Are the Jewish Epistles for the Body of Christ?

by Jerry Shugart

Unanswered Prayers

Pastor Ricky Kurth, the editor of The Berean Searchlight, writes the following in an attempt to prove that the doctrine contained in John's first epistle does not apply to those in the Body of Christ:

"As we recently announced, Pastor Sadler has asked me to write a commentary on the epistles of John. In conjunction with this endeavor, I've been teaching I John in my church, and thoroughly enjoying both my personal review of this epistle and the writing of this commentary. One thing that keeps coming up in this study is the importance of 'rightly dividing the Word of truth.' For instance, John tells his readers that 'whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments' (I John 3:22). I can't even begin to imagine the heartache that this verse has caused countless sincere believers over the past 2,000 years, as they have wondered why their prayers are not always answered, no matter how well they keep God's commandments. While there are many who say that rightly dividing the Word is interesting, but not very important, in light of this example alone, we would respectfully but firmly disagree," (Kurth, "From the Editor to You," The Berean Serachlight, April, 2012, 3).

Let us look at the passage which Pastor Kurth cites:

"Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment" (1 Jn.3:21-23).

Of course this particular passage cannot be divorced from what else is said in regard to the same subject later in the same epistle:

"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 Jn.5:14-15).

The key to understanding the words at 1 John 3:22 is found later in the same epistle at 1 John 5:14.. David Guzik has the following to say about John's teaching on prayer:

"God would have us ask according to His will. It is easy for us to only be concerned with 'our' will before God, and to have a fatalistic view regarding His will ('He will accomplish His will with or without my prayers anyway, won't He?'). But God wants us to see and discern His will through His word, and to pray His will into action. When John wrote this, John may have had Jesus' own words in mind, which he recorded in John 15:7: 'If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.' When we abide in Jesus --living in Him, day by day --then our will becomes more and more aligned with His will, and we can ask what you desire, and more and more be asking according to His will. Then we see answered prayer" (David Guzik, Commenmtary at 1 John 5:14).

There are No Jews or Greeks in the Body of Christ

There are many who say the following in order to attempt to prove that the doctrine contained in the Hebrew epistles do not apply to the Body of Christ

"There are not 12 tribes in the Body of Christ. The 12 tribes belong only to Israel. Galatians 3:28 is very clear that there is no Jew or Greek in the Body."

"No Jew or Greek in the body"? If we are to believe that understanding of what Galatians 3:28 is teaching then we must believe that there are no "males" or "females" in the Body either:

"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).

Dr. Donald K. Campbell wrote: "Believers are all one in Christ Jesus. Since all believers become one with each other, human distinctions lose their significance. None is spiritually superior over another, that is, a believing Jew is not more privilged before God than a believing Gentile...Paul cut across these distinctions and stated that they do not exist in the body of Christ so far as spiritual privilege and position is concerned" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament, edit. Walvoord & Zuck [Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1983], 600).

The Jews were to remain Jews in their walk, as witnessed what Paul said to the members of the Body:

"But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being CIRCUMCISED? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called" (1 Cor.7:17-20).

If they were Jews at the time when they were called then they were to remain in that state. And since all Jews belonged to a tribe it is not surprising to hear James address his epistle to the twelve tribes.

James 5:13-15

There are some who say that the following verses are in regard to the time when believers will once again be given the power to heal by the laying on of hands. They say that these verses prove that James was written before this gift of healing passed away and the epistle of James contains doctrine for dispensation that will be in place after the rapture:

"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (Jms.5:13-15).

In verse 14 the Greek word astheneo is translated "sick", but the primary meaning of that word is "to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

It is used that way in the folowing verse: "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thess.5:14).

In verse 15 the Greek word kamnonta is translated "sick", but its primary meaning is "to be weary" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

James is referring to those who had grown weary, both morally and spiritually, in the midst of suffering. And those so afflicted were to call on the elders to "support the weak." James said that the elders should pray over him and annoint him with oil.

The Greek word translated "annoint" is aleipantes is in regard to "rub with oil". This is not the same Greek word (chrio) that is in regard to a ceremonial or ritual annointing as a means of divine healing. Instead, James is referring to applying oil as a means of bestowing honor, refreshment and grooming (cf. MT.6:17, Ruth 3:3; 2 Chron, 28:15). Therefore James is saying that those Christians who are weak spiritually and morally should be refreshed, encouraged, and uplifted by the elders who poured oil on them and prayed for them.

If these verses are for the time when believers will once again have the power to heal by the laying on of hands then the sick will be healed in that way and not by the annointing of oil and by prayers:

"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" (Mk.16:17-18).

Does Eggizo Always Mean "Imminent"?

There are some within the Mid Acts community who say that the Greek word translated "at hand" does not always mean that something is imminent. They say that there are no signs, times, or seasons that will precede an imminent event. They then point out that the great tribulation must precede the kingdom so the coming of the kingdom is not something which can be described as being imminent. With that in view let us look at the following verse:

"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (eggizo)" (Mt.4:17).

Was the Lord Jesus in error when He proclaimed that the kingdom is "at hand"? Didn't the Jews whom the Lord Jesus addressed anticipate that a tribulation must precede the setting up of the kingdom? Actually, the timing of the tribulation as revealed in the OT prophecies was ambiguous and therefore open to various interpretations. In some instances it was to precede the ushering in of the kingdom but in others it followed the setting up of the kingdom:

"But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob... Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor" (Micah 4:1-2, 11-12).

There are also other prophecies which would lead the Jews to believe that the arrival of the Messiah would be the singular event which would result in the setting up of the earthly kingdom:

"In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old...And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God" (Amos 9:11, 14-15).

The Jews undersood that the raising up the tabernacle of David referred to the promised Messiah ruling from the throne of David (see Acts 15:16). There is nothing in this prophecy which would lead any Jew to believe that a tribulation must precede the kingdom. In the 37th chapter of the book of Ezekiel we see the nation of Israel regenerated as a result of the word and the Spirit and then the kingdom is then put in place:

"Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land...I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all...My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore" (Ez.37:12-14,22).

However, there were certain "mysteries of the kingdom" which were not a part of the Jews' normal understanding of the setting up of the kingdom. The Lord Jesus spoke in parables when revealing those mysteries:

"And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given" (Mat.13:11).

One of the mysteries concerning the earthly kingdom was the fact that the nation of Israel would reject her promised Messiah and as a result Jerusalem would go through great tribulation:

"And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy" (Mt.22:1-8).

These truths were kept secret so the Jews' understanding of the prophecies of the kingdom did not include the fact that the nation of Israel would reject their promised Messiah and that the city of Jerusalem would endure the tribulation. Let us look at the following verse again and then commentary on it:

"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt.4:17).

"From that time. The phrase 'from that time' is used by Matthew to indicate two sharply contrasted phases of our Lord's teaching ministry. The first begins here with His proclamation of the kingdom as being 'at hand.' The second comes at 16:21 when, following Israel's rejection of the King and His Kingdom, Christ begins to declare openly the necessity of His death and resurrection. at hand. The Biblical term 'at hand' or 'near' is never a positive affirmation that the person or thing said to be at hand will immediately appear, but only that that person or thing has the quality of imminency. When Christ appeared to the Jewish people, the next thing, in the order of revelation as they understood it, should have been setting up the Davidic kingdom. Yet God had predicted the rejection and crucifixion of the King (Ps. 22; Isa. 53). The long period of the mystery of the kingdom (Mt.13:11), the worldwide preaching of the cross, and the out-calling of the Church was as yet locked up in the secret counsels of God (Mt.13:11,17; Eph.3:3-12)" [emphasis mine] (The Scofield Study Bible; King James Version [New York: Oxford University Press, 2003], 1240).