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   "Practical Truth in Ephesians"


A Study in Pentecost


Heavenly Places

by Charles H. Welch PDF

The One Great Subject of

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By Charles H. Welch



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Present Truth


The Foundations of Dispensational Truth


Introduction To Acts 28


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ACTS 28. The Dispensational Boundary


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Dispensational Outline Of The Books Of The N.T.


Gementria in Christ's Geneaolgy




















Pentecost and the Gentile

A-I believe that it might be true to say that, whilst outwardly the church of the One Body did not begin at Pentecost, potentially it did.

B-To give a concrete illustration, you would say that the fact that there were no Gentiles in the assembly on the day of Pentecost was more by accident than of purpose.

A-I can hardly say that, for there were multitudes of Gentiles addressed by the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

B-Is that so? I was under the impression that none but Israelites were spoken to.

A-You have many times told me to "search and see", so I suggest you take a dose of your own prescription.

B-Most readily. I have nothing to lose but error, and nothing to gain but truth by so doing. Where do you propose we start?

A -At Acts 2:5-11, for there we read:

"And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven . . . and they were all amazed and marvelled, saying . . how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, etc. "

Surely Parthians, dwellers in Egypt, strangers of Rome, indicate Gentiles!

B- Not so fast. In verse five. which you read, we have stated that there were dwelling in Jerusalem JEWS, devout men, from every nation under heaven. Therefore the long geographical list that follows gives the country of origin of these Jews, who had come up to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Pentecost according to the Law. "Strangers from Rome" is literally "sojourning Romans", and they were all either Jews or proselytes". Further, do you notice how the Apostles Peter addresses these so called "Gentiles" of Yours?

"Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell in Jerusalem"  (14)

"Ye men of Israel...ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (22 and 23)

"Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David " (29)

"Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, Whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (36).

These were the dispersion, Israelites who had been born in foreign lands, many of them Roman citizens as was Saul of Tarsus, some of them proselytes, but none of them Gentiles.

A-Well supposing that is so, does it follow that the saints gathered at Pentecost would not have had the greatest joy in receiving a believing Gentile into their company?

B-Such is the tradition, but Acts ten will give us the truth:

"There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway" (verses 1 and 2).

Look at the man's credentials. He was devout, he feared God, his household did the same, he gave alms, he prayed to God continually. Now tell me, would that man have been received by the assembly on the day of Pentecost?

A-Most assuredly he would.

B-Well, how do you account for Peter's attitude toward him?

"He said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing (note the place of the law of Moses) for a man that is a Jew (Peter's own definition of himself) to keep company, or come unto one of another nation (yet in the Church there is neither Jew nor Gentile); but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (Acts 10:28).

By his own confession Peter would not have hesitated to have classed Cornelius the devout with the swine and the creeping things which he saw in the net. Is THAT THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT ! !

A-What do you intend me to understand then, that Peter had been wrong all along?

B-By no means. Peter was right all along. He had no idea such as that "the church began at Pentecost", and he therefore prosecuted the commission given to him to urge his own people Israel to repentance. The thought of such an association with a Gentile as is implied in the idea of the church was totally foreign to the "apostles' doctrine, and fellowship". It is your friends who have departed from the apostles' doctrine, and have made Scripture void by their traditions 

A -Why then should Peter have made the change in Acts ten?

B-Because in Acts nine the Apostle Paul had been called and appointed as the messenger of the risen Christ to the Gentiles, thereby introducing a change of dispensation. This was followed by the warning vision to Peter and by the confession:

"Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18), a pointless remark if the church began at Pentecost.

Can two Dispensations run together?

A-In talking over the question of membership of the One Body with other believers, one of them suggested the possibility of two dispensations running together at the same time. This I said was absurd, but thought I would ask you about it.

B-What makes you think it absurd?

A-Well, you might as well say that April and May can run together as to say that two dispensations can run at the same time.

B-I wonder whether your difficulty arises out of the meaning of the word "dispensation". Do you take the word to indicate a period of time?

A-Yes, just the same as an age.

B-That is where you are mistaken. Even an age indicates something more than a period of time, although the time sense is strong, but a dispensation is much further removed from a time sense than an age. Turn to Luke sixteen and let us consider the first occurrence of the word in the N.T.

A--(Reading the first few verses). I see something here about a rich man and a steward, and the necessity to render an account of his stewardship, but I have not come across the word "dispensation" yet.

The word translated "stewardship" is exactly the same as that rendered "dispensation" in 1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; 3:2,9 (R.V.); Colossians 1:25, and can be rendered in all cases by the word "administration". The Greek word is oikonomia, and appears in English as economy, which in its primary sense refers to administration either in politics or in domestic affairs.

Turn now to Galatians 2:7,9. There you have Peter and Paul. The leaders at Jerusalem recognized that Paul had been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, and that Peter had been entrusted with the gospel of the circumcision, and that one was right in going to the heathen and the other equally right in limiting himself to the circumcision. So that it appears in this case that two stewardships connected with two sets of good news, addressed to two divisions of the human race, were in operation at one and the same time.

A-If that is the meaning of the word dispensation, then I must admit the possibility.

B-When God gave the law of Sinai to Israel, that nation was under the dispensation of law. The nations of the earth were under the dispensation of conscience and creation; that is another illustration of the same principle. (See Romans 1:182-29, Acts 17:25-28; 14:16,17.)

A -If I admit the possibility of two dispensations running together, I shall have to reconsider another item about which I have expressed myself rather strongly.

B-What is that, if I may ask?

A-It is a question of the membership of the church of the One Body, but I think I will leave that for another time.

B-By all means, only let your love for truth outweigh any feeling you may have in the matter. Better to confess error a thousand times than through foolish pride entertain untruth to one's own spiritual hurt.

A-Thanks for your help. The greatest difficulty we seem to have is the necessity to unlearn.

Membership of the One Body

A-1 believe you teach that the church of the One Body did not come into being until after Acts twenty-eight?

B-To be exact, I believe that the church of the One Body did not come into being until after the all-day conference recorded in Acts 28:23-28, and during the two whole years of Paul's detention at Rome, when the three "in prison epistles" were written.

A-Does that mean that membership of this church depends upon Paul's imprisonment? or upon the acceptance of some particular truth? If that is what you teach I certainly cannot bring myself to believe it.

B-If you turn to the opening chapter of Ephesians you will find that every single member of the One Body is an elected person, having been "chosen in Christ before the foundation (or preferably "overthrow") of the world". So that in the first instance membership of this company depends neither upon Paul's imprisonment nor upon the acceptance of the truth, but solely upon the purpose and will of God. Further, I think you must make a distinction between salvation and position.

A-Just what do you mean by that?

B-The basis of salvation for the church of the One Body was laid before Acts twenty-eight, and is found in the epistle to the Romans, particularly in chapters five to eight, but although all believers both pre- and post-Acts are saved with the same salvation, it does not follow that they are all destined for the same position. During Paul's earlier ministry the position of the Gentile believer could be expressed by the words, "Blessed with faithful Abraham". After Acts twenty-eight the name of Abraham never occurs in Paul's writings. The believer after that, as a member of the One Body, while still saved with the same salvation as Abraham (Rom. 4, Gal. 3), is chosen to a different destiny which can only be expressed by the words, "With Christ in the heavenly places, far above all principality", etc.

Then, further, we have no warrant to teach that every believer at the present day is necessarily a member of the church of the One Body. The great bulk of Christians are ignorant of the revelation of the Mystery. They do not believe the truth for which the Apostle suffered, they do not entertain its hope, they do not endure anything for its doctrine. In all dispensations it has been true, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

A -Yet this seems to make acceptance of the truth the basis of membership.

B-Scripture says, "It pleased God through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe", and at the same time says, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed". You might just as well bring your objections against these

Scriptures as against the teaching concerning the One Body. Every member of this church will hear and believe the truth, yet every member is, nevertheless, as much "ordained" to that membership as were those who were "ordained to eternal life".

A-You mean, then, that seeing it is within the bounds of possibility that two dispensations may run together at the same time, it also is a possibility that all Christians are not necessarily members of one elect company and that there are "kingdom" believers today as well as "church" believers, and that the church of the One Body may be termed "An election within an election".

B-Yes, and further, instead of adopting the attitude that Christians who do not see with us in these things must necessarily be wrong, we believe that our responsibility ends with the presentation of the truth, and that according to whether the one who hears has been chosen to membership of the One Body or not, so will his response be.

A-That explanation accounts for the very obvious difference that I found between your attitude toward differing believers and their attitude toward you. The spirit of condemnation and bitterness would certainly not be so manifest if all Christians saw the truth from that standpoint. I do not pretend to accept your teaching yet, but I do most certainly appreciate the spirit that it produces.

B-Think the subject over, and let us talk it over again.

Heavenly Places

A-I believe you teach that the sphere of blessing peculiar to the church of the One Body, viz., "heavenly places", is something distinct.

B -Yes, that is so. I believe we can truthfully say that it is "far above all".

A-Well, I have been told by those who know, that precisely the same Greek word that is used in Ephesians 1 :3 is used in Matthew, John, 1 Corinthians and Hebrews, and therefore that you have been carried away by zeal that is not according to knowledge in teaching that the heavenly places of Ephesians indicate a position distinct from, and superior to, that of the church as revealed in the Gospels or Hebrews.

B--We will not be too much concerned about the opinions of those "who know", for Galatians two reveals that such at times have to be set aside. We are, however, concerned about the truth, and therefore we will "search and see".

A-The word is, I believe, epouranios.

B-Yes, it is a compound word made up of epi, meaning over, above, or upon, and ouranos, meaning heavens

A-It is used in Matthew 18:35 in the phrase, "My heavenly Father" (though some texts read ouranios) and in John 3:12 of "heavenly things". In 1 Corinthians 15:40,48 and 49 it is used five times, where Paul speaks of "celestial bodies" and their glory, and of some who are "heavenly" and who shall "bear the image of the heavenly".

Hebrews 3:1 speaks of those who are "partakers of the heavenly calling".

Hebrews 6:4 speaks of those who had "tasted the heavenly gift".

Hebrews 8:5 speaks of the "shadow of heavenly things".

Hebrews 9:23 speaks of the "cleansing of heavenly things".

Hebrews 11:16 speaks of a "heavenly country", and

Hebrews 12:22 speaks of the "heavenly Jerusalem".

B-It does my heart good to see this earnest search, and to listen to this presentation of the occurrences of the word. The concordance can be one of your greatest servants, but you must not think that a mere accumulation of texts of itself constitutes an argument. I should like to hear what you learn from these passages that makes the teaching advanced concerning the One Body to be untenable.

A-Well, you have very definitely taught two things, viz.:

(1) The Church of Ephesians is blessed in a sphere called the super-heavenlies, and is distinct from all other companies of the redeemed: and

(2) That those addressed in the epistle to the Hebrews are to be distinguished from the church of Ephesians, and that their hope does not place them so high as does the hope of the One Body.

Now seeing that the Hebrews were partakers of a heavenly calling, and looked for a heavenly Jerusalem, it seems as though your distinction falls to the ground.

B-Let us see. My contention is that the heavenly places of Ephesians are unique; yours is that they are one and the same with those of Hebrews. Tell me, did those Hebrews, who had tasted of the heavenly gift and who were in danger of falling away, ascend up to heaven in order to taste it?

A-Certainly not, they tasted the gift which had been sent down from heaven.

B-Will the heavenly Jerusalem remain where it is now, in heaven?

A-Well, now you mention it, I suppose not.

B-We will have no suppositions; please read Revelation 21:10.

A-(Reads). "He . . . showed me . . . the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God."

B-These two passages must therefore decide the "heavenly calling" of Hebrews three, and do not prove that such calling is the same as that of Ephesians.

A-Why do you say then that the same word when used in Ephesians means "up in heaven", whereas when it is used in Hebrews you are careful to draw attention to the fact that it refers to things that come down "out of heaven"?

B-The reason is this. First the construction of the phrase "in heavenly places" is peculiar to Ephesians. While epouranios occurs elsewhere, en tois epouraniois occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.

The "heavenly" calling, gift, country, etc., of Hebrews gives us the character of the calling, gift, etc., but does not give its locality. Ephesians tells us that the character of its blessings are "spiritual", not "heavenly", and the sphere of its enjoyment is not "heavenly", but "IN heavenly places". These heavenly places are definitely declared to be

(1) At the right hand of God.

(2) Far above all principalities and powers, etc. (1:20,21), and

(3) To be occupied by principalities and powers who are either learning from, or antagonizing, the Church (3:10; 6:12).

These spiritual wickednesses are certainly not "heavenly" in character, although for the time they occupy "heavenly places".

I think you will see that you must not only collect Scripture references, but you must seek their meaning. Use the concordance by all means, but use it with understanding. None of the passages you have quoted makes the slightest difference` to the teaching of Ephesians, for not one passage outside the five occurrences in Ephesians uses the word in the sense of locality, and as that was our contention you have spent your effort in beating the air.

A-Will you explain Hebrews 9:23,24? Why is first ouranoi, then epourania, then ouranos used?

B-"Things in the heavens", Ta . . . en tois ouranois, is but another way of expressing "heavenly things",. to epourania. Heaven, ouranos, must be viewed as comprehending the whole. It is used of the over-arching expanse above the earth, even the atmosphere in which the "birds of heaven" fly, and the "heaven of heavens" which is the dwelling place of God. Think of these expressions as you do the word "church". There are many different called-out companies that are composed under the generic word "church".

Or again, think of the word kingdom. There are many kingdoms. You will think of other examples. Ouranos embraces the whole, from the atmosphere in which birds can fly to the position where principalities and angels cannot enter. Within this all-inclusive sphere are the epourania, and they too comprise spheres and positions that range from the highest pinnacle of exaltation to the gifts of the Spirit abused by men on earth. Did we but know all that there is to know about these things, we should doubtless realize the more the fitness of the expressions in Hebrews 9:23,24. As it is, however, the interchange of words does not alter in the slightest the teaching already given concerning the glorious calling of the church of the One Body.

The Day of the Lord, and the Day of God

A-I believe you make a distinction between "the day of the Lord" and "the day of God"?

B-Yes, I believe such a distinction is found in the Word of truth which I am called upon to divide aright.

A-But don't you think you can carry the idea to excess, for surely, after all, the "Lord is God", and you are probably straining the meaning of the Scriptures, as I fear you do in many other of your fine distinctions.

B-Well, one thing at a time. What particular passage have you in mind?

A-2 Peter 3:10-12.

B-Perhaps you will read it.


"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up . . . the day of God wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat".

Now surely you do not maintain that there will be two separate occasions when the heavens shall be dissolved in fire and the elements shall melt with a fervent heat?

B-No, I have never taught such a thing. I certainly believe these two references deal with one and the same event.

A-Well then, out of your own mouth you condemn yourself, for if these two passages refer to the same event, the day of the Lord and the day of God are the same, and your so called "rightly dividing" would be better called "hair splitting".

B-Had we better not be sure that we have understood the double reference first? Here is the Revised Version: perhaps if you had consulted that your criticism might have been spared. Please read the passage again.

A-(Reads from the R.V.) .

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be destroyed with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up . . . the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat".

What difference is there? I see none, "melt" is the same as "dissolve", and only makes the two references the more alike.

B-Well, I would much rather you discovered the difference for yourself. Many problems that unsettle the children of God are the result of inability to "read and see" for themselves. Look again. I will help you so far as to ask a question. Does it say in the A.V. that this great fire takes place "in" the day of the Lord and "in" the day of God?

A-{Reading from A. V.).
"In the which" (referring to the day of the Lord). "Wherein" (referring to the day of God).

Now read the same passages again in the R.V.:

"In the which" (referring to the day of the Lord). "By reason of which" (referring to the day of God).

A-I see it. How sorry I am that I have spoken so rudely!

B-Let that pass. You see the difference now? The fire that dissolves the elements and the heavens takes place IN the day of the Lord as to time, and takes place BY REASON OF the character and necessity of the day of God for which the day of the Lord is a preparation. The book of the Revelation is occupied largely with the day of the Lord, and in chapter twenty we have the lake of fire which destroys all things that offend, and ushers in the new heavens and new earth of chapter twenty-one.

Just as an additional note, there is one further item wherein the record concerning the day of the Lord indicates a difference from that of the day of God. You will observe in the R.V. margin of 2 Peter 3:10 that the best manuscripts read "discovered" instead of "burned up". The actual burning takes place after the close of the millennium.

[Part Four]