By Jim Roberts
In Romans, Chapter 4, the Apostle Paul reminds us that God counted Abraham as righteous because Abraham believed what God said, and then Paul concludes that God has always dealt with mankind upon this very basis.
“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5)
Much of the hatred we see in our world today is caused by the different religions of the world. Many times Muslims in Muslim communities simply follow the customs taught by their Muslim leaders. Many Hindus just follow the teachings of their Hindu leaders. Many Christians base their lives on the doctrines of Christian traditions. On judgment day, God will not judge people on the basis of their compliance with their religious culture. He will judge on the basis of our faithfulness to what God has said. That is why the Apostle Paul told Timothy,
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)
God has dealt with different people in different ways through the centuries, and our task is to find out what God expects from us and to learn from His relationship with others? To accomplish this task we must rightly divide the word of truth.
In the Old Testament, God gave the nation of Israel a kingdom which brought great physical blessings to its citizens. To live in that kingdom, the Jews were required to live according to the Mosaic Law of the Old Covenant.
During the period of time covered by the book of Acts, God offered the New Covenant Kingdom to the nation of Israel. According to the words of the Lord Jesus at the Last Supper, His shed blood was the basis for the New Covenant.
“For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:28)
In accordance with this New Covenant ministry, Paul was sent to the Gentiles and revealed what it means to be saved by grace through faith in Christ. During that dispensation, Jewish believers continued practicing all of the Mosaic Law, while Jews and Gentiles alike experienced miracles and practiced water baptism.
One might ask why the Lord Jesus said that the blood of the New Covenant was shed for many. Didn’t Jesus die for the sins of all people? Indeed, it was the New Covenant which opened up the salvation of God to the Gentiles. However, the New Covenant does not apply to every believer. There were saints who lived under the Old Covenant, and there were saints who lived even before the Old Covenant.
Furthermore, as Israel rejected Christ and the New Covenant Kingdom during the Acts period, God began to call out the Church which is the Body of Christ. This Church is a heavenly church, and it too has no connection to the New Covenant. It was revealed in a message, or dispensation, which was given to the Apostle Paul. In Colossians, Chapter 1, Paul said that he was called to be a minister of the Church which is the Body of Christ, and that his calling was according to the deposit of truth which God had given to him.
“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God.” (Col 1:24-25)
Paul wrote the doctrinal books of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians after God’s offer of the New Covenant Kingdom was set aside. Therefore, it is in these books that we find the full revelation of the dispensation concerning the Church. According to this dispensation, anyone who accepts Christ as Savior is automatically saved and given a position in the heavens as a member of the Body of Christ. The miracles and the rituals associated with the New Covenant message, which were so prevalent in the Acts period, are conspicuously absent from these epistles. In Colossians, Chapter 3, Paul said,
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col. 3:1-2)
After the Church which is the Body of Christ is caught up to be with Christ at His appearing, God will offer the New Covenant Kingdom to Israel once again. At that time God will again perform many miracles, wonders, and signs as He protects the nation of Israel from the wrath of the antichrist and prepares them to rule with Christ in the New Covenant Kingdom.