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EXCELLENT 

By Charles Welch

This word is used in the N.T. to translate Greek words meaning something widely "different" (Heb. 1:4), something "surpassing" (1 Cor. 12:31), something "fuller" (Heb. 11:4), as well as the title "most excellent" used of Theophilus, or of Felix with which aspect of the subject we are not here concerned. The reference to Abel's offering being "fuller" than that offered by Cain (Heb. 11:4) is of intense significance, but the subject of the Atonement is doctrinal, and it is entirely beyond the scope of this present analysis, which is particularly concerned with Dispensational Truth. The other aspects of the term, however, do bear upon Dispensational Truth and must here be considered.

Diaphero, is composed of dia "through" and phero "to bear" and the English "differ" from the Latin dis apart and fern to carry or to bear is almost an exact equivalent. Diaphero occurs thirteen times, and the varied ways in which it is translated give a fairly comprehensive picture.

(1) Carry. Here, in Mark 11:16 the word is employed in its primitive meaning.

Drive up and down. This translation given in Acts 27:27 of the passage of a ship in the grip of a tempest is a vivid application of the essential meaning of diaphero.

(3) Publish. The idea of "carrying through" when applied to the declaration of a message is the next stage in the application of the word.

(4) More value and better. Matthew 6:26,10:31. We now find

the word used in a more figurative sense, difference in value being the idea, rather than difference in place and position.

(5) Differ.. 1 Corinthians 15:41 and Galatians 2:6.

To make matter. Here in Galatians 2:6: "It maketh no matter to me", which passage Moffatt translates, "it no difference to me what their status used to be", the word begins to assume its fuller figurative meaning. 

(7) Excellent. Romans 2:18, Philippians 1:10. These references must be considered, but first we must look at cognate word.

Diaphoros. This word occurs but four times, thus:

Rom. 12:6. Gifts differing according to the grace . . . given.

 Heb. 1:4. Obtained a more excellent name.

8:6. Obtained a more excellent ministry.

9:10. Meats, drinks and diverse washings.

The passages that claim our attention are Philippians 1:10 and Hebrews 1:4, these having particular bearing upon the dispesational aspect of truth. The A.V. of Philippians 1:10 reads, "that ye may approve things that are excellent," the margin reads, "try the things that differ." It is impossible to approve things that are excellent without trying things that differ, and whatever translation we adopt, we reach the same end. verse before us, is echoed in 2 Timothy 2:15 where we have the injunction, "rightly divide the word of truth", and the sequel in Philippians 1:10, "that ye may be sincere and without offers `` till the day of Christ" is to the same effect as that of 2 Timothy 2:15, "approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed."

We must remember that there is a need to realize the difference made in the Scriptures, between fundamental doctrinal truth. which remains true, however much the dispensational t teaching may change, and the changing teaching, sphere, constitution privileges that are dispensational in character. "All have sinned" was true before Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans it remains true to-day, and will remain true until the New Creation. This statement consequently is prefaced by Apostle with the words, "There is no difference." The failure discriminate between fundamental truth and Dispensational Truth, has led some to be persuaded against endorsing its findings and of employing the principle in interpretation, the following somewhat simple argument, therefore, may possibly help to put the matter in a clearer light. What would you think of the following argument? 


"Englishmen eat, drink and sleep. Frenchmen eat, drink and sleep, therefore Englishmen are Frenchmen."

You would not think very highly of the intelligence of anyone who would put forward such trifling statement as a serious argument. You would need no training in formal logic to set it aside as ridiculous. You might even go further and say, "Why waste precious time by speaking of it at all?" The reason is, that the truth of God in one great particular is sometimes attacked with as foolish an argument as that given above.

You may have been exercised in your reading of the Scriptures as to the evident differences that are to be found in the Gospels, the Acts, the epistles and the Book of Revelation, for example, differences as to spheres of blessing, such as, "the meek shall inherit the earth", and "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places." You may have discerned a real difference between "The Kingdom" and "The Church," or between "The Bride" and "The Body", and then someone has demolished the whole of your conception of truth by saying something like this:

"All the redeemed are saved by the same precious blood, they receive the same gift of life, they read the same inspired Book, they worship the same God, they own and are owned by the same Father, therefore all these so-called differences are fanciful and highly dangerous,"

Now while you readily perceive the fallacy in the argument about Englishmen being Frenchmen because both eat, drink and sleep, you may not so readily perceive the self-same fallacy in the argument that denies all the differences concerning different companies of the redeemed taught by the Scriptures, simply because such companies have some things in common.

Let us see whether this figure of the two nationalities will help us in appreciating what is known as "Dispensational Truth".

Things that are the same                          Things that differ                                   

 Englishmen                                                England is a Monarchy.

Eat                                                                English money standard is the

Drink,                                                           English rule of the road                      

Sleep                     ENGLAND                    is "Keep left".
 

                               English Channel

Frenchmen                         France is a Republic.
  

 Eat,                                      French money standard is the Franc.
                                                 

Drink,          FRANCE        French rule of the road 

 Sleep.                                   "Keep right".


It is most obvious that the similarities noted on the left-hand side cannot neutralize the most evident differences that are recorded on the right-hand side. Let us set out the case for Dispensational Truth in exactly the same way, using the countries to represent two dispensations, and using the Channel for the dispensational boundary, noting on the hand some things that are similar in both dispensations, and on the right some things that are different.
 


Things that are the same 

The   

Things that differ

The Word of God.


Dispensation 

The people of Israel a present factor

Redemption  by  blood of Christ.

covered  by

The presence of Miraculous gifts

God the Father.

the Acts 

The Hope of Israel

The Word of God. 

Acts 28 

The people of Israel absent

Redemption by the blood of Christ.

 The Dispensation  

The absence of miraculous gifts

God the Father.

of  the Mystery Ephesians 

  The hope of glory 

                                      
Throughout the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of the period, the Jew is "first" (see Rom. 1:16). The Kingdom of Israel is ever before the mind (see Acts 1-6); when the Apostle Paul reached Rome, he did not visit the Church so far as we are told, but sent for the elders of the Jews. After an all-day conference, the people of Israel were solemnly dismissed by the quotation of Isa. 6:9,10, and, for the first time since the call of Abraham, the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles without reference to the people of Israel.

Upon examining the epistles written by Paul during his imprisonment (that is, after the change of dispensation had made) we discover that the people of Israel, the fathers; Abraham Isaac and Jacob, are all conspicuous by their absence. We have crossed the English Channel as it were, and have left a "Kingdom" for a "Republic".

The second feature we have indicated on the diagram is the presence of miraculous gifts. The Apostle-who worked miracles during the Acts of the Apostles-sent Timothy a prescription for his "often infirmities" in the dispensation that followed, and many are the wrecks that have resulted from the attempt to live as though the miraculous gifts of the Acts period were to-day still the rule and not the exception.

When we cross the Channel and step on to the shores of France, we find ourselves at once surrounded with a set of circumstances that differ from those obtaining in our own country. If we should be so foolish as to persist in ignoring, for example, the change in money, we should put ourselves and others to a great amount of trouble, and soon find life impossible, while if we were so foolish as to attempt to ignore the change from the "left-hand" turn to the "right-hand" turn, we should probably pay for our foolishness with our lives, and most certainly endanger the lives of others.

Lastly, what is "hoped for" is a good index to a calling. The reader will remember the phrase, "the hope of your calling." The epistle to the Romans was the last to be written before the Acts came to a close, and whatever was the hope of the Church then will represent what was its hope right through the period:

"There shall be a root of Jesse, and He that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust (hope R.V.).

"Now the God of (that) hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing" (Rom. 15:12,13).

The Apostle refers to Isaiah eleven, which speaks of the millennial reign of Christ, when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and when the Lord will set His hand the second time to recover the remnant of His people Israel. This is in line with the statement of the Apostle in Acts 26 and 28:

"The hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come" (Acts 26:6,7).

"For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain" (Acts 28:20).

In the Prison Epistles of Paul, Israel has gone, and with Israel the hope connected with that nation. In its place is "the hope that is laid up in heaven", "which was preached unto every creature under heaven" (see Col. 1:5,23,27, 3:4). We will not enlarge on these differences further, as they form the matter matter of the bulk of this analysis. We turn to Hebrews 1:4 for  a word on the statement "a more excellent name". For a full examination of this subject, particularly as it fits the theme Hebrews, the article dealing with this epistle should consulted, as also for parallel teaching, the article on Philipians and the one dealing with the Prize. Here we will deal the actual wording of the passage and its relation with the The simplified 'structure of Hebrews 1:2 is as follows:

Hebrews 1 :3

A   1 :1,2. God once spoke by prophets. Now by His 

      B 1 :2-14. The Son. His glories. Better than angels.

 A  2:1-4: God once spoke by angels. Now by the Lord.

     B  2:5-8. The Son. His sufferings. Lower than angels.

It will be seen the relationship of the Son to angels, is not connected with His own inherent superiority, as Creator to creature, but in relation with His mission "His sufferings, and its sequel "His glory". We scarcely need a revelation from heaven to tell us that One, Who can be described as "the express image of His (God's) person" must necessarily be far above angels, it goes without saying, but Hebrews one is teaching us that He "obtained" this position "by inheritance. The Saviour had a glory that was His "before the world was" (John seventeen); He voluntarily "emptied Himself" ("made Himself of no reputation" Phil. two), and the glory that He thus relinguished as the image of the invisible God, He receives back as the one Mediator, and this glory He will share with redeemed people (John 17:22). That great prophetic chapter of suffering, namely Isaiah fifty-three, is introduced by words that magnify the wonder of His subsequent exaltation.

As many as were astounded at thee (reference to suffering and shame) So shall many nations be startled (R.V.) 
(reference to His unprecedented exaltation) (Isa. 52:14,15) and this glorious simile is introduced with the triumphant words:

"Behold My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be EXALTED  and  EXTOLLED, and be VERY HIGH" (Isa. 52:13).

The exact sameness of the wording as given in the references above of Hebrews 1:4 and 8:6, may mislead the English reader. In Hebrews 1:4 the word is "obtain by inheritance" kleronomeo, whereas in Hebrews 8:6 the Greek word translated "obtainer" is tughano, a word which came to mean something that "happened" (1 Cor. 15:37), but which originally meant "to hit", especially "to hit a mark with an arrow", as in Homer, and then in a secondary sense "to hit upon" by chance. There is no chance work in Hebrews 11:35, the only other reference in this epistle, for the obtaining of a better resurrection was by voluntary suffering. The ministry of Christ as the Mediator of the New Covenant, has no reference to the Church of the Mystery, but it is so glorious that the old covenant is entirely set aside (see the argument of 2 Cor. 3). The more excellent name of Hebrews 1:4, and the more excellent ministry of Hebrews 8:6, are part of a series of "better things", and before considering this part of our study, we will set out the occurrences of the word "better" as it is found in Hebrews.

Better, in Hebrews

A  1:4. Christ at the Right Hand (3). Better than angels, more excellent name.

   B    a  6:9. Things that accompany salvation.

             b 7:7,19,22. Better priesthood, hope and covenant.

 A  8:6. Christ at the Right Hand (1). Better covenant, promises. more excellent ministry.

    B        b 9:23. Better sacrifice.

          a 10:34, I I :16,35,40. Things that accompany salvation.

              b 12:24. Better than Abel's offering.

The more excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31). The theme of 1 Corinthians 12 is indicated in the opening sentence, it is "concerning spiritual gifts" and whatever differences there may exist between one gift and another, all are of "the same spirit". These gifts include miracles, healings, government and prophecy. Yet, wonderful as each or any of these supernatural gifts may be, the Apostle at the close of the chapter says, "and yet show I unto you a more excellent way." literally the words "more excellent" read "according to an hyperbole". An hyperbole is an exaggeration, "it consists in magnifying an object beyond its natural bounds . . . our common forms of compliment are almost of them extravagant hyperboles" Blair. Even Blair here consciously slips into an hyperbole, for an extravagant hyper bole is according to his own dictum "an extravagant extravagance" ! The word hyperbole occurs seven times in the N.T. and where the phrase kath hyperbole is used, the letters k.h. will be put in brackets after the quotation.

Hyperbole

Rom. 7:13. Might become exceeding sinful (k.h.).

1 Cor. 12:31. Show I unto you a more excellent way (k.h.).

2 Cor. 1:8. We were pressed out of measure (k.h.).

6:7. The excellency of the power.

17. A far more exceeding and eternal weight (k.h.) .

 12:7. Through the abundance of the revelations.

Gal. 1 :13. Beyond measure I persecuted the church (k.h.)

To understand the way that was exceedingly superior to possession or employment of spiritual gifts, we must 1 Corinthians thirteen:

"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand-. mysteries, and all knowledge: and though I have all faith, that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I a nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2).


The reason for this excellence is discovered in the close of the chapter. "Charity never faileth" but prophecies, tongues and knowledge shall cease and vanish away. They are after all "in part" and are to be likened to childish things which are put away upon arriving at adulthood.

With 1 Corinthians twelve and thirteen before us, and with the Apostle's own statement in 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 13:1 1 we perceive that the cry, "Back to Pentecost" may be but the cry of a full-grown man who cries "back to the nursery". The presence of spiritual gifts in an assembly to-day is no sign of maturity, rather the reverse.