26-10-15 - ARE WE PARTAKERS
OF PAUL'S 'MY GRACE'?
By John Aldworth
Phil. 1:7: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
Rom. 11:17: And if some of the branches were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree.
Amazing, isn’t it? People want to be blessed by the pope, priests, prayed for pastors, have hands laid on them by bishops and ‘healers’, but won’t receive grace as a personal gift from the Apostle Paul. Yet in Phil. 1:7 the apostle clearly says that the Philippians are ‘partakers of my grace’.
Instead much of the professing Christian church today believes it receives blessing through a covenant relationship with the ‘olive tree’. That is they seek as ‘graffed in’ branches to ‘partake of the root and fatness’ of Israel that sustained the Church of God in the Acts period. Yet the signs and miracles ended at the end of Acts, Israel was set aside and salvation was sent to the Gentiles and that ‘which was in part’ was done away with (1 Cor. 13:10)..
In its place came ‘that which is perfect’. I.e. Paul’s revelation of the dispensation of grace. Today grace is that which comes from Paul, not that which formerly was given to Israel and the Church of God.
The words ‘partakers’ and ‘partakest’ in the above verses translate one rarely used Greek word with a special meaning. Sugkoinoneo, (Strong’s 4790, meaning, primarily, ‘to share in company with, to co-participate in’ and, secondarily, to “communicate, have fellowship with and be partaker of’) is used in the New Testament only in the two verses cited above.
While other Greek words are also translated ‘partaker’ in the New Testament, sugkoinoneo is different. It requires that the ‘partaker’ partake not only of the perceived benefit (i.e. grace in the case of Paul, and the ‘fatness and root’ of the olive tree in the case of Israel) but also that he or she fully partake, identify with, commit to and partake of the provider (i.e. Paul in the case of grace and Israel in the case of the olive tree).
The other Greek words mean to partake without such a strong identification with the provider. For example, in 2 Tim. 2:6 the Apostle Paul cautions Timothy that ‘the husbandman must be first partaker of the fruits’ (Strong’s 3335, metalambano, meaning to participate, be a partaker, to receive, to eat) but there is no mention of the tree, still less of a need to partake of it.
The next nearest word in meaning to sugkoinoneo is summetochos (Strong’s 4830, meaning ‘a co-participant, a partaker’). It is found in Eph. 3:6-7 where the Apostle Paul reveals the mystery that Gentiles should be ‘’fellow heirs and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel’.
But here please note that in this verse Gentiles are ‘fellow heirs’ with Christ not with the Israelites as many assert, nor is ‘the same body’, that of Israel, as many believe; it is the body over which Christ is the head that is in focus here, as proved by Paul’s naming the church of this new dispensation as that over which Christ has been Head, the ‘church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all’ (Eph. 1:22-23).
Indeed the New International Version (NIV) completely alters the meaning by stating that the ‘Gentiles are heirs together with Israel’ when the word ‘Israel’ is not found in the Greek text. This perversion of the Received Text and alteration of its truth is, of course, only one of many corruptions found in the NIV. But ‘in Christ’ is found in the verse and the clear meaning is that it is by sharing the inheritance with Christ that Gentiles become partaker’s of the Father’s promise. The distinction between Christ and any inference to ‘Israel’ is vital.
Now, under grace - for today the called are indeed living in the ‘dispensation of the grace of God’ given by God the Father to the Apostle Paul specifically for us Gentiles (Eph. 3: 1-3) -, union with Christ, by being baptised by God into the Saviour’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension is absolutely vital for the believer. Without it he has no hope of a future life in glory (Col. 3:3-4).
That is why it is so important to stick with the tried and true King James Bible when it comes to Phil. 1:7 and its God-given statement that ‘ye all are partakers of my grace’. Every other Bible I know of, including the New King James Version (NKJV) leaves out the ‘my’. And even the King James Bible translators themselves kicked for touch when they inserted a marginal alternative reading, ‘partakers with me in grace’, thus again leaving out the ‘my’.
Are they right to do so? Not according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible which clearly states on page 1275 that ‘my’ occurs three times in Phil. 1:7: i.e. my heart, my bonds and my grace. Indeed, why should ‘my grace’ be changed to ‘you are all partakers with me of grace’ as in the NKJV as though the Apostle Paul’s personal dispensing of it is of no importance?
Answer: Because all new Bible translators and, sadly, most of the professing church, have an inbuilt prejudice against the Apostle Paul and his God-given, Christ-ordained authority to dispense grace. They are determined not to recognise his huge importance in the teaching and impartation of grace. And, since it is grace alone (through faith) that saves today, I can only conclude that such determination to belittle Paul when Christ and the Father have made him the Apostle of Grace to the world and the Apostle to the Gentiles in particular, is a persuasion from the enemy of our souls, the devil.
Christendom today will not allow Paul to say that the grace that saves is ‘my grace’, that is his grace. Yet most bibles acknowledge that in Rom. 16:25 Paul speaks of ‘my gospel’ and equates it with the ‘preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery’. So if Paul can be allowed to speak of his gospel, as different from all others, why can’t he be allowed to write of his ‘my grace’?
Fact is that even in the ‘to the Jew first but also to the Greek’ Acts period Paul’s gospel was a different gospel to that preached by the Lord’s 12 apostles. Their gospel was the message, first that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, then after the crucifixion, that God had raised Jesus from the dead and ‘made Him both Lord and Christ’, to Israel, that is, (Acts 2:36). For sure, Paul also preached that Christ has risen but, importantly, in the Acts period he proclaimed the ‘gospel of the uncircumcision” (Gal. 9:27) to the Gentiles while the Apostle Peter was commissioned to the preach ‘gospel of the circumcision’, that is the gospel to the Jews.
And part of Paul’s ‘gospel of the uncircumcision’ was that Gentiles had been ‘graffed into’ Israel’s ‘tree of life’. That is the olive tree, which stood for the mercy, love and forgiveness of God toward his chosen people Israel (Rom. 11:17). This was how Gentiles received salvation in the Acts period; they were made partakers of the ‘root and fatness of the tree’, that is, they were water baptised into ‘the Israel of God’ and thus with believing Jews together became the ‘Church of God’, which is the collective name for those called of God in the Acts period.
But all that changed when in Acts 28:28 the Apostle Paul pronounced at God’s command that ‘the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles and that they will hear it’. Israel was now finally set aside as the chosen nation. It was no longer the source of salvation, it was no longer the means of conversion. In short it was no longer the calling of God. Instead, God was now calling and saving by grace men of all nations whom He called by grace and chose to be in Christ (Eph. 1:4) without adding them to the Church of God or including them in Israel.
What’s more with the setting aside of Israel at the end of Acts, there was no longer an ‘olive tree’ for Gentile believers to be ‘graffed into’. From the writing of Ephesians onwards all men saved are made members, not of Israel, but of the body of Christ. This by being baptised by God Himself into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Col. 2:12).
And the key word in this new dispensation of God’s love and mercy is not just ‘grace’ but Paul’s ‘my grace”. You see you cannot have the one without the other. What I mean is that grace today comes only through accepting Paul’s divine commission as the Apostle of Grace, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the teacher and preacher of grace to the whole world in this present dispensation.
Don’t take my word for it. In Paul’s later epistles the scriptures are full of it. For example, in Eph. 3:6-8 the apostle states by the inspiration of God that he was made a minister of the newly revealed truth that Gentiles should be fellow-heirs (with Christ) and of the same body (as Christ) and partakers of his (that is, the Father’s) promise in Christ by the gospel. He goes on:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.
Again in Col. 1:25-27 the Apostle Paul sets out this new ministry, given exclusively to him to dispense to all men:
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God. Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generation, but now is made manifest to his saints; to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
His apostleship of grace is further confirmed in 2 Tim. 1:9-11:
(God) Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (Paul’s gospel, that is). Whereunto I am appointed as preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
Paul’s ministry of the fullness of God’s grace to Gentiles is unique. It is not be found in the writings of Peter, James and John; it was not proclaimed in the Old Testament, it was not preached in the gospels. While it was gracious of God to forgive Israel for slaying his Son and grace indeed that He should save some Gentiles in the Acts period in order to ‘provoke them (Israelites) to emulation (i.e. jealousy)’ (Rom. 11:14, the fullness of salvation by grace and not by works was only proclaimed in Paul’s post-Acts epistles written from his prison in Rome.
A study of the word ‘grace’ itself makes this plain. Charis, the noun meaning free, undeserved favour, occurs 156 times. It is not found in Matthew or Mark, is present eight times in Luke, four times in John, 16 times in Acts but 110 times in Paul’s epistles.
Grace is what God is all about in his dealings with man today. It has been well said that if God can’t act in grace in the present dispensation then He doesn’t act at all. And Paul is the one from we learn all about grace. He is the dispenser of it. An apt summary of the dispensational changes from Christ’s first coming until now is: the Father sent Christ and Christ sent Paul. You can read how Christ commissioned Paul and endued him with power to preach grace to the Gentiles in Acts 26: 13-18. Here Saul, then the vicious persecutor of Jews who believed in Jesus as their Messiah, saw a great light, fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul why persecutest thou me?” Saul learns that He who speaks is Jesus and that He is indeed Lord. Then the Lord tells him:
But rise and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.
Delivering thee from the people (i.e. unbelieving Jews) and from the Gentiles, unto whom I now send thee, to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.
Not only that but as one of ‘the things in the which I will appear unto thee’, Paul was given the ‘dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you (Gentiles) ward’ (Eph. 3:2-3). ‘How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery…’ That clearly means that Paul is the dispenser of grace in this dispensation. And refusal to know Paul as such goes a long way to explain why Christendom worldwide continually falls short of receiving the abundant grace the apostle assured the Philippians they would receive in Phil. 4:19:
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
But surely, someone will argue, I can know all about grace without embracing Paul? I can get it direct from the Father or from Christ without going through him. Really? The Philippians certainly didn’t think so. They got their grace through a love for Paul so real that they took part in his sufferings. As he himself said:
…inasmuch as both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
Only the Philippians sent aid, money or goods, to support Paul in his Roman imprisonment (Phil. 4:15). What’s more they supported Paul’s ministry from ‘the beginning of the gospel when I departed from Macedonia’. Only they of the Acts period believers are said to have been in fellowship with Paul and his gospel ‘from the first day until now’ (Phil. 1:5).
What’s more the real Christian love between the Philippians and Paul was a two-way expression of his grace. They loved him enough to have received his gospel (Paul’s ‘my gospel’, Rom. 16:25) and no other. Moreover they stood to proclaim and defend it (Phil. 1:7, 4:16), and were treated with ostracism and persecution for doing so. Indeed Paul urges them not to be ‘terrified by your adversaries … for unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for his sake’ (Phil. 1:28-29).
Before I came into grace I was a Pentecostal and saw many seek various gifts of the Spirit to heal and do miracles. But never once did I hear anyone pray to receive ‘the gift of suffering’. Yet this was the gift given to the Philippians.
Indeed suffering with Christ and with Paul seems to be the key to receiving the boundless grace (Phil. 4:19) and the ‘exceeding greatness’ of God the Father’s power toward us (Eph. 1:19) Paul speaks of. Indeed suffering appears to be the ground on which the Philippians were ‘partakers of my grace”. And as much as these believers suffered for Christ’s sake they also suffered with and for Paul and his cause.
Indeed, their suffering, which may have involved beatings and imprisonment, is described by the apostle as ‘having the same conflict which ye saw in me and now hear to be in me’ (Phil. 1:30). Recall that when Paul was with them (Acts 16:16-40) they saw him beaten at the order of the city’s magistrates then miraculously freed from their prison bonds by a midnight earthquake. Now Paul is in prison in Rome and it is the Philippians who send aid to succor him.
In Phil. 1:7 Paul cites three things by which the Philippians are ‘partakers of my grace’. They are: Paul’s bonds (i.e. his chains), the defence (apologia) of the gospel and the confirmation (bebaiosis) of the gospel. Defence is no passive word. It is used in Acts 22:1 to describe Paul’s defence of his actions in the temple to a Jewish crowd determined to slay him.
‘Confirmation’ is even more active for it means a sworn oath. Thus in Heb. 6:16 we read: ‘For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife’. Jewish assassins had sworn an oath to kill Paul (Acts 23:12) but Paul and his fellow Philippian believers swore to uphold Paul’s gospel come what may, no matter what it cost, at the peril of their lives.
But there is yet more to suffering as a precursor to receiving the fullness of grace. There is rejoicing in it. The Apostle Paul wrote in Col. 1:23-24 that as the appointed minister of the gospel ‘preached to every creature under heaven’, he said he was one:
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church, whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God which is given me for you, to fulfil the word of God.
Did Christ leave part of the atonement undone when He suffered on the cross that Paul should now make up for it? No, the sacrifice of Calvary was complete. However, we who have been chosen as members of his body of his flesh and bones’ (Eph. 5:30) must be ‘made conformable to his death’ (Phil. 3:10) that we may be found ‘complete in Him which is the Head of all principality’ (Col. 2:10). Again, it is only if we suffer with Him that we will also reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12).
As the dispenser of grace and the pattern of discipleship and ministry we are to follow the Apostle Paul. He necessarily had to blaze this trail for us. He was the pioneer in pressing ‘toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 3:14) and ‘reaching forth unto those things which are before’ (Phil. 3:13).
Furthermore Paul was chosen to ‘make all see the fellowship of the mystery’ (Eph. 3:9), meaning that the new revelation of God’s grace was uniquely made known to the apostle for him in turn to make it known to God’s called and chosen saints. The word ‘men’ in this verse is in italics, indicating that it is an addition by the King James Bible translators not found in the Received Text. Without it the verse simply refers to ‘all’ and ‘all’ is defined in Eph. 3:18 as ‘all saints’. Paul’s revelation of the mystery is for the ‘faithful in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 1:1, not for unbelievers. To them it is ‘foolishness’.
All this is said to emphasise the unique importance of Paul and the need for we who follow the ‘high calling in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 3:14) to be partakers of his grace.
We are but his followers on this climb up to the gates of the heavenlies (Phil. 3:17). Nevertheless we, like the Philippians, must share with Paul our portion of the sufferings needful to ‘fill up’ the body of Christ. Needful, because only through such temporary ‘light affliction’ can we truly be made a living member of the body of which He is Head, and also because only through the preparation of suffering can we fully appreciate and relate to other chosen members of the body.
It was exactly this God-given appreciation for others Christ had made members of his body, such as the Apostle Paul, that the Philippians learned through their sufferings. That is why Paul could say they were ‘all partakers of my grace’.
©John Aldworth Oct. 2015