The Gospel, the Kingdom and the Church

by Charles F. Baker

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The word “Gospel” is found one hundred and one times in our English Bible, although in the original the expression is found in both verb and noun form one hundred and twenty-eight times, the verb being translated “preach” or “preach the gospel”. The word means “glad tidings”, and is so translated in Luke 1:19. Out of the one hundred and one uses of the word, it is translated fifty-four times “the Gospel”, and the remaining forty-seven references are divided into the following sixteen groups The Gospel of the Kingdom (5 times); The Gospel of God (7 times); the Gospel of Christ (13 times); The Gospel of the Circumcision (once); The Gospel of the Uncircumcision (once); My Gospel (3 times); Our Gospel (3 times); That Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles (once); The Gospel of the Grace of God (once); The Gospel of the Glory (2 times); The Gospel of Peace (2 times); The Gospel of your Salvation (once); The Gospel of His Son (once); The Mystery of the Gospel (once); Another Gospel (4 times); and The Everlasting Gospel (once). The faithful student of the Word of God finds his task in rightly dividing and applying these various aspects of the Gospel to the Messianic Kingdom, to the Acts transition, and to the Church which is the Body of Christ.

The command to “rightly divide the Word of truth” comes after the revelation of the “Mystery” or secret purpose of God during this age, which purpose was hid in God and never before revealed to man. Because of the danger of confusing this hidden secret with that which was before revealed and prophesied, God has enjoined us to be careful workmen in this respect. (II Timothy 2:15; Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:1 to 12). Any one who confuses the Body of Christ with the Old Testament saints or with the Messianic Kingdom, and imposes the laws and ordinances of these groups upon the members of His Body, is in some measure frustrating the grace of God.

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM had its roots in the Old Testament prophets, but was first preached by John the Baptist; for it was he who announced that in the person of the King, the Kingdom was at hand. The message of this Gospel was at first directed to Israel only (Matthew 10:5 and 6) and was not preached to the Gentiles until Peter proclaimed it to Cornelius (Acts 11:19; Acts 15:7), about seven years after Pentecost. It was concerning the earthly Kingdom, and presented Jesus Christ as Messiah and King (Luke 1:32 and 33; Matthew 21:5). For that purpose John came baptizing with water (John 1:31). After the rejection and crucifixion of the King by Israel, a new offer of that Gospel was made possible by Christ’s intercessory prayer upon the Cross (Luke 23:34). On Pentecost and thereafter the Twelve preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead to sit upon the throne of David (Acts 2:30) and to be a Prince and a Saviour to Israel (Acts 5:31), and that upon national repentance of Israel God would send Jesus back to establish the Messianic Kingdom (Acts 2:20 and 21). After seven years of preaching to the Jews in their own land, God sent Peter to the Gentile, Cornelius.

A contrast between the Kingdom Gospel and the Grace Gospel is seen in what Peter preached to Cornelius; “God is no respector of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him to Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins”; and in what Paul preached to Gentiles: “For by grace are ye saved through faith—not of works,” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” As long as this Kingdom Gospel was preached, the order was to the Jew first and water baptism and other Jewish ceremonies were practiced (Acts 18:18; 21:20; 21:26). But after Paul had carried this message to the leaders of the Dispersion in Rome and they had rejected it (Acts 28:17 to 24), God definitely set aside the Jewish nation along with the Gospel of the Kingdom, and made known to Paul the full revelation of the Mystery and of the Gospel of the Grace of God which was to accompany it. The former was earthly and included signs, miracles, ordinances, gifts of healing and of tongues, and such like; whereas the latter is heavenly and is entirely dissociated from these externalisms. After God has finished His purpose with the Body of Christ and has called it on high (Philippians 3:14), then again “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end (of the age) come.” (Matthew 24:24). Christ will then return to earth and fulfill Acts 15:16 and 17.

THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD had its roots in God Himself. It was not preached by Jesus or by the Twelve, but it was a special revelation given to Paul (Galatians 1:11 and 12). It is called “the Gospel of the Uncircumcision” as contrasted with “the Gospel of the Circumcision” which Peter preached (Galatians 2:7); “My Gospel” (Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; II Timothy 2:8) because it was a special revelation to Paul; for the same reason it is called “Our Gospel” (II Corinthians 4:3; I Thessalonians 1:5; II Thessalonians 2:14); “the Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:15; Romans 10:15) because He is our peace who has made both Jew and Gentile one in His Body (Ephesians 2:14 to 18); “the Gospel of the Glory” (II Corinthians 4:4; I Timothy 1:11) because it concerns our glorious heavenly relationship with the Lord of Glory; and it is called “the Gospel of Christ” because He is the author of it.

It is this Gospel of Grace which is addressed to members of the Body of Christ today. If it were preached and practiced, it would free the Church from all externalism, legalism, and Judaism and would demonstrate to the world the power of the matchless Grace of God. But sad to say, most Christians are entangled with the yoke of traditionalism, and prefer it to the liberty of God’s grace.

THE GOSPEL OF GOD (Romans 1:1; Romans 15:16; II Corinthians 11:7; I Thessalonians 2:2, 8, 9; I Peter 4:17) is not identical with either the Gospel of the Kingdom or the Gospel of the Grace of God; but may be said to be the larger sphere which includes the promise of Salvation to the Gentile in uncircumcision and to the Jew in circumcision, without particular respect to the dispensation. According to Romans 1:1, the Gospel of God was something which God “had promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” This should be studied in conjunction with Romans 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 but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets (New Testament prophets), according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedient of faith.” Surely that which was “promised afore” and that was “kept secret” cannot be one and the same thing. The Gospel of God which was promised afore deals with the righteousness of God, and is the good news that God has found a way to be just and at the same time the Justifier of the ungodly. Faith is the only human element needed, and propitiation or satisfaction of all of God’s holy demands through the substitutionary death of the Son of God is the divine provision, This basic principle of justification by faith is the very heart of the Gospel of God, and the foundation of every form and aspect of the Gospel under the various dispensations.

THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS (CHRIST’S) BODY (Ephesians 1:22 and 23) is specifically said to have been a mystery hidden from the ages past and its truth first revealed to the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:1 to 9). This church is to be distinguished from the congregation of Israel (Acts 7:38), and from the church in existence when Christ was on earth (Matthew 18:17), and if it had its beginning at the time of the revelation of the Mystery, it is to be distinguished from the Church of God which existed during the Acts period. God has no where definitely stated when the Body of Christ began, but we do know that it was not before Pentecost, and that the full revelation of truth concerning the Body was not made until Paul reached Rome as a prisoner. The all important thing to know is that, as believers, we are members of His Body, made accepted in the Beloved and complete in Him, and even now seated with Him in heavenly places, that our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, and that we are called upon to walk worthy of this vocation wherewith we are called, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This can be accomplished only as we recognize our great seven-fold unity: one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.