“How to Approach the Bible” 

A study series by Arthur J Licursi


Part 14 of 24 – “The Body of Christ” Today

Ephesians 2:14-16 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body (of Christ) by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

In “time past” God had erected a “middle wall of partition” between Israel and the rest of humanity. He did this by giving Israel peculiar laws to keep, regarding such things as circumcision, dietary law, rituals, washings, and practices. These then made Israel distinctive in the world. God’s intention was that by these He would separate Israel to put a difference between Israel and the world (Lev 10), so that they might ultimately receive and obey Him, that He might bless the world through Israel . You see, the Gentiles at that time were cut off, “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). 

Of course we believers today now know that we have been blessed, but it was not through Israel ’s success and obedience. Israel was always in rebellion toward God. So rather, Paul says, we are blessed through “their fall.” Romans 11:11 I say then, Have they ( Israel ) stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them ( Israel ) to jealousy. With their fall God turned to the Gentiles.

God has today torn down that “middle wall of partition” and assembled a new thing - “the body of Christ,” where Jew and Gentile are now one on an equal basis. In the making “of twain one new man.” Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; To do this God first had to conclude the whole world guilty, that is all mankind, both Jew and Gentile, to stand on level ground as sinners having need of grace. Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Today a Jew must come to God as a fallen Gentile to receive God’s salvation that is “in Christ.” Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.  It has been said that now the ground is absolutely level at the foot of the cross. All men are lost and none has a higher standing than another. No group of people stand with any distinction above another. This universal fallen state of mankind prepares all mankind such that all may receive Christ and be blessed, be received into “the body of Christ,” where there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

God has worked via the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ to form Jew and Gentile into “the one new man” of Ephesians 2:15, and of the “twain,” to “reconcile both unto God in one body” (v16). Unlike the time of the Law, under which “the lost sheep of the house of Israel were the object of Jesus’ and of the twelve’s attention (Matt 10:6, 15:24), this “one new man” is a joint-body consisting of both Jews and Gentiles who now stand equally. In Christ the Jew and the Gentile stand equally, without any distinction or preference. The “body of Christ” is a new, non-Jewish, creation in Christ (2Cor 5:17). God has had other “churches” (ekklesias) or “called out assemblies” in other dispensations, but not until Paul did God form an assembly or church called “the body of Christ” according to “the revelation of the mystery” (Rom 16:25) given to Paul for us.

Understanding these Scriptures in this way of “rightly dividing the word of truth” will change our lives and also our thinking, if we will simply test “the things that differ” (Philip 1:10, Greek Interlinear). I encourage every Christian to be as the Bereans were, those who “searched the Scriptures daily” to see “whether these things (that Paul taught) are so” (Acts 17:11). Having eyes to see, you will be praising the Lord for the principle of “rightly dividing the word of truth.” It permits you to see what applies to us today versus that of Israel . In this way the riches of Christ are heightened such that we might see all that He has done for us and all that He now is “in” the members of “the body of Christ.” Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 1:15-18
 All that Christ is, is now indwelling the members of His body.

No more does God dwell among certain men or come upon them as He did in the Old Testament. At Pentecost Christ sent the Holy Spirit to “endue” (Gk. enduo, clothed) the recipients of His empowering Spirit. But today the fullness of the Godhead in Christ indwells every believer’s human spirit such that each one is now “complete in Him (Christ)” ( Col 2:10). God has not parceled out a small portion of Christ’s Spirit to the believers today. Today, Jesus has gives us His “Spirit without measure” (John 3:34), just as He here promised He will do for Israel , at His coming.

Paul goes on to reveal to us the “mystery” (Gk. musterion, secret plan) of God that was revealed to Paul by the ascended Christ some several years after the cross. This heretofore secret plan was that the resurrected “spirit of life in Christ Jesus” would come and live within the human spirit of believers, to be one with the individual members of His body – “the body of Christ” – the church. It had been prophesied that one day God’s Spirit would indwell the believing children of Israel (Ezekiel 37:14), but never in the Gentiles, in an entirely new dispensation – apart from Israel .

Col 1:26-27 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

1 Corinthians 6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

The “church, which is his body” is one with Christ because it possesses the fullness of Christ on earth today, and will one day, at the rapture of the church, fill the heavens with the glory (expression) of the Lord. Ephesians 1:22-23 And (God) hath put all things under his (Christ’s)  feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

By His indwelling we have His life and nature within us, to flow through us, that we might become His expression while we are here on earth. Our spirit is thereby regenerated (Titus 3:5) and our souls are being renewed (2Cor 4:16). We are the potential expressers of His life as He, the Head, governs every body-member from within their spirit.

Heaven & Earth:

Have you ever noticed the wording with which the Bible opens in Genesis? “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). It does not say that God created “the universe,” but “the heaven and “the earth.” I maintain that this statement was made with God’s foreknowledge, looking ahead to “the fullness of times.” Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

God, from the very beginning of time, had a special eternal purpose for the earth, which is quite distinct from His purpose for the rest of the universe. This purpose concerning the earth and the nations who dwell upon it is progressively revealed in the Scriptures and linked to “the kingdom of heaven” that is yet to come to earth as promised to Abraham and his seed. This looks forward to the glorious “fullness of the times” and consummation of the ages when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9) – a time when the Christ shall come into His rightful reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords on earth, as Israel’s Messiah.

But God also had a very special purpose concerning “the heavens,” which He kept secret and hidden in His own heart of love until man’s sin and rebellion had reached their climax. Then He stooped down to save the “chief of sinners,” Paul, in order to use him to make known “the mystery,” the secret of His purpose, offering sinners everywhere a salvation that is by grace through faith alone. He reconciles them to Himself  in one body by Christ’s cross, giving them a present position, “in Christ,” and a future prospect in the highest heavens.

God's purpose concerning the earth and Christ's reign upon it is the subject of prophecy (Luke 1:68-76), His purpose concerning the highest heaven and our exaltation there in heaven with Christ is the subject of “the mystery” (Eph. 2:4-10; 3:1-4). It is into these two great subjects – God’s plan for the earth, and God’s plan for the highest heavens, that the Scriptures are divided.