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Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 37
PAUL DISPENSES GRACE
Let’s pick up where we left off in the last lesson which will be verse 1 of chapter 3 in the Book of Ephesians. Now we won’t get very far today because of the deep spiritual things that Paul is teaching us.
You know as Iris and I drive the 90 miles up here to Tulsa to tape I usually don’t say a word as I’m mulling all these things over and over. I’ve always taught my classes over the years that, if you can get a grasp of Genesis chapter 3, which gives you the account of the fall of man, and the beginning of sin, and the curse (and Romans chapter 3, which gives the remedy for it, and where you find the first real instance of salvation by faith, and faith alone), then you’ve got a good share of the Bible understood. But as we were driving up today I came up with the thought, that we must add Ephesians chapter 3 to the other chapter 3’s that I just mentioned.
This chapter just simply explodes with things that most people never hear in Church. I can’t think of a single Sunday School lesson in all of my years in Church, nor a single Sunday morning sermon that was taken from Ephesians chapter 3, and I see I’ve got heads nodding all over this room. It’s a fact, preachers and teachers ignore this like it’s a plague, it’s as if they don’t want to be bothered with it. But here it is, and it’s just so full of what you and I as Grace age believers have to understand. What it really amounts to is that all of these revelations that have been given to the apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, had been kept hidden and secret in the mind of God until revealed to this man.
Now people don’t like to admit that, and it’s simply because they’re so much more comfortable in preaching and teaching Christ’s earthly ministry. And teaching His earthly ministry is all well and good. I never take anything away from Jesus Christ and His ministry, and I think people who hear me teach know that. In fact I probably elevate Him far above what most people do. I’ve always used the expression, would to God that more people would ask, “Who in the world is Jesus Christ?” If you really ask, most Church people do not really know Who He is. They do not know Him as the Creator of everything. He’s the sustainer of everything as well as the Person of the Godhead who stepped out of that Triune God, and became flesh in order to go the way of the Cross. Well all of these things come out in Ephesians chapter 3.
“For this cause…”
What’s Paul speaking of when he says, “For this cause?” Well everything that he’d just expounded on in the first two chapters. Back up to chapter 2, verses 8 and 9 and you’ll see what I’m talking about. These are verses I’m sure you’ve seen in salvation tracts and so forth, but again this is the highlight of these two chapters that I think Paul is talking about.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; (and that’s where I get + nothing, because there’s nothing after that word faith.) and that not of yourselves: (there’s nothing you and I can do. Why? Because) it is the gift of God: (now how much work do you do for a gift? Nothing. The minute you do even a penny’s worth it’s no longer a gift, but rather it something you’ve worked for.) 9. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Well you don’t see that brought out anywhere else in Scripture until we get to the apostle Paul, and his letters to Gentiles. Now back to chapter 3.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for (what people?) you Gentiles.”
Most people don’t like to admit that. Most people can’t see that his apostleship was uniquely directed to the Gentiles. Now Paul still had a heart for his Jewish people. In fact it was such a heavy heart that he was willing to suffer eternal doom if they could be saved. So don’t ever accuse Paul of having turned his back on his own people, but always remember that God was the One that designated at the Damascus road conversion that Paul was going to send him far hence to the Gentiles. Up until that time, from Abraham to when Paul is sent to the Gentiles, salvation for those 2,000 years was mainly for the Nation of Israel. God dealt with the Nation of Israel though the prophets, and through Christ’s earthly ministry, through Peter and the eleven, but the Jews continued to reject their message of that day. So now God does something totally different, and that’s the best word that I can put on it. In fact, turn over to the Book of Philippians, and let me show you. We’ll get back to Ephesians in just a moment. Here he’s still talking to Gentiles, and look what he says to them.
“That ye may approve things that are excellent: (different) that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;”
Now in the King James the translator wrote excellent. But the word excellent in the Greek everywhere else in Scripture is translated “different” Now read it in that light.
“That ye may approve things that are different:…”
And indeed it is different. This whole Gospel of the Grace of God is something so different than anything that has ever been laid on Israel, or anyone else for that matter, and is something that is just mind boggling. That God could now turn to the whole human race without benefit of religion, priesthood, or temple, but rather He goes straight to the heart of the believer, and transforms him, makes him a new person, and then places him into the Body of Christ. Now coming back to Ephesians chapter 3.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. 2. If ye have heard…”
Now we’ve got to stop for a moment again. You want to remember that by the time Paul writes Ephesians it’s somewhere around 64 or 65 AD. He’s now a prisoner in Rome, and that’s why we call it one of his prison epistles. This means that he’s been out there among those pagan Gentiles now for some 25 years. Now that’s not very long, and it took a long time to convince these Gentile pagans, not only to believe the Gospel of their salvation, but of this whole new lifestyle that they had embraced. So that’s why he puts it in this kind of language.
“If ye have heard…”
It’s a good possibility that they hadn’t heard yet. Even though the believers of Ephesus were the ones he was writing to, we’ve got to realize that there were multitudes around these believers who had not believed at all. But this is the way he puts it.
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.”
Dispensation is word that I have refrained from using on the program purposely, simply because too many people have heard nothing but bad things about the word, even though they don’t have any idea why. So I’ve known from day one that I had to be careful how I use this word, because I would turn people off before they would give me a minute to listen. But I think by now I have built enough credibility across the country that people won’t get turned off when I use the word dispensation. Remember Paul uses that word even in chapter 1 verse 10, so it’s very Scriptural.
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of time…”
We dealt with that several lessons back, but now in chapter 3 he deals with the dispensation of the Grace of God. Well to quality a dispensation, it’s just a simple word from which we get the word stewardship or dispensing. If we go to a pharmacy and give him our prescription, he then dispenses what the doctor has ordered, but along with dispensing the product he also gives you explicit instructions. You don’t just take that medicine haphazardly, but rather you follow the instructions that came with the dispensing. Now bringing it back into the Scriptures, a dispensation was a period of time during which God laid particular dispensational instructions to the human race.
The best way I can illustrate dispensation from the secular world is our own presidential administration. And the one I like to use on this is the administration of Jimmy Carter and the one followed by Ronald Reagan. These were men with two totally different ideologies, but yet they both led the country under the same constitution. For a moment let’s go back to the Carter years, as he builds his own administration. He appoints his own cabinet, he appoints men who have the same ideology that he does concerning how the country should be administered to. It wasn’t so much the 4 years he was in the White House that made his administration, but rather what made the Carter administration was the ideology that he promoted by whatever he suggested to congress or how he handled foreign affairs, that’s what marked the Carter administration, but it ended.
Then there was transition period, and from that dispensation of the Carter years we went to someone with a totally different view and that was Ronald Reagan. He too was under the same constitution, and his term of office also came to the place where it ended. Whether he served 4 or 8 years is moot. What counted was the kind of ideology that his administration promoted for the country. So in short what makes an administration was, “What were they dispensing?” Now you can bring that into Scripture and I think you have a beautiful analogy.
When God called Moses and the Nation of Israel out of Egypt, he brought them around Mt. Sinai. He called Moses up into the mountain. What did He give to Moses? Law. And Law was a dispensation. It was a dispensing to the Nation of Israel, God’s demands upon the Nation as to how they were to worship, how they were to live; and all these things were part of that dispensation of Law. Whether it went 500 years or 1500 years is moot. What’s important is, what did God give Moses to tell the children of Israel? The Law.
And of course the Law was in 3 parts. It was first and foremost the moral Law, the Ten Commandments. It was the ritual law – how to worship, and how to approach God with the sacrifices, and priesthood and so forth. Then it also had the civil law – how to deal with your neighbor and how to settle disputes and so forth. That was all dispensed at Mt. Sinai. But Law ended all of that. The Cross ended the Law, because that was when everything was fulfilled dispensationally of Law. But you see God in His wisdom could keep things secret as we see in Deuteronomy 29:29.
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God:…”
That means God can keep things totally secret as long as He wants to. And then He will reveal certain things when He is good and ready, and we’ve seen that all the way up through human history. So even though all the ramification of the Law was fulfilled at the Cross, yet we find that when we come into the early chapter of Acts, not a word has been said, “That you’re no longer under the Law.” There’s not a word that’s been said, “That you no longer have to go to the temple, or keep the commandments as a system.”
That doesn’t come until this man Paul comes and says, “That if you have heard the dispensation of the Grace of God.” This is in total opposition to Law, and is now dispensed by Paul. Now if you will come back with me to I Corinthians chapter 4, and while you’re looking for it let me remind you how dispensation was used in the Old Testament. When God was approaching Abraham, about beginning a nation through him and he didn’t yet have a son, and so what did Abraham say to God?
“And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?”
What was Abraham saying? Eliezer was the man who managed all of Abraham’s wealth. Not only did Eliezer dispense orders to the servants, but he also dispensed when to sell and when to buy. Now you want to remember Abraham was wealthy. Now why am I saying all of this? Because this is what Paul claims to be concerning the Grace of God. Have you got I Corinthians chapter 4? Let’s start with verse 1.
I Corinthians 4:1
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and (what’s your next word?) stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Now if you’re a Bible student you will catch on real quick that Paul is always referring to the mysteries that were revealed to him. And what are mysteries? Secrets. And Who kept them secret until revealed to this man? God did. And when God called Paul out of the religion of Judaism, and saved him on the road to Damascus, He sent him down to Mt. Sinai and poured out on him for 3 years all the revelations of the mysteries. There are all kinds of mysteries that Paul speaks of in his writings, and since they were revealed to him he then became the steward of those mysteries. And if he was the steward of them then he was the administrator of them. When we understand that, then this Book becomes as plain as a 300 watt light bulb. It just lays right out in front of you. Of course this is a whole new administration or dispensation.
You’re going to find doctrinal things in Paul’s writings that you won’t find anywhere else in Scripture. But he doesn’t cancel what went before, it’s just an advance on it. Because now we’re coming from the very small knowledge that they had way in the beginning, and it’s just building, and building, and finally the promised Messiah came, and the Nation of Israel was in the promised land, they had the temple, but yet what did they do with the Messiah. They crucified Him, and the Jews continued to reject Him in those early chapters of Acts, and in so many words God says, “That’s the end of that dispensation of Law, we’re now going to dispense something totally new.” It was just like moving from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan. If you know anything about politics, it was as different as night and day between those two administrations. Well so is Grace and Law! You cannot mix them because they are so diverse, but it’s the same God. God never changes, but He changes His programs. Now God says, “Instead of all of the things that the Law demanded, I’ve already settled it on the Cross, now if you will just believe it I’ll do everything that needs to be done.” People write constantly and proclaim, “Oh what freedom they have found!”
We’ve come now all these 2000 years and we’re still reveling in this same Gospel that was begun by this apostle, and that is it’s by faith and God’s Grace alone. Now I’m talking about salvation. I’m not saying that you’re saved by Faith + Nothing, and then you just go on and drift. No, No. But for salvation it’s Faith and Faith alone, and then when that happens God begins to work in and through us, and He doesn’t expect us to become tremendous saints over night.