farm will be the first to tell you that those reptiles we call snakes are extremely difficult to kill. In fact, unless you crush its head it will normally go slithering away. While Satan crushed the heel of the Savior (a blow that would not prove to be fatal due to the resurrection of Christ) God utterly destroyed the Serpent at the Cross. Calvary drove the proverbial death nail in the coffin of “…him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Essentially, Satan was stripped of his power; therefore the believer is well served to remember that he is a defeated foe.


“God sent forth His Son, made of a woman….” Not just any woman—she must fulfill the word of the prophet—a virgin, one who anticipated the consolation of Israel. Based on Paul’s reference that Christ “knew no sin,” the apostle assumes that we understand that He was born of the virgin. The very premise of the finished work of Christ is based on the virgin birth. Clearly, there is no room for debate on this matter.

“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall [miraculously] conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).

The Scriptures announced the virgin birth through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah 750 years before it took place. He was the first to proclaim to Israel that the Redeemer would be born of a virgin. The Hebrew word used here by Isaiah is almah, which can refer to a woman who has never known a man, but it can also speak of a woman who has known a man depending on the context. Many of the modern translations render almah as “young woman” to avoid the thorny issue of the virgin birth. However, we believe this to be an inferior rendering in this particular context.

We must remember that this unique event would be a sign from Jehovah. Surely, a young woman who had known a man out of wedlock, though wrong, wouldn’t be that unusual. Consequently, the eye of faith would naturally conclude Isaiah meant a virgin who had kept herself pure from immorality. This would be the sign of signs. In addition, the Holy Spirit has built a safeguard into the biblical record, that our faith might be based upon substance rather than what some might call a questionable rendering.

Interestingly, if we compare Isaiah 7:14 with Matthew 1:23 it is quite obvious that Matthew is quoting Isaiah when he states: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child….” Here the Holy Spirit rolls out the sixteen-inch guns, as it were, to safeguard the virginity of Mary. When we move from the Hebrew to the Greek language the Greek word for “virgin” is parthenos, which categorically refers to a woman who has never had relations with a man.

The names given to our Savior also tell a tale of the uniqueness of His first advent. Isaiah writes: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Notice that Isaiah draws a sharp distinction between a child being born and a Son being given. The child points us to Christ’s birth, which speaks of His coming into human existence the night He was born in Bethlehem. His earthly name was to be “Jesus” (Jehovah saves), because He was to taste of every facet of human life, “yet without sin.”

However, when the prophet turns to the subject of the Son he is careful not to say He was born, but given. The Spirit’s sudden shift here in phraseology is significant. Since the Son of God is eternal He is said to be given to the world—”From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God” (Psa. 90:2 cf. Heb. 1:2). Consequently, His name “Immanuel” means “God with us.” These two names of our Savior join with a united voice to declare that “God was manifested in the flesh.” Although all this goes far beyond our comprehension, we nevertheless accept by faith that Christ was wholly divine and wholly human. And the virgin birth was the vehicle God used to accomplish this purpose.

This lays the foundation to show why the virgin birth is so important to God’s plan of redemption. The Apostle Paul emphatically states:

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers [Gr. koinoneo has the idea to share fully] of flesh and blood, He [Christ] also Himself likewise took part of [Gr. metecho means to share in, but not fully] the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).

This passage clearly states that the entire human race is completely identified with Adam’s sin (Gr. koinoneo). Years ago America’s young people cut their educational eyeteeth on the New England Primer. Today many in our country are willingly ignorant of the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was founded. But thankfully, they are unable to silence the voice of the past. We find it of interest that early American school children learned their alphabet in the following manner:

“In Adam’s fall
We sinned all.

Xerxes the Great did die,
And so must you and I.”

Since the sin nature passes through the seed of the father, God the Father devised an ingenious plan to bring His beloved Son into the world without being contaminated with our sin. As we have seen, He accomplished His purpose through the miraculous conception and virgin birth. Our Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom, caused the Holy Spirit to so work in Mary that she conceived miraculously (Luke 1:35). Thus, when Christ “took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men,” it was apart from sin (Gr. metecho). He was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

God’s triumph over sin is inseparably bound to the virgin birth. If Christ was not born of the virgin it must be said that He inherited the sin of Adam. This would mean that the death He died on the Cross was a result of His own sins! Thanks be unto God, however, He was indeed born of the virgin and knew no sin that He might be our sin bearer. He died our death! Our sins and iniquities were laid upon Him that “we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).


Paul adds to his statement here in Galatians that Christ was “…made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” It is often overlooked and rarely acknowledged that Christ lived and ministered under the Law of Moses. Thus, the narratives commonly called the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are technically a continuation of the Old Testament. Before you set this article aside in disgust, consider a moment the accuracy of the apostle’s words that Christ was “made under the law.”

During the earthly ministry of Christ, the Master made a profound statement that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Furthermore, His followers were instructed by Him to obey those who sat in Moses seat (Matthew 5:17; 23:1-3). He told those that He healed to offer the proper sacrifice in accordance with the law (Mark 1:44). He also taught the law (Luke 24:44), and observed all the Levitical feast days that were handed down by Moses (John 2:23).

The law served as a schoolmaster to bring those under it to Christ, so they might be justified by faith. The purpose of the law was to give those under it a knowledge of sin; therefore it was a ministration of death and condemnation. The Scriptures are clear: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident…” (Gal. 3:10,11).

Thus, Paul says Christ entered the world, “…to redeem them that were under the law.” We are born to live, but He was born to die. That fateful night long ago will echo to the end of time this wonderful truth. Namely, the wooden feeding trough that the lambs frequented cradled the Lamb of God, who would one day hang upon an old rugged Cross. Why? That He might redeem “…us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).

But what does all this have to do with us? Much in every way! First and foremost, we learn from Paul’s gospel that God’s plan of redemption wasn’t to be limited to Israel. Hence, Paul received a new revelation that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” Christ gave Himself a ransom for all (I Tim. 2:6). Moreover, the law, which condemned Israel, also pointed its bony finger into the face of the Gentiles declaring that we, too, were under the sentence of condemnation. Consider these solemn words:

“Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). If God’s chosen people were unable to keep His righteous standard, should we suppose that we would have fared any better had the Gentiles been placed under the law? Christ has redeemed both, Jews and Gentiles, from the curse of the law. Today, then, we are saved by grace through faith alone! We walk by grace alone, and will one day be caught up together by grace alone!

So then, while God’s plan of redemption was gradually unfolded in time past, the Apostle Paul was given the secret of the gospel, which is Calvary. He is the first to reveal the significance of what God was doing in Christ. In other words, Paul explains why the virgin birth was essential, a provision was made for all at Calvary, forgiveness is through the blood of Christ, how we were redeemed from the curse of the law, etc. Although dispensational distinctions are extremely important, may the Lord also give us an understanding as to the importance of the connections between the two programs of God.

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Mortality Swallowed Up of Life

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
“If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
“For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of [by] life.
“Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
—II Cor. 5:1-5


Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, a widely recognized dispensational Bible teacher, has taught in his 8-volume Systematic Theology, that each believer who dies will be provided with an intermediate body between his death and his resurrection. Dr. Chafer’s Theology declares that “apart from the divine provision of an intermediate body, the believer’s desire that he should not be unclothed or bodiless, could not be satisfied (Systematic Theology, Vol. IV, P. 415).

Due to the well-deserved respect Dr. Chafer has earned among dispensational believers, his theory has become rather widely accepted among the members of the so-called “Grace Movement.” For this reason we explain why we believe that this is not what this passage teaches, for this interpretation creates too many insurmountable problems.

1. If there truly were two “houses from heaven” prepared for the deceased believer, one an “intermediate” house and the other an “eternal” one, Verse 2 would have been the place to say so. But nothing is said to even imply this. We long to be clothed upon with our “house” (singular) which is from heaven, i.e., our resurrection body.

2. The present dwelling place of the believer’s soul and spirit is here called a “tabernacle,” or tent, indicating that we may “pull up stakes and move” at any time, while the “house” the apostle refers to is said to be “eternal,”1 evidently referring to our resurrection body as compared with our present body, which is indeed temporary.

3. A tent itself is a temporary affair. The Bedouins and Arabs of the nomadic desert tribes live in tents, wandering from place to place, while those more permanently fixed live in houses. Thus Paul calls our present body a “tabernacle,” or tent, in which we live temporarily, while “earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (Vers. 1,2).

The body in which “the inner man” now resides is fragile, perishing, often a burden and a temptation, for since the fall it has not been conducive to spiritual living. But the new and glorified body will be forever free from any tendency toward sin, sorrow or death.


It is clear that the apostle longed, not for death, but for the Rapture of believers, when “mortality” will be “swallowed up of life,” an event which he deemed to be near at hand (Ver. 4 cf. I Cor. 15:54-57).

The Scriptures consistently teach that there is an inward man and an outward man, though we should know this from observation and experience. The body is only the house in which the true man, the inner man, lives.

Stop and think a moment. These eyes of yours do not actually see. It is you, inside, who sees through them. One moment after a man has died, his eyes are still in perfect condition, but they see nothing. The man himself, the spirit and the soul, who saw through them, “the inner man,” has left the body, and the eyes have been left behind as the lens of a camera or the windows in a house; they never saw anything. It was the camera itself, or the tenant of the house, who had seen through them. Our eyes and ears are but physical instruments to make possible our seeing and hearing.

The apostle, recognizing the above distinction, declares that his persecutions have not caused him to faint, for while “the outward man” indeed “perishes,” “the inward man is renewed day by day.”

We know by Scripture, observation and experience, that “the outward man” does indeed perish. While Adam was enjoying the beauty of the Garden of Eden, God warned him about eating of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” “For,” said He, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).

And in that day Adam indeed became a dying creature, and by him “sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Rom. 5:12).

Thus, as far as the outward man is concerned, all men everywhere: rich as well as poor, educated as well as illiterate, the mighty ruler as well as the poor slave: all are perishing creatures.

Despite the constant battles to keep the body alive; despite all the efforts of medical science, and of the nutritional experts—and of those who claim to have gifts of healing, the death rate still remains at one per person with few indeed living to be even 100 years of age. Despite all the surgery and all the pills and medicines, and all the vitamins and natural foods, men still continue to die.

So it is clear that “this [present] tabernacle” may be “dissolved,” in which case the “inner man” would leave the body and go to be with Christ. But there is an important truth about this eventuality that Dr. Chafer seems to have missed. Time is not a factor where heaven and heavenly things are concerned. Thus the apostle says in Ver. 4:

“We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed [disembodied], but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life”
(II Cor. 5:4).

The apostle was not longing for death and the dissolution of his body; he groaned and longed for the Lord to give him his new, glorified body. But Paul who said, “to die is gain” knew that if his tent body2 were dissolved he would be going to meet the blessed One who had a new, glorified body for him, “mortality swallowed up of life“: Christ’s life. And this, not after many years, for there are no years in heaven. Indeed, the fact that Paul longed, not to go to be with Christ in a disembodied state, but to go to Christ to receive a glorified body, is evident from his words in Romans 8:22,23:

“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

Mark well, “even we ourselves groan…and wait,” for what? for death and disembodiment? No! for “the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

And this new, glorified body will not be “made with hands,” i.e., a human product, like the tents Paul toiled day after day to make. It will be a divine creation, “eternal in the heavens.”

So we are destined for glory, Christian friend, glory greater than the highest archangel will ever know. Let us then press forward, if “groaning,” also “longing” for the wonderful things promised to us in His Word.

“…if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17).

Once we see that time is not a factor in heaven, that there all is an eternal present, II Corinthians 5:1,2,3 and 4 all become clear. The “building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (Ver. 1): a temporary intermediate body? Hardly. It is the believer’s everlasting, glorified body (Phil. 3:21). “We groan” and “earnestly desire”—a temporary, intermediate body (Ver. 2)? Is this the believer’s hope? Never! We desire to be clothed upon “with our house which is from heaven,” to be changed into the likeness of Christ, now glorified at the Father’s right hand.

Thus “being clothed we shall not be found naked” [i.e., disembodied] (Ver. 3). Will we be “clothed” only with a temporary, intermediate body? No such thing is even hinted at here. He still refers to the eternal “house which is from heaven.” And in Ver. 4 the apostle was obviously not longing for death and the dissolution of his physical body; he “groaned” and was “burdened,” earnestly longing for his new glorified body, “that mortality might be swallowed up of life“—Christ’s life.

An important passage in I Corinthians 15 confirms all this since it is almost universally agreed that I Corinthians 15 is the great resurrection chapter and that not until the rapture will we receive our glorified bodies.

I Corinthians 15:54 deals with the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of the living saints. Concerning the dead in Christ he says:

“…this corruptible shall have put on incorruption.”

But referring to the living saints, he says:

“And this mortal shall have put on immortality.”

Note this carefully: “This mortal” refers, not to the dead, but to those who are “apt to die,” as all living saints are. And when shall these receive their glorified bodies? Immediately! They will go immediately from mortality to immortality, though some of the dead in Christ will have been “with Him” for many years: Paul and his comrades for almost two millenniums of time on earth.

Nothing is said about the dead having lived meantime in temporary intermediate bodies, nor is any explanation given as to why the living saints would not need such bodies. Indeed nothing whatever is said or even implied about any temporary intermediate body. Appropriately so, for nothing is said anywhere in Paul’s epistles about any temporary intermediate body for members of the Body of Christ. This doctrine rose from a mere conjecture meant to answer what seemed to be an insurmountable problem. What Paul does say, so appropriately, and by inspiration of God is:

“Behold, I show you a mystery;5 We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed” (I Cor. 15:51).


“Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit” (II Cor. 5:5).

Verse 5 is indeed the grand climax of this section of II Corinthians. The word “wrought” here (Gr. katergazomai) has the sense of working out, as in Philippians 2:12, “work out your own salvation” (i.e., from strife and its results). It has the idea of bringing about, developing, or preparing. This is a common usage of the English word “wrought” even today. And surely God has not “wrought” us for some temporal secondary blessing. No, He “hath wrought us for this self-same thing”: to be glorified with Christ, with a body “fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). There is no place here or in the preceding verses for a temporary, intermediate body. But this word katergazomai is used throughout Paul’s epistles of that which God is bringing about for and in the members of the Body of Christ.


To assure us of this glory to come, God has “given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” It is most important to bear in mind that an “earnest” is not a sample. Rather it shows that the buyer is in earnest. Consistently it refers to a down payment, the firstfruits, a pledge. It is a first payment (on the principal), a pledge that the purchaser truly means to acquire the whole. The “firstfruits” in Israel were that part of the whole crop which ripened first, thus a pledge that the rest of the crop would follow. In no case is an earnest something like the thing purchased; in every case it is part of it: the down payment.

Now to assure us that He has wrought us for this very thing (i.e., the eternal glory to come), God has given us the “earnest of the Spirit.” The Spirit does not yet have all of us but, thank God, we have all of Him, to help and enlighten in times of need. Ephesians 1:14 declares that the Spirit:

“…is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.”

Romans 8:22,23 states that not only does “the whole creation” groan and travail in pain,

“but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

Finally, II Corinthians 1:22 states that God has

“sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”

Ah, but when the entire man is redeemed, not only the spirit and the soul, but also the body, then the Holy Spirit will have full possession of us, and we will wholly and joyfully fulfill God’s will for us. Hallelujah!


“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.

“(For we walk by faith, not by sight):

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

“Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him” (II Cor. 5:6-9).

We have shown that II Corinthians 5:1-5, and indeed Paul’s epistles as a whole speak, not of three physical bodies for the believer but of two.

The one has to do with this life; the other with the life to come (II Cor. 5:1).

The one Paul calls a tent, the other a building (II Cor. 5:1).

The one is earthy, the other from heaven (II Cor. 5:2).

The one is temporary, the other eternal (II Cor. 5:1).

The one is corruptible, the other incorruptible (cf., I Cor. 15:54).

The one is called vile and humiliating, the other glorious, like Christ’s glorious body (cf. Phil. 3:21).

In the one we groan, in the other—forever blessed (II Cor. 5:4).

We have seen, too, that time is not a factor in eternity, so that Paul did not long for disembodiment at death, or for a temporal, intermediate body between death and resurrection. He longed to be with Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up of life and that he might receive his “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 5:1,4).

Now it is in view of this promised coming glory that the apostle declares, “Therefore, we are always confident” (Ver. 6).

“We are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight:)” (Vers. 6,7).

Our glorious position with Christ in the heavenlies and all of our “all spiritual blessings” there, are enjoyed by faith, not by sight. Indeed, there is nothing for sight in our present situation, for “the things which are seen are temporal” (4:18), but there is much, so much, for faith, for by faith “we look…at the things which are not seen” and these are “eternal” (ibid).

But this present situation is not the best; it is future, not present; we enjoy it only by faith. Thus the apostle says:

“We are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present [Lit., at home] with the Lord” (Ver. 8).

Note carefully that there is nothing here about a temporary, intermediate body, only about going home to be “with Christ.”

The apostle expresses his feelings about this matter beautifully in Philippians 1:23,24, where he says:

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better [Lit., “better by far”];

“Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”

He was “in a spot” between two: his deep longing to be with Christ and his responsibility to minister to the saints.

“Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him” (Ver. 9).

Why this? Absent from Christ, as we are, we are still “accepted in the Beloved” as far as our position is concerned (Eph. 1:6). Thus, when we have gone to be with Christ, finally without sin, will we not be “accepted of Him”? Ah, the reason why Paul strove—and why we should strive—to be “accepted of Him” whether present or absent, is explained in the next verse.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (Ver. 10).

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Bond of Peace

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” –Eph. 4:1-6


Ephesians is a complete book, taking the reader from God’s plan before the foundation of the world to our glorious heavenly hope. It shows how He is presently working that plan out, reveals to us a secret age (present Church age) that was hidden in God, tells us how the new Church was started and given an initial boost, instructs us on how to behave in this age, and informs us of the conflict we will have with the world. With such a carefully worked out plan, and with the fate of countless souls in the balance, the Lord wants to assure that our conduct does not run counter to His intentions. He makes it clear there should be no conflict within the Body of believers; for that reason we are instructed to forbear one another in love and to keep the unity He has created in peace.

The unity, or agreement, of Ephesians Chapter 4 was created by the Holy Spirit, who took seven single entities and bound them together, and in so doing created something new. This is a clear depiction of the Lord’s work in creating His Church. Each of the seven “ones” is bound to all the others making a new unity. An analogy would be seven ping-pong balls (the seven ones) glued together to make a new unity. The Lord’s new unity results in a bond among believers in the church. The agent that will assure a healthy, vital bond is peace. Strife and discord among believers “unglues” the bond as surely as a solvent can unglue the ping-pong balls. The Church is God’s creation; as His stewards and ambassadors we have been given a clear mission to fulfill. We are exhorted to keep this unity because the Church is one Body in Christ, is empowered by one Spirit, is captivated by one hope, is inspired by one Lord in whom we all have our faith, is made one by a divine baptism (I Cor. 12:13), and is one with the Father who is our ALL.


The Lord is not asking us to create anything, but merely to endeavor to keep what He has already created. As always, He does not ask us to accomplish a task without first informing us of His provisions and expectation for us.

A. Vocation/Calling

We have been called to be saints, to be His children (not a child but a full-grown adult with adult privileges in His family) and to be His ambassadors. Thus, we have a heavenly calling, and have been given impeccable credentials—we are well equipped to do the job. In this case, our credentials are those of an ambassador and not those of a soldier. This is because we are primarily asked to endeavor to assure peace “within” the Body of Christ, i.e., among fellow believers. When the battle with outside forces is considered in Chapter 6, then defensive armor and offensive weapons are considered.

B. Manner Of Life

The mission before us as ambassadors is to assure peace among, as it were, the diplomatic corps of fellow ambassadors. Thus we are to walk in lowliness (humility) and meekness, which foster longsuffering and enable us to forbear one another in love.

C. Bond

We are told that the glue that holds this unity together is “peace.” When there is no peace there is enmity, there are partitions between people, there is alienation, we become strangers, etc. The correct bond assures that we will be fellows with other believers and that we will be like a magnificent temple with each member a perfect fit. A perfect fit means everyone has a purpose and Godly function, there are no useless members and all work selflessly and with singleness of purpose toward His ends (Eph. 2:14-22).

D. Empowerment

Each of us is given a gift to handle this job—we are given “grace” (Eph. 4:7). The mere use of the words endeavoring, forbearing, and longsuffering make it clear that this is not going to be an easy task. The ability to be longsuffer-ing seems to be a natural consequence of a humble and meek spirit. Forbearance requires extraordinary patience and restraint of one’s own feelings in deference to another’s. It is clear the Lord has to thus gift us or we could not perform our duty, but, to claim we can not perform it is to imply His grace is not sufficient.

Attending To Business

In II Corinthians 5:20 we are called upon to be ambassadors of Christ, living in a foreign world that has declared war against our Lord. Our duties as ambassadors are to represent Christ, assure communication of Spiritual truth, promote His “culture,” teach reconciliation, and promote peace. A group of ambassadors is a diplomatic corps and, by way of analogy, such a corps is the Body of Christ on this earth. The Lord expects that corps to be a model of Christlikeness to the unsaved world. Since one of the main duties of an ambassador is to promote peace, any discord within the corps itself is a clear indication of ineffective diplomacy to the world. The world looks at the Church for any evidences of discord so that it can “find excuse” for rejecting the messengers and thus the message.

If we were called upon to maintain law and order in the Church we could do it by discipline, rigorous rules, and exacting laws, but our job is to preserve love, respect, feelings, honor, etc. Thus, our job does not require us to control others, but ourselves through incredible self-discipline. The humility and meekness called for cannot be self-generated because they will then be merely spiritual pride in disguise and our testimony will be transparent to others. Where does the real thing come from? As a part of His grace, the indwelling Spirit produces His fruit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, Gal. 5:22,23) in a Christian’s life. Note that it is precisely this fruit that is called for in Ephesians, and it is this fruit that truly equips us to accomplish our God-given duties.

In addition to the fruit of the Spirit, our Head (Christ) effectively uses each member of the Body to build up and edify the Body in love (Eph. 4:16). But we still have our free will and can resist or quench His leading. God’s plan for His Church and desire for us may be hampered by our own agendas and desires. To help prevent this, and in order for us to know how to live effectively in the Body, our Lord gives us more guidance on critical personality/character traits. These traits are not “nice to have” but crucial, required elements in order for the Church to edify itself in love (Eph. 4:25-32). These traits include: speaking the truth, controlling anger, good communication, no bitterness, no wrath, no malice, kindness, tenderness, and a forgiving heart.

At the end of the age these traits will be minimal in some believers. In I Timothy 4:1-3, we see some in the Body will depart from the faith, some will be seduced by other spirits, and some will believe doctrines of devils. All this will no doubt happen because the conditions of people’s hearts will be far from that of Ephesians 4. Believers will be influenced negatively by the world, in which people will be: “lovers of themselves, proud, unholy, without natural affection, heady, highminded…” (II Tim. 3:1-5). The Spirit will not be able to work as effectively as desired in some believer’s lives, resulting in their inability to keep God’s bond of peace. In the foregoing passage, the Word makes it clear that people in general will be truce-breakers and traitors—hardly the desired traits of an ambassador.


If we are to keep the unity produced by the Spirit in the bond of peace, we have to consider some typical relationships and consider how peace can be promulgated in them.

A. Peace With God

As believers we understand that we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We should also understand that being at peace with God means that He supplies all our needs. The moment people put their faith in Christ they are brought into a relationship with Him that fully satisfies their deepest needs. These deepest needs are those of our spirit. These deep needs involve our need for security (that God has a purpose for us and that we are important to Him). With these critical personal needs already met, we can now be less preoccupied with ourselves and strive to help others in the Body. We can now begin to practice unconditional love with believers, that is, we can ignore petty differences in order to love another (generally our differences are petty but when we are not tenderhearted we make them major issues).

Fellow Christians may lack a clear understanding of Christ meeting our deepest needs, but for this we can provide great counsel. For example, we can assure them that Christ is our peace (with God, Eph. 2:14) and that we are important to Him. We can not add in any way to the fact of our security and significance in Christ, but we can to another person’s understanding and appreciation of this truth. As we endeavor to help others we must be aware that people often understand something but do not have a comparable “feeling.” Thus, their feelings lag behind their understanding, i.e., one may know they are significant but still feel insignificant. These feelings change as part of the spiritual maturation process, but they must be given proper regard because the feelings of our fellow Christians are critical to their, even our, effective functioning. Thus, we must continually build each other up in a way to reinforce truth and feeling. We must search for ways to edify each other and to assure a peaceful existence in order to keep the unity expected by our Lord.

B. Peace Within

The unity produced by the Spirit is not just maintained by being at peace with God or with other people. We must assure that the Spirit’s unity is maintained within ourselves. We must ask, how do I strain the bond produced by the Holy Spirit? Here are some possibilities.

First, we must maintain balance between the seven entities, and to the extent we do, this is one measure of a peaceful bond. If we emphasize one or several entities above the others, or if we fail to see the true spiritual significance of an entity, then we lose balance and the bond is strained. For example, if we continually discuss and foster the one baptism but fail to see that it is the baptism of the Spirit, the real thing, not some water symbolism, then the internal bond is damaged.

Second, we must appreciate who we are in Christ, as a result of God’s grace, in order to have internal peace. We must look to Paul and believe what he said in I Corinthi-ans 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am….” While we are not apostles like Paul, we still must appreciate that we are a unique creation of God and accepted in the Beloved. Each believer is God’s “special order” for His Body. This appreciation is not sinful pride or vanity, it is thankfulness and acceptance of His work of grace. Accepting this work of grace is essential for peace within the Body, because those who detest themselves have trouble living in harmony with others. Because of their own shortcomings they tend to throw stones at others. These stones can be very injurious and certainly they break the bond of peace. Such stone throwing (criticism, intolerance, innuendoes, anger, superiorness, cold shoulder/snubbing…) can be likened unto a spiritual cycle of abuse. We must break the cycle, leaving our stones at the cross, in order to promote the peace Christ seeks.

Third, our emotions are powerful motivators, and, while they must be respected, they also must be kept in control. If we crave the “emotional lift” resulting from the praise of others we will find it a debilitating ride. If we think we can dabble with hate and anger and are confident we can control them, we will lose the battle and learn their incredible power over us. The power of revenge is intoxicating, causing us to act irrationally. In all these things we must learn to handle emotions in God’s manner; if not, we will inadvertently chip away at the very peace we endeavor to keep.


It is no coincidence that the chapter preceding our text closes with this benediction: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21). How perfectly this benediction leads into chapter 4 where we are exhorted to forbear one another in love and endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The unsaved and an immature Christian expect a life of fun and independence, but as spiritual adults we waive our “rights” and instead realize we must endeavor and forbear in this life. We do this because we realize that the pain and struggles we experience now help us and if they bring glory in the church, then it glorifies Him.

An Epitaph

I am told that an Indiana cemetery has a tombstone (more than a hundred years old) which bears the following epitaph: (James S. Hewett (Ed.), Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, 1988, pg. 145.)

Pause Stranger, when you pass me by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be,
So prepare for death and follow me.

An unknown passerby read those words and underneath scratched this reply:

To follow you I’m not content,
Until I know which way you went.

This bids the question, where will you spend eternity—heaven or hell?

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).

If you are standing at the crossroads of destruction and life everlasting perhaps you need some directions.

The way of destruction is the “way which seemeth right unto a man.” It promises worldly pleasures, acceptance, security, glory, and numerous avenues to earn your own salvation. This road is paved with good intentions, but it leads to eternal damnation.

But, thankfully, there is another path. It promises deliverance from the bondage of sin. This path brings peace, hope, and eternal life. According to the Scriptures, Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father,” but by Him. This is God’s way, the way of faith.


Dear sinner friend, have you trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? Whether you realize it or not, you are dangling precariously over the lake of fire by one thin thread of human existence.

The Word of God teaches, “The wages of sin is death!” When Christ stepped across the stars into this world of sin and woe, death was powerless over Him. Christ knew no sin, therefore death could not lay its icy grip upon the shoulder of our Lord.

Tell me then, how is it that at the end of His earthly journey He is suffering and dying in shame and disgrace? You see, Christ wasn’t dying for His sins, for He knew no sin. He was dying for your sins and my sins upon that cruel tree. Our sins and iniquities were laid upon Him that He might redeem us back to God through His precious blood.

Now God turns to a lost and dying world with the good news of Calvary. Simply believe that Christ died for your sins personally, was buried, and rose again the third day, and God will wonderfully save you from the wrath to come according to the riches of His grace.

Unsaved friend, there are thousands of ways to leave this life; when you do, make sure you do not leave without Christ. We beg you to remember the chilling voice of those that perished in the days of Noah, “believe, before it’s too late!”

Are the Pentecostal Signs Being Restored?

With convincing “signs and wonders” being wrought all about us in increasing numbers, some are being carried away from the truths so clearly set forth for our day in the epistles of Paul.

Some have concluded from these “supernatural manifestations” that toward the close of this present dispensation we may expect a revival of the divine gifts of tongues, healing, etc.

As to healing, may we first point out that no instructed believer in Pauline truth questions that God can and often does heal the sick and infirm as, for example, in the case of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-27). We believe too that God is constantly working miracles. But we deny that healers and miracle workers, or that signs and miraculous demonstrations, have any part in God’s program for today.

First, the apostle did not say in I Corinthians 13:8 that the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge would be done away until the closing days of the dispensation. He simply declared that these miraculous manifestations were to be done away (i.e., In this new dispensation), and that “faith, hope and love” would “abide” (Ver. 13). Nor is there any indication in the Pauline epistles that the Pentecostal signs are to be restored at the close of this dispensation.

The apostle does declare, however, that after the close of the dispensation of grace, the “man of sin” will appear “with all power and signs and lying wonders” (II Thes. 2:9). In this the apostle confirms what our Lord says in Matthew 24:24 about the same period of time:

“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

During the “tribulation period,” then, after the members of the Body of Christ have been “caught up” to be with the Lord, the ministers of Satan, from Antichrist down, will come with “all power and signs and lying wonders,” to deceive, if possible, “the very elect.”

But now let us see how this affects us today.

In the very same passage about Antichrist and his “power, and signs, and lying wonders,” the apostle warns that

“…the mystery of iniquity doth already work…” (II Thes. 2:7).

What does all this tell us about the multiplied miraculous manifestations we are seeing all about us as the days grow darker: tongues, healing, prophecies, ESP, witchcraft, spiritism, exorcism, etc., not to mention false doctrine? Obviously it tells us that these are not of God, but of Satan.

A wondrous manifestation is to some the end of all argument. So-and-so must be of God or he could not work these miracles! But the above passages from the Scriptures tell us differently. Satan has power. He can work wonders, but he does so to deceive men and draw them away from the truth of God’s glorious purpose and grace.

Indeed, the apostle, in I Timothy 4:1, issues a stern warning to this effect:

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith,1 giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils [demons].”

This is why the apostle rightly urges all believers:

“Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [wicked spirits] in high [heavenly] places” (Eph. 6:11,12).

Be not deceived. Satan is not a grotesque creature with horns, hooves, a tail and a pitchfork. He inspired that caricature to draw attention away from himself, for when the apostle warns of “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apos-tles of Christ” (II Cor. 11:13), he adds:

“And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

“Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness…” (Vers. 14,15).

There you have it! If Satan did appear as men portray him, the multitudes would flee from him. But “an angel of light” with “ministers of righteousness”! This attracts the unwary.

But here is one who is stricken with some deadly disease. He is taken to a healing meeting and, seemingly at least, is completely restored. Can this possibly be of Satan?

Why not? Besides all his other powers, is it not he that inflicts sickness and disease? Think of the case of Job. Did not God permit Satan to bring Job to the point of death, physically (Job 2:4-9)? Think of Paul himself. Was it not “a messenger of Satan” who was sent to “buffet” him until he cried again and again for deliverance (II Cor. 12:7,8)? And is it not clearly stated in Hebrews 2:14 that for the pres-ent Satan has “the power of death”?

If it is Satan, then, who inflicts sickness and disease, why cannot Satan stop inflicting them? Why can he not—why would he not, withdraw the illness he has inflicted if this will cause you to center your interest on the wrong thing, and cause you to walk by sight, rather than by faith?

We specially mention bodily healing because most people are attracted and convinced by this sort of supernatural demonstration. But the physical healings under our Lord’s earthly ministry and at Pentecost were “signs.” Signs of what? They were signs of the Messiahship of Christ. Had He been accepted as King, all those thus healed would have gone into the prophesied kingdom, where sickness and disease would never again overtake them.

This is not so today, for the King and His kingdom have been rejected, and the reign of Christ on earth now awaits a future day. Thus it is that those who are “healed,” all finally die like the rest. Though “healed” again and again, there always comes that last time when nothing avails.

One of the saddest aspects of the modern healing campaign is the long, sad trail of disillusionment and shaken faith it leaves behind. Some are not healed at all, and even those who are “healed” finally come to “that last time” when Hebrews 9:27 is fulfilled, for “it is appointed unto men once to die.”

What a list could be made of all those who once sincerely preached that it was a lack of faith, a sin, not to claim and expect from God a strong, sound body, yet they themselves all died. After the long list of the greatest of all these “healers” could be copied those familiar words from Genesis 5: “and he died…and he died…and he died”!

Pastor J. C. O’Hair rightly said that despite the claims of all the Christian Scientists, the Roman Catholics, the Pentecostalists, and all the other “healing” folk, the death rate still remains one apiece.

How much better, then, to walk by faith and leave ourselves in His loving hands to do as He sees is best for us?

Thus we beg our Christian readers not to be carried away with amazing demonstrations that can only beguile us to take our eyes off Him. Rather let us heed the Spirit’s exhortation through Paul:

“Be careful2 for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7).


  1. Obviously, “the faith” he had proclaimed, hence “the latter times” of this “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:1-3).
  2. “care full,” or anxious.

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