"But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
"So, my brothers, YOU ALSO DIED TO THE LAW through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God."
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
When we read the Old Testament and see how God led and directed his chosen people, Israel, it's hard to miss that God is definitely doing something new today in the lives of believers as He builds His church, the Body of Christ. We see that God has a new program in place today and that plan has been in operation for nearly 2000 years!
This new program started at Pentecost, shortly after our risen Lord ascended to heaven. On that incredible day, God began forming His church, the Body of Christ, when the Holy Spirit came to indwell the apostles. Now God would indwell people of faith permanently and join them to a new spiritual organism - the Body of Christ!
The Apostle Paul called this new program, the church, a "mystery" hidden from past generations:
"Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 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. 3:2-6)
"Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things." (Eph. 3:8-9)
God instituted this new grace program, not because the law program was bad or didn't work, but because it was time for His wonderful, eternal plan of grace, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to come on the world scene. It was all according to God's perfect plan in God's perfect timing! Paul tells us the purpose of this "mystery" now revealed:
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:10-11)
It is clear from Paul that God's calling out of the church was a heavenly calling with heavenly purposes. Just as God has a plan on the earth through the nation Israel, He has a plan in the heavenly realms through the church, the Body of Christ.
Is God through with national Israel? No! Paul, writing about Israel in his epistle to the Romans, tells us that God's program for Israel has been temporarily set aside while He is forming the church:
"Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" (Rom. 11:11-12)
Later, Paul further drives home the point that God is not done with national Israel:
"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.'" (Rom. 11:25-27)
It's hard to miss from these verses that Israel has a future - and a very bright one! When Jesus returns to rule on the earth, Israel will not reject Him again. Instead, when Jesus returns to set up his kingdom, national Israel will repent, turn to Him, and be saved! The kingdom prophecies in the Old Testament will all be fulfilled as the King rules from David's throne on the earth.
As has been strongly emphasized here, it's clear from studying the Bible that God's program for Israel and His program for the church are two distinct programs in the outworking of His purposes that are all for His glory. Understanding the difference between God's program and purpose for the nation Israel and His program and purpose for the church is critical to understanding your Bible. It's also critical for correctly understanding and appreciating what God is doing today in the dispensation of grace as He forms the church.
Furthermore, it is foundational in avoiding confusion and frustration in your walk with Christ. Mixing these programs in trying to live your Christian will do just that - confuse and frustrate you! That's why our ministry emphasizes the importance of properly understanding the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15) and believe that dispensational Bible study is the key to accomplishing this.
The Bible shows us that God has progressively revealed himself to humanity through different dispensations, or administrations, which also involved God establishing relationships with people through covenants. God's wonderful grace is evident throughout the entire Bible - both in the Old and New Testaments. However, His grace is so majestic and radiant through the earthly appearance, ministry, cross-work, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, that it is accurate to designate the age in which we now live as a special and unique outpouring of God's grace to us!
What amazing grace! Praise our Lord Jesus Christ forever!
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." (Eph. 1:3)