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by Charles Welch          

In the article entitled HOPE we have referred to three spheres of blessing, the earth, the heavenly city, and the position indicated in Ephesians one, as "far above all". This aspect of truth is vital. It gathers up unto itself all that is distinctive in what is called Dispensational Truth, and we must spare no pains, nor begrudge the space needed to provide the Scriptural evidence for believing that there are "three spheres of blessing" revealed in the Scriptures.

Now because the term "sphere" does not occur in the Scriptures, is it therefore unscriptural? According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word "scriptural" is anything "based upon, derived from, or depending upon Holy Scripture". Because, therefore, an English word does not appear in Holy Scriptures, such word need not be unscriptural; it could only rightly be called unscriptural if the idea contained in the term was not based upon, derived from, or depended upon Holy Scripture. Therefore, to say regarding the use of the term "sphere", "as it is not an inspired term we have no means of fixing its force", as one who opposes this teaching affirmed, seems either to manifest ignorance of the English language or to be an effort unduly to influence the unwary. In either case the matter is no longer disputable, for the use of the term "sphere of blessing" has been proved to be both good English and Scriptural.

Our next step is to enumerate in Scriptural terms the actual "spheres of blessing" that are spoken of in the Scriptures, and then to compare and contrast them so that by trying the things that differ we may avoid confusion and keep each calling in its appointed place. Let us begin with our own calling as revealed in the Epistle to the Ephesians.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3).

At the moment we are not concerned with the kind of blessings here set forth, namely, "spiritual", but with the "province", "range" or "domain" in which these blessings naturally find their setting, and we have but to record:

(1) The sphere of blessing found in Ephesians 1:3 is defined as "in heavenly places".

Again we are not yet concerned as to whether these "heavenly places" are no higher than the firmament in which birds fly; whether they denote the starry heavens; or whether they refer to a position far above all. All that we are immediately concerned with is that a distinct "sphere" is indicated by the words "in heavenly places".

We now turn to another part of the N.T., where we read of another sphere of blessing: "blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). Once more, we are not concerned with the character of those here referred to, nor with their inheritance, but exclusively with the "sphere" of their inheritance, and we therefore record:

(2) A sphere of blessing is found in Matthew 5:5 which is defined as "the earth".

We assume, but have not yet proved, that "the earth" and "heavenly places" are two distinct spheres. Commonsense says that they are distinct, but we leave the proof until later.

Here then are two spheres of blessing concerning which there is no controversy. But in addition to these two, we discover what appears to be an intermediate sphere of blessing, a sphere above "the earth", yet not "in heavenly places". For this we turn to Galatians 3:14: "that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ". The question which now arises is, does this passage refer to a distinct sphere of blessing, or is the blessing of Abraham to be enjoyed in one or other of the two spheres already considered? A complete answer can only be given after careful examination, but for .the sake of conciseness, we note that in this calling, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

This unity does not sound like the constitution of a kingdom, which is what is in view in Matthew five. Rather it so resembles the later revelation of Ephesians that some have adopted the expression "all one in Christ Jesus" with the idea that it declares the Unity of the spirit of Ephesians four. Before seeing the proofs, most, if not all, will agree that Galatians 3:14 does not refer to an inheritance on the "earth". Yet when we read on to Galatians 3:29, we are prevented from asserting that it belongs to the sphere of the Mystery made known in Ephesians, for we find it stated: "and if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise".

So entirely contrary is it to the Scriptural teaching concerning the Mystery to make it a fulfillment of any promise to Abraham that we must hesitate to place this company, which is Abraham's seed, "in heavenly places". We therefore search further in this epistle, and in the fourth chapter we find the following statement: "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all . . . now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise" (Gal. 4:26,28). "Jerusalem which is above", is neither "on the earth" nor "in heavenly places far above all principality", and as this city forms the theme of Hebrews 11:9-16 and 12:18-23, where the "heavenly country" is contrasted with the "earth", we are obliged to record a third sphere of blessing.

(3) A third sphere of blessing, differing from that of Ephesians 1:3 and that of Matthew 5:5 is recorded in the Epistles to the  Galatians and the Hebrews, and is associated with the heavenly Jerusalem, a sphere distinct on the one hand from the earth and its kingdom, and on the other hand from the heavenly places which are the sphere of the church of the Mystery.

[Part Two]