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Saturday, December 4, 2021

How the Gospels Transitioned through ACTS (Part 6)

How the Gospels Transitioned through ACTS

(Part 6 --- Comparing the Gospel of God with the Gospel of Christ)


In the previous post we discussed how Paul, during the first half of his ministry, —that is, his missionary ministry represented in ACTS, —preached two gospels. The general trend that Paul would follow is;

He would preach the gospel of God to those Jews and Gentiles (friends of the Jews) who came together, typically, but not exclusively, in the Jewish synagogues. The gospel of God in summary was,

  • believe in Jesus' resurrection and 2nd coming, repent, be water baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, obey the law, prove your faith with works, and endure to the end.
Then, to those who believed Paul's preaching of the above gospel, he would introduce them to the 'mystery' gospel of Christ.

  • that Jesus died for their sins and that they could trust in nothing else but the all-sufficient cross-work of Christ (death , burial, resurrection) for salvation.

It is important that we understand that this was a very unique time, as a transition was taking place. By Gods design, we have a short period of time where two programs were intersecting. It was a mix of Jews and Gentiles, law and grace, prophecy and mystery, and of course, the phasing out of one gospel message into another. We should never think that the intricacies of this time should reflect on, or influence us in this age of grace. Our gospel of grace and the relationship we have with God, in Christ, is settled and uncomplicated because of what we learn and can extrapolate from the transition period.

The purpose of this post is to provide insights into the transition and therefore clarify what we have today in the grace gospel and spiritual relationship with God in Christ. The purpose is not to challenge our faith, but to clarify, and celebrate what we have because of Christ.

Having said all this, let's now get into some key points that will help us understand the differences between the gospel of God and the gospel of Christ. To know how these gospels fit together, have a quick look at this simple illustration,

 --- Kingdom Gospel >>> Gospel of God <<< ||| >>> Gospel of Christ >>> Gospel of Grace --- 

The Kingdom gospel became the gospel of God due to one significant reason, the resurrection of Christ and the hope therefore that the Kingdom program was not lost, but still in effect. Everything stayed the same with these two gospels, except that the good news could now be added to it and proclaimed. In other words, the Kingdom gospel and the gospel of God have similarities, however, both these are very different to the gospel of Christ and the gospel of Grace which are the same message for two different people groups, (which I'll elaborate on later). For now, just keep the above in mind as we work through the comparisons below and show the differences, and nuances, between the gospel of God and the gospel of Christ through the transition period.

To the Jews first, then to the Greek vs. to all men or nations

During the Kingdom gospel, Jesus, on multiple occasions, mentioned that He had come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, (Matt.15:24). By saying this, He was excluding the Gentiles from His ministry. This was because of the plan of God to save the Jews first so that they, according to prophecy, could be the light to the Gentiles, (Isa.60:3).

The gospel of God was no different. Because this gospel was based on the Kingdom gospel, the audience was still the same. In the first few chapters of Acts, Peter and the other apostles were still going to the Jews only. The difference however was that the gospel messaged had changed to include the resurrection and possible soon return of Jesus Christ. The conditions to be ready for His return was to repent and be water baptized in His name for the remission of sins, so that the gift of the Holy Spirit could come upon them, (Act.2:38).

This trend continued for approx. 10 years after Jesus had ascended into Heaven. It is at this time when God showed Peter a vision of a sheet filled with all manner of animals, clean and unclean. The purpose and interpretation of this vision was to show Peter not to reject the call of a Gentile who desired to hear the gospel. Peter, for the first, and only time in his life, and still reluctantly, shared the gospel with Cornelius, (Act.10:1-48). The Lord saved Cornelius and his household and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit even before they were water baptized, which has other significance that I will not deal with here.

In the meantime, Paul had already been converted and spent 3 years in Arabia where we suspect that God had started to reveal to him some mysteries pertaining to the gospel of Christ. Nevertheless, the Word is clear that when Paul started his early ministry, he went about teaching the gospel of God, proving to the Jews in the synagogues that Jesus was the Christ, which relates to the gospel of God, (Act.9:20).

Paul continued this trend, ministering to Jews first, (Rom.9:1-3), because at this time (early Acts), there was still hope for the Jews to be saved! God had not yet cast Israel away, (Rom.11:1-2). As time continued however, Paul also started to minister the gospel of Christ to those Jews and Gentiles who responded to the gospel of God and would be open to hear it. 

After Peter's vision, and also through Paul's missionary ministry, we find more and more Gentiles becoming involved, not only in the church of God, which were the assemblies under the instruction of the 12 apostles in Judaea, but also in churches that sprang up under the initial persecution of 'Saul', like the church at Antioch (Act.13:1), and through churches that originated by the missionary work of Paul and his coworkers.

We must understand that there was now a significant mix of people in the churches. Most notably, we have Jews, who are circumcised and under the law and ordinances, and we also have Greeks who didn't really care about the religion of Israel, who are not circumcised and did not practice the full extent of the law, (Act.15:28-29). With this in mind, you will understand why Paul wrote about ordinances, and laws, and holy-days (Col.2:16), and dress-codes (1Cor.11:4-5), and eating meat sacrificed to idols (see Rom 14:1-23, 1Cor.8:1-13), and bearing with each other in the culture mix.

On the other side of the coin we have the gospel of Christ. There is not much to say about this gospel based on our current key point, but it is clear that we do not see this restriction of Jew first and then the Greek in reference to this gospel. What we clearly see in Paul's writings concerning the gospel of Christ, are statements about 'all nations', and 'all men', showing that the gospel of Christ is not bound to a particular nation or order of presentation.

Romans 1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

Romans 16:26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

1 Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's:

Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

1 Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. ... 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

1 Timothy 4:10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

2 Timothy 4:17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear:

The offer of the Kingdom was still available until 70AD

As mentioned briefly above, we know that throughout the entire Acts period, (in which Paul penned Galatians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, and Romans), the offer of the Kingdom was still legitimate. This is why the gospel of God continued steadfastly throughout this time. God had not yet cast away the Jews. As a matter of fact, just like Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years, in a time of testing, we see that it took about 40 years before Jerusalem was conquered by Emperor Titus and the temple was destroyed. Israel had failed the test and from this moment they were scattered into all nations. 

Although Paul placed all his focus upon the gospel of the grace of God after he was imprisoned in Rome, the fall of Israel was where the gospel of Christ truly became the gospel of the grace of God as we know it today. Remember, the message did not change, but the new recipients were those that were far and wide, and were utterly without hope, and without God in the world, (Eph.2:11-12).

We will continue in the next post with several more key points to compare the differences between the gospel of God and the gospel of Christ.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

How the Gospels Transitioned through ACTS (Part 5)

How the Gospels Transitioned through ACTS

(Part 5 --- The Gospel of Christ)


As we build on the transition of the gospels through the book of Acts, it is important to keep in mind a progression of events that influenced its message. To do this, I'd like to reflect on the details we have already discussed, and just build it up again to get a good understanding of the progress of change, not only from the gospels, but also from the practicality and presentation of the good news to the people of that day.

We can logically deduce that the lifestyle and mentality of a typical Jew (let's call him Jacob), who lived during the Acts period was as follows. Jacob was law abiding, —well, as far as possible! The main laws were no problem to keep as it was part of the routines that Jacob was used to. Jacob went regularly to the temple to offer sacrifices. He upheld the Sabbath and did the best he could to remember and practice the many intricate laws he learned from childhood from his father and the visits to the synagogue. Jacob had a good general understanding of the scriptures and would know about the history of his people, about the promises of God to his ancestral fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He would know of the many prophecies for Israel, about the coming of a Messiah and King who would vanquish the enemies of Israel and reign in a restored and glorious Kingdom, in which the Jews would be kings, rulers, and priests, over the Gentile nations. Since Israel was under the dominant boot of Rome at that time, these promises and prophesies sounded like heaven! When would God speak again? It had been 400 years since the last prophet to encourage Israel!

The gospel of the Kingdom

But, one day, Jacob hears about a prophet in the wilderness, and soon after that, about a Nazarene, both preaching about the good news that the Kingdom of God is near. The Pharisees would have nothing to do with this Jesus, even though He did the most incredible miracles. Surely these signs proved that God was with Him? The Kingdom gospel that Jesus preached was only for the Jews. It was a call of repentance, to turn back to God and be baptized in water as a prophetic statement of being washed for priesthood. But the Jews, stirred into unbelief by the Pharisees and the High Priest, would reject Him and His message, and eventually, like all other past prophets, kill Him.

The gospel of God

Jacob was surprised to later find out that this Kingdom gospel did have effect and that there was a group of 120 devout followers that were meeting in an upper room in Jerusalem. What is more is that they were speaking a new message, proclaiming that unlike King David who was still in the grave, this Jesus did not see corruption. He was alive. He had risen, and He was the prophesied Messiah. Peter who preached that morning, —in more than one language by the way, were calling all Jews to recognize that their Messiah had come, and that if Israel wanted to see restoration and have freedom from Rome, they had to repent for their unbelief and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and follow Him alone. There was great remorse and response in the city that morning and many converted and in an act of great faith, sold all they had and distributed their belongings amongst each other in the Jewish church of God, the assembly in Jerusalem.

The gospel of God was clear, and every believing Jew knew exactly what it offered them. If one believed that Jesus was the Christ, then sell all one had and join the church in Jerusalem. There was no need to have earthly wealth as Jesus was coming back and the Kingdom was soon going to appear and every Jewish believer would have a mansion in the Kingdom, prepared for them with every Gentile offering them service with willingness and joy. To have this inheritance, one would have to continue steadfastly in the law and endure the trials faithfully right up until the last day. One's works were important as it proved your faith and commitment to the King. Like the parable of the talents that Jesus taught, one had to use everything that God provided you for the enrichment of the Kingdom. If you were not faithful in your increase for the Kingdom sake, you would be cast out. The price was all or nothing. You had to pick up your cross and follow the Christ. In order to find life one had to lose it. But the prize was worth it, like a great pearl, or a rich treasure in a field.

The apostles continued to preach this gospel of God, taking it out into Judaea and surrounding areas, but Jacob saw their struggles to convince the elites, and he knew that the apostles could not go much further into the world until the Jews were converted themselves. Persecution was escalating too with the apostles first instructed to not preach in 'that name', then they were beaten and thrown into prison, and finally on a fateful day, Stephen, one of the church deacons was stoned to death for his faith in the Messiah. Things were seemingly falling apart, especially with Saul going on the rampage against those who belonged to 'the Way'. But things were not falling apart, they were actually falling into place, at least in the context of God's greater plan.

The gospel of Christ

In about 34-35AD, at the height of Saul's persecutions, God intervened. God would start a new program through Saul's conversion, and set new pattern of grace. As the Kingdom program diminished, so the mystery program would increase. The Lord revealed many revelations to Paul throughout his ministry, but the most important would be the gospel of Christ which would pave the way for Gentiles to be saved by grace without the use of Israel, and subsequently become known and the Body of Christ.

Now, having painted a picture of this transitional time through the eyes of our fictional character, Jacob, who saw how the Kingdom gospel developed into the gospel of God, and why, I'd like to discuss the gospel of Christ in greater detail, describing what I believe would be the strategy of Paul in presenting this gospel, to whom it was preached, and what it's message was all about.

Paul's Strategy

Paul knew from early in his ministry that he was called as the Apostle to the Gentiles (Rom.11:13). Yet, his strategy was to go to the Jewish synagogues as he travelled from city to city, preaching not the gospel of Christ, but rather, the gospel of God. This gospel was his entry point into converting people to Christ. Going directly to the pagan Gentiles would be fruitless as they knew less than nothing of Israel's God and the Son of man, Jesus Christ. Going to the synagogues of the Jews made sense because they already knew the scriptures upon which the gospel of God was based on. It was just a matter of proving that Jesus Christ was the one prophesied about in the scriptures and that He had already come, was killed, but had risen again, fulfilling what the prophets had spoken (since the world began, Acts 3:21). This gospel was the same gospel that the 12 Apostles preached all over Jerusalem and surrounds. The 'church of God' (Acts 20:28) was wholly based upon this, and it is my personal view that Jewish converts* of this gospel were added to the 'little flock' (Lk.12:32) of Israel.

So, how do we get to the gospel of Christ? It is my view that Paul would approach these converts of the gospel of God, and he would encourage them to hear of a new and deeper revelation that he received of the Lord. For those who were interested, Paul would invite them to come out of the synagogue and meet in a home of a friend or a contact in that city. It is here were Paul would present them with the gospel of Christ, to which those who converted to this gospel would become the first members of the fledgling Body of Christ.

Acts 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

There is still much to say to clarify this gospel and compare it with the gospel of God. This I will do in the next post of this study.

---Footnote-------------------
*I say this as there were Gentiles, (friends of Israel), who also visited the synagogues and believed in the God of Israel. If these Gentiles chose not to convert to Paul's gospel of Christ, they would find salvation as the 'sheep' in the 'Sheep and Goats' judgement before the Millennial Kingdom. It is important to remember that this was not yet the grace gospel! The gospel of God was still based on the Kingdom gospel which required works and to endure to the end, (Matt.10:22). Even though they believed and received the gospel of God, and were members in the church in Jerusalem, since they were not proselyted into the Jewish faith they could not become part of the little flock of Jews and could not share in the Jewish promises and national preeminence of Israel during the Millennium. If they continued in their friendship and support of Israel, they would enter the Millennium under the blessing of the 'sheep' judgement of Christ and form part of the other Gentile nations who would enter the Millennium because they supported Israel during the Tribulation.

Where do we find the Gospel of Christ?

The gospel of Christ is preached throughout the Acts period, approx. 40AD - 60AD. It is typically referenced in Paul's early epistles, specifically, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians and Galatians. This gospel was presented to converts of the gospel of God.

Have a look at the opening statement of the book of Romans. It provides a beautiful context of BOTH the gospel of God and the gospel that Paul called, "my gospel", the gospel of Christ, which Paul held so dear to his heart,

Romans 1:1-17 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: [notice the clear content of this gospel, the identity and resurrection of Jesus]

5 [Now notice the switch to the gospel of Christ. Paul, referring to Jesus in the previous verse, now continues], By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations [not only limited to Israel], for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son [the gospel of Christ], that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Now that we know by assumption, how the gospels were presented, I'd like to match up the gospel of God vs. the gospel of Christ in the next post. Things become easier to see and identify when the two gospels are compared. Finally, we will tackle the gospel of the grace of God once we have better clarity on these two.


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

How the Gospels Transitioned through ACTS (Part 4)

How the Gospels Transitioned through ACTS

(Part 4 --- The Gospel of God)



Before I get into the topic, I'd like to remind you of the infallibility of God's Word as printed in the King James Bible (1611). As I have written in other posts, we can trust that every word of every paragraph in this version is accurate and has inspired meaning and context. 

So, when we read of the 'gospel of God' in some places, and in other places of the 'gospel of Christ', we, as students of the Word, should take note and understand that it's not just an inconsistency or a reference to the same gospel with two different names. No! 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Gospel (Song)


Ryan Stevenson - The Gospel (Official Lyric Video)

I heard this song for the first time today, —very appropriately since I'm busy with a series on 'the Gospels". It stirred my heart and gave me 'goose bumps'. 

Thank you Ryan for an wonderful and inspiring song!

View on YouTube


From the new album 'NO MATTER WHAT'

Download or stream at https://rs.lnk.to/nmw 


The gospel for our salvation today is,

1️⃣ Hear the message of why Jesus Christ had to save us:

Because of Adam's sin, we are all born with the nature of sin in us and this separates us from God. Jesus Christ (God incarnate), born 'without' the sin nature, and who lived a perfect life required by God's standards, freely gave up His life for us by dying on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death, so, Jesus, by dying on our behalf, and in our place, paid the sin penalty for us. Because of His death, we are imputed (freely given) His righteousness. In other words, because He freely took our sin upon Himself and died in our place, we are freely given His life which is pleasing to God. 
This encapsulates the 'good news' of the gospel of grace, —that Jesus paid our sin debt and freed us from the penalty of eternal death that we all are guilty of.
--------------------------------------------
So, now that you know what the good news of the grace gospel tells you, and you are informed of what Christ has done for youyou need to decide what you want to do with this news. That's it! You do not need to do anything else but to believe that what Jesus Christ did for you is the truth.

2️⃣ Believe what He has done to save you:

 If you choose to believe that Jesus died for your sins, and that He was buried and rose again from the dead, so that by His shed blood you are forgiven, and by His resurrection you are justified [declared innocent, pardoned, acquitted], then you are saved. The fact that you trust in the cross work of Christ as your ONLY means to be made right before God, is your salvation. That's IT! It's not about feelings or sensations! It's not about anything else you must do to prove your faith! It's not about being baptized or joining a church! It's not about what you did in life and how bad you were! It is ALL about JESUS CHRIST and what HE has done FOR YOU. It's His life accredited to you that saves you! All you need to do is believe that and trust Him to do what He said He would.

Eph.2:8 
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.

(Also see: 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Romans 4:25)

For more details, see the 'Salvation' page in the menu above.


Was Jesus Christ a Dispensationalist During His Earthly Ministry

Was Jesus Christ a Dispensationalist During His Earthly Ministry?

Article by Shawn Brasseaux


Opening Statement

Dispensational Bible study has its critics—and that is no secret. Allegedly, we who “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) are “Bible choppers,” “church splitters,” “troublemakers,” among other names. Additionally, we are told, “I do not follow some man such as the Apostle Paul, I follow Jesus!” Immediately after stating thus, our opponents flee to Matthew through John, the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (which they assume is Christianity for today), and proceed to denounce us as “heretics” for “taking away” from Jesus’ words. They have made some serious accusations against us, so do we have Biblically-based answers for them? In this, our special-edition 900th Bible Q&A article, we examine this matter in light of God’s Word. “For what saith the Scriptures?”

See the full article on Shawn's site here, including the opening statement, the conclusion, and 3 conclusive proofs that Jesus Christ divided the scriptures during His earthly ministry.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Simplicity of our Salvation

The Simplicity of our Salvation

It is my opinion that one of the 'easiest to understand' topics in scripture is our salvation through the grace gospel today. But on the other hand, it is also the topic that has largely been complicated, distorted and pulled out of context because of mixing up scriptures based on the gospels that belong to other dispensations and people groups.

In this short discourse, I'd like to address what the Bible says about our salvation, keeping it in the right context, and proving its simplicity, which is the singular act of placing our faith in the work of Christ on our behalf.