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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


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Friday, January 12, 2018

Ephesians Biblical Timeline



Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Ephesians Biblical Timeline

Welcome and Greetings to y’all.

In light of the fact we’ve entered that portion of scripture known as Paul’s prison letters, which contain deeper Spiritual truths, I’ve decided to approach this Bible study differently.  You may have picked up on this with the introduction.  After a brief history lesson about early Ephesus, I took you through the record of Paul’s 2nd and 3rd Missionary Journeys which the Apostle Luke noted for us in the book of Acts because he visited Ephesus on both of these journeys.

Our Apostle Paul was, and remains, the greatest “Church Planter” of all time.  No one serving in the church since Paul even comes close to his accomplishments.  After his conversion, He dedicated his life to the risen Lord and to the Body of Christ:  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (1 Timothy 4:7).  Therefore, from my perspective, the logical thing to do was to bring you up-to-speed on the “State of the Church” in America.  Most Christians are unaware of what’s going on in the Body of Christ (God’s one Church) today.  This is due, in part, because they have been taught to think and respond “denominationally.” I find it strange indeed these denominations claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word, but at the same time they stress their man-made denominational creeds over what God has clearly said (Revelation 22:18-19).  A few of these churches have another “book” they rely on for “spiritual truth” that supersedes the Bible.  You should be aware of these things because Scripture says Satan uses people to teach false doctrines:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself transforms into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Denominations are organizations which were started by men.  The Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, did not authorize them.  You won’t find the words “Baptist,” “Lutheran,” “Catholic,” “Presbyterian,” “Methodist,” “Mormon,” “Adventist,” “Pentecostal,” et cetera in your Bible.  What’s more, there are now more than 600 different denominational churches in America, calling themselves Christian churches, all with different and conflicting beliefs, doctrines, and teachings.  They wear different “labels” practice different forms of worship, and have different plans of salvation.  Many of these churches are counterfeits of the Lord’s one true Church, and Satan is using them to draw Believers away from God.  Do not be deceived…

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Ephesians Biblical Timeline

We’ve spent a few years studying the books of Romans, I and II Corinthians, and Galatians, that section of Paul’s writings many people regard as “the children’s pool,” or Paul’s elementary teachings.  But now we’re about to enter that portion of his writings many people refer to as the “deep end” of the pool; and this equates to a higher level of learning.  What’s my point?  You should know how to swim before you enter the deep end of the pool.”  Put another way, you didn’t enter first grade and take on calculus; instead you learned the basics of mathematics before you took on algebra, geometry, i.e. higher math, right? 

In our Apostle Paul’s earlier letters we learned the rudimentary truths about dispensational change.  For instance, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians he spoke of two specific covenants because the Judaizers were causing problems in the churches he planted by their false teaching (4:21-28).  Paul mentioned a covenant of works and a covenant of Grace.  You won’t find either of these terms in the Bible.  But the Dispensation of Law given to Moses, which became part of the rule of faith and practice during the period between Moses and Jesus Christ, lasted about 1500 years.  Romans 10:4 describe the end of this dispensation:  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

The Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator of the Dispensation of Grace, i.e. the New Covenant, and His death on the cross is the basis of the promise (Genesis 12:1-3; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:6, 9:15).  The New Covenant was predicted while the Old Covenant was still in effect.  The prophets Moses, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all spoke and wrote about it (Deuteronomy 29:4; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26). 

The covenant of works began with this conditional statement from the LORD God to the man in the Garden of Eden:  “…If you it eat its fruit, you are sure to die” (NLT).  Most people aren’t aware of this, but they know he failed the test!  Adam brought sin and death upon himself and the woman and all of his descendants thereafter.  We learn from Romans 5 in Adam all sin and deserve his death.  Consequently, we learn from Paul in Romans 5:12 that all die because of Adam’s sin.
 
In order to save lost sinners, God brings about, not just another, but a better covenant (Hebrews 8:7-12).  This is not a covenant of works because sinners could never work to make reparation necessary to satisfy the holy God.  Their offense and their guilt are too great.  So, God initiates, instead, the New Covenant, whereby His Son will pay the penalty for all sinners and those sinners in exchange will receive the righteousness of Christ (Hebrews 2:9, 14-18).  In other words, we give Christ our sins and He gives us His righteousness.  Our sin is imputed to Christ Jesus.  He pays the penalty for all our misdeeds and it is charged against Him, even though He doesn’t deserve to pay it.  That’s what imputation means here; our sin is charged against Christ, and His righteousness is imputed to us.  It is credited to our account by faith (alone).  We are then justified in God’s eyes, means “just as if you’d never sinned.”   

So, one of the reasons I bring all this up is to help you understand the Bible is not your average book.  How could it be; its author is God Himself?  It’s true the Bible was written by 40 Jewish men over a span of 1500 years and this eventually produced 66 books we know as the Bible.  But these men each wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.  In other words, God was in control from start to finish.  The O.T. books were widely accepted, meaning, no one disputed them, but the final list of our currently accepted 27 books of the N. T. wasn’t formalized until 397 A.D. at the Council of Carthage.  What’s amazing is these aren’t 66 disjointed books each with their own message; they are all in harmony with one another.  That is to say the message they convey is in perfect agreement.  Only God could accomplish such a thing. 

"You must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Now, when you get to our Apostle Paul’s writings, the placement of his letters to the churches in the N.T. is significant, especially the seven we’re going to take a look at today, because they do not appear in chronological order as one might expect.  Instead these seven fall under the heading of: teaching (doctrine - KJV), reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness:

All Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation) is inspired by God and profitable for teaching (doctrine - KJV), for reproof (the act of criticizing somebody for having done something wrong, i.e. rebuking), for correction (to get people or churches back on course), for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

If you’ve been with me awhile, then you’ve heard me say more than once the Bible is a progressive revelation.  In other words, as we begin in Genesis (the book of beginnings), the LORD God starts revealing His essential truths, adding a little here, a little there, until we get to the New Testament; and I’m not talking about the book of Matthew – that’s still Old Testament.  The Dispensation of Grace, a parenthetical period of time previously unknown (i.e. a mystery) in Scripture doesn’t begin until God calls Saul to be His apostle to the gentiles (Acts 9).  Our Apostle Paul was the first sinner saved by God’s Grace (alone), apart from works.  Therefore he is the pattern (example) for every person of faith (Believer) that comes after him (1 Timothy 1:15-16). 

It has been my experience, while serving in churches with a “teaching responsibility,” that certain church leaders are rather careless re: their view towards and their usage of the term “Church” in Scripture.  The word does not always mean what you think it means.  On one occasion while serving as Children’s Coordinator in a mega church in Tampa, FL, the ministry leader told me to instruct my team to teach the children in our care the Israelites had a “church” in the wilderness.  This was after I voiced my concern.  There was a complete lesson plan to go along with this command, which our tithes had purchased.  But here’s the thing, the lesson plan didn’t line up with God’s Word. 

The word “church” or “churches” is found about 117 times in the N.T.  With the single exception in Acts 19:37, every time the word “church” is found in the Bible the Koine Greek word is, “Ekklesia.”  In Acts 19:37 it means “robbers of churches.”  It’s translated from two Greek words:  Sulao, meaning to rob; and Heiron, meaning temple.  More than 50 times in the Bible the temple at Jerusalem is in the Koine Greek translated “Heiron.

You’ll have to ask the Bible translators when you see them in heaven why they chose to translate Heiron, churches, or why they translated Ekklesia three times as assembly in Acts 19 and 116 times as church because I certainly don’t know.  So, the point I made to those in charge was, the Jews did not erect a church building, as we know it today, in order to worship God.  This was the message of the lesson plan and I refused to allow myself and my fellow teachers to teach that message.  I took a stand for God’s Word and here’s why.  The structure the Israelites built, by direct command of the LORD God and by His blueprint, was the Tabernacle (a tent).  There’s a definite difference; one the children would clearly understand if taught correctly.  So, I re-wrote the lesson plan and gave it to all the teachers well ahead of time so they could prepare for class.  The church leaders were not pleased with my initiative.  But in this instance I know God was because my lesson came from the Bible. 

The KJV Bible mentions “the church in the wilderness” in Acts 7:38.  The NASB refers to it as the “congregation in the wilderness.”  Are you beginning to recognize the difference?  Here the word “church” means “Ekklesia;” a called-out assembly.  God’s chosen people were called-out of Egypt to go to the Promised Land.  On the way there, they had a sanctuary in the Tabernacle, and the LORD God met with them and communed with them from above the sprinkled Mercy-seat.  More than 25 times in the book of Chronicles, the LORD referred to the gatherings of His people as “the Ekklesia.”  It’s the same Koine Greek word found 116 times in the N.T.  A very simple but important lesson for us to learn is “the Body of Christ” is the “Church of God;” but “the church of God” is not necessarily the “the Body of Christ.”  I appreciate lay-people working in the church may not fully understand these Bible truths, but pastors should. 

You should know the Old Testament is silent about God’s one Church or Gentiles being saved at all, let alone by God’s Grace.  These truths and many others, known as mysteries, were kept hidden in the mind of the sovereign God, intentionally (Deuteronomy 29:29).  Once you arrive in the N.T., God begins revealing these truths that weren’t in the O.T.   This is especially true when we get to the writings of Paul.  

It’s not so hard to see God directed the layout of this book, and that’s because these Pauline epistles (letters) are especially meaningful to His Church.  In the Dispensation of Grace God is “filling up the Body of Christ:”  For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (i.e. God’s one Church - Romans 11:25). 

As I’ve pointed out already, all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is progressive in nature because God chooses to reveal something new to us according to His timing.  This is why I say we don’t ignore any part of this book; it’s all profitable for teaching, reproof (doctrine – KJV), correction, and training in righteousness.  Once you reach the N.T. these progressive revelations increase, even more so once you reach the writings of Paul.       

Backing up just a bit, before we “dive into” (no pun intended) this study of Paul’s 7 letters, we recently learned the established moral and spiritual laws of God were understood by His creation (I recently used Cain as an example) and were then found in the pages of the Old Testament.  The laws of God, i.e. their application lasted until the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary (Colossians 2:14).  The Mosaic Law was holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12).  But our Apostle Paul said the Law in the O.T. was intended by the LORD God for people who were spiritual infants, mere children in the faith.  The Law was never meant to determine one’s righteousness because it could not.  The Law could only convict and condemn people to death (Romans 3:19-20).  Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished what the Law could not do; it bridges the divide between God and sinful mankind and brings eternal life to those who believe (Romans 8:1-4, Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:1-10; Philippians 3:9). 

With the New Covenant the Lord Jesus Christ introduced a new concept which Paul called “the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  This new law of Christ is not an outwardly written law which is read on tablets of stone, but is instead written upon the hearts of true Believers and is manifested by their observance of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  This was the law for Believers Paul established in his letter to the Romans, I & II Corinthians, and Galatians.  It replaced the written Law of the Old Testament with God’s command to: 

Bear one another’s burdens… (Galatians 6:2).

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). 

This teaching closely resembles the Greatest Commandment emphasized in the O.T.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no greater commandment (Mark 12:28-31).

Once you reach the book of Ephesians Paul begins to explain “the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16) in all their fullness just as the Holy Spirit revealed them to him.  Perhaps this is where the expression the “deep end of the pool” originates; who knows?  The deep things of God certainly include these 7 letters to the Gentile Churches, and I will explain how that works to the best of my ability by using his Missionary Journeys as a guide to put together a biblical timeline.  I’ve used timelines before as a teaching tool “back in the day” when I was moving my Bible study from living room to living room and it proved helpful then.  I pray you benefit from its usage now. 

I don’t have my whiteboard with me, obviously, so we’ll have to make do.  Now I’m drawing an imaginary line almost in the middle of the whiteboard from one side to the other.  And we’re going to talk about some Bible facts without going into great detail and put some dates up here.

Over here on the far left is our first entry and date:  Paul’s First Journey began around 45-47 A.D. (Acts 13-14).  Paul and Barnabas visited many places including Cyprus, Paphos, Perga, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. 

Here’s our next entry and date:  Paul’s Second Journey to strengthen the churches commenced on or about 51-54 A.D. but it could have started as early as the spring of 50 A.D. (Acts 15:36 – 18:23).  Paul took Silas through Syria and Cilicia (now southeastern Turkey).  They came to Derbe and Lystra where they found Timothy, who went with Paul and Silas throughout Phrygia and Galatia.  The Holy Spirit in a vision told Paul not to enter Asia or Bithynia.  They passed through Mysia to Troas, where Paul received another vision of a Macedonian man pleading with him to come help the Macedonians.  They then sailed past the island of Samothrace, and then to Neapolis, the port city of Philippi in Macedonia.  Passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where Paul taught in the synagogue for three Sabbaths, but the total time could have been longer.  After teaching some in Berea, Paul left ahead of Silas and Timothy, for Achaia, (now southern Greece), to Athens.  Paul made his first visit to Corinth, where he stayed 18 months (Acts 18:11).  This may have been from the spring of 52-53 A.D.  1 Thessalonians was written from there in about 52 A.D. (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, 6).  2 Thessalonians was also written from Corinth.  These are the first two letters (epistles) written by Paul.

Now let’s add to our timeline these two letters of Paul, 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians written in 52 A.D.

Paul went to the port of Cenchrea and sailed with Aquila and Priscilla across the Aegean Sea to Ephesus.  Paul left his two companions there (Acts 18:19, 26).  Paul sailed on to Caesarea and then went down to Antioch in Syria where the Second Journey ends (Acts 18:23).  This may have been in the winter of 53-54 A.D. 

Here’s our 3rd entry:  Paul’s Third Journey began in 54 A.D. with a visit to Galatia (central Turkey) and then Phrygia (Acts 18:23).  When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he remained there for 3 years (Acts 20:31), probably from the fall of 54-57 A.D.  Paul wrote 1 Corinthians near the end of his stay in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8, 19), probably about 57 A.D.  Paul foresaw his route of travel for the next four years, or so (Acts 19:21-22).  This agrees with his plans in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, 5, 8-10.  The “great door” had opened to Paul and the “many adversaries” in verse 9 compares to events in the Ephesian amphitheater in Acts 19:23-41.  

Paul had rejoined Timothy when 2 Corinthians was written (2 Corinthians 1:1).  Paul also wrote of a third visit to Corinth in 2 Corinthians 13:1 and 12:14.  So, 2 Corinthians was probably written in the fall of 57 A.D. from somewhere in Macedonia, possibly Philippi. 

Let’s go ahead and add I Corinthians and II Corinthians to our timeline.  They were written in 57 A.D.

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul says 14 years ago I ascended into heaven.  From 57 A.D., going back 14 years to 43 AD, this puts us back before Paul's first journey, probably when he was at Antioch in Syria.

After going through Macedonia (northern Greece), Paul came to Achaia (southern Greece) where he stayed 3 months (Acts 20:2-3), making his third visit to Corinth.  This is where he spent the winter of 57-58 AD (1 Corinthians 16:5-8).  The letter to the Romans was written at this time (Rom 15:23-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3).

Going back to Macedonia (Acts 20:1); they were at Philippi in the spring of 58 A.D. during the “Days of Unleavened Bread” (Acts 20:6).  They then sailed to Troas where a young man fell out of a window while Paul was teaching.  Paul restored his life (Acts 20:16).  Then Paul went to Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogyllium and Miletus (now in southwestern Turkey). From here, Paul addressed Ephesian elders whom he had called to meet him (Acts 20:17-38) in the spring of 58 A.D. (Acts 20:16).

Sailing to Cos, Rhodes, and Patara and passing on the south side of Cyprus, they came to Tyre (which is in Lebanon), where they stayed one week.  They then sailed south to Ptolemais and to Caesarea, where they stayed several days (Acts 20:10).  Then Paul went to Jerusalem, where the Third Journey ended at 58 A.D. 

Let’s put 58 A.D. up on our timeline because this is when Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey ended.  This accounts for his three Mission Trips. 

We haven’t discussed when Paul wrote his letter to the churches in Galatia and that’s because no one knows for certain.  Some people date this letter as early as 40 A.D. before the Jerusalem conference.  Others date it around 55-63 A.D. but definitely before his prison years.  Since no one knows when this letter was written, we’ll just write Galatians up here on our timeline after II Corinthians and move on to Paul’s prison years.
 
Our Apostle Paul spent two years in his own hired house (Acts 28:30) as a prisoner in Rome from 61-63 A.D.  During this time he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.  These are known as his “Prison Epistles.” 

Let’s review.  Here are Paul’s writings in chronological order:

I & II Thessalonians were written in 52 A.D.
I & II Corinthians were written in 57 A.D.
The letter to the Romans was written around 58 A.D. 
Paul wrote Ephesians in 62 A.D. 
He wrote Philippians and Colossians in 62 A.D. also. 
And the date of Galatians is unknown. 

It’s important you understand at this point in history no Bible existed.  The only written word available was the Old Testament.  The 4 Gospels didn’t even exist yet.  So, when Paul went into the synagogues to preach to his brethren Christ Crucified he used the O.T. scriptures (Luke 24:27).  His letters were the very beginning of the N.T. scripture (2 Peter 3:16); in fact they were in print before the 4 gospels.  Paul had no way of knowing his letters would be referred to as scripture, of course.  But the Holy Spirit knew. 

Now I want y’all to turn to Acts 28.  People will tell you the book of Acts is a record of the early “church.”  But it is not.  The book of Acts is about God transitioning from His Prophetic Program with the nation of Israel to His one Church, the Body of Christ (Acts 9).   Acts 28 is proof positive of this truth.  Starting in Acts 9, Saul, after his conversion, goes right to his countrymen (the Jews) preaching Jesus is the Son of God.  He uses the O.T. because this is all that’s available until he penned the book of Romans, the letter of teaching (doctrine – KJV).  The letter to the Galatians was probably written before Romans, but the Holy Spirit had Romans placed in the N.T. exactly where it belongs because all Scripture is profitable for teaching (church doctrine). 

Not so long ago we completed our study of I and II Corinthians and do you remember why Paul wrote these letters?  The Corinthian church had several internal problems.  They were experiencing:  arrogance, immorality, dissensions in the church, divisions, Believers were suing one another, they were fussing over what they could and could not eat, the Lord’s Supper was being disrespected, and so were the members of the church, and so on.  So, Paul had to reproof them (the act of rebuking somebody for having done something wrong).

Next in line is the letter to the Galatian churches.  It’s the fourth in this series of seven church letters and it’s written for correction (to get individuals or churches back on course).   The Galatians had left Paul’s gospel for another gospel which was legalism.  So this letter was written to bring them back to God or to get them back on course.  The central theme of this letter is:  we’re not under the Law; we’re under God’s Grace. 

But, lest we forget, we’re also looking at Acts 28.  In the Galatian letter Paul held up Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Sarah, and Hagar, as Old Testament examples of Law and Grace.  Paul’s still doing what he’s done for the past 25 years.  He appealing to his countrymen who are blind to the truths of God, to come out of their stubborn blindness, and out of their legalistic ways, and see God’s Grace for what it is – the only way to salvation (Matthew 7:13-14; John 14-6).  But when you reach Acts 28, Paul’s ministry has been interrupted.  He’s been arrested and he’s going to be taken to Rome and placed in prison.  Let’s start at Acts 28:17.

After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

If you’ve read the book of Acts, then you’re aware that the Jews hated Paul and not only caused trouble wherever he went, but they often tried to kill him because he was ministering to the gentiles. 

Let’s read on:

And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death.  But when the Jews objected (to his gospel of grace), I was forced to appeal to Caesar (and that’s why Paul is now in Rome), not that I had any accusation against my nation.  For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel” (Acts 29:18-20).

Even though his brethren hated him to the nth degree, Paul never gave up on his fellow Jews; that’s what he’s saying here.  The next few verses explain what happened after these Jewish leaders in Rome came to meet with Paul where he was under house arrest.

And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, ‘GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY, “YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE (what) HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES; OTHEWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR (what) HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM”’ (Acts 28:25-27).

Said differently, the nation of Israel has been blind since Isaiah wrote this passage.  Paul’s saying the same thing because he’s in the same situation.  He’s been speaking God’s Truths to them for years but they would not hear it; let alone see it for what it is – the cross of Christ is the narrow path.  It’s the only way to be saved.  I know how Paul feels, believe me. 

I think we’re ready for Acts 28:28.  Remember, Paul’s in prison, in Rome.

“Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen” (Acts 28:28).

Paul delivered a similar message to the Jews before but what’s significant about this verse is it’s the final time.  Previously he said, “I’m going to take my message to the Gentiles.”  And he did, but he continued going to the synagogues imploring the Jews to listen to his message of the way of Grace (alone).  But now, that’s over.  Paul’s saying from here on out, my ministry is only to the Gentiles. 

Acts 28:29 [When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute (argument) among themselves.]

I understand some of you may not be following my thoughts, “Why mention these historical facts at the close of Acts,” in other words.  This is the point of departure from Paul’s perspective (and God’s).  Paul always included the Jews in his teaching ministry, but from now on his writings about the gospel of God’s Grace are written to and for the Church, a.k.a. the Body of Christ. 

I’ll show you what I mean to say:  on our imaginary biblical timeline we have what is known as “Paul’s elementary lettersRomans, I & II Corinthians, and Galatians.  I’m not focusing on the dates, no point in that.  But now, I’m going to put another timeline above that initial timeline and the point of doing this is to illustrate we’re ascending to “a higher level of learning” that goes far above “Paul’s elementary letters.”  When we reach Ephesians, we’ve arrived at that portion of Paul’s writings known as the prison letters and we’re in the spiritually mature “deep end of the pool.” 
 
You see, our Apostle Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians while in prison.  Paul doesn’t stray from his letter writing format we’ve seen in Romans, I & II Corinthians, and Galatians but there’s a big difference.  Ephesians is a deeper level of teaching (Doctrine).  Philippians is a deeper level of reproof.  And Colossians is a deeper level of correction.  All of these letters to the churches were written in 62 A.D. 

Once you begin studying these letters, verse-by-verse, these deeper truths soon become apparent.  The other noteworthy thing I want you to recognize is this, once Paul makes this leap to these deeper Spiritual truths you won’t find him mentioning the Jews, his brethren, or the Old Testament again.  Paul’s moved on; the transition is complete.    That’s my reasoning for taking you through Acts 28.  I wanted you to see the connection for yourselves.  You have to understand this isn’t Paul’s decision – this is all according to God’s purpose and plan.  God is dealing with the entire human race as one from here on just as He did in the beginning (Genesis 1-11).  The Jews may believe they have a “leg up” on salvation but that’s because they’re still stuck in the O.T.   God’s saying “not so much.”  From now on every person that is saved is baptized into the Body of Christ, God’s one Church whether they are Jew or Gentile (1 Corinthians 12:13).  The Bible doesn’t mention 600 churches.

The Bible teaches us the Jew has not been forgotten or forsaken by God and they have not lost their identity as a Jew.  There are still twelve tribes and they will be recognized in the end (Revelation 14).  But a Jew is still a sinner and if he or she wants to be saved they have to overcome their problem with the cross of Christ.  The prison letters teach every true Believer is one in Christ Jesus. 

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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