Pastor Arnold W. Weckeman September 2018
“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 16:17-18), [Emphasis added]
Jamie Coots, the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Ky., was handling a rattlesnake during a service when he was bitten on his right hand Saturday night. But when the ambulance arrived at 8:30 p.m., the EMS team found that Coots had gone home, according to a statement from the Middlesboro Police Department.
Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe told ABC News that, according to people at the church, Coots verbally refused treatment at the church. He said Coots was unconscious when he got to his house. When the ambulance crew arrived at Coots’ home, his wife Linda Coots signed a form declining medical treatment, police said.
Emergency personnel left about 9:10 p.m. that night. When they returned about an hour later to check on Coots, police said he was dead from a venomous snake bite.
The above is an excerpt from the article: “Snake-Handling Pentecostal Pastor Dies From Snake Bite” ABC News, Feb.17, 2014.
Every now and then, news articles on this topic appear reporting various accounts of misguided so-called “spiritual leaders” who, in an attempt to validate the alleged contemporary application of certain scripture verses such as (Mark 16:18), have handled venomous snakes or drank poison which led to a tragic outcome. These unfortunate instances give rise to the obvious question: If the Bible clearly states that believers should be able to do so without harm, why do the participants die when bitten or drink the poison? Some would claim that the victims lacked “genuine faith”; others would say this proves the Bible to be full of contradictions and therefore not to be taken literally.
However, the real reason these people died is not from lack of faith but lack of understanding; ignorance concerning the crucial biblical principle of 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
There are natural divisions in the Bible involving people, time, and place, which occur within God-ordained advents as they unfold. The fact that the Bible contains scriptures that apply to distinct people groups in different time periods which are NOT directly applicable to the “Body of Christ” during the Church Age is irrefutable.
“A common error is found in the popular belief that every part of the Bible is to be interpreted as directly referring to the “Church age”…or as pertaining to every believer, at every stage of world history. There could be no greater stumbling block devised to hinder a correct understanding of the word of God. Bible must be rightly divided as to its subject matter.” C.I.Scofield
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom.15:4).
“Now all these things happened unto them [Israel] for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
From the above verses, we learn: All scripture is “for our learning,” “for ensamples,” and “for our admonition.” “That is to say, the word of God is written FOR all peoples and FOR all time. Yet, equally true, is the fact that not every part of it is addressed directly to ALL people or about ALL people in ALL time.”
“Every word is written FOR our learning and contains what we ought to know…yet its subject matter is written according to the principle found in (1 Cor.10:32) and is written concerning one of these three distinct classes of people, separately or combined: The Jew, the Gentiles, and the Church of God. Scripture which is not specifically written to us or about us may or may not apply; while scripture written to us and about us always applies!” C.I.Scofield
The Bible, like a pharmacy, is full of good medicine, yet when we are sick, we don’t just walk in and pick up whatever we see first and buy it because not every medication is prescribed for our particular need. It’s not that ALL the medicine isn’t good; it’s just that it might not be appropriate for our illness at that time.
“To take that which is written to one specific group of people living in a particular time frame, under a unique administration (dispensation) and apply it to another equally unique group is a sure recipe for confusion and will always result in misinterpretation of the scriptures.”
The definition of “divide” is To separate into two or more parts, areas, or groups. The recognition of divisions is essential to comprehension; crucial for clarity and continuity. A simple example of this truth is found in the usage of punctuation. Punctuation marks are the critical components of grammar consisting of fixed symbols that define and clarify sentences by marking distinctions.
The period ends a declarative statement or thought in a sentence. A comma is used to indicate a separation of ideas and elements within a sentence and so on. It’s not hard to imagine the loss of clarity and resulting confusion from sentences lacking marks of punctuation.
The Bible is unique in that it contains both grammatical and spiritual punctuations, both obvious and veiled divisions. An example of a hidden division can be seen by comparing Jesus’ quoting of Isaiah 61:1-3 in Luke 4:18-20):
Luke 4:18-20 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book…”
Isa. 61:1-3 “ The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the DAY OF VENGEANCE of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified” [Emphasis added].
Notice, in Luke 4:19, Jesus ended the verse mid-sentence. The abrupt halt in Luke’s gospel is because the first part of the verse refers to the “First Advent” while the second half applies to the “Second Advent.” As destined, these two “Advents” would be separated by more than 2000 years!
In the “Gospels,” Jesus is found offering the promised “Messianic Kingdom” to the Jews “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: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:5-7).
As prophesied, they rejected and crucified their Messiah, postponing the establishment of the promised physical Kingdom (Isa. 9:6-7); opening the way for a new “dispensation,” the hidden “mystery” called the “Body of Christ” (Eph. 1:22-2) the Church; a “Spiritual Kingdom” entered by a spiritual second birth.
The “second coming of Christ (Second Advent) referred to in the preceding verses (Isa. 61:1-3) will occur AFTER the completion of the “Body of Christ.” In Jesus’ reading of Luke 4:19, He rightly divided the word, so should we.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2).
Just as it requires natural understanding to know where to place punctuation marks in literature, it requires spiritual understanding to discern and divide the changing economies which mark the critical periods of transition in the Scriptures. Rightly dividing the word involves recognizing the pivotal times of change concerning God’s dealings with people and nations (including the resulting doctrinal differences), which occur as the Bible narration unfolds.
Learning to Separate Truth from Truth.
The Natural Divisions of Scripture. A good comprehension of God’s Word’s foundational principles and essential truths is a prerequisite to spiritual understanding and growth, especially true regarding the critical divisions in the Bible.
The first and most obvious division in the Scriptures is the natural separation between the Old and New Testament. The fact that the Bible is a progressive revelation necessitates numerous additional periods of transition and contrast, some obvious, others not easily discerned.
That the gospels are DIVIDED into four different accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) provides another example of the natural divisions in the Scriptures. The gospels deal with the earthly life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ; each portrays Him in a different light, from a different perspective, somewhat different character. As we will see, the four narratives’ order is not arbitrary (randomly placed); the sequence is divinely designed to teach us something.
MATTHEW– (A.D. 37) Written by a Jew, to Jews about a Jew. Matthew is a transitional book forming a natural bridge between the Old and New Testament. If you placed any other of the gospels ahead of Matthew, the loss of continuity and clarity would be immediately apparent. This piece of the puzzle portrays Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah, ‘the son of David,’ the Heir of Israel’s Throne; Christ the King (Matt. 2:2. In the book of Matthew, Christ is offering the long-awaited prophesied Kingdom (Isa.9:6-7) to the Nation Israel (Matt. 4:17 & 10:5-7). The unique term “Kingdom of Heaven” is found in Matthew 32 times and nowhere else in the New Testament. Everything in this particular gospel contributes to this central theme, the King and His Kingdom. 56% percent of Matthew’s material is in common with other gospels, while 44% is unique. Matthew has 23,684 words (KJV).
MARK– (A.D. 57-63) Mark’s gospel describes Christ as the Divine Servant who has come to serve and suffer (Mark 10:45 & Isa. 42:1), Jesus’ ministry of obedience to His Father’s will. Everything in the second gospel brings out a faithful servant’s characteristics—the percentage of material in common with other gospels is 93% and 7% unique. The shortest of the gospels 15,166 words.
LUKE– (A.D. 58-60) Luke portrays Jesus as the “Son of man” (Luke 19:10), emphasizing the humanity of the Saviour, presenting Him as the perfect, sinless man. 42% in common 58% unique. Longest of the gospels containing 25,939 words.
JOHN– (A.D. 88-90) The central theme of John’s gospel is the Deity of the Saviour (John 1:1). The fourth gospel declares Jesus as “the Son of God…” the Heavenly One come down to earth. The Son of the Father made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Only eight percent of the material in John’s gospel is in common with the other gospels; the remaining ninety-two percent is unique! 8%-92%. John contains 19,094 words.
The four gospels’ differing accounts illustrate that every book of the Bible has a prominent and dominant theme unique to itself. Each book in the Bible has its particular purpose and place. Like the numerous pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, each book must be carefully examined to understand where it fits and how it contributes to the emerging picture. “The Bible has proper divisions, and if you don’t put those divisions in the right places, you end up in the wrong place.” Therefore, we are commanded, “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) [emphasis mine].
Identifying the beginnings and endings of the divisions, essential to correct interpretation, requires diligent, God-guided study; much truth lies beneath the surface. Failure to do so guarantees miss-interpretation, which is the fountainhead of false doctrine. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2).
“The Bible is no lazy man’s book: much of its treasure, like the valuable minerals stored in the bowels of the earth, only yield up themselves to the diligent seeker.”
Knowing the Difference is what makes the Difference
A complete understanding of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to “rightly DIVIDE the word of truth” in 2 Tim. 2:15 [emphasis mine] hinges on the comprehension of five interrelated subjects:
1st The difference between God’s dealings with the three people groups listed in 1 Corinthians 10:32.
2rd The Distinctions between the various Dispensations.
3nd The Contrast between Law and Grace.
4th The Mystery of the Body of Christ.
5th Signs and Wonders during the Church Age.
1st The Difference Between Three People Groups
The first key to rightly dividing the word involves recognizing the distinctions between the three distinct people groups addressed in the Bible:
“Give none offence, neither to the JEWS, nor to the GENTILES, nor to the CHURCH OF GOD…” (1 Cor. 10:32) [Emphasis mine].
“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath CHOSEN THEE to be a SPECIAL PEOPLE unto himself, ABOVE ALL PEOPLE that are upon the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7:6) [Emphasis added].
“O ye seed of Israel his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant…” (1 Chron. 16:13-17).
The LORD brought Abraham and his descendants into an everlasting covenant relationship with Himself, granting them particular promises not given to any other nation.
Included in the guarantees is a specific landmass, with an earthly, everlasting kingdom, ruled by the “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” The Lord Jesus Christ.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The Scriptures also mention another class of people apart from Israel and the Church. The Gentiles comprise any non-Jewish people or nation; those outside the Jewish faith were referred to as aliens, heathen, pagans, and uncircumcised by the Jews.
Paul addressing Christian converts: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world…” (Eph. 2:11-12).
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart…” (Eph. 4:17-18).
THE CHURCH OF GOD:
The third people group, distinct from the Jew and the Gentile, mentioned in Scripture is the Church of God. The Church is a “Spiritual Kingdom” called the “Body of Christ”… entered not by covenant but through a “spiritual rebirth.”
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath TRANSLATED US INTO THE KINGDOM of his dear Son…” (Col. 1:12-13) [Spiritual Kingdom]
“In Christ,” the distinction between Jew and Gentile is erased:
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made BOTH [Jew & Gentile] ONE, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 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…” (Eph. 2:13-15).
Like Israel, the Church has a special relationship and detailed promises from God. However, unlike Israel, the Church is not promised earthly rewards per se but is taught to expect persecution, trial, and tribulation. Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are NOT OF THE WORLD, but I have chosen you OUT OF THE WORLD, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:18-19) [Emphasis mine]
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, RESERVED IN HEAVEN for you…” (1 Peter 1:3-4), [Emphasis mine].
“For our conversation is in HEAVEN; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21), [Emphasis mine].
The Importance of Recognizing the Distinctions between the three People Groups
When reading the Bible, it is readily apparent that most of its contents relate to one people group or nation: the Jew. The Jews are referred to as God’s “chosen people,” the “head of the nations” to them alone “were committed the oracles of God” (Rom.3:2). They are promised an everlasting earthly kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ. However, because they, in unbelief, rejected and crucified their Messiah, Israel has been temporarily cast aside, consider “I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? (Rom.11:11-12).
Key Point: The preaching regarding Israel’s earthly Kingdom is ALWAYS accompanied by SIGNS & WONDERS! “For the Jews REQUIRE a sign…” (1 Cor.1:22). Consider (Matt.10:5-8). This crucial subject will be covered in point # 5, “Signs and Wonders during the Church Age.”
The Nation Israel’s Final Rejection of Christ.
The stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:51-60 records the “Nation Israel’s” final rejection of their Messiah King. This critical turning point marks the completion of a major dispensational change; notice whose name appears for the first time at this juncture in verse #58. Saul, who will shortly be converted (Acts 9) and become the Apostle Paul; the Apostle to the Gentiles who was destined to be the custodian of the unique doctrines concerning the “Body of Christ.”
The casting aside of Israel has postponed the establishment of Israel’s earthly, Davidic Kingdom and ushered in an unforeseen dispensation referred to as the “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:1), which was a “Mystery” in the Old Testament and the “Gospels. “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my [Paul] knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men…” (Eph. 3:4-5), [Emphasis mine].
”The Lord has temporarily turned away His attention from Israel and is presently dealing with the Gentiles; not through the “Law of Moses” but by the grace of God through faith (Eph.2:8-9) in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13): Faith plus nothing! Recognizing this crucial change and all it involves reveals the extreme importance of learning to “rightly dividing the word of God.”
Throughout Christianity’s history, the mixing of the Law and Grace (along with other dispensations) has been the major source of numerous false doctrines, deadly heresies, and false religions.
2nd Distinctions Between the Various Dispensations
Biblical Dispensations Defined
As used in the Scriptures, the word dispensation refers to different administrations or stewardship, which occurs in specific time periods (ages) involving variations of God’s dealings with mankind. Dispensations concern accountability, responsibility, and faithfulness to God’s revealed will on the part of the steward. The “dispensation of the Law,” contrasted with the “dispensation of the grace of God” offers the clearest example of the distinction between the dispensations.
“A dispensation is God’s distinctive method of governing mankind during a period of human history, marked by a crucial event, test, failure, and judgment. From the divine standpoint, it is a stewardship, a rule of life, or a responsibility for managing God’s affairs in His house. From the historical standpoint, it is a stage in the progress of revelation.”Paul David Nevin
Seven Dispensations in the Bible:
1st Dispensation of Innocence– Genesis chapters 1-3. From the creation of man to the Fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
2nd Dispensation of Conscience-Genesis chapters 4-8. This dispensation extends from the Fall to the Flood.
3rd Dispensation of Human Government-Genesis chapters 4-11. From the Flood to the dispersion of Babel.
4th Dispensation of Promise-Genesis 12- Exodus 19. From the call of Abraham to Egyptian Bondage.
5th Dispensation of Law-Exodus 19- Acts 2. From the Exodus to the Crucifixion.
6th Dispensation of Grace– Acts 2:1-4 From Pentecost to the Rapture of the Church.
7th Dispensation of the Kingdom–The Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ.
In the Bible, a dispensation is a unique administration, a stage in the outworking of God’s plan throughout history, during which MAN IS TESTED IN RESPECT OF OBEDIENCE to a specific revelation of the will of God. Scripturally speaking, a dispensation is NOT a period of time but a manner or method that God sets up to test man during a specific time period.
“However, though the time period (age) ends, certain principles of the revelation (dispensation or stewardship) are often carried over into succeeding ages, because God’s truth does not cease to be true…” C.E. Mason Jr.
“God who at sundry [different] times and in divers [various] manners spake IN TIME PAST unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…” (Heb.1:1-2) [Emphasis added].
“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John1:17).
“Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand MY [Paul’s] knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which IN OTHER AGES WAS NOT MADE KNOWN unto the sons of men, as it is now [A.D. 64] revealed…” (Eph.3:4-5) [Emphasis added]
“If you have heard of the DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD which is given me to you-ward…” (Eph.3:2).
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and STEWARDS OF THE MYSTERIES OF GOD. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (1 Cor. 4:1-2).
“Whereof I [Paul] am made a minister, according to the DISPENSATION OF GOD which is given to me for you.” (Col.1:25) [All emphasis mine].
“When a teaching or principle of Scripture contradicts the Pauline Epistles, it will be found to apply to another people group in a different dispensation and not the Church Age.” The understanding of God’s differing dispensations is essential to correct interpretation and therefore an indispensable key to “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
3rd The Contrast between Law and Grace.
The following side by side vividly illustrates the striking contrast between the “dispensation of the Law” and the “dispensation of the grace of God…”
Law vs. Grace
“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
A Dividing Veil (Ex.26:33) A Veil rent (Matt.27:51, Heb.10:19, 22)
Blots out the sinner (Ex.32:33) Blots out the sin (Col.2:14)
Curses the offender (Gal.3:10) Covers the offender (Rom.4:7)
Do and live (Deut. 8:1) Done for the sinner (John 19:30, Matt.5:17)
Every mouth stopped (Rom.3:19) Every mouth opened (Rom.8:10)
Graven on stone – outward (2 Cor.3:3) Graven on the heart – inward (2 Cor. 3:3)
Judgment (Ezek. 18:20) Justification (Rom.3:24)
Love demanded (Deut. 6:5) Love exhibited ( John 3:16)
Nearness impossible (Ex.20:21) Nearness certain (Eph.2:12-15)
Prodigal stoned to death (Deut.21:20,21) Prodigal robed & feasted (Lk.15:20,22)
Retaliates (Ex.21:24) Redeems (Gal.3:13)
Sanctification demanded (Lev.11:44) Sanctification bestowed (1 Cor.1:30)
Three thousand slain (Ex.32:28) Three thousand saved (Acts 2:41)
It should be obvious that God’s former dealings with the nation of Israel differ considerably from His dealings with the Church (Body of Christ) today. Consider Acts 13:38-39 “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Jesus Christ] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could NOT be justified by the law of Moses.” [Emphasis added]
Christians are NOT bound by the Law of Moses. Do you have your children stoned to death when they rebel against you? (Deut.21:18-21). Do you wear clothes from combined fabric (cotton & wool)? (Deut. 22:11). Do you eat pork and shellfish? (Lev.11). Do you slay a lamb when you sin? (Lev. 5:6) Women, do you wear pants? (Deut. 22:5). Do you realize that if you break one commandment, you are guilty of them all? (James 2:10).
Every book, chapter, and verse has a specific doctrinal context. For example (Matt.24:3) “the sign of my coming, and the end of the world?” With the context of the chapter clearly defining the time frame as “The Great Tribulation” in verses 3, 14, 21 and 29, etc., how could anyone misapply verses 13 & 14 to the Christian living in the Church Age, The Dispensation of Grace?”
4th The Mystery of the Body of Christ.
Seven Mysteries in the Bible:
- God manifest in the flesh, the mystery of godliness: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim.3:16).
- Christ in you, the indwelling Holy Spirit: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…”(Col. 1:27) “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:17 & 19).
- The Church as the Body of Christ: “How that by revelation he [Christ] made known unto ME the mystery; (as I wrote afore in a few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand MY knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men…” (Eph.3:3-4). “And hath put all things under his [Jesus’] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph.1:22-23) [ All Emphasis added]
- The Restoration 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 fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom.11:25-29).
- Mystery, Babylon the Great: “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”(Rev.17:4-5)
- The Mystery of Iniquity: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [hinder] will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders…” (2 Thess.2:7-9).
- The Rapture: “Behold, I shew 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality”(1 Cor. 15:51-53).
The Church, The Body of Christ
The third mystery in the above list, the concept of the Church being the “Body of Christ” was a mystery prior to the conversion of the Apostle Paul. The concept of the “Body of Christ” (the Church) being a spiritual kingdom made up of both Jew and Gentile was a MYSTERY in the Old Testament, the Gospels, and early chapters of Acts; the reality was not revealed until AFTER the conversion of the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:6).
Consider the following exposition of (Eph. 3:1-6): [All Emphasis mine]
1 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…”
Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office…” (Rom.11:13). Also see: (Rom.15:8 & 16, Acts 26:17-18).
2 “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward…”
3 “How that by revelation he [Christ] made known unto ME the mystery…” [Emphasis mine]. God chose Paul to be the custodian of the mystery known as the “dispensation of the grace of God.” (Not a mystery in the sense of being mysterious but rather something not previously revealed).
The “Mystery” revealed to the Apostle Paul.
The “mystery of Christ” mentioned (Eph. 3:4); the revolutionary truths concerning the “body of Christ” (the Church) were exclusively revealed to Paul through God’s direct revelation… NOT from those who were apostles before him “But I certify you, brethren, the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal.1:11-12).
“And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them [the apostles in Jerusalem] that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” (Gal.2:2) “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles…” (Gal.2:7-8). Cf. (Rom. 2:16 “my gospel” also Rom.15:16 “That I [Paul] should be THE minister [not a minister] to the Gentiles, ministering the GOSPEL OF GOD…” [Emphasis mine].
4 “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ…”
Paul’s knowledge regarding the “mystery of Christ” included a complete understanding of the unique body of doctrine associated with the Church during the dispensation of the grace of God; i.e., “co-crucifixion,” “standing vs. state,” “spiritual circumcision,” “new man vs. old man,” the “Rapture,” the “Judgment Seat of Christ” etc.
5 “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit…”
Verse #5 declares that this mystery, which was revealed to Paul shortly after his conversion [A.D.35], was previously unknown. “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to MY GOSPEL, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the MYSTERY, which was KEPT SECRET since the world began…”(Rom.16:25).
Notice, “…as it is NOW revealed…” v.#5 [Emphasis mine]. By the time Paul wrote Ephesians [A.D. 62] the Spirit had made known the mystery of the “body of Christ” to the other apostles and prophets. Consider the words of Peter in (1 Peter 1:10-12):
“Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that NOT UNTO THEMSELVES, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”(1 Peter 1:10-12), [Emphasis added].
Verse 6 reveals the crux of the mystery:
6 “That the Gentiles should be FELLOW-HEIRS, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel…” [Emphasis mine].
Before the Cross, there was A WALL between the Gentile and the Jew: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision [Jews] in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath BROKEN DOWN THE MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION between us [Jew and Gentile]; 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 [Jesus] might reconcile both unto God in ONE BODY by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby…”(Eph.2:11-16), [Emphasis added].
During this present dispensation (Church Age), all believers are “IN CHRIST.” The distinction between Jew and Gentile has been erased (Gal.3:26-28). Consider (Col.2:13-17).
It has been aptly stated that “the Christian Church was born in a Jewish Cradle.”
The apostolic Church at Jerusalem, described in the early chapters of Acts, was in its infant stage: A small unique group, exclusively made up of saved Jews, considered a Jewish sect (Acts 24:5 & 28:22); Hebrew in culture, nature, and religious practice. They were, in reality, spiritually living (alive) “in Christ” while doctrinally residing in Judaism. Redeemed by the grace of God yet still living under the curse of the Law, made free by the Son nevertheless ignorantly living under self-imposed bondage. They were blessed members of the “new covenant” who had yet to depart from the “old covenant.” The fact that “…Christ is the END OF THE LAW for righteousness to every one that believeth” was, to them, unacceptable…an abstract principle…not yet a practical reality.
The Hebrew believers at Jerusalem understood that their Nation, through ignorance, had rejected and crucified their Messiah King. They humbly acknowledged their error, repented, and believed in Him (Acts 2:36-41).
To them, Jesus Christ was the “Son of God” their Messiah-King, the promised: “son of David” (Isa.9:6-7, Ezek.37:21-28, Dan.7:13-14). Christ was the long-awaited King (Matt.2:2) who would soon return and conquer their enemies, freeing them from Roman occupation and setting up His Kingdom (a Jewish theocracy), ruling and reigning from His throne in Jerusalem. Consider the apostles revealing question in Acts 1:6, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
They were looking for a literal, physical kingdom. A kingdom in which the apostles were promised to rule and reign with Christ (Matt.19:28). When the disciples asked explicitly about the timeframe of establishing the kingdom, notice Jesus’ answer in Acts 1:7. He doesn’t say no; He says it’s not for them to know when.
In many important ways, these early Hebrew followers of Christ differ from the congregations of the Churches in Asia Minor, which the Apostle Paul would later establish. A distinction of paramount importance regarding rightly dividing the word!
The “Mystery” concerning Christ and the Church; the formation of a SPIRITUAL BODY/ KINGDOM which was separate from the national body of the Jewish people (the nation Israel), was hidden until after Paul’s conversion. The early church in Jerusalem was a Jewish, Kingdom-oriented church, not a Body-oriented church. They did not know about the postponement of God’s program with Israel. They had no knowledge of the doctrines associated with the “Body of Christ,” i.e., the rapture of the Church, spiritual circumcision, the Judgment Seat of Christ, etc.
In Summary: The true Church, as established by Jesus Christ and described and defined in the New Testament, is a LIVING ENTITY. The spiritual body of Jesus Christ, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized [not water] 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.” Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Cor.12:12-13 & 27), [Emphasis mine]. Paul’s preaching concerned an entirely new spiritual entity made up of both Jew and Gentile (The Body of Christ). A distinct dispensation which began at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) and ends with the Rapture of the Church (1Thess. 4:15-17).
It is worth noting that the equality of the Gentiles (who the Jews considered “dogs”) did not sit well with the leadership of the Church in Jerusalem. For millennia the Jews had prided themselves in their national heritage, considering themselves superior to the Gentiles. To their mind, Paul’s revelation that the Gentiles were to be “fellow heirs” with the Jews in the same body (without the Law) was appalling.
Consider the Jews’ reaction when they found out that Peter had dinner with a gentile named Cornelius (Acts 11:2-3); also the telling nature of Paul’s rebuke concerning Peter’s hypocrisy in (Gal.2:11-16). Paul’s gospel, in which he declared: “For Christ is the END OF THE LAW for to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4), [Emphasis added] caused bitter contention between Paul and the Judaizers, a sect of the Pharisees, who played an authoritative role in the Church at Jerusalem, (Acts 15), eventually leading to Paul’s imprisonment.
Long after the Church’s birth, the Jewish believers at Jerusalem held to a strange mingling of Law and grace. Consider the following description of Paul’s visit to the Church at Jerusalem A.D. 60: “And when we [Paul and his fellow labors] were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and THEY ARE ALL ZEALOUS OF THE LAW…” (Acts 21:17-20), [Emphasis mine]. At the time of this meeting, the Church at Jerusalem had been in existence for 27 years, still following the Law!
Consider Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
5th Signs and Wonders During the Church Age
The first mention of the word “signs” in the Bible is found in Gen.1:14, where the sun and the moon are said to “be for signs, and seasons, and for days, and years…” as the sun gradually appears lower in the noon sky the days begin to shorten…a sure sign indicating the coming winter. So signs indicate, reveal, manifest. Besides pointing to something, signs can also confirm or authenticate.
The second mention of “signs’ is found in Exodus 4:9…in the middle of the discourse between God and Moses concerning Moses’ fear of being rejected by the Jews in Egypt. God gives Moses a personal demonstration of miraculous signs to assure him that He will authenticate the fact that the LORD had sent him by means of signs and wonders.
So we see that the first time signs show up in the Bible in reference to people, the people are Jews.
When studying the Bible, it is of utmost importance that we apply the basic rules of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15). To gain a complete understanding of a passage of scripture, apply the rule of “five Ws”: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.
By applying this simple method to the verses discussed in Exodus chapter four, we can conclude:
Who? Moses Aaron and the Jews.
What? Signs and wonders.
When? Just prior to the deliverance of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt.
Why? Authentication; so the Hebrews would believe God.
So, as a result of applying the 5Ws to the verses in Exodus, we learn that supernatural signs and wonders accompanied the Jewish theocracy’s birth.
It is the Lord’s will that His people would, by faith, take Him at His word; however, Israel’s history confirms that was not the case. The majority of the Hebrew people constantly sought signs and wonders as confirmation of God’s workings among them; this has always been an integral part of their heritage.
The Jewish people’s history is a history of miraculous signs and wonders; these are the hallmark of the Nation Israel.
A small sample of scripture to substantiate:
Exodus 4:30-31 “And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.”
Num.14:11 “And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?”
Deut.6:22 “And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes…”
Josh.4:6 “That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?”
Josh. 24:16-17 “And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed…”
Judges 6:16-17 “And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.”
2 Kings 20:8-9 “And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day? 9 And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?”
Ps.74:9 “We see not OUR signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long” [Emphasis added].
Ezek.4:3 “Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel.”
Ezek.12:6 “In their sight shalt thou bear it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover thy face, that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel.”
Hence the Apostle Paul’s declaration in 1 Cor.1:22: “For the Jews require a sign…”
1 Cor.14:21-22 “In the law [of Moses] it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. [Emphasis added]
The simple fact is that the Jewish people REQUIRE signs and wonders to SEE and thereby BELIEVE:
John 6:30 “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?” Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”
† KEY POINT regarding “Rightly dividing the word of truth”
Jewish signs and wonders ALWAYS accompany the offering of the Kingdom to Israel. During the Gospels and first chapters of the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is dealing firstly with the JEWS. After Jesus’ resurrection, BOTH Kingdoms are in play. Hence Jesus’ mandate to His twelve Apostles: “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 16:17-18) [Emphasis added]. Anyone who ignorantly attempts to apply this verse (and many others like it) to the “Church Age” will suffer the tragic consequences revealed in the opening account of the “Snake-Handling Pentecostal Pastor,” which began this lesson.
There are many Old Testament prophecies that foretell of supernatural signs which will accompany the preaching of the “gospel of the Kingdom” to Israel. The signs are of two types:
First, miraculous physical healing: Isa. 35:5-6 “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.”
Second, the removal of idols and false prophets from the land along with the casting out of devils and unclean spirits:
Zech. 13:2 “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.”
The above verse speaks to Jesus’ specific mandate to His disciples found in Matthew chapter ten:
Matt. 10:1, 5, 6, 7, 8 “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.5 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: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” [Emphasis added]
This is NOT to say that the Lord never used signs and wonders in dealing with Gentiles, consider:
Rom 15:18-19 “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” This verse, on the surface, seems to indicate the necessity of signs and wonders regarding the Gentiles. However, the contradiction disappears when we consider the makeup of Paul’s audience in his early missionary efforts. Consider the following:
Paul’s Missionary Journeys’ Concerning the Jews & Signs
Paul’s commission was to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Rom.11:13 & 15:16, Gal.2:2 & 8). Yet, in obedience to the command of (Acts 3:25-26 & Romans 1:16), and his undying love for his Jewish brethren (Rom.9:1-4), he always began his ministry efforts in the synagogue among the Jews of the diaspora (Acts 9:20, Acts 13:5, 14-16 & 46-47, Acts 14:1, Acts 17:1-2 & 10-7, Acts 18:5-6, 19:8-12, 26:20, 28:17-28. This explains Paul’s use of signs, miracles, and healing during his missionary journeys. “For the Jews require a sign…” (1 Cor.1:22).
In every town and city Paul entered, he would seek out the local synagogue where he would use the scriptures (Old Testament Messianic prophecies) in an attempt to convince the Jews that Jesus was indeed the Christ. When the Jews resisted the gospel and judged themselves “unworthy of everlasting life,” Paul would then turn to the Gentiles.
“There are three turning points in the book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit turns from dealing with the Jews to dealing with the Gentiles. The first turning point in Acts 13:46 (Jews in Asia). The second turning point is in Acts 18:6 (Jews in Europe). Third turning point Acts 28:28 (Jews in Rome, representing the rest of the world).” P. Ruckman
During the transitional period of the book of Acts, while the gospel was still being preached to the Jew first, the Gentiles enjoyed the incidental benefit of miraculous events, just as during Jesus’ ministry to the Jews in the gospels.
Whenever God used signs and wonders to deal with the Gentiles, it was always in relation to the Jews: Moses and the Egyptian plagues, Exodus 4; Jesus and the “woman of Canaan” Matt. 15:21-28; Peter and the household of Cornelius Acts 10:34-48. This will also be the case during the coming “time of Jacob’s trouble”… the “Great Tribulation.”
However, it is essential to remember that Gentiles do NOT REQUIRE signs. Christians are instructed to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor.5:7). Regarding apostolic signs and wonders. The turning point: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” Acts 28:28 is pivotal concerning the Jews; also, the turning point for signs and wonders; from that time on, miraculous events diminish and finally cease.
Signs and Wonders Regarding the Church
What part do signs and wonders play in the life of a born-again Christian? Should we, as Israel, require miraculous signs and wonders to confirm the Lord’s presence and working among us?
What saith the scriptures regarding the Body of Christ and signs and wonders?
Consider 2 Cor. 5:6-8 “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” [Emphasis added].
1 Peter 1:7-8 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having NOT SEEN, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, YET BELIEVING, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory…” [All emphasis mine].
John 20:29 “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast SEEN me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have NOT SEEN, and yet have believed.”
Heb.11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things NOT SEEN.”
Faith, the catalyst of spiritual growth:
Rom. 1:17 “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
Our walk with the Lord begins, continues, and finishes by faith. Instead of taking God at His word, a person who seeks evidence from signs and miracles will be greatly hindered in the development of personal faith. Trusting God versus seeking signs and miracles is at opposite ends of the spectrum. Faith isn’t faith until it has been tried; the more signs and wonders one pursues (or expects), the less faith one needs to exercise.
1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
Rom.8:24-25 “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” Faith is like a muscle; to grow, it must be exercised.
“whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer”
Matt.21:21-22 “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
The above verse seems to indicate (our prayers) regarding such things as signs, wonders, and miracles are solely dependent upon the strength of our personal faith. However, no matter how strong our faith, the requests must be in line with God’s will for our lives!
James 4:3 “Ye ask, and RECEIVE NOT, because ye ASK AMISS, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” [Emphasis mine]
If we don’t receive what we pray for, that doesn’t necessarily mean we lack faith! Lack of faith is not the only reason that we may not receive our requests.
Three answers to prayer: yes, no, not now. 1 John 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to HIS WILL, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” [Emphasis added]
Our requests must be in accordance with His will. “Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer, except that which lies outside the will of God.”
1 John 3:22 “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”
Rom.8:26-27 “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. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
True faith understands and accepts the reality that sometimes things asked for may not be God’s will for their life, including being healed. The apostle Paul, a man of great faith, asked three times to have the thorn in his flesh removed, God’s answer:
2 Cor. 12:9-10 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
In reality, a genuine faith that has been tried and proven eliminates the need for signs and wonders.
Job 13:15 “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”
In the “Church Age,” God doesn’t normally use outward signs…He uses inward signs to convict and convince, consider: (Rom.8:16, Eph. 3:20, etc.).
Addendum: The Chronological Order of the Pauline Epistles
The first six of Paul’s epistles, referred to as the “Missionary Epistles,” were written in the time frame of the Book of Acts (which was written in A.D. 65, covering a period of approx. 30 years, A.D. 33-63). They are as follows: 1 Thessalonians A.D. 54, 2 Thessalonians A.D. 54, 1 Corinthians A.D. 59, 2 Corinthians A.D. 60, Galatians A.D. 60, Romans A.D. 60.3
In this first group of epistles, the term “signs” is found 11 times, “wonders” 12 times, “miracles”10 times, “healed” 7 times, “healing” 4 times. At this point, Paul was reaching out to the “Jewish remnant” (Romans 11:5) in obedience to (Romans 1:16).
The second group of Epistles, the “Prison Epistles” written AFTER the Book of Acts, Philemon AD 64, Colossians AD 64, Ephesians AD 64, *Philippians AD 64, *1 Timothy AD 65, Titus AD 65, *2 Timothy A.D. 66.
In this second group, the terms: “sign,” “signs,” “wonder,” “wonders,” “miracle,” “miracles,” “heal,” “healed,” “healing,” “tongue,” “tongues” NEVER MENTIONED ONE SINGLE TIME! The exception, “tongues” (Philippians 2:11 n/a). The reference source for dates taken from the Scofield Study Bible.
*Philippians 2:27, “For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” 1 Timothy 5:23, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” and 2 Timothy 4:20, “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.” At that point in time, Paul is no longer exercising the gift of healing.
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:9).
Additional Resources for Further Study:
“Rightly Dividing The Word” Clarence Larkin
“One Book Rightly Divided” Dr. Douglas D. Stauffer
“Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” C.I. Scofield
“Dispensationalism” Charles C. Ryrie
“How To Teach Dispensational Truth” Dr. Peter S. Ruckman