Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

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“Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

(1) This confuses the beginning of the revelation about the church with the beginning of the church itself.
(2) It makes distinctions without real differences (e.g., gospels of circumcision [Peter] and uncircumcision [Paul]). While these are different audiences, they are not different gospels.
(3) It creates distinctions where there are none (e.g., no signs with gospel of grace).
(4) It confuses Old Testament prophecies that Gentiles would be blessed with there being no predictions as to how they would be on the same level with Jews.
(5) It manifests gnosticlike tendencies, such as (A) avoiding “earthly” elements (e.g., water baptism) and (B) special, exclusive, in-group knowledge of the mystery of Christ’s body.
(6) It unjustifiably assumes that there are two kinds of Spirit baptism.
(7) It fails to note that Gentiles were baptized into Christ in Acts 2 and 8, which defeats the argument that there was no joint-body before Paul’s ministry.
(8) It claims “that there just was no joint-body until some Gentiles as such were saved, and we know that could not have been until the salvation of Cornelius at least” (BT, 32); there were Gentiles in Acts 2 and in Acts 6, well before Paul was saved (Acts 9).
(9) Its assertion that “we must not confuse the Persons of the Trinity, and yet that is exactly what they do who make these two Spirit baptisms one and the same; for they have Christ baptizing into Christ” (BT, 32) confuses the procession in the Trinity—Christ sent the Spirit to do His work for Him (John 15:26).
(10) It claims that “if anything is evident from the pages of the epistles it is that the ritual has given place to the spiritual” (BT, 32–33), but the Lord’s Supper involves a ritual using physical elements.
(11) It leads to unorthodox (works-based) soteriological views of the Old Testament and early New Testament, claiming that Peter’s plan of salvation for Jews (Acts 2:38) is different from Paul’s message of grace (ibid., 19–20).
(12) It claims there are “different Gospels” (URC, 97), which opposes scriptural teaching (Gal. 1:8; cf. 3:8).”
Geisler, N. L. (2005). Systematic theology, volume four: church, last things (pp. 687–689). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Defining Citizenship

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“Citizenship. The concept of spiritual citizenship is most clearly expressed in Philippians 3:20, where Paul writes, “Our citizenship (politeuma) is in heaven.” This is the only place in Scripture where the word is used, but the idea is found in both Jewish and Christian literature. In fact, the development of the idea may be traced from the record of Abraham’s experience to the writings of the apostolic fathers.
Abraham viewed himself as a stranger (gēr) and a sojourner (māgûr) in the land of promise (Gen. 23:4). The same words are used consistently to describe the experience of the patriarchs (Gen. 17:8; 28:4; 47:9; Exod. 6:4). Even when Israel resided in Canaan, the people were to recognize that the land was God’s and that they were merely aliens (tôšābɩ̂m) in it (Lev. 25:23; 1 Chron. 29:15; Pss. 39:12; 119:19). The Rechabites chose not to build houses, sow seed, or plant vineyards; they lived in tents as a reminder of their status as sojourners (Jer. 35:6–10).
Christ’s teaching on the kingdom has a strong heavenly orientation. His followers are to seek the kingdom that the Father has chosen to give them (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:32). The kingdom, however, is not of this world (John 18:36). Believers are to lay up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19–21). While Christ is absent, Christians are to take comfort in his promise that he is preparing a place for them in his Father’s house (John 14:1–4). Ultimately, they will inherit the kingdom he has prepared for them (Matt. 25:34).
Paul reminds Christians that it is “the Jerusalem above” to which they are related (Gal. 4:21–31) and that they are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1–4). Peter describes Christians in the same language used to describe Abraham in the Septuagint. They are elect “refugees” (parepidēmoi) whose time on earth is a “temporary stay” (paroikia) in a foreign country (1 Peter 1:1, 17). Their status as “strangers” (paroikoi) and temporary residents provides an incentive for holy living (1 Peter 2:11).
The author of Hebrews brings these various themes together in the most comprehensive way. Abraham and the other patriarchs lived as strangers and exiles on earth, seeking the city designed, built, and prepared for them by God (11:8–16). Similarly, Christians do not have a lasting city; they seek the city that is to come (13:14). That city is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God and the capital of an unshakable kingdom (12:22–23, 28).
Harvey, J. D. (1996). Citizenship. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 99–100). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


The privilege of belonging to a city or country. Scripture portrays believers as living in two realms, being members of both human society and of the heavenly city. In both realms there are duties as well as privileges.

Dual citizenship
Mt 22:21 pp Mk 12:17 pp Lk 20:25 See also Ezr 7:26

Earthly citizenship
Privileges and duties of citizens Ro 13:1-7 See also Ecc 8:2; Mt 17:27; Tit 3:1; 1Pe 2:13-17

Privileges and duties of Roman citizenship Ac 16:37; 22:25-29; 23:27; 25:10

Heavenly citizenship and the Christian hope
Php 3:20; Heb 13:14 See also Lk 22:29-30; Jn 14:2; 1Pe 1:4; Rev 21:2,27; 22:3-5

Gentiles are included in the citizenship of heaven Eph 2:19 See also Eph 2:12-13″
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

“The citizenship of Abraham in the NT

Echoes of Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan may be heard in Paul’s statement that Christians are citizens of ‘the Jerusalem above’ (Gal. 4:21–31). Peter’s description of believers is reminiscent of the terms used for Abraham in Genesis. They are ‘temporary residents’ (‘refugees’, parepidēmois) whose time on earth is a brief stay among strangers (‘time of temporary residence’, paroikia, 1 Pet. 1:1, 17).
The author of the letter to the Hebrews makes more explicit references to Abraham’s experiences. In Hebrews 11:8–16, the lesson drawn from Abraham’s faith is that while he, Isaac and Jacob were living in tents in Canaan, they were actually seeking the ‘city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God’ (11:10). This reference to the semi-nomadism of the ancestral sojourn states clearly that Abraham’s faith was rewarded beyond his comprehension. The city he inherited was the ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’, the city of the living God (Heb. 12:22–23), which is the capital of an unshakeable kingdom (Heb. 12:28). He expected to inherit the cities of Canaan, which were difficult to defend and vulnerable to many aggressors, but was rewarded with a far greater city. Likewise, Christians ‘have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come’ (Heb. 13:14).
The two cities in the NT

The eschatological picture of the two cities, Jerusalem and Babylon, had significant implications in the NT and subsequent Christian theology. The clash between the city of God and the city of Satan will come to a head in the eschaton.The clearest expression of this eschatological conflict is found in the book of Revelation, where both the fall of the new Babylon and the arrival of the new Jerusalem are described. The horrors of the new Babylon are detailed in Revelation 17–18 (specifically 16:17–18:24). First-century readers would have undoubtedly understood ‘Babylon’ as a code name for Rome. As ancient Babylon had been the wicked and ruthless enemy of God’s people in OT times, so here she symbolizes the evil and violent thirst for power so typical of earthly kingdoms. But Babylon’s downfall will be swift and total (18:10, and see vv. 17 and 19).

Most of the book of Revelation is an account of persecution and death (chs. 6–20). But in chapters 21–22, the book moves from time into eternity as it foretells the glorious outcome of God’s redemptive plan. The first paragraph (21:1–8) describes the new heaven and new earth in general terms, relying largely on images from the prophecy of Isaiah (65:17; 66:22). The old creation has passed away, making room for this new creation, ‘the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God’ (Rev. 21:2). The second literary unit describes the new Jerusalem in more detail (21:9–21). The holy city of Jerusalem will be the new home for God’s people. It is described as perfectly symmetrical, and radiant like pure jewels. Finally, the book gives a glimpse of life in the eternal city (21:22–22:5). Some things necessary and taken for granted in the former city will be absent from the new Jerusalem. It has no temple, for the temple represented the presence of God in the midst of Jerusalem. Instead, God himself will be the temple in the new city (21:22). It has no sun or moon, for it will have the glory of God (21:23); no night, because the Lord God will be light for its inhabitants (21:25; 22:5). Life in the new city will surpass the experiences of the first couple in the Garden of Eden, for this city has ‘the river of the water of life’, and ‘the tree of life’ (22:1–2).

The contrast between the two cities encourages believers of every generation to have the faith of Abraham, who was a resident alien in Canaan, but whose citizenship was in heaven (Phil. 3:20). While living in tents here below, we must live a life worthy of our calling, aware that our time here is brief and that we are on a journey to that eternal city.”

Arnold, B. T. (2000). City, Citizenship. In T. D. Alexander & B. S. Rosner (Eds.), New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 415–416). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Heavenly Citizenship.While explicit language related to heavenly citizenship is rare in Paul, the metaphor of heavenly citizenship is clearly an influential force in his theology. In both ethical injunctions and eschatological descriptions, it is clear that Paul uses this citizenship to describe the believer’s participation in the kingdom of God.

2.1. Ethical Injunctions. Paul’s idea of heavenly citizenship is communicated with full cognizance of his church members’ participation in their local societies as citizens (1 Cor 5:9–10; Rom 13:1–7). In this sense it is possible that Paul has in mind the legal status of dual citizenship (see Phil 1:27). The fact that Christians are citizens of both earth and heaven leads to Paul’s ambassadorial language in 2 Corinthians 5:18–21 and Ephesians 6:19–20. As citizens of heaven, Christians have the responsibility to think consistently with their citizenship (Col 3:1–4) and live holy lives (Rom 13:12–14). Paul’s own idea of his heavenly citizenship allowed him to live in a way that freed him to be all things to all people (1 Cor 9:19–23). Paul’s doctrine of heavenly citizenship and its implications for living are close to 1 Peter 2:11, although Paul does not use the metaphor of sojourning as strongly as Peter. Philippians 3:20 (in the light of Phil 1:27) provides the best example of heavenly citizenship terminology in Paul. This citizenship here provides the ground for Paul’s commands to avoid thinking in an earthly way (Phil 2:3–4; 3:19), and instead to follow his example (Phil 3:17) as befits one who rejoices in God’s goodness, praying and thinking in a God-centered way (Phil 4:1–9). The description of Christians’ heavenly citizenship in Philippians 3:20 also is linked to the expectation of the parousia and the physical transformation to occur at that time (Phil 3:20–21).

2.2. Eschatological Descriptions. The sense that Christians are headed for a citizenship in the next life is a powerful force in Paul’s theology. Thus we see in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:24 how an understanding of the rights and destiny of the heavenly citizen leads to a certain pattern of behavior. In Romans 8:12–30, the prospect of participation as a citizen in the new creation is inextricably linked both to one’s status as a child of God and the concomitant behavior that such future citizenship and adoption necessarily implies for the present. Paul’s eschatological understanding of heavenly citizenship includes the conviction that the Christian is not ultimately subject to death, and ought therefore to live for values that will outlast life on earth (1 Cor 15:53–58).”

Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (Eds.). (1993). In Dictionary of Paul and his letters (pp. 140–141). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.



Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

“The ethnic particularism of the OT—that is, of the time between Abraham and Malachi—comes to an end as Jesus’ appearance and ministry break down the middle wall of partition (Eph 2:14). By abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and regulations Jesus destroys the barrier, “the dividing wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles. I believe it can be truly said that “this is an undeniable reference to Christ’s abrogation of the Mosaic law” and that therefore “the formation of a messianic Israel, made up from all believers in Christ, was Christ’s mission.”17 Paul says in Rom 10:12 that “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (cf. Col 3:11 and Gal 3:28).

Jesus himself takes the lead in affirming that the faith of the Roman centurion is greater than any he has found thus far, even in “Israel.” Jesus continues to speak of the many who will come to the great messianic banquet “from the east and west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 8:11–12). Jesus also says his brother, sister and mother are those who do the will of his Father who is in heaven (or who will hear the word of God and do it [Matt 12:49; cf. Luke 8:21]). In other words, Jesus prefers spiritual relations over any bond of blood or of family relationship. His very mother and brothers were to have no precedence over others, nor any distinctive position in his kingdom solely on the basis of their blood relationship to the Lord.18
It is true that upon certain occasions the NT uses language that might suggest the continuation in some form or other of the ethnic particularism of the OT. In Matt 19:28 Jesus assures his disciples that they will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 21:24 states that Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled. Still another passage often quoted in this connection is Acts 1:6, when Jesus’ disciples ask their Lord whether he at this time is going to restore the kingdom to Israel.

Two things should be kept in mind, however. The first is that already in the OT Scriptures one may find occasional beginnings of a less than literal understanding of terms such as “Zion,” “Jerusalem,” etc.19 We believe that this valuable insight may be broadened to include the total thrust of the OT dispensation. In spite of the relatively greater emphasis within the OT and the Mosaic economy upon the physical benefits of the covenant—such as land possession, abundance of crops, outward peace, and safety enjoyed under the vine and the fig tree—these outward benefits do not form the true heart and core of Israel’s relationship with its covenant God. Not only are there several passages in the OT that show us the incongruity of wickedness combined with prosperity (Psalm 73; Jer 12:1–2; Habakkuk 1) and of godliness combined with severe testing of faith (the book of Job; many of the Psalms), but the entire OT breathes a spirit that is essentially a religious and spiritual one. This is the spirit of father Jacob whose name was changed to Israel because he had clung to the God of the promise and had relinquished all earthly means of ever obtaining it.

The undeniable center of OT religion lies in the believer’s response to the words of the covenant God that he would be Abraham’s God and the God of his descendants (Gen 17:7; Exod 15:2; Ps 63:1; 89:26; Josh 24:18). It was this pervasive God-centeredness of the religious outlook of the Israelite believer that caused him to erupt in the words of fervent trust and pulsating joy as found in Ps 16:5—“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” The spirit of this Psalm is such that one would fail to understand the foregoing words completely if he saw in them no more than a reference to a bit of real estate in the land of Canaan. Even in contexts where a rather close connection is made between disobedience and material want (such as in Haggai 1), the heart and core of God’s promise is this: “I am with you” (Hag 1:13).

At the beginning of this study the observation was made that the lines which we must draw should run from the OT to the NT. We believe that when this is done properly our concern with an earthly restoration of Israel to the land of the fathers will diminish to the vanishing point. The true Jewish believers of Jesus’ own days, such as Simeon and Anna the prophetess, belonged to circles who were “waiting for the consolation of Israel” and “were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25, 38). One can be sure that they were aware that the king who was to come to Jerusalem and to Zion was to be “righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey”—an animal associated with the theocratic kingdom in its early stages (cf. Zech 9:9 with 1 Kgs 1:33). Yes, they knew of the kingdom’s glorious past and of the promises of future victory, but were they not also aware of the note which Hannah, the mother of Samuel, had struck when she sang: “it is not by strength that one prevails”? (1 Sam 2:9). Did not mother Mary use the theme of Hannah’s song and lift it to still higher levels of spiritual insight than her OT predecessor had attained to?

In light of the foregoing, is it not evident that any NT reference to the twelve apostles sitting on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel must be viewed in terms of all that the OT contains in spiritual insight? Granted, there were the Zealots of Jesus’ days. There were also Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes. Each of them had their own unique way of looking at the nation’s past and hoping for its future. One need not preclude the possibility that some of the true disciples of our Lord were influenced in one way or other by the contemporary trends of thought among which they had lived all their lives.20 But is it not clear for all to see that Jesus’ ministry and teaching did not lend themselves readily to a purely earthly restoration of a Jewish kingdom? Jesus’ refusal to be made king, his failure to lead his followers into conflict with the Roman occupation forces, and his teaching that the kingdom was already present in the world—all of these and still more are indications of the new ways in which Jesus applied the ancient eschatology of the OT Scriptures. At the same time, as Paul D. Hanson rightly observes, “the nature of Jesus and the significance of his message and life were worked out by constant reference to the ancient Scriptures.” Although viewed as a fresh chapter in God’s saving approach to humans, it was one “growing organically out of the long antecedent history recorded in the Torah and the Prophets.”21

In other words, the second thing that should be said about the so-called ‘Israel passages” cited above is that Jesus’ followers, in light both of the OT itself and of their Master’s message and ministry, did not need to be disabused of possible misunderstandings which his words could have caused.22 Though the full implications of his words may well have dawned slowly in their minds, there already was sufficient warrant to hear them in a less than literalistic fashion.

Patrick Fairbairn also points out that the references of Jesus to some sort of messianic kingdom (Matt 19:28; Luke 21:24; Acts 1:6) are lacking in this respect—that they do not give “any formal or explicit announcement of either the national restoration of Israel to Palestine, or the reestablishment there, as in a religious centre, of a Jewish polity and worship.”23 And he adds that this lack is all the more noteworthy since one might expect such an announcement to be made exactly at the point where Jesus presumably is speaking about Messiah’s kingdom.

We believe, therefore, that the emphasis upon both universalism and particularism which runs through the OT also runs through the NT. By universalism we mean that all nations regardless of ethnic background are going to be part of the Messiah’s kingdom. By particularism we mean that not all people will be saved indiscriminately. Some, in the final assize, will hear the words “Depart from me, you who are cursed” (Matt 25:41) spoken to them. The messianic community Jesus gathers around himself is called upon to eliminate stubborn sinners from its midst and to bind and loose on earth (Matt 18:15–18). The new Jerusalem will be a city into which certain people will not come (Rev 21:8; 22:15). Thus, while the ethnic particularism has had its time, that which is of permanent value in God’s dealings with Israel under the old dispensation will remain. Jesus “knows” his sheep and his sheep know him (John 10:14). This is the NT’s exclusiveness.24″

17 Cf. LaRondelle, p. 112.
18 Cf. Patrick Fairbairn, The Interpretation of Scripture (London: Banner of Truth Trust, repr. 1964, 2nd ed. 1865), p. 261.
19 This is more fully developed in Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1955), passim. J. Walvoord (“Review of The Time is at Hand by Jay Adams”) lists Wyngaarden’s book among the ‘solid amillennial works” he is acquainted with (BSac 128 [1971]: 75).
20 For a recent overview of the outlook of the various Jewish sects during Jesus’ lifetime cf. Paul D. Hanson, The People Called (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), pp. 347–381.
21 Ibid., p. 385.
22 Those who hold to a future restoration of a literal Jewish state in fulfillment of prophecy frequently use this type of argument to defend their position. We believe the argument is not sufficiently supported by the facts.
23 Fairbairn, p. 248.
24 For a discussion of the difference between particularism and universalism as concerns Judaism and Christianity see Samuel Sandmel, We Jews and You Christians (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1967), p. 116–118. Sandmel uses the terms to designate which of the two religions is making universal claims to being a comprehensive religion for all and which one is the more parochial one. This is not how the two terms are used in the present discussion. Our terms are determined by the redemptive historical progress of biblical revelation.
Woudstra, M. H. (1988). Israel and the Church: A Case for Continuity. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (pp. 226–229). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.

Wall Of Hostility

Wall Of Hostility

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The Greek expression tó mesótoichon toú phragmoú joins two words for wall. Gk. mesótoichon, which occurs only here in the NT, refers to a partition within a house. The other word for wall, Gk. phragmós, refers to a fence for protection and is so used in Mk. 12:1; Lk. 14:23. If the phrase is not merely a pleonasm, the joining of these words achieves the sense of a wall erected for both separation and protection.

Many have identified this wall with the stone wall of the Jerusalem temple, 1.5 m (5 ft) high, beyond which no Gentile was permitted to go. Inscribed on the pillars of the wall were warnings to Gentiles that trespassing was a capital offense. The destruction of this wall would be a particularly vivid metaphor for the new unity and equality between Jew and Gentile in the Christian Church.
Others have suggested that Gk. tó mesótoichon toú phragmoú be identified as the thick curtains that separated the holiest section of the temple from the rest. Only the high priest entered this holiest section and only on the Day of Atonement, when he performed the expiation for Israel’s sins (cf. Mk. 15:38 par; He. 10:19f.).

H. Schlier (pp. 125–133) suggested that the wall is a cosmic boundary that is broken through. He presupposed a mythological background for the passage, specifically Jewish Gnosticism, which gave to the principalities and powers a mediating position between God and mankind and made the law their instrument.

M. Barth took the wall to refer to “the fence around the law” created by the rabbis. This “fence,” with its scribal interpretation, applications, and additions, protected God’s law from being broken and effectively separated Jew from Gentile. Barth’s interpretation takes “has broken down the dividing wall” as a synonymous parallel with “abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances.” Barth also appealed to Gal. 2:18f, where Paul spoke of just such laws and statutes as having been torn down.
Each of these suggestions is plausible, but the “holy temple” image, which culminates the theological argument of Eph. 2:11–21, seems to favor the first suggestion. There is sustained contrast between the temple of Jerusalem and the new “holy temple” as well as between the restrictions on “access” (v 18, Gk. prosagōgḗ; the verb proságō has cultic associations) in the old temple and the unrestricted “access in one Spirit” in the new temple. Just as the temple and cultic access are “spiritualized” (see Wenschkewitz), so are the holiness of the temple, the distinction between clean and unclean, and “the law of commandments and ordinances.” Jesus Christ has created a “holiness” unrelated to race or nation. Thus Gentiles are no longer just “strangers and sojourners” vis-à-vis the temple but “built into it [the “holy temple in the Lord”] for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (v 22). In view of this sustained contrast, the “dividing wall of hostility” seems to refer to the wall of the old temple separating Jews and Gentiles and restricting gentile access.

Bibliography.—M. Barth, Ephesians 1–3 (AB, 1974), pp. 283–87; H. Schlier, Der Brief an die Epheser (KEK, 1958), pp. 125–133; H. Wenschkewitz, Die Spiritualisierung der Kultusbegriffe, Temple, Priester und Opfer im NT (1932).”
Verhey, A. D. (1979–1988). Hostility, Dividing Wall of. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 2, p. 768). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

“MIDDLE WALL Term is found in Eph. 2:14 and variously translated: “middle wall of partition” (KJV); “dividing wall of hostility” (HCSB, NRSV, NIV); “barrier of the dividing wall” (NASB); “barrier of enmity which separated them” (REB). Investigation of the term has yielded several possible interpretations. 1. The wall that separated the inner and outer courts of the temple and prevented Jews and Gentiles from worshiping together. Inscriptions in Greek and Latin warned that Gentiles who disregarded the barrier would suffer the pain of death. 2. The curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple. This curtain was rent at the death of Jesus (Mark 15:38) and is representative of the separation of all humanity from God. 3. The “fence” consisting of detailed commandments and oral interpretations erected around the law by its interpreters to ensure its faithful observation. In reality, the fenced-in law generated hostility between Jews and Gentiles and further divided them, as well as furthering the enmity between God and humanity. Destruction of the Law’s mediators opens a new and living way to God through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 10:20). 4. The cosmic barrier that separates God and persons, persons themselves, and other powers in the universe (Eph. 1:20–21)—angels, dominions, principalities. 5. Echoing Isa. 59:2, the term refers to the separation of humanity from God as a result of sin.

No one interpretation is sufficient by itself. The writer of Ephesians stressed that every conceivable barrier that exists between persons and between God and humanity has been destroyed by God’s definitive work in Jesus Christ. See Ephesians; Gentiles; Law; Salvation; Sin; Temple.
William J. Ireland, Jr”

Ireland, W. J., Jr. (2003). Middle Wall. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1121). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

“MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION. Acts 21:28; Eph. 2:14”

Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave’s Topical Bible. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

“Hath broken down (λύσας). Lit., loosened or dissolved. Rev., giving the force of the aorist tense, brake down. The participle has an explanatory force, in that He brake down.

The middle-wall of partition (τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ). Lit., the middle wall of the fence or hedge. The wall which pertained to the fence; the fact of separation being emphasized in wall, and the instrument of separation in fence. The hedge was the whole Mosaic economy which separated Jew from Gentile. Some suppose a reference to the stone screen which bounded the court of the Gentiles in the temple.

15. Having abolished in His flesh the enmity (τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ καταργήσας). The enmity immediately follows the middle wall of partition, and should be rendered in apposition with and as defining it, and as dependent on brake down, not on abolished: the middle wall which was the enmity. Iris used abstractly, as peace in ver. 14. The enmity was the result and working of the law regarded as a separative system; as it separated Jew from Gentile, and both from God. See Rom. 3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 7:7–11. For abolished, see on cumbereth, Luke 13:7, and make without effect, Rom. 3:3.

The law of commandments contained in ordinances (τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν). The law, etc., depends in construction on having abolished, and is not in apposition with the enmity, as A. V. The middle wall of partition, the enmity, was dissolved by the abolition of the law of commandments. Construe in His flesh with having abolished. Law is general, and its contents are defined by commandments, special injunctions, which injunctions in turn were formulated in definite decrees. Render the entire passage: brake down the middle-wall of partition, even the enmity, by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”

Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3, pp. 378–379). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“The apostle describes the position of the Gentiles as partakers in relationship to the middle wall of partition in Ephesians 2:11–16: Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.

Paul points out that God made certain covenantal promises to the Jewish people. In verse 12, the word covenants is plural because he is dealing with the four unconditional, eternal covenants God has made with the Jewish people: the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant. God’s blessings are mediated by these four covenants. He also points out that God made a fifth covenant with the Jewish people, but unlike the other four, the Mosaic Covenant, which contains the Mosaic Law, was conditional and temporary. Among the purposes of the Mosaic Law, the purpose he deals with here was to serve as the middle wall of partition to keep Gentiles as Gentiles away from enjoying the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants. As long as the Mosaic Law was in force, if a Gentile wished to partake of the covenantal promises and blessings, he would have to undergo conversion to Mosaic Judaism, be circumcised, take upon himself the obligations of the Law, and live like a Jew had to live under the Law. So Gentiles as proselytes to Mosaic Judaism could benefit, but not Gentiles as Gentiles. Among the accomplishments of the death of the Messiah is that this middle wall of partition … the law of commandments was broken down. As Paul states it elsewhere, “the Law was rendered inoperative.”

The result of this is spelled out in Ephesians 3:5–6: which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The key word for the position of the Gentiles is the word partaker. What Paul does not say is that Gentiles have become “takers over” of the promise, as replacement theology teaches, but he does say is that they have become partakers of the promise. The word promise is singular since he is emphasizing the key spiritual promise of salvation by grace through faith in the person of the Messiah. The position of the Gentiles, then, is that of partaking of the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants. They do not partake of the physical blessings, but they do partake of the spiritual blessings.”

Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 27, pp. 8–9). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.


Peace is the opposite of anxiety in the heart and of either discord or enmity between individuals and nations. Four aspects of peace should be considered:

1.      WITH GOD  (ROM. 5:1). That means the believer is now and forever on a peace footing in his relation to God, because he was justified. This aspect of peace is never an experience. It is wholly positional.

2.      OF GOD  (PHIL. 4:7; COL. 3:15; CF. HEB. 13:20). Referring not to position but to an experience, Christ said: “My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). Here is inwrought peace, part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

3.      IN THE COMING KINGDOM  (ISA. 9:6–7). The two great kingdom words for Israel are righteousness and peace. Note in proof of this statement the whole Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1–7:27).

4.      IN ONE BODY.  The agelong enmity between Jew and Gentile likened to a middle wall of partition is broken down when Jews and Gentiles are joined now to each other in one Body, the Church (Eph. 2:14–18; Col. 1:20).

5.      IN GENERAL.  Observe the following points: (a) There can be no peace in this Christ-rejecting world (Isa. 57:20–21). (b) 1 Thessalonians 5:3 indicates that the nations will have reached a time of temporary truce or peace before Christ comes. (c) No strife is to characterize the coming kingdom reign of the Prince of Peace, for peacefulness shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9). At that time a blessing is to be pronounced upon all who are peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).”

Chafer, L. S. (1993). In Systematic theology (Vol. 7, p. 249). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

“In Ephesians 2:14, Paul says that Christ broke down the “dividing wall of hostility” (ESV). Paul may be drawing on imagery from the Jerusalem temple to show that Gentiles now enjoy the same access to God as Jews (see Key Word Study: Mesotoichon, “Dividing Wall”). In the first century, Gentiles were only allowed to enter the outer parts of the Jerusalem temple. A five-foot-high wall separated the outer court known as the court of the Gentiles from the inner sanctuary. Tablets hanging on pillars warned in both Greek and Latin that no Gentile could enter in the inner courts (see Josephus, Jewish Wars 6.2.4). One such inscription declares, “No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death” (see Arnold 2002, 317).

These laws directly influenced Paul. The Jews who arrested Paul in Jerusalem falsely accused him of defiling the temple by bringing Gentiles into it (Acts 21:27–29). While the physical wall remained in place in the temple until it was destroyed in AD 70, Christ’s sacrifice removed all barriers between Gentiles and God (see Eph 2:11–13).”

Brown, D. R., Custis, M., & Whitehead, M. M. (2013). Lexham Bible Guide: Ephesians. (D. Mangum, Ed.) (Eph 2:20). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“2:14 The middle wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles was vividly portrayed by an actual partition in the temple area, with a sign warning that any Gentile going beyond the Court of the Gentiles would receive swift and sudden death.

2:15 having abolished . . . the law: Paul was not saying that God had rejected the righteous standards of the law. Rather, in Christ the righteous standards that people could never reach have been accomplished. He is our righteousness; in Him, believers fulfill the law (see Matt. 5:17, 20; Rom. 3:21, 22, 31). The Christian church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is described as one new man. In the earliest days of Christianity, the church was largely made up of Jews. But under the direction of God’s Spirit, the believers witnessed to Gentiles (Acts 10), who then outnumbered the Jewish members.”

Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Eph 2:14–15). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

“Believers are spiritually equal in Christ, and again, the real mystery, given God’s unconditional election of Israel as His chosen nation (Gen. 12:1–3; cf. Rom. 11:29), is how Gentiles could be brought into the redemptive community on the same ground (Col. 1:27). According to Judaism, Gentiles could convert as proselytes, but they were still second-class citizens in the kingdom; for instance, the temple had a “court of the Gentiles” and a middle wall of partition they couldn’t pass. Now, “this mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6; cf. 2:12–16).”

Geisler, N. L. (2005). Systematic theology, volume four: church, last things (p. 55). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

“Building arts.—The first part of the Apostolic Age witnessed great activity in building within Palestine, notably the completion of Herod’s ambitious projects. The Temple was finished, only to be demolished again by the Romans. The conquerors took up the like work for themselves, but along lines of there own. References to building in the Apostolic writings are, however, few. The work of the mason underlies such passages as Ro 15:20, 1 Co 3:9ff., 2 Co 5:1ff., 1 P 2:5ff., He 3:3f. Specific parts of buildings are named in the ‘middle wall of partition’ (Eph 2:14, perhaps reminiscent of the Temple), the ‘foundation’ and ‘chief corner-stone’ (Eph 2:20). The builder’s measuring-rod (reed) is mentioned in Rev 11:1. Carpentry appears only metaphorically in 1 Co 3:12, and in the figure of speech employed in Col 2:14.”

Cruickshank, W. (1916–1918). Arts. In J. Hastings (Ed.), Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (2 Vols.) (Vol. 1, p. 94). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“Jews have God’s promise and if we Christians have it, too, then it is only as those chosen with them, as guests in their house, that we are new wood grafted onto their tree.

Karl Barth

I think myself that the shocking reply to the Syrophonician woman (it came alright in the end) is to remind all us Gentile Christians—who forget it easily enough and even flirt with anti-Semitism—that the Hebrews are spiritually senior to us, that God did entrust the descendants of Abraham with the first revelation of Himself.

C.S. Lewis

By the death of Christ, “the middle wall of partition … the law of the commandments contained in the ordinances”—which was at the same time a token of the enmity between God and sinners, and an occasion of distance and alienation between Jews and Gentiles—was abolished; and believing Jews and Gentiles were reconciled to God and united into one body.

Thomas M’Crie”

Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (p. 535). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

“Emphasizing the equal incorporation within the Christian community of Jews and Gentiles—two groups which had previously been estranged from each other—Ephesians says that Christ “has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition”—the breaking down of this wall being otherwise described as his removal of the hostility between the two groups, his annulling of “the law consisting of commandments, ordinances and all” (Ephesians 2:14 f.).36

It is a commonplace with British commentators on Ephesians to suppose that this “middle wall of partition” may have been suggested by the barrier which separated the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple from the court of the Gentiles, a barrier which Gentiles were forbidden to penetrate on pain of death.37 German commentators, on the other hand, are more inclined to think of the barrier which, in some gnostic texts, separates the world beneath from the upper world of light.38

Without examining the question whether this concept in its gnostic form was current as early as the first century A.D.,39 we may ask which of the two barriers provides the more apt analogy to the thought of Ephesians 2:14. The barrier in the temple was a vertical one; the “iron curtain” of the gnostic texts was horizontal. The division in view in Ephesians 2:14 is not a division between the upper and lower world; it is a division between two groups of people resident in this world, and is therefore more aptly represented by a vertical barrier than by a horizontal one—the more so as the two groups which were kept apart by this “middle wall of partition” are exactly the same two groups as were kept apart by the barrier in the Jerusalem temple.

It may indeed be asked, as it is by Martin Dibelius,40 if the readers of Ephesians 2:14 would have understood such an allusion. Perhaps not; but would they have understood a gnostic allusion any better? There is in any case no emphasis on a material barrier. But whatever the readers may or may not have understood, the writer may well have had at the back of his mind that temple barrier which played an important part in the chain of events through which Paul became (to quote Ephesians 3:1) “the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles”. For, according to Acts 21:27 ff., Paul’s arrest came about because he was charged with aiding and abetting illegal entry by a Gentile through the temple barrier. The charge could not be sustained when it came to court, as no witnesses were forthcoming, but Paul was not released; he remained in custody, first in Caesarea and then in Rome. That literal “middle wall of partition”, the outward and visible sign of the ancient cleavage between Jew and Gentile, could have come very readily to mind in this situation.

This is further suggested by the emphasis laid a few lines later on the common access to the Father which Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ now enjoy “in one Spirit”.41 The barrier which formerly kept Gentiles at a distance from the God of Israel has been abrogated, and even Jewish believers have now more unimpeded access to God in this “holy sanctuary” of living men and woman than was available to them in the earthly temple where, in accordance with their status, they had to maintain a respectful distance. For the barrier which excluded Gentiles from the inner courts was not the only barrier there. There was a further succession of barriers in the inner precincts, barring various groups of Israelites from nearer access. Beyond the court of the women Jewish women might not proceed; beyond the court of Israel Jewish laymen might not proceed. Into the court of the priests and the outer compartment of the holy house itself priests and Levites might enter in the performance of their prescribed duties, but the heavy veil which curtained off the inner compartment barred all access to the throne-room of God’s invisible presence except to the high priest when he entered it annually on the Day of Atonement with sacrificial blood. His direct access then was an occasion for soul-affliction; in the spiritual sanctuary of Ephesians 2:21 the direct access to God which all believers enjoy is an occasion for gladness and praise. This direct access is a major theme of the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to the Hebrews alike; but whereas the barrier which Hebrews uses as an illustration is the veil which hung before the holy of holies, that which is more probably envisaged in Ephesians is the one which forced Gentiles to keep their distance.

36 With this annulment of the law cf. the statement in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law” (see pp. 190 ff.).

37 E.g. J. A. Robinson, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (London, 1904), pp. 59 f. (On the barrier see Josephus, BJ v. 194.)

38 E.g. H. Schlier, Der Brief an die Epheser, pp. 126 ff., following his treatment of “die himmlische Mauer” in Christus und die Kirche im Epheserbrief, pp. 18 ff.

39 This question is especially provoked when attempts are made to reconstruct the concept of the heavenly wall (or other gnostic concepts) on the basis of Mandaean texts which are several centuries later than the New Testament age.

40 M. Dibelius, An die Kolosser, An die Epheser, An Philemon (Tübingen, 3 1953), p. 69; cf. H. Schlier, Christus und die Kirche im Epheserbrief, p. 18. E. J. Goodspeed sees the temple barrier here, but considers that its figurative use in this context was suggested by its actual destruction in A.D. 70 (The Meaning of Ephesians, p. 37).

41 Ephesians 2:18, 21.”

 Bruce, F. F. (1977). Paul: apostle of the free spirit (pp. 434–436). Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster


Reformed Theology Dispensational Reflections

Reformed Theology Dispensational Reflections


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“The vitality of Reformed Theology lies in its Reformation roots. Reformed Theology is an expression of a continuity system. The diversity of Scripture has its internal unity in the Triune God: the Father’s plan of redemption, the obedience of the Son and his present rule, and the continuous work of the Spirit of restoration. All three persons of the Trinity work together in bringing about the fullness of redemption. This position places together the united witness of Scripture (OT and NT) to the acts of God in time and to the final acts of God in Christ. Old and new stand together and not over against each other (tota Scriptura).

Moreover, the old is not to be relegated to being secondary, material, and inferior. It is the word of God in which God still speaks through his servants, the prophets. Moreover, redemption is always to be correlated with creation. The Scriptures reveal the fidelity of God, who promises and keeps covenant. Though God’s covenants with creation, Abraham, Moses, Phinehas (priesthood), and David are temporal expressions, and though they be renewed from time to time, their focus lies in Jesus Christ. He is the covenant mediator, in whom all the promises of God and the fulfillment of all the covenants are true (2 Cor 1:20).

The corollaries for Reformed Theology as a continuity system are: Trinity and eschatology, creation and redemption, and old and new. This means that the genius of Reformed Theology lies in the willingness to live with tensions inherent in the system and that the distinctiveness of any one Reformed theologian lies in how he tries to resolve these tensions. The focus of Reformed Theology is trinitarian and eschatological. Reformed Theology further affirms that this world of creation is also the world of redemption. Before the consummation, the material and the spiritual, the temporal and the eschatological (eternal), law and gospel, token and reality, promise and fulfillment, OT and NT, Israel and the church, this world and the world to come exist side by side.

The Christian lives between the two horizons of creation and the new creation. Hence, any eschatological discussion presupposes the Creator-creature distinction, as God is God and his revelation to man of himself and of the eschaton is in the form of accommodation, permitting us to see through a glass darkly. We stand in the presence of God with awe, as he is sovereign and free. In his sovereignty and freedom he has revealed aspects of his eternal plan in time, in the language of man, and in metaphors. Therefore, it is impossible to bind God to any eschatological (millennial) system. This issue was pointedly raised in a recent report of Christianity Today Institute as reported in an article in Christianity Today entitled “Our Future Hope: Eschatology and Its Role in the Church.”162 The moderator, Kenneth Kantzer, concludes that we must recognize “legitimate differences,” continue our work as students of the word, and remain in dialogue together.”

162 February 6, 1987.
VanGemeren, W. (1988). Systems of Continuity. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (pp. 61–62). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.


Dispensation and dispensationalism

Dispensation and dispensationalism

This is a proper definition of dispensation and dispensationalism. However, we must also think how the ultra-dispensationalists understand the similarities. Many hyper-dispensationalists accept all scripture was given by God but only accept Paul for themselves. If ultra-dispensationalists reject the rest of scripture for as something applicable for themselves (Baptism-Lords Supper). What about the similarities how can they not also be for us? If it was always by faith then all the scriptures apply to us. We must accept all dispensations as one the bible as one. We must not only take the bible literally. We must also see the bible spiritually and accept the spiritual non-literal interpretations.

The Necessity of Proper Definition

“The usually quoted definition of a dispensation is the one that appears in the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible: “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect to obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God” (p. 5). The usual criticism leveled against this definition is that it is not true to the meaning of oikonomia since it says nothing about a stewardship and emphasizes the period of time aspect. The criticism may be somewhat valid, for a dispensation is primarily a stewardship, administration, or arrangement and not a period of time. Age and dispensation are not synonymous in meaning even though they may exactly coincide in history. A dispensation is basically the arrangement involved, not the time involved; therefore, a proper definition must emphasize this.

In addition, it is obvious that dispensationalists teach that at least certain features of certain dispensations overlap. Perhaps that idea would more accurately be expressed by saying that each dispensation builds on the preceding ones. Obviously, that means that similar or even the same principles which obtained during former ones are sometimes included in the succeeding one. If a dispensation is an arrangement or economy, then some details of the various arrangements will be the same. Thus, dispensations supersede each other in the sense of building on each other in line with the idea of progress of revelation and the philosophy of history which climaxes in an ultimate goal in time. Therefore, the ideas of dispensations ending, superseding, building, progressing, and having similar and different features must also be included in the definition.“”1

Here is a “proper definition” laid out by true dispensationalism. Hyper-dispensationalists reject this because. If they do not then they would partake in the Lords Supper and be Baptized.

“In the light of the foregoing discussion, is it possible to formulate a proper definition of a dispensation? We suggest this one. A dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose. If one were describing a dispensation, he would include other things such as the ideas of testing, failure, and judgment, but we are seeking a definition, not a description. The definition proposed, though brief and perhaps open to the criticism of oversimplification, seems sufficiently inclusive. In this theological use of the word economy the emphasis is put on the Biblical meaning of the word. Economy also suggests the fact that certain features of some dispensations may be similar. Although socialistic and capitalistic economies are quite different in their basic concepts, nevertheless similar functions of the economy are performed in both systems. Likewise, in the different economies of God’s running of the affairs of this world certain features will be similar. However, the word distinguishable in the definition points out the fact that there are some features which pertain particularly to each dispensation and which mark it off as a different economy. The particular features will distinguish, though the distinguishable dispensation will not be dissimilar in all its particulars. Finally, the phrase the outworking of God’s purpose in the definition reminds us that the viewpoint in dispensationalism is God’s. These are economies instituted and brought to their purposeful conclusion by God. The distinguishable feature is put there by God, and the purpose is God’s.”2

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1Ryrie, C. C. (2010). Dr. Ryrie’s Articles (pp. 34–35). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

2Ryrie, C. C. (2010). Dr. Ryrie’s Articles (pp. 34–35). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.