We all realize that the pure grace message is the need of the hour. Such a message presents the all sufficiency of Christ. Yet the popular message today is “Christ plus this” and “Christ plus that.” These added things we are warned against by the Holy Spirit in Colossians 2:8. God help us to be satisfied with Christ alone.
The majority of believers have not been taught to understand, obey and practice II Timothy 2:15. For this reason many honest, God-fearing people are seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus, trying to duplicate or perpetuate the miracles, signs and wonders wrought by the Twelve, forgetting to distinguish between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God. These gospels have some things in common, but in other respects they greatly differ.
We find John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, baptizing with water and preaching “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1 to 12). His water baptism was to manifest Christ to Israel. He was followed by Jesus, who began to preach and say, “repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand .” All through His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus Christ made a distinction between the Jew and the Gentile as He “went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Jesus of Nazareth, the man approved of God among the Jews by miracles and signs which God did by Him in the midst of His people, was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and taken by wicked hands and crucified and slain. Acts 2:22 and 23.
Just before His crucifixion He said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come He will guide you into all truth.” As Christ closed His earthly ministry, He instructed His followers concerning the Holy Spirit who was to come “not many days hence.” The Galileans watched Him as He was taken by the cloud out of their sight. Then they returned to Jerusalem to tarry for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came just ten days after the Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father. The prominent preacher at the beginning of the dispensation of the Spirit was Peter. As he and the Eleven went forth in their ministry, filled by the Holy Spirit they preached a kingdom message, and delivered it to Jews only. Acts 2:22; Acts 5:26 to 33. We find that as late as the persecution that arose about Stephen they were preaching to “none but unto the Jews only.” Acts 3:26; Acts 11:19.
When God sent Peter to the house of Cornelius he said unto them, “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of an other nation.” Acts 10:28. Yet God showed Peter that he should not call the Gentiles common or unclean, and Peter gave forth his ministry to this one Gentile household. Compare the message of Acts 10:34 to 43 with Ephesians 2:7 to 10. So far as the record goes, neither Peter nor the Eleven ever preached to another Gentile. And to Cornelius Peter preached concerning Jesus of Nazareth in the land of the Jews, sent by God to the children of Israel. Acts 10:36 to 42.
After Peter opened the door to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius God sent His chosen vessel, the Apostle Paul, who was to become the preacher, apostle, and teacher to the Gentiles (II Timothy 1:11; Romans 11:13). As Paul began to minister, in the thirteenth chapter of Acts, He went forth “to the Jew first”, extended to Acts 28:28, where he emphatically says, “The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it.” This should be studied with Acts 18:6 and Romans 11:8; 1 Romans 1:11; and Romans 11:25.
Paul’s letter to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, and to the Church at Thessalonica were written during that period of time between the thirteenth and twenty eighth chapters of Acts and consequently bear the mark of the “Jew first”. After Acts 28:28 Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and probably Hebrews. In these epistles we find the middlewall of partition between the Jew and the Gentile is not recognized. The believers from among the Jews and the believers from among the Gentiles have been placed into one Body, forming the “New Man” of Ephesians 2:15. In this portion of the Word we find believers, saved by grace alone, are seated in the highest of the high heavens with our risen and exalted Lord. We are identified with Him as members of His Body, the Church. There is no place in these epistles for the carnal ordinances which were nailed to the cross; no place for the signs, miracles, and wonders which were wrought along with the kingdom message given by Jesus and the Twelve, and also performed by Paul while he was going to the Jew first. The emphasis is placed upon the one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. And surely the one baptism is the identification of the members of the one Body in death and resurrection with the one Lord by the one Spirit; by one Divine baptism.
As we thus follow through from John the Baptist to the Apostle Paul we must recognize a period during which there was the overlapping of the kingdom message with the gospel of the grace of God mentioned in Acts 20:24. Some teach that John the Baptist started the Church. Others try to prove that Christ started the Church during His ministry. While others are convinced that the Lord Jesus only promised to build the Church and that it began when He had gone to glory and the Holy Spirit had descended on the day of Pentecost.
There are still others who hold that the Church, which began on the day of Pentecost, is not one and the same as the Church which is spoken of as His Body. The big question among these believers is, when did the Pentecostal Church end and the Church, which is His Body, begin? This question is causing the brethren much study. Let us apply the Berean test instead of following the commentaries of great and worthy leaders. According to Galatians 1:13 the Church of God was in the early chapters of Acts. Let us not be highminded and condemn Christian brethren who may disagree with us.
As we honestly and prayerfully study this great question of the transition period let us keep in mind the statement of Galatians 2:7 to 9: The gospel of the UNCIRCUMCISION was committed to Paul; The gospel of the CIRCUMCISION was committed to Peter.
In the light of this statement let us study several marked contrasts between the testimony of Peter and that of the Apostle Paul.
Peter said, “It is an UNLAWFUL thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company or come unto one of ANOTHER NATION” (Acts 10:28). On the other hand, Paul said, “I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the GENTILES” (II Timothy 1:11). Did Peter become as one without the law to Gentiles? I Corinthians 9:20 to 23.
As far as the record goes, Peter was sent to ONLY ONE household of the Gentiles (Acts 10). But the Lord commanded Paul and his co-workers saying, “I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ENDS OF THE EARTH” (Acts 13:46 and 47). “That all the Gentiles might hear”, (II Timothy 4:17), “I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles.” Acts 22:21.
Peter did not eat with the Gentiles at Antioch when the Jewish brethren from Jerusalem were represent because, “he feared the circumcision”. But Paul boldly withstood Peter to his face, saying, “he was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11 and 12).
Peter preached to the Jews a crucified and risen Saviour (Acts 2:36) PLUS “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38),. But Paul preached to both Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy and Titus the same crucified and risen Saviour MINUS the “repent and be baptized”; a message of pure grace unmixed with religion. He even says “Christ sent me NOT to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (I Corinthians 1:17). Compare Acts 15:17 with Acts 14:27. Then develop Gentile salvation to Ephesians 3:8 and 9 and you will know that Peter’s Kingdom of Heaven keys will not fit Paul’s Dispensation of Grace “for us Gentiles”. Ephesians 3:1 and 2. Matthew 16:18.
These simple statements cannot be harmonized apart from the application of II Timothy 2:15. We must accept God’s truth as to the difference between the Jew and the Gentile, between Israel and the Church, and between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Grace of God. This can only be done as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into an impartial unprejudiced study of the whole counsel of God, and the eternal purpose of God in Christ. Never once must we forget, or overlook the significance of Ephesians 3:3, 5 and 9, and Colossians 1:24 to 28.