The Berean Expositor
Volume 31 - Page 159 of 181
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The place of the epistle in the outworking of the truth.
pp. 90 - 92
The dispensation of the mystery, and its bearing upon life, hope and walk, has been
the central theme of this magazine since its inception. Our sole appeal is to the Scriptures
"rightly divided", and consequently, while believing all Scripture to be given by
inspiration of God, we perceive that all Scripture does not speak of the church which is
the body of Christ. On the contrary, the bulk of it, in both Old and New Testaments,
speaks of Israel. But at Acts 28: we perceive a dispensational crisis and Israel pass
into their present lo-ammi condition (lo-ammi means: "Not my people", Hosea 1: 9).
With Israel's rejection a new dispensation necessarily follows, and we find Paul, the
prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles, entrusted with the revelation of the mystery. We
are not left to infer this mystery and new dispensation from what we see in the Acts, but
receive a specific revelation of its truth in the "prison" epistles. There we find all that we
can know in this life of the distinctive character of this new and wonderful calling. The
prison epistles are easily identified. Each one plainly speaks (e.g., the references quoted
below) of prison or bonds in association with the Apostle's ministry among the Gentiles.
They are Ephesians (3: 1; 4: 1; 6: 20);  Philippians (1: 7, 13, 14, 16; 4: 22);
Colossians (4: 3, 18); II Timothy (1: 8; 4: 16), and Philemon (9, 10).
For the doctrinal foundation of our faith, such as justification or forgiveness of sins,
we turn to the earlier writings of the Apostle Paul, e.g., the epistle to the Romans. While
in such epistles we find foundational truth that remains unchanged by the setting aside of
Israel, we shall also find in them, and right through the period of the Acts, a very
different dispensational setting from that of the prison epistles. In the earlier writings the
Jew is first, and the New Covenant is in view. We stand upon the promises to Abraham
and to the fathers, while the Gentile believer is reminded that he is a wild olive graft into
the tree of Israel. But with the passing of Israel, the olive tree position must pass too, and
we find that a new constitution is made known. Equal membership of the body of Christ
and a new sphere, heavenly places, is revealed. A new promise is beneath our feet, a
promise that antedates the overthrow of the world and age times. The epistle to the
Ephesians reveals this new membership, sphere and promise, and its teaching is
expanded, together with vital corrections of error, in the epistle to the Colossians.
Philippians presents a further phase of truth.  In every dispensation there has been
something free and unconditional, followed by something in the nature of reward or
prize. Abraham received the land of promise as an unconditional gift; he could not
forfeit it, for its enjoyment did not rest upon an act of faithfulness or endurance. But over
and above this unconditional gift the Lord revealed to Abraham the heavenly city and the
heavenly country, and we learn of this for the first time in Hebrews. Because of this
heavenly city, Abraham endured, and all they who "overcome" and belong to the same
calling also have the heavenly Jerusalem in view. So, too, the epistle to the Philippians
occupies much the same place in relation to Ephesians as the epistle to the Hebrews does
to the hope of Israel.  While Ephesians reveals "what is the hope of His calling",