THE ONENESS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST (EXCERPT OF WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE LORD)
(Taken from “The Oneness of the Body of Christ,” an excerpt from, What I Have Learned From the Lord.
Copyright © 2012, by Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved)
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:1-3)
When we consider the divisions in the one Body of Christ, and the deadness of religion when compared with the living Lord Jesus, we ask ourselves, “Can these bones live?”
We know they shall, because the Lord Jesus prayed that the believers shall be one in Christ and the Father; and then the world will believe that Christ indeed came from God. The world never will believe that God sent Jesus while the denominations exist.
There shall come a day when we are one in Christ. Not just one in some sort of ecumenical activity, but genuinely one because Christ is being formed in each true member of His Body. There will be no need whatever to put these people in an organization. They will come together in the Spirit of God, and the ministries and gifts will create order and harmony.
All that ecumenical movements do is to create another Babylon—human efforts to promote the religion of Christianity. There always is spiritual death present in such efforts. They always are in a valley, and they always are dry bones.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!’” (Ezekiel 37:4)
It may be true that there are many today who see the deadness in the religious organizations. They may be tempted to attempt to start a new organization that will embody some of their ideas. However, they will never arrive at a solution by their own efforts.
God did not tell Ezekiel to go out and reattach the scattered bones and try to give them life. He told Ezekiel to “prophesy” to the dead bones.
Since Ezekiel was not a medical doctor, you can imagine what the result would look like if he tried to reattach the dry bones and give them life. So it is true that ecumenical efforts, attempting to bring God’s people into unity, will produce a grotesque dance of death.
Our task today is to tell the dead Christian churches what God is going to do, not what we are going to try to do. It is time today to listen to the Lord Jesus. He has new and surprising adventures for us. We need to forget the former way of doing things and listen to Jesus, and obey Him strictly without adding our own ideas to what He says. In fact, the Lord spoke that to me during a pastors’ meeting.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: “I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:5,6)
God Himself is going to give the Life of Christ to the Christian bones. God is going to attach tendons and provide flesh and skin. During the midst of the social and religious upheavals of our day, God is going to revive us. It will be such a sovereign work that we will realize God has done this.
From the early days of the Christian Era, the believers have organized themselves into competing organizations. While much good has been done through the succeeding centuries, much wickedness also has occurred. Ambitious religious leaders have warred against believers who did not agree with them. Horrors such as the Inquisitions took place.
What an abomination such divisions are in the one seamless robe of Christ! We may attempt to justify them in terms of practicality or administrative efficiency. But these are not the true reasons for their existence. The divisions are caused by the fact that Christ is not in such religious workers; or if He is, He is so immature that it is ambitious flesh driving the program.
Do you believe that Jesus cares whether we are Pentecostal, or Baptist, or Greek Orthodox? Assuredly He does not! Rather, the Lord wants to know what kind of person we are, whether or not we love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves.
We are going to discover when we die and enter the spirit world that there are no churches. Jesus will be present, along with the saints and angels. And many people who know nothing of any religion but are just good, decent folks. If such is the case, our efforts to train people up in our organization with our Statement of Faith is not a good preparation for what they will find after death.
All is not lost, however. God is speaking to us today that the prayer of Jesus that we be one in Him (not just one in an organization) is going to be answered in the sight of the world. In fact, when the world sees the Glory of God on God’s true Israel, the people will come from everywhere to be blessed. People love God. It is the churches that they have a problem with.
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. (Ezekiel 37:7,8)
No one but God can enable a charnel house of bones to come together and live. No one but God can gather together the scattered members of the Body of Christ in the world. But Christ has prayed for such oneness, and it shall take place!
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” (Ezekiel 37:9)
The bones had come together, and then God breathed life into them. This seems to indicate that the members of the Body of Christ will be drawn together, just as God brought the animals to Noah’s Ark without human assistance, and then the Life of Christ will come into them.
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. (Ezekiel 37:10)
An army! Why did God assemble and give Life to the members of the Body of Christ? Because there is a colossal battle to be fought—righteousness against wickedness.
First the armies of Christ will descend from Heaven and destroy Antichrist and the False Prophet. Then the warriors described in the second chapter of the Book of Joel will go through the earth, judging the inhabitants and removing all demonic activity. Only then can the Kingdom of God be formed in the earth, as we read in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
The knowledge of the Lord cannot fill the earth, and the children cannot play without danger, until every work of Satan has been driven from the earth. This victory shall take place, because God has proclaimed it.
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.’” (Ezekiel 37:11,12)
“The whole house of Israel.” Precisely who composes the whole house of Israel? The Apostle Paul made it very clear that the one Seed of Abraham, that is, Israel, is the Lord Jesus Christ and all those who are part of Him, whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth.
There is one new Man, Jesus Christ and those who are part of His Body. While it is true that God will return to the land and people of Israel after the “full number” of Gentiles have been added to the Olive Tree, the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament do not apply at first to the physical land and people of Israel They apply to Christ, Head and Body, the Servant of the Lord.
No person can see or enter the Kingdom of God until Christ has been born in him or her. Since the physical Jews have not been born again, unless they have received Christ, they can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God. This problem shall be rectified in the future, as we shall see.
On this basis I say that the thirty-seventh chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, like so many other passages of the Prophets, is a mixture of the spiritual and the physical; the parts that apply to Christ and His Body are concealed in a message that addresses also the physical world.
When it states that “I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel,” I believe this is speaking to those who are part of Christ. The headquarters of Christ and of those who, under Christ, will govern the nations, will be Jerusalem.
However, it also may be true that God will open the graves of Jews scattered throughout the world, raise them from the dead, and bring them back to the physical land of Israel.
So there is a convergence here of spiritual and physical Israel.
“I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it,” declares the LORD. (Ezekiel 37:14)
The verse above appears to me to be directed toward the physical land and people of Israel. Notice what Paul stated:
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:26,27)
I understand from the above passage that God is speaking of a time when He comes and sovereignly takes away the sins of the Jewish people. I believe He also will fill them with eternal life. Since this promise follows the statement that the Jews will be hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles have been grafted on the Olive Tree, I would not be surprised if “the deliverer” who brings salvation to physical Israel is the Lord Jesus and His saints.
This reminds us of Joseph bringing deliverance to his family.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25)
In the following passage we might think of Judah as representing the physical Jews, and Ephraim, the son of Joseph and an Egyptian woman, representing the Gentiles who have become part of Israel through the Lord Jesus.
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.” (Ezekiel 37:15-17)
Here we have the Jews and the Gentiles made one new Man in Christ, the cross having destroyed the former hostility between us. as the Apostle Paul taught us.
I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. (Ezekiel 37:22)
My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. (Ezekiel 37:24)
Now the following:
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
It sounds like the Lord Jesus had read the Book of Ezekiel.
I hope we all derive from this brief study of the dry bones the understanding that the Kingdom of God is first for the Jews. It is not a Gentile Kingdom. The names of the twelve tribes are on the gates of the new Jerusalem, which is the glorified Christian Church, the royal priesthood.
Salvation began with the obedient Abraham. The program of redemption has proceeded throughout the centuries of years until the Seed came and shed His blood. Through that same blood the Jews and the Gentiles are reconciled to the Savior, the Son of God.
The two thousand years since have been dominated by Gentiles, as they have believed and been baptized; although this has been true of thousands of Jews also. In fact, the first Christian Church was composed of Jews, all keeping the Law.
Today there is one Body of Christ, a remnant spread throughout a multitude of denominations and sects. Many physical Jews are included among this remnant. Now the Spirit of God is calling to the remnant to set aside their own life and live by the Life of Christ. This is the beginning of that oneness prayed for by the Lord Jesus.
If my understanding is correct, as soon as the number of Gentiles God has decided on have been grafted into the Olive Tree, then these members of the Body of Christ will turn to the people of Israel. Through Christ and His Body, God will pour out His Spirit on the original chosen people and take away their sins. God will write His eternal moral law on their hearts and mind. Thus the original chosen people will live once again and rejoice in their God.
They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David [the Son of David] my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever. (Ezekiel 37:25-28)
I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:23)
(“The Oneness of the Body of Christ”, 3248-1)