The desire to write this article comes from my experiences in searching for God’s will in my life. Why it took me so long to clearly see the dispensational change Paul’s simple but profound message presented, I am not sure. Christ’s message to Israel (the gospel of the circumcision) is so often mixed together with Christ’s message through Paul for the world today (the gospel of the uncircumcision). Fortunately the Holy Spirit used a number of situations to keep me moving toward God’s goal for my life.
The Scriptures state in Romans 8:28:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
Notice it doesn’t say to those who love God enough. The Holy Spirit used several men to bring me to being an ardent dispensationalist. One was Dr. C. I. Scofield and his notes in the Scofield Study Bible. Another was a tract, placed in my hand by a caring person, which in turn led me to the Berean Bible Society and Pastor Stam. The Holy Spirit used his books to open my eyes to the mystery and the “Word rightly divided.” Through a man I met at work, I learned about the First Grace Gospel Church of Ashtabula, Ohio and Pastor Adams. Through Pastor Adams and his careful exposition of God’s Word, my mind and heart were truly united in the “grace” message.
There is a poem I like so well, written by Martin Luther. “Feelings come and feelings go and feelings are deceiving. I’ll rest upon the Word of God, none else is worth believing.” Resting in His Word rightly divided is the only way. The words “rightly divided” comes from II Timothy 2:15 and is a translation of the Greek word “orthotomeo,” pronounced or-thot-om-eh´-o which means to make a straight cut, to dissect (expound) correctly (the divine message). As you read the rest of this article I trust you will come to realize the importance of understanding complete dispensational teaching.
“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).
“But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto 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:) And when James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles and they unto the circumcision” (Gal. 2:7-9).
Paul was recognized by the twelve apostles as God’s man to carry this new message of grace to the Gentiles. Clearly two different gospels are mentioned. Paul in Galatians 1:11 and 12 tells us how he received his gospel.
“But I certify you brethren that the gospel which was preached by me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11,12).
It has been said by some that Paul’s gospel was the same as Peter’s. Others claim that Peter was out of God’s will, narrow minded, and because of his refusal to go to the Gentiles, God had to raise up the Apostle Paul. I take exception to these views. For Galatians 2:8 tells us something else.
“For He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles.”
There are several more reasons.
- If it were the same there would have been no need for a special revelation.
- Paul speaks of the gospel he preached as “my gospel” in Romans 16:25, 2:16.
- Those who would find fault with Peter’s or Paul’s work are really finding fault with Christ’s work, for it is He who is working through both men as the Scripture states in Galatians 2:8.
- The “my gospel” Paul spoke of is referred to as being kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25; I Cor. 2:7,8; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26). The gospel Peter spoke of is referred to as being known since the world began (Matt. 25:34; Luke 1:67-70; Acts 3:21,24).
Indeed, Israel from Jacob on has been looking for their Messiah, who was to come and set up their kingdom as the most favored nation. When as a nation they accept their Messiah, God will have all people come through Israel. We, of course, know that Israel rejected Christ and they were then set aside until the dispensation of Grace, for which Paul was called to be its apostle, has run its course. Notice Paul’s words are spoken of as commandments, which is not a take it or leave it word.
“If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (I Cor. 14:37).
When I was in the service, we learned a principle that is crucial to being a good soldier in the military or in God’s work. That principle is this: You obey the last lawful order given by the one in charge. I know that in past dispensations other orders were given, which were valid at the time given, but by examining the Scriptures of past dispensations, one can see major differences in the requirements that are in addition to faith.
There are many people who believe that the Bible words printed in red are the most important for they were spoken by Christ. They are the words of Christ and very important indeed, as all God’s Word is, which we are to study. But they were especially important to the Jewish people to whom they were written regarding the coming kingdom. When we, who are of the dispensation of Grace, study the Gospels, we must interpret them in light of the epistles written by Paul. They are Christ’s final marching orders for the Church today. They have the correct interpretation for the day we live in. Yes, we can take our stand and rest assured. We have the correct interpretation for today when we follow Christ’s words given through Paul.
In Ephesians 1:3 the Word tells us that we are looking for a heavenly home, not an earthly kingdom.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
Yes, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have God’s Word for all people to study, but they are written to the people of the kingdom dispensation. We know Christ was addressing those for whom the kingdom was coming to earth. How? Because the Bible tells us so.
Matthew 4:17 says:
“From that time, Jesus began to preach and say, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
In Matthew 3:2, John the Baptist speaks of the coming kingdom. In Matthew 10:5-7, we see Jesus instructing the twelve apostles regarding the coming kingdom.
Christ is still speaking to us today with the words of salvation, love, encouragement, and how to live a life pleasing to Him. Yes, He is speaking to us today throughout His Word, but again we must use the epistles written by the Apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, for a proper application today. It is not a matter if we like them or not.
Now grace, faith and obedience have always been in vogue, for apart from God’s grace no man deserves to be saved. Without faith in God’s plan for that day, no man would have been saved, for rituals alone never saved anyone. When God’s plan calls for circumcision, the building of an ark, and baptism, the man of faith will obey. However, when God speaks in His Word and tells us it is by faith alone, the man of faith will follow His commands. It is only by God’s grace, in any dispensation, that sinful man can be saved, for we do not deserve God’s gracious offer. In all dispensations God has wanted His people’s obedience. In past ages, He has required it to receive His blessings. Today God wants our loving obedience because He has already blessed us. One example before we move on.
In Matthew 6:15:
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
In Ephesians 4:32 we find Christ’s words for us today.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.”
Notice in the gospel of the kingdom forgiveness is required to be forgiven, while in the epistles penned by the Apostle Paul we are already forgiven and already blessed. Therefore, out of love and gratitude, I want to please the One who bled, died and rose again, paying completely and forever for all my sins. Yes, thank God, past, present and future sins are covered by the sacrifice of the Savior Jesus Christ (Look up Rom. 4:15,16, 3:23,24; Gal. 3:13; Col. 1:21,22, 2:13). These are just a few of the verses that tell us of the wonderful and complete salvation we have in Christ Jesus.
In Ephesians 2:8 and 9 we find Christ’s commands written for us today.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
In I Corinthians 15:1-4 we find Paul spelling out for us, the gospel (the good news) for today.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
This is how we are saved today. It is by faith alone in what Christ has done for us according to the Scriptures. Anything you would add to God’s plan is a false gospel. God has chosen to place our complete salvation in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Anything we would add is an affront to God’s Son, for we are saying that He is not worthy of the great honor God has placed in Him. And we are really saying that we know better than God Himself.
When referring to the gospel he preached, Paul speaks of it as my gospel. That’s what Romans 16:25 and 26 tells us:
“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, But now [Greek word nun speaks of present time] is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets [the word ‘prophets’ as used here is an adjective so a clearer rendition would read by the prophetic Scriptures] according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.”
Do you want to be “established?” The Scripture tells us it is by following Christ, according to the gospel presented in Paul’s epistles.
In Galatians 1:6-9 Paul speaks about another gospel and says of any who would add to or change the gospel that was given to him by revelation: “let him be accursed.” The matter is so serious he repeats it again in verse 9. One other matter needs to be clarified before we discuss these verses. In the Greek text, there are two different words used for “another,” which have different shades of meaning. The Greek word “heteros” is used which means another of a different sort, and the Greek word “allos” which means another of the same sort.
Now let’s read Galatians 1:6-9:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another [another of a different sort] gospel, Which is not another [another of the same sort]; but there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
It is extremely important that we are not altering God’s plan given to Paul and trusting in some work, such as water baptism, joining the church, keeping the law, some particular part of the law, or going forward in a church service.
See Colossians 2:10:
“And ye are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and powers.”
And also Romans 11:6:
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
As we stated earlier from Ephesians 2:8 and 9, it is “by faith and not by works.” Are you trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ? Trusting in His death, burial and resurrection alone for your salvation and the total payment for all your past and present sins? If you are not familiar with dispensational teaching and the revelation of the mystery given to Paul, you may well have other questions.