The Little Flock and the Body of Christ
There is now, at this moment, an argument permeating the “grace movement”, or “Mid-Acts Pauline Right Dividing Dispensationalists” about the little flock and who is in it, and who is and who is not in the Body of Christ.
These arguments are very heated in nature and place many at odds with each other. Some are even using the dread word “heretic” with each other because of the stances taken in this regard.
I have hesitated to even get into the fray on this one as I am not a pastor or leader and do not have a ministry except for this website. I only put my Bible study out to share with you and share the gospel for any unsaved readers who may stumble upon these studies. I seek to proclaim the gospel of Christ as clearly as possible so that I may reach even one unsaved person with this glad message, so that that person will believe and be saved.
In my work life, without getting into the nitty-gritty, I plan and oversee the processing of raw materials into finished components for surgical instruments. In this process we will sometimes find that the components make it to the last step in processing and then are disqualified, i.e., rejected, as not conforming to the customer’s plans and specifications.
I bring this up because when these items get to the end, it is very often not the last step in processing that causes the “non-conformity”, but often the first or one of the many intermediate steps where the problem began. It is possible that it was not even a problem at that step, but we find out that as the process continues, things done at step 1 can cause problems at step 2, 3, 4, or even 100. The severity of the problem may not show up until the very end.
I have often found also that many processes have “band-aids” put on them that help to get to the desired outcome. These fixes also make the processes messy. It is sometimes very messy, but necessary to do what is required to complete the process to the required specifications.
We often find these band-aids layered one on top of the other and what they often do is mask the real problem, which is a fundamental flaw in the manufacturing method.
This brings me back to the problem as originally stated regarding who is in the “little flock”, and who is in the Body of Christ. I hear that some have come to conclusions as far as to say that Timothy was in the “little flock” and not in the Body of Christ. Hearing this I have to wonder, “How did we get here?”
For those who may not know, the “little flock” comes from Luke 12:32, where the Lord said to His followers:
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” — Luke 12:32
Often in “Mid-Acts” teaching, other names are used as well, such as “Kingdom Saints”, or “Messianic Believers”. These terms, or something similar to them are used in an effort to distinguish them from the Body of Christ since they came to know the Lord as Israel’s King and God’s Messiah rather than as the Savior who died for their sins. This difference must be understood in order to make any sense of what has happened since Christ ministered on earth and what God is doing today. I agree fully that the Lord’s ministry on earth to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) is not the same as the gospel of grace that the Lord Himself gave to the apostle Paul, having entrusted to him the dispensation of the grace of God (Ephesians 3:2).
But understanding that difference does not mean that we need to build an uncrossable divide between them and us, especially since God Himself has broken down that divide.
In light of 1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 4:1–6, Ephesians 2:11–22, Galatians 2:11–21, and other Pauline passages, how can we say that we are “Pauline” if we keep the people of God separated? It is in Paul’s epistles that we are commanded against this very thing!
Is there a difference between Israel and the Body of Christ? Yes. Israel was God’s nation under the Law, and will be again under the New Covenant. The Body of Christ is all of us who are in Christ. But being part of Israel does not exclude anyone from the Body.
Is there a difference between the gospel of the Kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God? Yes. The gospel of the Kingdom is a body of good news about Christ as King in His real, literal, geographic and political kingdom on this earth which will be accomplished when He returns to earth to judge and make war (Revelation 19:11). The gospel of grace is about God dealing with the world in grace rather than in judgment and reconciling mankind to Himself in one body by the cross of Jesus Christ.
Here is where it gets tricky: if, during the so-called Acts period where we are attempting to maintain separation, the rapture would have occurred, would the believers in both groups have been taken by the Lord to meet Him in the air, or would only one group have been taken and the other group left to go through the tribulation? I realize that this is only hypothetical, because the rapture did not occur during that time, but what is the answer?
Another issue has to do with the gospel that each group believed to get into that group. Some claim that since the “little flock” believed only in a gospel of Jesus as Christ while the “body of Christ believers” (those evangelized by Paul) believed on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to become members of their group, these believers must be separated indefinitely. If this is so, however, why would Paul have rebuked Peter and Barnabas for separating themselves from the Gentile believers in Antioch? If what those who would push to maintain indefinite separation are correct, then Peter and Barnabas were absolutely correct to do what they did in Antioch, as is told to us in Galatians 2.
If by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13), why are only some baptized into that body while others who also believed on Christ as ministered to them excluded from this body?
Some have claimed that we need to “rightly divide” Paul’s epistles to determine if he is speaking to the Body or to the Little Flock. Some have claimed that we need to rightly divide Paul’s “Acts ministry” to determine if he was preaching the gospel of the kingdom or the gospel of grace because he preached to Jewish synagogues that Jesus is the Christ. But if they did not believe that He was Christ, would they have ever believed that He died for their sins? Would a message that Jesus is Christ have any relevance to Gentiles who were “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12)?
Is this a gospel of Jesus as Christ?
“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” — Acts 17:31
The verse above certainly has all of the elements of Jesus as Christ. And it was to Gentiles. But there is nothing specifically “Jewish” about it, because it has nothing to do with covenants, but simply about facts of a coming judgment where God’s ordained Man, His Christ, will judge the world in righteousness. Paul preached Jesus as Christ to both Jews and Gentiles, but he did not preach to them the gospel of the kingdom as John the Baptist, our Lord Himself, and His apostles later would preach.
It was, in fact, a man by the name of E.W. Bullinger who eventually made the “Acts 28” error, that said in his work The Church Epistles, that Paul had one gospel:
Not only did the apostle reason with them out of the written Word, but he preached the Living Word—the Lord Jesus Christ—“opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus whom I preach unto you is the Messiah” (Acts 17:3). This, we learn from Acts 17:7, meant that He was coming again, “another King.” Thus He proclaimed a complete Savior—a suffering Savior, a risen Savior, and a coming Savior. In a word, he preached Christ to them, and did not separate Christ and the Scriptures. He had one Gospel. Not one for Gentile idolaters and another for religious Jews; not one for “men” and another for “women only,” but a gospel for sinners. For all alike are under sin, whatever may be the natural privileges of birth or education.Bullinger, E. W.. The Church epistles: Romans to Thessalonians – Their importance, order, inter-relation, structure, scope and interpretation. E-Sword Edition.
Mr. Bullinger is correct here. Though he began to separate Paul’s later ministry with his early ministry and set a dividing line where there should not be one, he did not make different gospels to different people and leave it up to the reader to decide which good news applied to whom. At least not here. There are, however, some that would say that Mr. Bullinger’s error into “Acts 28” doctrine is the result of his holding to Paul’s authorship of Hebrews.
Most in the “King James Only” camp of Mid-Acts Pauline Dispensationism are very much against Paul’s authorship of Hebrews. As an aside, one would have to wonder about the trustworthiness of a perfect Bible translation that cannot even get the title of a book correctly.
As a great many would stand against this new teaching on the little flock and body of Christ, I would have to say that many of them have taught things that would lead that way. Just like the Baptists who stand firmly against the Pentecostals, even though their teaching would lead that way, or the “Reformed” pastors who would stand against the NAR people, but also all lead in the same direction.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you need to create an eternal and uncrossable divide between the “little flock” and the Body of Christ, the conclusions these reached are the natural result. If we take difficult doctrine and solve the problem by saying it belongs to someone else just because it doesn’t fit with what we think “Body of Christ Doctrine” is, don’t be surprised when some others take it further than you did.
1 Corinthians 12:13 — “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
Charles Miller View All
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.
Greetings in the name of the Lord.
I just ran across this writing of yours, and I must say since the Lord saved me 44 years ago, I’ve never run across or heard of this “Little flock” beliefism, being separate from the “Body of Christ”.
I need to say what a “tangled web” our fleshly reasoning minds can invent!
As you ended your writing quoting 1 Corinthians 12:13, based on that scripture and scores of other of Paul’s writing’s and the other Apostles; ALL who are born again through the working Power of the Holy Spirit, who convicts men/women of sin, are within the Body of Christ. There is only One Body of Christ!
The “Little flock” the Lord is referring too in Luke 12:32, is spoken to His 12 Disciples. Which in comparison to the large Jewish Law believer’s and follower’s, which could have been a couple of million, His 12 were truly a “little flock”! There is nothing “hidden” within that contextual statement of our dear Lord.
The simplicity that is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Apostles is very straight forward as we receive the teaching by the Holy Spirit. We are too live the Word, by and through the Holy Spirit, and not by the human fleshly reasoning mind by the “letter of the word”.
Thank you for writing about this subject, it will be helpful in assisting me when I do run across this terrible teaching.
May I ask what is your testimony? I do not find an “About” section within your Blog, I truly enjoy reading how each came to the saving Knowledge of our Lord granted by the Holy Spirit. Because living testimonies give the Glory to the Lord!
The Lord bless you…
In His Love…..
I have since, I wrote this comment, come across Miles J. Stanford, who did write upon this subject in his “dissertations” concerning the “Pauline Dispensationalism” and his writings in his Book ” The Complete Green Letters” which was first published back in 1975 by “Zondervan”. I have just purchased the Green Letters, and am in the process of reading it. I have the printed free PDF version of his “Pauline Dispesationalism” which I have found no problematic
Doctrinal errors so far. I do agree much with his understandings of our “placement” in Christ Jesus. He himself is against the present understanding of the “Covenant Theology” and “Neo-dispensationalists” teachings.
I have found recently in a group on FB “Pauline Dispensation” there contentious arguing concerning this subject. Which I have found rather grievous to say the least. I have come to a discerning conclusion that folks that continually argue are in fact labeling this as the “doctrine of Paul”, which is not true, because as Paul states, everything he was taught by the Lord through the revelation given to Him by the Holy Spirit for the Body of Christ is Christ’s Doctrine, on how the Body of Christ is too function amongst themselves and to the sinner’s in the world. And how true believer’s are residents of the Lord’s Heavenly Kingdom, and thus should be concerned only with that, and not to develop a “earthly kingdom” as the present day “kingdom now” theology is trying to push, which in fact is a “Political Jesus” and not the Spiritual Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What they are doing is exactly what Paul did not desire:
1Co 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1Co 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
1Co 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
1Co 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1Co 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
1Co 3:4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
1Co 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
I think Peter stated it properly: 2Pe 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
These groups who argue and cause such “divisions” are very carnal, and know not what they are speaking about.
Lord bless you….