NEW - PAUL'S 'MY GOSPEL', GOD'S
GOOD NEWS TO GENTILES - Part One
By John Aldworth
Published July 15, 2013
Rom. 16:25: 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.
Eph. 3:2-3: If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward. How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words …
Years ago I was invited to take part in a New Zealand Religious Broadcasting Symposium. The major denominations, Quakers, Buddhists, Hindus and other “faiths” were summoned together to decide who would get to say what and when on the screen and the air waves.
It was my first, and avowedly last, experience of ecumenism. A Catholic “facilitator” opened proceedings saying, “I will pray a blessing and when I pause you can insert the name of the god of your choice.” Not suprisingly it all went downhill from there. In the end, after debating whether the message should be political or spiritual or both, a majority decided that proclaiming the gospel in “socially relevant” terms was the priority.
But nobody actually defined what today’s gospel really is or named which God it might be about. As far as the “Christian” representatives were concerned they probably didn’t know what it was and, to be honest, as a then Pentecostal neither did I. But ignorance is not bliss. And one thing’s for sure; had any bold soul suggested that it should be the good news that Paul calls “my gospel” he would have been howled out of the meeting.
Thirty years on Paul’s especial gospel is still about as popular as a pork chop in synagogue. Christendom vaguely acknowledges the good news that Jesus is Saviour but not a single evangelist I’ve heard of categorically preaches Paul’s “my gospel” by name to get sinners saved. Many would maintain, as I once ignorantly did, that, “Paul’s gospel, Jesus’s gospel, it’s all the same”.
Today to ask most Christians which gospel they were saved under is to see a stunned mullet in action. “There’s only one gospel,” they gasp when they recover from the shock. But there isn’t you know. There are several in the Bible and I would assert that Paul’s “my gospel” is crucial to understanding which one God would have you saved by today.
But let’s suppose, just suppose, that you’ve really read your faithful King James Bible and you find that three times in its pages Paul talks of “my gospel” (Rom. 2:16, Rom. 16:25 and 2 Tim. 2:8) and that twice he speaks of “our gospel”.
You have an enquiring mind so you head to your local Christian bookshop, like I did, and ask, “Do you have a book on Paul’s gospel?” Long silence, then, “Is it some particular type of book you’re looking for? We’ve got general Bible studies on Paul’s epistles.” Press the matter and you’ll find that not only do they not have a book on it, the bookshop staff themselves don’t even know there is a Paul’s gospel in the Bible, which makes one wonder just what their bedtime reading is. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
Evidently Christendom doesn’t care tuppence about Paul’s gospel, but if you’re a Bible believer you should. God caused the apostle to write of it in Holy Writ as “my gospel” and with good reason. You see, Paul’s gospel actually contains all the steps necessary to save and sanctify a Gentile, taking him all the way from pagan darkness to the Lord’s throne in heaven itself. And no other gospel in the Bible can do so.
Notice that I said “Gentile” not “Jew” because Paul’s gospel is actually to and for Gentiles. It comprises what Paul taught to Gentiles in the Acts period that differs from Peter’s message to the Jews and also proclaims the truths revealed by the Lord to Paul and recorded in the prison epistles specifically for Gentiles (e.g. Col. 1:27). In the mystery salvation sent to the Gentiles the Jew is significantly absent. The message is for Gentiles. As Paul says in Eph. 3:1-12:
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.
This study series will examine the truths of Gentile salvation as revealed incrementally to the Apostle Paul in his “my gospel”. They not only show how we must be saved but also reveal that both the calling of and destiny of saved Gentiles drastically changed when the Pentecostal period of Acts closed.
In the new dispensation which followed, and which still exists today, Gentiles are no longer saved by being baptised into Israel, thus effectively becoming Jews, but are saved directly by Jesus Christ who has been specifically sent to Gentiles as their “salvation” (Acts 28:28). Prior to this momentous change Gentiles had been “…without Christ … having no hope (of resurrection, that is) and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:1-2).
In this state they could only approach Christ, gain hope of resurrection and come to God by being joined to Israel. Indeed this is why water baptism was required of Gentiles seeking to be saved through the Acts period. By contrast having direct access to the Saviour is only one of many great blessings now made available to Gentiles in the present dispensation of grace and the mystery (Eph. 3:1-4).
It is important to realise that several “mini” gospels are embedded in Paul’s “my gospel” and that progressively they form its unique characteristics. But, you ask, how does one picture Paul’s “my gospel” overall? Remember that Jacob dreamed of a ladder set up on earth whose top reached up to heaven (Gen. 28:12)? Well, Paul’s “my gospel” can also be seen as a ladder with the various truths uniquely preached by him forming its rungs. By these steps of truth believers can climb the very summit of divine revelation and, according to the Apostle, in doing so obtain the right to appear with Him in glory.
You see in a wonderful way each of these “mini” gospels reveal new and important teachings about the Lord Jesus Christ and His especial ministry to us Gentiles that were not made known to Israel. What’s more Paul’s later epistles also contain precious promises that comprise his gospel. Each of these is an upward step by which we can “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). In fact, looked at overall, Paul’s “my gospel” might well be called the true “stairway to heaven”.
Those willing to “search the scriptures” will find early instalments of Paul’s gospel in both Acts and his pre-prison epistles. They can find latter episodes of this “good news to Gentiles” in the stupendous blessings God reveals for them in the apostle’s “prison” epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
Eventually they will discover that Paul’s gospel is a thrilling compendium of all the special gospels and truths God caused him to preach to Gentiles in the Pentecostal dispensation of the Acts period. But Paul’s gospel doesn’t stop at the end of the book of Acts. The superlative truths disclosed in the latter unprophesied dispensation of grace and mystery (Eph. 3:1-4) recorded in the apostle’s prison epistles are the icing on the cake.
It should be noted, however, that while there is a revelatory and incremental progression in Paul’s “my gospel”, clear and important dispensational boundary lines nevertheless remain. Doctrine, especially teaching meant for Jews, should not be carried over from one dispensation to the next which is predominantly for Gentiles.
For example, there is a watershed point at Acts 28:27-28. Here God’s 40-year probation period for Israel ends and she as a nation is set aside. Hopes of salvation and resurrection through her are extinguished and all Pentecostal signs and wonders, tongues and prophecies and public miracles cease.
What’s more ordinances such as water baptism and communion do not cross the Acts 28 boundary line into the “Body of Christ” calling of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, etc. This is because the whole business of ministering salvation (and receiving it) has been “sent to the Gentiles and they will hear it” (Acts 28:28). From now on Israelites and the nation Israel are no longer in the picture because this is new and unprophesied territory. Of course, this does not preclude individual Jews being saved today just as Gentiles are.
For all that, so drastic is the Acts 28:28 change that believers saved from then on are called to a heavenly destiny, not an earthly destiny with Israel as hitherto. What’s more a new church comes into being. Thus the “church of God” of the Acts period is set aside and God begins calling Gentiles saved by his grace into the “church which is His Body, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).
In the face of such deep change it is gratifying to know that much truth remains, that it continues. And it is exactly this need that Paul’s “my gospel” is divinely provided to meet. Together with the Mystery, Paul’s gospel comprises the rock on which we stand in this new sign-less, Gentile dispensation with its heavenly not earthly calling.
That is why it is so important to include Rom. 16:25 in our understanding of the Mystery and the new dispensation of pure grace. Today in the “present truth” of pure grace we are “stablished” not only by the Mystery but also by Paul’s “my gospel”. Both are needed: the mystery to lift our eyes toward heaven, Paul’s “my gospel” to keep our feet firmly grounded in essential truths we have already learned.
Such distinctions are hard to learn for many. This is because they have been schooled by the “keep it all the same” school of bible interpretation. This view, favoured by most of Christendom, fails to distinguish salvation doctrine for Israel (plus Gentiles added to her) from the grace dispensation doctrine of salvation for all men.
Because of such rampant confusion I need to make clear that in these studies no anti-Jewish prejudice is involved. After all, the mystery dispensation church which is “his body” is made up of both Jew and Gentile members (Eph. 2:15 and 18). Importantly, however, both are saved and “stablished” only by Paul’s “my gospel” and “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16:25) and not by being water baptised into Israel.
Careful study of scripture (by heeding the context and noticing dispensational changes by “rightly dividing the word of truth” as 2 Tim. 2:15 instructs, for example) will show that today, with Israel as a nation set aside, Paul’s gospel is truth for both Jew and Gentile. However, very significantly the blessed truths it contains are especially addressed to Gentiles throughout. As the apostle said in Gal 2:2, speaking of his conference with the Jewish church elders in Jerusalem:
And I went up by revelation and communicated unto them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles…”
Before studying Paul’s gospel in depth we should first realise that it is quite different from other gospels. For example, in Gal. 2:7-8 we are told of two gospels, one given Peter for Jews and the other to Paul for Gentiles:
“But contrariwise when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was given to me as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (for he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles).
Clearly then, in the Acts period Peter was preaching one gospel to Jews while Paul was proclaiming a quite different one to Gentiles, one which he elsewhere calls “my gospel”.
The difference is profound. The “good news” preached by Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles to Israel during the Lord’s earthly ministry and subsequently in the Acts was for Jews primarily. Gentiles could be saved by believing in Jesus as Messiah only if they were also baptised into Israel’s hope of resurrection (Acts 10:48, 1 Cor. 15:29 and Acts 28:20). Essentially they were joined to Judaism. Note too that it is not until Acts 10 that the first such Gentiles are converted when Peter is used by God to open the door of faith to Gentiles in the house of Roman centurion Cornelius.
However, as Acts 11:18 makes clear, this handful of Gentiles was saved not to much for their own sake as to make clear to Peter and to those Jews believing in Jesus that now “…hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life”. It was not to save Gentiles per se. And, once this is accomplished, Acts 11 makes clear that Peter steps out of the picture as far as ministry to Gentiles is concerned.
From Acts 13 onward on right through to the end of Acts Gentiles added to the “church of God” are saved largely under the ministry of Paul and others such as Barnabas, and not at all by Peter. What’s more, as the apostle states, they are saved only to “provoke (Israel) to jealousy” (Rom. 11:11). It is only after the Pentecostal dispensation of Acts is replaced by the mystery that Gentiles are saved directly by grace without being joined to Israel.
So what does all this mean? Simply that from first to last Paul’s “my gospel” is a Gentile gospel. First, because in the Acts period only Paul was commissioned to go to the Gentiles with the good news they could be saved through Israel. Last, because the dispensation of grace and the mystery was given the Apostle Paul “…to you-ward”, meaning that it was and still is specifically for Gentiles (Eph. 3:1-2).
It also means that to be “stablished” as a believer today you need both Paul’s “my gospel” and the “preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation”of the mystery" (Rom. 16:25).
So, where in your bible would you find the “preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery”? Why, where else but in the prison epistles that speak so wonderfully of the mystery of God pouring out his grace on Gentiles even more abundantly than He has poured it out on his chosen people, Israel?
Being “stablished” is critical for true believers, for only God Himself can set our feet fast upon the stairway of truth we must climb to reach heaven. Sadly, however, many so-called Christians don’t think so. Rather than study the Bible for themselves such people prefer to let denominations, churches, pastors and even the pope decide doctrine for them and, as a result come to trust in “seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1).
In doing so they and the churches that cater to them try to “establish” their own doctrine and consequently must also “establish their own righteousness” (Rom. 10:3), since they have “not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God”.
In today’s dispensation of the grace of God the litmus test for satanic doctrine is to determine whether the teaching is that it is God wholly sanctifying us and grounding us in truth or whether, as much popular teaching has it, we must do the job ourselves.
Thankfully the serious King James Bible student is unlikely to fall into this trap because he knows that in scripture there is a stark difference between the words “stablish” and “establish”. Simply put, it is that “stablish” describes what the Lord and God the Father do to set the believer on a rock and make his faith steadfast. By contrast “establish” describes what Israelites keeping the law had to do to please God and also today what religion, supposedly Christian or otherwise, demands people must do to acquire their own righteousness.
Clearly the organised, professing church is full of rituals such as water baptism, communion and laying on of hands for the supposed “baptism with the Holy Spirit”. What’s more her followers rely on self-examination, repentance, penance and doing good works, all things Israelites and those in the Acts period “church of God” calling were urged to do to make themselves right with God. It is all a far cry from being saved “by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Thankfully in the King James Bible a clear distinction is drawn between what God does to “stablish” us (e.g. Rom. 16:25, 1 Thess. 3:13, 3:3, 2 Thess. 2:17, 3:3 and Rom. 16:25) and what man does to morally “establish” himself or others. Thus in Rom. 1:11 and 1 Thess. 3:2 we see that even God’s ministers, Paul and Timothy, can at best “establish” believers when by now it is glaringly obvious that only God Himself can actually “stablish” them.
So, to drive the point home, let us be clear that according to Rom. 16:25 it is only God “who is of power to stablish” us according to Paul’s “my gospel” and “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery”. Self effort, religious programmes, the organised church and rituals such as water baptism and taking “holy communion” cannot do it.
To be continued