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The Grace Message

      What is God doing today? If someone stopped you on the street and asked, “Do you know what God is doing in this day and age,” what would you say? Could you give more than just an educated guess? As odd as this question might appear, it is an important one—and the Bible does answer it. Thus, our title: “The Grace Message.”

      The grace message is really the message about what God is doing today. Is God offering the millennial kingdom to the nation Israel; is He healing the sick and raising the dead as a demonstration of that kingdom offer (Matthew 10:5—8)? The answer is “no,” God is not operating according to the kingdom program but according to a different program—an administration of Grace:

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: (Ephesians 3:2)!

First Things First

      There are two groups of people in the world and both are in need of the grace of God—the grace message. The first group is those who are yet in their sins, they are unsaved and lost and they need to hear the gospel of the grace of God and believe its message to have eternal life—an eternal relationship with God as part of his family. The second group is those who are saved and they need to know how to love and serve God according to His will and leading—according to His Word!

The First Group

      So, if you are part of the first group let me begin with the gospel of the grace of God. The good news of the grace of God is that,

“…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried and arose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).

Please think hard about the next two questions: Do you understand that you are a sinner? Do you believe what this verse is saying; that Christ died for your sins? These are the first two questions that were asked of me when I was led to the Lord and after a moments thought upon each question I answered “yes,” to both. After all, I thought, this is the Bible so these things must be true. But what do you say to these two questions? If your answer is “yes” then we are ready for a third question, the same third question that was asked of me: Would you like to trust Him as your risen Savior, trust that He did all that is needed to pay for your sins—past, present, and future—and believe on Him and Him alone as your Savior? There is nothing you can do, you must give up on everything else and trust His death alone as the payment for your sins.

      Other scriptures that verify this truth are:

"But to him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5).

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9)

“…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved....” (Acts 16:31).

      I would encourage you to bow your head or just say in your heart right now: “Lord Jesus, I believe you died for my sins and I trust you now as my risen Savior.

The Second Group

But if you are part of the second group, those who know the Lord Jesus as your Savior, then you need to consider God’s orders of the day, His marching orders for you to follow as you serve Him. The only way to serve Him correctly is to know these instructions, these orders.

A Closer Look

      Let's take a look at this starting from the beginning. Perhaps you are like so many who come to the Bible to find spiritual help or perhaps just to read this amazing book, but come away disappointed or confused because it is so hard to understand. Well, after all, it is a very large and complex book, but it does not have to be a confusing book! It is God's Word, and He never meant it to be confusing or obscure.

      There are some basic questions and answers that will prepare us to understand most—perhaps not all—but most of what the Bible is saying and give us guidance in getting the help we need. These questions are:

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Does the Bible have an overall layout or schema?

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Is any of it written directly to modern man, that is to say, is any of it written to and about us?

      The answer to both of these questions is “yes,” but before we go into detail, let me say that the Bible is written to do two important things. It is written to reveal God and His Word, and it is written for us to believe and obey. Our title “the Grace message” is where all of this must begin. God's message for today (the grace message) is about the central figure of the Bible—The Lord Jesus Christ. It is believing in Him according to this message that will open the door to the further things that God has to say.

      The Grace message is part of the overall layout of the Bible, and is written directly to and about us today. So, it is a very good place to start!

What is God doing today?

      What God is doing today is proclaiming this gospel of grace in the dispensation of grace (Ephesians 3:1,2)! The dispensation of grace is what today is! The unveiling of this special period—the okonomia (dispensation) of grace—was kept a secret while God proved the nation Israel to be no better (morally or spiritually) than the rest of the world. This is why God calls the present dispensational program a mystery. The word mystery means a secret, and the secret is this dispensation of the grace of God:

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, (Ephesians 3:1,2,3).

God revealed this present dispensation through the Apostle Paul and God made Paul our apostle:

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office
(Romans 11:13).

This also means that Paul's epistles are our personal mail, because they are specifically about what God is doing today!

      All of the Bible is for our learning—our profit—but it now must be interpreted in light of God's present program of grace, found only in the Pauline epistles.

      Please think about these next questions: “Do you want to obey The Lord Jesus Christ?” “Are you willing to accept His Word concerning what He is doing today in what He calls this present dispensation of grace?” To say “no” is to forsake Christ Himself and cast yourself and others into confusion and error. How can we walk with our Lord and live a life pleasing to Him if we will not accept this truth from His Word? How can we manifest His love to the world if we are ignorant of how to express that love Scripturally? How can we say that we love Him if we will not obey Him? Well, I think you can see how important this all is.

Understanding the Bible

      When we study anything, it is possible to take one of two approaches. We can step back and take in the broad, overall view, or we can step up closer and take a close up view. These two approaches can be summed up as synthetic (the overview) and analytical (the close up view). Without an overall view of the Bible, it is very hard to correctly analyze its parts. Therefore, an overview must come first.

      We have already stated that the Bible does have an overall plan or layout. This layout involves the specific purpose of God, which is being worked out through two separate programs or economies.

      We call these two programs or economies the kingdom program and the program of grace. The Bible name for a program is a dispensation. Therefore the Bible calls God's present program for mankind the dispensation of grace:

For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles—If ye have heard of the dispensation [Greek oikonomia = economy] of the grace of God which is given me toward you (Ephesians 3:1,2).

      In contrast to this, God's dealings with the nation Israel are called the kingdom:

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people (Matthew 4:23).

      So there it is—all of the Bible has to do with these two programs or economies. Everything in the Bible fits into these two programs. They are the essential structure of the Bible.

      We have also stated that the Lord Jesus Christ is the central figure of the Bible, and God's purpose and programs have to do directly with Him. It is not that we preach another Jesus, but God's present revelation concerns another program of which Christ is also the center.

      The twelve apostles were the apostles of the kingdom program:

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).

Most of the Bible (except the Pauline epistles) has to do with that program. Christ is the center of that program in that He is Israel's redeemer, King (Messiah), and High Priest.

      That program has been superseded, however, and is not what God is administering (dispensing) today. Today The Lord Jesus Christ has been revealed according to a new program and He is the Head of a new Church—The Body of Christ. God is dispensing grace in the dispensation of grace, and this is different from Him being gracious as in other dispensations!

      Paul is the Apostle of this present dispensation (Romans 11:13), and it is in his epistles alone that learn about God's dealings with men today!
 

Similarities and Distinctions in God’s Programs

      There are both similarities and distinctions between these two programs and we would like to look at some of the most obvious.

A list of the main similarities include:

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Christ (Savior)

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The Cross (the place of our redemption)

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Our place in the family of God (the overall kingdom of God)

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Godly principles.

      We might begin by simply saying that we do not cut up the Bible and throw part of it away; we do not divide Christ as though the Head of the Body is different from the Messiah of Israel; and we do not divide the family of God as though we have no relationship with saints of other dispensations. We do, however, rightly divide the Scripture:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

We recognize that the Lord Jesus has revealed Himself according to a new dispensational program (Ephesians 3:1–9), and we are taught that the church of this dispensation has a distinctive calling from the church of Israel:

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
(Romans 11:25)

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (Ephesians 2:15,16).

Main Similarities

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Christ

     The Lord Jesus Christ is at the center of both of the major programs of the Bible. He is the redeemer—the Savior of all who come to God in every dispensation. The Messiah of Israel is the Head of the Body of Christ! The one who will return the second time to set His feet on mount Zion and establish the kingdom for Israel is the same who will come prior to that event, prior to even the great tribulation and rapture all those who are members of His Body into Heaven at His secret coming:

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51,52).

There is no other Savior, no other plan for the redemption of sinful man no matter what program is being discussed.

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The Cross (the place of our redemption)

The cross of Christ is central to all of God's dealings with men and is the center of redemption under the programs of kingdom and grace.

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Our place in the family of God (the overall kingdom of God)

Though the four gospels speak of the "kingdom of God" and "the kingdom of Heaven," the term kingdom of heaven is normally referring to the millennial or Davidic kingdom. This is the kingdom that is referred to in Matthew 4:23 where it speaks of the gospel of the kingdom.  The term kingdom of God is many times referring to the overall rule and reign of God and this is also the way the Apostle Paul uses the term today in such passages as 1 Timothy 4:1, and 1 Timothy 6:15.

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Godly principles

These principles would include all of the details of the godly walk of the believer in the love of God and Christ Jesus in a sin cursed world. God has always desired a separated, holy walk for the true believer and those of every dispensation are called to demonstrate a knowledge of Him in our lives.
 

Similarities and Distinctions Continued:

A List of the main differences would include:

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The programs are different:

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The gospels are different

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Israel and her relation to the Gentiles is different

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The churches are different

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Baptism is different

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No sign miracles

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Prayer promises are different

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The hope is different

Main Differences

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The programs are different:

The Kingdom Program: (or dispensation): He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:32,33). And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people "(Matthew 4:23).

The Mystery (Grace) Dispensation: "...the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24); "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (Ephesians 3:2,3).
 

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The gospels are different

Kingdom: Gospel of the Kingdom; "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people "(Matthew 4:23). And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2L38)

Grace: Gospel of the grace of God; “…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried and arose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).

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Israel and her relation to the Gentiles is different

Kingdom: Israel is the channel and place of blessing, And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising (Isaiah 60:3).

For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted
(Isaiah 60:12).

Grace: No difference today or in the Body of Christ, For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him (Romans 10:9),  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28),

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The Apostles are different

Kingdom: 12 Apostles, And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not (Matthew 101,2, & 5)

Grace: One Apostle, For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office
(Romans 11:13).

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The churches are different

 Kingdom: And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God
(Matthew 16:16),

...and upon this rock [Christ] I will build my [kingdom] church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

Grace: Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (1 Corinthians 12:27),

...one new man, so making peace, And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (Ephesians 2:15b,16).

 

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Baptism is different

Kingdom: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).

 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).
 

Grace: For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect (1 Corinthians 1:17).

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
 

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No sign miracles

Kingdom: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the [kingdom] gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover (Mark 16:15-18).

Grace: ...but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail[stop]; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge [the gift of], it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come [the completed revelations of the mystery], then that which is in part shall be done away [the kingdom sign gifts] (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
 

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Prayer promises are different

Kingdom: And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22),

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son...If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it....If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you (John 14:13,14; 15:7)

Grace:  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6,7).

 

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The hope is different

Kingdom: He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:32,33)
.
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6)?

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven
(Acts 1:11).

Grace:  Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51,52).

 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord
(1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).

To be continued....

   
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