Part 1: The Importance of the Local Church

It seems as though everyone these days is looking for the perfect church. Some years ago Our Daily Bread published the following account: A man reportedly came to the British pastor, Charles H. Spurgeon, looking for the perfect church. The famous preacher told him he had many saintly people in his congregation, but a “Judas” could also be among them. After all, even Jesus had a traitor in the company of His apostles. He went on to say that some might be walking disobediently, as had been the case among the believers at Rome, Corinth, and Galatia.

“My church is not the one you’re looking for,” said Spurgeon. “But if you should happen to find such a church, I beg you not to join it, for you would spoil the whole thing.” (The Radio Bible Class, Our Daily Bread, Grand Rapids, MI.)

The local church will never be perfect on this side of glory, simply because disobedience and carnality are always in attendance with grace and love. If you have ever attended a congregational meeting where opposing sides were having a heated discussion over a thorny issue, you probably tried to leave early to avoid being tarred and feathered. Attending these types of congregational meetings is not for the faint of heart. It reminds us of the old saying, “To dwell above with saints we love, oh that will sure be glory. But to dwell below with saints we know, well, that’s another story!” Interestingly, this statement touches the very heart of the matter. In fact, it’s why the local church is so essential to the plans and purposes of God, as we will see.


“And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22,23).

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Cor. 1:2).

The word “church” or “assembly” (Gr. ecclesia) is a very general term that is defined as a group of “called out ones.” It can refer to an unruly mob of unbelievers such as we have at Ephesus in Acts 19:38-41, or a group of believers in Christ (I Thes. 1:1). The context will always govern which “church” is being spoken of, whether it is the called out Israelites in the wilderness (Acts 7:38) or the kingdom church (Matt. 16:18). For this particular study we will be limiting ourselves to the called out ones of this present dispensation: the Church, the Body of Christ (Col. 1:18).

The Church, the Body of Christ is a new creation that is made up of Jews and Gentiles who have placed their faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It matters not what race you are, or your denominational affiliation, or what your social status may be, if you have trusted Christ as your personal Savior then you are a member of the mystical Body of Christ. This is the true Church! For the sake of clarity, while every member of the true Church which is His Body is saved, this is not necessarily the case with every member of a local church. Salvation is the result of having a relationship with Christ, it is not the product of having your name on the membership role of a local assembly.

“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers….As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:1-3).

Very early in the present dispensation, Antioch in Syria became the headquarters for the Gentile church. What Jerusalem was to the kingdom saints, Antioch was to the Body of Christ. It was from this local assembly at Antioch that the Holy Spirit sent forth the Apostle Paul on his three missionary journeys. Of course, it was the Lord of glory who called and commissioned the apostle years earlier (Acts 26:16 cf. Gal. 1:1), but it was the Holy Spirit who instructed the saints at Antioch to send Paul forth on his three missionary journeys, which were actually apostolic in nature. Paul was the first to introduce the gospel of the grace of God to the known world of His day.

The apostolic ministry of Paul was threefold: He evangelized the lost to Christ, he committed the revelation of the Mystery to those he evangelized, and he conducted an ongoing church planting ministry. At the end of his first apostolic journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to the cities of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia where they had preached the gospel. It is important to note why they retraced their footsteps. According to the record, it was to ordain elders in the churches they had previously established in those cities. Once this was accomplished they prayed with these dear saints and “commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed” (Acts 14:21-23). The church planting ministry to which Paul was called by the Spirit is a clear indication to us that the local church is ordained of God. It is the vehicle through which God is making known the riches of His grace. Everything that is done in the Lord’s work should be either directly or indirectly tied to the local church. For example:

The Berean Bible Society is a para-church organization, but our ministry has always been geared toward the local assembly. We have often said when we hold our meetings around the country that it is not our purpose to compete with the local church; rather it is our desire to compliment it by reinforcing what our Grace Pastors are already teaching. This is achieved through our literature and tapes which help believers become more spiritually minded so that they might be more productive members of their local assembly. Another example is our new Sunday School curriculum for our young people. This project has had the local church in mind since its inception. So then, the outreach of BBS is twofold—we minister to the Body of Christ in general, and the local church in particular.

The local church is a group of believers in Christ, whether small or large in number that meets at a specific location under the ministry of the elders who provide spiritual guidance in the things of the Lord. The denominational superstructure we see all around us today, with its hierarchy and tradition, is merely a monument to man’s ambitious ways. While these things may appeal to the flesh, they were not a part of God’s original plan for the Body of Christ. According to the Scriptures, when the Apostle Paul planted churches at Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi all of these assemblies were independent and self-governing (Phil. 1:1). And this was for good reason: if one of these assemblies were to depart from the faith it was less likely to affect the other assemblies, since they were not subject to a hierarchy.

Although the churches at Corinth and Ephesus were larger works, most of the assemblies Paul ministered to were small. In his epistles we frequently read about the church in someone’s house. A good example is Nymphas: “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house” (Col. 4:15). Whether the work was small or large, it is interesting to note that every assembly Paul had established or ministered to was a Grace Church at that time. They all had received the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery and initially each one stood for the truth of Paul’s gospel (Rom. 16:25).


I have had the privilege, by the grace of God, to pastor three Grace Churches. The experience was invaluable and as I look back, while I didn’t realize it at the time, the Lord was preparing me for the position I presently hold at the Berean Bible Society. During those years of my pulpit ministry I learned the importance of patterning my ministry after the Apostle Paul. Essentially I sought to emulate what the apostle did when he planted a local church. In fact, did he not instruct us along these lines to do this very thing?

“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9).

What have we “learned” from Paul? If we carefully study his three apostolic journeys we find that Paul’s proclamation of the Word of God was the basis for both the establishment and growth of the local church. Everywhere the apostle went he opened the Scriptures to the people and they responded with grateful hearts. We’ll allow the biblical record to speak for itself:

1st Apostolic Journey, Antioch in Pisidia: “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the Word of God” (Acts 13:44). Iconium: “Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the Word of His grace” (Acts 14:3). Lystra and Derbe: “And there they preached the gospel” (Acts 14:7).

2nd Apostolic Journey, Thessalonica: “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (Acts 17:2,3). Corinth: “And he [Paul] continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them” (Acts 18:11).

3rd Apostolic Journey, Ephesus: “And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). Troas: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7).

Today, the sound preaching of the Word has been replaced in most local assemblies with alternative worship services and marketing schemes to build a popular church that everyone wants to attend. There is rarely a month that goes by that I don’t receive a colorful brochure come across my desk on Church Growth Programs. Sadly, the church growth movement has relegated the Word of God to a secondary role in favor of song services, skits, films and testimonials. This concept is merely an attempt to draw larger audiences with the idea that “bigger is better.” If they provide more social functions and innovative programs they’ll be better equipped to meet the needs of the community. It’s a lofty goal, but a flawed concept.

The problem here is this: when the church across town announces they’re building a new gym or they plan to have a contemporary worship service with gifted musicians, probably before long many of your people will be going to this new venue. It wouldn’t be the first time a local assembly was left with a small handful of people and a large mortgage. Unfortunately, all of this is at the expense of the Word of God, which is the very thing that will minister to the needs of the people.

The temptation is very real for local churches to go along with the trends of the day, but is it our desire to please men or God? Many church boards are fearful that if Paul’s apostleship and message are proclaimed in their fullness it may upset someone and drive them away! I remember several years ago I was on the platform with a young Grace Pastor who spent the first ten minutes of his message apologizing for Paul’s apostleship. He felt we made too much of Paul and we needed to tone it down in the Grace Movement or we were going to offend people. I’m sure most of his comments were for my benefit, but he was speaking to the wrong person. I came out of the confusion of denominationalism years ago and I have no intention of returning, as this young man was suggesting. I thank God without ceasing that I’ve been set free from the bondage of tradition and I’m going to tell anyone who’s willing to listen that they, too, can be delivered if they acknowledge Paul’s gospel.

Beloved ones, Paul is God’s spokesman for the Church today, thus, to speak disparagingly of God’s apostle is to reject the counsel of God itself. Paul’s epistles reveal the mind and will of God for the Body of Christ during this dispensation. Shall we apologize for the Word of God that has been delivered to us by our apostle? I think not!! While we should speak the truth in love, the truth is offensive (Gal. 5:11 cf. Eph. 4:15). I recall the first time someone told me I was a hell-deserving sinner—I was offended by that statement! But I thank God that I was offended, because through the process I got saved. We must be very careful not to remove the “offense of the Cross” by sugar coating our words with flowery platitudes, which can condemn men to perdition.

One of the purposes of the local church is to provide an atmosphere where the Word of God can be received with thanksgiving. The preaching of the Word must be the centerpiece of our worship of Almighty God. True worship begins with God being glorified in the teaching of His Word. It is then enhanced by the singing of hymns, spiritual songs, prayer and testimonials. For the most part, this order has been reversed in our churches today, which has left the Lord’s people floundering spiritually in their Christian lives.

When we speak here of preaching the Word, we are not referring to a 12-minute devotional message on Sunday morning, which has little profit. Rather, whenever we gather around the Word to worship the preferable way to open the Scriptures is to do a verse-by-verse exposition of a particular book, such as the Book of Romans. We believe this is the most profitable and effective way to teach the Scriptures. Remember, Paul reasoned with his hearers, he alleged, he taught them the Word of life. Whatever format you use, “preach the Word” and the Lord’s people will respond as those at Thessalonica did to Paul’s preaching.

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (I Thes. 2:13).

Because the saints at Thessalonica eagerly received the Word of His grace, the Word began to work within them and it changed their lives. The ways of the world that once were so important to them were gradually being replaced with a desire to walk worthy of their calling. They were growing in grace and becoming more and more spiritually minded.

Little wonder the apostle says: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). If you aren’t attending a local assembly regularly we would like to encourage you to do so for the following reasons. First, it gives you an opportunity to worship God with others of like-precious faith. Second, the Word of God will build you up in the faith, thus enabling you to become more effective in the Lord’s work. This will also help to strengthen your relationship with Christ. Third, the gifts and talents the Lord has given you can be used to His honor and glory. Fourth, the world can be a discouraging place at times; therefore, the fellowship and interaction with other believers will be a great encouragement to you.

The local church that is built upon the Word of God is a stable church, where the Lord’s people know they will hear sound biblical teaching that will challenge them in the faith. This type of church home produces a family atmosphere and families stick together. Seeing that the majority of the assembly has been grounded in the Word when the storms of adversity come, and they will come, the members of the assembly are equipped to weather the storm to the glory of God.

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Berean Searchlight – December 2004

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Dispensationalism: A Panel Discussion

On November 14, 1957, a panel discussion was held at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, on the subject of Dispensationalism. The participants were: Dr. A. Holmes, Dr. B. Mickelsen, Dr. J. R. Rice and Mr. C. R. Stam, with Dr. M. C. Tenney presiding. Last month we presented the opening statement by Pastor Stam, along with the discussion among the panel members that followed. This month we conclude with questions from the floor that were directed to and answered by the panel members. We have omitted the opening statements by Drs. Holmes, Mickelsen and Rice, but the full transcript containing these omissions is available for $5.00. Simply write to Berean Bible Society, PO Box 756, Germantown, WI, or phone: (262) 255-4750.

November 14, 1957

Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

To begin with the “extreme” dispensational view, I might just say a word by way of definition of the word sometimes translated dispensation in our New Testament as I see it. We do not believe that a dispensation is a period of time. In fact I have written rather strongly against that view in my book, The Fundamentals of Dispensationalism. Technically, of course, the word simply means a “house management.” In usage, however, I would say that it runs very close to our word “dispensation”; it is that which is administered or dispensed, or the act of administering or dispensing.

Now we believe that the principles of God are eternal and unchanging. They could not change. God could not change His standards; men have always been, and men always will be, saved only by grace through faith, essentially, and could only be saved on the basis of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The sacrifices that were demanded for atonement in Old Testament times did not in themselves save: “It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.” They served only as an expression of the faith of the individuals who brought them. If God said: “Bring a sacrifice,” faith would bring a sacrifice. If God said: “Keep the Law and you will be my people,” faith would do its best to keep the Law. If God said: “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins,” faith would repent and be baptized and have its sins remitted. If God says: “But now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifest,” and again: “To him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,” faith will say: “Lord this is the best we have had it yet,” and will gratefully accept what God provides.

Now how does this affect us? If we look at the Bible to get a panoramic view of it, God disposes of the Gentiles in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Then He makes a covenant with Abraham that concerns a land and a nation. Centuries later He makes another covenant with Israel through Moses, in which He gives the laws that are to govern that nation in that land. Still later He makes a covenant with David regarding a kingdom and a King, who is to administer the laws of that nation in that land. Sometime after that we find the prophets describing that kingdom; a change in the way of life on earth is to take place. War and bloodshed are to be abolished. Tremendous changes in man’s physical condition are to take place, and a King is to reign in righteousness and justice. Now, finally, John the Baptist appears on the scene and John says in Mark 1:15, for example: “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand.” And the Lord Jesus takes up the cry, “The kingdom of God [or the kingdom of Heaven] is at hand.” The twelve Apostles are sent to preach a kingdom of Heaven, or the kingdom of God, that is at hand.

Now what kingdom could they possibly have been proclaiming as at hand, except that which their background would lead us to believe they were discussing. We have got to remember their background, beloved, when we come to the “gospel” in the Gospel records. In Isaiah, for example, the 11th chapter, and the 6th verse: “The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” Jeremiah 23:5: “A king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” At the birth of Christ you find the same idea clearly. It is: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.” And in the Sermon on the Mount: “The meek shall inherit the earth,” and in the so-called Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”

And it seems to me that in the proclamation of the kingdom we have the proclamation of a changing way of life. The wonderful miracles which our Lord wrought indicated changes also that were to take place when that kingdom was established. So I say that the kingdom was proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ on earth (I know that there are eschatological and non-eschatological aspects to that kingdom), but He was proclaiming the earthly establishment of the kingdom of God. And now, this is important: That did not change after the Cross or at Pentecost. That did not change at all. They are still under the Law. Peter offers them the return of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom on earth. “If you repent God will send Jesus, and the times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord.” So I say that those who are seeking to serve God under the so-called Great Commission today are working under the wrong commission and a commission which God has indeed rendered it impossible to fully obey.

Now we come to the Apostle Paul, another apostle. There were twelve apostles to sit on twelve thrones, but God raised up another apostle, the Apostle Paul, who asks us “if you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward, how that by revelation He made known unto me the Mystery,” or secret. It is he alone who says “I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles; I magnify my office.” (This subject is fabulous, but I would like to close with what he writes to the Galatians). In the first two chapters of Galatians he makes it clear that his apostleship had no relation to the apostleship of the Twelve. He says: “My apostleship is not of men neither even by man” (as Mathias’ apostleship was). They had been led of the Holy Spirit to choose him and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. In the eleventh verse of the same chapter he says: “I certify you brethren that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man, for I neither received it of man neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In the second chapter and the second verse he says: “I went up by revelation (to Jerusalem, that is) and I communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation lest by any means I should run or had run in vain.” So the idea that the Apostle Paul simply went up to check with the leaders of the Twelve to make sure he was preaching the same thing is certainly contradicted here. He says: “I went up by revelation; I communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles.” He says: “In conference they added nothing to me, but contrariwise I added something to them.” When they saw, when they perceived (I’ll read this to you—the ninth verse): “When James, Cephas and John who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace which was given unto me they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles and they to the circumcision.”

Now we must take into consideration all that that involves. The Twelve had been sent into all the world. They had been sent to make disciples of all nations: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” But now, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, they solemnly agreed that they would confine their ministry to Israel while Paul, with Barnabas as his helper, became the Apostle to the Gentiles. Does that not indicate that the gospel of the kingdom did not produce the desired results, that is, as far as the human side is concerned? Does that not indicate that that kingdom, the kingdom which would have been established on earth and someday will be established on earth, was rejected, and now God raised up another apostle with another message? He alone speaks of “my gospel.” Paul pronounces a curse upon those who preach another gospel than he has been preaching. He says (and you will notice it is strong language, for he repeats it): “As I said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which ye have received…” and in the preceding verse, “than that which I have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” That doesn’t mean to be lost, of course, Christians can reap curse as well as blessing. And I believe the Church has reaped that curse in the confusion and division that has gripped it for these centuries. Thank you.


QUESTION by Dr. Mickelsen addressed to Mr. Stam:
In your book, The Fundamentals of Dispensationalism, there is a very arresting metaphor. You take the figure of our mail system and you bring out that although many of us may read our roommate’s mail, that if his dad, say, said: “I am sending you a check for $400.00,” you don’t think that his dad would be sending you the check because it isn’t your mail. We may enjoy reading it but only when our dad says he is sending us $400.00 do we get encouraged. Would you tell us what you really believe is our mail?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
The Epistles of Paul. I believe that the Word of God teaches that the Epistles of Paul are our “private mail.” It is not Luke or James or John or Peter or anyone else, but the Apostle Paul who says: “I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles; I magnify mine office.”

QUESTION by Dr. Holmes addressed to Mr. Stam:
One further question, there are just five instances where Matthew, who uses the term kingdom of heaven, uses the term kingdom of God instead. I think it can be shown in each of those five instances that he does so purely for literary purposes because the style of language would make it awkward to have it otherwise. To come back to Ephesians 3, concerning this phrase “revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets,” how do you understand this, Mr. Stam?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
He says: “It is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets” and he adds: “by the Spirit.” Now, he went up by revelation, as it says in Galatians 2: “I went up by revelation and I communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles.” Verse 7 says: “They saw it”; Verse 9 says, “They perceived it.” Now, how could they perceive these truths? Only “by the Spirit.” He told it to them; he received it by direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ, then he communicated it to them and they saw it.

STATEMENT by Dr. Rice:
It seems to me that we are missing a definition in Ephesians 3. Our brothers seem to take for granted that the mystery is the Church; unfortunately that is not what the Scripture says. In Ephesians 3:3-6, what is the mystery? “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same Body.” In the same passage he says: “You were one time alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” No doubt there has been a people of God all along. The mystery was that Gentiles would be included in that Body.

STATEMENT by Mr. Stam:
I agree partly. I do not believe that the mystery was the Church. I think Dr. Scofield slipped when he tried to show contrasts between Israel and the Church. God has always had His “ecclesia,” His “called out people.” But we are talking about a joint Body and have you not contradicted yourself in what you have just said, that this Body existed all along? He is speaking here of a joint Body and says: “Now that middle wall of partition is broken down.”


QUESTION addressed to Dr. Mickelsen:
What do you feel the lines of distinction in Scripture are?

ANSWER by Dr. Mickelsen:
I would say in the matter of the lines that are drawn: first of all, I have to say what lines are put down explicitly by the Scriptures, lines which I see drawn carefully in Scripture. The line which I see is the First Covenant and the Second Covenant. Now what is the nature of that line? Is it a barrier or what is its nature? It is not a barrier. Now within the Second Covenant, we have no such explicit drawing of lines. Within the covenant we have various actions of God which He undertakes. In my own system I would not draw any hard lines. I would look at the Old Covenant as a period of preparation. In these different times God acted in these various ways, but I see no reason for drawing any more than a dotted line in that aspect. The New Covenant is the covenant of consumation. I happen to be a pre-millennialist, so I believe that God is going to act directly in the affairs of men in a way in which He has not acted previously. But for me that is a part of the New Covenant, and it is a part of the climax which began in the last of these days of Hebrews 1:1.

QUESTION addressed to Mr. Stam:
Regarding this verse in Ephesians 3 where it says that “It is revealed now to the holy apostles and prophets,” when is the “now”? When did the “now” begin?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
With Paul.

QUESTION addressed to Mr. Stam:
Well, then, whom do you consider to be the “apostles and prophets”?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
The “apostles” were the twelve, to whom he communicated it, and the “prophets” were the New Testament prophets.

QUESTION to Mr. Stam by Dr. Mickelsen:
Well then after they received this from Paul, if they had written no books up to that time, why is it that all the books they wrote after this time are still not our “mail”?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
Because they wrote by inspiration for a time when the Body of Christ will have been taken away and when the Hebrew Christian epistles will come into their proper place and Revelation, which is the last, will fit very naturally.

QUESTION to Mr. Stam by Dr. Holmes:
Is John 3:16 “our mail”?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
No, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that the whole Word of God is for us. It was not all addressed to us; it is not all written about us but it is all for us. John 3:16 was spoken by our Lord to a ruler of the Jews. But it is all the more wonderful to us because although Israel has rejected the offer to be the blesser of the world under God, God has sent grace and blessing to the world anyway through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

QUESTION to Mr. Stam:
According to the dispensational view, in the period of time between Paul’s conversion and the trip to Jerusalem, are there two dispensations at the same time and a person can take his choice between them?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
Yes, the one vanished away while the other came in. That is very natural. The bricks of the middle wall of partition fell one by one. It was a process.

QUESTION by Dr. Rice to Mr. Stam:
Was one of the old bricks of Jewish tradition John 3:16 that eventually fell?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
No indeed, that is one of the unchanging purposes of God, that He intervened in the affairs of mankind to bring to us. Israel rejected Christ herself and therefore could not bring Christ to the world. Therefore, God intervened and raised up the chief of sinners, saved by grace, and said: “Now look, it is all done through the cross.”

QUESTION addressed to Mr. Stam:
I assume that you accept the ethics of Paul as expressed in the Law of love to be the basis of Church ethics. What do you do with the Sermon on the Mount? What is your reason for not applying it to the Church?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
I wouldn’t say for a moment that I don’t accept the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount. Everything in the Sermon on the Mount that is compatible with the revelation given to Paul I most certainly will accept, and the moral ethics I certainly would accept. But when he says: “Leave your gift at the altar,” I would not accept it, because he says that sacrifices have been done away in Christ.

QUESTION addressed to Mr. Stam:
I wonder if there was any difference between the concept of the conditions of salvation in the Old Testament and what Paul expresses in Galatians 5:6. In Christ Jesus the thing which avails is faith, but it is a certain kind of faith; a faith that works by love. In other words not faith and works and not just faith, but this distinctive quality of faith, a faith that inevitably will produce the goods. Now is not this the sort of faith which was the condition of salvation in the Old Testament?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
I believe so. That is where the phrase, “the obedience of faith” comes in. Paul speaks of “the obedience of faith” in connection with works and also in connection with his own message.

QUESTION to Dr. Mickelsen and Mr. Stam:
Would you two gentlemen please comment on this passage. In Acts 10 Peter speaks to Cornelius in language which is very similar to Paul over in the second chapter of Ephesians. Peter defines his message and he says: “The Word which God sent unto the children of Israel preaching peace by Jesus Christ.” In other words, Jesus’ message was one of proclaiming peace or evangelizing peace. In Ephesians 2:17 Paul is describing Jesus’ message and he says, Jesus “came and preached peace,” the very same words in the Greek. There seems to be a similarity here rather than a disparity between Paul and Peter.

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
Well, yes, Christ was the Prince of peace. There, of course, is a similarity there, but the remarkable thing is that when Israel joined the Gentiles in enmity against God and declared war on God and His Christ, He still preached peace. And the point is that He was preaching peace not only to them that were far off, but to them that “were nigh” but now have become far off.

ANSWER by Dr. Mickelsen:
I would say that the same message was given and this indicates that the people who believed the message joined the same church. In other words, I do not hold that there is a Jewish church in Acts 1 and a Gentile church in Acts 9. The same message that was preached to Cornelius was also proclaimed later by Paul, and when Peter, who was one of the apostles, went and preached to the Gentiles, he also preached the same gospel that Paul preached.

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
It is true that Cornelius was saved after the conversion of Paul. Peter went to these Gentiles against what he thought was his better judgment. He didn’t want to go, but the Lord said: “You go,” and he begins to preach to them about Jesus of Nazareth in the land of the Jews. But when he gets to the place where he says: “To Him give all the prophets witness that whosoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins,” then God interrupted him and “while he yet spake” the Holy Spirit fell upon them. But what I would like to know is if you think that at Pentecost Peter preached the same message that Paul did.

ANSWER by Dr. Mickelsen:
I would say that though we don’t have a completely systematic theology we do have the proclamation that this man is the Messiah to whom the prophets give witness. And it seems to me that the message that is proclaimed at Pentecost is the message of the Christian Church. But I did not say it is all.

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
Suppose someone came up and said: “What should we do to be saved?” and we did not tell them about the finished work of Christ, would we be preaching salvation at all? If we just preached that Jesus was the Messiah, would that be preaching the plan of salvation for today?

ANSWER by Dr. Mickelsen:
If the people had come out of a Jewish background and had looked at the Messiah as a coming leader and if it were made very clear that this Messiah was put to death and that God raised Him from the dead, I think I certainly would be preaching the gospel of salvation.

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
Even if you didn’t tell them that it was for them? He blames them for the death of Christ; he doesn’t tell them: “He died for you.” He says: “You took Him and by wicked hands you crucified Him and slew Him,” and when they said: “What shall we do?” he said: “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.”

ANSWER by Dr. Mickelsen:
He also said: “The promise is to you and your children.”

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
Yes, the promise was to them and their children, and not to us.

QUESTION to Mr. Stam by Dr. Holmes:
How much of the substitutionary atonement in doctrinal form does one have to understand to be saved?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
That Christ paid the penalty for his sin would certainly be basic. To only find out that Christ is the Messiah would certainly not give relief from the conviction of sin.

QUESTION to Mr. Stam by Dr. Holmes:
But did not the Jew know this if he knew his Old Testament predictions?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
No, Isaiah 53 is perhaps the clearest of all the Old Testament prophecies about the death of Christ and it doesn’t even say who is going to die. It was especially veiled language; God meant it so.

ANSWER by Dr. Holmes:
The Jewish interpretation always took this as applying to Messiah.

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
I go by what the Bible says. I wouldn’t be an authority on that, neither could I necessarily concede it. I know they don’t now agree this refers to the Messiah.

QUESTION addressed to Mr. Stam:
Wesley had a sort of geographical dispensationalism. I am wondering if your dispensationalism is a temporal thing or geographical as well?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
I believe that the gospel of the grace of God has no geographical barriers. All cultures find it equally applicable.

QUESTION to Mr. Stam:
Doesn’t I Peter 1:11 seem to indicate the prophets knew of what they were prophesying?

ANSWER by Mr. Stam:
No, if you would read on, brother, it would show that they did not understand it, for it goes on to say: “They searched and inquired diligently”; they searched not only at what manner of time these things would happen, but what the Spirit did signify when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. They couldn’t have understood it, because the Twelve were working right with the Lord and after they had preached what is called “the gospel” for at least two years, He began to tell them how He must suffer and die, and it says in Luke 18:31-34 that He took the Twelve who had been preaching with Him and He tells them how He must be put to death and three times for emphasis, in one verse, it says: “They understood none of these things.” No, they didn’t understand it.


I am sorry we must close now. But in conclusion may I make one or two observations. One of the fallacies into which Christian people can very easily fall is that they judge somebody else by the exaggeration of his position. It is very easy to exaggerate a man’s differences from ourselves, thus to form a sort of caricature which we say is his position and which may not be it fully at all. I think that tonight we have had the advantage of having differing positions represented by their own advocates with opportunity for clarifying the differences and for making clear what those positions are.

Berean Searchlight – November 2004

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Berean Searchlight – October 2004

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Striving Together for the Faith of the Gospel

If the style of the following article seems a little different from Pastor Stam’s usual writings, it is because this is an edited transcript of one of his radio messages. We trust it will prove a blessing to our readers.

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

“Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:23,24).

Paul had a great desire to depart and be with Christ; not that he was tired of living, by no means. Under the protection of the Roman government, as one of their most prominent prisoners awaiting trial, he was doing a work that would excite the imagination and interest of any man of God. There was already a church established right amongst Caesar’s household, and Paul was known everywhere as a prisoner for Christ. All through the palace and all around about they knew him for this. Oh, no, Paul was by no means tired of living. But the Christ that he proclaimed came to mean so much to him that he longed to see Him and be with Him. This would be far, “far better” than his present state.

Yet, “to abide in the flesh”, as he calls it, was still necessary for the sake of the Philippians and others to whom he ministered. So he felt sure that the Lord would keep him on earth for some time to come. And he expressed the hope that he might see his beloved friends at Philippi before too long. And so it was that he wrote:

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

“And in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake;

“Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:27-30).


Did you notice that word “only” with which he opens this appeal? “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” This is of primary importance. Be sure that this is done above everything else. All through this first chapter of Philippians the apostle adapts almost all he says—his greeting, the news about himself and his ministry, his expressed desire to go and be with Christ, but the necessity to remain here—he adapts all this to the need for true unity among the Philippian believers. In almost every paragraph, every sentence, many subtle phrases or words are employed with a special view to get them to love each other truly, and to work together. And so it is with that word rendered “conversation” in verse 27.

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”

We find this word again in Philippians 3:20:

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”


The Revised Version never uses this word “conversation” in its translation, for the simple reason that it no longer means what it meant nearly 400 years ago when our King James Version of the Bible was translated. But the Revised Version, perhaps, has not done a great deal better than the King James. In Philippians 1:27 they have translated it: “Only let your manner of life be as it becometh the gospel of Christ,” while the RSV renders Philippians 3:20: “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Now there is a great difference between a “manner of life” and “citizenship,” and beloved, most translations simply render the passage: “Let your manner of life…” or “Let your conduct be….”

What all of these translations have overlooked is that all through this epistle the apostle deals with their responsibility, not as individuals only, but as a Christian assembly, as a group. This word in the original Greek refers not so much to the way we live, as to the way we live together. So the word “conversation” in the Authorized Version is not too far off. Picture three or four men with their heads together and you know they have something in common. The Greek word is the very word from which we get our English word “politics.” It’s not merely a manner of living, but a manner of living together. How this agrees with the rest of the verse, and with the whole purpose of this letter to the divided Philippians!

“Only let the way you live together be as it becometh [or as is appropriate to] the gospel of Christ, that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you are standing together.”

There are five phrases in this one verse alone that emphasize the idea of unity.

First, “Only let your conversation, the way you live together, be as it becometh the gospel of Christ,

“…that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs that ye stand fast.” Don’t split and scatter.

Then, “stand fast in one spirit“;

“…with one mind….”

And finally, “striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Read that verse again, and see the power of it, as he writes of these Philippians who had allowed a division to come in between them. A division that might, if they let it go, become very deep and wide, and impossible of curing:

“Only let the way you live together be as it becometh the gospel of Christ, that whether I come and see you or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.”


There is another word here that I should say something about. It is not a bad translation, but nearly 400 years ago the word “striving” also meant something different than it does today. The word striving is simply an old English word for fighting. It is the very same word that we would render “fight.” Paul wanted them to fight together, not fight amongst each other, but fight together against a common foe. And what were they to fight for?

Ah, many Christians do not see the importance of this; they don’t know what it is to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12). And by the way, when you read the phrase “the good fight of faith” in Paul’s epistles, remember that in the original the definite article is there. It should have been translated: “The good fight of the faith.” And here in Philippians 1:27 we also have the definite article: “Fighting together for the faith of the gospel.” Thus “the faith” is the doctrine, the things to be believed about the gospel of the grace of God.

Do you get Paul’s message to these Philippian believers and God’s message to believers today? What he is saying in a very tactful way is this: “Don’t fight amongst each other. This doesn’t become those who proclaim the good news of the grace of God. Rather stand together and fight together for the faith, or the doctrine, of the gospel,” for Satan is ever alert to pollute the blessed unadulterated gospel of the grace of God. And he has done this in religious circles all over the land, and all over the world, where they have adulterated and polluted God’s pure message of grace through the all-sufficient finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Such a united stand for the good news of grace is bound to arouse opposition, for Satan hates grace. You can mix in a little works, you can add confirmation, you can make baptism necessary to salvation or even add it later—anything, any work, any human work will frustrate the grace of God. In Paul’s day it was the Jewish rite of circumcision:

“Behold I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcized, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:2-4).

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 11:6).

In our day Satan adulterates the gospel of grace wherever it is mixed with works. Where works are even appended to it, to make believers in some way more complete, or more acceptable to God, there Satan largely leaves the situation alone. It is where the gospel of the grace of God is preached in its pure, unadulterated form that souls are saved and brought into the truth:

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith [his believing] is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).

This is the message that our adversary so bitterly hates and so relentlessly opposes. When you emphasize the fact that the believer, the simplest, most humble believer, is made “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6); and is pronounced “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:9), it is then that Satan begins to fight.


For this reason the apostle goes on in Philippians:

“Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God” (Phil. 1:27,28).

The enemies of the truth read their own defeat in the unity and confidence of the saints of God, and to the saints themselves this is the surest token of victory. So Paul says: “Don’t you be afraid, don’t you be frightened by our adversaries. But as you stand together for the doctrine of the gospel—for the truth of the gospel of the grace of God—the adversary will see a token of his own defeat. And to you, this will be a token of glorious victory. A victory given by God Himself.”

The world has never been able to understand why it cannot make the true Christian afraid. The Christian who relies wholly on Christ has a powerful testimony. Have you ever read that old book, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? Oh, you should read it and see how God has given His people special grace and courage in special times of need. Men, women, yes, and even young lads and maidens have been tortured, burned at the stake, thrown to the lions, and have done these things by choice rather than renounce the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of you know that my missionary brother, John, just older than I, and his wife Betty, were beheaded by communists in China some years ago. The world would think this was a deadly blow to missionary work there; but do you know what happened? Within one month more than 200 young Christian men and women applied to go as missionaries to that very city in China where John and Betty Stam had been beheaded, and thousands of others consecrated their lives to missionary work at great missionary conferences all over Europe and America.

Years ago the Auca Indians killed five missionaries brutally, beastially, and what happened? Their wives and other missionaries went back to the Indians to win them to Christ, and they have been making significant progress since. The world can’t understand this, but it is a fact that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.


“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29,30).

Did you notice it is given to you to suffer for Christ’s sake? It is a privilege, it is a privilege in several ways. First it is an honor to suffer for Christ because His cause is just. Do you recall how the apostles at Jerusalem were cruelly beaten for testifying to Christ’s resurrection?

“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name.

“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:41,42).


But for Paul, and for us, it is still a greater honor and privilege to suffer for Christ today. In speaking about his sufferings for Christ, the apostle says:

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind [that which still remains] of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the Church” (Col. 1:24).

The meaning of this passage is not difficult. Christ was not wanted here; they crucified Him, and even after He was raised from the dead, they still would not have Him. They stood by that awful deed, and He ascended as a royal exile to Heaven. But while the world was through with Him, He was not yet through with the world. In infinite grace He left the Apostle Paul here with a wonderful message of grace and reconciliation:

“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the Word of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:19).

In effect God has said, “I’ll count Christ’s death at Calvary as the payment for your sins,” and so Paul says in II Corinthians 5:

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

“For [God] hath made Him to be sin for us, [Christ] who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:20,21).

Did you get it? “We pray you in Christ’s stead.” He as much as says: You didn’t want Christ; you wouldn’t have Him here; you crucified Him and said, “Away with Him,” but, ah, we are here. He sent us as His ambassadors, and we stand here instead of Christ to beseech you “that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (II Cor. 6:1).


But Christ is still rejected and despised today, beloved; His name is cursed and blasphemed on every street corner. And who bears the suffering for this? Not He. He is now forever glorified in Heaven. Paul says, “I am suffering; I am bearing that which still remains of the afflictions of Christ,” and furthermore he says, “I rejoice in it.”

“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…” (Phil. 3:10).

These are His sufferings inflicted by unbelievers who hate Him, not you, my Christian friend. The hate is really against Christ. So Paul calls it “…the fellowship of His sufferings…” and it is sweet fellowship indeed, for there are rich rewards which such sufferings will gain:

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17).

Ah, little wonder the apostle encourages the saints at Philippi to work together in our passage:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”

You ask how much we suffer for Christ today? Well, I stood one day with a group of Christians and asked that same question, and added, I’ve never even been slapped in the face for my faith in Christ, have you? And to my embarrassment one woman that was present replied: “I have.” Later the others told me how this woman’s husband had beaten her and had done everything in his power to make life difficult for her because of her faith in Christ. Well, whether you have borne this kind of suffering, or perhaps that cold icy stare, or the cold shoulder that would push you out and give you a poor position at work and give your position to someone else, or whatever—if it’s suffering for Christ, it is a privilege and an honor.

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now here to be in me” (Phil. 1:29,30).

Such suffering is sweet because it is the fellowship of His sufferings. It is filling up that which still remains of the world’s rejection of Christ, the afflictions that He would be bearing were He here.


Now, my dear unsaved friend, God does not ask you to suffer to be saved. You should go to India or some other places in the world where pagan religions, and all the sad darkness of superstition prevails. You’d see poor souls torturing themselves in order to make themselves accepted of whatever gods there are. Ah, no, we don’t ask you—God does not ask you—to suffer, or to do anything to earn your salvation. God simply says:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith [believing]; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

But you say: “Oh, but I’ve been such a sinner; isn’t there something I have to pay? I should think I’d have to suffer something to be made worthy of this.”

Ah, no, Ephesians 1:6,7 says that in grace, God hath made us “accepted in the beloved [One]. In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” And in Romans 5:20,21 Paul declares: “The law entered that the offence might abound, but where sin abounded grace did much more abound.”

My friend, I don’t care what kind of a sinner you are, or what your past has been, and God does not care, because it was all paid for at the cross, where “Christ died for our sins.” There in one stroke the great Creator bore the sins that would have sunk the world to hell, and now He offers you salvation through the merits of Christ at Calvary. Oh, believe it and be saved today. In the words of the grand old hymn, “Christ Receiveth Sinful Men,” by James McGranahan:

“Sinners Jesus will receive;
Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heavenly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.

“Come, and He will give you rest;
Trust Him for His word is plain;
He will take the sinfulest;
Christ receiveth sinful men.

“Christ receiveth sinful men,
Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain,
Heaven with Him I enter in.

“Sing it o’er and o’er again;
Christ receiveth sinful men;
Make the message clear and plain;
Christ receiveth sinful men.”

You can receive More Minutes With the Bible every week in your email inbox. This list features longer articles, including both original content and articles that have appeared in the Berean Searchlight.

Part 5: Christ and His Body

(This is the fifth and last of a series of articles that first appeared in 1950 in Truth magazine, published by Milwaukee Bible Institute/Worldwide Grace Testimony, now the Grace Gospel Fellowship. These articles have never before appeared in the Searchlight.)

“Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular” (I Cor. 12:27).

The most wonderful truth in all the Word of God is that which concerns the relationship between Christ and the Church of this dispensation, called “His Body.”

To understand this distinctive truth, however, we must first learn that the words Church and body, as they are rendered in the Authorized Version, are not always synonymous.


The word Church (Gr. ekklesia) is a general term and is interdispensational in scope. It means simply a called-out group, or assembly, and God has had His called-out people in every dispensation. Israel under Moses was called “the church in the wilderness” by Stephen (Acts 7:38). Our Lord instructed those of His day how, if a sinning brother could not be reasoned with, they might, as a last resort, “tell it unto the Church” (Matt. 18:17). At Pentecost “there were added…about three thousand souls” and “the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41,47).

The word ekklesia is not, of course, found in the Old Testament since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, but it is significant that it is found in reference to Israel some sixty times in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

The word Church, then, is a general term for God’s called-out people in every age.

The word body (Gr. soma) is an entirely different word in the original. It may refer to any physical body, but when applied to “the Body of Christ,” that Body of believers of which we are members, it is a particular term and is distinctly dispensational in character.

How it can be argued, for example, that the Body of Christ had its historical beginning at Pentecost, when Pentecost was the fulfillment of prophecy and the Body of Christ is not even mentioned until Paul, has always puzzled us. The Messianic kingdom was prophesied throughout the Old Testament Scriptures; it was proclaimed “at hand” during our Lord’s earthly ministry and offered for Israel’s acceptance at Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit, likewise, was prophesied by Joel and others, and at Pentecost Peter said: “This is that….” Even the great period of tribulation was predicted by the Old Testament prophets and at Pentecost Peter declared that the signs of that dread day had begun to appear.

But where in the Old Testament is there any prediction of the formation of a joint Body of Jewish and Gentile believers with a position at God’s right hand in the heavenlies? Where did Christ or His apostles even mention it during His earthly ministry? Where is even the term “Body of Christ” found until we come to the writings of the Apostle Paul?1 What right, then, have we to assume that the Body of Christ had its beginning at Pentecost? The signs of Pentecost heralded the “last days” of prophecy; the consumation of Israel’s glory in “the day of the Lord;” they did not mark the first days of “the Church which is His Body.”

The supposition that the words Church and body are synonymous in Scripture has lead to great confusion. Some, seeing Israel referred to as the Church in the Old Testament, have concluded that the Body of Christ had its historical beginning with Abel or Adam. Those referred to above, however, finding the word Church in Acts 2 and connecting this with Christ’s statement: “I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18) have supposed—less consistently—that the Body had its beginning at Pentecost. Many good Bible expositors, including even Dr. C. I. Scofield, have sought to point out distinctions between “Israel and the Church,” when the fact is that Israel once was the Church, as we have seen from Acts 7:38.

The distinctions, properly, should be made between Israel and the Body, between the Church of that day and the Church of this.

Let us be careful, then, about our terminology. The word Church is a general term and is interdispensational in scope, while “the Body of Christ” is a particular term and is distinctly dispensational in scope, since it is the product of “the dispensation of the grace of God.”


Probably more “church members” today are interested in the establishment of Christ’s kingdom than are interested in the completion of the Body. This is because they have not been instructed in Pauline truth, the truth concerning the present dispensation.

God is not establishing Christ’s kingdom on earth today. The King and His kingdom were rejected 1900 years ago. Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand as a royal Exile from earth. Believers today are translated “into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13); and “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

Indeed, the Church which is Christ’s Body came into existence as a result of Israel’s rejection of Christ and the postponement of the establishment of the kingdom on earth. It was when Israel had rejected Christ both in incarnation and in resurrection; when she had closed her eyes and ears to all the overwhelming evidences of His Messiahship and had begun to wage war against Him, that “grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). Gradually setting Israel aside as a nation along with the other nations, God now began to form “the Body of Christ,” composed of individual Jews and Gentiles reconciled to God by faith in His rejected Son.

“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32).

“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16).


The Body of Christ had its historical beginning with Paul, before he wrote his first epistle.

That it began with Paul, not with Peter or before, is evident from several important facts:

First, as we have seen, the Body is not mentioned anywhere in the Scriptures until we come to the writings of Paul, and it is the great subject of his epistles.

Second, the Body of Christ is a joint Body, composed of Jewish and Gentile believers alike, with no difference, positionally, between them.

“That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs [joint-heirs], and of the same Body [of a joint-Body], and partakers [joint-partakers] of His promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).2

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles…” (I Cor. 12:13).

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek…for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-28).

This is very different from the program of prophecy and the so-called “great commission” in which Israel is given precedence over the Gentiles (See Isa. 60:1-3; Zech. 8:13,23; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:25,26).

Third, the Body is made up of reconciled Jews and Gentiles as we have seen from Ephesians 2:16. Now we cannot reconcile friends. Reconciliation postulates alienation. This is why the message of reconciliation was not preached, nor the Body formed, until God had begun to set Israel aside along with the Gentiles. “The casting away of them” opened the way for “the reconciling of the world” (Rom. 11:15). Nor is there any indication of the setting aside of Israel until Paul is raised up.

Fourth, Paul distinctly states, by the Spirit, that the Body of Christ is a “new man” and a “new creation.”

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [Gr. there is A NEW CREATION]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:16,17).

“For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

“Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain ONE NEW MAN, so making peace” (Eph. 2:14,15).

This “new creation” and “new man” stand in contrast to Adam and the old creation. Having concluded all in unbelief, God now offers to take the fallen sons of Adam and make them a new creation in Christ.

Fifth, the Apostle further states that God’s purpose concerning the formation of the Body of Christ was kept a secret until revealed through him.

“Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,

“Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:4,5).

“[His Body, Ver. 24] whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God;

“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints” (Col. 1:24-26).

That the Body had its beginning before Paul wrote his first epistle is also evident, from the fact that he speaks of it in his early epistles as having already been brought into existence and refers to the mystery as having already been revealed.

(See, as to the Body: Rom. 12:4,5; I Cor. 6:15; 10:17; 12:12,13,27. As to the mystery: Rom. 2:16; 16:25; I Cor. 2:7).


When the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians that it was given to him to “fulfill [complete] the Word of God” (Col. 1:25), he means that the truth of the Body is the filling up of the divine revelation. More of the Bible was doubtless written later, but these later writings simply supplied further details and instructions concerning an already prophesied period of time. But the glorious mystery of the Body is the capstone of the divine purpose and revelation. Here we have the highest truth in all the Word of God. The Body is called, in Ephesians 1:23, “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all,” and we who have received grace to trust Christ during this age of His rejection should humbly thank God a thousand times a day that He has seen fit to give us the most exalted position contemplated for the redeemed anywhere in the Scriptures.

In this connection it should be noted, first of all, that the Body of Christ is more than an organization; it is a living organism. As necessary and Scriptural as organization is in the professing Church on earth, we should always remember that the true Church of today is made up of believers inseparably and eternally united to the living Christ in glory. And this Body grows in its dimensions, as one believer leads another to Christ and spiritually, as all believers come into a fuller knowledge and appreciation of the truth.

“In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21).

“But speaking the truth in love… grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

“From Whom the whole Body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying [building up] of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15,16).

Another blessed truth in this connection is that all true believers belong to this Body, even our individual bodies being called the members of Christ. And because we are the members of Christ, we are members one of another; each having some different function in the Body, to be sure (Rom. 12:4; I Cor. 12:14-26), but all equally members of it and of one another.

“So we, being many, are one Body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:5).

“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” (I Cor. 6:15).

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free” (I Cor. 12:13).

“Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular” (I Cor. 12:27).

“There is one Body” (Eph. 4:4).

How this should make us love one another! How it should break down denominational barriers! How it should overcome personal differences! This bond should be most precious to us when we reflect that it is our union with Christ that makes us members one of another.

Finally, we should never forget that Christ, Christ alone, is the Head of the Body. We, the members, must always be subject to Him, ready to respond instantly to His will.

“And He is the Head of the Body, the Church…that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).

“…Christ is Head of the Church… the Church is subject unto Christ…” (Eph. 5:23,24).

And this clearly implies that He will plan the very best for us; that His will for us will not be grievous.

“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth it and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church” (Eph. 5:29).


  1. It is true that Paul speaks of those who were “in Christ” before him (Rom. 16:7) but here, as in many other places, the term has a moral connotation. These believers stood before God morally in Christ, since their sins had been imputed to Him and His righteousness to them. Thus we too have redemption “in Christ” (Eph. 1:7). This term is also used in an affinitive sense, as in our Lord’s upper room discourse: “Abide in Me” (John 15:4). This has the idea of belonging together as one. But in neither of these cases are men said to be in Christ as “members of His Body.”
  2. “Fellowheirs,” “same body” and “partakers” all have the same prefix in the original.

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Berean Searchlight – September 2004

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Overcoming Depression Biblically and Naturally


The Berean Bible Society desires to have a variety of articles in the Berean Searchlight that cover a range of topics from doctrinal to practical Christian living. Depression is a very important Christian-living topic.

The Bible has much to say about depression; interestingly, the causes and solutions are not what are commonly thought in Christian circles. This article will offer insights that may help erase the stigma associated with depression and to see it in a new light. When seen correctly, there is no more stigma or shame associated with depression than any other illness.

For those afflicted with depression, please understand you are not alone in your feelings, not going out of your mind, confusion is common, and the inexplicable black cloud can be lifted. A sad truth is that many Christians suffer from depression and either do not know it (they are miserable but do not know why) or cannot admit it because they think that would be admitting a spiritual problem. So, they suffer in silence hoping and praying for deliverance; but the consequences of doing nothing often result in further complications.

To be the comforters of II Corinthians 1:6 (and to help ourselves) we have to understand depression’s causes, avoid false assumptions and grasp the concepts of how to gain victory. We will see that our brains malfunction like any organ or system of our body. Would we be gracious comforters if we went to a person with diabetes (or any physical ailment) and told them their problem was due to sin or lack of faith? Generally we would be wrong and we would just be heaping misery upon misery and making matters worse.


What is Depression?: Depression is a prolonged emotional tone dominating an individual’s outlook and mood. Normal moods of sadness, grief, and elation are typically short-lived and part of everyday life, but these can progress into a depressed mental state. Other symptoms often accompany depression but the most common symptoms of major depression are:1

  • deep sadness or emptiness,
  • apathy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities,
  • agitation or restlessness, physical hyperactivity or inactivity,
  • sleep disturbances,
  • weight/appetite disturbances,
  • diminished ability to think or concentrate,
  • feelings of excessive guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness,
  • feelings of fatigue or loss of energy, and
  • morbid thoughts of death or suicide.

If a person experiences at least five of these symptoms for one month they have major depression. Mild depression would typically be defined as having two to four of these symptoms for over one month. Bipolar disorder (manic depression) includes swings from deeply depressive moods to wildly manic moods (elation, irritability, hostility, inflated thoughts of self, boasting)—with many intensities and variations.

When asked “what brings you pleasure in life” most unsaved, depressed people will look down and finally say something like “nothing.” The saved are more guarded because they fear if they admit “nothing” they will be thought unspiritual, so they say something like “being saved” or “knowing Christ.” The saved, depressed person generally knows about their eternal and heavenly blessings, for which they are thankful, but they feel trapped now by inexplicable emotional tones and moods. Consider this man trapped by depression’s grip.

“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would be not one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully (regretfully) forebode (foretell) I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better it appears to me.”—Abraham Lincoln

Biblical Occurrences: Depression is the ascendancy and tyranny of our emotions over our lives. Thus, Proverbs 15:13 says, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance; but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” Often an initiating discouragement leads to sadness, which leads to prolonged grief, and then into a downhill spiral to depression. Depression is a universal problem, but no one really knows if Biblical characters had what we call depression, or if it would be more appropriate to say they suffered emotionally. However, Paul in I Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…”. Temptation can mean trial, calamity, or affliction. Accordingly, we should understand that our present day afflictions were also common to the great Bible characters.

David was overwhelmed with grief and sadness, his heart was desolate, and his tears fell all night (Psa. 61:2, 77:2-3, 142:4, and 143:4). Jonah, Jeremiah (Jer. 15), Job, and Elijah (I Kings 19) are other examples. Whenever characters express rejection, loneliness, self-pity, hopelessness, overwhelming grief, and wish they had not been born, it seems they are expressing more than temporary sadness but classic symptoms of major depression. Paul had classic symptoms: his flesh had no rest, he was troubled on all sides, he was cast down, he had fears within, and he despaired of life (II Cor. 1:8 & 7:5-6). Hannah (I Samuel 1) had many of the symptoms of depression and her spiritual leader instantly and incorrectly accused her of a spiritual problem.

It seems there is a universal truth concerning depression, that is, the non-depressed rarely understand the unrelenting pain involved, the feelings of hopelessness (in this life, not once delivered from this body), and think the person should just pick themselves up and get over it. It is not that easy. In fact, when that part of the brain that mediates emotions is not functioning properly, medical help (not criticism) is often needed.

Depression Considerations: Each year depression strikes ten million people in the United States. Older Christians have more depression than younger; does this mean that spiritual maturity is of no avail? No, what this indicates is that older people have more biochemical and brain malfunctions as they age; depression is a natural consequence. Similarly, more women (two to three times) have depression than men. Women do not have more spiritual problems than men, but they do process adverse events differently than men, and, they have a complex body chemistry that can get out of balance, both leading to depression. Women tend to take adverse events and internalize them and take the blame—this is a thought-processing problem. Men tend to react to the same events with escapism (sports, TV, sexual obsessions, alcohol); which can later result in heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc.—again, a thought-processing problem but with different results. There is another difference: women tend to feel their depression (sadness/guilt) while men act it out in their behavior (rage, hostility and frustration).2

Causes: Understanding the causes of depression is very helpful to finding the solution. It is rare that there is only one causative agent, generally there are several at work. Listed below (no specific order) are some factors known to contribute to depression:3 4 5

  • nutrient deficiency or excess
  • drugs (prescription, illicit, caffeine)
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • hormonal imbalances
  • allergies
  • heavy metals
  • sexual abuse as a child
  • microbial overgrowths/toxins
  • medical conditions (stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, thyroid)
  • natural light deprivation
  • psychological factors (generally poor thought-processing)
  • spiritual factors

Depression can have its source in our body, soul or spirit. Our body can affect our soul and spirit and vice versa. For example: if one has a low thyroid function it may affect the soul (for example the emotions) leading to depression which then affects one’s spiritual life. Affecting our spiritual life does not mean it changes our standing or position in Christ, it means things like a less productive outreach/ministry and a more self-oriented prayer life.

Research since the 1990’s has helped clarify this whole issue and there is now better understanding on the causes and solutions. The brain’s frontal lobe (behind the forehead) is now known to be intimately involved in emotional well-being. It is recognized that one of the characteristics of virtually all depressed people is a significant decrease in the frontal lobe’s blood flow and activity. The main cause of impaired frontal lobe function is a harmful lifestyle—the same cause of most of our physical diseases.6

There is now no question that reductions in frontal lobe function lie at the core of depression. Complimenting this research is the finding that depressed children have significantly smaller frontal lobes than non-depressed children. The evidence indicates that frontal lobe problems are the cause and not the effect. The frontal lobe’s proper function requires adequate blood flow and nerve chemistry.

As fog veils a beautiful meadow, so depression clouds life itself; existence becomes dreary and dark. It has been described as darkness visible. One can go to bed feeling fine only to wake with an overwhelming gloom that cannot be explained or escaped. With proper nutrition, lifestyle changes and a renewed way of processing the events of our lives we can break through that fog into a sunny day.

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:21).

Consequences: Now that it is clear that depression is related to many factors, primarily to frontal lobe malfunction, let’s consider the consequences of depression. Depression weakens the immune system’s power to attack cancer cells, increases the risk of fatal stroke by 50%, increases the risk of sudden cardiac death in heart attack survivors by 250%, and increases the complications of pneumonia.7 It has been found that depression increase stress hormone levels, hypertension, and headaches; it complicates diabetes and is the leading cause of suicide (its close relative). The point is clear, depression should be addressed early or it may lead to fatal consequences. However, because of their illness depressed persons have diminished ability to combat their own disease, so help is often needed to lift them out of the pit of despair.

How the Brain Works: By God’s design, all brain activity (every thought, feeling and emotion, every order the brain sends to the organs and cells) is the product of electrochemical signals. The brain’s electrical signals require a chemical to carry the signal across a small opening (synapse) between cells. The chemicals used to do this are called neurotransmitters. To have a properly functioning system we need an adequate amount of neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitter most commonly associated with depression is serotonin.

Depressed people have low serotonin levels. Thus, they have impaired brain message sending, especially relating to emotions and mood. Serotonin is produced in the brain from tryptophan (a protein), which is converted into 5-HTP, and then into serotonin. Some serotonin is converted into melatonin, the hormone needed for proper sleep (thus the connection between depression and sleep disorders). One cause of low serotonin is the lack of an enzyme that converts tryptophan to 5-HTP.8 Before proceeding, just think how unfair it would be to tell a depressed person that is missing this needed enzyme that they have a spiritual problem. As a doctor told a dear sister in Christ who just could not understand why she could not get over her depression, “quit beating yourself up about it, your body just does not produce enough serotonin.”


This article will consider botanical medicine, medications, proper lifestyle, nutrition, thought processing, and spiritual direction—the most common causes of depression. Some consider botanical or pharmaceutical medications for depression to be “mind-numbing” or “feel-good” drugs. This is unfortunate because such medications only help a depressed person feel more “normal” (a non-depressed person would feel worse or no change).

If depression were primarily spiritually induced, people should not get better from medications because medications do nothing about the spiritual problem. If the medications merely treat the symptoms and do not get to the root spiritual cause then the depression should always come back once the medications are stopped, which is not the case.

Botanical Medicines: The Scripture makes it clear that because of sin the earth today is not yielding its strength (Gen. 4:12). As a result of this Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Knowing this, the Lord has made special provisions for us. Psalms 104:14 says, “…and herb for the service of man:…”, which means the botanical (herbal) kingdom was designed for the many services of humans, including medicine.

Often herbal products are slower acting than pharmaceutical medications, but the advantages of herbal supplements is that they can often affect a cure (rather than just address symptoms) and the side effects are minor compared to pharmaceutical drugs. Herbs can be considered the medicine from God’s pharmacy. The most important and well tested herbs to consider in connection with depression are:9 10

  • St. John’s Wort (SJW): relieves depression, anxiety, apathy, sleep disturbance, anorexia, and feeling of worthlessness. All these symptoms are caused by low serotonin and SJW increases the level of serotonin in the brain.
  • Ginkgo biloba: improves blood flow and function of the frontal lobe. Ginkgo increases the ability of serotonin to do its job in the brain.
  • 5-HTP: a plant extract that is just one step from becoming serotonin—the brain readily makes this conversion. It raises the level of serotonin and other brain neurotransmitters. This product overcomes the genetic problem that does not allow for the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP.

Pharmaceutical Medications: There are times when medications can save a person’s life. If botanical medicines do not work (in conjunction with the lifestyle, thought processing, and consideration of other causes) then medications are an option. A short-term use of antidepressant drugs may be needed in order to get the mind operating sufficiently well so that a person can function. Medications generally work by keeping serotonin (or other neurotransmitters) at adequate levels in the brain’s synapses. They do not help create increased blood flow or frontal lobe function.

Nutrition: A deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. The most common deficiencies are folic acid, vitamin B12 and B6. An insufficiency of Omega 3 fatty acids (oils) has been linked to depression. Low Omega 3 oils result in cells throughout the body and brain that do not function correctly, and the mind suffers. The needed Omega 3 oils are found in fish oils and flaxseed oil.11 12 13 14 15

The diet for helping to prevent and correct depression is based upon Biblical insights:

  • Increase the consumption of fiber-rich plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and raw nuts and seeds).
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants; also avoid foods that cause allergic symptoms.
  • A good diet is: low protein, high fiber, low-moderate fat, and high complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates do not include simple carbohydrates (processed foods, snack foods, white bread, soda). Raw fruit has simple carbohydrates but is good because of the fiber, enzymes and antioxidants.
  • Atkins type diets are poor; they actually lead to depression since carbohydrates are needed to get tryptophan into the brain.
  • Foods high in tryptophan should be consumed regularly: soy flour, meats/poultry (turkey and chicken), tofu, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, raw nuts, eggs, lentils, and garbanzo beans.
  • A good snack before going to bed would be a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread (there is tryptophan in the turkey and the whole grain bread will help keep sugar levels stable and help get the tryptophan get into the brain).

Rule to live by: Eat foods as close to the way God created them as possible: raw, whole, and unprocessed. He created vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, etc. He did not create processed foods or animal meat full of antibiotics and hormones. Humans cannot improve upon God’s bounty!

Lifestyle: Regular exercise and sleep are essential to combat depression. Exercise at least 30 minutes four times a week. One does not have to jog: but walking, biking, tennis, swimming, gardening, active house/yard work are great. Regular exercise takes time for the effects to be felt, sometimes weeks.

We each have an internal clock that operates on a roughly 24-hour schedule (circadian rhythm). Even mentally healthy people can become depressed if the circadian rhythms are significantly disturbed. Seasonal Affective Disorder is common in the winter months in northern climates because the lack of natural sunlight disrupts these rhythms. Direct exposure to bright full spectrum light can help, or, the serotonin boosting botanical medicines.

A common factor leading to depression is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar); the brain requires a constant supply of blood sugar to function properly. Thyroid insufficiency also causes depression. Women with post-partum depression and those approaching menopause (symptoms often start by mid-30 age) are subject to hormonal disturbances that lead to depression.16 17 18

Biblical Thought-Processing: How we handle bad or disappointing news has a profound effect upon our mental well-being. As long as we believe we are victims, we are not able to achieve full mental health.19 Positive thinking is more important for overall health than almost anything else. Negative thinking, on the contrary, can destroy the good done by correct diet and lifestyle.20 Many depressed people have a tendency to look at the down side of life. It has been said that it is a positive duty to resist melancholy and discontented thoughts as much as it is our duty to pray. Certainly there will always be things in this imperfect world that give us cause to complain. Often we are helpless to personally do anything about many of these negative things. However, we can focus our mind on the enjoyable and wonderful things of life; this is scriptural, uplifting and therapeutic.

In our self-talk (how we silently talk and think to ourselves) we must replace the negative/compulsive thoughts with Philippians 4:8. But each person must search-out those things that are true, honest, just, pure, etc.—that is the purpose of meditating on God’s Word. As soon as the conscious awareness of an unconstructive negative thought is realized, a positive thought must immediately replace it. This takes practice and preparation, but brings our thinking into captivity. The instruction of II Corinthians 10:5 & 6 is, “…and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” Applying these words to ourselves, we cannot allow ourselves to entertain negative thoughts, even if true, even if we have been wronged (Prov. 12:25, 15:13, 18:14). Nor can we entertain compulsive thoughts (thoughts that just keep running over and over again in our mind even though they may not be negative in nature).

In the world of secular counseling there has been a shift away from psychoanalysis which was aimed at uncovering “unconscious” reasons for depression. Time was spent on how the individual was raised as a child, and other past events that may have shaped a person’s feelings and behavior. Going through the maze of a person’s past life was thought helpful to present-day healing or identifying causative agents. This therapy has proven less successful than desired. So, a shift has been made toward cognitive behavioral therapy which focuses on the interpretation of life’s events. This is mentioned because secular therapy has, over time, become more closely aligned with what Paul teaches about our thinking, that is:21

  • erroneous interpretations of events and negative automatic thoughts may initiate or perpetuate the depressed mood and
  • our focus should not be on the past (finding circumstances or others to blame) but on what one can do differently.

The essential basics of cognitive behavioral therapy are shown below; each person should provide their own verses to make them more personal and meaningful. Whether in the natural world or in the realm of the mind, science comes to the same conclusion as revealed in the Bible 2000 years ago.

  1. Locate and identify the negative thoughts or misbelief in your self-talk. “I am no good because things are not like what I expect or want.”
  2. Argue against the negative thoughts. “I am not a failure just because I do not meet unrealistic expectations of myself or others.”
  3. Learn how to avoid rumination (the constant churning of thoughts in one’s mind) by immediately changing your thoughts.
  4. Replace the negative thoughts the very second they occur with the truth and with empowering positive thoughts and beliefs. “In spite of the sorrow, disappointments and feelings I experience the Lord will help me carry on.”22

Most depression-causing negative thoughts or misbeliefs enter the flow of self-talk after some loss has occurred. Temporary disappointment or sadness at loss is natural, but it cannot continue long-term without consuming a person.

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that God has promised us perfect peace at all times; that will come to those in the Kingdom (Isa. 26:1-3). The instruction and blessing of Philippians 4:6 & 7 are applicable for today. Always understand these verses in light of Paul, who had plenty of struggles and afflictions but God brought him through and kept his heart and mind in the process.

Finally, Philippians 3:13 & 14 says, “…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul is using a runner’s analogy to put the past and future in their proper perspective. He says that runners in a race cannot look back to see where the other runners are, for if they do they may stumble or get out of their lane and be disqualified. A runner can only look ahead and stretch forward, making the focus the finish line, not what may be behind.

We are on a track, running life’s race. The most incredible thing is that each Christian is the only person on his/her track. One does not have to be all that fast, but steady. The only thing that is behind us on our track is our past (forgetting those things that are behind), with its failures, abuses, hurts, regrets, accomplishments, or fame. If you have your eye on the prize the past cannot hurt/catch you. The past contains the thoughts that Paul says to forget about, certainly do not ruminate about them, if you do you will stumble (have mental problems). He implies a Christian’s greatest point of failure in running the race is letting the past keep him/her from running well. Look ahead, stretch forward toward a new day and thank God for all you have in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Spiritual Direction: Depression can have a spiritual source if we live in sin, harbor anger or resentment, etc. We have to be willing to forgive (make the unnatural decision to let someone “off the hook” even though they do not ask or deserve it) just as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us, Ephesians 4:32. (Note, we forgive because we already have been forgiven, not to be forgiven as is the case in the Gospels.)

Regular spiritual exercise (reading, studying, praying, meditation on the Word) requires use of the frontal lobe of the brain and emphasizes communion with God, thinking His thoughts, sensing His presence, and knowing His will. This is active worship and produces the type of brain waves in the frontal lobe that are very helpful for us all, including the depressed. Hypnosis and the trance-like state of Eastern religious meditation are very harmful; they produce the wrong type of brain waves and information bypasses the frontal lobe, leading to possible mind control.23

Sometimes a believer is living for the Lord, serving and honoring Him in all parts of his/her life. Over the years, the Lord blesses that person and they are happy, enjoy good health, etc. Certainly there is nothing wrong with enjoying the blessings of the Lord. But, it can all be taken in a moment, not because of spiritual problems, but because it may be that God is taking (or because of the situation He will take) that person to the next level of maturity—it is perplexing and it hurts. Often growth requires loss or brokenness.24 Paul says, “…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things…” (Phil. 3:8).

Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Transformed in Greek is metamorphosis and means a change in form; it implies a struggle like when a chrysalis morphs into a butterfly. If we do not become changed from the inside-out—if we do not morph—we will be tempted to find external things to satisfy our needs. Transformation is not an instantaneous act of God, it is a life-long process (journey). One does not get transformed by just praying, asking or believing; there is no “microwave” (quick and easy) way to spiritual maturity.

The passive voice in Romans 12:2 means the Holy Spirit will do the transforming for us if we cooperate with Him (listening, yielding, relying…). Expect spiritual advancement, you can always mature more, Philippians 3:15-16. Your imperfections will be revealed by the Holy Spirit so that you may continue to grow and become more complete (not sinless, but well-rounded). Maturity versus infancy is the issue. God loves you just the way you are, but refuses to leave you that way; He wants you to be made conformable to Christ, II Corinthians 3:18.

Our Lord stripped himself of His glory and “…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…and became obedient unto death…” (Phil. 2:7 & 8). His life reminds us of our spiritual growth which often imposes tough lessons, sometimes so tough we shrink back from learning them. It seems we have to learn from actual experience that whatever we depend upon in this life (for joy, comfort, acceptance, etc.), ends up controlling us. God allows and uses life’s events to teach us about misplaced dependencies, so that we finally grasp the concept that Christ is our one true sufficiency.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, offer prescriptive advice or substitute for a personal health care provider. Anyone taking prescription medications, or wishing to significantly change his/her lifestyle, is advised to consult with a medical professional with appropriate expertise.

Steve Shober is a Naturopath (natural health practitioner) and a member of the BBS Board of Directors. If you have questions about this article, would like more information on the use of herbal products, nutrition or lifestyle issues, or would like a presentation on depression at your church, contact him at: Biblical Health Ministries, 7179 Clover Hill Dr., Waunakee, WI 53597; or Biblical Health Ministries is a non-profit ministry dedicated to teaching God’s provisions for our health.


  1. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition, J. Pizzorno, ND & M. Murray, ND, Bastyr University.
  2. Unmasking Male Depression, Archibald Hart, PhD, Word Publications.
  3. Depression the Way Out, Neil Nedley, MD, Nedley Publishing.
  4. 5-HTP The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity & Insomnia, M. Murray, ND, Bantom Books.
  5. Endocrinology and Naturopathic Therapies, 4th Edition, D. Powell, ND, Bastyr University.
  6. Depression the Way Out.
  7. Depression the Way Out.
  8. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  9. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  10. 5-HTP The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity & Insomnia.
  11. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  12. Depression the Way Out.
  13. 5-HTP The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity & Insomnia.
  14. Endocrinology and Naturopathic Therapies.
  15. Naturopathic Gastroenterology, E. Yarnell, ND, Naturopathic Medical Press
  16. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  17. Endocrinology and Naturopathic Therapies, 4th Edition.
  18. What Your Doctor May NOT tell you About Premenopause, J. Lee, MD, & J. Hanley, MD, Time-Warner Publishing.
  19. The Blessings of Brokenness, Dr. C. Stanley, Zondervan Publishing House.
  20. Your Health Your Choice, M. T. Morter, DC, Lifetime Books, Inc.
  21. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  22. Telling Yourself the Truth, W. Backus, MD, & M. Chapian, Bethany House Publ.
  23. Depression the Way Out.
  24. The Blessings of Brokenness.

Part 4: David and the Kingdom

(This is the fourth of a series of articles that first appeared in 1950 in Truth magazine, published by Milwaukee Bible Institute/Worldwide Grace Testimony, now the Grace Gospel Fellowship. These articles have never before appeared in the Searchlight.)


In Genesis 10:10 we read concerning Nimrod, “The Rebel,”

“And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”

Evidently he was the leader of the movement spoken of in Genesis 11:4:

“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

That this was no effort on man’s part to carry out God’s instructions regarding human government is clear enough. These men were not seeking to “replenish the earth,” trusting God to care for them. They were establishing cities—though doubtless little more than small forts at the time—for their own protection and preservation. They were not seeking for one or more among their number to rule for God. They were determined to make a name for themselves; to have a kingdom of their own, entirely apart from God. Indeed, it is evident from what follows that they even established their own idolatrous religion, for Babel thenceforth became the fountain head of idolatry.

The result of this first attempt on the part of man to establish an earthly commonwealth is well known:

“Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:9).

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient [fitting]” (Rom. 1:28).

But Nimrod and his followers did not abandon Babel, nor did they refrain from further attempts at government without God. Soon Erech and Accad and Calneh were added to form the first “empire.” And even this was but a beginning. Indeed, Nimrod’s followers to this day have not given up the idea of establishing a strong world government of their own. But they have planned and labored in vain.

Nimrod’s movement will have its culmination in the rise of “Babylon the Great,” the seat of a world empire before which the original “kingdom” of Nimrod will seem as nothing. But this future Babylon will be brought to desolation both total and final, and with it the world’s government, business, society, and religion will be overthrown (See Rev. 18). It is then that Nimrod’s anti-type, the coming “lawless one,” will also be destroyed (See II Thes. 2:8).


Meanwhile God has been working out His own unalterable plan. It was shortly after man’s original attempt to establish his own government and make himself a name, that God called Abram out of heathenism, saying,

“…Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee:

“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.”

“And…unto thy seed will I give this land…” (Gen. 12:1,2,7).


This great nation was, of course, to be a theocracy, for this was God’s chosen people. However, even they apostatized after a time and demanded a king “like all the nations” (I Sam. 8:5). God granted this request but it was His loving purpose ultimately to reign over them Himself in the person of Messiah. Thus after bringing them through many sad experiences and teaching them many lessons under Saul, their first king, God chose David, “a man after His own heart” and during His reign made a covenant with him, part of which specified:

“And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever” (II Sam. 7:16).

The uninterrupted, unchallenged establishment of David’s kingdom, of course, still awaited a future day. This is clear from the language of the covenant itself and is borne out by such passages as Acts 1:6 and Acts 15:15,16. But there was one thing which the covenant rendered essential from the outset and that was the preservation of the royal line. That line could not die out. This implication is clearly expressed in I Kings 8:25, for example, where Solomon says:

“Therefore now, Lord God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in My sight to sit on the throne of Israel….”

How wonderfully God kept this promise to David in the face of unrelenting opposition and intrigue on the part of Satan. Again and again it seemed that the last of the royal seed had been stamped out but always God intervened in time, so that Israel was never left without a direct descendant of David to occupy the throne until finally Christ, the eternal Son of David, had arrived.


Were it not for the perversion of a plain truth by religious leaders, no one would question that the Messianic kingdom was to be—and is to be—established on earth. Since this fact has been questioned, however, we quote several passages to substantiate it:

“Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the EARTH for Thy possession” (Psa. 2:8).

“…for the EARTH shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).

“He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the EARTH…” (Isa. 42:4).

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the EARTH” (Jer. 23:5).

These are but a few of the many passages that emphasize this fact.

And these passages are supported in turn by the elaborate descriptions of the kingdom which we find in the prophetic Scriptures. The following are some of the great changes to take place in this world when Messiah’s reign is established:

All Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26); Israel will be exalted above the nations and become a blessing to them (Isa. 60:1-3); the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord (Isa. 11:9); government will be purified (Isa. 11:1-5; Jer. 23:5); war will be abolished (Isa. 2:4); sickness and death (except in judgment, Isa. 66:24) will be abolished and longevity restored (Isa. 35:5,6; 65:20); the animal creation will be tamed (Isa. 11:6-8; 65:25); the desert will blossom as a rose (Isa. 35:1,6).


Finally the long-promised King arrived. That He was of “the house and lineage of David” could easily be verified, for the genealogical records had been carefully preserved down through the centuries, and these indicated He was heir to the throne, legally through Joseph and physically through Mary. Furthermore, the manner of His birth (Isa. 7:14), the place of His birth (Mic. 5:2) and the time of His birth (Dan. 9:25), in addition to the miracles which He wrought as His credentials, all went to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that He was the Son of David; Messiah, the Anointed One; Immanuel, God with us.

Hence in the gospel records we find the kingdom proclaimed “at hand” by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1,2), Christ (Matt. 4:17) and the twelve (Matt. 10:5-7). Note, they only proclaimed it “at hand.” This phrase is consistently used in the gospels, for not until after the crucifixion and resurrection could it be offered.


We find the first offers of the kingdom at Pentecost and after.

In his Pentecostal address, Peter declares that God raised Christ from the dead to sit on David’s throne (Acts 2:30,31) and pleads with his nation to repent, saying, “The promise is unto you.”

The clearest offer, perhaps, is found in Acts 3:19-21, where the apostle says to the “men of Israel”:

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

This is not to say, of course, that if that one audience had repented Christ would immediately have returned. Their rejection of Christ was a national matter which called for national repentance. We know also that according to prophecy and certain predictions of Christ Himself much had to transpire before Christ could actually return. Indeed, we now know that the Mystery had to be revealed before the prophecy concerning Messiah’s reign could be fulfilled.

The point is that here at Pentecost Israel was presented with a proposition and made responsible to accept or reject the Messianic kingdom. God’s foreknowledge in the matter did not diminish their responsibility or guilt.

The crucifixion too had been predicted, yet John the Baptist, Christ and the twelve were sent to call the people to repentance and their guilt in the crucifixion, while not one whit diminished by the fact that it was prophesied, was increased by the fact that they rejected the appeal to repent.

Thus Israel rejected both Christ and His kingdom and, as a nation, awaits “the day of His power” when He shall make them willing.


Because the present state of affairs does not seem to be a continuation of the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Christ and the nation Israel some have altered the prophecies to make them fit. The Church of this age, they say, is the Israel referred to in the prophecies concerning the kingdom, and the throne of David is supposed to be the throne on which He now sits as “King of the Church,” while the Canaan of prophecy is heaven itself.

All these alterations are made on the premise that these prophecies should be understood in a “spiritual” sense. But we protest that this failure to take God at His word is carnal, not spiritual and, furthermore, that this whole system of interpretation—(1) leaves us at the mercy of theologians who may tell us what the Scriptures mean, (2) affects the veracity of God and (3) endorses apostasy.

If our brethren who “spiritualize” these promises understood the Mystery they would find no need to alter Prophecy.

The fact is that the present dispensation was a mystery, hid from ages and from generations, until revealed to and through the Apostle Paul, and it is a mystery of which no believer should be ignorant.

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25).

“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32).

“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16).

The same Christ who was raised from the dead to sit on David’s throne, according to Peter’s Pentecostal address, was also raised up for another purpose, according to the later revelation given through Paul:

“Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.

“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (II Tim. 2:7,8).

According to this gospel Christ was raised, not only to be King over Israel, but to be the Head of the Body (Eph. 1:18-23).

The kingdom, for the time being, is vested in the Person of Christ, seated at God’s right hand far above all heavens.

When God presented His “beloved Son,” they cried “Away with Him,” so now believers are “translated into the kingdom of His dear [beloved] Son” (Col. 1:13). “Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20) and we are sent forth as ambassadors of Christ to offer to His enemies reconciliation by grace through faith (II Cor. 5:14-21), until He calls us to be with Himself (I Thes. 4:16-18).


According to Romans 11:25 Israel’s blindness will not be removed until “the fullness of the Gentiles” shall have come in. Indeed, the removal of that blindness is associated with the return of Christ Himself, as the next verse indicates:

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26).

The kingdom, then, will not be brought in by the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God. It will be brought in by the return of Christ.

Little wonder that John, who writes particularly for a future generation, calls himself their “companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9), for it will be when the outlook seems most hopeless that our Lord’s return to earth and the establishment of His kingdom will take place.

Nimrod’s successor, “the beast,” aided by Satan, will do all in his power to set up a world empire and will apparently make great progress in this direction, for in Revelation 17:12,13 we read:

“And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.

“These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.”

But “the beast” and his “ten kings” will go one step too far:

“These shall make war with the Lamb and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14).

It is then that Daniel 2:44 will be fulfilled:

“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”

Thus the solemn judgments with which God will visit the nations will bring in the beneficent and glorious reign of Christ.

“And the seventh angel sounded: and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.

“And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,

“Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee great power, and hast reigned” (Rev. 11:15-17).


The kingdom, then, will be ushered in by judgment, not by grace. Christ will descend from heaven to “judge and make war,” treading “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:11,15). He will “rebuke strong nations” (Mic. 4:3); He will “speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure” (Psa. 2:5).

Much as we long that our despised Savior shall come into His glory here on earth and much as we long to see this poor world come into the joy and peace of His reign, we thank God that “the day of vengeance” has not yet come.

Though there are no specific signs to indicate the close of the day of grace and of our Lord’s coming to catch us, His ambassadors, out of this sinful scene, we feel the day must be very near that these judgments will take place. We, even more than those of Paul’s day, should take to heart his exhortation:

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

“Redeeming [buying up] the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15,16).

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