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God’s Two Covenants Explained

Index

  1. God’s Eternal Truth

The Old Covenant

  1. God Gave Israel the First (Old) Covenant/The Law of Moses
  2. God’s Promise to Israel of a New Covenant
  3. God’s Revelation, the New Covenant/New Testament
    1. The Four Gospels and Their Purpose
    2. The Four Gospels
      1. Matthew: the Lion
      2. Mark: the Ox
      3. Luke: the Man
      4. John: the Eagle

The New Covenant

  1. The New Covenant Promise Fulfilled in Jesus Christ
    1. This is God’s only Method of Atonement for Man’s Sins
  2. The New Covenant Sacrifice Given by God for Mankind

The Fulfillment

  1. The New Covenant Altar
  2. The Acts of the Apostles
  3. The Only Church Sanctioned by God
    1. Strange Fire
    2. Gainsaying of Korah
    3. The Golden Calf
    4. Warning for All Believers
      1. Corporate Worship Not According to God’s Word
      2. A Priesthood Not of God’s Creation
      3. Holy Spirit Priesthood as Required by God
  4. The Four Pillars of Holy-Spirit-Directed Assembly Gathering - Q&A
  5. The Four Pillars of Assembly Gathering Defined - Q&A
  6. The Foundation of Christian Assembly Gathering
    1. Apostles Doctrine
    2. Fellowship
    3. Breaking of Bread
    4. Prayer
      Hymn
  7. The Twenty-Two Epistles
    Hymn

Preface

To bring foundational understanding to our subject, the Church, a series of questions will be addressed. Before He left this earth, Jesus prayed to the Father for all those who follow Him, that He and His followers would be one, even as Jesus was One with His Father (John 17:21). This oneness is also addressed in 1Corinthians 1:10; and in Ephesians 4:1-6. In the beginning, the Church met together as one body, anywhere Christians gathered together. Scripture presents it as the body of Christ. Errors and heresies have entered into the Church. Deviations from Scripture as well as sectarianism (limited in character or scope, of a sect or sectarian, Webster Dictionary) have brought in unsound doctrine and caused many divisions. The truths in Scripture are the only ground to settle any differences within the church. There is no authority for truth and knowledge of God outside of Scripture. This means that a person with spiritual experience, or a teacher with new doctrines (outside of Scriptural revelation), have no authority from God to teach. The Holy Spirit and Scripture are One, to lead and direct His people. Scripture gives warnings against going beyond what the Holy Spirit has written in both the Old and New Testaments (Deuteronomy 4:2; Micah 3:11; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:6-9 and Revelation 22:18-19). In Scripture, the Holy Spirit has taught that there are no revelational prophets today (Galatians 1:6-9). At the present time the average church person’s understanding of the church, as taught and practiced by the apostles, is vastly lacking.

Some truths shown in this booklet may be quite different from what readers have learned during their church life. They may even be different from the church they are now attending. The answer to this dilemma is to look up the Scriptures shown in this booklet and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the pathway of truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Jesus also said, “For where two or three are gathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20 JND). This is the church that God is building.

It is this Scriptural truth that this booklet attempts to make known to believers gathered unto Jesus Christ alone, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This booklet will attempt to show the transition of the Old Covenant being put away by God, and the fulfillment God’s promise of a New Covenant to replace the old one. God has given both covenants to Israel. God has not given either of these covenants to the Gentiles. Gentiles have entered into the New Covenant by God’s grace alone.

1. God’s Eternal Truth

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). God created Adam, and then his wife, Eve. He gave Adam authority over the planet and everything on it. He gave Adam and Eve only one commandment: “... the Lord God commanded, saying, of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

Both Adam and his wife did not have any knowledge of evil, or death. However, through enticement of the devil, Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil and gave it to Adam, and he also ate. It was then they became aware that they were naked. In that day, their fellowship with God died, even though their bodies would die many years later.

Because of God’s great love for His creation, He then acted to restore fellowship with Adam and his wife. He killed an animal and made them “a covering” of clothes from it (Genesis 3:21). Their covering was at the cost of the shed blood of an animal. It made atonement with God for Adam and Eve’s sin. It would be God’s method for all men to have fellowship with Him thru a blood sacrifice as long as they were on the earth. The shed blood of an animal vicariously, temporarily, put away man’s sins until the Messiah shed His blood on the cross and put sin away permanently.

The Old Covenant

2. God gave Israel the First (Old) Covenant/The Law of Moses Israel

“And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people, And they said, all that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words” (Exodus 24:6-8).

“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).

At this point in the history of man on the earth (1450 B.C.), most of mankind did not have any knowledge of the God who created the heavens and the earth, and were worshipping gods of all kinds. In the eternal counsels of God He chose a man (Genesis 12:1-3), Abraham (1900 B.C.), to whom He revealed Himself and chose to be the head of the Jewish race. God also made Himself known to Moses (1450 B.C.), when the Israelites, the offspring of Abraham, were in Egypt as slaves. God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of Palestine (Israel), which He promised to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3).

At God’s appointed time, Moses led them out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Before they arrived, God make a covenant with them which was read to all the people, and sealed in shed blood (Exodus 24:6-8). When the law, which was in the Covenant of the Lord, was read to Israel, they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7).

However, before they reached the promised land, and even after they were in the promised land for hundreds of years, they continually broke the covenant that God had made with them. They persecuted and killed God’s prophets and even turned against their own God to follow pagan gods. God said to Israel, through Moses, “...they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith” (Deuteronomy 32:20). God observed their rebellion over the centuries, and in Isaiah’s day, God spoke again to them of their evil. He sent Isaiah to say to them: “...I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Me” (Isaiah 1:2). “Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters...” (Isaiah 1:4). “...From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it (them)...” (Isaiah 1:8). This covenant with Israel did not work and was finally discarded by God. This Old Covenant with Israel had become a curse to Israel (Galatians 3:10), a place of death and condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). This was because they did not keep the covenant of God, which included the 613 commandments. The end result of Israel’s disobedience was God’s chastisement of them when He said, through Hosea: “My God will cast them away because they did not obey Him; and they shall be wanders among the nations” (Hosea 9:17). This is where Israel is, even today.

3. God’s Promise to Israel of a New Covenant

“Because of finding fault with them (Israel), He says, Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…” (Hebrews 8:8). God’s Spirit gave this prophecy through His prophet (Jeremiah 31:31).

God’s promise to Israel will be fulfilled in God’s own time (Galatians 4:4). This New Covenant would not be based on man’s works before God, as was the Old Covenant. It would be based on the Man from heaven, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would fulfill the Old Covenant perfectly. Jehovah God would find His full delight and pleasure in Jesus (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). This heavenly Man would be God’s answer for Israel, and to all mankind’s incompleteness and failure (Psalms 14:1-4; Romans 3:23). Jesus was the perfect man, the perfect sacrifice. His sacrificial blood was able to put away the sins of the world forever (1 John 2:2).

4. God’s Revelation, The New Covenant/New Testament

A. The Four Gospels and Their Purpose

“But He (Jesus) said to the Israelites, I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for that purpose have I been sent” (Luke 4:43).

Initially, Jesus Christ came to the Israelites only, preaching the kingdom of God. If Jesus was the Messiah to the Jews only, this would mean that Israel would be the head nation over all nations (Deuteronomy 28:1). This Messiah would destroy their enemies (Roman Empire), and the golden age would begin (Isaiah ch. 11). Their land would be milk and honey, and every man would be sitting (in peace) under his own fig tree (1Kings 4:25) . A further description and a more complete one is found in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. This is the kingdom every Israelite longed for.

However, because Jesus was not the Messiah they expected, Israel did not receive their king. They did to Jesus as they had done to so many of their prophets. They killed John the Baptist, and they killed Jesus as well. Therefore, the kingdom they wished to see in their land would not be given to them at this time.

Instead, God’s heavenly kingdom has been offered to Israel, and to all mankind as well, through the gospel of Christ. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:30). This kingdom was not the Law of Moses but a heavenly kingdom. The Law of Moses was given to Israel while they were in this world.

Not one Israelite had ever fulfilled the law (John 7:19; Acts 7:53). But Jesus, in the first 30 years of His life, fulfilled the law completely. Jesus said this is what He came to do. “Do not think I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

Because Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses in the first 30 years of His life, His Father said for all of heaven and earth to hear, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This was before He began to preach the kingdom of God. The starting of His kingdom began by Jesus choosing 12 apostles. Jesus was the King and the apostles were his subjects (one, Judas Iscariot, was a traitor).

In essence, the four gospels speak of the King and His kingdom before the Church Age. When Israel did not receive the kingdom of God, but instead chose the Law of Moses, they refused Jesus their King, the son of David.

Three years before His death, Jesus started preaching His kingdom. This was an intermediate time, lasting three years between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The New Covenant was fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection from among the dead. In the beginning (of the age of the Dispensation of the Grace of God), the New Covenant was implemented on the day of Pentecost (Ephesians 3:2). On this day the Holy Spirit came to live in all men who would receive Jesus Christ as their sin bearer before God.

B. The Four Gospels

The prophet Ezekiel was in Babylon (6th Century B.C.) when a revelation of God was shown to him (Ezekiel 1:1-6,10). The revelation he saw was four living heavenly creatures, also seen in Revelation 4:6-8 and 5:14. What Ezekiel saw in the four creatures was four faces. These four faces were the face of a lion, an ox, a man and an eagle. These four faces were the attributes of God, and would be shown to all men on the earth through Jesus Christ in the four gospels.

Matthew: The Lion

“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Behold your King is coming
to you
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey...”

“Then the Multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out saying:
Hosanna to the son of David
Blessed is He who comes in
the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest!”

(Matthew 21:5, 9).

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is depicted as the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). Matthew reveals Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who came to live and dwell among His Jewish brethren. His genealogy starts with Abraham who is the beginning of the Jewish race (Matthew 1:1) and ends with Jesus Christ. He was born in the linage of King David, and is shown to be the true anointed (of God) King of Israel (Matthew 1:1; 4:25; 19:28). Seven times in Matthew He is spoken of as the Son of David. Jesus fulfilled the divine prophetic prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah. In Matthew, the gospel written of is the gospel of the kingdom, and it is spoken of approximately 50 times. Jesus Christ, their prophetic promised King of the kingdom, was living among them.

Mark: The Ox

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). In the gospel of Mark, the ox is depicted in the life of Jesus. In the first chapter, Jesus is seen as a servant, serving to the end of the gospel of Mark. There is no genealogy for this humble servant of God, as servants do not carry a pedigree or genealogy. Jesus’ servant-hood to His Father and to Israel was complete in that He always did what pleased His Father (John 8:29). His servitude was perfect and complete as He laid down His life as the sacrifice for all the sins of mankind. He was the perfect example of true servant-hood to His Father, as seen by all who have been saved. These saved people now have the same Father as their God. This gospel is more of a book of actions of Jesus than one of words. The many miracles He did, show His divine son-ship, and they pointed to His divine person, as the Son of God.

Luke: The Man

“(Jesus) saying, the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22).

In the gospel of Luke, the face of the man is portraying the humanity of Jesus. The Son of Man is how Jesus speaks of Himself. He is the Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), who as the Son of His Father, would not fail. His genealogy is found in Luke 3:23-38. In this gospel, as man, His genealogy is traced back to the first man, Adam. His Father is God (Luke 1:34-35), so He is the divine Son of God. His mother Mary, a virgin, supplies His humanity so He is the Son of Man. His purpose on earth: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The redemption on the cross of Calvary that He would accomplish was not just for the Jewish race but would be for all humanity (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). In this gospel, the ill health, brokenness, and abnormal conditions of mankind is stressed, and reveals the Son of Man’s compassion for them. In Jesus, God’s grace and God’s love for mankind is demonstrated. As the second Adam, He was tempted by Satan. The first Adam failed when Satan tempted him. Jesus is seen in adverse circumstances when Satan also tempts Him, but He overcomes Satan by quoting Scripture (Luke 4:1-13).

John: The Eagle

“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13). The gospel of John manifests the eagle. As the eagle soars in the heavens, Jesus is seen in this gospel as the Man from heaven (John 1:1; 3:13; 6:38). His divinity is more clearly seen in this gospel than in any other gospel. His genealogy is seen in John 1:1 as the eternal word of God. In the following verses, He is revealed as God who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14; 1 John 1:4). He is shown to be the Creator of everything that exists (John 1:3). Jesus, in this gospel, identifies Himself as the Son of God: “I am the way, the truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus makes the way of eternal life clear. Heaven is only entered through Him.

Peter testifies that He (alone) has the words of eternal life (John 6:68- 69). Peter has seen Jesus raise the dead, heal the blind, cure the sick, and raise Himself from among the dead.

The New Covenant

5. The New Covenant Promise Fulfilled in Jesus Christ

“…without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin”
(Hebrews 9:22).

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to His disciples and said, Take eat; this is My body. Then He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it. For this is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28).

The New Covenant that God instituted through Jesus is based on a blood sacrifice, the shedding of Jesus’ blood through His death (John 1:29). God would supply the perfect man, the second Adam, who had no sin or fault, to be that sacrifice (1 Peter 2:23). Jesus was God’s long promised Messiah (Isaiah 9:6-7, Daniel 9:24-26; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9) who came to institute the second covenant. He would die for all the sins of mankind (John 3:16; Romans 3:23-25; I John 2:2). Then Jesus, after three days and nights in the tomb, was raised by God from among the dead (Psalms 16:9-10; 71:20; Matthew 28:1-10; Acts 2:22-28; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

The first covenant with Israel was founded on the sacrifice of the blood of animals. These sacrifices are seen throughout the Old Testament, but they had no power to put sin away for all time.

Jesus is the cornerstone of the New Covenant to all people in the world, as seen in the New Testament. In Isaiah 28:16, He was prophesied to come as the cornerstone. The fulfillment of Jesus being the cornerstone is written in Ephesians 2:20 and 1 Peter 2:7.

The following breakdown of the New Testament will give to all who have believed on Jesus, the pathway of truth to light their way. This booklet is only an overview and is not all inclusive.

This is God’s Only Method of Atonement for Man’s Sins

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).

6. The New Covenant Sacrifice Given by God for Mankind

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) . “...and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelations 1:5).

As is shown from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of it, God required a blood sacrifice for atonement of man’s sin. All of these sacrifices did not take away the judgment of God upon the sinner. It only put judgment off until God supplied the last and final sacrifice, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

“And He Himself (Jesus Christ), is the propitiation (to make satisfaction or atonement for wrong doing or guilt) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

When Jesus was crucified, God put the sins of all mankind on Jesus (Isaiah 53:6, 10). This means from Adam to the end of mankind on the earth, Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins. Jesus Christ has broken down and destroyed the sin barrier between God and man by giving His body and shedding His blood unto death (Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 10:10-14, 18).

The New Covenant also shows that God raised Jesus from among the dead to resurrection life. And all people who put their faith in Jesus to follow Him, receive this resurrection life by the Holy Spirit. This gift of God is life forever in fellowship with God (1 Corinthians 1:9).

“Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

The Old Covenant would give Israel earthly blessings if they followed the Law of Moses. The New Covenant brings heavenly blessings to all who receive the Son of God.

The final step in putting away the Old Covenant was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross, and the veil in the temple was ripped in two (from top to bottom) by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 27:51). This meant that no longer did Israelites have to go to the high priest and watch him go into the holy of holies (a room at the back of the temple with a veil between God’s dwelling place and the people) in the temple to put blood on the mercy seat for the sins of the people (Leviticus ch 16). In the New Covenant God would make every Christian a priest unto Himself (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation1:5-6).

The Fulfillment

A New Creation
The Church Of God

7. The New Covenant Altar

“And He (Jesus) bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, (Calvary) where they crucified Him...” (John 19:17-18).

In the days when Moses was leading Israel, they became a stiff-necked people (disobedient). God threatened to come into their midst and consume them. He told them He would no longer dwell in the tabernacle (tent) in the midst of them (Exodus 33: 5). Moses then set up a tent outside the camp of Israel and called it the Tabernacle of Meeting. All who would truly seek the Lord would go outside the camp to the tabernacle. However, most of the people stood inside the camp and worshipped in the door way of their tent (verse 10). The significance of this today is that most Christians practice Nicolaitanism instead of going outside the camp and gathering only to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Going outside the camp for Christians today is to leave the camp of organized Christianity and meet only unto the person of the God-given Lord Jesus. Meeting outside the camp allows the Holy Spirit to utilize every believer’s priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9). The Lord came down to the tabernacle outside the camp and talked to Moses. The Spirit of God was outside the camp with Moses, and the Altar of God.

The Altar in the New Covenant is outside the camp of Judaism, (the Old Covenant). Scripture teaches that Jesus is the Tent or Tabernacle orTemple of Meeting (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:19-22)..

“For where two or three are gathered together, unto My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus, as the sacrificial lamb of God, went outside the camp (Jerusalem, where the tabernacle or temple was) and was slain on God’s altar of the cross at the place called Calvary. His sacrificial death was outside the gate (Hebrews 13:12). This gate separated the camp of Israel and the Old Covenant from the New Covenant.

The Christian is called by God to go outside the camp of Judaism (organized Christianity) unto the altar of God where Jesus was crucified, and this begins the New Covenant. The call of God is seen in this Scripture:

“Therefore, let us go forth to Him (Jesus) outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the One to come” (Hebrews 13:13-14).

8. The Acts of the Apostles

The book of Acts is not a doctrinal book. It is a history of the Holy Spirit coming into the world to form and build God’s Church as He works through the apostles. Whereas the Epistles, (Romans through Revelation), are the present day truths on which the Holy Spirit is still building the Church.

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

“Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death because it was not possible that He should be held by it (Acts 2:24). The book of Acts begins with Jesus’ ascension into the heavens, and His command for His apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit to come upon them (Acts 1:8). As they were waiting on the day of Pentecost (Feast of Weeks, Leviticus 23:15-22), the Spirit of God fell upon them, and they were filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

This feast was a major yearly Jewish festival. Jews from all over the Roman Empire were there. There were possibly as many as18 different languages/tongues spoken by the Jews. When the disciples of Jesus were filled with the Spirit, they spoke in the tongues of the visiting Jews. They were speaking and declaring the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11). These Jews did not understand what was happening or what this meant.

The Apostle Peter stood up with the eleven other apostles and declared what this work of God meant. He told them that what they saw was a fulfillment of prophecy concerning Jesus the Messiah, whom they had crucified, and that God had raised Him from among the dead. He also told them that Jesus ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 2:15-36). Peter then called upon the Jews to repent; and if they did repent and be baptized openly before all Israel for the remission of their sins, they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as well (Acts 2:38). About 3000 responded and were saved that day (Acts 2:41).

All those who believed and received Jesus Christ received the Holy Spirit and were baptized into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Thus the Church of God came into being on that day. All people, since that day, who come to faith in Jesus from the heart, receive and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 10:9; Galatians 3:1, 5, 14). The Apostle Peter announced that there is no other name under heaven whereby men could be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus declared that no one could come to God except through Him (John 14:6).

Through much opposition, the church grew (Acts 5:17-42). In the beginning only Jews made up the church. In Acts, chapter 8, Phillip the evangelist went to Samaria (northern Israel) and made the good news of Jesus Christ known to the people. He did many miracles by the Holy Spirit. Then the apostles Peter and John came to Samaria and seeing they had believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, laid hands on the Samaritans who believed, and they also received the Holy Spirit. Because God had given the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans also, and then to the Gentiles (in Acts chapter 10), the church came together, Jew and Gentile. The favor of God was also upon them, and the Spirit of God indwelt all Gentiles who believed.

In Acts chapter 9, a man named Saul, a Jew of the sect of the Pharisees, was “…breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…” (Acts 9:1). He was going from Jerusalem to Damascus to collect followers of the Way (Christians), binding them and bringing them to Jerusalem. There they would be put in prison or killed.

On Saul’s way to Damascus, a light (brighter than the noonday sun) shone on him from heaven and a voice said to him, “…Saul, Saul, Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul said, “Who are you, Lord?” Then the voice said to him, “…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…” (Acts 9:5). Because of this revelation, Saul also became a Christian. His name was changed to Paul, and he became an apostle of Jesus to the nations (Gentiles).

Chapter 15 reveals that some Christians in Antioch were still attempting to keep the Law of Moses, which is composed of 613 commandments. They include the 10 commandments, and circumcision as well. A dispute arose among believers because of a different understanding concerning the Law. So Paul and his companion, Barnabas, took the issue of dispute to Jerusalem for the apostles and elders to hear, and for the apostles to make a final judgment. The apostles’ decision was that the Law of Moses was NOT to be put on the Gentiles, and a letter from the apostles stating this decision was taken back to Antioch (Acts 15:19-29).

Then the Apostle Paul started to do what Jesus called him to do. He started preaching and teaching the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. His first mission trip is shown in chapter 13. He went out by the leading of the Holy Spirit and started many assemblies of Christian believers in Asia Minor. Paul’s second mission trip began in Acts 15:36, and is recorded up to chapter 18:22. Paul’s third mission trip is seen in chapter 18:23. In these mission trips many assemblies were started, but not without much opposition from the Jews and pagan Gentiles. Nevertheless, many Jews and Gentiles believed the gospel and were added to the church.

After these trips Paul returned to Jerusalem, where a tumult arose against him by the Jews. A Roman army officer arrested him, and he was then taken out of the country and headed to Rome, where he had appealed to Caesar. Because he was a Roman citizen, he had a right to appeal to the authorities in Rome. If he had stayed in Jerusalem, he would have been killed by the Jews. Along the way to Rome he spoke to many Roman rulers and authorities, and made the gospel of Christ known to them. He arrived in Rome still a prisoner (Acts 28:11-16).

Wherever Paul went, the Holy Spirit used him to teach the truths of the kingdom of Christ to all the assemblies that were started. These assemblies established Christianity throughout Asia Minor. This was the beginning of the gospel of Christ going all over the world, as it has today. Tradition has it that Paul was beheaded in Rome. However, there are no facts to prove that this is how his life ended.

The Holy Spirit used Paul to write most of the Epistles in the New Testament. These Epistles have made the truths of the kingdom of Christ known, and today they are read throughout the whole world.

9. The only church sanctioned by God.

God chose Israel to be His special people above all nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 14:2). God gave them His law to live by, which separated them from all nations in the world. Within this law were God’s instructions to build a tabernacle, which they did, and then later they built a temple for corporate worship. The practices to worship God were defined precisely in the law. Here are some violations of God’s law:

A. Strange Fire

A violation of the law for worship could bring banishment (Leviticus 17:4, 10), or death as in the example of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, who offered up strange fire to the Lord, and the Lord killed them (Leviticus 10:1-2). Their sin was in attempting to offer self-imposed religion, not from the Lord. This was man’s form of worship to God, or self-imposed religion, portraying itself as the fire of God on the altar of God. “Self-imposed religion means that people adopt a form of worship according to their own ideas of what is right, rather than according to God’s word. They seem to be religious but it is not true Christianity” (Believers Commentary, William MacDonald - comments regarding Colossians 2:23). This is self-imposed religion, not from the Lord. The sons of Aaron profaned the worship and attempted to lead the people of Israel to profane worship. This selfimposed religion is practiced today.

B. Gainsaying of Korah

Another example is the gainsaying (to stand in opposition by disputing the truth of something put foreword) of Korah who intruded into the priestly office (“no man takes this office unto himself,” Hebrews 5:4). He attempted to create a priestly order without divine authority (Hebrews 5:10). This violation by Korah and his followers was met by God’s judgment upon them. The earth opened up and swallowed Korah and all who followed him (Numbers 16:29-40).

C. The Golden Calf

Another violation was when Israel worshipped God according to their own desires (Exodus 32:1-6). They made a golden calf and worshipped it, and then continued with a feast unto the Lord. They offered “burnt offerings” and “peace offerings” unto the Lord. “The people then sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” They contrived this worship form (verse 6), and in so doing they were rejecting the form of worship God had given them. There is little doubt that they felt good about themselves in practicing their own form of worship . God in His anger threatened to destroy them for being a stiff-necked people, people full of themselves (verse 10).

The warning to all churches or all people who disregard God’s word concerning corporate worship is that they risk God’s withdrawal from their presence. “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

There are three things Israel did to bring God’s wrath on themselves:

1. Corporate worship not according to God’s word

Israel functioned in corporate worship according to the flesh and ideas of man, rather than God’s word. God is the One establishing what corporate worship is, not man or man’s will. This will of man’s ideas can be seen today in denominations and sects which divide the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-4), or clergymen and/or worship leaders that direct worship according to the mind of man. When the hierarchy (those in paid or assumed authority within the church) takes the primary, the priesthood of the believer, which God has given to every Christian (Matthew 23:8-10; 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelations 1:5-6), is put away in favor of the hierarchy. Diotrephes attempted to put himself in the clerical position in his day and brought the judgment of the Apostle John upon him, about 90-95 A. D. (3 John 9-10).

The church God has planted is with the Holy Spirit in charge of the worship meeting rather than men. Most church people no longer believe God’s word regarding their individual priesthood responsibilities, which would allow the Holy Spirit to be in charge of the assembly. For many, this takes place because of their lack of knowledge regarding the mind of the Spirit and the word of God. Because of this lack of knowledge, they sit under a clergyman or other church leader’s direction to receive all their religious instruction, rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to have His rightful place over the assembly, and each person taking up their responsibility of individual exercise of their priesthood to worship God.

Israel did the same in their day, and Isaiah prophesied concerning their spiritual direction, “Therefore my people are led away captive from lack of knowledge “... (Isaiah 5:13 JND). Israel was following the nations around them, as well as the desires of their own hearts and lost the blessing of God (1 Samuel 8:7-8). They wanted a king to rule over them rather than allowing God to lead them. So, in His anger, God gave them a king and took their king away in His wrath (Hosea 13:11). “...and He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalms 106:15).

Many believers in Christ are in the same place as Israel with the desire to believe man rather than God. The Holy Spirit spoke to the Corinthians this word of warning though the Apostle Paul. “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

2. A priesthood not of God’s creation

Beginning in the first century, men in the church started a hierarchical system not of God’s creation, as did Korah and also Diotrephes (3 John 9- 10). They injected themselves into a priesthood by their own reasoning, as well as the leading of the devil. God, on the day of Pentecost, created a brotherhood of priests, indwelt of the Holy Spirit, who were to be led of the Holy Spirit, in their personal life, as well in their corporate worship. The Holy Spirit, in an assembly of believers, was and is to be in charge, with each brother having the freedom to exercise his priesthood as led by the Holy Spirit. The worship God has given to the assembly is to be directed by the Holy Spirit and the Father who sent the Son of God into the world. The worship is of the Son of God in remembrance of Him in His death. True worship can never be controlled by man, as is attempted today. Corporate worship led by the Holy Spirit has been put away altogether, and the priesthood of Korah prevails. It is a Pharisaical system

3. Holy Spirit priesthood as required by God

God, by indwelling a Christian, has made that person a kingdom priest (in the kingdom of Christ) in a kingdom of priests. God had offered this priesthood to Israel but they rejected it (Exodus 19:5-6). This heavenly gift is not subject to men or their religious structures. The Christian’s position with Christ is in the heavens, seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:6).

The Christian is no longer as an earth dweller (Revelations 14:6). The Law of Moses was given to Israel because they insisted on living after their own ways. They did not chose to live by God’s word but to be earth dwellers (Revelation 3:10; 6:10).

God has given gifts to the church such as pastor, teacher, evangelist, or other gifts that are listed in the Epistles. These men are gifted to bless and build up the church. However, these gifts do not come with a salary or a position in a church, or a place of hierarchy over the sheep of Christ. All of the gifts of God are given by the Spirit to function in the man to follow after Jesus in his image and Word. That means servant-hood and humility. Also, they do not come with a license to rule over the flock of Jesus, as in the clergy position today. These men are servants of Christ led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows what is not acceptable. “For we do not, as the many, make a trade of the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, before God, we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17 JND).

These gifts are meant to be used for and to the whole body of Christ, wherever the Holy Spirit may lead them. These men live by faith in God’s provision for them. Saints may give offerings for their labor in Christ or they may work as a tentmaker or at other trades, or jobs as the apostles did (1 Corinthians 4:12), but the Spirit will direct them in their pathway of faith. Each of these men’s lives will be as an “...epistle - read by all men - an epistle of Christ - written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

All saints will learn by those who live by such faith and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Then the Spirit will be free to work and bring into maturity, the followers of Jesus, His sheep.

10. The Four Pillars of the Holy-Spirit-Directed Assembly Gatherings

Question: On what spiritual foundation did (does) the Holy Spirit bring an assembly of believers together to build the church of God?

Answer: The answer is found only in the Apostles’ Doctrine (the Doctrine of Christ – 2 John 9). Jesus said to His apostles upon leaving the earth “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Amen (Matthew 28: 18-20).

Jesus commanded His apostles to bring forth the revelation He taught them. The exercise of these revelational truths is seen in the book of Acts. The apostles taught these truths and commandments of the Lord, to believers to walk in and put into practice, when they assembled together. These are shown in the Epistles and in the Revelation.

For believers, the four pillars of gathering are found in Acts 2:42, where they were practiced and instituted from the beginning of the church.

Question: What is the final purpose of these gatherings?

Answer: The purpose of God’s wisdom in establishing these four pillars is for believers, that either are new in Christ or those who have not heard these truths, to learn from the Holy Spirit what it means to gather together in the unity of the body of Christ. Believers exercising these four truths bring the assembly into oneness. God has made every believer a priest unto Himself (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6). When the exercise of their priesthood is put into practice in these four pillars of meeting, great joy and grace will be released. The result of practicing these truths will allow the Holy Spirit to have freedom to mold each believer into the image of Christ (Romans 8:20).

Another purpose of God’s wisdom in establishing these four pillars is for the Holy Spirit to lead an assembly of believers into the truths of the kingdom of Christ, which will result in sound doctrine and spiritual development (1Timothy 1:10; 3:15; 4:16). This allows the Holy Spirit to be the central leader and authority. The church is to be led by the Spirit, and Scripture (The Apostles’ Doctrine) is the one and only authority for the church (Ephesians 2:19-22; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The church is ekklesia = called-out ones, a heavenly people of God’s creation to live unto God. The Holy Spirit is God, leading and instructing His saints to corporately function in the Spirit together (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1-6).

Every believer is positionally in heaven already (seated with Christ in the heavenlies, Ephesians 2:6). The four pillars are God’s truth to lead believers, functioning as priests in their heavenly calling, into the exercise of their faith. The result of each believer-priest, walking in the Spirit, will be their development into “a perfect man (in God’s eyes) to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). The assembly must not waver from the Spirit or Scripture, so “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy (set apart unto Christ) and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

These two (believer-priest and the assembly), fulfilling the will and work of God in His saints, will bring them into a life of truth and the spiritual riches of the kingdom of Christ.

11. The Four Pillars of Assembly Gathering Defined

Question: What are the four pillars?

Answer: “Then those who gladly received his (Peter’s) word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the (1) Apostles’ Doctrine and (2) fellowship, in the(3) breaking of bread, and in (4) prayers” (Acts 2:42).

12. The Foundation of Christian Assembly Gathering

  1. Apostles Doctrine
  2. Fellowship
  3. Breaking of Bread
  4. Prayer
    Hymn

“For where two or three are gathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

A. Apostles’ Doctrine (Doctrine of Christ)

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the Doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the Doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).

In the beginning of the church, the apostles taught them the teachings that Jesus gave them in their three years of living and walking with Him, and also through revelation given to them by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 11:23; Galatians 2:2). Their teachings were the very words and commandments of God (1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 3:15-16). Since the beginning of the church, the Apostles’ Doctrine is what the Holy Spirit used to build the church (Ephesians 2:19-22). The New Testament (when rightly divided) is the Apostles’ Doctrine. The Apostles’ Doctrine and its practice is clearly shown in the Epistles and the Revelation (chapters 1-3).

B. Fellowship

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

Fellowship is a primary reason for the assembly coming together. The fellowship that the believer has with the Father and the Son (John 14:23) is released toward one another in assembly gatherings. This time of unity with the body of Christ releases the joy of God and builds oneness in the Spirit. Self will, the world and evil is shut out, and spiritual strength is renewed. Growth in spiritual maturity takes place, thus uplifting one another in the faith and in joy. And “…your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:22).

This time of fellowship can be after an Apostles’ Doctrine meeting. It can be just a time of sharing the joy of Jesus after a time of coming together to seek the Lord’s mind in prayer. In the beginning of the church, saints came together for a meal. “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46). This time of “gladness and simplicity of heart” speaks to the fellowship believers had together as they shared a meal. In the beginning of the church this was a common practice. Before the breaking of the bread (worship meeting), they came together for a common meal (1 Corinthians 11:20). This also was intended to be a time of fellowship. However, it is clear the assembly in Corinth misused this time and was rebuked for the misuse of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:21- 22).

The apostles also served at tables when they came together for a time of fellowship and eating (Acts 6:2). At that time believers’ possessions were brought to the apostles (Acts 4: 32, 35) and were distributed to the widows and the needy. During this time of fellowship “…great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). Fellowshipping among the brethren in the Lord Jesus brings cohesion of purpose in the four pillars that the Holy Spirit is using to build the church, continuing until the Church is raptured to heaven.

C. Breaking of the Bread

“But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

The breaking of the bread and drinking of the cup is for the purpose of worship. It is to remember Jesus in His death. He instructed His brethren to worship Him in this manner as found in these Scriptures (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

When the assembly comes together for this God-ordained worship, the priesthood of the believer is exercised in faith (see “Are You a Priest?” by D. Neely). These are examples of the Holy Spirit using the priesthood of different brothers during a worship meeting. Joy is received as one brother gives a hymn which remembers Jesus giving His all for His sheep. Another brother gives a prayer of thanksgiving. Another gives a prayer of joy for bringing the assembly into His kingdom, and another brings a praise and worship of his heart for the shed blood of Jesus; another prophesies from the Old Testament the suffering of Messiah and Jesus fulfilling the prophesy in the New Testament, and another speaks forth of the work of God that Jesus came to do. Thus is the worship of Jesus and the Father put into practice by the Holy Spirit in the remembrance of Jesus in His death.

“... Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26).

The Holy Spirit is released in this meeting to lead each saint in what he has to give, speaking forth in the remembrance of Jesus in His death. Deep joy is brought forth in the remembrance meeting (John 16:21-22; 17:13), as the work of Jesus is recounted and His Life’s path and His final destination on the cross is remembered.

In this assembly meeting the believer focuses his heart on the eternal work of God fulfilled in the vicarious suffering of Jesus, and how He covered the believer’s sin with His own blood, once and forever (Hebrews 10:12, 14). The transferring of the penalty of death due to the believer’s sin was vicariously put on Jesus while He was on the cross (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus is remembered as our sin offering to God (Isaiah 53:6, 10-11). The remembrance of Jesus in His death is solemn, but in deep joy for the redemption He has brought to the assembly.

When this time of worship is fulfilled, it continues as the loaf is broken and passed, one to another, in remembrance of Jesus giving His body. Likewise the cup is passed, one to another, in remembrance of His life’s blood poured out for His Church (Ephesians 5:25).

In this time of remembrance, the Holy Spirit is leading and giving unction to the elevation of Jesus in the worship of Him, God’s only begotten Son, for Jesus said “…He will glorify Me…” (John 16:14).

D. Prayer

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).

Prayer is God’s method for His own people to speak to Him. When the assembly gathers together to seek the Lord’s direction on various matters. It is the corporate prayers of His saints making their petitions known to God: for solicitations, to give vision to the assembly, for help, to fulfill needs, for wisdom, and to ask God for the Holy Spirit to make known His pathway to them. It is also for them to beseech God to work His work among His saints in releasing the Holy Spirit to accomplish His will in the assembly, to give answers to problems of the saints in need, and to request God to make known to the assembly what the labor in Christ should be for that assembly.

These prayers and many more are the privilege that a believing assembly exercises to allow the Holy Spirit’s headship over the assembly.

Taken from “Spiritual Songs” Hymn Book

13. The Twenty-Two Epistles

The Law of Moses was given by God to Israel (613 commandments) and they agreed to be obedient (Exodus 24:7). The New Testament Epistles are given by God to Christians. They are to live and walk in the Holy Spirit, following the truths revealed in the Apostles’ Doctrine (the Doctrine of Christ) (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Timothy 3:16-17 gives us the value of all Scripture. The following 22 Epistles, collectively, reveal the Doctrine of Christ, which is the bulwark of the Christian Faith. We’ll look at the parts to see how they fit into the whole Doctrine.

Romans

The central theme of this Epistle is the gospel of God. It applies to all mankind. It shows the wrath of God, justification before God, and the believers’ union with Christ. It also shows the law of Moses as a dead husband to a wife, alive with a new husband (ch. 7:1-4), life in the Spirit, Israel’s way back to God, and relationships with those outside the family of God. Therefore, when the reader studies the four gospels, he should always understand that the first three gospels are dealing with the Jews, who were under the Law of Moses. The gospel of John shows the intimacy between the Father and the Son, and how the Christian will enter into this intimacy after the day of Pentecost (Acts ch 2). The Christian gets his truth to walk in the Spirit from following what the apostles taught in the Epistles. What they taught, wrote, and spoke was/is the very word of God.

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God...” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “(There is) then now no condemnation to those in Christ” (Romans 8:l JND).

The Jews as a nation are on the shelf in this present age (Romans 11). The Church, however, is in “the age of the dispensation of the grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2). In the millennium Israel will be restored by God to His favor through the Deliverer (Romans 11:26).

1 Corinthians

This Epistle is primarily corrective in that the things being practiced in Corinth (and commonly practiced in the church today) were unacceptable to the Spirit of God.

“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).

God’s church is intended to be God’s light to this dark world. The assembly in Corinth had fallen into iniquity through carnality.

In chapters 1-4 the Apostle Paul rebukes the carnality that embraced sectarianism, which divided the assembly (I Corinthians 1:10-12; 3:1-4). The seriousness of defiling carnality through sectarianism is seen in ch 3:16- 17, where the warning is that anyone who defiles the temple (the church), God will destroy. Chapter 5 shows immorality in the assembly, and the Holy Spirit’s way of dealing with it. In chapter 6 the carnality of their ways is again shown and compared with the holiness of God. Chapter 7 is the instruction to Christians concerning marriage, separation, or divorce.

Idolatry is the theme in chapters 8 and 10 and the judgment of the Lord because of it. The holiness of the Lord’s table (breaking the bread) is seen as well.

Chapters 11 through 14 explain the government of God in authoritative order: God over Christ, Christ over man, and man over woman. Worship (breaking of bread) (ch 11), spiritual gifts of God (ch 12), Agape (divine) Love (ch 13) and the priesthood of the believer as is exercised in the assembly (ch. 14) is seen as well.

The Holy Spirit gave the assemblies of Christ all of these corrections (truths) in chapters 1-14. We are told they are the commandments of the Lord, (ch 14:37), and they are to be followed by every assembly of Christians throughout the church age (ch 1:2).

Chapter 15 gives revelation of the first Adam, the second Adam, the resurrection of the dead and the end of Hades and Death (Revelation 1:18).

2 Corinthians

In this Epistle the Apostle Paul’s authority is questioned, possibly because of the first Epistle he wrote to them. The proof of his apostleship is proven to them in this letter.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

In this Epistle, Paul gives his autobiography. He shows his suffering, affliction, anguish, conflicts, beatings, persecutions, and sorrow (ch 11). He also reveals his own weakness as seen through his continual confrontations while carrying the gospel to all people.

Many Christian truths are revealed in these chapters that encourage believers for all time. In this Epistle all the promises of God in Christ are “yes” and “amen”. They won’t fail. Every Christian, it is told, is a written Epistle of God, read of all men. The Law of Moses was a ministry of condemnation and death (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). The believer is a new creation of divine Life given by God (2 Corinthians 5:17).

There are also many warnings for Christians about false teachers, false apostles, deceiving prophets, and Satan transforming himself into an angel of light (ch 11:14).

Galatians

The Galatians were in danger of going back to the Law of Moses to be saved and to be sanctified. They were told that if they did this, they would be under a curse (Galatians 1:6-9).

“But that no one is justified by the law (Law of Moses, 613 commandments) in the sight of God is evident, for the just shall live by faith. Yet the law is not of faith...” (Galatians 3:11-12).

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians’ assemblies (Asia Minor) to correct doctrinal heresy. This heresy came into the assemblies by Judaizers after he had proclaimed the gospel of Christ to them (Galatians 1:6-10). The gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) is simply that all persons who believe God through this gospel are saved. The Judaizers were adding on part of the Law of Moses as a requirement to be saved, and part of that law was circumcision.

He corrected this error of adding the law to the gospel throughout the whole Epistle. The Holy Spirit made clear through Paul that the person(s) who added on any part of the law were debtors to keep the whole law, all 613 commandments (Galatians 3:10; 5:2-4). God has only one way of justifying a person (making him righteous before God), which is faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, plus nothing added on or taken away from His word (Deuteronomy 4:2). This is the foundation and essence of this Epistle.

Ephesians

Three things are noted in the Epistle: (1) The believers’ standing with God is entirely through God’s grace. (2) The truth of the one body of Christ and the unity of that one body. (3) The truths in this Epistle call for heavenly eyesight, wherein the believer is to be led completely by the Spirit in all things.

“...Even when we were dead in trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6).

The letter to the assembly at Ephesus gives the highest knowledge of the Christian’s exalted position through the gift of God. It shows that every Christian is a member of the body of Christ and is sealed there until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

The church is seen as the household of God (ch 2:19). Christ is the cornerstone and the apostles are the foundation of the temple of God (the church), wherein the Spirit dwells (verse 20-22). The church is the essence of the heart of Christ, for He gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).

Also, the Christian has been placed by God to see into the light of His kingdom, which is made up of both Jew and Gentile. It is the Christian’s inheritance and is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:14).

The Christian learns that all the promises and gifts of God are given to him by grace alone, without works (Ephesians 2:8-9). He was chosen by God before the foundation of the world to be a son of God and to walk and live in the spiritual riches in Christ’s kingdom (Ephesians 1:3-5).

Chapter 5 reveals the order of the government of God, for marriage between the husband and the wife, and that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. In chapter 6, enemies of the Christian are identified and also the armor that is necessary to fight against them.

Philippians

The occasion for this Epistle is Paul thanking the assembly at Philippi for their gift of money that they gave him. He is steadfast in his letter, encouraging them with this word: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

“Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

The Apostle Paul, while in prison (in Rome), writes to the saints in Philippi. Chapter 1 shows Paul in triumphant faith, even while he is suffering. He is writing to these saints who are close to his heart. He is giving them much cause to rise up in joy and faith against the circumstances of life. He also spoke to the humiliation of Jesus, though He was equal with God, He came into this world as a bondservant, as a man. This humiliation brought him to total dependence on His Father. It led Him in obedience to fulfill His Father’s every word. Because of His obedience, God highly exalted Him above every name.

In chapter 3, Paul warns against legalizers, and against legal righteousness (works and efforts of man). As he has stressed in other letters to believers, the only place of righteousness before God is faith in Christ. This solace allows God’s power to work in the believer through resurrection power by His Spirit. Through the resurrection, believers have come to the highest calling man can have (Philippians 3:10-14). Compromise has no part in this calling.

In the last chapter Paul stresses gentleness, peace and being anxious for nothing. He brings forth the attributes of the Spirit which are shown in Romans 14:17. Rejoicing, with thanksgiving in all things, is what the saints must do to live in triumph and in the peace of God.

Colossians

This Epistle is more pointed to the deity of Jesus Christ than any other Epistle. This is shown clearly in ch. 1:15-19, where seven truths of His deity are revealed. Verses 20-23 are where His work of reconciliation is shown.

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).

This Epistle starts out by stating that Christ is God’s image in fullness and completeness. He is the first born of a new creation as the second Adam. Everything that exists was created by Him and for Him, and by Him all things continue. He is the head of the church, the firstborn from the dead who conquered Death and Hades (Revelation 1:19).

Colossians shows that Jesus, through His sacrificial life and resurrection, has opened the way for reconciliation of all things to Himself.

Christ has now made known to His saints the mystery of the church, unknown in former ages (Colossians 1:26).

The warning against man’s philosophy, legalism, legal observances of the Law of Moses, false mysticism, and asceticism (to live an austere, hermit life in order to be spiritual) is clearly seen. Gnosticism (the teaching of false knowledge concerning Christ, angels and heavenly entities) is rebuked.

Christian living is then stressed in chapter 3. As taught in the other Epistles, the Christian life can only be built on sound doctrine. Errors and false doctrine will derail the Christian life.

Chapter 4 finishes with personal exhortations and Paul’s greeting to those who have been close to him in all his labor in Christ.

1 Thessalonians

Paul’s reason for writing this Epistle was that Timothy had been to Thessalonica and had brought a good report of them. In this letter to them he commends their steadfastness in difficult times.

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

This Epistle is thought to be one of the Apostle Paul’s earliest. The Thessalonians had believed with open hearts, and had even been a testimony to other assemblies.

Paul speaks a word of encouragement to them because of the persecution they received from their own countrymen and of their joy and rejoicing at the coming of the Lord Jesus. In their faith, the apostle and those with him found comfort. They desired to be with them again to continue in perfecting their faith, and in the great hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus with His saints (ch 1:10; 4:14).

The revelation of the coming of the Lord Jesus to catch away His church is shown in (ch 4:13-18). The dead in Christ will rise first from the graves, then those who are alive. This will commence with a shout from heaven, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. All Christians from the church’s inception will rise to meet Jesus in the cloud.

The letter concludes with a warning about the day of the Lord and the day of judgment for the unbelieving. They are urged to give thanks in everything, and not to quench the Spirit. While in the body, abstain from every form of evil. Paul prays that their spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians

False teaching abounded in the beginning of the church age. The Thessalonians had heard some of these reports, possibly through a forged letter from Paul.

“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

This letter was for encouragement to this young assembly. Their hope in the Lord’s coming was somewhat shaken by the reports that the Day of the Lord was at hand, and they thought their persecution was its proof. They were instructed that this was not true and that they need not be troubled by such reports. The Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:3) will come after the Lord has taken His church ( Christians) from this world (2 Thessalonians 2:2). The Apostle Paul gives understanding to the events leading up to the Day of the Lord in (ch 2:3-12).

The encouragement and hope they have through their faith in what the apostles taught them is the gospel of God. They should not heed the false reports and doctrine.

Paul ends the Epistle with some instructions on the Christian’s walk of faith.

1 Timothy

Timothy, a close companion of Paul, was a young man who had an unction to labor in the Lord’s harvest. Timothy would be giving to the assemblies what the Apostle Paul had taught him from Scripture.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

This Epistle is the first pastoral letter sent to Timothy. He was a young man who worked with Paul in the labor of caring for the assemblies.

Pastoral work among the many assemblies will be his responsibility.

In this letter “sound doctrine” is stressed throughout. The woman’s place of submission in faith is shown in chapter 2. Chapter 3 gives order to the labor of oversight to a brother who desires this work among the assemblies because “...the church of the living God (is), the pillar and ground of truth” (ch 3:15). This man, who lives by faith, has the Lord’s interests at heart. He is a valuable man to God’s people.

Chapter 4 addresses evil doctrine and the need for vigilance for truth. And again, Timothy is directed to teach sound doctrine, exhortation and to establish assemblies to follow and build on it. Deliverance from evil teaching comes from sound doctrine (ch 4:16).

The inter-relationship among the saints is addressed in the closing chapters, as well as the need for godly ways among the assembly and their inter-workings with one another. They were also encouraged to “fight the good fight of faith”, and keep these truths until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy

Paul instructs Timothy that some have gone the way of apostasy, but Timothy is encouraged to continue to teach the truth in Christ as a faithful servant. He is to be ready in all seasons to convince, rebuke, exhort, and to allow faith to take hold.

“...a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

This is the last of Paul’s known letters (67 A.D.) written to Timothy, his son in the faith, with words of encouragement in following the truth in Christ. It is also written to those in Asia who have turned away from his teaching (ch 1:15; 4:16). Chapter 2 gives the pathway of God’s approval in the day of apostasy, and the need to teach believers sound doctrine and steadfastness in the faith. The faithful servant “must endure hardship”, because the Lord is faithful at all times (ch 2:13).

Apostasy is prophetically shown, as well as Paul’s suffering from those who have resisted the godly truths in Christ. To Timothy and all Christians, he urges them to hang onto the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 1:30), for the wisdom of God through faith is salvation (ch 3:15).

The faithful servant of the Lord (ch 4) faces many who have itching ears, as well as those who turn to false teachers and fables. Paul explains that his life in the body is near it’s end, and then the hope of the crown of righteousness that he will receive on that day.

Paul ends the letter with remarks about those who did wrong to him, as well as some other believers who have been close to him in the faith.

Titus

Titus was another laborer in Christ. He was a faithful helper working with Paul and taking responsibility for assembly teaching and carrying out Paul’s requests to fulfill needs of various assemblies.

“...looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14).

Like Timothy, Titus is exhorted to refute by sound doctrine the many deceivers. This sound doctrine explains the responsibilities in the assemblies of older men and women, and younger men and women, and servants as well. Chapter 2 also teaches that they are to live in the hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus for His church.

Good works should be their direction of life, as this manner of life blesses the assembly and gives a good testimony to the God of all grace, Jesus Christ. Sound doctrine is the foundation of good works, as saints walking in faith will be seen by all.

Philemon

When a Christian brother does wrong to another, this Epistle gives understanding to deal with wrong behavior from another brother. Grace and love of the brethren is demonstrated in this Epistle.

“But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay....” (Philemon 18-19).

Paul is writing to a fellow Christian who lives in Colosse. His slave, Onesimus, had run away from him, and probably robbed his master. Onesimus had wound up in Rome and met Paul. He then had received the gospel of Christ.

Paul was sending him back to his master, who also was a Christian. Paul is asking Philemon to receive him back and, if Onesimus had stolen anything, Paul himself would pay it back.

This letter relates to Christian charity among those who belong to Christ Jesus. Paul hopes to come to Philemon in the future and stay with him, for he believes in his generosity.

Hebrews

In this Epistle to the Hebrews (Jews), some Christians there, were wavering in the truth of the gospel taught to them. Turning away from Christ left them with no high priest before God and no sacrifice for sins. Going back to Judaism left them with no eternal redemption.

“Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).

The authorship of this Epistle is unknown, but is thought by many Biblical authorities to be written by the Apostle Paul. It was written to Jews to show the better place in Christ than what God had given Israel through the Old Covenant.

In the first chapter of Hebrews, Christ is declared to be the Creator of the worlds. He, as a man in this world, was lower than the angels, but superior to them. He is the Son of the Father; therefore He is seen in His deity. “Let all the angels of God worship Him” (ch 1:6). Jesus, the Son of God (ch 1:8-9), was superior to Moses and the Law given to Israel.

After Jesus purged our sins and ascended into heaven, He took His place sitting at the right hand of God as the believer’s High Priest (Colossians 3: 1-2). Christ’s position as High Priest is eternal after the order of Melchizedek. Chapter 2 speaks to the danger of rejecting the priestly work of Christ, for He alone is the mediator between God and man. Here He is seen bringing many sons to glory. Chapter 4 speaks of the perfect rest that Christ achieved through redemption for all who believe God.

Chapter 8 calls upon the promise of a New Covenant. This New Covenant was instituted on the night Christ was betrayed, and He was consummated as the sacrificial Lamb of God in His death on the cross. This covenant was heavenly and eternal, whereas the old one was earthly and inferior to the New Covenant (ch 8:7-8).

Chapter 10 shows that the Old Covenant could never take away man’s sins. However, in the New Covenant, the sins of the world were put away once and for all-time. Through Christ’s sacrifice, God has put away the penalty of sin for all who receive Him in faith (ch 10:14).

Chapter 11 gives the example of those patriarchs who witnessed to their faith in God, and the actions they took. In chapter 12 the God of love is seen in chastening His sons for their benefit. That high place the New Covenant has brought the believer into, is where their names are registered in heaven.

The Epistle finishes with truths for the Christian life, a call to come outside the camp of Judaism (organized religion) (Exodus 33:7) to Christ as He suffered outside the camp (ch 13:13). The writer finishes with a blessing upon them.

James

James was the half-brother of Jesus. His message of true faith brings about holy living for all to see. Although being born again is not mentioned, it shows the fruit of a regenerated life.

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

James is thought to be the earliest Epistle (45 A.D.) and is addressed to Jewish Christians who are of the 12 tribes of Israel. It is elementary and outward in its message for practical living. It addresses the testing of faith, obedience, brotherly love, and the showing forth of good works.

Chapter 2 relates to the necessity of discipline for the Christian’s inward person. These come out of the words and actions of his life. What is taught in Romans, chapter 4 (justified before God by faith alone without works), James teaches that the practical life of faith will produce good works. In this Epistle good works justifies a believer before all people.

The struggles with the Adamic nature and worldliness are shown. To be a friend of the world makes one to be an enemy of God, (ch 4:4), and the place for chastisement for a Christian.

James writes that cleansing oneself from the flesh and all its works, is found in humbling oneself before God. In so doing, the devil will flee from the believer when he is resisted (James 4:7). James also speaks to the temporary life in the body and the need to recognize God’s sovereignty over the believer in all things.

James finishes with the reminder of the coming of the Lord and the importance of persevering in faith till that day, with the necessity to live in faith, dependent upon God.

1 Peter

Peter’s epistle was written from Babylon, which many believe to be Rome. This is because Emperor Nero was persecuting and killing many Christians. It is written to Hebrew Christians, but applies to all Christians.

“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Peter’s labor in Christ was primarily to the Jews, whereas Paul’s labor was to the Gentiles. Most of the chapters speak of the suffering of Christ and of the believers’ suffering. Peter points out the suffering of Christ, and that the Spirit of Christ was in the prophets who prophesied of the sufferingsof the Messiah. In this context Peter admonishes believers to live soberly and obedient to their calling. This involves always remembering that Christ is the chief cornerstone for the spiritual house (church) in which God is using every believer as a living stone (building block) for the building (ch 2:5-7). The priesthood of all believers (ch 2:5, 9) is called out and is the birthright.

Chapter 3 teaches godly order for Christian women. Again, the suffering of Christ is shown as the example of Christians who suffer. If you suffer for righteousness, you are blessed (ch 3:14). Suffering in faith brings a molding of a Christian’s character into the image of Christ and a blessing (ch 3:9).

Chapter 4 stresses Christian conduct, even in the bad times in which believers may live.

Peter finishes with admonition to the elder brothers to be sober in shepherding the flock of God. He points out that this oversight entails first, to be examples to the flock themselves. Where the flock is, the Chief Shepherd is always to be the object of faith (ch 5:4).

Peter ends by blessing them in their Christian growth and stability.

2 Peter

Doctrinal heresy is denounced in the strongest words. Peter also gives a list of Christian virtues that are implemented in the believer’s life by following Jesus through faith. One virtue added upon another allows spiritual growth to take place.

“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).

This Epistle starts by giving understanding to every believer of God’s gifts and promises to them. Peter is telling the receivers of this letter that his time on earth is about over. He recounts his time on the holy mountain when the glory of God came down on Jesus, and God spoke for all the heavens to understand that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. This time is called the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5).

He calls attention to prophetic Scripture as light to be heeded, this being the light of God against false teachers which were then active, and would be more so in the future. Peter gives a description of some of their characteristics in chapter 2. Some of them know the truth in Christ Jesus, but reject Him.

In chapter 3, Peter stirs up the readers to press on in faith, and to know that those who oppress the knowledge and scoff at Jesus are going to face God’s judgment. When this judgment is over, God will create a new heaven and a new earth where only righteousness will reign (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). He finishes the letter with encouragement for all believers to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.

1 John

The Apostle John takes the place of a father to his children in this Epistle (little children). The Christian’s offenses against his Father in heaven are treated like a child’s by the father who raised him. Jesus Christ the Righteous is each child’s advocate to the Father. John writes to his children as being in nearness to God.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1).

John starts this Epistle with his own personal experience. He relates how he heard Jesus, saw Him, and handled (touched) Him with his hands - the One who is the Word of Life. John penned this letter so that the children of God may have what he has, the same fullness of joy (ch 1:4).

This joy is in direct proportion to a believer’s fellowship with the Father and the Son. If a believer sins, the answer is found in chapter 1:8-10; 2:1.

Chapter 2 stresses the keeping of the commandments of Jesus (see “The Commandments” by D. Neely). The children of God are warned about worldly pursuits and the antichrist spirit in the world. Apostates are in view in this warning. In chapter 3, sanctification is at work in the believer who lives in the hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus. The children of light and darkness are contrasted in those who abide in Christ.

Testing the spirits is necessary for the believer to have knowledge of true and false prophets. The love of God abiding in the believer is the test of a true believer because the Spirit of God lives in him and directs accordingly. God desires His children to depend entirely on Himself. The last chapter shows that faith is the way to overcome the worldly powers. John finishes by giving assurance that the one who possesses the Son of God has eternal life.

2 John

It is assumed that this Epistle is written to a woman who has been close to John at one time. However, some believe that the “elder lady” means a Christian assembly.

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).

John calls himself an elder (an older brother in the faith) to this elect lady and her children. It is not known who this woman is. It is the only Epistle in the New Testament addressed to a woman.

Truth and love are predominate in verses 4-6. In verses 7-11 deceivers are spoken about as antichrists. They are in the world and of the world, and giving any credence to their message is a spiritual downfall.

The Doctrine of Christ is God’s message for all time and will not change. The Doctrine of Christ is who He is, the Word of God (John 1:1) who became flesh, a human being (John 1:14). He is God who is omnipresent (John 3:13).

The elect lady is warned against having any contact with the evil deceivers. In 322 A.D. a Nicean counsel (Asia Minor), reported to be about 1800 Christian men, was conducted to make clear the main issue in the Doctrine of Christ - “ Is Jesus Christ God?” The counsel agreed jointly that Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ is indeed 100 percent God and 100 percent man, God in human form. This truth reaffirmed the foundation of the Christian faith.

3 John

This Epistle from John to Gaius denotes three points: 1. Hospitality to laboring brothers who work among the assemblies. 2. The clerical minded man, Diotrephes, who takes a domineering position over the assembly. 3. Gaius and Demetrius for their godly walk before the brethren.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).

Gaius, to whom this letter is addressed, was a brother in Christ, a beloved friend of the Apostle John. The works of love by Gaius were known among the brethren and reported to John.

The letter centers on love and truth, which cannot be separated. Gaius in the Christian work that he did, took nothing (money) from the Gentiles, who were unbelieving people.

A man rose up among the assembly and took top priority over the saints, even casting out who he wanted. This man, Diotrephes by name, also refused John and the brethren with him. This man’s evil deeds would be dealt with when John next came to the assembly. A person cannot claim to speak for God and do evil (verse 11).

This short letter shows the good works of Gaius and the good report. Love of the brethren is known through this good report. The evil works of Diotrephes are apparent to all. Truth and self elevation do not go together, a lesson from which all can learn.

Jude

Jude was also a half-brother of Jesus. This Epistle is a strong warning to the churches of the danger of false teachers, apostate teachers, and heresies being brought into assemblies, where they create much dissention. John shows many who were self-serving, demonic, promoting self, and teaching without the Holy Spirit in his Epistle. Jude enlarges on many of these same heresies.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

This Epistle is founded on “earnestly contending for the faith”, for evil had crept into the church which was bringing unbelief and rebellion against the faith. This condition has gone on in the church, even to the present day.

Jude uses past examples with Israel and others who brought in heresies against the God of heaven. These heresies were demonic, lustful and sensual. They attacked the very foundation of Christian truth. False teachers were in some assemblies and were making a challenge to the truths in Christ. Jude refers to them as “brute beasts”.

These people are the very ones the Lord Jesus taught that would come in among His people to deceive, as Paul also warned (Acts 20:28-31). We are shown that the judgment of God awaits these deceivers, and they will not escape.

Jude finishes with encouraging words for those who keep the faith in pureness and the love of God. He finishes the letter with a doxology of hope (verses 24-25).

The Revelation

The Revelation is the last revelatory word given to the Church for all time (Revelation 22:18-19). In this heavenly view and prophesy shown to John, we can see the past, the present, the end of this world and then into the next, the new heavens and the new earth. Many of the events in the Revelation can be found in the Old Testament.

“I am He who lives and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore. Amen. I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this” (Revelation 1:18-19).

96 A.D.

The Apostle John was on the inland of Patmos, when Jesus spoke to him in a loud voice. He told John to write the prophetic word that was going to be shown to him. This word was: (1) The things you have seen, John’s present experience in chapter 1. (2) The things that are, that is the present Dispensation of the Church Age. This is seen in chapters 2 and 3 with the seven churches. Each church is a progressive time period in church history before it happened. Each church shows the spiritual condition of the time period. (3) Things that will be after this are seen in chapter 4, which reveals that the hope of the church has now been fulfilled, and the church has been translated into heaven. John is now in heaven and writes what will happen on the earth thereafter. In this period we are able to see into heaven through what John has written in chapter 4 and 5.

In chapters 6 through 11:18, the first half of the seven-year tribulation is taking place. The second half of the tribulation is viewed from Revelation 11:19 through 20:15. After these things in chapters 21 and 22, the new Jerusalem and the wife of the Lamb of God is seen descending. Then the new heavens and the new earth are created for all the saints of God in fulfillment of the prophetic word given to the prophet Isaiah.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

“For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me, says the Lord, so shall your descendants and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).

D. Neely, 9-23-17

Taken from “Spiritual Songs” Hymn Book

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