Previous chapter: Introduction
Part 1: Doctrine
When trying to teach from the Bible, most religious leaders end up reading a number of preconceived assumptions into the passages they’re looking at in order to claim it means what they want it to mean, or at least what they themselves have been taught it means by their own teachers (this is what’s known as eisegesis), rather than trying to carefully determine the actual meaning of the text in question without coming at it with any preconceived ideas as to its meaning (this is what’s known as exegesis). As the old saying goes, “a text read out of context is just a pretext for a proof text,” so it’s extremely important to always look at the context of any passage one is reading, and to compare that passage with the rest of Scripture as well, rather than just assuming one already knows the meaning when they read it.
In addition, most religious teachers also tend to be unfamiliar with the difference between the absolute and relative perspectives in the Bible, which means they aren’t aware that the same word or concept doesn’t necessarily always mean the same thing every time it’s used in Scripture, and hence haven’t been able to teach this principle to the members of their congregations either. As an example of this important hermeneutical principle, Romans 3:10 tells us that nobody is righteous, and yet Luke 1:5–6 tells us that Zacharias and Elisabeth were both righteous. If one isn’t familiar with the difference between absolute and relative perspectives in Scripture they might end up assuming the Bible contradicts itself. At the very least, they’re extremely likely to end up confused about what a passage means. The solution to the apparent contradiction in this case is to realize that, from an absolute perspective, no sinful human has ever been truly or completely righteous on their own, but from a relative perspective, meaning compared to other people, some people can be said to be righteous, because they’re more righteous than other people around them. As another example, Ecclesiastes 11:3 tells us that the rain comes from clouds, while 1 Kings 17:14 says that God sends the rain, and we can understand that both of these statements are equally true when we recognize that God is the rain’s origin from an absolute perspective (since all is of God), even while the clouds are rain’s origin from a relative perspective.
There’s one more thing we have to understand, though, if we want to know how to actually interpret what a given passage of Scripture means, and this is the fact that there are two entirely different sets of messages for two entirely different groups of people in the Bible. I know, this likely isn’t something you’ve been taught at church, and if it has been discussed, you’ve probably been told this isn’t true, but the fact of the matter is, while every Scripture inspired by God was written for all of us, not every part of the Bible was written to or about all of us. It’s extremely common for Christians to assume that certain things in Scripture which were only about specific people in specific times apply to everyone always. Understanding who a specific passage of Scripture was actually written to and about is sometimes referred to as “rightly dividing,” and while some people will attempt to distract you from this point right from the beginning by claiming that the verse this label is taken from is mistranslated and that the Greek word ὀρθοτομέω/orthotomeō should be actually rendered as “making straight” or “correctly handling” or some other term instead of “rightly dividing,” this is just a red herring to try to distract you from the fact that this term is simply a theological label for the scriptural method of determining who a specific passage of Scripture was intended for. The important thing to keep in mind is that, whatever label you prefer to give this important hermeneutical principle, if one isn’t aware of the intended audience of a particular message in Scripture, they can end up thinking they have to follow commandments that don’t apply to them at all, as well as trying to claim certain experiences and benefits that don’t either (sometimes with deadly results).
This difference between messages includes the Gospel, I should add, because the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision are not the same Gospel message. It’s important to note that Paul wasn’t simply saying Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the circumcised while he himself was called to preach that very same Gospel to the uncircumcised in this particular verse in his epistle to the Galatians, any more so than Matthew was saying Jesus went around preaching the Gospel to the kingdom instead of going around preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. Yes, as the next two verses in Paul’s epistle point out, both God and the pillars of the circumcision ecclesia did send Paul to the Gentiles while Peter and the rest focused on the Jews, but this wasn’t him just being redundant. This was Paul expanding on his previous statement by telling us who the primary audiences of each of the two separate Gospels are (he wasn’t simply recapitulating what he’d just written; he was giving us new information about what he’d just told us), just like the verse in Matthew told us that the audience Jesus preached the Gospel of the kingdom to were the people of the cities and villages of Israel. And, in fact, Paul said that he had to go see Peter, James, and John in order to communicate to them what his specific Gospel to the Gentiles was. If it was the same Gospel which they’d been preaching to Israelites, he certainly wouldn’t have had to explain what the Gospel that he preached among the nations was about, and there also wouldn’t have been a dispute over it (possibly at a later date) that Peter would have to resolve (this is almost certainly the whole reason the book of Acts records God sending Peter to Cornelius and his family: so that he’d be able to defend Paul), because they would have already been quite familiar with both what it was and what it meant if they’d already been preaching the exact same things as him.
Now yes, it’s true that some Bible versions do render the passage as “the Gospel to the Circumcision and the Gospel to the Uncircumcision,” but that doesn’t actually support the traditional presupposition that there’s only one Gospel the way many people think it does. For example, if I were to serve the food of the Greeks and you were to serve the food of the Jews we’d both be serving different sorts of food (even though what both of us were providing would still be called food, and might very well have overlapping ingredients, we’d still end up with two different types of meals), whereas if I were to serve food to the Greeks and you were to serve food to the Jews, while we could theoretically be giving out the same food, we wouldn’t necessarily be doing so because it could still be two different types of food being given out to two different groups of people, which is why rendering it that way still doesn’t actually prove their viewpoint.
The thing is, the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον/euaggelion, which we translate as “Evangel” or “Gospel” in English, literally means “glad tidings,” “positive proclamation,” or, very simply put, “good news” (we can also say the word Gospel means “news which is good”), and the word “news” quite literally refers to “a series of specific words which, when laid out in a specific order, conveys specific information about a specific subject.” This means that if you have another set of specific words which, when laid out in their own specific order, convey some other sort of specific information about that subject, you can’t say that you have the same news, even if both sets of news are good in nature, or even about the same person. For example, the news that “Joshua went to the graveyard” can’t be said to be the exact same news as “Joshua is now my boss” because the two messages mean something entirely different from one another since they convey entirely different pieces of information about this person from one another: one piece of news being about an action this person took, with the other piece of news being about the identity of said person. Because they’re providing us with different sorts of information about a subject from one another, it means they are, by definition, different sets of news. And since the news which was good that Jesus and His disciples preached while He walked the earth didn’t contain the same specific words, nor did it convey the same specific information, as the news which is good that Paul later preached to the nations did, they simply can’t be said to be the same news which is good, at least not without lying to oneself.
As far as these two Gospels go, the terrestrial Jesus (meaning Jesus while He walked the earth during His three-year ministry) and His disciples taught the first one specifically to Israel. While heralding the good news of the impending arrival of the New Covenant, Jesus had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under the Old Covenant and was only a minister of the circumcision “to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” while He walked the earth, meaning He was sent only unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And it’s important to note that this assertion was made by Jesus in regards to His disciples’ request to help a Gentile, so people who believe it doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means have to explain how it can instead mean His earthly ministry was directed to everyone instead of specifically to Jews, when the entire context of the verse is Jesus at first refusing to help a Gentile woman (yes, He did eventually relent and help her, as well as a couple other Gentiles on other occasions, but the Bible makes it clear how unusual this was, just as it does on the one occasion Peter spoke with Gentiles in the book of Acts, which only goes to support this doctrine further). Despite making a couple exceptions for very specific reasons, His earthly ministry (aside from His death and resurrection, of course) was not directed towards the Gentiles, and His teachings were about the kingdom of heaven coming to earth — specifically to Israel — rather than the body of Christ going to the heavens (as the later teachings of the celestial Christ — meaning Jesus after His resurrection and ascension into heaven — through the apostle Paul were). In fact, He made it very clear to His disciples when He sent them to preach the Gospel of the kingdom during His earthly ministry that they should not go to the Gentiles or even to the Samaritans, which seems strange if this Gospel was meant for everyone (especially if this particular Gospel had anything to do with escaping never-ending torment in hell, as most people mistakenly assume it does; you’d think it would be urgent to get the message out to as many people in the area as possible if that was the message).
Paul, on the other hand, became the dispenser of the second Gospel when he was singled out by the glorified Christ (the same Christ who walked the earth and died on the cross, but now in a new role and with a new message for a new audience) to teach this Gospel to the rest of the world (which means a Christian ignoring or rejecting Paul’s special Gospel, not to mention his other unique teachings and ministry, could be said to ultimately be ignoring or rejecting Christ), and it’s this second Gospel that is meant for the body of Christ today (although it should be noted that Paul actually did teach the first one for a time as well, at the beginning of his ministry, at least when preaching to Jews). The rest of the Bible is important for context, among other things, but it’s only Paul’s epistles that were written specifically to the body of Christ (and, in fact, only Paul himself ever used the label “the body of Christ” anywhere in Scripture, which should tell us something). As useful as the rest of the Bible is, anything other than the 13 epistles signed by Paul was primarily intended for Israelites (Hebrews, regardless of who wrote it, was meant for them too, which should come as no surprise to anyone who happens to notice the title of the book), and we can’t forget that fact when studying Scripture if we want to come to the correct conclusions.
So what is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, also known as the Gospel of the grace of God (a title that is often shortened by believers and simply called the Gospel of grace; and while this label isn’t actually used in Scripture, it’s a shorthand that does still seem accurate enough), as well as the glorious Gospel of the blessed God which was committed to Paul’s trust, or sometimes just called “my Gospel” by Paul (who would have been ridiculously arrogant, and would really be the Bible’s biggest egotist, for calling it that rather than just “the Gospel” if this wasn’t a distinct Gospel given only to him — not to mention the fact that one generally doesn’t call something theirs unless they’re trying to differentiate it from something that belongs to someone else, or at least trying to point out that it doesn’t belong to someone else), and how are we saved under it? Before answering that, it’s important to know what it isn’t. The Gospel of the Uncircumcision isn’t that one can be saved by confessing and repenting of (or turning from) sin (repentance is still important, but it’s not trying to stop sinning that saves someone), by asking God to forgive them for their sins, by simply asking God or Jesus to “save them,” by “becoming a Christian” (or by joining the Christian religion), by “following Jesus,” by “giving their life to Jesus or to God,” by trying to have “a personal relationship with Jesus,” by “accepting Jesus as their personal saviour,” by making Jesus “the Lord of their life,” by “asking Jesus into their heart” or “into their life,” by being a good person (or by “doing good works”), by being baptized in water, or even by confessing that Jesus is Lord with one’s mouth and believing in one’s heart that God has raised Him from the dead, as are common ways many religious leaders mistakenly share the Gospel. If one or more of those things are all one has done, they probably haven’t really been saved yet (relatively speaking), at least not under this Gospel.
I should say, some Christians might have unknowingly been saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead, however, since God always kept a remnant of believing Israelites for Himself (although, of course, Gentiles could also become included in this remnant, and there’s no reason to believe this is no longer the case), and we know the remnant can’t refer to those Jews who are saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and brought into the body of Christ because there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, so this must refer to those Jews and proselytes who were, and the remnant of Jews and proselytes who currently are, saved by another Gospel (although, in general, I suspect few Christians have actually been saved under either Gospel, at least from a relative perspective).
So, unlike the “gospel” that most Christians preach (which is basically a proposition), this good news is simply a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (or, to be more precise, since He wasn’t technically buried but was actually laid to rest in a tomb, a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day). While they think they actually do, very few Christians truly believe this Gospel because they lack an understanding what Christ’s death for our sins, His entombment, and His resurrection on the third day really accomplished (those three little words — ”for our sins” — as well as the word ”entombed,” make all the difference, and, as will become clear as you read on, differentiates this Gospel from the one most preach, and likely even from the one you currently believe). But if you’re someone who does understand and believe the full meaning of this good news, you’ve already been saved (again, relatively speaking, meaning you’re now a member of the body of Christ; everyone is saved, from an absolute perspective, by Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, whether they believe it or not, which is what this Gospel is actually proclaiming). Nothing else is required for salvation under this Gospel from an absolute perspective than what is stated in that positive proclamation (not even belief in this Gospel; believing this good news only means you get to experience salvation earlier than everyone else because it means you’re in the body of Christ, as will be explained further on); no confessing or repenting of/turning from sin (repentance for those in the body of Christ means to change our mind about who we are and what Christ did for us, meaning we come to realize our sinfulness and that there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves at all — neither trying to stop sinning, nor even the act of choosing to believe the right thing, can save us, since those would both be things we do to help save ourselves — but rather we realize that only what Christ accomplished can, and indeed did, save us) or even confessing that Jesus is Lord (which is actually only relevant to Israelites), asking God for salvation (He’s already saved us all, from an absolute perspective, through Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, and those to whom God has given the faith to believe this good news have also already been saved from a relative perspective as well), doing good works, joining a religion (religion always requires works of some sort, even if just the simple work of choosing to believe or have faith in the right Person or thing), “following Jesus” (as if that was even possible today), or “asking Jesus into your heart” (which is a completely meaningless, not to mention unscriptural, expression) is needed, nor is asking God to forgive you for your sins required, and water baptism is definitely not something you have to do to be saved under this Gospel.
And on that note, while most people assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized with water, although those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do need to be baptized in water, this isn’t actually the case for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. Yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water early on, but he stopped pretty quickly. That said, the body of Christ does still get baptized, and the baptism we’ve been immersed in could even be said to be necessary for our salvation from a certain perspective. It’s just that we’re not baptized in water (nor are we baptized with the Holy Spirit, even though we are baptized by the Holy Spirit). Water baptism manifested Christ to Israel, and was actually connected to the law of Moses and the two covenants that God made with Israel, and those under this Gospel are not under the Mosaic law in any way (no, not even the Ten Commandments — some like to divide the law into “the moral law” and “the ceremonial law,” claiming that only the latter has been abolished while the moral law, including the Ten Commandments, has not, but they are simply making this idea up to suit their own pre-existing doctrines since, not only is there nothing anywhere in Scripture that instructs us to divide the law this way, Paul also made this quite clear by referencing the 10th commandment when he wrote Romans 7:7 as a part of his teaching about how we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be placed under any parts of the law at all; the Scriptures say, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” and, in fact, Jesus told us that He didn’t come to abolish the law at all, so the law is still quite relevant for Israel, but those of us in the body of Christ are not under it in any way whatsoever), or a part of either of God’s covenants with Israel (and, as with their two covenants, only Israelites were ever under the Mosaic law anyway; Gentiles never were to begin with). Instead of being baptized in water, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (it’s a very dry sort of baptism), and since there’s only one baptism for us, it can only be that baptism (or immersion, which is what the Greek word βάπτισμα/baptisma means) into the body (and what Christ experienced in His body for us, including His death) rather than the various other sorts of baptism — including baptism in water — mentioned in Scripture.
The Gospel of the Circumcision, on the other hand, was the good news that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (or, to be more precise, “near is the kingdom of the heavens”), meaning not only was it ready to begin on earth but that it was indeed already in their midst in the person of its Anointed One (Messiah, aka Christ) and future King, which is why it’s also called the Gospel of the kingdom, and to be saved under this Gospel (meaning, to get to live in that kingdom when it finally begins on earth, specifically in Israel) one had to repent (of sin in general, and later of killing Jesus in particular — although, to be clear, no Jew living today has to repent of that particular sin since nobody alive on the earth today had anything to do with His death) and believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, followed up by being baptized in water in the name of the Lord (meaning being baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ rather being immersed into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is a whole different baptism that won’t even become relevant until the kingdom of heaven fully begins on earth), following the commandments Jesus taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, confessing one’s sins when one slips up (then also forgiving others who sinned against them), and enduring to the end (of one’s life or of the period commonly known as the tribulation, whichever comes first). While works on their own never saved anyone, in order to maintain salvation under this Gospel they’re still quite required to be performed: works that include water baptism, confessing sins, forgiving others, enduring to the end, and following Jesus’ commandments, which includes following the law of Moses, or at least it did for those during the time Jesus walked the earth, and will again during the Millennium when believing Israelites will have the law written on their heart, because it won’t pass away for those under this Gospel until the new heaven and the new earth begin after the Millennium ends (although it has been somewhat paused since it’s impossible to follow the law entirely now, seeing as there’s no temple, but that’s why the book of Hebrews was written). It’s important that we don’t confuse the end of the Old Covenant — or even the beginning of the New Covenant, which hasn’t actually begun in earnest yet — with the end of the Mosaic law, which won’t happen until the conclusion of the Millennium one thousand years later, after the current heavens and earth are destroyed (while the New Covenant was ratified by Christ’s death, the results of that covenant haven’t fully come into effect yet since it went temporarily on hold when Israel as a whole rejected Jesus as the Messiah).
Still, at its simplest, followers of this Gospel just have to believe that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God in order to be saved in the first place, which means to enjoy living in the kingdom of heaven when it arrives on earth, which is what salvation under this Gospel entails. It has nothing to do with “going to heaven” in a spiritual state after one dies (or to do with the kingdom spiritually residing within oneself while still alive; while there is a spiritual element to the kingdom, few seem to know much about the physical side of it, so I’m focusing mostly on that in this book), and everything to do with the kingdom coming to them physically on earth from the heavens, either while they’re still alive or after they’ve been resurrected after the tribulation period (and if the “heaven” passages aren’t talking about what most Christians assume they are, this means the “hell” passages likely aren’t either, as I’ll discuss in more detail in the next chapter). While faith is ultimately the basis of both Gospels, nowhere was Israel told by Jesus or His disciples to trust in His death for our sins, His entombment, or His resurrection for justification or salvation. You won’t find the Gospel of grace explained anywhere in the books traditionally called the four Gospels, not even in the famous John 3:16 passage that Christians quote so frequently. Yes, Jesus did tell His disciples about His impending death and resurrection (and His death was even prophesied beforehand), but not only did they not understand what He was telling them (which should really be all the proof one needs in order to see that they weren’t preaching His death for our sins when they were sharing their Gospel prior to His death, which means they weren’t preaching the same Gospel as Paul was since that’s what he preached as his Gospel), He also didn’t explain it as being for our sins or as something they had to trust in to enter the impending kingdom of heaven on earth. And while Peter did mention that Jesus died and was resurrected in his sermons in the book of Acts, it was only brought up as an accusation against those who killed Him (the cross was bad news for those who heard him rather than the good news that it happens to be for the recipients of Paul’s message; when it comes to the crucifixion, Paul essentially tells his readers that the cross saves us while Peter taught his audience that they couldn’t be saved unless they repented of the cross), and as proof that He is the Messiah and that He is still able to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth since He’s no longer dead; it wasn’t explained as the method of salvation to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision in these sermons. Similarly, Stephen didn’t preach the cross for salvation either. Rather, he simply accused those who were about to kill him of murdering Jesus as well (as it was with Peter’s messages in Acts, this was very bad news for his listeners too; not good news for them at all). Simply put, nobody prior to Paul had ever proclaimed the cross as anything other than bad news, and if it’s bad news in those messages then it isn’t good news/the Gospel in those messages, which means the “message of the cross” that Peter and others preached isn’t the same “message of the cross” that Paul preached, since in his Gospel the cross was only good news for his audience. To put it very simply, because the news which is good that Jesus and His disciples preached prior to Paul’s conversion (which was the news that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”) does not contain the same specific words that the news which is good that Paul preached to the nations (which is the news that “Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day”), nor does it convey the same specific information (since it doesn’t contain anything about Christ’s death for our sins in it, which it couldn’t have since most of the people proclaiming it weren’t even aware of the fact that He was going to die at the time they preached it), it should be very evident that the news which is good that Jesus’ disciples preached during Jesus’ earthly ministry simply can’t be said to be the same news which is good (meaning the same Gospel) that Paul taught, and so anyone who still insists there’s only one set of news which is good in the Bible is simply lying to themselves at this point.
As an example of someone getting saved by believing a Gospel prior to Paul, the statement of faith made by the Ethiopian eunuch to Philip before his baptism had nothing to do with faith in Christ’s death for our sins at all, but was instead that he simply believed Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God.
And, just as a quick but related aside, even though it’s not specifically mentioned in the text, the Ethiopian eunuch was almost certainly Jewish himself — of the diaspora — since not only was he visiting Jerusalem to worship like those a few chapters earlier in Acts 2 were, but also because no mention of his being a Gentile was made even though just two chapters later such a big deal is made of Peter talking to Gentiles (and Peter even had to defend himself for doing so to the rest of the apostles, which Philip didn’t have to do), and even afterwards those who were scattered abroad preached only to Jews (which, as another quick aside, shows us they didn’t seem to take the so-called “Great Commission” to go make disciples of all nations too seriously if it was meant for their time, although the real reason for this is because it isn’t meant to go into effect until the Millennial Kingdom begins on earth in the future), so it seems very probable that preaching to Gentiles was only done one time prior to Paul doing so (and the Gospel preached then wasn’t the same Gospel Paul preached either), very likely for the purpose of Peter being able to later help defend Paul.
Yes, the eunuch learned that Jesus died (just as Cornelius later learned from Peter), but like those before him (and like Cornelius after him), he wasn’t taught that it was for our sins (similarly, Cornelius was told by Peter that, in every nation, he who is fearing God and acting righteously — or worketh righteousness — is acceptable to God, while Paul said that God saves the body of Christ and calls us with a holy calling, not in accord with our acts or works, but in accord with His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began, showing us that Gentiles who were preached to by Peter were given an entirely different message from the one Paul gave the Gentiles he taught).
So faith, under the Gospel of the Circumcision, is in the identity of Jesus, while faith, under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, is in the work of Jesus. Likewise, the cross means (and meant) something very different to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision than it does to those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (it wasn’t something anyone was looking forward to, nor was it something anyone understood prior to Paul outside of the context of the New Covenant and the kingdom of heaven on earth).
Now all that’s not to say that somebody can’t technically be saved by whichever Gospel they happen to be predisposed, or elected by God, to follow. Gentiles can be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision just as Jews can be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; these are just titles, and have nothing to do with whether one has surgery done to one’s genitals or not. The important thing is that they don’t try to combine the two of them (Paul says they shouldn’t switch between the two of them either, but rather stick with the one they’re called to).
As should be obvious at this point, these Gospels aren’t even remotely similar to each other, so how anybody ever concludes that they’re one and the same is quite perplexing (if someone thinks the news that “the kingdom of heaven is near” and “Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God” is the exact same news as “Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day,” just worded differently, or that Jesus and His disciples were teaching the latter, they really need to explain how these very different sounding news messages are actually saying the same thing, as well as how the disciples could have possibly been preaching Christ’s death for our sins when they didn’t even understand that He was going to die), but somehow the vast majority of people have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, a mistake that even some in the body of Christ have made recently. The fact that if one were to remove the epistles of Paul from the Bible they’d completely lose the doctrines of salvation by grace through faith apart from any works, and justification apart from the law, however, should really make it clear that Paul was teaching something different (in fact, if Paul’s teachings aren’t different in meaning from the rest of Scripture it would mean the body of Christ is required to follow the Mosaic law — in spite of the fact that Paul taught that we not only aren’t required to but actually shouldn’t try to — since John taught that those saved under the Gospel he believed had to follow the precepts Jesus taught, which were all about a correct understanding and following of the Mosaic law, and are precepts that will remain relevant to believers in Israel’s Gospel until the new earth begins in the future), and that it’s Paul’s teachings the body of Christ should be following.
And arguing that there’s somehow only one Gospel, but that this one Gospel has only been gradually revealed to us through progressive revelation, as some have attempted to do, doesn’t make any sense at all when one stops to really think about it. Those who make this argument generally still believe that one must believe in Christ’s death for our sins and His resurrection to be saved, so even if there somehow was only one progressively revealed Gospel, nobody prior to Paul believed in Christ’s death for our sins, so that would have made the Gospel being preached prior to Paul pretty useless unless people prior to Paul could be saved without believing that part of the Gospel, but that just takes us right back to the fact that we would have to divide this one good news into two different sets of good news preached at two different times (perhaps we could call this idea “rightly dividing”), one preached prior to Paul (or, at the very least, prior to Christ’s death) and one that Paul first taught, taking us full circle to what I’ve basically been getting at all along here.
And, just as another quick aside, some people have tried to argue that Paul wasn’t teaching how to get saved in his epistles, since he was writing to people who were already believers, but while it’s true that his written audience was primarily made up of believers, he did also say in the passage where he explains his Gospel that it was A) the Gospel he preached unto them, and also B) the Gospel by which they are saved, so we know exactly what he preached unto them as how they‘re saved, which means that argument doesn’t actually help the way the skeptics might think it does. That said, it is also true that chapter 15 of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians wasn’t actually about Paul’s Gospel, but was instead about the bodily resurrection of Christ (since some of the members of the ecclesia in Corinth had stopped believing in Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead, thinking the term “resurrection” was instead a “spiritual truth” rather than an actual event), with Paul’s Gospel only being included in two verses in the chapter in order to make his point that Christ had indeed been roused from the dead (although the ultimate outcome of Paul’s Gospel is revealed farther on in that chapter of the book, as will become clear as you read the next chapter of this book). And this fact about the point of this chapter is actually important to keep in mind for when someone attempts to claim that Peter and the others were preaching the same thing as Paul based on verse 11. If Paul’s Gospel was the point of that chapter, that would be a valid claim, but if you read this verse in its context with the rest of the chapter, it becomes clear that Paul was simply saying that both he and the others all saw the risen Christ because He was indeed roused from the dead, not that they both preached the same Gospel.
Of course, anyone who believes that Paul was later preaching the exact same Gospel to the Uncircumcision that Peter was preaching (I say later because, in the messages Paul is recorded as having preached in the book of Acts, many of them were still connected with the Gospel of the Circumcision, especially when preached to Israelites) also has to explain how Paul could possibly have never heard this Gospel the entire time he was persecuting Jewish believers. And yet, based on what he told the Galatians, he didn’t hear the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles from any mortal humans, but rather learned it directly from the glorified Christ. It’s extremely difficult to believe that he somehow wasn’t aware of the most important teaching of those he was persecuting — one would be hard-pressed to answer the question of why he was persecuting them in the first place if he didn’t know what they believed — and it doesn’t appear that he was told it by Jesus on the road to Damascus either, yet he immediately preached the Gospel that Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching after being healed by Ananias, so the obvious conclusion is that the good news he later preached to the Gentiles wasn’t the same good news which Peter preached to Israel and the proselytes, and which Paul himself preached at the beginning of his ministry in Damascus, as well as in Jerusalem three years later, where the apostles and Jesus’ brother James became acquainted with him for a couple weeks, and would have also gotten to know the Gospel he was preaching while there. If it was the same Gospel he’d already preached with them in Jerusalem, he wouldn’t have had to return a decade or so later to explain what the Gospel he was later preaching among the Gentiles was, since Peter and James and the rest of the apostles would have already been familiar with it from his previous visit, which explains why he said his Gospel was instead given to him by revelation, perhaps while in Arabia, since this had to have been taught to him after he’d already preached Peter’s Gospel in Damascus.
But with it being so obvious that there are at least two Gospels being taught in Scripture, why are some people so insistent that there’s only one Gospel to begin with? One possible reason for the lack of realization of the existence of two Gospels in Scripture is confusion about the warning Paul gave in his epistle to the Galatians about preaching any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they’d already received. Unfortunately, most Christians not only read more into this passage than it’s actually saying, they also don’t pay close attention to the specific wording of the passage either, leading them to believe a whole doctrine that wasn’t what Paul was getting at there at all. You see, Paul wasn’t saying there is only one true Gospel there, or that nobody could ever preach a Gospel to someone other than the one he taught the body of Christ (if that were the case, nobody could ever share good news of any sort with anyone if it wasn’t about Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, including good news about births or job promotions or any other sort of positive information). Most people who base their assumption on this passage have likely only read translations of Scripture which say things like “another gospel which is not another” in the verses before his warning. The problem is, if one doesn’t look beyond this figurative translation, they can easily get confused. Is it another Gospel or is it not another Gospel? It can’t be both another Gospel and not another Gospel at the same time, at least not if we’re reading that literally.
What most Christians aren’t aware of is that Paul actually used two distinct Greek words rather than one (which means a literal rendering of the passage is more along the lines of “a different gospel, which is not another”) in order to differentiate between a legitimate Gospel that wasn’t his but was still perfectly okay to be taught to certain people and an illegitimate “gospel” that shouldn’t be taught by anyone at all, speaking of both a “different” (ἕτερος/heteros) gospel and “another” (ἄλλος/allos) Gospel. “Heteros” basically means “other of a differing sort” while “allos” means “other of the same sort,” so one was “another/allos” (fully legitimate, just like Paul’s) Gospel being preached by Peter, and one was a “different/heteros” gospel, that wasn’t even “another/allos” actual Gospel at all like Peter’s was, but was rather a bastardized mix of Peter’s Gospel and Paul’s Gospel that couldn’t save anyone.
Likewise, Paul wasn’t saying people who taught that there were other Gospels were under a curse, since he did so himself just 24 verses later; he was only teaching that those who would preach any other Gospel about salvation to the body of Christ than the one they had already received as something they should follow were, but Peter and the rest of the apostles could preach their particular Gospel as something to be followed to anyone that they wanted to without fear as long as it wasn’t to members of the body of Christ, based on the words “unto you” in verses 8 and 9 since Paul was writing to those who had already believed his Gospel, not those who hadn’t. Unfortunately, the evangelists and teachers of the Christian religion today aren’t even proclaiming that one, but instead are the very people who are guilty of preaching the adulterated “different/heteros” gospel that isn’t even “another/allos” legitimate Gospel at all like Peter’s was, bringing the curse Paul warned about upon themselves.
And on the off chance that anyone ever tries to claim that “different” and “another” actually mean the same thing, here are some sentences to consider: 1) “the word ‘different’ is different from the word ‘another,’” 2) “the word ‘another’ is another from the word ‘different,’” 3) “the word ‘another’ is different from the word ‘another,’” and 4) “the word ‘different’ is another from the word ‘different.’” Read those, then ask yourself if those sentences all mean the same thing, or if the last three even make any sense at all. And to really drive the point home, if the two words truly did mean the same thing, the verse could also be translated as “a different Gospel which is not different,” but that might be the most nonsensical one of them all.
And if the words “different” and “another” don’t mean the same thing, as those examples I just gave prove, there’s literally no way to interpret the passage as meaning Paul is saying there’s only one legitimate Gospel, because he’s clearly allowing for at least three separate messages called gospels in this passage, 1) his own Gospel, 2) another Gospel, and 3) a different “gospel,” which means the only way he could have been talking about only two messages called gospels — 1) his own Gospel, and 2) a different “gospel” — with only one being legitimate, is if “another” and “different” actually did mean the same thing.
Besides, Scripture tells us about other Gospels (or Evangels, or proclamations of good news — these are all translated from the same, or cognates of the same, Greek word — and all mean the same thing: “glad tidings” or “positive proclamation,” even if the “positive proclamations” aren’t always the same message, or the same news, each time the word euaggelion was used in Scripture) than just Paul’s Gospel and the different “gospel” he’s warning about, and even though only two of the “positive proclamations” are connected directly to how one is saved (the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision which, as we’ve already determined, are entirely different messages that don’t discuss the same topic at all, one being about the kingdom of the heaven being near and the other being about the death of Christ for our sins, as well as His subsequent entombment and resurrection), there’s no way Paul could be saying there’s only one message allowed to be called the Gospel in existence or else we’d have to remove those verses discussing the other positive proclamations from the Bible altogether (unless those various positive proclamations are all a part of a larger, all-encompassing “Gospel” we have to believe in so we can be saved, but I doubt that anyone thinks that belief in John the Baptist’s birth is necessary in order to be saved, so right off the bat we already have multiple Gospels in the Bible even before we get to the Gospels that one can believe when they get saved).
Another possible reason so many Christians insist that there’s only one Gospel in Scripture is that Paul tells us there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, and they then go on to make a major assumption: that every Jew who believes in Christ is brought into the body of Christ (and that every first-century Jew who believed in Christ became a member of His body prior to Paul’s revealing of the body to the world). But if that were the case, this would mean they would all lose the standing above the Gentile nations that Israel was promised to be given by God one day (they don’t have it now, but they certainly will in the future, despite what some who don’t understand the difference between future events and already fulfilled prophecies seem to believe, particularly those who have fallen for the deception known as Amillennialism), and that they’re no longer under either the Old or the New Covenant, both of which were only ever given to Israel (this is also a result of confusing the new birth, which Paul never wrote about, with the new creature or creation, which only Paul ever wrote about — the idea that these two concepts are just synonyms for one another is a major, and entirely unfounded, presupposition that is actually never stated in Scripture, which means there’s no reason to believe they are outside of preexisting doctrinal bias).
This assumption reveals first and foremost that they don’t understand God’s purpose for creating “the body of Christ, the ecclesia” any more than they understand God’s prophetic purpose for Israel. It also shows that they don’t understand the difference between the “mysteries (or “secrets”) of the dispensation (or administration) of grace and conciliation, and of the prophecies that don’t apply to this dispensation at all. And finally, it tells us they aren’t aware of the fact that being a part of the body of Christ was never meant for every believer in Christ throughout history to begin with.
You see, the body of Christ has a future job to do in the heavens (among the celestials), and our true citizenship is in those heavens rather than here on earth (in fact, another translation of that verse is that our realm is inherent in the heavens, as opposed to our realm being inherent down here on earth). That can’t be said about Israel however, at least not the faithful Israel known as the Israel of God, and the verse that gives us this label for faithful Israelites makes it quite clear that there are two different, yet legitimate, sets of believers as well. The words “and upon” in that verse mean there are two separate groups of people being wished peace and mercy by Paul there, since there’s no way to legitimately read that verse in any way that implies Paul was actually saying, “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and, oh yeah, these people are also called the Israel of God,” which means there have to be two separate groups being written about there — the first group being “as many as walk according to this rule,” referring to members of the body of Christ, and the second group being those known as “the Israel of God” — and those who know how to “rightly divide the word of truth” are aware that those in these two different churches have two different destinies: with one group reigning on the earth, specifically from Israel, and with the other group reigning from the heavens.
Before I proceed with this point, however, it’s important to understand that the heavens, or “heaven,” just refers to everything “above” the earth, including our sky and atmosphere, where the birds and clouds are, but more importantly, to outer space where the sun and the moon and other heavenly bodies are — “in the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth,” so there are only two overall “places” one can be: on earth, or in heaven (there isn’t anywhere else one can be because God didn’t create anywhere else, at least not anywhere else that’s recorded in Scripture), and if one is in the sky or in outer space, they’re not on earth, which only leaves heaven for them to be in. And if heaven wasn’t a reference to that which is “up above” the ground we stand on, after Jesus ascended up into heaven, the disciples couldn’t have been gazing up into heaven as the angels said they were. That said, when Scripture talks about where we’ll be in the heavens, it would be referring to deep space, likely beyond the reach of our current telescopes, but still in our physical universe, out among the stars and planets where most of the celestials reside, even if perhaps partially in higher dimensions if they’re not just somehow living invisibly on our plane of existence. And so heaven isn’t actually a place you would want to go without either an airplane or a space shuttle, or preferably an immortal body that could survive and thrive out there, and it certainly isn’t a place that anybody who is dead goes to, since only the living can go to heaven, at least in a conscious state. This also means that heaven isn’t the perfect, sinless place most people think it is, at least not yet, since the devil and his angels haven’t been cast out of the heavens yet, for one thing, and not only do sinful humans spend time in airplanes and spacecraft in heaven every day, many celestial beings there still haven’t been reconciled to God yet either (and you can’t be reconciled without first being alienated, by the way — and I should also add that “reconciled” means the parties on both sides of an estrangement or disagreement are at peace with one another), although it will be pretty great for the body of Christ when we have our new bodies that can enjoy it out there with our Lord as we fulfill our impending ministry to the celestials there. This means, by the way, that Christians who like to claim God can’t allow sin into heaven (which is not an assertion I’ve ever seen made in Scripture) seem to have forgotten that, if Satan needs to be cast out of heaven, it means sin has already been in heaven, as is also confirmed by the fact that the book of Job says he was there too. Similarly, the claim they often make that sin can’t exist in heaven because God can’t look upon sin is also an unscriptural one, since the words are actually, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil,” with “to behold” in this verse simply being an expression meaning “to approve of.” His omnipresence and the fact that He sees everything would make this a very problematic verse as well, if most Christians were correct about this (although this is obviously referring to the sort of evil that falls under the category of moral evil rather than morally-neutral evil, and it’s important to know that not all evil is sinful since “evil” and “sin” are technically two entirely different things, unless you believe animals can sin, and don’t realize that God actually takes responsibility for the existence of evil, and are also unaware of the difference between God’s preceptive will and His providential will, but I’ll leave it at that because this is a much bigger topic than we have the time to get into in this chapter).
And so, unlike the body of Christ (who will be out there working in the heavens, which means, by the way, that the term “the kingdom of heaven,” or “the kingdom of the heavens,” needs to be understood as meaning “the kingdom of outer space,” or at least ”the kingdom from heaven”), the Israel of God will remain here on Earth and maintain their earthly (Jewish) identity and citizenship throughout the Millennium, and will rule over the Gentile nations throughout the 1,000 years, and even beyond (the Millennium is also when the “Great Commission” to disciple all these nations is finally supposed to take place, I should add). Since only Jews who “are saved” (those known as “the Israel of God”; and Paul was reducing the scope of membership within the Israel of God in Romans 2:28–29 to include only certain Jews, not expanding it to include Gentiles as well) are among this group, if “being saved” means that they’re no longer identified as Jewish and that they are going to rule far off in the heavens (which would be the case if they were brought into the body of Christ), how are they going to also be Jews (which they apparently no longer are since there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body) reigning on earth? This confusion is easily cleared up as soon as one comes to realize the difference between the body of Christ and the Israel of God, and how each of these two groups are saved (and what each of their salvations entail).
Of course, it also helps to realize that Paul was the first to be saved under his Gospel and join the body of Christ (not to mention the first to preach his Gospel), so no Jewish believer prior to him could have been a member of Christ’s body yet anyway. Yes, it’s true that there is only “one body” for us, but this is because the body of Christ is supposed to be without schism, not because other “bodies” that aren’t the body of Christ don’t exist. As an equivalent explanation, while all the provinces and territories of Canada make up one country, there’s still more than one country in the world (unless one believes the 50 states that make up the United States of America, along with all the other parts of the world, are a part of Canada too), and that same passage also says that there is only “one baptism,” yet there are many different types of baptisms mentioned throughout Scripture, so this verse isn’t saying that there’s only one body (or only one baptism) in existence in the world, but rather that those in the body of Christ should not be divided into different denominations, just as they should not participate in any baptisms other than the one they’ve already experienced (which is immersion by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ).
And so, even as Paul wrote these truths, another group of men lived for whom the truth “neither Jew nor Gentile” did not apply, and those men were the 12 apostles (or at least those of the 12 who were still alive by this point). Paul had forfeited his Israelite identity, but the rest of Jesus’ disciples never did — and neither were they supposed to. Jesus told His disciples that they would sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel, a promise that did not apply to the apostle Paul (who, along with the rest of the body of Christ, would instead judge angels — hopefully the pattern of the difference between the terrestrial and celestial destinies of these two different groups of believers is becoming clear by now). So while the body of Christ is indeed one body, it can be said that the Israel of God, too, is one body. But they definitely are not a part of the same body, as should be clear to anyone who isn’t blinded by the doctrinal presuppositions taught to them by their religious leaders.
So, while Abraham is the father of us all (the fact that Paul often quoted the law and prophets does not mean said law and prophets as a whole apply to everyone, nor does it detract from his unique Gospel), and both groups can be said to be “in Christ” (which is one of those trans-administrational terms, such as “baptism” or “light” or “mystery” or “grace” or “Gospel” or “kingdom,” to name just a few of many examples, that are used by both but can mean something slightly different to each; as A. E. Knoch put it, “Israel came first in time, and the divine vocabulary is based largely on God’s dealings with them. Even if our blessing does not now come through them, it can often be best expressed by borrowing their terms”), those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the New Testament (or New Covenant) during the period of time known as the renascence (or the regeneration), the times of refreshing, or the restitution of all things (as you can see, this period of time goes by many different names, including other names that don’t start with the letter “R” as well, such as the kingdom of heaven — which is a subset of the much larger kingdom of God — the Lord’s Day, also known as the Day of the Lord, although perhaps better put as the Day of Yahweh, the 1,000 years, the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom, and is something that has not happened or even really begun yet) that was promised to Israel long ago (it should probably also be clarified that while the Day of the Lord includes both the 7 year period commonly known as the tribulation as well as the Millennium, the time on earth known as the kingdom of heaven includes both the period known as the Millennium as well as the later new heaven and new earth), while those saved under Paul’s Gospel are promised spiritual blessings and are destined for far greater things (at least at first) out there in the heavens, and are no more under the New Testament (or any covenants for that matter, nor would they want to be if they truly understood what that would mean for them) than they are able to be born again like Israel needs to be, and they’re definitely not a replacement for, or a spiritual Israel, or even the kingdom of priests that Israel as a whole will finally be one day (and, just as a quick warning, one should be cautious about claiming this title since appropriating the role of a priest without actually being anointed and appointed as one by God can be somewhat dangerous, although perhaps less risky under the current administration of the Conciliation, but wisdom is still called for), because the body of Christ has been circumcised of the body of the sins of the flesh rather than circumcised of the foreskin of the heart (the latter being a spiritual circumcision which, like the physical circumcision of the male genitals, is only meant for Israel).
That Israel is a distinct group from the Gentiles in the body of Christ is also made evident by Paul referring to Israel as the cultivated, natural olive branches in Romans 11. Remember, not all of the natural olive branches are pruned out of the tree (which itself is not a reference to Israel, by the way, since Israel is only the cultivated, natural branches of the tree, not the whole tree itself) in that figurative explanation of present and future events, but rather some remained attached to the tree while the wild olive branch (referring to those of the nations) was grafted into the tree next to believing Israel/the Israel of God rather than replacing them, and we also know that the pruned-off natural branches will be grafted back into the tree eventually as well (this will occur at the time the wild branch is removed from the tree — if this seems confusing, it helps to understand that this passage has nothing to do with the salvation of individuals or the idea of losing salvation, which is made clear by the fact that the pruned-off natural branches were never saved to begin with and yet had to have been a part of the tree at one time in order to be pruned from it, and so if being a part of the tree means being saved, they never could have been a part of the tree in the first place). As Paul makes clear, Israel is not thrust away, but is only temporarily cast away until the full complement of the nations may be entering, at which point Israel will become the focus of God’s purposes again (since His promises and gifts are without repentance, which means it goes without saying that Israel will indeed be brought to faith and be saved in the end).
Basically, Christians need to stop stealing the covenants, commandments, prophecies, and promises (not to mention punishments) that were meant only for Israel and trying to give them to the body of Christ and the rest of the world (and, likewise, stop trying to take the blessings given to the body of Christ and trying to apply them to the Israel of God).
Unfortunately, if one doesn’t come to understand the difference between the Gospels, they’ll assume that many commandments in the Bible are meant to be followed by believers in the body of Christ today that actually aren’t (while also conveniently ignoring certain parts that aren’t meant for them simply because they don’t like them rather than because they actually understand right dividing), they won’t understand which church they’re a part of (or when it actually began), and they can even come to completely misunderstand what the Gospel the body of Christ is saved by actually is, causing Christians to present a convoluted “gospel” message to the world that doesn’t actually help anyone. Many people don’t like the idea that not everything in the Greek Scriptures — meaning the books of the Bible that are generally referred to as the New Testament — was meant for everyone to follow, but it’s literally impossible to follow everything in them when even within the books commonly referred to as the Gospels you have Jesus giving instructions in one place that contradict instructions that He Himself had previously given (on purpose, of course), so those who teach that everything in the Greek Scriptures is meant for everyone to always follow really aren’t paying attention.
The lack of understanding regarding the many differences between the Gospel of the kingdom and the Gospel of grace, as well as what parts of Scripture are written to Israel and what parts are written specifically to the body of Christ under the current dispensation of grace (not to mention the lack of understanding that the Scripture written to Israel has to be rightly divided as well, as Jesus Himself demonstrated), is also a major cause of the disagreements one finds between the many denominations within Christendom (although it should be noted that there are really only two legitimate “denominations” referred to in Scripture — the body of Christ and the Israel of God — the members of the denominations of Christianity, such as Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Plymouth Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc., on the other hand, are simply following divisions within the Christian religion rather than being actual members of the body of Christ), whereas right dividing resolves a lot of the confusion and apparent contradictions that seem to be prevalent in the Bible, especially between Paul’s epistles and the rest of the Greek Scriptures, particularly the book of Revelation and the letter that James wrote (which, despite the efforts of many well meaning but confused theologians to fit a square peg into a round hole — not to mention their adamant and repeated denials of this fact — does not line up with the teachings of Paul), but really all of the rest of them as well (although using a more literal translation also helps in other cases). Of course, the fact that the apostle Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles means that the 12 apostles (not to be confused with those apostles who weren’t among the 12, such as Barnabas, who did teach the same as Paul, and who were among the last group of people to be appointed as apostles ever) weren’t apostles of the Gentiles, and the fact that Paul was the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles means that Peter and James and John (and even Jude) weren’t ministers of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, making it extra clear that their epistles and teachings weren’t meant for Gentiles in the body of Christ, but were instead meant for those who were not Gentiles.
I admit that it can be difficult for those who have been brought up to believe that the entire Bible, including all of the teachings and instructions found therein, must apply to everybody always — or at the very least that the Greek Scriptures must — to come to realize that this might not be true (even I had difficulty with this idea when I was first introduced to it), but if one is able to consider the possibility that the tradition they’ve been taught might not be scriptural, and that it might not all be applicable to everyone throughout history, they can then notice some of the significant differences between the teachings and exhortations of Paul and the teachings and commandments found within the Circumcision writings (referring to the Hebrew Scriptures — which Christians normally, and mistakenly, call the Old Testament — as well as the rest of the Greek Scriptures that weren’t signed by Paul). Some of the differences that might begin to stand out to those who realize the truth include the fact that those who are saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision will reign on earth (the meek merely inherit the earth, or, more literally, will only enjoy an allotment of the land), specifically in Israel, while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision will sit together in heavenly places (or, more literally put, will reign among the celestials in the heavens) — the former will have an earthly or terrestrial glory while the latter will have a celestial glory in the eons to come. Or the fact that those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision were only said to be known from the foundation of the world (or the “disruption of the world,” depending on your translation, which would be the event that made the earth become a chaos and vacant, or become without form and void, in Genesis), and were in fact first called and then chosen, while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision were said to be known before the foundation or disruption of the world, and were instead first chosen and then called. Likewise, the former will keep the law (and, indeed, must perform works or their faith will prove to be dead and useless and they won’t be said to be justified when Christ returns), while the latter aren’t under the law at all (and will still be justified even if all they have is faith without works). As an example, the former must forgive others or they won’t be forgiven themselves, while the latter deals graciously with others simply because God has already forgiven them, which is why the former is currently only hoping for grace (which will be brought to them when Jesus returns if they managed to endure to the end) while the latter is already standing in grace.
|The Israel of God/The Gospel of the Circumcision||The body of Christ/The Gospel of the Uncircumcision|
|Will keep the law perfectly when the New Covenant finally comes fully into effect and replaces the Old Covenant completely (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:26–27, Micah 4:2, Hebrews 8:8-12)||Not only are we not under the law at all, and in fact should not try to keep any of it (Romans 6:14, Galatians 5:3), Gentiles were never under the Old Covenant — which was about Israelites keeping the Mosaic law — to begin with, so we don’t have an Old Covenant to be replaced with by a New Covenant the way Israel does anyway (Exodus 12:43-49, Exodus 19:3-6, Leviticus 26:46, Deuteronomy 28, Nehemiah 9:13-14, Psalm 147:19-20, Romans 2:14-15, Romans 9:3-5, Ephesians 2:12)|
|Jewish believers within this church were still zealous for the law, even after the Council of Jerusalem, and they were upset that Paul was teaching Jewish members of the body of Christ to avoid practicing the Mosaic law, including circumcising (Acts 21:17-26)||Not only did Paul teach against circumcising — or any law-keeping — for Gentiles in the body of Christ, he taught against it for anyone in the body of Christ, including Jewish members, and if Paul was teaching the same thing that Peter and James and the rest of the Jewish church were, the members of their church in Jerusalem wouldn’t have been so upset at Paul for teaching against circumcising and law-keeping for Jewish members of his church when he visited them later (Acts 15:1-21, Galatians 2:1-3, Acts 21:17-26)|
|Spoken of by the prophets since the world began (Acts 3:21-25)||A secret until Paul (Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:8-10)|
|Only 12 apostles for this church — a number with much spiritual significance to Israelites — and they were all called inside of Israel (Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew 10:2-4). Even though Judas was replaced by Matthias after being disqualified (Acts 1:12-26), no others out of the 12 were ever replaced because there will only be 12 thrones for them to sit on during the Millennium, and only 12 foundations of the wall of the New Jerusalem to be named after them during the Eon of the Eons (Matthew 19:28, Revelation 21:14)||The first apostle of our church — who is not one of the 12 apostles of the Israel of God — was called outside of Israel (Acts 9:3). This is spiritually significant because Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13)|
|Are supposed to eventually disciple all the nations, to baptize them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:16-20), although — outside of Peter’s visit to Cornelius — Scripture tells us this hasn’t happened yet (Acts 11:19, Galatians 2:8-9)||The fact that Paul is called the apostle to the Gentiles, and that a whole new set of apostles were in fact sent to the Gentiles, is significant because it means the 12 apostles of the Israel of God were not the apostles to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13, Acts 14:14, 1 Corinthians 4:6-9, Ephesians 4:11), nor were the rest of the members of that church preaching to the Gentiles yet either, since the pillars of their church had agreed to leave the preaching to the Gentiles to Paul and to those with him, for the time being, which means Israel hasn’t even really begun her so-called “Great Commission,” as it’s often referred to, yet (Galatians 2:8-9, Acts 13:2)|
|Proclaimed among Israelites (James 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1)||Proclaimed among the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8)|
|As future citizens of the New Jerusalem, which is referred to as the bride of the lambkin itself after it descends to the New earth, the saints of this church who will inhabit this city can figuratively (albeit only proleptically) be referred to as the bride of the lambkin (John 3:29, Revelation 21:9)||The saints of this church are referred to as the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:30)|
|Racial distinctions important (Matthew 15:26, Matthew 19:28, Revelation 21:12, Zechariah 8:23)||Racial distinctions irrelevant (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:28)|
|Believers known from the disruption of the world (Revelation 17:8)||Believers known before the disruption of the world (Ephesians 1:4)|
|Believers called first, then chosen (Matthew 22:14)||Believers chosen first, then called (Romans 8:30)|
|Water baptism required (Acts 2:38)||Water baptism not required (1 Corinthians 1:17, 1 Corinthians 12:13)|
|Many types of baptism/immersion: John’s baptism in water unto repentance, the Lord’s baptism in water — obviously not a baptism unto repentance — water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ/the name of the Lord, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and in fire, baptism into Moses, and baptism into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, 13-17, Acts 1:4-5, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, 1 Corinthians 10:2, Matthew 28:19)||Only one baptism/immersion: not in the Holy Spirit (or in water either), but rather by the Holy Spirit, into the body of Christ, including into what He experienced in His body, such as His death (Ephesians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Romans 6:3-4)|
|Must be born again (John 3:3)||Are an entirely new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)|
|Must have circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16, Acts 7:51, Romans 2:29)||Circumcised of the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11)|
|Must have works, since faith without works is dead for them (James 2:20)||Even if we don’t have works, but only have faith, we are still justified, which means faith without works is not dead for us (Romans 4:5)|
|Must keep His commandments, and live as Jesus did (1 John 2:3-6)||God’s grace motivates us to live well, not the threat of losing our salvation if we don’t, as is the case for Israel (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)|
|Must forgive others or God will not forgive them (Matthew 6:15)||Should deal graciously with others as God has already dealt graciously with us (Ephesians 4:32) — but even without works, we’re still justified, so we aren’t required to forgive others in order to be forgiven ourselves, even if it’s still good for us to do so (Romans 4:5)|
|Must be an overcomer to avoid second death (Revelation 2:11)||Saved from second death by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9)|
|Hoping for grace, which will be brought to them when Jesus returns to the earth (1 Peter 1:13)||Already standing in grace (Romans 5:2)|
|Must be watching, not drowsing (Matthew 25:1-13, Luke 12:37, Hebrews 9:28)||Whether watching or drowsing (1 Thessalonians 5:10)|
|Must be wise, not stupid, or will not be chosen (Matthew 25:1-13)||Few who are wise are chosen, and most who are chosen are stupid (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)|
|Can be put to shame at His presence if not careful (1 John 2:28)||Will all be changed for the better — meaning given glorified, immortal bodies — at His presence, which is the happy expectation all of us in this church should be looking forward to (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:52, Titus 2:13)|
|Will go through day of indignation (Revelation 6:1-17)||Not appointed to indignation (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9)|
|Will meet Christ on earth (Acts 1:11-12, Zechariah 14:4)||Will meet Christ in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)|
|The resurrection of the just, also known as “the former resurrection” (Luke 14:14, Revelation 20:1-6), occurs after Christ’s second coming to the earth, 75 days after His feet touch down on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4-7, Acts 1:9-12, and compare the numbers in Daniel 12:11-13 to the numbers in Revelation 13:5 to understand the 75 day difference)||The dead in the body of Christ are first resurrected, then those who are still living will rise with them to meet Christ in the air together when He comes for our church, before He ever even gets close to the Mount of Olives (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)|
|Will reign on the earth as a kingdom of priests over the nations (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:5-9, Revelation 2:26-27, Revelation 5:10, Revelation 20:6, Isaiah 61:6)||Will reign among the celestials in the heavens (Ephesians 2:6-7, 2 Timothy 2:12)|
|Will fill earth with knowledge of God’s glory by being a light to the Gentiles and salvation to the ends of the earth (Habakkuk 2:14, Isaiah 49:6)||Will dispense God’s wisdom among the celestials in the heavens (Ephesians 3:10-11)|
|The meek shall inherit the earth, and will live in the land God gave the patriarchs, which is the land of Israel (Matthew 5:5, Ezekiel 36:28)||Our realm is inherent in the heavens (Philippians 3:20)|
|There will still be mortal “flesh and blood” humans living in the part of the kingdom of God that is on the earth, and they will even continue to reproduce, during both the Millennium and the Eon of the Eons on the new earth (Zechariah 8:3-4, Isaiah 65:17-25, Ephesians 3:21)||Mortal “flesh and blood” is not able to enjoy the allotment in the part of the kingdom of God that is in the heavens. This is simply because we’d suffocate from lack of oxygen, or freeze to death, or die from radiation poisoning out there in the heavens without an immortal body (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)|
|The 12 apostles will judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28)||Paul, not one of the 12 apostles of the church known as the Israel of God, but rather the first apostle of the church known as the body of Christ, will, along with the rest of the body, judge the whole world — presumably at the Great White Throne Judgement; based on how long it would take one Person to judge everyone on His own, Jesus will need a whole group of people to dispense this judgement, since it takes place on earth among the resurrected dead, not outside of time — as well as judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)|
|Their Gospel is also called the Gospel of the kingdom, and it was the good news that the kingdom of God was near, meaning ready to begin if Israel met the required conditions (Mark 1:14-15), which they did not, so its fully coming into effect on earth — specifically in Israel — has been pushed back while the Gentiles are temporarily saved apart from Israel (Acts 28:17-28, Romans 11)||Our Gospel was also called “my Gospel” by Paul, which is why we now call it Paul’s Gospel, and it’s simply the good news that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day (Romans 2:16, Romans 16:25, 2 Timothy 2:8, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4)|
|Had to believe that Jesus is Israel’s awaited Messiah and the Son of God, as well as follow this belief up with good works such as water baptism, forgiving others, and all the rest of Jesus’ earthly commands, and even have to endure to the end — of their life or of the Tribulation, whichever comes first — in order to be saved under this Gospel (John 20:31, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:36-38, Matthew 3:8, Matthew 6:15, Matthew 24:13). The 12 did not understand that Jesus was going to die, so they couldn’t have been preaching anything related to Paul’s Gospel about Christ’s death for our sins when Jesus sent them to preach the Gospel of the kingdom while He walked the earth (Luke 18:31-34, Matthew 10:5-7, 22)||Said to be saved when we believe the good news — which includes understanding what it means — that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)|
|The cross was only bad news to those hearing the Gospel of the kingdom — at least in the sermons recorded in Acts— and a shameful thing which needed to be repented of in order to be saved (Acts 2:22-38, Acts 3:13-15, Acts 7:52)||The cross is only good news for those hearing Paul’s Gospel, and is even something to glory in because it is how we are saved (1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Galatians 6:14)|
|From a relative perspective, Jesus gave His life as a ransom only for “many” — meaning only for those who obey this Gospel (Matthew 20:28)||From an absolute perspective, Jesus gave His life as a ransom for all — meaning all humanity (1 Timothy 2:6)|
|Exhorted to remain in Him, and seem to be able to fall away and not be able to be renewed to repentance, so seem to be able to lose their sort of salvation (1 John 2:28, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27)||If we died with Christ — and if we did, we can’t un-die — we will live with Him, since He cannot disown His own body. Yes, we can “fall from grace,” so to speak — which basically just means placing oneself under the bondage of religion and rules, such as the law, and, because of doing so, missing out on enjoying the freedom Christ gave us — and it might be that we can also lose out on reigning with Him by denying Him in order to avoid suffering, but either way, we still remain His body, and He won’t amputate and disown His own body parts, and body parts can’t amputate themselves either (Galatians 5:1-4, 2 Timothy 2:11-13)|
|Abraham being justified by works given as an example (James 2:21-23)||Abraham being justified by faith rather than by works given as an example (Romans 4:2-3)|
|Gentiles will be blessed by Israel’s rise in the future (Acts 3:25)||Gentiles are currently blessed by Israel’s fall (Romans 11:11)|
|Salvation will come in the future, when the kingdom comes fully to the earth, and when Israel’s sins are forgiven (1 Peter 1:5, Romans 11:25-27)||We have already been saved now, and are, in fact, already complete in Christ (Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 2:10)|
|Healing others by the laying on of hands is a sign that will accompany believing members of this church, and members are advised to go to the elders for prayer and anointing with oil for their own healing (Mark 16:18, James 5:13-18)||While Paul could heal people by having them simply touch his handkerchiefs at the beginning of his ministry, when he was still trying to convince Israelites to believe their own Gospel, by the end of his ministry, after giving up on Israel for the time being and deciding to only proclaim his own Gospel to the nations, he could no longer heal, and even gave medicinal advise to church members rather than advising them to seek healing from church elders (Acts 19:12, 1 Timothy 5:23, 2 Timothy 4:20)|
Now these aren’t just minor variations in terminology; these are completely different messages for two completely different groups of people. Unfortunately, if one isn’t being honest with Scripture, and insists on trying to make these major differences between Paul’s teachings and the teachings in the Circumcision writings say the same thing, because their preconceived doctrines force them to have to believe they mean the same thing, they’re just not ready to interpret the rest of Scripture. In fact, not only is this concept so extremely important for believers to grasp, it’s also so central to understanding what the Bible is saying that one can’t properly interpret much of Scripture at all without beginning from this perspective (even something like evangelism will be a confusing task for those who don’t understand that “the Great Commission” — a label that isn’t actually even found in the Bible — wasn’t meant for the body of Christ at all. Instead, rather than discipling all nations to be observing what Jesus commanded His disciples and baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (which, as I already mentioned, is a whole different baptism from the one that Peter did with water, since the baptism he’s recorded as having performed in Scripture was specifically “in the name of Jesus Christ”) as the Israel of God will be called to do in the future (when the dispensation of grace has ended and Israel has been saved and finally begins their ministry to be a light to the Gentiles and salvation unto the ends of the earth as they were long ago prophesied to one day be, and when Gentiles will in fact only come to know God by following the Jews), we have a greater “commission” and “one baptism” in spirit into the body of Christ, and are called to be stewards of the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began (including the Mystery of the Gospel, which is a secret almost nobody knows anymore) just as Paul was, and can in fact currently help other Gentiles come to God even if we’re not Jews, which is why it’s imperative to truly understand this important topic.