The Apostle Paul wrote about one-half of the Books of what are generally called the “New Testament Scriptures.” It is generally believed that he wrote about one-half of his messages before the close of the “Acts” period and about one-half of them after the close of the “Acts” period. It is significant in Paul’s ministry, during the “Acts” period (oral and written), that he referred to the Old Testament Scriptures, or used “Israelitish” terms, more than 250 times, whereas, in his last seven Epistles he did not use 20 such references or terms. Many times during the “Acts” period we find the words “miracles”, “signs”, “visions”, “tongues”, etc.; but in his “Post-Acts” Epistles, generally called `Paul’s Prison Epistles”, no mention is made of these supernatural demonstrations. A comparison of the gifts of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11, with the gifts of Ephesians 4:11, should prove interesting and instructive; also a comparison of Acts 19:11 with I Timothy 5:23 and II Timothy 4:20.
In Paul’s Prison Epistles we find very frequently these words, “faith”, “hope” and “love”. Therefore we should find I Corinthians 13:8 and 13:13 very interesting and instructive. In these verses we learn that certain “sign gifts” were to pass away and faith, hope and love were to abide. The sign gifts and miracles found in Paul’s Pre-prison Epistles are not found in his Prison Epistles.
In Acts 28:25 to 28 we have the Divine Record of the Divine judgment upon Israel (the nation); but the armies of Matthew 22:7 did not besiege Jerusalem until several years after Paul pronounced the judgment of 28:25 to 28. All during the “Acts” period Israel’s temple stood in Jerusalem. During that period Israel was preserved and protected by the Covenant-keeping God, and Father; because of the prayer of Christ on the cross, Luke 23:34. During the 37 years from Calvary to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (about 70 A.D.) Israel had access to the temple, enjoying the favor of the Roman government for more than 30 years of that time, and they continued their “Judaism” in temple worship under the leadership of their high priest. Acts 20:16; Acts 23:3 to 7.
During that period, up to Acts 28, Paul became a Jew to the Jews (under the Law), and God’s order was “to the Jew first”. I Corinthians 9:20 to 24; Romans 1:16; Acts 13:46; Acts 3:21.
Paul, in his ministry, called himself the apostle, or teacher, or preacher, or minister, or the Lord’s prisoner. “to the Gentiles”, more than a dozen times. He mentioned himself in the first– person pronoun more than 1300 times. He was neither deluded, presumptuous nor egotistical. He had many revelations from the Lord. II Corinthians 12:1 to 12. He had a special deposit from the Lord. II Timothy 1:12 (Greek—“my deposit”). Christ sent him to preach riches to the Gentiles never hinted at in the Old Testament Scriptures (“unsearchable”—“not to be tracked”). Ephesians 3:8. He had committed unto him, “the Dispensation of the Grace of God, “the Dispensation of the Mystery” for the Gentiles. Ephesians 3:9. In his Prison Epistles “the Mystery” is mentioned twelve times.
Paul did not receive his “uncircumcision” gospel from Peter and the Eleven (apostles before him, Galatians 1:17). Neither did they give him any authority to go to the Gentiles. Christ gave him that authority. Unlike the Eleven, in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 and 20, Christ sent Paul, not to baptize. I Corinthians 1:17. Neither did Paul in his Prison Epistles tell any one to obey or preach the message of Mark 16:15 to 18.
In Acts 9:1 to 15, we have the record of Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion. Then what followed? He straightway preached Christ (Messiah) in the synagogue. Acts 9:20. Now, note carefully what he called this: “preached the faith which he once destroyed.” Galatians 1:23. Remember, Saul never persecuted Gentile Christians. He was turned to Christ before the door of salvation was opened to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27. Saul never preached to Gentiles in his “Grace of God” gospel what Christ preached to him, “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins.” Acts 22:16. Paul went to Arabia; and after three years went up to Jerusalem, where he spent about two weeks with Peter and James the Lord’s brother. Galatians 1:17 to 24.
Fourteen years after, by revelation, Paul went again to Jerusalem and told them of a revelation he had received from the risen Christ, “the gospel of the uncircumcision”. Galatians 2:7. Note, the Twelve learned it from Paul and not from Christ. Let us not confuse the faith which Saul, the persecutor, destroyed, with the gospel of the uncircumcision about which he, nor the Twelve, knew nothing when he was persecuting the Church of God. Neither let us confuse the “gospel of the uncircumcision, foreseen in Abram’s call (Galatians 3:8) with the ministry of reconciliation. II Corinthians 5:16 to 21.
Now let us refer again to our subject, “When-How-Why and Where Did Paul Receive What?” and Search the Scriptures. But let us note this order:
- The Faith Paul once destroyed.
- The Gospel of the Uncircumcision.
- The Dispensation of God.
- he Ministry of Reconciliation.
- The Dispensation of the Grace of God.
- The Eternal Purpose of God in Christ.
- The Dispensation of the Mystery.
Ephesians 3:1 and 2
“Far 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 youward.”
Ephesians 3:8 and 9:
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And 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.”
Galatians 1:11 and 12:
“But I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but BY THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.”
“BUT CONTRARIWISE, when they saw that the GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION WAS COMMITTED UNTO ME, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.”,
l Corinthians 9:16 and 17:
“For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, A DISPENSATION OF THE GOSPEL IS COMMITTED UNTO ME.”
Colossians 1:25 and 26:
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the DISPENSATION OF GOD WHICH IS GIVEN TO ME FOR YOU, to fulfill the Word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.”
I Timothy 1:11:
“According to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which was COMMITTED TO MY TRUST.”
“That I SHOULD BE THE MINISTER OF JESUS CHRIST TO THE GENTILES, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”
II Timothy 1:9 to 12:
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel:
WHEREUNTO I AM APPOINTED A PREACHER, AND AN APOSTLE, AND A TEACHER OF THE GENTILES. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep (my deposit)” (original).
Paul had a Divine deposit. How did he receive it? “By revelation”. Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3. It was for Gentiles. He magnified his office as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Romans 11:13. The risen Lord instructed Paul to give the salvation message to Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. Romans 11:11; Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6. Christ committed to Paul the gospel of the uncircumcision. Galatians 2:7. The Twelve Apostles learned this fact when Christ sent Paul to Jerusalem by revelation (14 years after Galatians 1) Galatians 2:1. Paul revealed in Ephesians and Colossians, written several years after he wrote Galatians, deeper and higher truths concerning Christ and His Church than he revealed in Galatians Many of the glorious riches of the members of Christ’s Body, declared in Ephesians and Colossians, are not recorded in Paul’s messages written before he arrived at Rome as the prisoner of the Lord. As to when he received the revelation of these riches we have no Divine Record. But we surely have sufficient information to refute the assertion of some men of God that THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD, mentioned in Ephesians 3:1 and 2, was inaugurated by the risen Lord on the day of Pentecost, perhaps two years before Saul of Tarsus was converted.
Surely Acts 14:27 marks a very important beginning in Paul’s, Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul speaks of “my gospel” in Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25 and II Timothy 2:8. Here is the fact recorded in Acts 14:27: “How He (God) had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” This was more than twelve years after Paul was converted. This opened door was because Israel had put it from them. Acts 13:46.
About fourteen years before Paul wrote his Second Epistle to the Corinthians he received an abundance of revelations. II Corinthians 12:1 to 12. Therefore, Paul received the revelations about 46 A.D.; about the same year of Acts 14:27, “the opened door”. As Saul of Tarsus, he was met by the resurrected Christ near Damascus, between 34 A.D. and 38 A.D., Acts 9:1 to 15. We will have to wait until we see Paul in glory before we know just what revelations he received when he was caught away to the third heavens. As we follow Paul, from Acts 9 to Acts 19, we learn there are two periods, of about five years each, during which no record is made of his travels and ministries. There were perhaps seven years between Acts 14 and Acts 16. It is by no means an easy task to trace his spiritual activities, from Acts 9 to Acts 19, and definitely fix the year when he began to minister under that DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD, mentioned in Ephesians 3:1 and 2.
But can we learn by tracing the spiritual activities of those “who were apostles before me ((Paul)” (Galatians 1:17), that they were not working under the DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD? They were labouring under a commission from Christ. Mark 16:16 to 18; Matthew 28:19 and 20. They had committed unto them the gospel of the circumcision. But about 41 A.D. (several years after Saul’s conversion) it was not lawful for them to go to Gentiles. Acts 10:28. The Lord made it lawful when Peter received that housetop “sheet” vision about 41 A.D.
Did the Lord in that vision introduce the DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD FOR GENTILES? Surely there is a great difference between Mark 16:16 to 18 and Ephesians 3:1 to 9. It is interesting to compare Peter’s words of Acts 15:7 with Paul’s words of Ephesians 3:1 and 2. Open your Bible and compare both of these Scriptures with Acts 14:27. From the Twelve the Lord chose that by Peter’s mouth the household of Cornelius should hear the gospel. Acts 15:7. Then for the first time God did something. Acts 15:14. And the disciples rejoiced because of this repentance unto life.
But surely there was good and sufficient Divine reason why the other eleven were not chosen to preach to Gentiles, and why there is no record in the Acts that the Twelve preached the gospel out of the land of the Jews, why there is no Acts record that Peter preached to any Gentiles except the household of Cornelius, and why the record of the spiritual activities of the Twelve suddenly ends with the declarations of Peter and James in Acts 15:7 to 22. God must needs have had Twelve Apostles, instead of eleven, from Acts 2:1 to Acts 11:18. Note that when Judas died a successor was chosen to bring the number to twelve. Acts 1:16 to 23. When James died (Acts 12:2) , that was the breaking-up of the Twelve. The date of the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:1 to 22) after which Peter’s name is not mentioned in Acts is just about the same year when Peter and Paul agreed to their respective different ministries as mentioned in Galatians 2:9. In Acts 9:15 the Lord appointed Paul as a witness to the Gentiles; but it was more than fourteen years later before he was sent by revelation from the Lord, to Jerusalem to communicate the gospel of the uncircumcision for the uncircumcision. Peter had the gospel of the circumcision for the circumcision. Galatians 2:8. Some brethren tell us they had the same gospel and the same spiritual program. If so, strange language is Galatians 2:7 to 9. There was grace in the message for Israel; but if the gospel of the circumcision for the circumcision is identical with the DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD for the Gentiles, then there was no need for such special revelations and a new commission to Paul. No “Berean” who searches the Scriptures will believe that Peter was intrusted with Paul’s message and ministry. God’s Word plainly declares that the DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD FOR GENTILES was committed to Paul.
When was it committed to him? It certainly was not committed to him before he was converted. Therefore, THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD for Gentiles is not in the first nine chapters of Acts. This is so evident that even the babe in Christ should see it at a glance. Therefore, we have learned a very simple but important lesson in rightly dividing the Word of truth and rightly understanding the Book of Acts. Let us repeat and emphasize that the Dispensation of the Grace of God is not to be found in Acts 1 to 9. And let us not be so stupid as to teach that the DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY or the Unsearchable Riches of Christ was the program and message which was proclaimed by the Twelve either on or after the day of Pentecost. That was Paul’s deposit and not Peter’s. Remember II Timothy 2:15 and obey it. Paul did not continue with the ministry to the Gentiles concerning which Peter spake in Acts 15:7. The risen Lord, by revelation, gave Paul something new. Peter did not give to Paul the knowledge of the gospel, nor the authority to proclaim that gospel to Gentiles. We learn by reading Acts 8:5 to 17 that Evangelist Philip worked under the authority of the Twelve.. . But Christ and the Holy Spirit separated the Apostle Paul, born out of due season, for his special ministries. Acts 13:2; Acts 9:15; Ephesians 3:3. “I neither received it of man”. Galatians 1:12. “Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me.” “I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Galatians 1:16 and 17.
The DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD FOR GENTILES is mentioned by Paul in connection with THE MYSTERY which Christ revealed to him. Ephesians 3:1 to 5. THE MYSTERY has to do with the JOINT-BODY (Sussomos) of Ephesians 3:6. Although in Acts 9:15 (about 34 A.D.) Paul was told that he was to be a witness to Gentiles, he never mentioned the GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD until Acts 20:24 (about 59 A.D.). Remember that Paul received his abundance of revelations about 46 A.D., about the same year the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27; II Corinthians 12.1 to 12). Surely there is no intimation that Paul received the revelation of Ephesians 3:3 and 5 before that time, if that early in his ministry. Certainly not one of the Twelve knew the first thing about that mystery before Galatians 2:1 to 2 (not earlier than 46 A.D.).
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.