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Then and Now

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
December 28, 2020 7:00 am

Then and Now

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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December 28, 2020 7:00 am

Today, Christians are used to the idea of the body of Christ being made up of people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities. But we cant forget that in the days of the early church, there was still an important distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Dr. Boice explains why that distinction is a reminder of the great hope that we have in Christ.

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Today Christians are used to the idea of the body of Christ being made up of people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities but we can't forget that in the days of the early church.

There was still an important distinction between Jews and Gentiles today on the Bible study our Dr. Boyce will explain why that distinction is a reminder of the great hope that we have in Christ.

Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically. Ephesians describes us as being dead in our sin.

If you think that assessment sounds a bit chromatic you probably never imagine that there could be a situation even more hopeless than that many years ago. Now when Harry Ironside was in his prime. This great Bible teacher and evangelist in later became pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago was on his way to way speaking engagement in Southern California. I was traveling by train. Shortly after he sat down on the train. A gypsy rod on made her way up the aisle, looking for people who would be willing to have her tell them their fortune sat down next to Ironside and said please gentlemen you want to have your fortune told cross my palm with the silver quarter and I tell you your pastor present in your future.

Ironside said you think you can really do that and said I am Scottish you know, and I would hate to part with good money and not really know that I was getting my past, my present in my future told properly, the gypsy was very very earnest. She said oh yes, gentlemen, please let me tell you.

Your future while Ironside reached down in his pocket and pulled out a Bible. He said I really don't have any need for you to tell me my past by Pres. my future because my past, present, and my future in this book the gypsy was at first a little bit interested and he said look, here is my past, and he turns the second chapter of Ephesians which we been studying. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you follow the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit was now at work in those were disobedient.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were by nature, objects of wrath. Gypsy didn't like that she said no need to hear anymore. I will be going now and Ironside said to her, no, wait just a minute. That was my past but look here is my present any read verse four, but because of his great love for us. God it was rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions and by grace you have been saved. Gypsy said no more, and she started to go and Ironside, grabbed her by the arm and said no, wait, you haven't heard my future and he read verse six and God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his greatest expression is kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

She retreated down the aisle saying I took a wrong man. I took Gerard man. We've already studied.

Ephesians 21 through 10. Of course, so we know how apt that particular story of Ironside is these verses do indeed give us all who are born in sin. But who, by the grace of God who have been made alive in Christ. I give all in that category.

A past president of future what I want you to say here today as we go on to the second half of this chapter is that the second half contains a past present and future as well. Paulus fortune-telling here also only differences in the man whose fortune is telling you see in the first 10 verses he's speaking of mankind in general what he says they are about our being dead in trespasses and sins, and by the grace of God being made alive in Christ applies absolutely to everyone who is found Christ make any difference what your nationality may be what your race may be what your sex may be what your social status may be, if you will found Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. That is your pastor present in your future. But in the second half of this chapter, he restricts it somewhat speaking now of the past, present and the future but not of Christians in general but rather of the Gentiles in particular as contrasted with the Jew talks about the Gentile past. In verses 11 and 12 about the Gentile presence in verse 13 and then as he gets on toward the end of the chapter he gives suggestions of the future as well and naturally.

It takes on the characteristics of that particular group to which he speaking. This is significant to say because is going to show here, in contrast to the Jew. How desperate the situation of the Gentile really was you look at that and compare it with the first portion of the chapter and you say well how much worse can it be. After all the is already described the condition of the natural man is being dead in transgressions and sins, walking according to the prince of this air and being under the judgment of God by nature children of wrath. How much worse can it may, and of course the answer is that in a certain way it can hardly be worse, that certainly describes the desperate plight of the individual over against God and yet there is a sense in which the Gentiles were soft even than that, because as he goes on to show in their Gentile experience and condition. They were cut off, even from the spiritual advantages of the unregenerate Jew had so that's what he talks about, says in verse 12. Remember that at that time.

That is when your Gentiles is not saved you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel foreigners to the covenants of the promise without hope and without God in the world I when we first begin this section we find Paul making light of the kind of distinction between Jew and Gentile that was made by the Jews he refers to the Jews own terminology.

At this point.

Referring to those who were circumcised.

That's the Jews and those who were uncircumcised.

That's the Gentiles. The designation, which he clearly says is made by the Jews and which is based upon an external distinction that is a circumcision made by the hands of man.

We know from the way Paul uses that phrase elsewhere. What he's interested in and what God is interested in the circumcision of the heart. That's poetic way of speaking about an internal change. All of this is external in the Jews of his day in their unbelief were basing these national distinctions upon externals upon this external sign of the covenant was concerned about internal changes and is making light of the kind of distinction the Jews make up just because the external distinction that the Jews make is to be treated lightly. Doesn't mean that there aren't any distinctions at all, especially those that should be treated seriously and is a serious distinctions that he gets to talking about in verse 12, you're a Gentile cut off from the benefits of Israel and this is a description of you. Apart from Jesus Christ separate from Christ, excluded from Israeli citizenship.

The spiritual sense foreigners to the covenants of the promise without hope. Without God in the world is worth looking at each one up like that first one in the first place. Separate from Christ. That phrase separate from Christ could refer in a general sense, to the absence of what is called in theology the mystical union of the believer with the Lord doesn't refer to that here because if it did, it would refer to unregenerate Jews as well because they toe in their unregenerate state are separate from Christ and Paul is not doing that in this paragraph is trying to distinguish here between Jew and Gentile, and so we ask in what sense is the Gentile cut off from Christ in a way that the Jew and his unbelieving state is not cut off from Christ. When the answer to that is sin. The fact that Paul uses the word Christ rather than the word Jesus word Christ means Messiah and Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. And when Paul speaks in those terms is undoubtedly thinking the same way he was thinking when he was writing in the ninth chapter of Romans, of the Jews advantages. He said what advantage then does that you have is as much everyone and he begins the list of me was the covenant the promises and all of that gets to the end of it. Eddie says it was through them according to the flesh, but the Messiah Christ came. What he saying in those verses usually is not the Jesus did not come for Jew and Gentile. But the Jesus came in Judaism, the promises of the coming of the Messiah Jesus in Judaism or to the Jews and were known to the Jews, and in the Gentile state. The Gentiles were separate from that promise.

We could say the same thing in another language, by saying that as Gentiles, they just didn't know on the Messiah, who is to come.

Although knowledge of the Messiah, intellectually in itself is not salvation is certainly a lot better off than having no knowledge of the Messiah was to come in all that characterized Gentiles in the Gentile state. Second, he says that characterized these Gentiles and he speaking to the Christians in Ephesus is that they were excluded from citizenship in Israel while Paul talks about that elsewhere. What citizenship involved. But in order to get the best of all explanations, but we have to go back to the teaching of Jesus Christ himself.

Recall that on one occasion, and that story the John records in the fourth chapter of his gospel.

Jesus met with a woman of Samaria who was a Samaritan rather than a Jew, and who, as he began to deal with her tried to involve him in the kind of petty theological squabbles that the people of that time found interesting. She said you know you Jews say that the place that you're supposed to worship as Jerusalem and we Samaritan's are taught that the place were supposed worship is here Samaria not garrisoning my which is right. Jesus responded in that context, with a statement that said unequivocably that salvation was Jews and that salvation was to be found through Jewishness in that particular. He said you worship, you know not what what we know what we worship because he said salvation is of the Jews was not a racial slur. Jesus was simply articulating a fact of salvation history as to say that. Does God dealt with people and what we call the Old Testament. He dealt with them in salvation by bringing them into the fellowship citizenship of Israel Gentile if he wanted to find God and be safe. Had to find it by becoming a Jew first you find out at several interesting places in the Old Testament we give you two illustrations.

The first is from the book of Ruth. Ruth was a Moabitess she had married this son of a Jewish woman named Naomi when Naomi and her sons had gone to live in Moab because of a famine in their own land that happened that the sons died.

Ruth had become a widow, and Naomi. At that point decided that she would return to world land, and when she started out Ruth determined that she would go with her. Naomi said no, you stay here with your own people but Ruth wouldn't be dissuaded, and she finally replied in words that you know are often used in the marriage service don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from following year where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God beauty of those words is sometimes cause people to overlook the important sequence that you find there in the last verses. Ruth was saying that she had come to know and love, the God of Naomi. That is the God of the Jews, Jehovah, and she wanted that God to be her God. But as she articulates her wish. Notice that she does not say first of all, your God will be my God, and then your people will be my people, but she puts it the other way around, she says. First, your people will be my people, and then if I come as a Jew, your God will be my God give you another illustration. This is the story of Mammon seriously was a great general was a man undoubtedly to be feared. He had conquered member of the Jewish states. And yet, although he was a great man Amanda be feared. He was also man to be pitied because Naaman was a leper through the witness of a young Jewish girl who was a slave and who had probably been captured on one of Damon's own writing.

C learned that in Israel.

There was a prophet Elisha who this young Jewish girl said was able to cure Naaman of his leprosy. I'm not sure at the beginning that he really believe that the situation was desperate, so he decided he would take advantage of any possible cure any set out for Israel, and he visited at Elijah's home life would come out to see him when he said in his message, what he was therefore Elisha simply sent out the message that he was to go watch himself seven times in the Jordan River and Naaman was just defended. It was offended that so Elisha wouldn't come out to see him and he was offended at the thought that the cure that was offered was washing and that money Jordan River. Wife said no we have any rivers back home to wash and that you have me going wash and the Jordan River why our rivers are better than that muddy river. But as he began to calm down one of his servants who had gone along had good sense and offered him some counsel to serve in said now what if the prophet had told you to give them a ton of gold. And then he would hear you would've done that, wouldn't you. Instead of that he ask you to do a much easier thing. All he says is going wash in the river seven times why don't you try it, all this long. Why doesn't work it doesn't work but it does well. It would be worth doing, and so Naaman was prevailed upon and he went and washed in the river seven times in he was healed. I noticed this point comes the significant part of the story. Naaman is about to go home instructs his servants to get to bags and fill them up with dirt, load them on a donkey and take it back to his homeland because he says look for.

That's the key word in the text means because your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifice to any other God but to the Lord. I have to imagine what would happen Naaman arise back home word is already gone ahead of them. Naaman is gone to see the prophet in Israel and he's been cured by the prophet, and there is the wind and the feast of all kinds of rejoicing in the night bygones and Naaman is about to go to bed before he goes to bed he says bring the dirt.

They bring the dirt from the donkey, and there's a frame they're prepared to receive it and they pour the dirt into the frame and then before he retires for the light Naaman the Syrian meals upon Jewish start in order to pray to Jehovah, thereby in a symbolic way, indicating that he was coming to God, not as Assyrian but as a Jew on Jewish soil. See all of that is significant. When Paul says, as he does in this passage that when you were Gentiles you are excluded from citizenship in Israel is not merely saying you were Greeks and Romans.

Rather than being a member of the Israeli state. You say you know you are excluded for all the benefits including the knowledge of the true God, which comes through Judaism when he talks about citizenship. I think that's what suggested the next word to him. The word foreigners. O'Leary carries it a bit further he's talking now about about our being foreigners to Israel but foreigners.

As he says to the covenant of the promise of the significant thing about that phrase is that the word promises in the singular. If it had been in the plural, we can understand that to your excluded from his really are excluded from the promises that Israel had but that's not primarily what he's thinking of when he uses the word promising the singularity must be thinking of that very first promise but was given by God to Abraham who was the father of the Jewish people. God had called him when he was in the Chaldees and he said leave your own land and your father's household your people go into a land that I'm going to show you in any talk about the blessing he would give.

He was going to be the father of many people and all the nations of Europe were going to be blessed through him. That was the original covenant not about all the other covenants came so when Paul writes, as he does here to those were Gentiles. He said look, since you were separated from Israel. You were separated from that original promise which was to Abraham and his descendents, and therefore separated from all of the covenants all the covenants of grace by which one is saved as a result of being separated from that original promise for thing he says is that the Gentiles were without hope. I have a friend was sometimes talk about the word useless and said how in his judgment. That is one of the most discouraging words he's ever heard he's Eddie never once that were to be pronounced over him useless human being, or for that matter, over anything that is done useless work. He says he finds that very distasteful and indeed it is, is discouraging, but it is not so discouraging is the word hopeless, which the apostle Paul uses here you see something that is useless. In time, by the grace of God, find use and a person who is useless made by the grace of God. Perhaps become useful, but if there's no hope. There is no hope and all things are discouraging in the extreme.

That is what Paul says was the condition of the Gentiles.

Apart from the grace of God without promises was no offer of the gospel. There was no opportunity to come to Christ for salvation.

Then Leslie miss how bad it all is. He sums it all up in the phrase with which he closes and he says without God in the world see when he starts he starts in a summary way separated from Christ because everything has to do with our relationship with Christ when he ends he says without God and so sums it up in that way because in a certain sense of your without God, without everything James tells us every good and every perfect gift comes from God. So if you're separated from God of your without God, you're separated from everything that makes life here, or the life hereafter worthwhile.

Well I don't know of a passage of Scripture is more discouraging than that. And yet you understand.

I'm sure that Paul's points in characterizing the Gentiles.

In this way is not to leave them hope less, but rather to stress what God has done in bringing them out of that dismal states into that condition of salvation which they have my union with Jesus Christ.

Verse 13 says, but now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. What is going to talk about in the next section is the church because since he's talking about Gentiles is going to talk about that new thing that God did in bringing both Gentiles and Jews together in one new fellowship before you see if the judge I wanted to be saved. He had to become a Jew now. It's not that why the Gentile doesn't become a Jew, the Jew doesn't become a Gentile would both become members of the body of Christ, and he talks about this is a mystery which God is not revealed is going to talk about that a great length and yet you know when we begin to think about what God is done the way to understand it in terms of the exposition of the epistle as a whole is to do it in each of those terms. Notice what they tell us first of all, Paul says that Gentiles's and their unsafe state were separate from Christ. The Gentile was cut off. What's the case now, because of God's action mouth is probably united with Christ just as he said in chapter 1, you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Verse 13.

In Christ, the Gentile as well as the Jew has all things before Gentile was excluded from citizenship in Israel.

The second thing he mentions now is he's going to say just seven verses later, you are no longer foreigners and aliens split citizens with God's people and members of God's household, writes the same thing to the Philippians, you know, he says our citizenship is in heaven.

And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body before the Gentiles were foreigners to the covenants of the promise.

Now, as Paul says in chapter 3 through the gospel to Gentiles her heirs together with Israel members together in one body, and sharers together in the promise in Jesus Christ before he says we were without hope.

Now we have hope is already talked about it in chapter 1, where he sprayed that we may know the hope to which is called us the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and is incomparably great power for us who believe before we were without God. Now, as he says in verses 19 and 20. We are members of God's household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone is not marvelous at past.

Contrasted with that presence and say well yes it is. I hope you say yes it is. But if that's the case if you understand the great change. It is taken place for you because of the grace of God, then good luck, Paul says here. Don't forget it.

But remember, it when you read those verses, you notice that Paul uses the word remember twice. Verse 11. Therefore, remember he says again verse 12. Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded citizenship in Israel and so on. We are so have to forget those things we enter into our privileges.

We forget what we were. We even get proud, as if somehow we contributed to the salvation which God by grace is given all says don't forget your past because if you don't forget the past, you won't forget the grace of God you don't forget the grace of God, then you will abound in hope, where all men are concerned. Somebody once said to John Newton the slave trader who was gloriously saved. They were talking about despairing somebody who didn't seem to be responding to the gospel and this person said Newton don't you ever spare the salvation and Newton replied I never did despair since God saved me. That should be the thought of Christian people. God saved me what a great thing that is that God reached down and took me when I was separate from Christ, excluded from Israel without hope. Without God in the world and God has opened up a whole new door to fellowship and opportunity through Christ and the gospel on a marvelous thing that is that's the case, don't forget it. Don't despair, but make it known to everyone who will listen to these great truths. Let us pray our father we ask you to bless your word to our hearts.

Only now, as you have already done.

Also, as we meditate on these things in the hours and days to come. Our father we pray that you would give us a new sentence so that great and marvelous grace that is ours through Christ and make us ambassadors of that truth and faithful proclaimers of that hope in this hopeless world for Jesus and you are listening to the Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Reich and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse.

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