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THE ONE BODY OF EPHESIANS TWO IS NOT THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY

THE ONE BODY OF EPHESIANS TWO IS NOT THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY

I have often read the phrase “the church of the one body” in dispensational writings. But the phrase is both ascriptural and unscriptural. That is to say, the phrase does not appear in Scripture and in my opinion, is contrary to Scriptural teaching. It is unscriptural because the one body is not the same as the church which is His body. This paper is an attempt to prove that statement from Scripture.

In the paragraphs below I have presented my thoughts and the arguments against them.

MY BELIEF

We read in Eph. 2:14-16, “For He is our peace, who hath made both 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; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross. having slain the enmity thereby”. The reader will note that the oneness between Jew and Gentile was created by the shed blood of Christ, i.e. “by the cross”. But the church which is His body did not begin at the cross, it began after Acts 28. Therefore, the one body spoken of in Eph. 2 cannot be the same as the church which is His body.

THE ARGUMENT AGAINST

“BY, NOT “AT”

Some have suggested that the passage doesn’t say that the one body was created at, but by the cross, implying that the one body was created by the cross but not at the time of the cross. May I suggest the following statement which I believe will show that when something is accomplished by a one time event, one cannot separate the how it was accomplished from when it was accomplished.

The American slaves were freed by the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. This tells us how the slaves were freed. Does it tell us when they were freed? Of course it does, because the proclamation was signed only once. It tells us that when the proclamation was signed the slaves were freed. So too, because the death of Christ on the cross was a one time event, when we read that the one body was created by the cross, we also learn that it was created at the time that Christ’s blood was shed on the cross. In other words, the shed blood of Christ on the cross is the instrument by which the one body was created. And because it was a one time event the one body was created at the time of the cross.

Let me try to put this concept in more general terms. When something is accomplished by an event that has occurred only once, it was accomplished when that event occurred.

MY BELIEF

The paper on this web-site Are There Jews And Gentiles In The Dispensation Of The Mystery? proves from Scripture that in God’s sight, there are no Jews or Gentiles in the present dispensation. I will quote a few portions of that paper.

The question I would like to address is how God sees people in the dispensation of the mystery. I suggest that God does not see Jews and Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery, He sees only people of the nations. Let us look at just a few examples of how the word “Gentiles” is used differently after Israel was set aside.

Eph. 3:1, “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles….”. The Greek word translated “for” in the phrase “for you Gentiles” is “huper”. The Companion Bible Appendix 104 gives the following definition: “In the interest of…. . On behalf of…. . For the purpose of… .” I do not believe that Paul was a prisoner in the interest of, or on behalf of, or for the purpose of Gentiles as opposed to Jews. I believe that he was a prisoner for all the people of the nations. If we translate “ethnos” as “Gentiles” we by definition, exclude Jews. That being the case “ethnos” is better translated “nations”, and to be understood as people of all the nations.

Eph. 3:8, “…..that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Surely Jewish believers were not excluded from the unsearchable riches of Christ. That being the case, “ethnos” must be understood as the people of the nations. If we translated “ethnos” as “nations” rather than “Gentiles” we include all believers of the nations, not just Gentiles.

I Tim. 3:16, “….God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world……”. It is a matter of record in God’s Word that God was indeed preached to Jews. Therefore, we must translate “ethnos” as “nations” in this verse. Again, we must understand it as referring to the people in the nations.”

With the setting aside of Israel at Acts 28 God sees the people of the nations as exactly the same. There are none with special dispensational blessings, and there are no believers in the present dispensation who are dependent on any other nation’s dispensational blessings. That being the case, Jews and Gentiles are more than equalthey are the same.

But the point I wish to make in this section is that the abolishing of the law made Jew and Gentile one, i.e. no longer separated by the law. But if the abolishing of the law was at Acts 28 with the establishment of the one body, that would have been totally redundant because the setting aside of Israel made Jew and Gentile the same. In point of fact, Jew and Gentile could not have been made one after Acts 28 because with the setting aside of Israel, there were no longer Jews and Gentiles in God’s sight.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

As far as I know there are no arguments against this view.

MY BELIEF

I would like to express my thoughts on what I believe to be the very heart of the difficulty in accepting the position expressed in this paper. It has to do with the difference between “a” or “the” body and “one” body. Let me explain.

One of the definitions given in Webster’s Dictionary of the word “body” is, “a unit formed of a number of persons or things: a collective whole, as a body of troops, a body of laws, a legislative body”. Most see the phrase “one body” as describing a unit of believers. But that is certainly not how Paul used the phrase “one body”. When we read of a body or especially “the body” we are not reading of a “unit formed of a number of persons“.(In contrast, the church which is His body is “a unit formed of a number of persons”). But when we read of “one body” we are reading of a concept, a relationship of those in that one body. That relationship is of oneness, of equality.

In other words, to speak of one body as “a particular unit ” is not using the metaphor in the way in which it was intended. The truth being enhanced by Paul’s use of the phrase “one body” has nothing to do with a particular “unit formed of a number of persons”, it has to do with the concept of oneness that is expressed in the context of the people who were having some kind of divisive difficulty.

Most of us in the Acts 28 community are so used to thinking of the one body of Eph. 2 as the church which is His body that we don’t seem to understand that that is simply not how Paul used the phrase “one body”.

The phrase “one body” is used several times in the New Testament. We will examine a few of those occurrences. Let us consider first the reason the phrase is used. When the phrase “one body ” is used it is used as a metaphor and it is used of believers who are one in Christ. Figures of speech are used to enhance the sense of a passage. As the reader will see as we continue, the concept that is being enhanced by the use of the metaphor “one body” is the sense of oneness and of equality of those in the “one body”. May I ask the reader to bear in mind the contrast between the metaphor of the one body and the metaphor of the church which is His body. The one body enhances the truth of the relationship of believer to believer. On the other hand the church which is His body enhances the relationship of believers to the Head, Christ.

Let us now examine a few of the occurrences of the phrase “one body” to test the suggestion that it is a metaphor enhancing the concept of equality and oneness of believers to each other.

The first two occurrences of the phrase “one body” are found in Romans 12:3-5, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of another“. Paul’s point is clear. His point was that one member of the body is no better than any other member of the body. Therefore, I believe that the suggestion that the metaphor of the one body is used to enhance the concept of unity and equality of believer to believer is shown to be true in this passage.

I Cor. 12:1 reads, “Now as concerning spiritual gifts….”. Spiritual gifts are the topic from verse 1 through to the end of the chapter. Why was Paul bringing up this topic? I believe that verse 25 puts the reason most succinctly. “That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another“. As one reads this chapter it is abundantly clear that Paul is telling these Corinthians that their spiritual gifts are meant to serve each other, not divide them: that they are one and equal to each other in Christ.

Paul’s use of the metaphor in Eph. 2 is perfectly consistent with his use in the Acts period epistles. It is obvious that the one body of Eph. 2 is used to express the equality of believing Jew and Gentile.

But again, the metaphor of the church which is His body is not used to enhance the relationship of believers to each other. It is used to enhance the relationship of believers to the Head, Christ. The two metaphors certainly do not express the same relationships. If they do not express the same relationship, how can they refer to the same thing?

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

To the best of my knowledge there are no arguments against that belief.

MY BELIEF

We read in Eph. 2:15-16, “……for to create in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace, and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross….”. There are two metaphors used in this passage. The “one new man” is used to enhance the newness of the one body. What is that newness? In order to determine that we must consider the position of the Gentile believer before and after the cross.

We read in the Old Testament that some Gentiles did come to believe in Jehovah, the God of Israel. In order for those believing Gentiles to partake in Israel’s dispensational blessings as described in Lev. 26 they had to be circumcised. That circumcision made them Israelites and, of course, in becoming Israelites they were Jews and therefore equal participants in the covenants given to Israel.

But in the Acts period there was a brand new situation. Believing Gentiles were not only not required to be circumcised, but in Galatians Paul lamented the fact that they wanted to be circumcised. In other words, believing Gentiles were made equal to Israel in terms of dispensational blessings, not by becoming Jews, but as Gentiles. So for the first time since the call of Abraham, believing Gentiles were equal participants to dispensational privileges that had been open to them previously only as they became Jews.

As the paper on this web-site, Are There Jews And Gentiles In The Dispensation Of The Mystery? will prove from Scripture, while the Acts period believing Jews and Gentiles were equal, in the dispensation of the mystery they are more than equal, they are the same. That is to say, there are no Jews and Gentiles in the present dispensation. On the other hand, in the Acts period Jew and Gentile were not the same, but equal. They were equal in one body, but in the church which is His body, they are the same, i.e. they are simply people of the nations.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

The argument has been put forth that in the Acts period Gentiles were not equal to Jews because Gentiles were to partake of Israel’s blessings. It should be noted however, that Gentiles are given their inheritance in the millennial Land. We read in Ezek. 47:23, “And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God”. Note that it is not said to be a lesser inheritance than an Israelite, it was an equal inheritance.

But the real point is that in terms of the context of the metaphors “one body” and “new man” of Eph. 2 we read exactly in what way Jews and Gentiles were equal, “that He might reconcile both unto God in one body”. Throughout the Acts period, in terms of being reconciled to God, Jew and Gentile were one body, i.e. equal.

MY BELIEF

It is clear from Acts 21 as well as other passages that the Mosaic Law was being observed throughout the Acts period. Because that is so, many have suggested that the law was not abolished at the cross, but that the law was abolished with the setting aside of Israel at Acts 28.  (Please see the section below that discusses the argument that the abolishing of the law was at the cross but not put into effect until Acts 28.) From that they go on to say that the one body was also created when Israel was set aside.  Let us consider that argument.

In the paper on this web-site Was The Law Of Moses Abolished At The Cross? I offer the Scriptural evidence for my belief that for the purpose of separating Jew and Gentile, and only for that purpose, the law was abolished by the cross. There are three passages written during the Acts period which seem to suggest that the law should not have been observed at that time. All three teach that for the specific purpose described in the context, the law was not in effect. Let me try to clarify that statement with respect to Eph. 2.

The Mosaic Law was given for several reasons. It was given as a way for Israel to show their faith in the One Who gave that law. It was the basis of the old covenant by which Israel was judged as to whether they would be blessed or punished (see Lev. 26). And the Mosaic Law separated Israel unto God. It separated Israel from all other nations of the world. It was for the purpose of separating Jewish believers from Gentile believers that the Mosaic Law was abolished at the cross.

The other two passages that seem to teach that Israel should not observe the law are Gal. 3 and Heb. 10. I believe that the point of Gal. 3 is that for the purpose of bringing them to faith the law was not to be observedAnd that the point in Heb. 10 was that the law for the purpose of remission of sins was not to be observed. Let us study Gal. 3 as an example of this truth.

Gal. 3:23-25, “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come we are no longer under the schoolmaster”. This passage seems, on the surface, to suggest that the Hebrew believers were no longer to observe the law. But the events recorded in Acts 21 make it clear that Paul went out of his way to prove that he himself was observing the law. There appears to be a contradiction. But we know there are no contradictions in the perfect Word of God so we must look deeper at this passage.

The law was the schoolmaster. What was the purpose of the schoolmaster?  To lead them to faith, so that they may be justified. Why did they no longer need the schoolmaster? They no longer needed the schoolmaster (the law) because they had already come to faith in Christ. If we add an ellipsis from the immediate context it will help make this passage a bit clearer.  Verse 25 would read then, “Now that faith has come we are no longer under the schoolmaster to bring us unto faith”. They were no longer under the schoolmaster to bring them unto faith because they already had faith. So they were no longer under the law for the purpose of bringing them to faith. But they, and Paul, continued to observe the law throughout the Acts period.

Paul makes the same point in Romans 10:4 where we read, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”. In other words, just as in Gal. 3 where believers were no longer under the law for the purpose of bringing them to faith because they had already come to faith, so too in Rom. 10:4 Christ is the end of the law for the purpose of bring one to righteousness.

Eph. 2 speaks of the law serving as a partition between individual believing Jews and Gentiles. But at the cross the law, which was given in part, for the purpose of separating Jews from Gentiles, was abolished. That is to say, the reason for the breaking down of the middle wall as described in Eph. 2:16 was to “reconcile both unto God in one body”.  So, for the purpose of separation of believing Jews and Gentiles, the law was abolished by the cross. In Galatians 3 the law, for the purpose of bringing Israel to faith was not in effect, and in Hebrews 10 the law for the purpose of remission of sins was not in effect. And in Ephesians 2, for the purpose of separating believing Jews and Gentiles the law was abolished .

I have suggested above that for the purpose of separating believing Jews and Gentiles, the law was abolished by the cross . If one does not understand that, one is left with an apparent contradiction in the perfect Word of God between Rom. 3:31 and Eph. 2:15. Let me explain. We read in Romans 3:31, “Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law“. But in Eph. 2:15 we read, “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments…..”. The Greek word translated “make void” in Rom. 3:31 is “katargeo” and is the same Greek word translated “abolished” in Eph. 2:15 . In Romans Paul says “God forbid” that the law should be katargeo, but in Ephesians Paul says the law was katargeo at the cross. Lest one think that this apparent contradiction is cleared up when one considers that Ephesians was written in a different dispensation than Romans, may I respectfully remind the reader that the law was abolished by the cross. Therefore, the change of dispensation has no bearing on this question.

How then can we explain the apparent contradiction? It is easily explained if we see that for the purpose of separating believing Jew and Gentile the law was abolished at the cross. So in Romans Paul could exclaim, “God forbid”, the law is not destroyed. And in Ephesians Paul could write that for the purpose of separating believing Jew and Gentile, the law had indeed been abolished.

ARGUMENT AGAINST

To the best of my knowledge there is no argument against this belief.

MY BELIEF

As we compare how the one body of Eph. 2 came to be created with how the church which is His body came to be created, we will see that there is no commonality. As stated above, the one body of Eph. 2 came into being as a result of the shed blood of Christ on the cross. But the church which is His body came into being as a result of Israel being put aside. (Please see the paper on this web-site What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had Been Hid In God? for the Scriptural evidence of that statement.) In short, the one body has absolutely nothing in common with the church which is His body.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

To the best of my knowledge, this has never been discussed.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE ONE BODY BEING DIFFERENT THAN THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY

I. BOTH THE ONE BODY AND THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY SPEAK OF EQUALITY OF BELIEVERS

It has been argued that the one body of Eph. 2 is the same as the church which is His body because the mystery speaks of the same equality as does the one body, i.e. equality of Jew and Gentile. But as  the paper on the mystery  proves from Scripture, the mystery was that all nations are the same in God’s sight not that Jews and Gentiles are equal. Further, may I respectfully remind the reader that, as the section above proved, Jews and Gentiles are more than equal in the dispensation of the mystery, they are the same.

In short, because the mystery is incorrectly understood to be that Jews and Gentiles would be equal, there is an incorrect assumption that the church is the one body.

II. ABOLISHING THE LAW WAS PUT INTO EFFECT AFTER ACTS 28

One argument put forth is that the law was abolished by the cross, but that abolishing did not go into effect until after Israel was put aside. That is to say, when Israel was put aside the law that had been given Her was put aside with her.

The difficulty with that argument is that Israel, and the law were put aside only temporarily. But the Greek word translated “abolished” in Eph. 2:15 means “a permanent destruction”, not a temporary one. It is also used in II Thess.2:8 where we read of the “wicked” one, i.e. the antichrist. “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”. The word is also used in Heb. 2:14 of Satan, “…..that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil”. Consider also the use of the word in Romans 6:6, “Knowing this that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin”. It is clear that the word does not mean a temporary putting aside, it means a permanent destruction.

We must consider that it is clear from several Old Testament scriptures that the law would be observed in the millennial reign of Christ. Therefore it was put aside only temporarily at Acts 28. Let us consider some of those Old Testament verses which tell us that the law will be observed in the millennium.

We read of sacrifices in the millennial reign in Zech. 14:21, “Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them”. We read in Mal. 3:3 that , “…Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years”. Ezek. 36:27, “And I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws“. (See also Jer. 31:33 and Ezek. 20:40.)

Eph. 2:15 speaks of the abolishing of the law, which is permanent, not temporary. But the putting aside of the law at Acts 28 is temporary, i.e. at least until the beginning of the 70th week. Therefore, the argument that the law was put aside at Acts 28 contradicts the meaning of the word translated “abolished” and is therefore, unscriptural.

The second difficulty with that argument is that once Israel had been put aside, the abolishing of the law would have been absolutely superfluous. Let me explain.

We know that the law being abolished created one body in which believing Jew and Gentile were made equal. But after Israel had been put aside, there was simply no reason to abolish the law. Why was there no reason? Because once Israel had been put aside there was no Jew and Gentile, there was, as we saw in the section above, only people of the nations. That is to say, Jew and Gentile were more than equal after Israel had been put aside, they were the same, i.e. people of the nations. That being the case there was absolutely no reason to abolish the law in order to make them equal.

III. THE ORDINANCES WERE THOSE OF ACTS 15, NOT THE MOSAIC LAW

It has also been suggested that the law that was abolished was not the Mosaic law, but the “ordinances” of Acts 15. We read in Acts 15:18-19, “Wherefore, my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them that they abstain from pollution of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood

But was it the ordinances of the council at Jerusalem that were abolished by the cross? The Greek word translated “ordinances” in Eph. 2:15 is “dogma”. It is used of the ordinances of the council at Jerusalem in Acts 16:4 where we read, “And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees (“dogma”) for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem”.

But the word is also used of the Law of Moses. Col. 2:14 is the parallel passage to Eph. 2:15, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross“. In verse 16, Paul goes on to say “Let no man therefore, judge you in meat or drink or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days“. The ordinances issued by the council at Jerusalem were to abstain from pollution of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:18-19). It is clear that Col. 2 does not refer to the ordinances of Acts 15, as they are entirely different ordinances.

Because Col. 2:14 is the parallel passage to Eph. 2:15, we must conclude that it was not the ordinances of Acts 15 that were nailed to the cross; it was not the ordinances of Acts 15 that were “abolished by the cross“; it was not the ordinances of Acts 15 that was the middle wall of partition: it was the Law of Moses. Why do I say that it was the law of Moses that was abolished at the cross? Because Paul tells us in Col. 2:16 “Let no man therefore….”. The word “therefore” takes us back to verse 14 where Paul tells us to “let no man judge you in “ meat or drink or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days”. Those are the ordinances of the Law of Moses. So it was the Law of Moses that was abolished by the cross.

Consider also that according to Eph. 2:15 the middle wall of partition was “enmity” between Jew and Gentile. The Greek word translated “enmity” is “ekthra”. It is used six times in the New Testament. The first occurrence is in Luke 23:12, “That day Herod and Pilate became friends-before this they had been enemies”. Note the contrast here between friends and enemies. In Romans 8:7 we read that the carnal mind is enmity against God”. And in James 4:4 we read that “friendship with the world is enmity toward God”. The ordinances of the council at Jerusalem would not qualify as enmity between Jew and Gentiles. On the other hand, the Law of Moses certainly would qualify as enmity between the two, as it was the Law of Moses that separated Israel from every other nation of the world.

The Root Of The Difficulty

Given the contradictions between the two metaphors, where did we get the idea that the church which is His body is the one body of Eph. 2? It is based, I believe, on Eph. 3:6 where the KJV translates the Greek “sussoma” as “same body” and the NIV translates it as “members together of one body”. But let us look at this Greek word in its context.

Eph. 3:6, “That the Gentiles (Gr. ethnos) should be fellow heirs (Gr. sunkleronomos) and of the same body (Gr. sussoma), and partakers of His promise in Christ….”. “Sussoma” (translated “same body”) is an adjective which modifies the noun “ethnos” translated “Gentiles”. In New Testament Greek an adjective must agree in number with the noun it modifies. The noun it modifies (Gentiles) is obviously plural and the adjectives that it modifies must also be plural.  We read in the book New Testament Greek by D. F. Hudson published by NTC Publishing Group on page 14, paragraph five, “It is also most important to notice that adjectives must have the same function as the noun to which they refer, and must therefore, be in the same Case: they must also have the same number and the same Gender. A singular noun must have a singular adjective, a plural noun must have a plural adjective.…..”.

Therefore Eph. 3:6 should read “Ethnos are together heirs, together bodies, even together partakers……”. In other words, this verse says nothing of a one body, it refers to bodies, plural. Those bodies are in my opinion, nations as it doesn’t make sense to say that Gentiles are together bodies. . The full argument for that belief is given in the paper on this web-site What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had Been Hid In God?

ARGUMENT AGAINST

To the best of my knowledge there is only one argument against the fact of the Greek grammar demanding that “sussoma” be translated “together bodies”. That argument is discussed in full in the appendix of the paper What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had Been Hid In God?

ARGUMENTS FOR THE ONE BODY BEING THE SAME AS THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY

There are only three arguments I have thought of or seen in support of the one body being the same as the church which is His body. Each argument will be discussed below.

I. “BUT NOW”

We read in Eph. 2:11-12 of the situation of the Gentiles “in time past” (verse 11). Then verse 13 begins “but now”, and Paul contrasts the position of the Gentiles in “times past” with their position “now”. The argument has been stated that the phrase “but now” tells us that the position changed after Acts 28 because that is when Paul wrote Ephesians. But in my opinion, we must consider the phrase in context.

Let me give an example of how and why we must understand the phrase “but now” by its context. In reading a secular history book about the American Civil War, we might read something like this: “During the Civil War the American Negroes were slaves, but now they are freed by the Emancipation Proclamation”. We understand by the context that the freedom of the slaves did not come at the time of the writing of the history book, it came at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Let’s apply that to our passage in Ephesians two. Do we have any clues from the context as to when the “but now” is to be understood? We certainly do. We read in verse 13, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ“. The “but now” begins when the blood of Christ was shed, i.e. at the cross. Let us compare this with our example from secular history so that I may make the point perfectly clear. “During the Civil War the American Negroes were slaves, but now they are freed by the Emancipation Proclamation“. We understand from the context of our example that the Negroes were freed, not at the writing of the history book, but at the time of the signing of Emancipation Proclamation. So too, we understand from the context of Eph. 2 that the position of the Gentiles changed, not when Paul wrote Ephesians, but at the time Christ’s blood was shed, i.e. at the cross.

In order to make this perfectly clear, let us think in terms of an ellipsis in Eph. 2:13. We must choose one of two phrases to add as an ellipsis to clarify when the Gentiles’ position changed. But they must be taken from the context. Shall we add, “But now after Acts 28 ye are made nigh by the blood of Christ”. Or shall we choose, “But now after the cross ye are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” In my opinion, the choice is quite obvious. The Gentiles’ position changed by the cross. That means that the “but now” means “but now after the cross” the Gentiles’ position changed.

II. AN ACTS PERIOD TRUTH IN A PRISON EPISTLE?

Going on now to the second argument put forth, i.e. why would Paul write of an Acts period truth in a post-Acts period epistle? We read in Eph. 2:1-3 of Paul’s reminder to the Gentiles what they had been “in time past” (verse 2). They had lived according to the flesh, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind…….”. Gratefully, we read in verse 4, “But God….hath quickened us together …….(by grace ye are saved)…..”. Salvation by grace through faith is certainly not a truth limited to the post Acts period, it is a universal truth (please see the paper on faith and works  for the Scriptural evidence of that statement) . Why was Paul writing to the Gentiles about their salvation by grace in this epistle written after the end of the Acts period? In truth we don’t really know. But, for what ever reason, it was undoubtedly a reminder of what they had come to in contrast to what they had been.

Let us now consider verses 11-22 of Eph. 2. Again, we read the phrase “in time past” (verse 11). That phrase connects Eph. 2:1-4 with Eph. 2:11-22. They have a significant phrase in common. The commonality is that both passages remind the Gentiles of what they had been and contrasts that with what they now are in Christ. Unlike verses 1-4 however, where Paul speaks of salvation, in verses 11-22 Paul speaks of dispensational blessings.

I believe that Paul wrote of an Acts period truth in Eph. 2:11-22 for the same reason he wrote of a universal truth in verses 1-4. It was to remind the Gentiles of their former position in regard to salvation and dispensational blessings in contrast to what their position had been.

Was the beginning of a new dispensation an inopportune time for the Gentiles to be reminded of their blessing in Christ?. Is there ever an inopportune time to be reminded of our blessings in Christ? I don’t believe there is.

III. EPHESIANS CHAPTER TWO LEADS TO CHAPTER THREE

Now let us consider the third argument, i.e. that because Paul speaks of the church which is His body at the end of chapter one, and of one body in chapter two, that the two are connected, and that “the most natural reading” is that they are one and the same. That is to say, that because Paul writes in 1:22-23, “….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”, and then goes on to describe one body fifteen verses later, that the “most natural reading” is that they are the same thing. Let’s look at Ephesians 1:22 through 3:19.

In Eph. 3:1 we read, “For this cause…”. But Paul doesn’t tell us what he will do, or for which cause he will do it, until verses 14-19. In verse 14, after one of his long parenthetical statements (which is his style) Paul repeats “For this cause”. And he tells us what he is going to do; he is going to “bow my knees”. Paul is going to pray that God would grant them “to be strengthened with might….. in the inner man that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye may be rooted and grounded in love…..and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God“. Note that Paul uses almost the exact same phrase in 1:23 as he does here in 3:19 except he writes “Him” in the former phrase and “God” in the latter. In 1:23 he writes “the fulness of Him” and in 3:19 he writes, “the fulness of God“. I do not believe that the repetition of the phrase is accidental. I believe that 1:23 is connected to the “cause” for which Paul was praying. That cause was that the church which is His body, (not one body)” is the fulness of Him”, and will be filled with “the fulness of God”. So Eph 1:23 is not connected to chapter two, it is connected by the common phrase to 3:19. That makes chapter two a parenthetical chapter.

Let us consider this passage from Eph. 1:22 to 3:19 omitting the parenthetical statements for a clearer sense of what Paul was saying in this passage. “And hath put all things under His 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. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might by His spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God“.

Because chapter two of Ephesians is a parenthetical statement, we may conclude that there is no connection between the church which is His body of chapter one, and one body of chapter two.

CONCLUSION

There is no Scriptural evidence to suggest that the one body of Ephesians two is the same as the church which is His body. In point of fact the two cannot be the same, if for no other reason than that the one body began by and at the cross, and the church which is His body began after Acts 28.

This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond to this paper please e-mail me at: janjoyce@aol.com

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