The obvious discrepancies between Paul’s gospel and the Gospel of the Kingdom as preached by John the Baptist, Jesus and the 12 apostles.
By Vernon Gray
I have compiled this study for you to look at and make your own assessment.
Although it is 23 pages long, it is in no way exhaustive and I do not claim to know it all; but the skeleton of what I am trying to say is here. Please take time to read what follows; I would really appreciate your comments.
Popular interpretation of the book of Acts concludes that it is the birth of the Church, the Body of Christ. But if we read carefully, we find that Acts is a book of transition between one program of God; the Old Testament and another; the New Testament.
It is commonly believed in Christendom that the book of Acts is a pattern on which the Church today should be based. If we accept this as fact, it will confuse and frustrate the serious Bible scholar because there appears to be so many contradictions. In truth there are no contradictions, but without an understanding of the relationship between Kingdom of Heaven (God’s plan for the Jews) it is impossible to come to a clear understanding of the Kingdom message preached to the Jew and the message of grace preached to the Gentile by Paul.
We believe that a new dispensation began with Paul who was given a revelation of the “mystery” of Jew and Gentile in one body and the “In Christ” position of the believer.
Pauline doctrine differs from that of the twelve apostles.
[In theological circles the term Pauline is a classical adjective used when speaking of the unique works of the Apostle Paul, his writings, teachings, and theological doctrines derived from them.]
Those who reject this notion say that Paul was commissioned to progressively unfold and explain, to the other Apostles and members of the Body, various aspects or subjects previous hidden ("mystery/secret") as mentioned throughout his epistles.
This sounds like a solid argument until you see the obvious discrepancies between Paul’s gospel and the Gospel of the Kingdom as preached by John the Baptist, Jesus and the 12 apostles.
REMEMBER Acts is not a book of doctrine. It is a book of transition from one dispensation to the next.
Almost every scholar will agree that the book of Acts is a transition from one dispensation to another. How then do we follow a pattern that keeps on changing?
Which message should we preach?
Should we call upon men to “repent and be baptized...for the remission of sins” and offer them the Kingdom of Heaven on earth as Peter did?
Acts 2: 38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Or should we preach the gospel of the grace of God.
There is a difference, and if we fail to recognize the difference, we will end up with a mixture of law and grace which is not grace at all.
No one can preach what Peter preached in Acts 2 and 3 and ALSO proclaim the truths of Romans, Ephesians and Colossians. They are not the same. Trying to embrace both the Kingdom gospel and the gospel of grace leaves one spiritually schizophrenic.
To whom shall we preach?
If we obey the pattern set out in Acts we should begin our ministry in Jerusalem as the 12 apostles did. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 47)
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8)
Or should we ignore these instructions and go to the Gentiles as Paul did?
“Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” (Acts 18: 6)
If we obey the instructions and we want to reach the Jew first, then we need to know that there are more Jews in New York, Chicago and San Francisco that there are in the whole of Israel.
Which economic program should we follow?
The pattern laid out in Acts 2 and 4 is to dispose of all our assets and have “all things in common.” This is communism. But I hasten to add that it was the purest form of communism in that it was fair and worked for the common good of all at every level.
In Acts 2, the people were giving to each other out of their own good will to those who had a need, and they were giving freely, without regulation of how much they were to give.
In other words, they shared what they had out of a shared love for one another and a common goal—living for Christ and glorifying God. In a communist society, people give because a system of government forces them to give. They don’t have a choice in the matter as to how much they give or to whom they give. This, therefore, does not reflect on who they are; it says nothing about their identity or character.
Or should we retain our private possessions and give to the Lords work “every man according to his ability.”?
Is our salvation based on works plus faith, or faith alone?
James, who wrote to the Jews, says that... “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2: 24)
Paul on the other hand said... “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3: 28)
Which is it to be?
Can we expect divine intervention when we are persecuted as seen in the OT and in Acts? Will we witness the signs and wonders displayed by Jesus and the 12 apostles, or will we find ourselves in prison, delivered up unto death and forsaken by man and seemingly by God as was the case with Paul?
Are we delivered unto death daily? Consider the following verses by Paul...
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12)
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;” (Philippians 1:29)
“The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:16-18)
Most of the Old Testament is the story of a nation and their ultimate destiny.
Throughout the Scriptures God promised Israel their Messiah and a land which will be heaven on earth. Israel is promised to be the pre-eminent nation on the earth.
Some references are...
Exodus 15:18; Exodus 19:5,6; Deuteronomy 28: 1 & 13; Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 4:2,3; Isaiah 11:1 – 9; Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 60:1-3; Isaiah 65:20-25; Mica 4:1-3; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 8:20-23; Zechariah 14:1; Zechariah. 14:9; Jeremiah 23:5; Haggai 3:8; Daniel 2:44; Zephaniah 3:11; Isaiah 9:3-5; Amos 9:11-15; Joel 3:16-18; Psalm 72:3; Psalm 45:6; Psalm 132:11; Jeremiah 3:18; Mica 6:8.
Every practising Jew is waiting for their Messiah to come and set up His Kingdom here on earth. They base their hope on the above verses which are sprinkled throughout the Old Testament.
The saints of the Old Testament were promised that when the Messiah came to bring in the Kingdom of Heaven, that if they had previously died before this event they would be resurrected into that Kingdom to live forever in it.
Note the following verses...
Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Psalm 37:18 “The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be forever.”
Psalm 37:27 – 29 “Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.
For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever.”
Daniel 7:18 “But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.”
Daniel 12: 1 – 3 “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.”
THIS IS WHAT ISRAEL WAS WAITING FOR. But when the Messiah came to them, they rejected who He was.
Fast forward to the Magi from the east.
How did they know that the Saviour of Israel, the Messiah would be born at this time?
They were from a school of learned students of prophecy started by Daniel.
Daniel prophesied that “...from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.” (Daniel 9: 25)
History records that this decree was given by king Artaxerxes in, 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:5-8, 17, 18) Exactly “seven weeks” later to the very day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of the donkey. All Israel had to do was believe that He was the Messiah, but they would not.
It was these prophecies that drove the Magi to Bethlehem to pay homage to the King of kings.
John the Baptist.
Jesus is the Messiah that the Jews had been anticipating for centuries...
Luke 2:25 “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel...”
Luke 3:1 5 “And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, [the Baptist] whether he were the Christ, or not.”
Finally it was time for the ministry of the long awaited Messiah to begin. John the Baptist was to be the herald of the Messiah also prophesied in Scripture.
John’s message was “Repent, be baptized for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Matthew records what Jesus did after He was baptized by John...
Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The promised kingdom of Heaven on earth was to be ushered in provided that Israel as a nation believed who Jesus was. It was that simple. They had to believe corporately as a nation that Jesus was who He said He was.
The two gospels
The “Kingdom Gospel” as taught by John the Baptist, Jesus and the 12 Apostles was effective on condition that Israel believed in Jesus as their Messiah. It was a gospel of National Redemption.
Paul’s gospel of grace is an unconditional, individual and personal salvation if we believe in what Jesus did.
It is significant that Paul refers to his gospel as MY gospel.
Romans16:25 “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began...”
Romans 2:16 “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”
1Timothy 1:11 “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”
2Timothy 2:8 “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:”
WHO JESUS WAS = Kingdom Gospel. National Redemption of Israel.
(Neither John the Baptist, nor Jesus nor the apostles preached faith in the cross as the means of salvation.)
WHAT JESUS DID = Gospel of grace. Individual and personal salvation.
The 12 apostles and several hundred others believed the Kingdom gospel, but the nation on the whole rejected Jesus as their Messiah on what we call Palm Sunday.
Jesus was distraught and cried... “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23: 37)
In spite of their rejection of Christ, the offer remained open to them until AFTER the resurrection and ascension into heaven.
Look at Acts 3: 19, 20 Peter was addressing Jews from all over the provinces and he tells them...“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:”
The “repenting” here is not for their sin per se, but for one sin in particular...the sin of slaughtering the Messiah. Had they repented and believed in whom He was, Jesus would have returned to earth and the millennial Kingdom of Heaven on earth would have begun.
“And He shall send Jesus Christ...” means exactly what it says; Jesus would have returned to rule the earth as prophesied by all the Old Testament prophets.
John the Baptist and Jesus preached baptism for the remission of sins because the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. The Kingdom message spoke of the kingdom being established on the earth in the very near future IF they believed it. They did not!
The Kingdom “gospel” will not save anyone today. The Kingdom gospel for the Jews to accept who Jesus was; believe that He was the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel.
They had to believe IN Jesus whereas we have to believe ON Jesus.
There was no Death, Burial and Resurrection in the Kingdom gospel.
It was all about who Jesus was.
It was a gospel of works; Repent and be baptized and by faith believe in who Jesus was and you would be saved.
After John was arrested we see Jesus preaching the same gospel as John did.
“Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles’—‘The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 4.12-17).
What gospel did the twelve preach?
Many well meaning Christians say that the twelve preached the same gospel that we do today. This is entirely incorrect. Firstly they did not know about the gospel of grace until Paul received it by revelation from the risen Christ some 14 years later.
Notice too Matthew 3: 1, 2 “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
After Jesus was baptized by John we see in Matthew 4: 17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Again look at Matthew 10 : 5 – 7 when Jesus sent the twelve out to preach the gospel...
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
So the question is; what was the gospel that John the Baptist, Jesus and the twelve preached? Was it the gospel of grace as found in 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 4? Definitely not!
Look at Luke 18: 31 – 34 “Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.
32) For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:
33) And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
34) And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.”
The twelve had no clue about the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.
They preached another gospel to the Jew. The Kingdom gospel was a call for the Jew to repent and be baptised as a show of faith because the long awaited Kingdom was at hand
IF they, as a nation accepted who Jesus was.
What did the Old Testament Saints believe in?
If you read the Old Testament you will find the Jews had no concept of dying and going to heaven as Christians do. They looked for an earthly kingdom here on the earth where they would be the preeminent nation. (cf. Deuteronomy 7: 12 – 15
Isaiah 2.1-4, 11.1-10, Zechariah 14.9, etc.).
Paul wrote, “For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers” (Romans 15.8).
Jesus came to usher in the millennial Kingdom of Heaven.
If you read Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus it is full of this concept. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, this is a genitive of source, not a genitive of location.
In other words, a kingdom whose source is heaven, not a kingdom located in heaven.
Thus, when Jesus answered Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18.36) He meant it was not sourced (did not come from the power) of this world but was from heaven. Jesus told the thief that he would be with Him in paradise, not heaven.
Jews DO NOT have the idea of dying and going to heaven. This is NOT Jewish theology. They believe that they will be resurrected into the Kingdom of Heaven on earth as prophesied and promised to them and their patriarchs.
1. Nathanael’s Faith was in who Jesus was...
“Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’” (John 1.49-51).
No death burial and resurrection here.
2. Martha’s Faith was in who Jesus was...
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (John 11.25-27).
No death burial and resurrection here.
3. Peter’s Faith was in who Jesus was...
“And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16.14-16)
No death burial and resurrection here.
4. The Ethiopian Eunuch’s Faith was in who Jesus was...
“The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
No death burial and resurrection here.
5. Saul’s Faith was in who Jesus was...
“Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9.19-22).
No death burial and resurrection here.
From the above testimonies, we find a common thread. What one believed for salvation during Jesus’ earthly ministry and shortly afterwards, what “believing in Christ” meant during this time was believing that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God.
What is missing in all of the salvation messages above?
The Blood of Christ.
The Resurrection of Christ.
None of these exist. How do we learn about the cross, Jesus’ shed blood, and the resurrection? We learn them from Paul.
Paul was the first to declare the significance and meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.
The first place we read about the significance of Jesus’ death for salvation is in Romans 3. Paul wrote: “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3.21-26).
No one wrote about the significance of the death of Christ for salvation until Paul.
Christ’s death and resurrection was Paul’s gospel.
Paul declared: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15.1-4)
No one preached this gospel until Paul. Paul declared it to be “my gospel” (Romans 2.16 16.25). The gospel before Paul was the “gospel of the kingdom,” believing that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of God. As we have seen above, this was the gospel Paul preached immediately following his own conversion. However, later, probably during the three years Paul recounted that he was in Arabia (Galatians 1.17-18), the glorified Lord revealed the significance of His death and resurrection as a redemptive and propitiatory work for the sins of mankind.
Someone may object that Peter preached Christ’s death and resurrection in Acts 2.
Luke recorded Peter’s sermon: “Men of Israel, [Peters address here is to Israel; there were NO Gentiles present] listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
Read carefully Peter’s message and ask the question, “What message was Peter conveying?” Was Peter’s message good news? No.
Peter accused his audience (all Jews) of murdering their Messiah and declared that God had raised Him from the dead. Did Peter tell them Christ had died for their sins and rose from the dead? No.
Peter declared: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2.36).
What was their reaction? Did they say, “Praise God! Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead so I might have eternal life.” No. They were convicted. The death of Christ for them was a sin. Peter presented Christ’s death, not as a great victory, but a matter for repentance. Thus, Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2.38). Again, this was the gospel of the kingdom, not the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20.24) the gospel of Paul (Romans 2.15, 16.25, 1 Corinthians 15.1-4).
What’s different? Everything!
When God took Paul into the Arabian Desert and gave him the “mystery” all this changed. God began a whole new dispensation with Paul. For Paul, the cross was glorious.
He preached “Christ crucified.” The focus of Paul’s gospel ministry was no longer having to believe in WHO JESUS WAS, but to believe in WHAT JESUS DID.
When we read the following passage we must understand what it meant at the time.
John wrote: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
(John 3.16-18). [Believing IN Jesus is not the same as believing ON Jesus.]
This passage is probably familiar to more people than any other passage in Scripture.
Most misunderstand it, however. The gospels reveal that Jesus ministered to Jews only (Matthew 10.5-6; John 12.20-26) with two exceptions (Matthew 15.21-28; 8.5-13; cf. Luke 7.1-10). In context then, this passage has to do with Jewish salvation, not Gentile salvation. Interpretatively, therefore, John 3:16 has nothing to say for salvation today.
In His conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus Jesus told him that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
What did Jesus expect Nicodemus to believe? He expected him to believe He was the Christ, the Son of God. On the basis of this faith one obtained salvation.
This was the crux of the objection the chief priests made against Jesus. This was why they arrested Him. They refused to believe He was the Messiah, the Son of God.
Thus, John recorded...
“So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God” (John 19.6-7).
If Israel, as a nation accepted Jesus as the Messiah, the Kingdom of heaven would have begun. Paul preached a different gospel to the Kingdom gospel. Paul taught that we are to believe (by faith) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus ONLY.
The gospel of grace is believing in what Jesus did, and NOT who He is.
Pauls gospel is faith plus NOTHING = salvation.
The Kingdom gospel was faith (in who Jesus was) repentance and baptism = salvation.
Paul’s gospel was for a people with a heavenly calling and no earthly inheritance whilst the gospel of the Kingdom was for an earthly people with an earthly inheritance.
Eg. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the EARTH”.
This cannot apply to the Christians who do not have an earthly inheritance.
PS. The Beatitudes are the constitution of the Millennial Kingdom of Heaven of earth.
The beatitudes involve works apart from faith alone; they are the constitution of the Kingdom.
No one can be saved today by believing in who Jesus was. We have to believe in His death burial and resurrection. We have to accept that His death, burial and resurrection accomplished our forgiveness and our salvation on a PERSONAL level, not corporately.
Peter confirms Pauls gospel
It is noteworthy that Peter confirmed Pauls ministry when he wrote “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
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.” (2 Peter 3:15, 16)
This acknowledgement of Paul was near the end of Peter’s life shortly before he was martyred.
Peter acknowledges Paul’s authority and also seemed to have a certain admiration for him.
It was Peter that stood up for Paul at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. The reason Peter did this I think was because he remembered the encounter at Cornelius’ house when God instructed him to go into a Gentile’s house. God showed Peter a sheet coming down from heaven with all sorts of unclean animals which Jews could not eat.
(It was anathema for a Jew to even enter a Gentile home, let alone eat with them.)
Acts 10: 28, 29 Peter speaking to Cornelius says...“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
Although Peter’s ministry was NOT to the Gentiles, the encounter gave him enough boldness to stand up for Paul at the Jerusalem meeting which came about because the Church at Jerusalem had a mandate from God to go the Jew first, and only then to the uttermost parts of the world. As yet, Israel still did not believe who Jesus was and rejected the second offer for the Kingdom to be ushered in. Paul going directly to the Gentiles was a departure from their mandate known to us as “The Great Commission.”
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Romans 2:9 “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;” Romans 2:10 “But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:”
What about the Gentiles?
God laid the groundwork for the creation of the Jewish race with His call of Abram.
All God’s dealings with mankind were mediated through Israel from Abraham to Paul.
Based upon the Abrahamic Covenant, God’s blessings to Gentiles were to come through Israel. And all blessings to Israel were to come through the Messiah. With the rejection of their Messiah, how could God bless Gentiles when the channel of blessing, Israel, had rejected their source of blessing? The Old Testament had no answer to this question.
No provision to bless Gentiles apart from Israel had been revealed.
This is where Paul comes into the picture. God raised Paul up to become the source of immense blessings for the Gentiles through the revelations given to him directly by God.
Paul’s stand on “my gospel.”
When the head of the Church at Jerusalem heard that Paul was preaching to the Gentiles, Paul was summoned before them to explain himself. The reason for their calling a meeting with Paul was because he was preaching to the Gentiles. Not only that, he was preaching that salvation was by faith alone, and worse still, Paul was preaching that they did not need to be circumcised. This is not the same as what James and the 12 were preaching. Paul did not preach adherence to the law plus faith; it was FAITH ALONE by the grace of God alone.
This was entirely new to the Church at Jerusalem; they were concerned that Paul was a heretic perverting the Word of God. Paul taught that salvation was by faith alone without adhering to a baptism or repentance which is exactly what the Kingdom gospel required.
As it turned out, they recognized that God was doing something different among the Gentiles and they extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas.
Enter Saul of Tarsus
Paul ushered a new dispensation we loosely call the “Church Age “or more accurately “The Age of Grace.”
Colossians 1:25 “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;”
The “for you” here is referring to the Gentiles.
As Abraham and Moses were THE men (racial and national heads) of Israel, so Paul is the founder of Christianity. He is THE man for the Church. When one understands this truth we can begin to understand Christian theology.
Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, had one of the most remarkable lives in history.
God transformed him from being Jesus of Nazareth’s greatest enemy to become his most vigorous servant and evangelist. But of much greater significance than Paul’s personal transformation was God’s change in His program. God revealed truths to Paul that He had kept secret. Jesus, during his three-year ministry on earth, never revealed these teachings and the Twelve knew nothing of them. Christendom’s greatest theological error has been its failure to recognize or understood Paul’s unique apostleship.
Because of this, vast theological confusion and error exists within the Church. On the one hand, perhaps we should not too hard. Even Peter, at the end of his life, struggled with Paul’s teachings.
Shortly before his execution he wrote: “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3.14-16).
We have had 2,000 years to understand the theological change God worked through Paul. Sadly, the vast majority of theologians, scholars, and teachers throughout Christendom remain ignorant of this great fact.
Why Matthias and not Paul?
The kingdom could not come without a full complement of twelve apostles.
As the Scriptures indicate, Matthias filled the vacancy left by Judas (Acts 1.23-26).
Some have maintained Peter and the other apostles were precipitous and should have waited for Paul to fill this position. Such a view ignores the text. The Scriptures reveal their actions were under the control of the Holy Spirit and that to qualify as one of the Twelve one had to have been with the apostles since the ministry of John the Baptist and be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1.21-22). Would Saul of Tarsus/Paul have qualified? No; neither do the so-called, self-appointed Apostles of today.
While the Twelve were commissioned and taught by the Lord for three years during His earthly ministry, the ascended, heavenly risen Lord commissioned and taught Paul for three years (most of which was probably spent in the Arabian desert, (Galatians 1.17-18). The Twelve were commissioned within the borders of Israel.
Paul was commissioned beyond the borders of Israel. After the ascended risen Lord commissioned Paul He revealed doctrines to Paul He had never revealed to the Twelve.
Understanding this fact is critical to our understanding of who and what we are in Christ.
The Kingdom program has been suspended for now, but the gospel of grace is the ONLY thing that saves us today.
The idea of God calling of the Gentiles a people for His name was entirely foreign to Israel. Israel was the chosen nation and they were fiercely opposed to anyone who claimed otherwise. It was a mystery revealed for the first time to Paul in the Arabian Desert.
Paul’s gospel of grace was a new dispensation. Works were no longer required for salvation.
Notice what Paul says in...
Ephesians 3:1 – 6 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2) If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3) How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4) Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6) That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:”
Who did Jesus come for?
In case you have reached for stones because of what has been said here so far, let me show you who Jesus came for. You will notice that Jesus instructed His disciples NOT to go to any Gentiles with the Kingdom gospel message. Jesus did not even speak to Gentiles except on two occasions. The Canaanite woman and the Roman Centurion. Both were anomalies and Jesus interceded on their behalf because of their faith. Generally however Jesus did not minister to Gentiles.
Matthew 10: 5 – 8 “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
6) But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7) And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
Matthew records what Jesus Himself said in 15:24 “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Paul too tells that Jesus was sent to the Jews. He tells us in Romans 15: 8 “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:”
The “circumcision” is Israel, “and the promises made unto the fathers” is the promise of the Kingdom of heaven on earth reigned over by the Messiah of Israel.
(Why do we try to follow Christ’s earthly ministry when it was not for us?)
Fortunately for us Paul also tells us in Romans15:12 (Quoting Isaiah 11: 10)
“And again, Esaias saith, ‘There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.’”
When did the New Testament begin?
The New Testament could not have begun with the Cross or at the Pentecost event.
The gospel of grace as we know it was not preached until about 14 years later when Paul got saved and was given it directly by God in the Arabian desert. It was a “mystery” up until that time. Not even the Old Testament prophets were given any inkling of what God would do with the Gentile by calling out from them a people for His name.
Paul could never have been one of the 12 apostles because he was not even saved until some 7 years after the ascension of Christ.
Aside from that the qualification for an apostle was that he had to have been with the Lord as a disciple from His baptism by John until the resurrection. It appears that only two men qualified. Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias were the only ones that qualified. [How a man can allow himself to be called an apostle today is scary considering the qualification needed. The gravity of being presumptuous in these matters does not escape me.]
Paul got saved and spent 3 years in the Arabian Desert being taught directly by God.
God enlisted Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles. This was such an affront to the 12 at Jerusalem who had not begun the “Great Commission” because Israel would simply not believe who Jesus was. They could not go to the “uttermost parts of the earth “until Israel got saved. This never happened; in fact the stoning of Steven was a pivotal moment.
From that point on the gospel of the Kingdom was withdrawn until Daniel’s 70th week; The Tribulation.
The gospels are the story of the Kingdom offered and rejected. The book of Acts is the story of the Kingdom reoffered and rejected.
And then God says in Acts 28: 28 “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
From the above verse we can reasonably conclude that the New Testament proper began with this verse, because after this declaration, the Gospel of Grace was preached to all both Jew and Gentile. The emphasis had changed; it was no longer believing who Jesus was, it was believing in His death, burial and resurrection.
One could no longer be saved by the Kingdom Gospel...it was the Gospel of Grace only.
There is not a hint of Peter and the 11 ever preaching this gospel. Peter however did acknowledge it as the truth coming from God.
Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament includes everything from Genesis to the day of Pentecost.
In fact, as we have seen one could argue that the New Testament really begins with…
Acts 28: 28 “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it.”
(God is currently dealing with the Gentiles until the “Times of the Gentiles” has been fulfilled; then once again God will deal directly with the Jews.)
One of the problems we have in the Church today is that some Christians Confuse “Jesus of Nazareth” with the “Risen Christ.”
It is not Jesus of Nazareth that dwells within the believer; it is Christ our Lord; The Risen Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth was sent to His own, the Jews; He was their long awaited Messiah.
Romans15:8 “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:”
The “circumcision” here is Israel and the “promises made unto the fathers” was that there would be an earthly Kingdom where the Messiah would reign and Israel would be the pre-eminent nation of the world.
The historic Jesus of Nazareth is not the Risen Christ of reality. Jesus of Nazareth has been transformed to Risen Christ; our Lord and Saviour.
[Before you pick up stones, think about what has just been said.]
Everything Jesus spoke about was the Kingdom of Heaven; even after the resurrection He spent forty days speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven. Many times throughout the gospels Jesus was asked when He would rule as King.
It is even possible that Judas tried to force the hand of Jesus by getting Him arrested, thinking that He would openly declare Himself before they could actually kill Him.
Jesus of Nazareth was flesh and blood and lived as a man like you and I. Yes, He did many wonderful works in order to convince Israel of His Messianic mission.
His ministry however was an outer work; in that all He did, affected primarily the outer man…i.e. The soul / mind through repentance, baptism etc.
Only after the resurrection did His ministry have the greatest impact on the inner man...the spirit of man.
We are not called to be like Jesus of Nazareth, nor can we be like Him.
Often when Christians think of Jesus they think of Jesus of Nazareth. As great and wonderful as Jesus of Nazareth was, it was His mission to point the Jews in the direction of the Kingdom of Heaven here on the earth.
We must remember that after the resurrection Jesus of Nazareth became the risen Christ; He is the One who gives us our Eternal Life and the power to serve the law of God, which is now written upon our hearts, and is part of our value system.
Under the Old Testament Law this couldn’t be done because the law dealt mainly with the soul / mind.
Judaism is an outer religion of works. Within it is the promise of a deeper and more profound relationship with God.
The Old Testament presented the message of a changed life by works.
The New Testament presents the message of an exchanged nature by grace.
The blood of a substitute sacrifice covered Old Testament sins; they had to “put on” righteousness by following and obeying the law.
New Testament sins are washed away and Christ IS the righteousness of the Christian.
Jesus of Nazareth worked on the outer man, which is the correction or the reforming of the “self,” whereas the risen Christ does an inner work. Most of what Jesus of Nazareth taught was the law, in order to fulfill it…
Matthew 5: 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law of the Prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
The law works from the outside inward; in the law there is no inner work, only an outer obedience to the law. The Old Testament Law dealt with the flesh or the Adamic nature from without in a reforming process. As we saw in Romans 7: 25, Paul serves the law of God with a renewed mind, not the flesh. Why?
Romans 8: 7 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
All God’s dealings with man including the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth was to change lives from the outside in. Even when the Holy Spirit visited the prophets and kings with an anointing, He was a resting upon them; He was never an indwelling influence. Now in this dispensation we have the Holy Spirit and Christ indwelling the believer.
MAKE A CONSCIOUS DISTINCTION BETWEEN JESUS OF NAZARETH AND
2 Corinthians 5: 16 instructs us, “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one after the flesh. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.”
When you think of “Christ in you,” do you still think of Jesus of Nazareth?
You can never be like Jesus of Nazareth. Nevertheless the glorified risen Christ, God Almighty Himself is within your very being, and with Him nothing is impossible.
You’ll notice that Paul never refers to Jesus of Nazareth. He never mentions the miracles and other wonders performed by Jesus of Nazareth, but he is at pains to reveal Christ Jesus, which is His divine title. Jesus of Nazareth is no longer in the form that He took on two thousand years ago. Jesus of Nazareth is now Christ Jesus the risen Lord of Lords, the King of Kings.
Having the concept or having Christ Let us assume that a good teacher was asked to speak on the subject of “longsuffering.”
The teacher looks up all the relevant Scriptures that contain the word “longsuffering,” and sets them out so that they form a cohesive pattern of thought.
Then references from famous Christian authors might be sought, along with the thoughts from various commentaries included for good measure.
Similar subjects like patience would be brought into the framework of the presentation, so that longsuffering can be clearly seen for what it is from every angle.
Now, the teacher makes the presentation to an audience who understand at a cerebral or intellectual level exactly what longsuffering is. Question!
Do you think that the audience leaves the meeting with longsuffering?
They may indeed understand the concept of longsuffering, but they have not had longsuffering imparted to them.
We can know many things intellectually in our soul, but this knowledge is not necessarily translated into a reality of life in our spirit.
Having the concept of something is not the same as having it as part of our life.
As Christians we need God to reveal things to our spirit-man so that our concepts can become reality in our lives. We need the Word to percolate from out brain to our heart.
Bible knowledge by itself is no guarantee that you will be a Christian.
You can know every verse in the Bible by heart, but if it is only a concept, it is sterile information.
God, in His mercy and grace enables us to grow spiritually when He allows our concepts to percolate through our soul and into our spirit. This is done through revelation (Rhema.)
When we get revelation of what God is actually saying, it transforms itself from a concept into a vigorous, potent, and productive life.
Knowing Jesus of Nazareth and knowing the Risen Christ.
If we are to come to know the Christ within us, we must from now on cease from making Jesus of Nazareth our example.
If we are to come to know Christ within us, we must see the risen Christ of today as our pattern.
Because of our religious conditioning, we tend to see Jesus of Nazareth as He was when He walked the earth. This is a poor image of who Jesus really is today.
This is the image of what He was before the resurrection. Let us look at a few verses on this subject.
Philippians 2: 5 – 7 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men.”
Jesus of Nazareth made Himself of no prideful reputation. This is the historical Jesus, and a knowledge of the historical Jesus (no matter how good that knowledge is,) is retrospective and spiritually sterile.
“Sterile,” because such knowledge cannot produce spiritual growth only intellectual understanding.
On the other hand, the coming to know the present day Christ our Lord is dynamic; it is life giving, it produces fruit and promotes spiritual growth.
Remember Jesus of Nazareth as He was before the resurrection only gives you information ABOUT CHRIST. To know the risen Christ as He is today however is a journey into a dynamic union and communion WITH CHRIST.
This is the difference between believing IN Christ and believing ON Christ.
The enemy believes IN Christ and they tremble. We believe ON Christ and we are joyful.
Studying the Bible is no guarantee that you will grow spiritually.
The early Church did not have the New Testament as we do today, but they knew that they had the risen Christ of today living within them, affecting their lives in a dramatic and dynamic way.
The early Church saw the present day Christ as their life, and the source of all they required.
There is so much written about Jesus of Nazareth today. Most of it is good material about the historical Jesus.
The problem is that one can be fooled into thinking that having this information, is to know Christ. The confusing of Jesus of Nazareth and Christ the Lord as He is today can be a hindrance in knowing His true role in the life of the believer.
There were some disciples of Jesus that still clung to the image of Jesus of Nazareth.
It is not difficult to see why. They had walked with Jesus, and probably spoke to Him.
They had witnessed Him performing miracles; they had listened to His sermons.
They knew what He looked like, how He walked; they remembered the sound of His voice etc.
Paul did not know Jesus of Nazareth, but he certainly knew the Risen Christ of today.
Paul recognized that if a believer was going to grow in Christ, he had to put aside that which he knew about Jesus for the living knowledge of Christ our Lord. Paul did not want the believer to simply know ABOUT CHRIST; he wanted the believer to truly KNOW CHRIST.
This picture of Jesus of Nazareth had to disappear from the view of the disciples in order to make way for the Risen Christ who was within every believer. God wants you to know Christ as He is now, as He is today, not as he was when He was made of no reputation in the form of a man; Jesus of Nazareth.
Remember 2 Corinthians 5: 16, 17 “Therefore from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet we now know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”
Too great a consciousness of Christ in the flesh; Jesus of Nazareth, can hinder one from knowing Him in Spirit.
The tabernacle In the Old Testament is laden with types, but there is one type that refers to the knowing of the risen Christ of today.
The tabernacle, contained an outer court, and inner court, (where priests could minister before God) and the holy of holies (where the high priest would enter once a year with a blood sacrifice.)
From the inner court, the priests could look upon the holy of holies, but they could not see inside because a thick curtain, or veil, covered the entrance to the holy of holies.
Let us see what the writer to the Hebrews says about this veil.
Hebrews 10: 19, 20 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is His flesh.”
The writer is comparing Jesus’ flesh to the veil in the tabernacle. This is not difficult to understand if you consider that Jesus of Nazareth was God in the flesh. His flesh hid from the outer world that which was within. Within that body the eternal Immanuel, God with us, lay hidden.
At the mount of transfiguration His body could not contain the glory of who He was, and the light shone through. The disciples knew Jesus of Nazareth, but that day they got a glimpse of the Christ. He was hidden within the body of the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth.
Just before the crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father saying…
John 17: 5 “And now O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
As the crucifixion unfolded, and Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of the world, the veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom. (Heaven reaching down to earth.)
The symbolism being that it no longer required a sacrifice to enter into God’s presence. (Jesus of Nazareth became the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifice.) Mankind could now enter through the finished work of the cross.
We are exhorted by the writer to go through the holy place into the Holy of Holies – to go beyond the Christ of the gospels and to know Him in the Spirit. We are to worship Him today, not in the flesh, but in spirit and truth.
How many Christians remain on the wrong side of the veil by having a consciousness of Jesus of Nazareth, and not of the living Christ of today?
When the veil tore, the priests quickly re-sewed it back together. They once again shut themselves out of the presence of God, preferring to live on the outside of the veil.
Where do you live in your Christian walk? Are you still in the holy place wondering what lies behind the veil?
The fact is that you have always had access to the Holy of Holies; you just have to accept this as reality by faith.
In the same way that Jesus of Nazareth had the glory of the Father within Him, the believer too has within him the very essence of God.
In order for your life to express what you are in Christ now, today, you cannot be historically centered. You must be Christ-centered. What you are in Christ, is present tense, it is for the here and now. It is not something you were, as Jesus of Nazareth was in the gospels, it is what you are now.
So now what?
I have always pondered on Pauls comment in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
And then more disturbingly in 1 Corinthians 15.1-4 “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
How can one believe in vain?
If we preach and teach a mixture of Old Testament Law and Grace, are we not in danger of believing in vain? Should we not examine ourselves and scrutinize what we believe?
If the Kingdom program has been put on hold until the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in,” are we not walking in ignorance if we try to add to Paul’s gospel by imposing works upon our converts to Christ? If the Kingdom gospel cannot save anyone today because God has suspended it till the time of the end, then surely if we preach and teach this gospel we are believing in vain and causing others to do the same.
I have grappled with many inconsistencies and anomalies in the Word that I could not explain with my theology. Having two incompatible programs (The Kingdom Program for Israel and The Body of Christ for ALL WHO WOULD BELIEVE) delivered by two similar but different gospels is the only plausible answer to 95% of my questions.
Don’t confuse me with the facts!
It is worth noting that tradition was the most constant, most persistent, most fervent, opposition that Jesus encountered. It openly attacked the early disciples on every side and silently repulsed their teaching. In fact is not heresy to say that without departure from tradition that is not Scriptural, there would be no Christian Church.
The iron grip of tradition on the Church today is perhaps the single most negative force that is easily used by the enemy to confuse and distract the Body of Christ.
How often do we bludgeon the truth with our long held traditions?
Are we prepared to be like the Berean’s who searched the Scriptures for themselves to see if in fact what has been said is true?
Or will we resist the truth in Meat-Mallet style and continue in ignorance because we are comfortable in the way things are?
I hope that the above is at least interesting. Thank you for taking the time and effort to read this study. My prayer is that God will lead you into all truth and grant you wisdom and discernment as you walk before Him in truth.
Please give me feedback if you can.