Previous chapter: Introduction
Part 1: Doctrine
In order to truly dig deeper into Scripture and learn the doctrines that most of us were never taught by our pastors, one needs to first know how to “rightly divide the word of truth,” since without knowing how to do this it’s basically impossible to understand what sort of teachings the body of Christ is supposed to believe, follow, and proclaim (some people will attempt to distract from this point right from the beginning by claiming this verse should be translated as “making straight” or “correctly handling” or some other term instead of “rightly dividing,” but regardless of what the most precise translation of the Greek word ὀρθοτομέω/orthotomeō is, this is just a red herring to divert from the point of the passage while ignoring the actual context of the verse, as I’ll explain further on in the chapter). It’s extremely common for Christians to assume that certain things in Scripture which were meant only for specific people in specific times apply to everyone always, causing them to think they have to follow commandments that don’t apply to them, and to try to claim certain experiences and benefits that don’t either (sometimes with deadly results). In order to divide “rightly,” it’s important to first understand that when you read the term “the word of truth” in the Greek Scriptures (meaning the books in the Bible that are generally referred to as the New Testament) it isn’t just yet another synonym for Scripture, so this isn’t simply referring to dividing the Bible into the two sections that are traditionally called the Old Testament and the New Testament (although dividing Scripture rightly will be a valid side effect of this practice since, 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). If you look up each time the term is used in the Greek Scriptures, you’ll discover that it actually refers to the Evangel or Gospel rather than the Bible itself. When one comes to this understanding, it becomes clear that the Good News (which is what Gospel means; the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον/euaggelion, which we translate as “Evangel” or “Gospel” in English, literally means “Well Message,” “Favourable Announcement,” “Positive Proclamation,” “Glad Tidings,” or “Good News”) has to be properly divided, and the apostle Paul tells us exactly what it means to rightly divide the Good News.
To put it simply, there is more than one Gospel in Scripture that the word of truth must be rightly divided into, two of which are known as the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. 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, the whole reason Paul had to go see Peter, James, and John, as he mentioned in this epistle, in the first place was because he had to communicate to them what his specific Gospel to the Gentiles was since it wasn’t the same one they were preaching. If it were the same, he certainly wouldn’t have had to explain what the Gospel that he preached among the nations was, and there wouldn’t have been a dispute over it 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).
Yes, 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 (although, the fact that there is more than one Gospel taught in Scripture, as will be demonstrated further on in this chapter, does mean that “of” clearly is what Paul meant there). Basically, since the truth that there is more than one Gospel mentioned in Scripture doesn’t hinge on this one verse alone, it doesn’t really matter if someone does choose to mistranslate or misinterpret this verse that way, although it definitely is a misinterpretation.
As far as these two Gospels go, the terrestrial Jesus 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 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 Jesus 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 “everlasting 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), the Gospel of Christ, 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 — which we know it was since it was committed specifically to his trust — 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 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 have very possibly 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 (those three little words 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), His entombment, and His resurrection on the third day really accomplished. But if you’re someone who does understand 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 reconciled, 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 Well Message (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 — not even the act of choosing to believe the right thing can save us, since that would be something we do to 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 who 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 deciding 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 — nowhere in the Scriptures does it instruct us to divide the law this way. In fact, 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), 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 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 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 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, 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 (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) for those under this Gospel until the new heaven and the new Earth begin after the Millennium ends. 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 (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) — 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.
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 either (just believing that Jesus died and was resurrected isn’t enough to actually be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision — the people who had Jesus killed, for example, obviously knew He died, but that knowledge on its own couldn’t help them — the difference between an atheist who believes that Jesus died, or even a member of a cult who believes He died and then came back from the dead, and a member of the body of Christ is that those in the body of Christ also believe that His death was for our sins, and Peter didn’t preach that fact about Christ’s death anywhere in his Acts 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.
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, 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 message that “the Kingdom of Heaven is near” and “Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God” is the exact same message 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 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 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 the Gospel into two different messages of Good News (perhaps we could call this idea “rightly dividing the word of truth”), one preached prior to Paul 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 is 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, they were primarily connected with the Gospel of the Circumcision) also has to explain how Paul could possibly have never heard this Gospel the entire time he was persecuting Jewish believers during the time he went by the name Saul. 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 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 — the Gospel of the glory of the happy God (blessed literally means happy in the original Greek), which, as Paul wrote, was entrusted specifically to him (and not entrusted to anyone who came before him) — wasn’t the same Good News that Peter preached to Israel and the proselytes (and that Paul himself preached at the beginning of his ministry, and not only in Damascus but also in Jerusalem three years later as well, 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, which means that 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 if it was the same one he’d preached there before since Peter and James and the rest of the apostles would have already been familiar with it from his previous visit), but was rather given to him later by revelation, perhaps while in Arabia, after he’d already preached Peter’s Gospel in Damascus.
And now that I’ve covered all that, I should quickly return to Paul’s statement where he told Timothy that it’s important to rightly divide the word of truth. As I mentioned earlier, some people insist that “rightly divide” isn’t the most precise translation of the Greek word behind it, but that’s just a misdirection in an attempt to stop the discussion right then and there rather than continue on to learn that there is a difference between Peter’s and Paul’s Gospels. Whatever the best rendering of that Greek word is, we already know from the context of the various places that the term “the word of truth” or “the word of the truth” is used in Scripture that it refers specifically to proclamations of Good News and not to the Scriptures themselves, and if one reads the first two chapters of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy where he wrote about this, we can see that the context of these two chapters is the Evangel of which he was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher of the nations rather than the Gospel meant for the Israelites (yes, God did save a few Jews under Paul’s Gospel as well, but they weren’t his assigned audience because they had their own Gospel), and that Timothy should specifically teach the things he had heard Paul teach (as opposed to the things Peter and the others were teaching) to other faithful men, especially his specific Gospel to those Gentiles (again, he would have said “the Gospel” rather than “my Gospel” in that verse if there was only one Gospel and it was the same one Peter and the other disciples were proclaiming; he used the term “my Gospel” for a reason). When we take all of these factors into consideration, it becomes clear that it doesn’t matter if someone uses the label “making straight the word of truth” or “correctly handling the word of truth” instead of “rightly dividing the word of truth” because it doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s the Good News we’re talking about, and we’ve already learned that the Good News has to be divided into at least two different Well Messages for two different groups of people anyway, based on everything we’ve covered so far. And so they can pick whatever label they prefer, but I’m personally sticking with “rightly dividing” — or “correctly cutting” — just because it fits the context so much better.
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. Most people who base their assumption on this passage have likely only read translations of Scripture like the King James Version which mistakenly say meaningless things like “another gospel which is not another” in the verses before his warning. Well, which is it? 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, so this is obviously a bad translation. And if someone is basing their doctrines on a bad translation of Scripture, it’s pretty clear that they need to reevaluate their position.
What most Christians aren’t aware of is that Paul actually used two distinct Greek words rather than one (which means the passage should be rendered 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 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. 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 “Well Message,” even if the “Well Messages” aren’t always the same message 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 “Well Messages” 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 Well Messages from the Bible altogether (unless those various Well Messages 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), 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…
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 heavens and the Earth,” and nowhere else, so one is either 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), although, 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 a space suit or a vivified/immortal body that could survive and thrive out there; it isn’t the wonderful, perfect place most people think it is, at least not yet. 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. All that said, it will be a pretty great place 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 also means, by the way, that the term “the Kingdom of Heaven,” or “the Kingdom of the heavens,” might actually be better translated as “the Kingdom of outer space.”
And so, unlike the body of Christ (who will be out there working in the heavens), 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”) 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). 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 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 better 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 accurately, will only enjoy an allotment of the land), while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision will sit together in heavenly places (or, better 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.
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 has already been discussed, 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.