The Pauline Legacy — Our Heritage

In the dispensation of the Grace of God, there is little understanding of its significance on the part of fundamental Christian believers. There is one particularly evident reason for this lack of comprehension: ignorance of the identification and ministry of the Apostle Paul. Unless one recognizes the distinctive message committed to Paul, one is left in darkness and confusion as to his spiritual standing, purpose, and destiny as a child of God.

Fact: While ministering in His fleshly presence on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ addressed and instructed none but the nation of Israel (Rom. 15:8; Matt. 15:24).

Fact: Saul of Tarsus (archenemy of Christ and persecutor of His church) was saved and appointed to become Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 15:15,16; 11:13; I Tim. 1:12,13; 2:7; II Tim. 1:11).

Fact: Paul became the exclusive dispenser of a secret revelation given to him by the heavenly seated Christ (Eph. 3:1-9; Gal. 1:11,12; II Cor. 12:2-4). The only way Christ speaks from heaven is through the Apostle Paul.

Fact: Under Paul’s ministry the Church which is the Body of Christ was established according to the revelation of the mystery (Rom. 16:25,26; Col. 1:23b-27).

Fact: The Church which is the Body of Christ is composed of both Jew and Gentile, the law as a wall of partition between Jew and Gentile having been taken out of the way (Rom. 10:4; 6:14).

As our apostle, Paul makes two statements that clearly steer us in the direction of discernment in understanding Scripture. (A)—”All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). (B)—”Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Tim. 2:15).

All Scripture is written for our enlightenment but not all Scripture is written to us nor about us. We must study all Scripture in the light of Paul’s epistles. Only in the letters of Paul do we find direct instruction as members of the Body of Christ.

Paul’s distinctive message and ministry must be recognized in order for believers in this dispensation of Grace to know their relationship with God. Once this is accomplished, we find that our identification with our apostle is manifold. He is much more to us (as members of the Body of Christ) than our apostle. He is our example (Phil. 3:17), he is our minister (Col. 1:25), he is a father figure and instructor (I Cor. 4:14-16).

The letters of Paul are directed to believers who have been saved under the Gospel of the Grace of God in the dispensation of the Grace of God. Paul calls this gospel “my gospel” (Acts 20:24; Rom. 2:16; Rom. 16:25; II Tim. 2:8). As our mentor, Paul enlightens us regarding our spiritual relationship and responsibility. We are to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1). “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without” (Col. 4:5). Paul prays for us, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17).

Our apostle urges us to totally dedicate ourselves in the service of Christ (Rom. 12:1). He affirms that we will “suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29; II Tim. 3:12). We are assured of enablement to perform the ministry to which we are appointed: “For the love of Christ constraineth us….” “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me” (II Cor. 5:14; Phil. 4:13).

As the believing remnant in this dispensation of God’s grace, we are to engage in the “Ministry of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:18,19), speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God (Eph. 2:8,9), and redeeming the time (Eph. 5:16) until we receive our final and glorious inheritance (Col. 3:4). “And so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thes. 4:17).

The Stam Connection

“To make all men see what is the dispensation of the Mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).

It would be impossible to adequately describe the effect that a knowledge of the Mystery has had on my life. Knowing that I cannot put my feelings into words, I shall nevertheless try to explain a bit of what the emotional and/or psychological and/or spiritual effect has been to date.

More than a quarter of a century ago I purchased a book entitled Things That Differ which was written by one Cornelius R. Stam who, as I understand, is still living at the age of 92.

In July of 1995 (a little over a year after my heart surgery), while preparing for a trip to Durango, and being somewhat hurried with last minute details, I picked this book off the shelf and stuck it in my briefcase—in anticipation of any opportunities I might have to read during this time away from my office.

One morning in Durango I opened the book (a hard cover of 279 pages) and saw that I had written my own name on the inside of the front cover—and below my name was the clearly written date: September 1972. This means that some 23 years before I had purchased and carefully read this book which had since been on my bookshelf virtually untouched for that period of time. In opening the book, I saw that I had (with my red pen) written many notes with their page numbers, inside both the front and back covers. I know I had read the book “carefully” since red and yellow highlighting and underlinings were found liberally distributed through the entire book from front to back.

At this point, I shall make no attempt to discuss in detail the Lord’s leading in my life, nor to discuss the rather extensive reading and study I had done during those intervening 23 years. However, I hasten to say here (to the glory of God and with eternal thanksgiving to God) that He had most graciously and abundantly been preparing me for the additional and wonderful surprise of 1995.

On July 19, 1995, I printed in red ink (inside the back cover) these words: “I’m beginning to see what I have never seen before like I have never seen before!” Near these words, I had also printed (perhaps on the same day) the following: “In reading Things That Differ I’m absolutely astounded!”

I’m well aware that from reading what I have just stated, some very legitimate questions can arise: Really, what was so different? What was so astounding? Did you learn some new doctrine? What did you learn that you did not already know? In answer, I would emphasize that my purpose here is not to discuss any particular Biblical doctrine nor any particular Biblical issues (per se), but, rather (as stated above) to try to give some reasonable indication or impression of what it was like to me, personally—that is, the new reading of my already-well-marked book: Things That Differ.

Let me say, further (and happily) that what I was reading was neither inconsistent with, nor in conflict with most of what I had already known and believed. In fact, for the most part, it was strongly confirming and supportive of my already-formed (over 50 years) deep doctrinal convictions concerning the Scriptures and the Christian life.

At this point, I hear someone saying, “Come on, Dave, why don’t you quit stalling and tell us plainly what it was like?” I will try to do that in just a moment, but first, I must say a word about what it was not like.

It was not like anything psychic, mystical, or supernatural. It was nothing like signs and wonders. It was not like God speaking directly to me, nor was it an “inner light” revelation. I did not hear strange voices or have dream-like inner visions.

It was more like an experience of “whereas I was blind, now I can see.” What was formerly vague and indefinite is now becoming clear—the way one would think and hope things should be. Apparently unresolvable issues and differences which have long gripped the evangelical church can be easily resolved by direct reference to the sacred page. Issues and conflicts which have long divided the denominational churches, as well as evangelical believers in general, can now be easily resolved by a proper interpretation and understanding of the Bible.

For me, it was sort of an “AH HA” experience—one pleasant surprise after another—something like “At last it all makes sense.” Something like fresh springs of living water to a parched throat. Something like scales falling off my eyes.

Someone has said: “The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

No new version—no new words—no new landscapes. The same marvellous Word of God—the same familiar passages—but somehow a thrilling new voyage of discovery.

The Abiding Evidences of Salvation

Your faith in Christ Jesus,
The love which ye have to all the saints,
The hope which is laid up for you in heaven
(Col. 1:4,5).

Evidently Paul had never yet seen the Colossian Christians when he wrote to them (Col. 2:1). He had only heard of their conversion to Christ (Col. 1:4,5).

But what had he heard that had convinced him that they were genuinely saved? Our opening passage gives us the answer:

“We heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven….”

But was this sufficient evidence that God had worked in their hearts? Would it be evidence enough today?

Some answer: “No. We must have the gift of the Holy Spirit and speak with tongues, or work miracles.” And this writer must admit that this once was conclusive evidence of salvation. Our Lord’s great commission to the eleven clearly states:

“And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out devils [demons], they shall speak with new tongues;

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17,18).

This is the clear Word of God on the subject, and too many confused fundamentalists and evangelicals run in circles trying to explain it away.

When Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, “the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the Word” (Acts 10:44). But how did Peter and his companions know that those of Cornelius’ household had received the Spirit? Verse 46 provides the answer: “For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” It was this that settled the matter for Peter according to his own testimony in Acts 11:17:

“Forasmuch, then, as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God?”

And it was this that settled the matter for the apostles and elders in Judaea too, for we read in the next verse:

“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”

Ah, but there has been a change in dispensations since that time. In I Corinthians 13:8 we read:

“Whether there be tongues, they shall cease….”

In this same part of I Corinthians we read of other signs1 that were to be done away, but the closing verse of I Corinthians says:

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love].”

These, then, are the abiding characteristics of the true Church in this present dispensation.

The problem with our Pentecostal friends and confused fundamentalists in general, is not that they are not Scriptural in their teachings, but that they are not dispensational; they have failed to “rightly divide the Word of truth.”

The first of these three “abiding” characteristics is faith. This is of primary importance, for, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). And faith produces hope . In a world of hopelessness and fear, the believer may “abound in hope.” And this hope is no mere wish, for it is founded on the Word of God, “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” (Heb. 6:19). It is the enjoyment, here and now, by faith, of the blessings which are ours in Christ and shall some day be fully realized.

And hope, in turn, produces love. The very passage we are studying speaks of “the love which ye have to all the saints, for [because of]2 the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” The blessings which are ours in Christ draw us—certainly should draw us—closer together. The closer we are drawn to our blessed Lord, the closer we are drawn to each other.

Faith, hope and love, then, are the three abiding evidences of salvation. Any local church where these three characteristics abound is a full church, even if it is composed of only a few members. Any believer possessing these three characteristics in abundant measure experiences a full Christian life.

Water baptism was once required for salvation, and miraculous signs were the evidences of salvation (Mark 16:16-18; Acts 1:8; 2:38), but let us not create confusion and division by efforts to continue on in a dispensation which God has replaced by something better.

The simplest believer in this dispensation of grace is complete in Christ (Col. 2:10), crucified (Gal. 2:20), resurrected (Col. 2:13), and seated in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6), IN CHRIST. And the genuineness of conversion to Christ is attested by “faith, hope, love, these three,” rather than by miraculous signs or demonstrations.

Shall we then seek to restore what God has “done away”? Shall we say, Let us be baptized with water as a testimony and seek the signs for spiritual renewal, even after God has provided something better? Shall we retreat from the substance to the shadows? No! God says: “When that which is perfect [i.e., complete]3 is come, then that which is in part shall be done away….And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three…” (I Cor. 13:10-13).

These three abiding evidences of salvation are brought together in I Corinthians 13:13; Gal. 5:5,6; I Thes. 1:3; 5:8; II Thes. 1:3; Heb. 6:10-12 and many other places in Paul’s epistles. Why not look them up, study them prayerfully, and rejoice in the riches of God’s grace.


  1. In Mark 16:17, et al, these miraculous demonstrations are called “signs,” because they confirmed the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus. They were signs of the validity of His claims.
  2. This is the sense in the Greek.
  3. Referring to the full “revelation of the mystery.”

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Berean Searchlight – December 2000

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